A Regular Forrest Gump Over Here

Yesterday was beautiful—sunny and around 50 degrees. I knew that rain and snow were headed our way for today, so I made sure to get my run in yesterday when the weather was perfect. I intended to go out for about 45 minutes or so and just get in a decent run. I ended up running for 2 hours straight. I just kept going and going. It was really like I was purging something. Like all the sorrow and frustration that I’ve been experiencing lately about my life and my friendships needed to find some way out of me and this was the only way I knew how to get rid of it.

Needless to say, my hamstrings are pretty upset about it today.

Thanks for the paranoia, New Girl

On last night’s episode of New Girl when Jess’s newly-pregnant gynecologist friend informs her that something like 90% of your eggs are gone by the age of 30, I felt like someone had just punched me in the chest. It’s silly because I’m not even 30 yet, and I’m still not sure I even want to have kids, and let’s be honest, it might not be an accurate statistic–I didn’t bother to fact check because I kind of love the idea of getting all my reproductive health knowledge from primetime sitcoms–but still, it quite literally took my breath away. And herein lies the essential problem with being a woman in your late-twenties who is not quite ready to muscle screaming spawn out of her nether region: you are trapped in a dizzying dichotomy of being both deeply concerned about getting pregnant, and deeply concerned about not getting pregnant. My biological clock may be ticking, but I learned how to tune that out long ago. It’s the relentless countdown from all socio-cultural corners that refuses to be ignored. Not even FOX comedies are a safe space anymore!

I consider myself a pretty intelligent woman, but I guess it never really occurred to me that if you are in your late-twenties, in a stable, committed relationship, it inevitably doesn’t matter if you haven’t decided how to answer the will-you-won’t-you-and-when-if-you-do baby question just yet; nearly every decision will still undergo the what-if-baby? treatment. D and I are taking a good look at our budget this year and trying to figure out how much we should be putting into savings, and what to allocate yearly to my retirement planning. We aren’t saving for a future baby, but I guess we kind of are, because what if we have one and we didn’t bother to save up when we didn’t have one, will we be totally screwed? Right now we have two cars and I want to trade them both in and get a slightly larger, nicer car that will make traveling to see family, and going on camping trips more enjoyable. But as D reasonably pointed out, maybe we should wait a few years before we make the exchange, because if we have a baby we might want a bigger car and wouldn’t it be nice to have a new one then instead of one that we’ve already put a ton of miles on? Yes, I suppose that would be nice, in two years, four years, six years, never?

I don’t feel pressured to have kids, nor do I feel pressured to decide right here and now whether or not I will have them someday and when exactly someday will be. But I also feel like I don’t have the freedom to make other decisions in my life until I know my ultimate decision on this one nagging question. I don’t want kids right now, I know that much, but that only helps me plan for the present and I’m the sort of person who needs to map out her future. What if I wait too long and can’t have kids? Will future baby-wanting me horribly resent present not-baby-wanting me? Every time I feel like I’ve managed to put some space between myself and the baby question, something comes along to remind me that this is an issue that refuses to be ignored. I just wanted to relax with a glass of wine and watch New Girl, not contemplate all the choices I’ve made up to this point in my life and all the choices I have to make moving forward.

I had to pause the episode when she said that. 90% of your eggs are gone by 30. I actually had to pause it and catch my breath, and remind myself that I’m not 30 and it’s just TV, it’s not real life. It’s not my life. Not yet anyway. Not yet, but someday.

Cowboy Take Me To The Edge of Sanity

It took me forever to fall asleep last night because I had the song “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks stuck in my head for about two hours. It has easily been ten years since I’ve heard that song and it bothers me that something can suddenly pop back into your head long after you’ve pretty much forgotten that it ever existed. I spent the first fitful hour repeating the same two lines over and over again and nearly convincing myself that is was worth getting out of bed to look up the names of each individual Dixie Chick so as to better plot their murders. The second hour was consumed with trying to trace the thread of my day, week, month back to the moment when this insipid song entered my subconscious and chose to lie in wait for this one optimal time of pure torture. It’s not even a song that I enjoy, from a band I hardly ever listened to, in a genre of music that could disappear entirely and I doubt I’d even notice its absence.

How do things like this happen? What kind of world is this where I can turn out the light after a long weekend, desperate for the softness of my pillow and the pleasant relief of some much needed sleep, only to have my head ache and pound for hours as lines like “closer to heaven above and closer to you,” bounce against the inside of my skull with no obvious genesis or direction? I’m not saying I’m this great person who should one day be unquestionably venerated like a saint, but don’t I deserve better than this? Aren’t I good enough, hardworking enough, don’t I care enough about the general wellbeing of others that I should be exempted from the hideous cruelty of “Cowboy Take Me Away” ringing through my head at one in the morning? Yes, I’ll admit that I turned to my husband several times throughout the night, saw him sleeping soundly and without hesitation thought, “I hate this man.” Those were not my best moments. Those were thoughts that are perhaps deserving of death by Dixie Chicks refrain, but you have to understand how maddening this was, how worrisome and terrifying an ordeal it had become. What if “Cowboy Take Me Away” was some kind of Dixie Chicks Pandora’s Box? What if I was opening my mind to the chaos of two or three lines from an entire catalogue of Dixie Chicks songs that I could just barely remember from my youth? What if this wasn’t just some horrible infliction that I would suffer for one night only, and wake the next morning wired and restless but mercifully released from the horrid grasp of twangy country vocals? What if this was my life?

