Relaxing into spinsterhood

Image result for old lady walking her dog funnyThe other night I walked my dog in my pjs. Not content with one horror, I compounded it with a pair of wool socks, my retainer, some fetching Dansko clogs and an oversized down jacket. And it wasn’t even dark.

What can I say, I am the poster child for spinsterhood.

This journey started some time ago. After getting divorced in my 30s, one of the simple joys I rediscovered was taking off my pants and underwear as soon as I got home from work. Off with the confines of work, back on with comfort. A really bad day? Off with the bra and let everything have some freedom.

However back then, I still had some modicum of dignity. I suspected that I might meet some cute dude while walking my dog, borrow a doggy bag and be moved in by sundown.. so I dressed appropriately when I left the house. I mean I wasn’t throwing down at the park in a thong and some fur-lined heels, but I looked slightly cute. I wore jeans, t-shirts, cute tops even a bra on occasion.  I usually brushed my hair and spritzed on some perfume.  My level of male-dar was on full alert. After all.. you never know. He could be out there..

Fast forward 10 years and how things have changed.   These days as long I’m warm, pretty much anything goes inside the house. Flannel shirts, granny underwear, that 18 yr old pair of pjs, if its comfy.. it’s on.  Outside the house.. well.I’ve walked my dog in a bikini, clothesless under a Barbor jacket, in hole filled sweat pants (quelle horreur) and mostly in clothes I wore the day before (with or without the food I cooked on them). I wear a beanie or a hoodie on my head to hide my rat tails  and I mainly try not to get picked up for vagrancy.

I don’t worry about missing that cute dog walking guy or not looking appropriately attractive enough to draw the attention of that volleyball player. I’m too old for them now and I probably can’t even see them at a distance to be completely honest.

Plus I can categorically verify that no one is out there anyway. I’ve looked. I’ve done more than look, I’ve actually walked about 13,000 miles while looking.  So these days I am settling into my spinsterhood and everything that entails. No underwear after 6, no makeup after Friday and whatever the hell I want to wear while walking my dog.

I think I’ll just date the mailman.

California – 3 months in

FroggerMy move to this weird and wackadoo state has been nothing if not eye-opening. I thought after 18+ years in the US, living in multiple states, I was accustomed to the ways and means of the American and its environs.  Apparently no-one told California it’s part of ‘Merica.

California is a state where people still throw things from car windows with abandon, but will scowl if you so much as inch towards letting your dog off leash. Where people will walk a 1/2 mile from the nearest house, office, mall, building etc.. to ensure their cigarette smoke doesn’t offend anyone, but will gaily drive across pedestrian crossings at 40mph while you’re in mid transit with a smile on their face.

I’m still learning the social norms of the place – and since I’m mid way between Googleville (aka San Francisco) and Hemptown (aka Santa Cruz), I’m constantly torn between what’s socially acceptable and what’s completely verboten.

For example, it’s totally fine to wear your work out gear 100% of the time in Santa Cruz… but in San Francisco, workout wear is strictly from 9-11am on a Sat or Sunday morning and only to coffee, (NOT brunch). Oh, and it MUST be black.

Santa Cruz is a ‘whatever’ town. San Francisco cares too deeply about everything to even comprehend that phrase. Living mid way between, my shoulders are basically partially shrugged at all times.

But I have picked up some new skills from this weird place.

– Frogger Driving. With 6-7 lanes, no one obeying any normal rules and even the CA motoring code says ‘pick the lane appropriate for your speed’, getting from A to B is like one big video game of ‘accelerate, signal, dodge, accelerate’. As long as you put aside certain death and anyone with an out-of-state license plate.. its kinda fun.

– Cheap milk location. With organic skim at $7.99 per gallon (yes, a gallon), milk is double the price of gas. Hence, I’ve turned into the person who will actually drive across town JUST to buy my gallons from that weird ‘Rotten Robbies’ store to save $2. Yes it’s called Rotten Robbies. And its a liquor store. But hey, they’re open 24 hrs and their organic skim is $5.99. Crushing it.

– Mountain Bike Trail exhibitionist. Apparently everyone is too busy polishing their Telsa’s or wine tasting because the trails here are EMPTY. Beautiful, single track, shady and as technical as you so desire.. they are boundless and silent. I’ve ridden alongside the ocean, through thick forests and across acres of empty fields. Up 30% grade ridges and down some way gnarly rock gardens. But with no-one around to hear me yelping or whooping, panting as I creep ever-so-slowly-up-22%-grade or shrieking as I pop a squat on some poison ivy.. my riding has become completely lacking in inhibition. I yelp, I squeal, I swear extremely loudly and I sound most of the time like a 90 yr old smoker trying to climb Everest. Except for the lack of chica friends …it’s really never been better. After all, if noone is there to see you suck, do you really actually suck? Nope. In my head I’m now a most excellent mountain biker. Even if I still fall off a lot.

So 3 months into CA and its been a whirlwind, weird and wonderful experience. I still haven’t found my peeps, but I have picked up some new skills, found some amazing places, gathered some stories and heck, I haven’t even started dating yet.

Can’t wait to see what the next 3 months brings…

 

 

 

Next up.. a plague of locusts

FloodSo the move to CA hasn’t exactly been what one could term ‘smooth’. Not unless smooth comes with pointy sharp bits, lots of water, electrical shockage and way too much time spent at Walgreens. On the plus side, they’re clearly putting crack in the water because I AM LOVING IT.

