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Tuesday, July 21, 2009


TWUNKER

This is what I want to do. Not tweet (a terrible verb that makes me feel like I'm coated in dirty fryer oil every time I say it), not twat (twittering for long-winded women) but twunk. I want to write 500-word updates and post them on Twunker. Instead of stepping daintily onto your Twitter home page, they land with an ominous THUNK. The sound that tells you you're thinking too much again. Sorry, thunking too much. No, I mean Twunking too much.

But what else can you do at 4 a.m.? Meanwhile, you'll be happy to know that my smug Get Up To Write At 4 A.M. plan backfired when I quickly stopped going to sleep at 9 p.m. on the dot, which meant that I quickly started getting upwards of five (5) hours of sleep a night, enough sleep to careen wildly into R.E.M. territory, only to wake after the first disturbing dream about trying to treat your blonde dog's very bad sunburn, which she never got before but which clearly proves that you're an irresponsible asshole.

Is R.E.M. sleep designed to wake you up in the middle of the night? How is that adaptive, demon gods of sleep?

Anyway, soon after getting 5-6 hours of sleep on a regular basis, punctuated by waking babies and marathon 12-hour writing sessions and frenzied trips to daycare and to the grocery store for sliced ham to feed the children and animals, I developed walking pneumonia. Apparently it was there since the aftermath of my bout with Swine Flu(TM) (not an officially verified case, since my HMO politely instructed me to die at home), a secondary infection that took the opportunity created by insufficient sleep, too much stress and too much heartfelt pondering of the significance of Michael Jackson to fill my lungs with something... well, suffice it to say that you can cough up things that send you to the interwebs in search of a diagnosis real quick-like.

On the interwebs, I learned that I had Mycoplasma Pneumonia. I probably should've told that to the people at Urgent Care, who, seeing my devil-may-care, casual attitude (It's just an act, damn it!) put me at the bottom of their priority list. I was told I would wait for 45 minutes then waited for three hours in the waiting room, inquired politely about the wait, was sent to a room and waited for another hour and a half, began weeping openly to anyone who wandered by, was consulted by a doctor who couldn't remark on whether or not a 4.5 hour wait was typical, was given a chest X-ray, then more waiting, other patients coming and going, chickens wandering by, etc. and then, my diagnosis: Mycoplasma Pneumonia.

Doctor: You have what we call walking pneumonia.

Me: Mycoplasma pneumonia? (Not trying to be a smart ass, just wanted to make sure it wasn't viral.)

Doctor: Exactly! Well! You don't need me at all!

Me: Is it really adaptive to state the obvious like that, six hours after I walked into this fucking hell hole?

But doctors aren't concerned with their survival the way writers are. They know that we'll be at their mercy forever and ever, and there's nothing we can do about it. Mmm. I wish I were a doctor. To wield that sort of power, willy nilly, over weakened, helpless strangers. Delicious.

Yes, yes. I know that they see a trillion patients a day. My doctor friends tell me all about the suffering of doctors-- as they're luxuriating between their one-million-thread-count sheets in their gigantic houses as their staff of 3 scurries hither and thither, picking up toys and fixing healthy snacks for the populace.

Anyway, I had pneumonia and a shitty cold on top of it, so I stayed in bed for two weeks, wimpering, while my husband ran around the house picking up toys and fixing healthy snacks for the populace and also wimpering. Now my husband has a shitty cold with some fierce bronchial side effects that leave him hacking and hacking all night, which would be sad if not for his unnerving lack of empathy for MY illness (which admittedly had something to do with the number and variety of beverages I seemed to require per hour, prepared to my very rigorous specifications), which he has been loudly regretting since he fell ill. ("Oh my god, I feel sooooo bad for not understanding Just. How. Bad. you felt." "Yes, when I say I feel terrible, I really do. I'm not, um, let's see... A MAN.)

(For you young ladies out there who don't know it yet, men are horribly wimpy about sickness. Little known fact among the young. When women get very sick, they sally forth and make themselves sicker. When men get a sniffle, they take to the bed like frail old ladies and whine piteously for days. Accepted, established empirical fact among married women, one that casts a serious shadow of doubt on the usage of the phrase "To Man Up" as in "You need to man up and deal with your shit." Hmm, meaning you need to take to your bed like a wilty little hothouse flower?)

So I felt terrible for weeks, and sweet Jesus, it was depressing, too. Having little kids and getting very sick is like entering some extreme alternate reality where you're just a bad, bad person and even though you're so sick that you feel like you're losing your sanity half the time, you're also deeply unnerved by the dustbunnies on the floor and the needy look in your two year old's eyes, which indicate that you're a failure as a mother and as a human being. I know, beleaguered mothering tales are just boring, I fucking agree one hundred percent. But cut me some fucking slack, I was in serious distress for something like two weeks there.

