Panorama of San Bernardino

Friday, October 31, 2014

The wanting and the waiting

I have said before that I live life looking in the rear view mirror.  I tend to only appreciate the high points in my life later looking back.  That is how it was with my time at UCR, with law school in LA, with Houston at the largest firm in Texas and with my time spent in San Francisco.

Perhaps, I get caught up in the minutiae of getting somewhere.  I am very goal orientated to a fault.  It must stem from being a young girl in the Inland Empire ("IE") who used to lay on the roof and listen to her parents fight.  I would look up at the stars and yearn for something more.

I always knew i would leave the IE.  I just didn't know I would return.

How does one return with grace?  I am still learning.  Since I came back, I have struggled to find my way and be content.  I started off at yet another law firm but found my way to the public defender's office.  I am happy there.  It is not perfect and there are days where I want to write full-time, but the work is fulfilling and my colleagues are like family.

Yet, I am always still wanting more.  Waiting for it.  The question is, am I waiting for something good or something bad to happen?  Am I waiting for the big one and living my life on high alert?  Expecting the shoe to drop, the door to slam, the wall to get punched in and for me to have to run?  For now, I need to resist the urge to move, both literally and figuratively.  Reminding myself over and over that I am fine right where I am.

Ultimately, I am slowly discovering that more may just be more.  More may not necessarily be better.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Life Is Beautiful

At the Life Is Beautiful three day festival in Las Vegas I saw a band called The Flaming Lips.  I did not know their music all too well.  I was only familiar with three or four songs.  I would call them their own genre.  A kind of psychedelic alternative meets opera rock.

The band came on at the same time as Outkast so it was not too crowded.  Huge blow up animals with people inside crowded the stage with walking life size rainbows and mushrooms and aliens.  The show was spectacular.

But, the reason I am writing this is because one of their songs touched me.  It was a song I had heard before, but I had not listened intently to the lyrics.  It is called, "Do You Realize?" and the lyrics go like this:

"Do you realize?  That everyone you know-someday will die? And instead of saying all your goodbyes let them know-You realize that life goes fast-it's hard to make the good things last.  You realize the sun don't go down-It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning around."

That thought is awesome and sublime when you think of it.  We will all die.  All our friends will die and the world will still be here spinning around.  So why get caught up in the small stuff?  We spend so much time worrying about trivial things instead of enjoying life in the moment.  A wise women (my therapist) told me something the other day.  She said, "Juanita, there is a time in life to make things happen and there is a time in life to just let life happen.  You need to let life unfold and live in the moment instead of always worrying about what you need to be doing."

My therapist and The Flaming Lips were both saying the same profound thing to me.  Life is beautiful.  Life is short.  Life can be tragic and sad.  But you can't avoid the loss.  You can only live your life and tell those you love that you adore them.  Shout it to the high heavens before it is too late.  If I could, I would bring my dad to Vegas and tell him how I adore him and how he was the best father in the world.  I would thank him for teaching me a love of music and movies and how to play gin rummy.

And while I am here in Vegas, I will tell my husband Adrian over and over how much I appreciate him and how lucky I was in my twenty year old drunken haze to meet him at a club in Pomona twenty plus years ago.  The universe was watching out for me that night.

And I will tell the written word how much I love writing and that in the end, my art is my legacy.  These letters I am typing may be all I leave to remind others I was here and ultimately, baby or no baby, I am here.  I am happy.  And life is beautiful.

Friday, October 3, 2014

When a piece of pizza is not just a piece of pizza

A piece of pizza almost wrecked my marriage.  We were in New York.  My husband and I had planned the trip with his business partner Harris and Harris' girlfriend Shiela.  I was excited about the trip.  Adrian was not.  I like to run away when I have problems and New York was pretty far.

This has been a bad year.  We have had money and tenant issues and living arrangement issues.  And then there's the baby issue.  Or lack thereof.  Tens of thousands of dollars into IVF and all my husband and I bought was a miscarriage.  The loss was a traumatizing experience that left me anxious and depressed.

I had never had anxiety before, but then I had never dealt with issues sober. I had always been able to drink my worries away.  My sober date is more than two years ago and I am proud of those two years.  But without alcohol, I was a mess.  I felt as if the world was crashing in some days.  And others days, well I was OK but the happy JEM was gone.