I pride myself on being a fighter. On my ability to face the world and shout “fuck you” with my shoulders back and my voice strong and determined, before racing off to cry in the privacy of my bathroom with the shower running to cover the sound of my sobs. If people remember only one thing about me, let it be that I did not go gentle into that good night. No sir. It might have been three on one, but I was not going to let these Chicks of the Dixie defeat me. If I could not rid my head of their incessant song, I would simply have to drown it out. I would fill my mind with so much music that space would be a commodity so rare that even the Dixie Chicks with their platinum records and millions of dollars could no longer afford to take up residence in my brain. All I needed were more songs, different songs. Songs that I could remember in full or in part. Songs that I loved and songs that I hated. It didn’t matter, I just needed enough songs to create such a tempest of noise in my head that eventually there would be nothing left but a drone that would lull me into a glorious sleep.

I opened my mind and my arms to a torrent of music, but nothing came. Any song, I told my brain. Any song, I pleaded with the universe. Then it happened, building slowly, quietly:

I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while are sleeping
While you’re far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure

Don’t want to close my eyes
I don’t want to fall asleep
Cause I’d miss you babe
And I don’t want to miss a thing

“I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. That Aerosmith song from Armageddon.

And that’s when I realized that Tired Me has a seriously fucked up sense of humor.

Infected

I woke up on Thursday morning feeling off. Not sick per se, but more like the energy in my room had shifted and turned into a negative, almost menacing pulsation in the air around me. I felt dizzy, like the entire world was spinning on its axis in one direction and I, in an act of confusion and a desperate need for some kind of control, was attempting to spin the other way. I thought I might tip over with each step, or just collapse with the weight of all the blood in my body rushing away from my head and pooling thick and stagnant around my ankles. It was like every bit of me had been drained into my toes and I moved through the house in a slow, lumbering kind of way that was positively terrifying.

One time when I was a child, I had head lice. Or my brother had it, or perhaps my sister. It didn’t matter. Once one person had lice, everyone had lice. It spread through our schools like chicken pox, like a common cold. Head lice was like a yawn during a particularly tedious test or quiet study period. It jumped from one student to the next, making its way around the room until everyone’s mouth was stretched wide with exhaustion and it made no difference who yawned first, everyone was tired. There is no Patient Zero with head lice. Once you find it on one child, you can be sure there’s already another 10, 15, 2o carrying the bug home, sharing it with their siblings who will then go to school and pass it on to their classes, spreading it from one grade to the next until the whole school is throwing down their pencils in frustration and angrily scratching their heads.

My mother had to strip all the beds. Sheets, blankets, towels, clothes. Quilts that had been locked away in cedar trunks. Bath mats and rugs and every hat in the house. Everything had to be cleaned and disinfected. Cycle after cycle of laundry needed washing. It was like head lice had been genetically engineered by detergent companies. You could go through box after box of Tide and still not be sure the pests were truly gone.

We had to sit in the bathtub and comb a special lice-killing shampoo through our hair with a special lice-killing-shampoo-spreading comb. We had to be extra clean for the days and weeks that followed. No piles of dirty clothes on the floor. No going to bed without showering. It was frustrating and tiresome, but it was also in a strange way kind of pleasant. That kind of dedicated, stripped down house cleansing was soul cleansing as well. It felt like a fresh start, a chance to begin again free from pests and irritations. It required a kind of mindfulness and devotion that is so rarely applied to the mundanities of everyday life.

I woke up Thursday morning infected by a sort of existential head lice, and the only way I could think to rid myself of this feeling of confusion and disconnected self was to vigorously clean my entire house. I swept and wiped down all of the hardwood floors. I vacuumed the bedroom carpet twice until I was sure that every deeply buried speck of dust and melancholy had been sucked away. I reorganized all my jewelry and toiletries. I folded every last piece of laundry, and washed random items, like the slip-on covers of our dining room chairs that had never occurred to me before as being in need of washing. I rearranged the furniture in the dining room to facilitate a better sense of flow from the living room to the kitchen, as if flow was something I had always cared about, but previously neglected. As if flow was something I even understood. I wiped down all the counters and table tops. I dusted the shelves and picture frames. I spent ten ridiculous minutes fluffing the pillows on the couch. I needed to cleanse my life of whatever bad energy had followed me from sleep to waking. I needed to stand in the middle of my house and smell the strong scent of disinfectant. I needed to stand beneath the spray of the shower head and feel the blood return to my limbs and cheeks. I cancelled my appointments and focused solely on the task of cleansing my world, my self. I was Patient Zero and I would not let this bug spread to anyone else.

I felt better. With the floors free of dog hair and the soap scum banished from the tub. With clean clothes neatly stacked in my dresser drawers and my brightly colored scarves hanging organized on the same rack that held my earrings. I felt the air in the house slowly stop trembling and pulsing. I felt my feet resting ever more steadily against the floor. I don’t know what it was that infected me on Thursday morning, but I knew that I had to wash it away. I had to purge it, scald it, bury it under a spray of household chemicals. I had to strip away everything that felt disorderly, chaotic and begin again fresh, free from the pests and irritations of my psyche.