Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Catalina

A 36-year-old boy before me, curly hair flapping in the breeze, every inch of him free on that beach cruiser bike.

Boyfriend shaking his head as I shiver, three layers and 60 degrees for warmth.

Watching the swell of the ocean, remembering a recent viewing of Titanic. A birthday boy's arms wrapped around me, eyes closed, breathing in his comfort.

Dramamine blues against a grey sky, waiting out the drowsy malaise to enjoy the company of my love.

Upturned teacups of fog capping the island hills; candle snuffers on God's acolyte stick.

Golf carts our only competition in traffic; a relieved me, whose bum hasn't graced the seat of a cycle in a decade.

Cursing my lack of fitness, wanting to throw the bicycle down. "You're beautiful," says A, leaning my direction to apply a healing kiss.

Finding clouds lifted as we filter out to a balcony. Dandelion light in the harbor below. I long to swim in the water that I know is too cold.

Ice cream dripping down my hand, gumming the seams of the gear shift. Forgetting to be stressed as we race back to the boat.

A slow day but hardly bored, with this man whose humor triggers my laugh, whose hand fills mine, whose crannies of the heart match the nooks in mine.

Beers on the bow. Clinking our Hawaiian brews, remembering a shared vacation of yore. Dreaming of travel ahead.

Brilliant sunshine warming me through, the boat's powerful wake spitting a hundred feet behind, waving goodbye to our day for two.


Back to the city; hurried showers, tired frames. Spirits renewed as friends crowd the bar, hugs all around before collapsing into couches and conversation. The day carrying on into the night, celebrating my honey bee and his life, oh his precious life.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Another moment in which I wonder if I will be a good parent

One of my biggest fears,

if I'm being honest with you, World,

is that I may require too much sleep to be a parent.

I think I can overcome my selfishness. I think I can navigate unforeseen issues. I can handle a lot. I am strong.

But I am weak when it comes to violating an early bedtime.

Just hours ago, I was thinking about how I'm ready for kids. Maybe more eager than I had previously thought. I have stitched enough X's onto canvas. I have read enough books to satiate my appetite (this, I know, is a lie). I can set these things aside and trade them in for years of diapering. The extreme love will be worth it all.

I tell myself this in the morning. In the innocent, not yet slammed with tiredness morning.

And now, at 1:33 p.m., I feel like I am going to die.

I am, through and through: exhausted.

I can't shake the fatigue. It is consuming my thoughts, my bones, my ability to move beyond a shuffle. Weeks of back-to-back weekend travel, with work days in between -- it's finally getting to me. It's grating against my stamina, causing the world to spin with drama and self pity.

Tonight I have a dinner date, and tomorrow morning I am to catch an early boat with my love to go to an island and celebrate his birthday. Upon our return from the island, we will take showers and get beautiful and then head to a late-into-the-night party for continued birthday celebrations.

Now I know, rationally, that I will sleep on Sunday. That tomorrow, with some coffee, I will be my usual, surprisingly morning person self. That, on my feet, on the island, my spirits will likely be up. That I will collapse into a chair with a cocktail, and smile at the wonderful people in Alex's life and mine. The fatigue won't be all consuming, but rather an afterthought.

I know that, come Sunday, I can sleep, or whine, or cry, or shake my fists tiredly in the air, furious with the unfairness of being bone tired.

I can do that, because I don't have kids. No noses will need to be wiped, nor butts for that matter, no dinners to be cooked, no entertaining needing to be offered to restless, toddling bodies and minds.

But all I can think, in my pathetic, tired, sob story state, is: but what if I did have kids? What would I do? Am I fit for motherhood?

Because truly. It is the being tired all the time that scares me the most. When I am tired, the floor falls out from beneath me. Reality starts to melt. Emotions -- the bad ones -- swell tenfold.

Sure, there is the occasional elation from a fit of giggles that can only be known in one's maddeningly tired state. The giggles that bubble when someone looks at you and says only your name, or the word "banana," or something else that shouldn't make you giggle but does.

But will that be enough?

I sure hope my kids make me laugh, because I need it to be enough.

Either that or I'll need a large dose of Prozac. A husband to pull my weeping self into his chest, when it all becomes too much. And the best kids. Kids with grins and messy curls and creative minds, all to buoy their crazy mother in the harbor.

I wonder how many Sundays I'll have left. Sundays with naps, and food delivered to my door, and neglected chores and early bedtimes.

I wonder if I'll miss them after kids arrive.

Something tells me I won't, even though I find myself at this moment dramatic and worried, longing for rest and assurance that I will always be guaranteed enough of it.

