F___ this Sh__

So, the past couple of weeks have been tough. I lost my heart dog and I miss that sweet little face every damn day. Now, I’m in the process of moving. Yay, me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so they say. But what does that even mean?  As you know, my mind tends to wander off the rails quite often, so I’ve been thinking about these turns of phrase people often use. There’s a catchphrase for practically every situation.

Whoever said, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was obviously never in a crappy relationship. Or the victim of bullying. Or, you know, ever had a job dealing with people. Guess what? Words can and do hurt. Yet we throw this phrase around like it’s the North Star guiding us to a better place.

People employ phrases, aphorisms, idioms, metaphors, and clichés like they’re a dime a dozen. (See what I did there?) Seriously, these recurring collections of words are too often used as substitutes for real, honest, valuable conversation. I’m not even sure people understand what they are saying when using some of them.

Can’t see the forest for the trees. Two in the hand is worth one in the bush. He’s a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch. By the time you puzzle your way through some of these, the topic of conversation has moved on, with some people none the wiser.

If the shoe fits, wear it. Just because it fits doesn’t mean I should put it on or that I even want to. Have you seen some of the heels out there? Whether they fit or not, I’d undoubtedly break an ankle. Then we’re back to sticks and stones… and now heels.

The best is yet to come. Really? ’Cause, it certainly feels like the older I get, the more tired and run down my body grows, the less “best” I feel. Not sure I’m turning that one around. I’d prefer to go back to childhood when I didn’t have bills and my mother chose my clothes and I didn’t have to decide what to make for dinner every freakin’ day.

And now we’re back to “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  This right here. This is the phrase that people love to spout at the worst times, when you are feeling so down in the dumps that one more stupid aphorism or euphemism or whatever literary label you put on it can’t hurt. Can it? (Refer back to sticks and stones, if you really want to know).

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Does it, though?

I experienced a devastating loss last week. I had to have my dog euthanized due to ongoing health issues. He was my heart dog, and my heart is broken. I miss his funny little face and soulful brown eyes more than any words, however witty, could express. My other dog is now sick with a collapsed trachea, which is getting worse, and I’m unsure what the future holds. I never was a fan of being kicked while I’m down.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m moving. That would be because my landlord is selling the condo. Finding a place in the age of a pandemic is challenging, to say the least. Not to mention that landlords and management companies have jacked all the prices up by HUNDREDS of dollars. The renting world is not what it was a year ago, that’s for sure.

Crap at work just keeps getting deeper. The powers that be keep piling on and piling on because hey, why not KEEP the salary of the two people we laid off a year ago but GIVE the work to someone else, namely me, and then keep adding to that the entire year and going forward. My boss has fantastic ideas on how to grow the business and wants me involved. Oh, that’s great, you might say. You’re a marketing whiz, you might proclaim. Yet, this translates to me continually starting new projects while maintaining my already overwhelming workload. Its. Exhausting.

I’ve just recently started putting serious effort into writing a book based on summers in WV and old family stories (à la Erma Bombeck in style). You’ve read some previews here in this very blog. The problem is that I’m too tired and too broke to give it the proper attention because I’m too busy making someone else rich.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But does it? Does it really? Or is it more like whatever doesn’t kill you gives you anxiety-ridden dysfunctional coping mechanisms? You won’t be dead, and the PTSD is a hoot!

Michael Brady, a University of Glasgow Philosophy professor, claims that Nietzsche meant to suggest that one should take suffering as an opportunity to build strength. But you know what? I’m good. I’m okay with my weaknesses. If not having to grow stronger means I can have my dogs here with me, alive and healthy, I’ll take it. I’d prefer to move where I damn well want, and have more time off work, or at least be paid well for the time and effort I’m putting in. I’d like to be writing more without fear, and I’d certainly like to stop spending so much time making someone else rich.

I don’t need to be stronger. Where’s the aphorism for that? The one I keep coming up with is an unappealing metaphor and 2/3 curse words. One guess as to what it is.

A Heart Broken

My heart is broken. Rufus the Invincible is gone. And the irony has not escaped me that the one little soul that would succeed in bringing a smile to my face in this time of indescribable sadness, is the one little soul that has caused me such anguish in its passing.  No amount of love or strength of resolve could fight Father Time or worsening health issues.  If only it were that easy.

Rufus

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Escaping the Carousel of Life

There is a reason that as we get older, we like carousels seemingly less and less. This kid-like wonder we had at the round-about motion has dissipated, and if we’re honest, we’re more likely to throw up than we are to have a good time.

But why is that?