Read on.

I arrived after 19 hours of stare-it-tude (lord, Nevada looks like one long post-apocalyptic aftermath) and not a small amount of rain. Surprising since my research on South bay indicated low rainfall and extreme sun at all times. In fact, it was one of the reasons I decided to make the move. Lots of lovely dry warm sun.

Ha.

It’s not stopped since I arrived.

But I digress. My first night, I unrolled my air mattress, my sleeping bag, brewed up some tea and toasted my new citizenship with a disgruntled and somewhat damp dog at my feet.

‘Tomorrow, we’ll take a long walk, get in some food, chill out and just be mellow’. The dog looked at me sadly,  clearly hoping that non of the above involved any more driving.

We woke to more rain, but hey, being outside and not freezing my butt off was awesome. An hour later, we headed home for a big breakfast and to get a start on the day.

As I turned the corner of my apartment I heard rushing water and thought ‘oh how lovely, they have a water feature’.. Which they did. It was my apartment.

Due to a faulty mains pipe, while I’d been out with the dog wallowing in a balmy 58 degrees, the pipe had burst and my possessions were currently floating around in 6 inches of water. As I opened my door, my air mattress, now serving as water float, carried my sleeping bag onto the sidewalk. I watched my prescription bottles bobbing around, along with last nights underwear and my balled up pjs. Quelle horror.

My neighbors were similar afflicted. Dodging the large chunks of ceiling that were now raining down on our heads, we ran in and out of each others apartments, grabbing anything not ruined or waterlogged in hope of saving anything. Thankfully my laptop, my gun and one pair of underwear were dry. What more could one need?

My neighbor was crying at the loss of her wedding pictures while all I could think was ‘what a GREAT way to meet your neighbors’. Glass half full…? Or maybe just good medication? Needless to say, after a few nips of Oban whiskey (survived unscathed), she seemed less fazed by the whole thing too.

Within a day we were relocated to new apartments, slightly PTSD scarred and on high alert for anything sounding like running water. Which is when CA decided to really give some fun.

Day 1 – Apartment floods

Day 2 – Dishwasher decides that it no longer needs water to operate and commences cleaning via just heat. Handyman fixes dishwasher. Dishwasher then floods the new apartment. Everything recently dry near the floor, now wet again.

Day 3 – Fridge making sounds like the Tardis. Handyman turns off fridge for the day. All food ruined. Handyman finds a piece of tape in fan… source of noise… and turns fridge back on with joy. I dine on Shotbloks for the second night in a row as I’m not sure whether I can manage to eat 4lbs of unfrozen fish. Start drying out process again.

Day 4 – Washing machine decides it does not need water to operate but instead generates burning odor. Handyman fixes washing machine. Machine then floods the apartment. I receive electrical shock from new Rocku which I daringly left sitting on the ground. I develop slight tick at the sound of any running water.

Day 4b – Nothing floods. Take CA driving test and motorcycle test. Pass first time and only spend 45 mins in the DMV – SCORE!!!!!!

So as you can see I’m not yet a week in to my move and its been quite the experience. On one hand, everything I own is slightly damp (my work colleagues have been very understanding of my new unique style) but on the other hand it’s NOT SNOWING and I ROCKED my driving test.

I love California.

See… clearly crack in the water.

Dating retirement

RetirementThere seems to be a worrying trend I’m noticing among my single chicas and dudes. Worrying because I seem to be part of it without actually checking a box or deciding.

Dating Retirement.

Warning signs include declaring ‘I can’t be fucked’ when someone asks you about whether you’re seeing someone, watching your match.com subscription finally expire with relief and spending your Saturday nights reordering your Netflix queue without embarrassment.

I mentioned to a guy friend that it had ‘been a while’ (I think my exact phrase was ‘100 days without sex, I am officially a virgin again’) and was met with sympathy and as much horror as one can convey via text. A few months later, I asked him how his love was going and was somewhat to amused to hear he too had adopted a monastic existence. I poked him about how that was working out and was met with the phrase ‘serene’.

Shit.. this trend is REAL.

When your girlfriend who only dates sporadically hasn’t had a date for the entire summer that’s one thing. When the dude you’ve known as ‘that guy’ who only dates hot 30-somethings (“I get older, they stay the same age”)… well damn. I guess we’re all giving up.

I know a few single people at work, and had taken their ‘non dating’ status as an overt and ridiculous commitment to work, but now I’m just wondering why it took me so long and why I didn’t pay more attention to them earlier. Clearly they’re not insane (though they do all work too much), but enlightened

Apparently the path to a joyful and harmonious existence isn’t from finding your soul mate, your ‘other half’, that one person who’s got your back.. but instead finding it buried in that German Chocolate Cake sorbet, or on that epic downhill, or hearing the world wake up from inside your tent. Joy and pleasure seems to come whether there’s someone in your life or not… and I have to say, after it being ‘not’ for a long 7 years, I’m really thrilled to realize that ‘not’ being part of a couple isn’t all half bad. Accepting the inanity of chasing rainbows in the hope that one of them might be attractive, sexy, humorous and svelte enough to not need one of those seat belt extenders on a plane just seems smart. After all, people who don’t date don’t spend their time hoping, being let down or wasting $39.99 on monthly subscriptions to ‘whatsleft.com’.

