Nocturnal No More

Sleep is overrated, or at least it used to be before I got old. And by “old” I’m using the term relatively, as in “older than I used to be.”

20 years ago my average bedtime was 1am and I was up at 5:30, just as vibrant as a newborn chick. 10 years ago I remember going to bed at 11pm like clockwork and getting up by 5:30. It was as easy as lemon meringue, a fitting routine — one I could handle. Even 5 years ago it wasn’t too difficult drifting off to sleep between 10:30 and 11 and waking up nice and toasty warm at 6am.

Last night I rumbled into bed at 12:10am after a very long day doing god knows what, and I felt exhausted down in the depths of my bones, a physical pull that dragged me down onto that bed. I was out in seconds with the alarm firmly set for 6:30 this morning. 6:30 came and went without fanfare, just me punching the button on the alarm clock, rolling back over, and hoping the buzzing in my head would go away.

That buzzing in my head was my body saying, “I’m too old for this shit.” I can’t stay up the way I used to with no adverse effects, not anymore. The creaking of my bones, the fuzzy nature of my morning brain, it is all testament to the passage of time and to my passivity thereby.

If I were to take a morning photograph of myself in this fugue state I would probably frighten myself. I wonder if this is what most college students go through after a night of insane partying. And I can get that feeling just by going to bed a little later than normal. Score one for age. So, the bottom line is that I shouldn’t really stay up after 11 at night anymore or I’m likely to turn back into a pumpkin.

Tell my mind that, you know, the next time I somehow forget, because my body won’t forget anytime soon that I’m nocturnal no more.


Boarders, Volume 1

I live here now.

As hard as I find it to believe it’s nevertheless true. I wake up and I’m still here. It wasn’t just a dream after all. We live here, on one side of a massive house that we’re cobbling together to try and make our own, at least for the several months we will occupy it.

My six-year-old summed up the feeling accurately tonight. “Go home,” she said, and it ’bout near broke my heart, because I knew she wanted to return to the house we no longer call home. And I don’t know how to make her realize this is where we live now, that this isn’t just a three-night thing, that we’re boarders in someone else’s home.

I don’t know how to make myself realize that we are boarders in someone else’s home.

But I do know how I feel being here — as if the other shoe could drop at any moment. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells. I don’t want to mess anything up, to do anything that would upset the queen bee of this hive. Yes, “walking on eggshells” definitely qualifies in this instance.

You see, this queen bee likes things a certain way, and if they don’t go that way there could be hell to pay. No, I don’t mean she’ll yell at me, but the silent stare, the subtle knife digging in, it’s much worse than a simple rebel yell. In my house I didn’t feel judged by everything I did, like I couldn’t set something down without that shadow hovering above me at all times.

And I know some of it is definitely me. I need to adjust to living in a place I don’t own, being a part of a larger household that shifts and shimmies like an amoeba fighting for relevance in a 2-dimensional world. But it’s been four days, and I am still in mourning. Maybe next week.


Shacking Up: Part 3

“The time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love.” ~Lisa Loeb

We painted the back porch together, but separately. It was a labor of love, really. I wanted Payne’s Blue Gray, and she wanted a kind of traditional blue, so we compromised… and used the kind of traditional blue. I didn’t mind too much after the fact. She hadn’t even entertained the idea that I would want to help paint, so when I offered a curious smile touched her lips before she said yes.

I had the daytime, weekday, duties, largely because I had no job early that summer. A lot of applications were in the wind but none had blown back to me. It’s one of the reasons I offered to help paint the porch, because it gave me something to do where I felt useful. I think on some level she knew that. She painted at night, when the cicadas began their singsong patterns, after she got home from work, the light blazing on the porch like a mini-sun.

Her brushstrokes were quick and efficient, one next to another in endless patterns that I could never quite discern but that were perfect nonetheless. Mine were cobbled together like those ancient, tiny Philadelphia streets I remembered from so long ago, one stroke sideways and the other up and down, never parallel but always touching the next stroke. I would often forget which ones I had already painted once, or twice, and some spots would get three or four passes of traditional blue paint because of it. She told me it was okay.

Then, one day in late summer, we were done. It was weird too, because we had been working on the project for what seemed to me like forever, because it had been the longest, most perfect summer as the sun had streaked into the porch while I sweated through my work. When it was done, though, it looked amazing. Or at least the part she had completed did. But she didn’t judge me. She never judged me. She just smiled, gave me a hug, and told me it was a job well done.

Painting that back porch wasn’t the first thing we had done together, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last, but it was an adventure in patience and vision. When that porch was finished it was a testament to what we could do when we put our minds to it. It was a beautiful floor that I didn’t want to walk on for fear of scuffing the perfect blue. I wasn’t naive. I was just proud of what we could do when we put our minds together.

I miss that porch, but I miss the adventure more. Now on to the next journey. Together.


A Slim Thread

The drawbacks were many
Set up in random, thin lines
As if they were equal
As if nothing else mattered
But love is discriminate
With its pitiful adoration
Exchanged for consequence
Sprinkled with an ignorance
That verges on the unkind
Separated by a slim thread
Like a dance on the tightrope
With eyes firmly shut
Blocking out the cruel world
But in the balancing of scales
She means more than iron
Weighing heavily on my soul
This emotional release
Sliding across the thin line
To meet her in the middle.


Dear Journal: Novelty

Dear Journal,

I am often fascinated by seemingly casual exchanges between people, especially when one of those people happens to be me. My life is pretty scripted, so there’s not much room for new exchanges, for making new friends, or even just for seeing those people I call friends. But every once in a while there are people who show up out of nowhere for a reason, to break that routine. And most times I’m amazed by them.

