Sitting in the hammock, listening to music with the dog and getting nostalgic because of conversations earlier in the night. There are a handful of you–a big handful, I’m lucky– who have been with me most or all of my life, through the best and hardest of times. Thank you, all of you (many of whom will never read this blog) for helping make me the person I am today. I wouldn’t have known what to do without you.
You don’t get to choose who you love. You don’t get to choose whether or not they will love you back. But you do get to choose how long and how badly you’ll let it affect you if they don’t.
They say the one who loves less in a relationship is the one who has the power. This is only true if the one who loves more doesn’t recognize their own self worth and that they deserve better and walk away when that lack of love starts to show.
In an ideal relationship, people just love. Not more, not less, just love. I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, either.
Love should never be about power.
I love having time to get sucked into an eight-hundred page book for pure pleasure. I love having the freedom to spend my morning doing things I enjoy, and not things that are required. I love that I have submerged myself in the Caribbean sea every day this week. I love that the climbing tree in my back yard is a mango tree, though it won’t give us mangoes until April. I love that when I do have to work, I work with friends and food, and that when I leave the building every evening, the only part of the job I take with me is the money. I love the dramatic tropical wind that occasionally slams the metal shutters on my windows closed. I love the simplicity of washing my clothes in the sink and hanging them in the sun to dry. I love the tree frogs and coquis, who provide a peaceful soundtrack to every night’s sleep– and I love that after a week I stopped hearing the roosters and dogs and falling-apart cars that otherwise cut up the night. I love the fact that everything seems possible here, if you’re willing to work hard at it. I love that New York money and arrogance have not polluted this paradise yet, and I love the stubborn hearts of the Viequenses who will fight against them when they try.
I love this island, with all its quirks and hiccups. I love these people, misfits all of them. I love my life.
So apparently Mercury went into retrograde yesterday. Yeah… That fits.
Yesterday morning I had another of a series of bizarre dreams in which I’m cooped up in a small space with a bunch of crazy and annoying people I don’t know. I’m attributing these dreams to:
a) The fact that I’ve been hanging out with a guy that I really like, but cannot figure out… and
b) The fact that it’s August. Slow walkers, hordes of prosti-tots, loud Jersey women, pretentious dicks with black AmEx cards and the world’s worst drivers have all convened on Martha’s Vineyard for a free-for-all. Every local I know is either practicing “zen parking,” seething with road (and sidewalk) rage, or hiding in the woods with their cell phone off.
Yesterday was also the day that I woke up in a frenzy of anxious productivity and started slaying the Unpleasant List like a champ. I got all of my errands and unpleasant phone calls done, deep-cleaned the bar like a crazed maniac (think Monica from Friends) without being asked to, and stayed up until 4:30 a.m. brainstorming on how to fix the Biggest Problem In My Life.
A friend who owed me money that I wasn’t chasing came through with the best timing in the world and paid me in full at a moment when I was grasping at every possible source of cash (see: Biggest Problem. Note: Biggest Problem needs lots of money I don’t have to be thrown at it).
Two of my best girlfriends have had MAJOR SHIT happen in the past couple of days, and I’m not talking good shit. My niece, who I love more than anything in the world, is spinning around frantically in her own particular orbit, trying to figure out what to do with her life, and there have been facebook posts that indicate that Mercury has SNAFUed her SNAFU even more. My best guy friend, who’s 44, is apparently dating a 21-year-old with awful tattoos–and he’s a tattoo officionado. There’s a stranger on my couch, and the cat is completely out of his mind. I can’t stop sneezing, but I don’t feel sick. It’s August, and I’m tempted to put socks on because my toes are cold.
And the boy, as usual, texted just when I’d given up on hearing from him and shifted into “another one bites the dust” mode. Go figure.
Mercury, you’re winning. I don’t know which way is up, and I hate you for it… but I’m thankful for the good surprises. I’m not accustomed to many of those.
Take it easy on me this weekend, though. I need it to be a good one.
So I’ve been feeling a bit like a bull in a china shop in my own life recently– in a general sense, and also particularly in certain social and work situations.
For starters, my second job, the fine dining “insurance job,” is in a restaurant where the actual bar has about four square feet of working space, no running water at the outside bar, and cement floors. For a dropsy, loud, occasionally profane person such as myself– and also for anyone accustomed to a loud, spacious, fast-paced bar with no “decorum” standards–this is an awkward combination. I like the money and the staff, but I feel like I don’t belong, and it’s an uphill battle to convince myself to go every shift.