Is it lonely in retirement? I have to admit – not really. I was far more lonely in my dying relationship that I’ve ever been in the last 7 years… and if I feel the need for company, it’s certainly a lot more accessible than it was from within a crappy marriage. Now of course, non of those friends are accessible for sex, romance or late night flirting, (yikes), but if I seem to recall, there wasn’t that much of that in a romantic relationship after a year or two anyway.

So bring on the plaid pants people. I’m officially hanging up my garter belt and first date chit-chat. Saying ‘ta-ta’ to awkward cups of coffee at 3pm in the afternoon and judgy looks from 50 something chubsters. I’m moving on to the next phase of life.

Retirement. It’s not just for old people.

Doing it alone

tendDoing it alone. No, this isn’t a post about masturbation…but if I had to draw parallels yes this about doing something on your own, and big yes, its about having a really good time doing it.

But no. This one isn’t sexy. Not sexy at all.

You see I’ve been on vacation for a week and using the time off to ignore Outlook, remember what its like to not sit with a headset on for 10 hours and generally enjoy myself. Part of which meant tackling a big of a fear of mine.. that is, to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and not wind up in a mental institution after 48 hours. aka Camping.. on my own.

I love to camp. Love it. It was the glue that attached me to my ex husband, and many of my best adventures in life have come by way of a smokey campfire, a ‘wet wipe’ shower and the joy of hitting the hay at dusk because you’re completely wiped. Camping gives you freedom from everything as life suddenly boils down to having something over your head to sleep in and preparing food to eat. Plus with the invention of really good coolers.. the beer stays cold for days now.

However since I’ve been single, I’ve rarely found a trustworthy camping buddy. I’ve tried. (and the stories are here if you want them), but I generally end up frustrated, exasperated and longing for my ex (the only time I ever miss him). You’d think in a state of 3 million self confessed ‘outdoorsy’ people, there would be a least few hundred dudes in my age range who’d enjoy slinging on a backpack, or packing up the truck with their dog, their bike and a cute chick… sadly, I’ve yet to locate this dude.

Now camping on my own isn’t something I won’t do. In fact I’ve tried it a couple of times.

The first time I drove up to Steamboat, pitched the tent, brewed up some tea and sat wondering what to do next. The sense of space, the complete silence, the aloneness and solitude. Just beautiful. How to savour it? The answer… apparently unpitch the tent, drive 4 hours home and decide camping alone wasn’t for me. Wayyyy too much time to think and realize how far I was from the nearest other person who could wrestle the bear who was bound to come along.

The second time I tried, I made it through the night, but only after the dog and I had clung to each other for 10 hours, jumping (me) and barking (him) at every snapped twig or rustle of a tree. By morning even he thought going home seemed like a less stressful idea than camping with me. I’m not sure what I was most frightened of.. bears? mountain lions? homecidal maniacs? weekend country rapists? All of the above apparently.

But as the summer cracks into high gear and the temps hit the 90s, I can either dedicate my next few months to loitering around REI in the hope that an outdoorsey dude picks me up or finally grab my ovaries in hand and just go camping on my own.

So at the age of 42 and with oodles of time on my hand I decided – fuck it.  I’m going, I’m staying and if I pee my pants when a deer starts nosing around camp or I hear a voice in the distance with an Appalacian twang or some banjo music.. well, so be it. Armed with about 16 pairs of pants, my new bike and an empty Beretta (I don’t want to actually shoot anyone), I headed across the state line into Wyoming.

For a few nights of starry skies and days of mountain biking, I figured Wyoming was a good locale. Fewer bears, fewer people and I figured packing my Beretta would scare off anyone who thought a midnight raid on my tent a good idea. Plus there’s some good riding and I don’t mind falling off so much when there’s noone within a 5 mile vacinity to observe it.

The outcome? Well I think I’ve cracked the code to camping alone. Be active as fuck during the day so by the time night falls, you can’t help but pass out without a care in the world. I rode like a maniac (i.e. a mentally challenged person), fell off a bunch, road alongside creeks and up the sides of mountains. I rode through something called ‘Pinball’ which bounced me off a rock every other pedal stoke, and laughed my ass off when I almost rode into a deer in the middle of the trail. Finally something more terrified of ‘wild things’ than me.

Sure, I’m now brusied, scarred and I look like an extra from Fight Club, but I put some miles on my bike, I only needed a few pairs of pants and I even managed to lull myself into a relaxed state of being. It was amazing to be away from wifi, from tv, people and noise. I lay in my tent listening to the wind, owls and yes, rustling trees.. but no bears or midnight cowboys intruded on my buclolic evenings.

I was relaxed, at peace and totally utterly alone.

Why I decided to start reading the new Stephen King book right at that moment I don’t quite know. I guess I brought those extra pants for something.

 

 

The post chaos chasm..

Bridget-Jones-s-Diary_400One of the reasons I’ve been absent from my blog for the past few months has been a looming work commitment which pretty much eats my personal time for about 3 months. The last month of which its a 24/7 type thing and I live, eat, sleep and horribly dream about all the things that could go wrong. I’ve found myself quite regularly at my whiteboard with marker in hand at 3am wondering whether I resized a Powerpoint template to 16:9 and whether my 4:3 guys are actually getting a projector that works with 4:3.

Hence my blog was one of the first casualties. My love life a pretty close second.

But as of Sunday my event finished and the crazy time is over for another year.   I can return to waking up at 6am (not 3, 4, 5 and 5.30am), having evening activities that start at 5.30pm and an email inbox that doesn’t run into four digits of unopened mail.