Obviously, I’m not talking about just a carousel. I’m talking about the repetitive wheel of doing the same thing every day, over and over. It’s just as nauseating, but unfortunately many of us don’t have the option of just getting off the ride.

What got me thinking of this, you may wonder. Well, I was given this artwork for a writing prompt, and all I found myself thinking about was how everyone is really looking for the same thing: happiness.

How beautiful is this idea? Creatures who were trapped, literally chained down, breaking away from the life they were stuck in.

I wonder how many days they spent on that ride, going around and around. Seeing the same things every day, unable to change. I wonder how many people they served, blissfully unaware that their lives could mean more. And I wonder at what point did they decide enough was enough.

It isn’t easy to break away—to leave a job, a home, or a relationship. Whether it’s a mind-numbing and stressful job or an abusive relationship, some things in life can strip away what really makes you you—what you love about life. So even though breaking free is hard, sometimes it’s essential.

And once you do break away, you might even feel lost. The world becomes new, open to all kinds of possibilities. Like a wild carousel horse, you get to decide what direction to go in. At first, it might just be away. It can be scary, but that’s what real freedom is like. The catch though… I mean, there’s always a catch, amirite? The catch is that jumping off the carousel and riding into your own future isn’t as easy as it might seem because … money.

Some people say that money can’t buy happiness, but I’m on Ariana’s side: “Whoever said money can’t solve your problems / Must not have had enough money to solve ’em.

If you don’t have money, it’s really hard to better your life by breaking free. I don’t mean to be depressing, but it’s true. Think about someone who’s stuck living somewhere that’s less than ideal—with toxic family members or an emotionally unavailable partner. If you can’t afford to move, well, then, you can’t. Want to leave that soul-sucking job? Without another one lined up or a bank account full of money, you’re trapped.

Winning the lottery or hell, even landing the right job can be life-changing. Trust me. Breaking free is a choice, but money can change what options you have to choose between.

I want to move out to the West Coast, I have for a long time. With the past four years, abroad has been a very tempting idea. But up and moving across the country isn’t cheap. And when there are pets and kids in the picture, breaking free and moving is even harder, especially when it’s tough just getting through from payday to payday.  But I’m sure those carousel horses didn’t find it easy to break free, either.

This picture reminds me that no matter how impossible it may seem, you can always jump off the carousel and break the cycle. If you’re like me, it may take a looooot more plotting, but I have to believe that it’s achievable, because I refuse to believe that we belong on an endless ride to nowhere.

Stupid Games. Stupid Prizes.

This post was originally written way back in 2014.  I thought it was worth revisiting. Not because the show in question was re-aired recently but because in a general conversation I was having with someone this week, they mentioned that they’d like to travel to another country and they gave the exact same answer mocked in this very postBefore you roll your eyes at me and make excuses for them, you should know they live in the United States just like me. I weep for the future as we descend ever deeper into the plot of “Idiocracy.”  

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Family Feud, Where Facts Need Not Apply…

Sometimes the best way to win a game isn’t by swinging for the fences every time. Occasionally getting an answer “wrong” turns out to be the best way to the top of the leader board. It’s called strategy. Having trouble thinking of the kind of game that would reward not getting “correct” answers? I have one for you that my daughter and I would absolutely demolish if we ever got picked to participate.

Family Feud.

Not only are our minds deep, vast reservoirs of completely useless information, but we also understand how stupid the human population can really be. That’s really the key point that would give us an edge on the show we love to binge-watch. You see, Family Feud is not based on correct answers, it’s based on what other people think are correct answers.

If you’ve ever watched TV since the 1970s you’ve probably caught a show or two and know how it’s played. But just in case, here are the rules: 100 people are surveyed on pointless questions (If your house caught on fire what would be the one thing you’d save? What are the most relaxing things to do on vacation? When you get on a plane what is one of the first things you do? On a scale of 1 to 10 how pretty do you think you are without makeup?) On one episode I saw, five (yes, five) of the 100 people answered a question thinking Hawaii was a separate country. The question was this: Name an exotic country?

Now it bears repeating… five people (presumably Americans) out of 100 thought Hawaii was a country.

So you see how my daughter and I might etch out some wins. To succeed at Family Feud, you can’t simply give answers that make sense, because as it turns out, not all of them will. What you want to do is give answers based on what you think 100 people off the street might say. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, just that someone said it. For instance, name an exotic country. Answer: Hawaii. Yeah, we know that’s not true, but according to the survey that doesn’t matter. A wrong answer can garner you $20,000 and a brand new car.

And this is our strategy for winning. Don’t presume that everyone roaming around out there isn’t grossly misinformed about the world they’re living in. Sad, but profitable.

