Loquacious outlining…

My mother brought this up the other day.  She said, “Mary, you haven’t been writing lately.”  At first, the response was simple and to the point.  “You’re right.  I just haven’t had anything to say.”  Well, yes, that is the truth, albeit a heavily truncated version of the truth.  After dissecting that statement over the past few days, I believe I have a better, more thought out response to that: I had words to say (and correction: I have been writing…the ever-in-progress-novel).  I just didn’t know if they were relevant.

This brings me to the question of relevance and all that encompasses that.  I don’t know necessarily who is reading this (other than the president of my fan club, my mother) and sometimes, when wondering who your audience is (know your audience), you begin to question the validity of statements and tone.  Well, sorry folks, I’m done questioning.  I don’t know who you are but here we go…yippee.  Hi mom.

So while deconstructing that argument of validity, I began to outline what has been happening since the last post (I am too embarrassed to even check when the last post was, what I do know is that I have skipped every major holiday and avoided them in writing much as I did in ‘real life’).  A debriefing of sorts I suppose shall suffice:

  • I fell into my standard holiday depression.  I am beginning to wonder if depression is something that will continue to plague me as the years progress and hormones continue to spiral out of control.  Dear women on birth control, I commend you.  I almost wrote a piece about that but decided for the male subscribers, that would be a little too much information.  Also, that requires having a partner (even random) to have said ‘meetings’ with and well, BC hasn’t exactly been necessary when your life can easily be lumped into four things: Work.  Sleep.  Eat.  Dog.  If someone ever wanted to case my house, it would take a mere matter of days for them to figure out my schedule.  Moving on…
  • I am in a bit of a bickering match, or lack there of with my best friend right now.  We haven’t spoken in over a week and while we are two very stubborn individuals, my feelings are still gravely hurt and I don’t know how to piece the words together appropriately to tell her how I feel other than to say, you fucking pissed me off.  And never, I repeat NEVER put my dog in his crate again (that’s not what started the argument but it certainly did not help either).
  • I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions as I gather they are most often broken.  I am instead relying on what I now call my New Year Responsibility.  What is that? you ask.  Well, I have not mentioned this as it’s not a very proud conversation but here it is anyway.  I am in a wee bit of debt outside of my student loans.  Put it this way, I spent the early part of my 20s being irresponsible and behind a bottle.  I didn’t exactly pay some medical bills when they were due and well, I want to buy a house at some point in my life.  Insert 2011 and Operation Get Out of Debt (aside from the hellacious student loans).  I am determined, budgeted, and have even acquired a Tri-Met pass.  Farewell car and downtown parking fees.  Hello public transportation and a slowly rising credit score.  I thought getting old was supposed to be fun…
  • My life isn’t where I had expected it to be at 25-almost-26.  I didn’t expect to be married, kids, the white picket fence, but I figured I wouldn’t still be bartending my way through bartending.  I am tired…so tired.  I had to start seeing a chiropractor just to find walking comfortable again.  By the end of this year, I refuse to be bartending.  It’s time to make shit happen in more ways than just the credit score.  This year, I will find a job that doesn’t make we want to pull my hair out.  Hopefully one with a little piece of joy I refer to as health insurance.  Something that makes me come home at the end of the day NOT hating humanity.  I am sick of correcting grammar.  I am sick of booze.  And I don’t even drink the shit.  Maybe I should change the name of 2011 from Operation Get Out of Debt to Operation Make Life Count.  Yes.  That’s the spirit, Burger.
  • I am single.  I don’t know really where to go with that but yup, I still am.  I didn’t think that would change and I have been the last person to act on that.  Maybe that is why I ignore New Years Eve and the debacle that is Amateur Night.  I am almost afraid that I enjoy being alone too much such that I purchased a new TV (hello HD) and now have streaming NetFlix.  Maybe life as a cave woman (in high definition) is the way for me.  Or maybe I should start getting out more.  Please, just please, don’t talk to me on the bus.  I am still from a New England family, a wee bit snobby, and am well-versed in firearms and self-defense.