I’m exhausted, I’m beyond tired and as of Sunday around 10am… I’m free!!!! I should be dancing in the streets! Celebrating wildly!

Except I’m not.

Something about having an all-consuming project come to an end, having it go well and having no one to high-five, no one to hug and tell you how awesome it was… SUCKS.  And in the absence of huge amounts of work, all I see is the absence of anyone who gives a shit.

Now as a well-adjusted female with years of therapy under my belt I know I can high-five myself, and I should be able to congratulate myself on doing a great job. But to be honest.. I feel ridiculous being self-congratulatory, especially when I can see all the tiny things which I missed. The mistakes I made. The less-than perfect stuff. Plus telling yourself how awesome you are… its just …tooo…. American. I’m not there yet.

I’m not a masochist, but without any external validation, I find it hard not to dwell on how it could have been perfect.. if only A, B or C had worked. Without someone to slap me across the face and tell me to just ‘chill the fuck out’ I’m picking away at what should be an obvious win.  Without someone telling me to just ‘leave it’, I’m reprocessing how X could have been improved by Y, how ‘this’ sort of detracted from ‘that’. Without someone to tell me to stop working on something that is done, that I can’t change.. well I’m lost. I’m spinning and I actually don’t want to stop. Because when I stop.. all I notice is a big aching chasm of want.

I want, embarrassingly and sincerely, someone special in my life. Its nothing new, but its been pretty low priority over the last year. I’ve been busy with a full life and ‘the goods’ have been too odd to even try. I enjoy my life; I ride, I can now ‘not drown’, I have amazing friends and people who care about me scattered all over the place. But as I opened my apartment door after a week of brutal effort, it sucked to come home to a house that needed cleaning, an empty fridge and nobody to even make me a cup of tea, never mind say ‘good job’. Cue the Bridget Jones theme track ‘All By Myself’.

(tiny violins, I know)

I’m not ignorant that I’m self-absorbed, that I’m whining and that you can’t have it all. I’m prickly and challenging, and I judge you on your dog care way too much, but there are times in life when you want someone in your life. You need someone to lean on. And Sunday, I got socked in the face with it. The post chaos chasm. The desire for someone to just sit down with me and ‘be’. Who I could lean against, be told to stop obsessing and maybe, maybe.. really care that I did good?

So what now?

Well I know myself pretty well so in about 2 weeks I’m sure this chasm will seem like a pothole, I’ll be back to my normal high-octane summer self and the thought of trying to meet someone will seem laughably ridiculous.

But for today….this week.. I’m just going to wallow in the want, eat some ice-cream and watch myself some Bridget Jones. After all, we all need a benchmark for our self absorption and neediness…and mine just happens to share my love of booze, friends and out of tune singing.

 

 

 

The Marriage Goal

The Marriage Goal

According to a coworker, and that veritable institution, the Lansing Journal, 1 in 3 of all recent marriages started from an online relationship. Which means all those $39.99 fees paid off for 1/3 of 2 million unions in 2012. That’s quite astonishing, especially based on my experience.
Reading the article today does cause me to reconsider my self imposed ban from Match.com and ever so slowly consider revoking my ‘DNR’ profile. Before I type in my numbers, I need to think – is  marriage really my goal these days? I mean I really really would love someone to take me out for dinner on occasion and make me a cup of tea in the morning, but do I really want to be married again?

I loved being married to Matt – loved it. The sense of permanence (hahahha), the sense of commitment and solidity (hahah), plus I just adore men (especially those with 5% body fat). I love they way they smell, the way they look, the way they make me feel and not least, the physical comfort of sleeping every night with my leg wrapped around someone. Nothing like it. Nothing.
When it ended I couldn’t wait to recommit if only to fill the gap and not feel like the only single person in the world. Lord knows, there seemed to be a lot of guys other there as desperate as me to reseal a deal, so I quickly found I wasn’t alone in the remarriage goal. Thank god my friends and therapy helped me stop making any more bad decisions… and to retire that goal for a while.

Now I’m 6 years single and I sort of like doing my own thing. I like wandering around my apartment at 3.15am with a glass of milk, going to bed at 8pm just because or eating a dinner of chicken breast and carrot juice. Going out for drinks with 5 minutes notice or stopping off at a bar, just because.
I’m not sure I’m so eager to sign up for bristles in the sink and petty resentments. Cheating, inherent expectations around vacuuming and laundry, being a ‘Mrs’ again and the routine that seems to arise in bed. Men yes, but marriage???? The committee is out.

Divorce

Alongside those 2 million white meringues last year were 200,000 angry couples sleeping on the sofa, arguing over who owns their copy of  ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ and wondering why they spent $40,000 on a party 5 years ago. Divorce in the US (and also the UK) is high. For every 10 chicks skipping down the aisle this year, there will be one angry and sad chick lining up to file divorce papers. If you know 10 married couples, start seeing who’s getting snarky at your next dinner party because stats say that one of them will be over by the end of the year (especially if you’re living in Arkansas, Nevada or West Virginia – don’t ask me why, them’s the stats).

So, before I start googling white dresses, I guess I know that chances of happily ever after are pretty slim. But, I’m 41.. and I’ve been there before, so at this point, I’m content to settle for ‘happily this year’.  Because, terrifyingly, divorce rates for second marriages are around 60% (firsts are only 40%)..and the average dude only lives to 76 so I’m thinking marriage at this point could only really be for 20-25 years. Hardly forever. And that’s only if I didn’t kill him with my cooking experimentation first.
Still 20 years is a long time to sit across the dinner table from someone who stabs their food and I’m not known for my ability to tolerate routine. Maybe there’s a different answer?