Petty is as Petty Does

If I’ve heard it from one teacher, I’ve heard it from 1,000 “Wendy, you’re an underachiever!”  Or “You have so much potential, what is wrong with you!?”  Well. Those teachers would be eating crow today. For today, I achieved a feat almost unheard of in modern times. Are you ready?

I got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries discussion group on Facebook this morning. I know, I know, don’t all of you applaud at once… my ears, they’re aching! I don’t blame you for being awe-inspired though, it’s an impressive achievement, if I do say so myself.

Murdoch Mysteries is a show set in late 1890s to early 1900s Toronto. It’s a terrific show, I highly recommend it. My erstwhile Facebook discussion group, not so much.

I’ve always thought that Facebook was full of cliques if not clichés and there is nowhere that this more evident than in Facebook groups, regardless of the topic.

While boasting a large-ish following – and despite a name that implies participation (Murdoch Mysteries Discussion Group), this particular group allows just a small band of people – admins and presumably the admin’s friends – to post or otherwise participate in the commentary. Others are routinely muted or the post deemed off-topic or conversations simply disappear. I get that some group admins can feel an overwhelming sense of power given their seemingly complete control over their realm and its citizens. They smite members and create arbitrary rules on a whim. And yes, I also understand that it’s “their group, their rules.” I suppose I just assumed that a discussion group would have some form of … discussion.

Today, someone who is tight with the admins was bashing the members, as a whole, for constantly asking “when will the show be available in my area!?” A question that they can “basically google themselves if they weren’t so freakin’ lazy.”  It’s an annoying question, I’ll give them that. But bashing members is “against the rules” and besides, it was a stupid, self-serving post. There. I said it.  Anyone else, and it would’ve been gone almost before it hit the interwebs.

My comment of “How does a post like this help to further the discussion of Murdoch Mysteries?” was deemed, you guessed it, bashing a member.  Hence my ouster. It was really kind of funny, actually. The OP (original poster) immediately – but immediately – tagged her friend, the admin, and well, there you go. Tattling, adult-style.

Now, my feelings aren’t particularly hurt due to my ejection from the group. It’s not the first door to hit me in my… well, you know what, and it won’t be the last. Although, I assumed it would be over something a bit more dramatic and worthwhile. I disappointed myself in that regard.

 But it does leave me with one burning question:  Does high school ever end?

A Treacherous Tale, or The Infamous Grocery Store Run

These days, a day in my life is pretty uneventful. With quarantine keeping most people, including me, at home as much as humanly possible, I only leave the house for the bare essentials. And even then, I try to get things delivered to my house when I can.

Over the past several months, I’ve become accustomed to doing my grocery shopping online and opting for curbside pickup. When I’m feeling extra lazy, I have them delivered. Whoever thought up free grocery store delivery is a freakin’ genius. At first, I was skeptical about having other people pick out my produce, but it is seriously the best idea. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should.

I’m telling you, when I opt for curbside service I get my food with minimal or no human interaction. That’s great for me as someone with social anxiety. Being in crowds makes me excessively nervous, and my crowd anxiety has only worsened since COVID-19 started. Oh, and it’s super convenient. I love it. LOVE. IT.

Well, with the holiday season upon us, a lot of people must be treating themselves to the relaxation and relief that comes with not having to do the weekly shopping. I assume this is the case because no curbside appointments were available anywhere, and I was forced (forced, I tell you!) to go to the store and actually do my own shopping last week. Can you imagine!?

I hadn’t picked up an item off the shelf in who knows how long. Did I even remember how to shop? I wasn’t entirely sure.

Back in the day (aka before quarantine), I used to organize my list, create a plan of attack to be as quick as possible, and execute my shopping trip with stealth and speed. I would even draw out a rudimentary map of the specific store I was visiting to make my visit that much more efficient. My grocery shopping skills today are a bit rusty.

As I prepared to leave the house, I realized I might not be ready. When I arrived at the store, I realized that I may never be ready to shop in person again. As I searched for parking, my anxiety turned to irritation. There were no spots. When I found one, guess what was there? A collection of rogue carts.

Finally, I found a place to park my car. As I headed into the store, I saw that my list was a mess. I hadn’t organized it because I never have to when I picked up my groceries. Frozen foods, produce, snacks, and canned goods all fell on the list willy-nilly wherever they felt like it. It would have to do — it was too late.

The store was packed with people, which is the worst possible scenario if you ask me. I can spend an hour max in the store (or in any crowd for that matter) before my patience runs out. Forty-five minutes if I’m being honest. Okay, fine, thirty minutes tops and then what I euphemistically call “my window” has slammed shut.