I sip my tea and ponder this, watching the sediment of ground leaves fall into organized lines at the bottom of my cup, forming art without care, like sand on the ocean floor.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

168 (hypothetical) hours in the woods

This weekend I went on a girls trip.

Me and three of my gal pals drove ourselves to a cabin in Yosemite, and hung out in a winter wonderland for a couple of days.

We would have loved to have our friend Courtney there, who we each know from various walks of life, and who used to live in California, but she has since moved away and thus, sadly, was unable to join us. She was missed.

I asked Courtney for some blog topics, and she asked me this:

If you were trapped in a cabin for a week by yourself with no electronics (no laptop, cell phone, TV, etc.), what would you spend your time doing?

She gave me other potential questions to address with my typing, but in honor of us missing her during our weekend escapade, I will answer her cabin question below. Read on if you dare, my friends:

Well I'll tell you one thing that I would be doing if left alone in a cabin for a week, Courtney. I would be having an anxiety attack.

I enjoyed my girl time this weekend, along with the gorgeous sights and the time spent making fun of a ranger we met (who was lovely, but, well, we have no excuse for our making fun of him. Anyway).

But I spent more time than expected -- which is to say any time at all -- feeling anxious and downright scared.

As it turns out, being in a cabin in the middle of the woods -- at night, particularly -- freaks.

me.

OUT.

I downplayed this for my girlfriends, but the truth is my anxiety robbed me of several hours of sleep our first night in the woods.

I also talked about it with my therapist upon my return to LA.

So to answer your question, initially, dear friend Courtney, I would probably spend some time adjusting to my new surroundings. I would breathe deeply. I would pray. I would sit tightly in one spot, then force myself to walk around the rooms. I would turn on music to soothe myself, but I presume this is not allowed.

I imagine, as is the case with many of my anxious bouts, I would eventually get over my fear of a cabin in the woods. And I know I would find plenty of things to do. I wouldn't have to find them, as I would bring them with me.

If movie watching and music listening are indeed off the table, this would be difficult to endure. But I would survive, and probably get more out of the week because of it. In fact, I think a silent retreat would be awesome. (Granted we can, like, talk at dinner or something. Because have you met me?)

However, if I find a Lionel Richie cassette tape in my cabin, as we did in our Yosemite abode, I would play it for kicks. Because that's just funny.

No doubt I would get bored in a cabin by myself, probably terribly so, probably for more than just an hour, and probably on most days. Despite this guaranteed boredom, I think the week would go by quickly, and the thought of a week away from work and Facebook and incessant calendaring of social events excites me quite a bit.

So, when not being bored or battling scary thoughts with my worrisome little brain, I would do the following:
  1. Cook
  2. Take a bath
  3. READ
  4. Write, longhand, I guess...I really prefer to type, but a week alone would give me ample time to start filling one of the four journals I've received as gifts in the last year.
  5. Perhaps play Scrabble with myself. I may even go so far as to set up tiles for multiple players, scrabbling myself, as it were, around the table to take each subsequent turn.
  6. Stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch. I would pack five needles just in case I managed to lose four. You know what? Might as well pack 10.
  7. Read the Bible, pray
  8. Play solitaire
  9. Write people letters and cards/assemble care packages, large and small
  10. Sort a bunch of papers, that I of course would bring with me, likely in a laundry basket, to the cabin. Burn old medical bills and paystubs in the fireplace (after learning how to start a fire and not burn the place down or asphyxiate myself with smoke).
  11. Do laundry
  12. Tidy things. Fold blankets, wash dishes, neaten stacks of magazines, that sort of thing.
  13. Make friendship bracelets. Use brightly colored paper to make cards and pieces of art to hang on the wall. Color in a coloring book.
  14. Do yoga
  15. Walk outside
  16. Sing
  17. Have a dance party for moments when I'm really losing it
  18. Have afternoon tea. I may speak in a British accent during this time. Who will I be speaking to? Myself of course.
  19. Brew full pots of coffee and drink only a third of its contents
  20. Tend to my cuticles and paint my nails
  21. Make a list of goals and to-dos for my return to the city
  22. Is Max cat coming with me on this trip? Because he'd get a lot of snuggles.
  23. Shovel snow
  24. Go for drives to the general store and buy things I don't need. Linger and chat with the employees.
  25. Make friends with my neighbors (if I have any and that's allowed)
  26. Drink wine
  27. Edit my manuscript. This I don't mind doing by hand, actually.
  28. Work on jigsaw puzzles!!!
  29. Draft a kids' (picture) book
  30. Think about a lot of things -- things that have been bothering me, mysteries of life, memories and people that make me smile so hard
  31. Daydream about Alex. About falling in love with him initially, and continuing to do so in the future.
  32. Come up with topics to discuss in therapy, as I'm sometimes shorthanded in that category of life
  33. Braid my hair, then take it out, then braid it again
  34. Elect not to take very many showers, but then take them while still relatively clean, when (I presume) I will be looking for something to do to fight the boredom
  35. Make a list of people to invite to my wedding, then pare it down to smaller numbers of guests. It would be a fun game for me. I would also select my bridesmaids.
  36. Do crosswords and other logic/word puzzles
  37. Select names for my children, then guess which ones Alex would veto
Basically, I am the type of person who would spend a week doing the things I love, rather than learning a new skill, as some would select to do instead. I would do a combination of things with my hands, my head, and my heart (and with my health; I would pretend I am a member of 4-H during my stay in the woods).