So there it is.  I’m sure somewhere hidden in that loquacious outline is a sense of relevance with all of you.  Or maybe a simple conversation starter.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I have a tendency to be redundant.  You heard (or read) me whine for over a year about a broken heart.  I am kind of in that “now what?” section of life when that heart is no longer broken, doesn’t belong to anyone, and though I may suffer from bouts of depression and significant solitude, I am happy.  I don’t know how to write when I am happy.  And I don’t want to write on a consistent basis when all I am writing about is the same thing, just reworked and reworded.  So I guess, Happy New Year.  Skordo says woof and Olive, well, she says meow and just peed on my bathmat.  Great.  At least she is consistent.
Wow.  I missed this…


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A limited color wheel…

It took a break from words to begin to understand what happened.  That knowing where things went wrong – whether at my own hands or actions – well, was a lesson I needed to learn.  That every error in judgment did indeed lead up to something.  I am happy to finally understand what that something is now.

The world is seemingly changing colors again.  Though you and I may argue what those colors are, and yes, I still see the world as markedly black and white, those shades of gray that I had battled with are now fading or darkening into something that makes sense.  I simply spent too long trying to change it.  I tried to alter my world rather than let it be what it is.  And I must say, it is the heaviest sigh of relief to not try so hard anymore.

My quiet little life, what I had struggled so hard for and traveled thousands of miles to discover, is no longer at my fingertips but ever present.  I have exactly what I wanted and before I could even make brisk or meager attempts to harness that (again), it was here.  My morning cup of coffee, alone on my front porch overlooking the business people traveling their morning commute or buying their cup of coffee from a local vendor, is what I look forward to every day.  To have something to look forward to – whether it be that cup of coffee or a job that finds the slightest of fulfillment – is what I had been missing.  I had overlooked the simplest of things.  Go figure, I had to make a production out of life to find the pure joy of coffee.  It won’t be the last time I do it, but it will be the last time I cause a scene about it.

Over the holiday last weekend, I spent my time at Mr. Asshole’s house.  I was sitting outside one morning with that same cup of coffee, minus the city traffic and noise, and as I watched Skordo run a muck in the yard, I knew that with the exception of the ever-missing presence of my mother, this was what I had forgotten to prioritize in my life.  Those little things go overlooked, and suddenly, the great buttresses that are the structural base of your life begin to crumble until there is nothing left to hold dear and sturdy.  I wish I didn’t know why they were forgotten before but I know the answer to that.  You know the answer to that.  But we learn something from errors in judgment.  It’s just a matter of what you do with that information.

I sit here now, finishing that morning cup of coffee knowing that the remainder of the day, my phone may very well ring from only two people, my mother and Mr. Asshole, and I am OK with that.  I may have had a little pity party last night eating dinner alone at a restaurant while families enjoyed their meals and children sang along to the Christmas carols playing as background music, but I won’t let that get the best of me.  That is not a shade of gray to be argued with.  My solitude is as black and white as it may appear.  I fought for too long to alter the shades of the world.  Now it’s time to just let it be what it wants to be.  This time, I will welcome the element of surprise.

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The right lie…

I lied to someone the other day.  I knew it as the words came out that I was lying.  At the time, I didn’t know if it was necessary.  I had to sit on it for hours before finally retracting my statement.  Was it worth it?  Well, it never really is.  The audience wasn’t entirely worthy of the truth but at the end, I knew I had to give honesty where honesty was deserved.  Even to him.  Even if it was for the last time.

After the I.H., I wondered how long it would take before finally being comfortable with the notion of a relationship.  I questioned if I would ever be ready for that level of company in my life again, more than just for an evening.  I challenged myself to think outside of him, where we had been, and how far I have come from him.  Never will there be a light saying it’s done, it’s gone and over.  Never will I know without a reasonable level of doubt, but finally ridding myself of the distraction that his presence once left in my life was all I needed to say this is as ready as I have ever been.

This year has been a hailstorm of unnecessary proportions.  Even the past few months has been a challenge in and of itself.  Learning to deal – simply that: deal – with life alone again has brought out pieces of me that I had forgotten existed.  It has been empowering in a bizarre, flustering sort of way.  I surprise myself with bits.  And when I finally said “I’m done.  Enough.  Enough now.” the other day when taking my lie back, there was an honest smile where once a crooked, self-doubting grin had once been so at home.

But the lie.  I had lied when I said I didn’t want an emotional attachment.  I do.  I know myself now to be happy alone.  I don’t know if I have ever been this happy in my life, even with another body in it.  But this time, for the first time, I am by myself and so positively content.  Why would I want to disrupt that?  Who knows.  What I do know is that down the road, whether that road is tomorrow or next year, I want a presence in my life.  I want another level of happiness that can only be brought on by another.