This trip was also the worst. It seems that I hadn’t been to the store in so long that they changed all the aisles around. I mean, why? Just why? I had no clue where anything was. On top of that, it seemed like the ‘COVID-19 panic’ of 2020 hadn’t subsided because basic items were out of stock.

Settling for the worst choice dish soap is one thing, but not having any toilet paper is another. As an aside, what the hell is up with hoarding toilet paper during any and every crisis from snowstorm to pandemic? I mean, come on, people!

Halfway through my trip, one of the wheels on my cart started to stick. Pushing the cart became such a pain that I abandoned a quarter of the items on my list. Although to be completely truthful — that wasn’t the only reason.  When I ended my trip in the dairy aisle, it seemed as though I had missed all those items along the way.

See, you laughed earlier, I know you did, but this is exactly why I always have a rudimentary map and plan of attack. Except this time. This time, admittedly, I was wholly unprepared for the grocery store chaos. My trip was now approaching that hour threshold, with not much to show for it, and I was not about to walk back and search for the errant foodstuffs on my list.  Any recipes with those ingredients would just have to adapt.

Luckily, I found a somewhat short line. But there must have been some trouble with the register or with the customers (spoiler alert, it was the customers) because it seemed to take an eternity. My anxiety became even worse as I stood in line listening to the monotonous beeps, chatter, and rustling of the grocery store.

Once I could finally escape, I pushed my wonky cart out into the open air — and rain. Great.

As the raindrops pelted my groceries, I hoped that the water wouldn’t ruin any of my paper-wrapped products and booked it across the parking lot as fast as I could with my wonky wheel.

After lugging all my groceries into my condo, we were all pretty wet. It seemed an appropriate ending to the day.

What was for dinner, you might be wondering. I’m glad you asked. Cereal.

Reel Life

If you’re anything like me, you love to watch movies. You might even shape your world view and expectations around them, knowing that the real world will fall short, leaving you disappointed and disillusioned again and again. And to cope, you’ll just watch more.

It’s a cycle I’m fully aware of and entirely content participating in.

Sometimes I even try to take advice from movies, but life always gets in the way. Take Under the Tuscan Sun for example. Since 2003, Diane Lane has been convincing women that the solution to their problems is to move to Tuscany. She’s not wrong.

Okay, Diane, I’m in. Yes, I would love to move to Italy and solve all my problems by running away from them. I’ve got half of that down already.

Except, how am I supposed to afford it? Is there some sort of waiting list I need to sign up for?

In the movie (which is based on a book but doesn’t really follow the book like so many other movies based on a book), Diane’s character takes a singles trip after her marriage fails. In Italy, she decides she’s not coming home — ever. The whole time it feels like she’s taking some massively brave leap into uncertainty. But she also seems to have an endless supply of cash. With a safety net made of money, her spontaneity feels a little less risky.

I would love to be casually wealthy — you know, to the point where no one talks about how unusual it is to have so much money in the bank for no apparent reason. And I would love to just up and move to Italy and never come back.

Oh, and if I could have Diane Lane’s looks while I’m at it, that would be great. I mean, come on… the woman is gorgeous and doesn’t appear to age at all.

Unfortunately, the only remote similarity between my life and hers in Under the Tuscan Sun is a cheating ex-husband.

If I did have enough money to visit a foreign country and never come back, I would go to Ireland. And if my life were written and produced in Hollywood, I would ask to have a fairy tale ending like Amy Adams’ character in Leap Year.

Do I want to meet my soulmate in Ireland? Yes, please. Am I going to? Probably not. I’ve never even been to Ireland, and I think getting to the country in question is probably a prerequisite to meeting your soulmate there.

Life just isn’t the same in the real world versus the reel world.  Go figure.

Look at Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Her character goes through a divorce (do you sense a theme here?) and soul searches across the world — regardless of how much money it costs.

I’ve got the divorce and the soul-searching, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the cash to find myself in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I mean, who does? Well, besides Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who inspired the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

In the film, our heroine is seen as a brave risk-taker, but the real risk would be to try that trip without a disposable income. I’m not crazy or desperate enough to try that. At least, not yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against our wealthy traveling heroines — hell, if I were in their place, I’d be on a plane tomorrow and never look back.

But it’s just all so unrealistic. I guess that’s the escapism we’re drawn to when we watch movies.

Some movies, like About Time, break the illusion with outrageous elements like time travel. On a basic level, I know we all understand we’ll never be able to travel back in time, but I think it still leaves some of us wishing we could control the event in our lives.

As for most of these other movies, they leave us wishing we had more dough in our pockets. And not the brioche variety. Although now that I think about it, one can never have too much brioche.

Maybe that’s why we watch these movies in the first place. So we can live vicariously through others in a way we never could in real life.