Cohabitation

I do love living alone. Its the major bonus of being single. No-one else to pick up after, no mess other than your own (or the dogs), and for me, no-one to steal that last candy bar you were saving. If you get lonely you call a friend or go out. If you want to be alone you shut the door. No-one questions your evening attire of wifebeater and wool socks, and if I want to wear pig tails while I Swiffer in the nude, no judgement (the dog doesn’t care).
And yet… again, the sleeping in bed with someone. Back to back, spooned or even just a limb thrown akimbo across a body part. There’s something so reassuringly comforting about it. I haven’t slept in bed with someone who was sleeping, sound asleep, for years and I do miss it. When I used to wake up for my 3am worry session, there was something reassuring about stroking his back or listening to him breath.
I liked calling out ‘I’m home’ and having someone answer back (even though a tail wag also works really well these days), and on a bored Sunday, it was nice to have someone to go do something spontaneous with that didn’t involve babysitters, plans, time limits or other commitments.

Could I do it now? I’d like to think so. But then I was a lot more of a people pleaser back then. Maybe my new spine could cause some problems? Maybe I’m more rigid these days or at least more vocal when pissed off.  Maybe I need my own space where bike parts aren’t sitting in the kitchen and no-one questions why it takes me an hour to wash and dry my hair.Where I can maintain some mystery and retain the delight that is ‘dressing for a lover’. No-one needs to see me hopping around in my knickers and curlers in my hair.

A girlfriend of mine keeps her space separate from her partners – different houses for almost 10 years – and its the envy of quite a few. You retain your independence,  you can choose how often to see each other and can be yourself while also being partnered. But do I want to carry my underwear around in my purse? Would I ever feel intimate with someone who I only saw on their good days? (and vice versa). Would I want to have a ‘drawer’ in my partners abode? And is it worth the payoff of never having to pick his hair out of your razor? It feels so ‘in-between’. So transitory. And as someone who’s pretty black and white, cohabitation without a commitment – especially at this age- feels too vague for me. Clearing out a drawer only takes 5 mins and cardboard box. I think I need to know that its not that easy to be dismissed.

Dating

I’ve said a million times that I hate dating, which I do. And lord knows, no-one other than Heff wants to date as a goal. Ok, maybe people under 30.. but over 40? Dating is hell. Interviews without a job or benefits package. Naked try outs with cellulite and pot bellies. And I know for sure that I don’t want to be dating at 50 or 60. I like meeting people, but not that much, plus at 50, it would take me hours to cover the basics.. Can you imagine trying to explain the relevancy of your elementary school friend at the age of 50? How would you go about covering, say, the last 20 years?  Kill me now.

I think my goal, should I choose to accept the Match.com throw-down,  is to find someone to date for a long time. I believe they used to call it a boyfriend, though at 41, I hope I’m not dating Beiber anytime soon.  Maybe the old goal – marriage – is moot, and cohabitation too ‘in-between’ for a black and white person such as me. I probably need to dig out the goal of my 16 year old self. To find a boyfriend. Someone to hold my hand, make out in public places (though not too public), and have fun with. Someone who calls, wants to go and have adventures outside of the bedroom and who likes me, for me. Yes… I think that’s the goal I can commit to.

So Lansing Journal, thanks for the kick up the butt. I had quit the whole online dating thing after my humiliating forced departure from eHarmony, but this does make me think its worth a shot. After all  my goal might not be marriage, but surely someone can find me a date in Colorado?  Bring on the profiles Match.com . I’m saddling up for another ride. Yee-Haw!!!

My patchwork life


I’ve always been a workaholic. As a studious Capricorn, I’m never happier than buried in work, getting stuff done. I was the kid who did their homework the evening I got it, wrote stories and painted murals for something to do, and read voraciously to keep my brain from exploding. Lazy summers drove me nuts (and on some seriously long bike rides), and no kid was ever more excited when school started up again than me. I only really felt comfortable if I had structure and purpose. 
My life was a patchwork of hobbies, school, friends and family, with all of the edges straight and clearly defined. I obsessively planned, wrote lists and organized to wring the maximum out of each day. My sister spent endless hours spent lazing, chatting, playing with her hair and makeup – all completely confounding to me. I never really understood how someone could be so ‘drifty’ through life. Life was about doing stuff. And lots of it.
For someone who reveled in organizing and doing, consulting was an obvious career for me and my first job was a passionate love affair. I was obsessed with my clients, my company, my work and I was quite happy to drive myself into the office every weekend for an unbilled 8 or 10 hours. Eating, drinking, socializing, working out… everything else happened after I left the office at 9pm and that was just fine. My mother bemoaned by lack of ‘life’ and my obsession with work but I couldn’t think what else I’d be doing if I wasn’t working. Settling down? Having babies? Have we met?
Then as 30 loomed, I looked around and noticed the singularity within my life might not be as healthy as I thought.  I didn’t know a single person who lived in Denver, I lived in a carry-on bag and I had dry cleaning in several states. I was proud of my ability to pack 4 outfits and workout gear into a 14 inch square, always get the aisle seat and wring the most work out of a 3 hour flight to Chicago.  Hey, we all have skills. When I flew 100,000 miles in a single year I was excited rather than depressed, even if most of those flights had involved trips to a snowy Detroit, freezing Minneapolis and drizzly Manchester.
While I was happy, my patchwork life had shrunk to a single patch – work. My friends, my social life, my being all revolved around my job. The only people I dated were coworkers. I worked every single day of the week, and I’d forced friends to delay my 30th birthday celebrations while I finished a work-plan on New Years Eve. As we wished each other Happy New Year, I caught up on the engagements, babies, houses and travels that my friends had been busy with throughout the year. Cue my first panic attack as I realized that in 10 years I might still be sitting in exactly the same place, doing exactly the same thing if nothing changed. And while I was happy in my work, a PowerPoint deck can’t pick you up from the doctors or cheer you up when the cat dies. I’d never been busier… but my life had never felt smaller. The next time I looked up from my email, everyone had moved on.
Then in 2000 I got laid off. I didn’t even have that single patch any more.  
  