So I lied to conceal that.  I don’t know why I did.  My knee-jerk reaction was to bottle it up and hide from it – from him – again.  But with that lie I knew it to be my last.  Whether it was the last contact forever or simply the last lie I could ever give him, I knew I was done.  It’s strange that a lie could draw out such a level of empowerment that it gave an extra boost to my step.  I bounced around the city the following day with a smile, knowing the reason for its presence being simply mine.  My decision that I made, alone.  It’s amazing that my little lie could bring something so right.

Maybe this is the ending to our book.  Maybe Berlin will never crumble again and I will never get the answers I have so wanted from you in order to give her the final words of prose.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I would rather live my life with a series of maybes, lingering on the last words of how the wall of Berlin fell but only for a moment, than to know Berlin only to be a myth.  I know where I will be and I will never let a heart push me to run so fast again…I will never be Elizabeth again, but maybe someday down the road, you will come to know me as Mary.

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7,000 somethings…

I have long since argued the ideas of change, religion, love, and that undying, unwavering question “what do I want?”.  I have spent years questioning my beliefs and trying to come up with some sense of clarity on these matters has become a burden in and of itself.  Not to say I am even remotely close to an answer or sense of understanding, but I have arrived at a place that parallels the idea of “it’s OK not to know”.

How the past shapes and molds your future has left me wondering where things took their turns.  What decisions were made, deaths, break-ups, and gestures in faith challenged my once steadfast belief system.  When did I become so cynical?  Who am I to necessarily call it cynicism when I believe it to be realistic?  But is my reality necessarily a truth to ponder?

The approach I have come to believe in is that I sense now why these things happen, why I am the way I am, and why I have made challenges to be simple and transparent, or callous and detrimental.  These decisions were mine.  In the end of it all, I had no one else to blame or argue with but the person inside of this body.  I turned every key, set the kitchen fire that would ultimately lead to my sobriety, was reckless in relationships, and like a coward, ran away thinking it would change me.  It took that to understand that change is not a concept I believe in.  Faith is not something I believe in.  What I can only believe in is what I have in front of me: me.  These acts are mine.  They will be what ultimately promotes and furthers my life.  I cannot pray for improvement for it will not be given – I have to make it happen on my own, with these two hands shaking with every sense of nervousness available.  And if I want someone, well, I dare you to stand in my way.

I remember waiting for the world to change – my little life to shift into the argument of perfection I had so desired.  When it didn’t happen, I wondered why.  The answer to that being simple: I didn’t make it happen.  So now.  What now?  What to do in order to secure the goals I have finally, after 25 years of faltering and questioning, set up for myself?  Granted, no one ever really knows what they want, but I have made the list of five things I know I do.  All independent.  All without outside resources or assistance.  And with a little push and courage of conviction, I will at last make these ideas my reality, not just a fable to close my eyes about.

I remember when I was little thinking the white picket fence wasn’t that appealing.  Well, five year old Mary, you were right.  It’s not right for me (or us, although those two are closely one in the same, just add two decades).  That same little girl thought this was going to be easy though.  She thought it was all going to fall and land in her lap one day without effort on a grandiose scale.  I remember thinking if I followed all of the necessary steps that it would happen.  Those necessary steps aren’t right for everyone though and aren’t consistently all-encompassing.  Well, in my backwards way, I walked the line and did the steps.  Some worked, some failed miserably and ended up with 7.000 additional miles on my car, dog, and cat.  But when this is all said and done, those 7,000 miles will be 7,000 things I did right.  Each mile marking something.  Albeit small, each step is a step in the right direction and if I remind myself enough on the days that I falter, just to look in the mirror and know there is one thing strong enough to believe in.  Me.

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The lost August…

If given the opportunity to look back and reconsider the moves, Berlin, random places of employment, and buying a dog, I wonder what I would have changed.  A conversation over lunch today with a dear friend of mine made me question if this has all been moving full circle, or have I spent the past two years waiting for light at the end of the tunnel.  That light is quickly approaching and finally, for the first time in two years, I know without any uncertainty of heart, I am doing the right thing.

Would I have moved to Florida if I had known I would turn around and drive right back in 11 months?  Probably not.  Was it worth it?  Well, the monetary aspect – not so much, but the benefit of moving far outweighed the financial clinch it slightly strangled me with.  Did I need to spend a year living in humidity to realize Oregon is perfect?  Nope.  Absolutely not.  But did I go because something here was hindering any sense of progress and sheepishly, like a child, did I run home to my mother?  Yes.  Yes I did.  Was that right?  Not for all 24-year-old women, but for this one it was necessary.