I might cry, if I needed to. I might cry from loneliness, or boredom, or fear that I will lose my mind alone in the woods. If worried by the thought of potential robbers or ghosts in the cabin, I might let myself cry to let myself feel better.

I would unpack my suitcase and put clothes in drawers and on hangers. I *might* make my bed. I would be more organized than in my daily life. I would not wear jewelry. I might wear perfume, as I like the smell, and spritz it on more for my benefit than for others; but I would probably forget to pack any. I would unabashedly crank the heat, and/or wrap myself in an inappropriate amount of blankets. I would apply lotion to my hands and feet. I would determine during my solo retreat whether or not I would shave my legs.

I would wear deodorant.

I would throw open the windows during the day. I would have socks on nearly always. I would try my best not to think about the movie Titanic, and that one time I watched it while in a cabin in the woods and how it traumatized me.

Clearly my list of things to do is too long, so I would not get all of the aforementioned items completed. I would know this going in, and it would both bother and relieve me.

The week would be over before it began. But as I returned to my apartment, I would snap back instantly and fully. With my breathing a little bit slower than before. And I would be thankful to whomever put me up in a cabin for a week away from it all.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Gratitude for the win in 2015

2015 is going on record as one of my happiest years yet.

I don't know if I can call this an accomplishment, but it's certainly a milestone. Milestone? It's something.

Let's look at some of the things that made it great, shall we?

1. It's the first full year of my adulthood that I've spent properly medicated.

I think my medication contributes fairly significantly to my body's new choice to hold onto extra weight, but other than that, it's perfecto.

I am the most even keel I have been in all my adult years. Which is something I wished for for a long time. I used to hope for a mate who would help me feel even keel. While my mate does certainly help me feel calm and peaceful, I also feel that way independent of him.

Celexa and Abilify, we salute you.

My Halloween costume this year: Joy from "Inside Out"

2. I'm finally traveling.

For as much time as I spent hoping for steady emotions, I have spent about an equal amount being jealous of others' travels.

I used to hide people from my Facebook news feed who were any of the following: overly happy, in love, or in Europe.

It was a simple system, and it helped maintain my envy to a degree, but I'm fairly close to abolishing it.

In 2015, I saw: San Francisco, Des Moines, Milwaukee, San Diego, Kansas City, Denver, Buffalo, Monterey, Maui, Tucson, and Niagara Falls.

Pardon my French, but that's a damn good bit of traveling.

I have finally put aside my belief that I couldn't go anywhere, ever, due to money, fear, or this idea that in order to travel, the circumstances must first be perfect. Furthermore, I have traded in my feeling that I have to be in Europe or someplace else overseas for my vacation to feel significant. That is far out the window. I don't care if I'm two hours outside of LA. If I'm sleeping on the couch of someone I love, that's now enough for me.


(Also, as a side note, I've started going to more concerts. This goes along with my new attitude of "just do it" -- want to see someone in concert? Have the money? Get a ticket! Done. Enjoy.)

3. I fell in love.

This handsome mug has made my days of 2015 pretty great.


4. I got myself a living pal.

I thought I loved living alone. And it's true, I did.

But I never thought living with another would bring me so much joy.

And I never thought that I wouldn't miss life on my own.

I'm accepting that I'm more extroverted than I once did. Or I'm becoming less selfish with my "need" to be completely alone for X number of hours each day. Maybe both.

While I probably lean pretty heavily toward the extrovert category of life, I'm a pretty 50/50 girl; I need lots of time to recharge, and I need to be around people to keep my spirits up. It's kind of amazing, actually, how I begin to droop after a certain amount of time being simply alone. It's like the need for food or water; I just need people. We all do, but that's another chat for another time.