If there’s a lesson in the cruelty of my layoff – 8 yrs of 100 hr weeks over in a single day – I’m not sure what it was. It felt like being left by a lover… I was confused, hurt, angry and lost. What was I without my work?  Who was I? And what was the last 8 years for? Why didn’t it love me like I loved it?
Living in a foreign country with a rapidly expiring visa, 2 weeks pay, few local friends and no clue what to do, I did what I do best. I planned, I organized, I created structure and I ‘management consulted’ my life into some semblance of sanity.  
When I jumped back into other companies and other love affairs with work, I never quite gave away my heart and soul again. My quilt of a life will never shrink quite so small again and I work at keeping it varied and rich. Adding new patches- finding new passions, new friends, more balance – its hard when you’ve spent your life so focused on one thing. But I guess that first heartbreak scars you forever and so I keep looking for patches to add. 
Maybe this summer I’ll take some swimming classes and finally learn to enjoy laps, or return to tennis and improve my net game. Maybe I’ll find some good guy friends or finally encourage one of my boomerangs to land. Take that trip to Costa Rica. Ride my motorcycle down to Santa Fe. 
Or maybe actually learn to sit still and enjoy doing nothing.

Okay, lets not go too crazy. 

Concessions.. and not the popcorn variety


I’ve often been accused of being too flexible. The Queen of the concession. Driven by an insatiable need to be liked, I’ll be whatever and whoever you want me to be. I’ve become many different people through the years with the sole aim of appealing to someone or fitting into their idea of who they wanted. I’ve been Disco Rachael, Indie Rachael, Homemaker Rachael, Introvert Rachael, Extrovert Drunk Rachael, Fashionista Rachael, Adventure Planning Rachael, Workaholic Rachael and far too many times, Spineless Rachael.

Appeasing other people is how I wound up studying something ‘useful’ instead of something I loved, got into rollerblading (thankfully short-lived, though I’m sure a few people have flown to Vancouver BC to explicitly do something they hate), bought 100 year old houses I was ambivalent about, lived with a dog who liked to bite people and who my husband preferred to me, sat through every friggin’ Star Wars movie, moved to Seattle despite a hatred of rain, treated entire families I’d never met to Indians tickets, listened to music which made me consider figurative suicide.. the list is frighteningly long. I’ve thrown away friendships, rearranged my life, purged my bank account.. all in the name of being someone else. Someone you’ll like more.

Sometimes I lost myself completely and the outcomes weren’t pretty when I finally resurfaced. No, this isn’t ‘natural evolution’ for me, but a series of ‘sure’ ‘ok’ ‘sounds fun’ ‘ I love Yo La Tenga’ until suddenly you can’t remember what you really like to do, who you were, who you are. It’s a long process to get back to ‘you’ and you become weirdly protective of yourself as a result.

So after a few years of living single and selfishly, my desire to bend, to make every concession to who I am has all but been eliminated. I am firmly myself. I like to hike. I like getting dirty in the yard. I like restaurants with tablecloths. Oh, and I hate Yo La Tenga.  With a passion.

While I’m still willing to flex to accommodate the things I can’t change or to try something that sounds fun, I’ve stopped short of becoming a different person to please or appeal to someone. It’s made me a stronger, more confident person. But it also creates somewhat of a nervous knee jerk reaction to making concessions. If I concede, change my plans, flex what I consider appropriate.. am I giving up myself? Am I returning to old habits? Am I losing myself again? It’s a terrifying prospect after how much I fought to reclaim who I am.

This month I keep running into that fear. After a sleepless night, arguments in my head at 2am and a reassessment of a situation, I decided to make a big concession – not who I am, or what I value – but still a concession. I’m still not sure whether I can do this – be myself and have it be enough. But I can’t be friends with someone, be with someone, work with someone and not flex, be willing to do things which I don’t like or don’t want. Its just not possible and I don’t want to turn into the weirdo spinster with 17 little dogs who works at the charity shop.
The questions remains whether I have the courage to flex without losing myself. I guess as long as I stay away from Yo La Tenga.. thats a start.

Kathleen Turner’s kind of sexy right?

As many of my friends would tell you, I’ve been walking around now for 5 weeks talking like Kathleen Turner. Not ‘Romancing the Stone’ Kathleen, but ‘smokes 60 a day, 2012’ Kathleen.
Its been an interesting time. My voice has been ranging from sexy gravel (my favorite), through raspy Marlboro man talking through a hole in his neck (less cute), to a high pitched screech that makes my dog run out of the room. If I’m lucky, sometimes nothing comes out at all.