Also, as usual, my personal life is a clusterfuck of bad timing, awkwardness and self-doubt, which I think is exacerbated by the fact that the peaceful self-acceptance and motivation that I found in Vieques ran away with a quickness as soon as the stresses of hometown life, family and work flooded back into my life.
I’ve had a couple of really self-centered down days this week– days when I knew I was wallowing in pointless and imagined hurts, and making it everyone else’s problem. A friend called me out on that tonight, and I’m grateful for it.
I don’t feel any less like an awkward robot… But she brought my self-awareness back. It had been most certainly on vacation, while self-doubt and self-pity were working overtime.
So I guess I’ll end with a Jack White lyric that just sort of sums it up: “I just don’t know what to do with myself…”
And that’s okay, too.
The other night, while I was drunk and very upset, a friend told me that perhaps if the Vineyard is a place I continually feel the need to run away from that it’s not the place I’m supposed to be. And I told him, the truth is I want to run away from everywhere. No place feels like home. I want to run away because I want something internal to be different, but I know that physical movement is not the key to making anything feel better.
Still, the conversation got me thinking. I have been planning for months to stay here on the island year round and return to Emerson in January as a commuter student (two days of classes, stay on a friend’s couch). I have spent the winter and the spring healing in the presence of some of my closest friends–friends who are so important to me that they have taken the place of the family I no longer have.
I came home because I needed to survive the most devastating loss of my life, and it was the only way I knew how. But now I’ve come back to the old familiar restlessness, the urge to get away that’s so strong and so constant that each time I return from a little vacation I begin counting the days until the next time I can leave.
The truth is, when I think about it, commuting is a ridiculous idea. And when I was in Boston, the reason I was miserable was because I was overloaded, overwhelmed and terribly worried. And then I was gutted and broken, and not even the close friends I’d made over the several years I’d been there could console me. That was a job that only the lifers could manage. I knew that around my lifelong friends from the island, I could be a sloppy crying mess and it wouldn’t make a difference. I knew that I’d feel like being around them even when I didn’t feel like being around myself–and I was right. I wouldn’t have made it through the winter without all of them. It was a quiet winter, the best it could have been under the circumstances.
But I think it might be time for the lost little girl to go back out into the world and live a louder life again. Quiet was necessary, quiet was good, but I miss the noise. I miss the insomniac city, where I wasn’t the only one awake at 3 a.m., and if I was bored I could jump on the train and in half an hour I would no longer be bored. I had the urge to run there, too–but most of the time running to Allston or Harvard or the North End–or jumping in the car with Alana and going to Nantasket–turned out to be a far enough jaunt to make it subside.
So what now? The quiet island, with my nearest and dearest friends and the possibility of re-establishing my life where it first begun, or the city, a stepping stone to wherever it is that I’m really supposed to end up? Perhaps the answer is simple: summer on Martha’s Vineyard, where I can smell the salt air and go swimming whenever I want, and in the winter the only place I’ve known where winter just may be the best season of the year.
If I stayed here until the end of October, I could finish out the season in a seasonal restaurant, and spend some less stressful time with my island friends, and I’d have enough time to readjust to the city and find a job before returning to school.
It makes sense. Now I just have to figure out if it’s what I want. Once again, it comes down to the question that I’ve never been able to confidently answer: Where do I want to be? It has never been a problem of possibility–I can make a life and get a job and make friends almost anywhere–but always one of desire. Fickle, fickle desire.
Tonight, it was proven to me why I want to move back to Martha’s Vineyard, at least for a while. For the past week or so, two of my good friends have been organizing a benefit concert and dinner to raise money to help me pay for my father’s services and expenses. It’s something my friends did on their own, from finding bands to play for free, to booking the space, to organizing people to bring food and serve it. The newspapers offered free ads, a local cornware merchant donated plates and cups and plasticware, the radio station advertised, a bunch of people stayed afterward to clean… the outpouring of generosity was astounding.
More people came to the show than I could ever have expected, and the benefit raised over 1900 dollars. Because I don’t feel right about taking the money outright, I’m going to donate a matching amount back to the community, after his estate is settled, in the form of a Scholarship Fund in my dad’s name for high school students who want to pursue metal working.