Then comes the question of Berlin.  It’s hard to give any fair assessment of what happened now as I am still living with a sense of confusion.  I know what happened, I know where things took a turn for an unreasonable amount of frustration and pain.  But if I could go back and change the one thing that set us into distance and strangers, would I?  Was that broken heart a risk worth taking?  Or was I simply a fragile heart traveling naively into territory that was not mine to walk in?  Albeit a brief moment of belonging, did that moment overshadow a year of my life?  To answer those questions sequentially, it probably looks something like this: no, yes, yes, and yes.  Maybe Berlin was strictly there to be my muse.  And I think that’s where I have kept him.

There was a month of absence from writing that I’m sure was noticed.  Over lunch, that absence was discussed, though the conversation had been had during that month, it furthered over gyros.  Why didn’t I write?  Here is your answer: I sunk into a depression that was so foreign to me, to even begin to explain it would only increase a level of frustration and make it even more real.  I tried to hide it, hide myself, and I am pretty sure I hardly left my apartment for four weeks.  Was it necessary?  Yes.  And finally when I came out of my coma, though into a brighter and louder world than I had remembered, it was better.  I was simply scared and I had nothing to be afraid of.  I was afraid of sharing it with anyone and kept it my own secret.  My world suddenly struck a daemon that was meant to be handled quietly and alone.  Mission accomplished.

Then comes the light at the end of the tunnel.  A month ago, I was miserable.  I knew what I wanted and it was a matter of finding that one thing, that one person willing to take a chance and give me the opportunity I had so desired.  Well, it happened.  Light is near.  Come January, my world will be a very different place.  However unusual and foreign it will be to me, I will remind myself of the lost August and what failed to happen then.  And if ever presented with a lost month again, I will not allow for it to stifle the one thing that keeps me.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about
us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
We are set down in life as in the element to which we best
correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of
years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we
hold still we are, through a happy mimicry,scarcely to be
distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to
mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors,
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abuses belong to us;
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we
arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now
still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust
and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those
ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless
that wants help from us.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Genetic predisposition…

About a week ago, I noticed a post regarding a symposium at Oregon Health and Sciences University.  The symposium was about the genetics of pancreatic cancer.  Of course my mind goes sweet, sign me up. It was last night.  I signed up, signed in (pretty spiffy name tag), ate the delightful refreshments, and then proceeded to my seat in the back right of the auditorium.  What happens next may very well irk my mother (and you for that matter) and I will take full responsibility for it.

Last March, I’m sure I did a break down of the disease itself so I shall refrain from doing so again.  In case you missed it or are unfamiliar with it, well, it’s lethal.  There is a cure rate of less than 9% and as a daughter who lost her father to this devastating disease, to see that progress has only increased 3% in the past decade, let’s get on the ball, Obama.

I took my seat and took note of the transitioning PowerPoint slides.  Two of the speakers were doctors, one an oncologist dealing mostly with treatment options, and another oncologist handling the surgical side of this disease as well as spear-heading a pretty incredible research team.  The first speaker however was not a doctor.  It was a small woman, smile from ear to ear, and clearly not dressed out of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network corporate office.  She looked thrilled to be there and when it came time for her to get on stage, she literally bounced up the stairs.  She introduced herself.  She was, excuse me, is a survivor.

OK, so my first reaction should be joy, happiness, awe in the fact that I am bearing witness to possibly the closest miracle I may ever witness in my lifetime.  She had every odd against her and with an incredible team, beat this horrid disease and has been cancer free since 2003.  Unbelievable.  This was not my first reaction though.  My knee-jerk was pain, anger, frustration, jealously, and a plethora of unanswered questions and for the first time in nearing a decade, asking a higher power why?

Feel free to insert a callous remark.  I know I deserve it there.  I should have spent that moment looking at her thinking it is amazing how far we have come in the past two decades.  She is remarkable. After an hour, I got over myself enough to look at her and say those words.  I cried as I hugged her at the end.  I cried when the doctors listed the high risk categories for pancreatic cancer.  That list may as well have used the words Mary and Burger.  I need to quit smoking – noted.  But at the end, the lead research doctor asked anyone with a family history of the disease (aka high risk Mary Burgers of the room) to please sign up for the Oregon Pancreas Tumor Registry.  Blah blah blah, genetic testing.