It seems quite depressing, doesn’t it? Acknowledging that life will never be like our favorite movies is no fun. Yet we continually and willingly subject ourselves to these escapist fantasies. What the hell is that all about? Speaking of which, I think it’s time for another good romantic comedy movie binge. I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment. It’s entertainment, after all.

Crazy Rich Asians seems like a good choice, although I’m certain I’m past the age of marrying into money. Oh, well. One can dream. And I do like to dream.

At least the characters always find their perfect happy ending, even if we don’t.

 

Just Another Day

Don’t you just love those mornings where you wake up peacefully – and rested – before the alarm starts blaring in your face?

I do, too, except I don’t get them often.

My sleepy eyelids resist opening to the harsh sunlight, and I think “the world seems too bright.” Wait. It is brighter. What time is it!? Am I late?

Suddenly rushing from peace to panic, I check the time. I’m late. Again. I roll my eyes instinctively. What else is new? Now that I’m rushing to get ready for work, I’m sure that everything that can go south will go south. You know, Murphy’s Law and all that.

Even putting on pants feels like a nightmare, and yes, I am wearing pants. But hey, at least there’s coffee.

Apparently, the Keurig is in a mood today, because it seemed to say “yeah, you thought there was coffeeas it malfunctioned. Again. Instead of receiving the large cup I desperately needed, the machine offers me an uber small cup that tastes (and feels) like a gelatinous espresso.

The concentrated dose of caffeine in that elf-sized cup of Joe motivates me to get out the door, finally, where it’s raining? Seriously? After running back inside to fetch my umbrella, I rush to the car – that needs gas. I could’ve done it yesterday on my way home, but I naively thought Oh, I’ll get it in the morning. Procrastination always comes back to bite me, but somehow, I still haven’t learned. At this point, I probably never will. And I’m okay with that.

Except when I’m running late for work in the pouring rain, the car’s gas tank is nearly empty, and I’ve only just realized I left my lunch on the kitchen counter.

I let out my anger on the road… as usual.

The Keurig’s makeshift espresso from this morning gifts my coworkers with a second-hand buzz that may cause some serious suspicion over my substance intake. With a fast-talking attitude and fidgety movements, I barrel through my work with superhuman speed and a not-so-mild caffeine-induced anxiety.

It sure made the morning meeting pass quickly; I’ll say that much. Although that may be due in part to my lack of attention – which I only realized when I was unexpectedly called on. Instead of answering the question with any form of coherence whatsoever, I was instead dealing with a series of traumatic high school flashbacks. George Washington! No? Oh, wait, 42! Mesopotamia! The Battle of 1812! Wait, what were we talking about again?

Well, once that was over with, I remembered my lunch sack, sitting sad and alone on the kitchen counter. I guess I have another lunch date with the vending machine while Holly, the ne’er-do-well, is no doubt snacking on my tuna salad sandwich. The vending machine isn’t the best date, though – it ate my money, again. I think it was even hungrier than me this time.

As the crash from this morning’s coffee begins to seep its way into my psyche, I am less than elated to run into Karen coming out of the ladies’ room. I’ve done my best all morning to avoid the office gossip as best as I can, but when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

I just want to shout NO KAREN. I’m not interested in Kathy’s marital problems. And you shouldn’t be either.

Even though I did my work with the speed (and disregard) of a tornado, I managed to leave work late. As the last one out, I set the alarm behind me.

And as soon as I heard the click of the lock as I shut the door, I realized I left my umbrella on my desk. It is now pouring rain, and my car, having also been one of the last to arrive, is not nearby. Just go back in and grab the stupid umbrella, I hear you say. Ahhh… you see, while my employer trusts us enough to set the alarm, they do not trust us enough to have a key to get back in once we leave. But as someone who loves to see the positive for every negative, I think at least I won’t need a shower.

Once I got home, I was finally able to have a home-cooked meal… even if I did burn it. Last time I summoned a full-on demon, so this is still a step up from that one.

The rain must have been worse than I thought because the internet went down. It wouldn’t be an issue, except for the fact that I began a very serious Friday the 13th marathon yesterday. Without the tools to finish my binge, I suppose I’ll read instead. Not a bad alternative.

Or so I think until I realize halfway through chapter 5 that an entire section of the book is MIA. Don’t ask me why or how, there are no answers here. And no mid-book chapters either, apparently.

Well, I read on, hoping context clues and even some small leaps can help me navigate my way to the ending. After chapter 10, I realize that missing section must’ve been pretty important because I have no clue what’s going on anymore.

I sigh, putting the book down and feeling like that might just be the best metaphor possible for my life.