I had a conversation yesterday that proved this idea that novelty can be inspirational. Someone who I wouldn’t have guessed read this blog did indeed read it, and responded to something that resonated with her, to something that touched her deeply. We had an amazing exchange that renewed my faith in humanity, and that made me feel like what I’m doing out here is indeed worthwhile. Not just for me but for those who read it religiously and offer me that feedback.

There are so many things I can say about how this blog keeps me thoughtful and brings me back to moments in time, to bits and pieces of myself I may have left behind but never forgotten. But the most important thing I can say about this blog is that it exposes me to more than the past. It allows me to live in the future every moment, to enjoy this novelty that comes along with being out here, with making new connections with others.

And I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.


Shacking Up: Part 2

“All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.” ~Raymond Hull

13902_10200791359371448_1822796031_nI can’t say I wasn’t worried. It would be a lie. Because moving 800 miles to be with someone I knew mostly through the hundred or so emails we sent each other, to live with someone I had only “met” once before, it was crazy. I will readily admit that, and yet it was the only option that made sense. I was 25 years old, and not getting any younger. I felt this amazing connection with a woman, a connection I had never felt before in my life. I owed it to myself to see it out, to take that leap of faith and hope I landed on my feet.

And hope we landed on our feet.

Long distance doesn’t work. I knew that as well as anyone. So it was either live together and make that leap or try and make the distance matter less. We agreed that it had to be all in, and that meant living together. So we were committed to seeing it through, for better or for worse. I remember when she first brought me to see this place, how she looked at me while I looked at it, trying to gauge my reaction. From the Pepto Bismol pink walls, to the fake fireplace, to the shelves build into the doorway from the foyer to the dining room, the reaction she saw was one of doubt.

I was doubtful that this place could ever become a home for us, that was for sure. It had old nob-and-tube electrical wiring, so none of our appliances fit for a while, until we could get the electrician in here to switch it all over. Which meant we had no appliances for a while. We spent most of our days cleaning out the junk, cleaning the place, painting the walls, and re-imagining what it could be. Those were, I’ll admit, some of the most close-knit days for us because we were a team in more ways than one. It was Project House, and we were more than up for the task.

Back then we had to cart our clothes to the village laundromat a couple of times a week and engage in small talk with people who often looked at me like I was an alien. We spent our non-cleaning time trying to make the place just a little bit more homey. It was admittedly small, but it was a good place for us to get to know each other more. I’ll admit it was a small sample size for both of us when it came to each other, but not having appliances, having one television channel that didn’t always come in, and sharing the adventure together, it bonded us in ways I don’t think we would have been otherwise.

Over the course of a few months things began coming together. We began reclaiming the yard from the overgrowth that had consumed roughly half of it over years of neglect. The lawnmower was a push one so it was difficult to get it to do what we needed to do, but we tried our best. Finally the electrician got rid of the nob-and-tube, and we were up and running finally with a microwave and a refrigerator. The rest would come along over the next few weeks, but it felt good to know we were building a future, quite literally, piece by piece, with every small thing that added to this house becoming our home.

Yes, I’m going to miss this place, for the memories more than anything else.


Shacking Up: Part 1

“My little sister and my best friend… shacking up.” ~Ross Geller (Friends)

12032934_10207863700255550_5502444497376457658_nTwo more nights in the old house. 13 years of going to sleep and waking up here, with its creaky stairs, its hidden corners, and its turn-of-the-century ambiance. I remember when we moved in, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, back in the summer of 2002. It was just the two of us then, and it still amazes me how new and fresh we were to each other. We hadn’t even been communicating for a whole year before we made the big leap — ah, to shack up.

It made me think back to the church, of course, and its views on cohabitating before marriage, but only for a brief second. I mean, how are you supposed to know how you would get along living with someone else if you don’t live with them first? There are so many idiosyncrasies that each of us have, and so many things that could derail any relationship, once you live with someone. I suggest everyone does a trial situation, at least, when it comes to trying someone else on for size.

I mean, I figured she wasn’t an ax murderer by that point, or at least that she hid her ax pretty well when I came to visit in the spring. And she was the one who found this house, after all. I hadn’t lived in a house since 1997 — life had been for me a series of slightly larger apartment after slightly smaller apartment for 5 years — so it was going to be an adjustment anyway. And she had given up her dream home in order to live with me, so there was pressure going on there that I think we both tried to avoid.

One good way to avoid that pressure was to throw ourselves into the project that was this house. It was what is commonly termed these days “a fixer upper,” which meant we worked long and tireless hours on getting it in shape. Sea legs, but on land. It was truly a labor of love trying to get this place up and running, trying to make a home out of a house. It helped to bond us, I think, looking back now, all that cleaning, and tossing, and tearing out.

There was this fake fireplace that symbolized all of it, in my opinion. It was a moldering mess, an eyesore right in the focal point of the house — the living room. I went to town on it one evening with a hammer, tearing it out fake brick by fake brick (really wallpaper brick by wallpaper brick), and the fugly bookshelf type units that flanked it. It felt so satisfying to toss all of that garbage into the huge dumpster we had them put in the yard.

The funny thing, though, wasn’t just tearing it all out. It was what was left behind. You see, whoever put in the fake fireplace and the precarious shelving had only painted the area that was visible behind the monstrosity, so when it was all removed there were several colors in the shape of rectangles all across the back wall. I almost couldn’t look at it, it was still so hideous. We decided to head to Lowe’s to pick up some paint. It was one of the first decisions we ever made together as roommates. It would be far from the last.



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