Anyway, I've discovered that more so than strictly needing time alone, it turns out I just need time to do my own thing, and it doesn't matter if people are nearby. In fact, I kind of enjoy it when someone is around.

I once saw Tom Hanks be asked in an interview what his favorite sound is, and he answered immediately with this: "The sound of family in the next room."

I've never forgotten that, and almost got goosebumps typing it just now.

I grew up with a large, (loud) family, so I think that the presence of other life around me is something I inherently expect. I also grew up retreating to my own quarters relatively often, to, on my own, read or craft or watch TV -- much the same activities I do now for a meditative reboot.

2015 was a time that I realized, loud and clear: I no longer mind if someone else is in the same room during these activities. In six months of living with Abby, I have only very seldom felt the desire to be truly away from her, and even then the desire is usually not that strong. It was more often out of not wanting to do much talking at the moment, or needing to quietly rest.

So. Roommate, good. I like it...err, her.

Plus, we have, like, tons of fun together.


5. I had visitors.

This coming February will be the third time running that my beautiful college gal pal, Laura, has come westward ho to visit me. I can't believe I'm so fortunate to have a grown up tradition that allows me to spend time with someone I love to pieces, in various regions. Together, we have explored San Francisco, LA, Vegas, and Disneyland. In two quick months, we'll be sailing the ocean blue together, with our boos and her parents, to see Catalina Island and Mexico.


Other notable visitors to Cali this year were: bestie Michelle, Tommy in town for work, my surrogate dad, Tim, and, for a whole Thanksgiving week, my parents!


For a long while, I thought no one would come to see me out here on the west coast, and my heart just bursts with happiness when another guest crosses the threshold to my mismatched (but full of blankies and pillows) home. For those considering a future visit, door's always open, folks. Seriously, would love to have you.

6. I sat my butt down and got some writing done (and some of it was published).

My writing plan is simple, but (apparently) effective.

Every three days, I get a Google calendar reminder in my inbox: "write."

I don't rigidly hold myself to writing exactly every three days, but I can't delete the reminder email until I do what it tells me to.

A unit of writing can be any of the following: writing a blog post, working on a freelance piece, writing an essay, editing something for a friend, or writing or editing a chunk of my book.

Once I've done one of those things, I can delete the email.

Here I sit on December 31st, and while I have two emails nagging me to return a library DVD and pay off my Target credit card, there are no flashing "writes" among them. I count this a (huge) win. While before I was willy nilly about when I would write, today I can confidently say I do it regularly.

And as some of you know, I started a book. I have 20,000 of an aimed for 50,000 words written. And a plan in place to finish up Draft One by the end of January.

It feels good to do what Anne Lamott calls "butt in chair." Like, real good.

7. I learned to embrace gratitude.

I came across a quote today. OK, fine, it was a quote meant to be cross stitched, and I found it while I was prowling the Internet for more stitch projects that I don't need, but give me a round of applause for at least not purchasing it...yet.

It says this: "Gratitude turns what we have into enough."

I love that.

Up there with my jealousy of others' world travels was, for a long time, a lot of thinking in my head that I didn't have enough.

I felt I had enough material things, but not enough vacations, experiences, times with friends that met up to sitcom standards. Not enough boyfriend. Not enough happy.

I feel, nearly daily, that my cup runneth over, Y'all.

I feel regularly spoiled, with unexpected material gifts from family and friends, as well as with laughs, contentment in my job and with my finances, happiness with my living situation. The nicest boyfriend, who calls me Baby, which I love.

When I'm having an off day, I've picked up the habit of making a gratitude list, or as I sometimes like to call it, counting my sacks of sugar. I count small things like this:
  • I'm not groggy today. One cup of coffee is cutting it.
  • I wanted to make paper penguins, and a coworker randomly gave me black paper -- what fortune!
  • I am still enjoying Celine's Let's Talk About Love album, 12 years after receiving it. Because, well, Celine.
  • The office is ordering us pizza today, and we'll be singing karaoke while we eat! Yesssssss.
  • I'm not sad, but looking forward to spending this New Year's Eve night with my kitty, quietly at home.

So, I'm more grateful in general, and I'm training myself to redirect my mind from pessimism to counting my blessings. Which sounds corny and like something your kitschy aunt might do, but it's more helpful than you might think (the research even says so).

8. I (sort of) learned to speak up.

I know what you're thinking: Bailey? Chatty Cathy? Trouble speaking up?