Thus, I spent two weeks feeling awful. Then I spent a week feeling exhausted and breaking into a cold sweat every time I so much as vacuumed the rug. This week, though, I feel close to normal. That's why, when I woke up at 3:30 a.m. after a dream about getting way too drunk in a distant city, losing my shoes and my two dogs, and begging strangers for help, I felt relatively well-rested and very thankful that I hadn't coughed up my spleen the night before. Feeling so good, I thought the clock said 5:30 a.m., so I snuck out to the living room to write and didn't discover the real time until after the kettle was already whistling. So, do I go back to bed and lay there, psychoanalyzing my nightmare like a dyed-in-the-wool overthinker/thunker/Twunker OR do I twunk about my stupid life right here?

Well, now you know what a bad decision-maker I am, which explains why I ended up with fucking pneumonia in the first place. And by the way, I do recognize that you can't possibly care about such trivialities. But look, it's 4 a.m., I've just recovered from a serious illness, and I just had a very bad dream, a dangerous trifecta of factors, each of which cause extreme self-involvement. I can't merely tweet (oof!) about it. I have to twunk. THUNK! (That's the sound of your enormous thought-turds hitting the interwebs.)

See, Twitter is anxious and vaguely neurotic and it only leads to MORE Twittering. Twunker is cathartic and restful. Now granted, no one has any followers. But it's worth it!

4:05 AM

Friday, July 10, 2009


ALL THAT YOU HAVE IS YOUR SOUL

Dear Rabbit,

My boyfriend and I broke up. It's been close to 3 years living together and he ended it. Why? well, the story is long and sad and I will give it to you as best I can because really, I need help because I am lost and alone in a foreign country.

I am 30 years old and my boyfriend is 31. I moved to Mexico close to three years ago, alone, and began working at a university here. I met a wonderful, ambitious, determined Mexican man, a chemist, who I quickly fell in love with.

Many years and memories have past since we first met and in the past 8 months we began making plans to get out of our current job in Mexico. We had our options. He applied to a post-doc program in Spain and I applied to PhD programs in the USA (all schools with excellent polymer chemistry programs so that he could also continue to study should this be our choice on where to go). Our plan was to weigh our options, see what would be the best fit for us both to be together, and move on together. Why not? We have had a great relationship. Aside from a few speed bumps the first few months we got together things had been great. We almost never fought. We took great vacations together. Shared warm nights and days lackadaisically walking through sun drenched plazas. He became my best friend, my lover, my companion and confidant.

Well, I guess in hind sight it wasn't all perfect. He had a lot of hang ups about sex, he never said I love you, never really could muster up any sort of feelings more than a neutral gaze. I realize now that really I was the one putting forth most of the effort in the relationship and he sort of sat back and let me control the reigns until something better came along.

Well that something better came along when he was offered the post-doc position to study in Spain for the next 2 years. With that came secrets, lies, untrue intentions, and the sorrow that I am currently in.

See, we HAD been planning on him taking the scholarship he won from the Mexican government to study in the institute in Spain to UMASS, Amherst (the number one polymer chemistry program in the United States and I would work on my PhD). This had been what WE had been talking about for over the past 6 months. Me: "Eduardo, what are we going to do? I am scared." Him: "Don't worry, I will try. Just be patient."

WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE WE

Cut to us in bed one week ago in a sleepy little village overlooking a busy indigenous market in Oaxaca City. Eduardo is reading a newspaper where decapitated heads of police chiefs hang bloody on a wired fence. Headlines read drug cartels. dead civilians. famous beach resort sprayed with the blood of passer bys. kidnappings. rape. death.

Me: "Eduardo, I have to leave Mexico. I miss my family. I am scared to continue living here. This situation is only going to get worse. You have to call about the scholarship. There is no more time to wait. We only have about a month left of the semester." Him: "Ok, I will call about switching the scholarship tomorrow."

Well, tomorrow came and went and no call. Another day came and went and no call. Finally he calls about transferring the scholarship. He gets the news that he can not switch the scholarship and then a long night of his I don't knows, and I need to think, and I don't know if I love you followed.

It took me by surprise because really, I didn't think that this was going to be the cause of the end of us. We have had a great relationship, or so I believed.

That night I slept uneasy, not sure the state of things between he and I. Not sure if I were ready to say to him "Yes, I will forget about me. I will follow you to Spain. I will be your housewife. I will only care about you and your career."

In the manias that followed my emotions that next day I went to his laboratory during the work day and told him I wanted to talk. That I would sacrifice all for him because he and what we had were all worth it. When inside his office he left to use the bathroom and I just happen to see a bit of information sitting on his desk. What was that information?