My coworkers have been asking me if I’m sick, and on more than one occasion have messaged me (‘are you crying?’), my boss thinks I’m putting on the most elaborate fake ever (though since I’ve not taken any sick days I’m not sure what he thinks I’m getting out of this), and every time I yell for my dog to come, I sound like Barry White wrestling a Bee Gee. Up, down, up, down. Staying Aliiiiiiive.

My primary doctor looked down my throat and shrugged ‘no idea’ (reassuring that I pay $270 a month for that, isn’t it?), and I had to sit around for 2 weeks waiting for an ENT appointment.
I spent the previous weekend convincing myself that I had throat cancer (‘no pain? YES! raspy? YES! large lump in neck? YES!..If I push down hard enough to choke me..actually.. maybe that’s my tongue?). I called my girlfriend;

‘I have cancer’

‘what?’

‘Or maybe a large nodule like ‘The Thing’ growing in my vocal chords’

‘….’

‘no…Its definitely cancer’

‘you sound like you have laryngitis girl’

‘nooo.. definitely cancer’

‘Go WebMD it. Now. L-A-R-..’

‘Oh… you might be right…that sounds kind of familiar’

The only way I managed to sleep was with my friend Lunesta, who whispered ‘chemo’ to me as I drifted off every night.

The day finally arrived for my diagnosis and despite 12 inches of snow, I was early my appointment. Ready for my terminal news.

After spraying my nose with local antheastic, the doctor pulled what looked like a sewer snake out of a drawer and approached me with a smile.Whaaaa????

“Just relax.. its easier if you don’t fight it…’

‘that’s what my gastroenterologist said …’

‘this is totally different.. you’ll just feel it going down your throat’

Well I finally found a procedure I hate more than a rectal. Yep, sign me up for 100 rectal exams over this. You can even skip the lube next time…Just not this … ever… again..
I could feel the scope ‘snake’ go up my nose, down my throat and it felt like, into my chest cavity. Just when I thought he was heading for my fallopian tubes, I grabbed his hand and snorted at him with wide eyes and a I can only assume, a look of ‘I am about to kill you’. He thoughtfully decided he’d seen enough.

At which point he yanked the thing out.

Along with part of my lung and I think, one of my tonsils.

Jesus! I’d better have a cancer diagnosis after this. I leaned over retching nothing onto the floor.

‘You’re swollen and red and I can’t see anything’

‘….’ (I am going to kill you, once I can stop retching)

‘.. but no weird stuff or cancer.’

‘great’ (you are not off the hook Mr)

‘So I’m going to give you a whole lot of drugs try to reduce the inflammation and then we can have another look’

‘Nhhhh….'(Not if I can help it Buster)

So here I sit, another heap of pills to crunch through for the next month. 5 of these, 3 of these, 1 of these. On an empty stomach, a full stomach and not around grapefruit. Oh and some of them are steroids, so if I’m lucky, I’ll resemble Rambo when I’m done. Goddamn genes. Who gets inflamed vocal chords other than Adele? I can’t even sing for gods sake…

Kathleen Turner sounds kind of sexy, right??? Maybe I just…. ?

The new things which matter

I recently went round to a new friends house and realized I may have met my ideal. 
Not his personality, his looks, his astonishing nose or his predilection for slightly baggy assed Levis. Nope. I was smitten by his house. And specifically the cleanliness and order within his house.

I know. Its terrible what appeals as you get older.

As someone who grew up in a very small house populated by a father who saw every surface as a resting place for his clothes, keys, newspaper, ironing, screws, empty toilet rolls, plastic bags he was saving etc.- I loathe mess. It literally makes me itchy. The result? I grew up in love with the minimalist ideal. Give me a bare white room with minimal furniture, bare clean floors, everything tucked away out of sight and I was am practically orgasmic.
The reality of growing up – jackets hung on the back of chairs; mail unopened and unsorted; books opened flat with a cracking spine, piles of ironing on dining room chairs, CDs outside of their covers were all nails on a chalkboard to me. Add in a collection of mugs strewn around the house, 6 pairs of shoes and used tissues tucked everywhere and, well, I spent my childhood developing some serious anxiety issues. I can’t help it. I’m not OCD, I just can’t rest if there is mess. I can deal with unclean, but untidy makes me Nic Cage crazy.

And this guys house…. oh man…I think I came the moment I walked in the door.

No piles. No mess. Order reigned. Screw the personality, looks, character and sex appeal…with a house this tidy…I could get over the rest. 

It was a thing of beauty. From the living room to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom (you know, just nosing around). Everything at the right angles, no fingerprints on the appliances, not a rice grain on the floor. Nothing askew. Cushions plumped. LPs organized. Art work level.

I could have laid down and taken a nap right there. In the appointed place of course.

Now I have friends who I know are neatfreaks. I even once knew a guy who folded his TP to a point and laid out his magazines in an arc, but he was a virgin at 34 and the whole thing smacked of too much time on his hands. I know this guy has many passions which take up his time, but his clear love of precision, order and balance in his home, his castle, were as comforting as a hug. Something tells me no plates get thrown in that house and you know for sure that nobody is picking up clothes from the floor first thing in the morning. He probably irons and folds them mid coitus.

Of course what this says about the man…who knows. He’s probably a fussy nut job who needs to shower before and after sex, wears a protective body condom and requires absolute silence in the sack.. but I say its a small price to pay for the anti mess. Ladies… I have his number.

And me? I’m sure that this points to some very strange psychosis that my therapist has yet to explore, but I just put it down to a history of living small and therefore needing to be tidy.
Or a love of discipline.
..but that’s a whole other issue.