I’m completely overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of community–this wouldn’t happen anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I don’t really know what to say, except Thanks, Martha’s Vineyard–Thank you for caring, and for remembering my Dad so fondly. Even if I only end up staying a month or two and leaving in the spring, I’ll know what it was that brought me back, and will continue to bring me back throughout my life. The Vineyard, as twisted and backwards as it can be at times, has a firm grasp on what it means to be a community. This island helps its own, without asking why, and every one of its children is raised by a lot more than a village. Even when you leave for years, it will remember you, and it will be there when you need it to be. Thanks again, islanders. I won’t forget to give back.
20 Things That Are True–My Week In List Format.
1. The inside of a hospital does not, in fact, smell like “death.” It smells like lysol, bad food, vomit and poo–not mold, dirt and necrosis–therefore, it smells more like “infancy.”
2. Waiting for a donated organ is perhaps the only situation in which it’s actually a good thing to get sicker. Which my father is not doing.
3. Waiting for a donated organ while sitting in a hospital bed and being poked and prodded and forced to eat rubber english muffins is what I imagine purgatory to be like. Watching someone go through this process is only slightly less excruciating than experiencing it.
4. Sometimes the greatest help will come from someone you hadn’t thought to ask (thank you, David).
5. A good cheeseburger and a Guinness can heal a whole lotta hurt (thank you, Phil, David and Michael).
6. Saying “I love you” does not always work to cheer someone up, but it helps.
7. A catheter is a terrible, dangerous and frightening thing.
8. Sometimes the correct answer to “Why me?!” is “marijuana.” This is also an appropriate response to “What the fuck right now?” and “What the hell am I doing here?”
9. It is patently unfair of Mother Nature to suggest that there will be a thunderstorm and not deliver.
10. Cold showers are really, REALLY awful. Even in August.
11. An experienced nurse with a good sense of humor should be paid as much as a surgeon.
12. Pre-season football is a nothing but a reminder to fans of losing baseball teams that there really will be something to watch on ESPN in October.
13. A deafening rock show in a very small room is effective as a temporary cure for depression. This cure is significantly more effective when paired with cheap beer and good company.
14. Michael Vick should have his face bitten off. Someone should inform Mike Tyson that his services are needed, pronto.
15. The notion that the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about is an insidious fallacy.
16. I will never comprehend the inability of certain people to find a triangle which is attached to the pool table.
17. There is a very compassionate medical technician at Tufts New England Medical Center named Jewel, who should be given a hefty raise for saving my sanity at least twice. Someone else should arrange this because bureaucracy makes me want to mutilate strangers, and that development would be counter-productive to Jewel’s initial sanity-preservation.
18. If a store is named “Store 24,” it is not unreasonable to expect that said store be open 24 hours a day.
19. The only tolerable reason for having chapped lips is if you’ve been making out with someone. This is not why my lips are chapped.
20. My father’s Pneumonia, which I didn’t know he had until today, is apparently almost gone.
21. I am incredibly bad at stopping a list once I’ve started it.
22. There is an animal of unknown species and considerable size rooting around in my back yard.
23. I love the number 23.
24. It’s three in the morning, again, and I am going to bed.
Tonight while I was at work, I happened to notice that a customer looked rather familiar. For a moment, I wondered if he was a smalltime celebrity, but I nixed that idea the moment he spoke–his voice was familiar, too. As I walked away from the table, I immediately realized who it was. I checked the ID that was left for the pool table and sure enough, the last name on the card (which was actually his female companion’s card) was O’Connor, just as I’d suspected. I was then convinced that the familiar-looking guy was, in fact, Mr. Tim O’Connor– my former counselor from the camp I attended for three summers in New Hampshire from 1990 to 1992. Almost sixteen years ago.
I approached the table and posed the inevitable question: “Were you a counselor at Brantwood Camp in New Hampshire in 1992?” As I’d expected, the man gave a sort of stunned smile and confirmed that yes, he had been. “Mr. O’Connor,” I said. He nodded and smiled a bit wider. “I was one of your campers for three years,” I said. I told him my name, and he remembered me, then he introduced me (or should I say re-introduced me) to his wife, who had been a camper and later a counselor while I’d been at the camp. As soon as she said her name, her face became familiar, too. “Wow,” they both said.
We spent a few minutes recounting old memories, and they filled me in on some happenings at the camp (they’re involved in the Alumni Association, which I haven’t managed to join yet, though I should). They showed me a picture of their two sons, who are adorable. We agreed to exchange email addresses before they left, and they said they’d pass on my information to another former counselor who lives in Boston, who I made a failed attempt at contacting last year.