No.

But yes.

I'm still working on this one a lot, but I'm learning, on some (still relatively timid) level, to let people know when I'm unhappy with their actions. And I'm realizing that being angry or resentful or privately annoyed is like having your panties in a bunch -- not comfortable and not worth it.

9. I kept busy, but also kicked my feet up -- a lot.

When I'm not stitching with the cat at my feet, my feet are hitting the pavement. Sometimes I wear myself out, I tell ya.

Having a boyfriend has almost doubled my social life, too, since he is an active party-attender himself and often invites me along.

I find that it's helpful to my happiness to remind myself that I am lucky to have some time now when I can enjoy my mate and my many friends, and I don't have kids to worry about.

Meanwhile, as your loving therapist will tell you, it's all about the balance. I take lots of time to stitch, drink a beer, watch a movie, talk to Abby, read, tidy my environment to make it more peaceful. It may seem selfish, but I believe it makes us live longer when we take some time to boost our spirits. (On the other side of this token, I've found that I love to shower people with gifts, so there's a lot to be said for outward giving and one's happiness).

So get yo'self out the house, yo, but make sure you spend some time in it, too.


10. And finally, I found a new church.

Not, like, a new religion. But I found a new physical church in my neck of the woods.

I was extremely lucky to be invited to a church my very first weekend in LA three years ago, one that had one of the best preachers I have ever been privy to hear. His messages were enough to buoy me for a while, and then I started to feel lonely and lost in the huge population there.

Joining a small group helped a bit, and starting to greet once a month helped me make some new friends (not so much with the people I was greeting, but with the people who I was greeting with), but eventually I got tired of the commute across town to get there and continually meeting the same people who didn't remember me from the crowd. I sometimes wanted to shout, honestly, "I've met you three times and you don't remember my name or face?!"

When Abby and I moved in together, I noticed a church nearby our new place and decided to give it a try. Not only do I really like the pastor and his messages and genuine way of speaking and interacting with the congregation, but it has got to be one of the most welcoming churches I've ever encountered.

While my previous church served a purpose in my life and continues to be a great ministry to so many in this city, I find that what I need right now is something with a smaller community. And I found one, and I love, love, love it.

So grateful. So happy. Hoping and praying for the same for the rest of you in 2016.

It's been a great year, and I can't thank you all enough, again, for continuing to visit this blog. It means so much.

Xox,
The Daily Bailey

Monday, December 28, 2015

A desert Christmas


A desert Christmas looks like rainbow sunsets.

Cacti as far as the eye can see.

A flood of gifts, pooling out from under the tree.

A room full of toys, acting as a bedroom.

Plastic bugs, held by tiny niece and nephew hands, glowing in a dark pantry.

A desert Christmas sounds like a nephew's giddy laughter, thrilled by an otter in a tank.

A Keurig machine, gurgling and spitting coffee into mugs.

A toy mixer steadily whirring, the button held in place by a three-year-old thumb.

Newsboys, Schuyler, and Mariah, crooning inside a Corolla racing along the 10 freeway.

Gravel crunching underfoot, then falling to silence, as someone says, "Look!" and we stop to take in the mountain view.

Tom Petty in the car's speakers, driving to the store after a canyon hike.

Small voices at bedtime -- voices that already know the Lord's Prayer.

A desert Christmas smells like macadamia oil shampoo.

Sunscreen, from a complimentary pump in the zoo (that is masquerading as a "museum") bathroom.

...nothing, really. The desert is just kind of dusty and scentless.

Kids' sweet heads, covered with soft, baby fine hair.


Ground beef grilling, in the "museum" dining hall.

A desert Christmas tastes like homemade mac 'n cheese.

Birthday cake for Jesus.

Guacamole for dinner, made by a loving brother.

Grand Canyon beer, to wash down the smooth guac.

French silk pie and pancakes in the same meal, because vacation.

Coffee Rio candies, sucked and then chewed during family outings.

Baileys in Bailey's Christmas morning coffee.

Microwaved frozen pizza after a long, night time drive, worth it to reach family at the end.

A desert Christmas feels like carsickness on the windy, up-and-down roads.

Boxes landing on my previously sleeping self, as a grown brother and his kids wish me a "Happy Boxing Day!"

An aching back, from a car ride too long.

Just barely sore legs, after two hikes in one day.

Shared laughter, after a grown brother learned his lesson about kicking a cactus.


A desert Christmas feels like hugs from bodies big and small.

Hands held in church, and grasped around the table for prayer.

A desert Christmas feels like love.