I felt as if New York could change this.  In the big city that was known as a large red apple, my sweetness and zest for life would reappear. A kind of rebirth.

Alas, it was not to be.  My anxiety seemed worse on vacation with no work to occupy me.  Traveling seemed to heighten my neurosis rather than alleviate it and I had no puppies to hug at night to take away the pain.

In short, if I was a mess in California, then in New York I was a broken, sleepless wreck and a hazard to be around.  Adrian took it in stride and tried to pat and talk me out of it.  It got so bad that I told him I was going to drink.  He sighed when I insisted that night at the Replacements concert that I was going to order a Coors Lite.  "Two years and all you want is a light beer?" he asked clearly flummoxed.  "At least go out in style."

I ended up refraining (maybe all I needed was his permission to relapse) and instead, I chain smoked a couple of cigarettes, had a sugar free lemonade and spent a small fortune on concert memorabilia.  Sobriety can be expensive.

After the concert, we took the subway home and I layed down in a bed that wasn't mine, rather it was the bed of the sweet Asian girl who rented her apartment to us, and cried all night eyes wide open.  For whatever reason, maybe the music brought it out, I felt my childlessness more than ever that night.  It was as if I could taste it and if I had to describe it, it tasted like mouthwash mixed with cigarettes and runny mascara.

But, back to the pizza.  There were two pizza incidents which is not surprising considering that New York is famous for its thin crust pizza.  The first pizza experience was a good one.  It was a tasty, hot piece of cheese pizza in Central Park and Adrian and I bonded over it while we moaned in delight.

The second pizza story is the one you want to hear.  It was a nondescript pizza dive next door to the apartment.  I think it was called Vinny's or some other Italian first name.  Adrian and I were hungry and standing in line around noon.  There was a business crowd.  It was our third or fourth day in the city.  We planned on eating our lunch rooftop in Battery Park to watch the ferries go by on the water.  I was standing with Adrian in line and suddenly, it was our turn to order.  I turned into a glutton and ordered every piece of pizza in sight, adding them one by one until I had six in all.  I don't blame myself.  I blame the women behind me who kept saying what they were going to order and I hadn't picked those slices so I had to add them on.

Through all of my pizza debacle Adrian didn't say a word.  But, after we went outside on the rooftop across the street to eat, he looked at me and said, "Why did you order so many slices? You know you can't eat them, it's wasteful."

Me being me, I freaked out on him.  I cried and told him he wasn't being supportive and if it was the money I would give him the stupid, fucking twenty bucks for lunch. (Pizza is cheap in New York.)

The argument lasted hours and ended with me saying the D word.  Or maybe he did.  Or maybe we both said it.  The word hung in the air and then all of a sudden, the tension dissipated and we started laughing.  I had to say it aloud.  "Are we really going to divorce over a piece of pizza?"

No.  We weren't.

And then later it hit me.  The pizza wasn't pizza.  It was everything I wanted at that moment in our life together.  I wanted it all.  And I couldn't have it.  But dammit, I could pretend, if only for a moment in a pizza joint in New York, that everything I wanted was attainable.

How to deal

Lately, I have been unable to deal.  I have to admit my anxiety has taken over and I am a mess.  Off kilter, I have not slept and I am sleepwalking my way through my day.  The ramifications are many.  My lack of sleep coupled with my anxiety has created a shaky and irritable Juanita.  My heart rate is up and my heartache is paramount.

I long for the days of old where I could shrug it all off with a beer or a rum and coke.  Without alcohol, life is harder I admit.  But, I don't regret this sober albeit more anxious me.  My therapist (yes, I found one and I adore her) keeps telling me that I need to simplify things.

Am I anxious because my life is not what I expected? Yes.  But the truth is, my life is based on choices I made.  Maybe I need to make new and better choices for myself.  And this morning, after sleeping for several hours last night due to sheer exhaustion without any Tylenol PM, I tell myself that everything will be ok.

If this feels like a rant, it is.  It is just a chronology of my thoughts.  I have lost my ability to string words together into an essay today.  Instead, this is what you get.  Deal with it.  As must I.