This story would seem incredibly surprising if this sort of thing didn’t happen to me all the time. For example, not more than a month ago, a guy came in at the end of the night and I had the same “I know you” feeling–I asked him, and it turned out that he was the ex-stepson of my former Big Sister from Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and I’d met him while she and his father were in the final stages of planning their wedding. My instinct that time had been “I know he’s someone I know’s older brother…” and sure enough, it was his younger brother Charlie who I spent more time with, because he was closer to my age.
I have run into people I know from the Vineyard in Eugene (OR), Big Sur (CA), at least half a dozen in Monterey (CA), and a dozen or so on the T and in passing here in Boston, and a few more in other places. I ran into a couple I’d met in a bar one evening in Monterey at the San Jose Airport months later. I found out that a former bartender at my current place of employment spent part of her honeymoon hanging out at the bar I used to work at in Monterey–and it was a Sunday night, which meant that I was there, working–she described every person I worked with and a handful of regulars to a tee. The new waitress at my work used to hang out with the group of kids I partied with when I lived in Hyannis, only she hung out with them years later. I’ve seen Monterey friends unexpectedly in Portland and San Francisco. I was once on a plane from Oakland to Boston and was seated in the row across from a girl I went to school with on the island from kindergarten through high school.
About nine years ago, I ran into another former Brantwood camper when I knocked on her dorm room door to ask for a lighter because my high school friend (who my friend Jamie and I were visiting at college) said the girl in that room would be the most likely to have one. I wasn’t as practiced at my “don’t I know you” spiel then as I am now, so I simply rattled off her name and address like an automaton and waited for her to realize who I was (we’d written for a short time after camp ended). Sure enough, she did. We are still in touch. A few years before that, I was working at the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, and in walked Cathy and Tracy Freel, two sisters I’d raised a bit of hell with at camp my second year (one of them, I can’t remember which, had hidden cigarettes in the cinder block beneath her tent).
I’ve run into a girl named Else, who I met on a bus in New Zealand four years ago, twice–once on Martha’s Vineyard the following summer, and once in Boston last winter.
I don’t know why, but it seems like these random run-ins happen to me exponentially more often than they happen to anyone else. It could be accounted for by the fact that I have an exceptionally good memory for faces and therefore perhaps I tend to recognize people in situations that others would not (9 times out of 10 I’m the one who recognizes them). Perhaps it’s because Vineyarders are well-traveled, myself included.
But how the hell do you account for Else?! That shit just doesn’t happen twice. But I’m sure it will happen again. In a few months or a few years, I will be in New York, or Toronto, or Guatemala, and I will run into Else–again. The last time, we exchanged phone numbers and didn’t call. Maybe next time we’ll become friends.
I once described being motherless as “like a buoy cut loose and floating, directionless, belonging to no one.” This is, I suppose, the best way to describe the way I’ve been feeling lately. There is only so much stress and nervousness the body and mind can process before it goes, “Fuck it,” and you end up wearing a slack face and saying “uh-huh” a lot.
I took a few days this week, as I did last week, to visit the Island Of Misfit Toys in hopes of raising my spirits, or at least relaxing a bit. And, as happened last week, I got a phone call from my dad the day after I got here, saying that he was being admitted to the hospital again. I suppose it’s the up-and-down that’s wearing me out; it seems the good days, the days where Dad says, “I feel better,” or “it’s been a nice day, the weather’s good,” are always followed by something not so good. I’m hoping that this surgery is the exception–I don’t know how much more up and down Dad can handle either.
This time around on the Rock, a couple of my friends have been pretty depressed, too–and that’s hard for a number of reasons. You can’t expect a depressed person to cheer you up, and if you’re depressed, you can’t do much for them–so you end up as we did: a sad little group of slack-faced buoys, sitting stoned together in the same room and not talking much. It’s a little more comforting than being alone, I guess.
I feel like every downswing has to have its upswing, and for the sake of my father, and my friends, and myself, I hope our upswing is coming. I also hope I cry soon, because I absolutely need it–and I actually found myself envious of my one friend, who says he’s been crying all week. A good, cathartic cry can go a long way.
Really, I just want to see the happy twinkle in my Dad’s Santa Claus-blue eyes again. I miss the person he was not so long ago–the energetic, talkative, stubborn genius that I’ve known all my life. I know he misses that person too, and I hope we get him back real soon.
I’m done blathering. I’ve run out of things to say. The muscles in my face are starting to atrophy from disuse. Oh, bother.