My father was 46.  Let’s say I am predisposed to this disease.  They have managed to isolate a few of the genes that are contributing factors in this nightmare of a disease and have testing that can at least detect it earlier than my father’s 28 day mark.  Basically, annual testing of the pancreas.  Do the math though, I am 25.  My father was 46.  Of course I am realistic and am aware I am just as likely to get hit by a bus crossing the street, and if I do get this disease, probably won’t get it at the exact same age my father was.  But I sure don’t want to spend the next 21 years of my life getting annual endocrine ultrasounds.  And when approached about genetic testing, I graciously accepted the pamphlet and told the doctors that I would have to think about it.

Do I want to know if I posess these genes?  No.  I’m sure I probably do have the exact markers.  I am half Bill Burger – best and worst of him.  From what I know already, my family history on both sides trickles down to one Mary Burger that would rather spend the next 21 years living with a bit of apprehension, and welcoming the unknown.  If my ultimate demise is this disease, I don’t want to know.  I know the symptoms and the day I feel them approaching, I’ll run to the doctor.  Not yet.  Not now.  I will sign up to donate my genes to research and beg the doctors not to give me any results.  Unless my death sentence is moving at the speed of a freight train, I’ll wait until it gets here.  So I ask you, would you want to know?

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Fearless or fearful…

As a repeat victim of identity theft, I wonder how much we should make available of ourselves online.  If you read the last blog, you are probably wondering what I am not willing to put online.  Certain things I am not ashamed of, even more so if they raise a valid point.  Well, my friend challenged me.  She won.

Once you hit your mid-twenties, dating becomes a bit more challenging I have noticed.  My best friend (aptly titled the BFF from here on out as I am not that witty with monikers before 2pm) has some serious balls.  I have complained about this before (yes…whined, complained, bitched) that as we age, the market gets slimmer and slimmer and opportunities to meet new people are not as easy as being drunk in college, class, or walking down a campus street.  Yes, we live in Portland.  Yes, we both have jobs (though I refuse to date customers – won’t happen.  Ever.) that could open up a dating pool.  And yes, we live ‘active’ social lives.  Her social life is a bit more vibrant than mine as again, I am lacking her fearless set of balls of going to a bar alone to have dinner and BAM! – she meets someone new this week.  Love her.  Admire her.  And am often in fear of her.

So we (excuse me, she) decided to try online dating.  OK, let me be clear about my opinion of online dating: it scares the absolute shit out of me.  Yes, I have Facebook and a very dormant MySpace page.  I have a blog.  I online shop (though am fearful of it now due to the recent identity theft).  I google map my life pretty much.  At any given moment, I can find what I want online.  In conversation with customers a few weeks ago, we wanted to know how meth is made (not for personal consumption but to see exactly what the process is and why crack-heads are so nimble).  I grab my faulty Blackberry Storm and within a minute, the “recipe” was in hand.    I don’t want to put my height online, have to classify my weight as either slim/slender or athletic (I run, but I also eat?).  I don’t want someone to already know what I absolutely despise or love for that matter.  I want to have something to talk about over our first coffee together.  Dear gods of the internet, I love you, just not enough to try dating through you.  The BFF is again the woman in charge and she gives it a shot.  I sign up on the same website though avoid putting a picture up, don’t even fill out the ‘about me’ page or even the ‘looking for’ section as I know I am not even window shopping here.  This is research.  She on the other hand is shopping.  Go to town.  She has a couple of dates over the course of a few weeks and though skeptical of the realm of online dating, has proven so far to be victorious.

What did I find?  Well, as this was far from shopping, I just wanted to see what was out there.  If I were in the market for someone much older than I who enjoys long walks on the beach and taking the sailboat out on the weekends all the while discussing his markedly rising cholesterol level, then I would have absolutely scored.  The pickings are slim if you are picky, fearful, and cautious to the notion of online dating.  It made me wonder though, are we there yet?  Are we at the age when it is time to settle down and find someone rather than play the field, play hard to get?  Is the party over and we should resort of the fact that shit, we are adults now and maybe we should start dating them?  Or at least like them?

I look back before I could even drive and I remember what I thought life would be like.  I had always figured I would be married (Young Mary, you almost did it), have a child, and would never have spent a year living with your mother in South Florida amidst Yankee hell.  But I was naive, and I am probably better for it.  I know now that children will never be in the cards for me and I am content with that.  I recognize certain parts of the country are not designed for this Oregon blood, and when in picking a date, I should not approach it as I do shoe shopping.  Though beautiful and tall, they are going to seriously hurt and are not appropriate for dancing or long-term wear.

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