Diseases I most definitely have

Living alone and working at home has many many advantages, not least your ability to spend an hour in the afternoon playing the hits of 1987 loudly while dancing with the dog  (god, The Stray Cats were good). On the downside, you don’t have anyone to bug when you’re wide awake at 2.20am and you think you might be dying. As one of my coworkers (and my mother) can attest, living alone with access to WebMD can make you something of a hypochondriac. Just this week I’ve had to talk myself out of calling the medics on several occasions. I most definitely, maybe, am sick with something. 

Monday: During first conference call of the day, noticed that voice had a somewhat strangled quality. One of the other callers asked if  okay, after which noticed that voice now sounded reedy and choked up.. almost as though was on the edge of tears. Have sobbed in  bathroom when at Microsoft but not normal and was related to Seattle weather more than anything. By the end of the call had determined that either have throat cancer or spasmodic dysphonia (in involuntary constriction in the throat). Spent the remainder of this week researching whether the recommended cure of Botox to the throat would also help smooth out those new wrinkles in neck. 

Tuesday: Stood up after a long stretch sitting at my desk, and felt some tingling and slight numbness in  legs. After walking around apartment feeling somewhat wobbly, decide that most definitely have early onset Parkinsons disease or MS. Have Googled both diseases on multiple occasions (causing repeated sticking of pins in various body parts to test whether feeling still there), decided instead to create an online will and research the cost of wheelchairs. Throat still strangled and weird. Wonder if maybe am going through puberty again, just this time as a boy?

Thursday: A blinding headache  accompanied by black squiggly lines and flashes across my eyeballs definitely wasn’t the usual migraine from running in cold weather without a hat. No, definitely had to be a blood clot in brain. Googled symptoms while wearing sunglasses and cold wet rag turban to calm throbbing, bleeding brain. Was on the verge of calling  mother to wish her goodbye when decided to spare heartbreak of a final conversation and just lay down to die. Woke up an hour later feeling much better but with a scratchy throat, so determined that it probably was just an early sign for meningitis. Voice now sounding like am actively weeping while trying to talk, has been most off putting for my boss who thankfully is now limiting his calls to about 2 mins. Very glad am not dating at the moment. Would be traumatic to be on date and sounding all choked up.

Friday: Couldn’t remember the term for ‘potluck’ this morning when sending a memo so clearly have early onset Alzheimers. Must start labeling objects around house in case it gets worse and can’t find the door. Note to readers: If you don’t hear from me again, its probably because can’t find the ‘Publish’ button on Blogger. Hmmm.. let me check WebMD for some other options.

I don’t have to worry about retirement until at least….oh shit.

I used to be a really great saver. My first saving account involved writing ridiculously small numbers into a paper book which somehow was done at the Post Office. Not sure that the Post Office was ever a bank, but in 1970’s UK.. who knows. Maybe it was all part of an elaborate IRA scam, but I don’t think my pounds really would have funded much  beyond the occasional packet of cookies.
Once I started working (paper round at 10, washing dishes at 13, washing dishes at 16, 17, … well you see the career potential already).. the world was my savings account. Until I discovered the more gratifying and instant life long obsession… spending. Money meant you could buy things. Candy. Comic books. McDonald’s (hey I was 10). Soon I was depositing my Saturday dish washing salary into my savings account only to remove it the following day. The only thing better than seeing those numbers on my statement climb was seeing the cash poking out of the new machine know as the ‘ATM’ (or to me, a metallic Fantasy Island)

Fast forward 20 years and I notice that I’ve not really changed. I’ve saved enormous amounts, only to be followed by speedy withdrawals to fund essentials like houses, cars, bills, broken roofs..em… Burberry coats. I’m not a shopaholic but retirement always seemed like such a long way off, the numbers in my IRA always seemed high enough for a surreptitious withdrawal here and there. So I rationalized my spending. Then rationalized ceasing to save. And now I’m hungrily Googling any article which tells me how to simultaneously pay off my debts while piling up my savings and stabilizing my fast fading retirement plans.

How did I manage to hold down relatively high paying jobs for the last 20 years, pay into retirement accounts since the age of 23 and STILL be panicking about whether I’ll ever be able to retire? When did retirement even become something to worry about? I mean that’s like worrying about your burial.. isn’t it? Except its not. With no partner and certainly no white knight with a trust fund anywhere in my future, it suddenly IS something I worry about. Right up there with cancer and whether I can ru off that chocolate cupcake in the morning.

My girlfriend has the answer. She calls it the Golden Girls Plan and while it doesn’t involve Florida – per se- it does involve the reality that we (and quite a few of our friends) are likely to be single and 60 in the bizarrely close future. At which time we become the Golden Girls. Shacked up together in some largish house, somewhere warm, pooling our funds and continuing our slightly unfathomable lives. While no-one is required to Bea Arthur their future, the plan does make a strange kind of sense. Most people are able to retire because they’ve paid off their house, they’ve pooled their funds with spouses and they rely on each other in those times of need. The Golden Girls plan involves mirroring that relationship, except with women friends not spouses. A new version of the worlds oldest sorority.
As much as I’ve laughed at it, I have to hand it to her – it increasingly makes sense. So while I continue to try and save, be the responsible adult (say no to the motorcycle, yes to the CD), I am reassured that like me, there are hundreds of women out there facing the same future whether they know it or not. And me, I’ll have my Golden Girls.