It was his visa application and supplemental materials for Spain. He had a doctor's physical and test results dating June 2 (over a month ago he had acquired this), a police report of his crimeless past with fingerprints, money deposited into the bank account of the Spanish embassy for the visa, copies of official credentials, etc...All of this work, all of this collecting of material and organizing of documents was done months in the past. He had told me none of this information. He had told me on many occasions he had to visit the bank or the grocery store but in reality he was going to the doctors, or police, etc...to get things going on his visa.

He had been planning all of this months in the past. Behind my back. Without the intentions of 1. coming with me to the USA or 2. me going with him to Spain. He had decided who knows how long ago, that this relationship was convenient enough for him here in Mexico but that that would be it. 2 years and 6 months of building a life together and that was it. Spain and his career was more important than being open and honest with me.

What gets me most is that for the past several months he had been telling me WE....but really it was I. I who was worried about out future together, I who was researching post-doc positions for him in Amherst, I who was researching jobs for me in Spain, I who was doing apartment searches both in USA and Madrid, I who was looking at visa regulations for me to live in Spain or him to the USA, I who was constantly preoccupied with what was going to be OUR future, our new life together, our relationship.

And he was planning to leave without me anyway.

Well, days and discussions pass and all he can muster for an excuse was that for the past four month he had loved me less. Which, I had no sign of THAT. We visited my family in the USA during that time, had taken a vacation to a tropical island together off the Mexican coast, made love, cooked dinners, didnít have any serious discussions, talked about the idea of a future together. I had no idea.

My heart is broken and he can must no other words than I'm sorry. He was my best friend. My companion. My partner. My team. My love. Now I feel he could break me in half with one touch of the hands that once held me in his arms like I was the more delicate thing in his world.

So now I am returning to the USA in a week. Yes, I am going to start my PhD and live my life alone again. I am writing to you Rabbit because I do not know how to get over this hurt. I do not know how to believe that the man I loved could do this to me. Could just leave me. Once I return to the USA and he for Madrid it will be like he doesnít even exist anymore. Like he died. He is a very stubborn man and I know he will not call. He will not write. He will meet beautiful women in Spain and forget me. Forget what I considered the most special relationship Iíve ever had.

I have one more week in Mexico and really, other than Eduardo, I have no one here. I am alone. I have been calling family and friends but itís not enough.

I do not know how to forget this. There were no problems I thought we couldnít handle. No break up I saw coming. I feel like someone sucked out his soul and replaced him with this unfeeling, unemotional entity because I do not understand how he can just walk away from us after all of the times we had together.

Hope you can reply,

Lost and Alone in Oaxaca



Dear LAAIO,

Although you might feel like you wasted a lot of time with this jackass, let's review the things that you did right over the past three years:

1) You didn't marry him or have his kids
2) You kept your job
3) You had some new, interesting, intense experiences abroad, that overall, you really have no reason to regret as far as life experiences go
4) You secured a spot in a PhD program in the states
5) You didn't give it all up to move to Spain with aforementioned jackass.

Now, these things might not seem all that great or that important. You might not feel that grateful for any of the above at the moment. However, in five years when you're married to someone who isn't a soulless jackass (and make no mistake about it, this ex of yours has no soul), you'll look back and say, "Sweet Jesus, at least I didn't marry that guy," and also "I'm so glad I'm having kids with my husband and not with that soulless freak" and also, "Christ, imagine how lonely I would've been living in Spain, as that strange, heartless man's little woman, without a career or a life to speak of."

It will be nice to be with a man who actually has a soul. And you'll see that any relationship created with someone who can't talk about his feelings isn't a relationship so much as a fantasy created out of thin air through sheer force of will. You're obviously someone who can create things out of thin air Ė you're resourceful and you get the job done. But imagine how nice it'll be to apply that energy to someone who actually appreciates it.

Make no mistake, though, it's good to have gone out with jackasses. Because every time you look back and you think, "Wow, I could've been married to that jackass," you'll feel warm and happy inside. Seriously.

You may feel very alone, but you won't be for long. You don't know this about yourself yet, but when it comes to love, you settle. Don't worry about how long you'll be alone. Worry about enjoying this time, because it'll be over before you know it. And worry about trying not to settle for less than you deserve again.

You'll get the life you want. You will have romance and good things in your life. You don't have to worry about that. What you need to worry about is making good, lasting friendships and creating a life that you wouldn't bail on for some soulless jackass. You spent the last three years filling up your life with one person who turned out to be a serious freak. Don't put someone at the center of everything until they've proven that they take that responsibility seriously, that they're mature enough to handle it, that they're real. Don't do all of the work next time. Don't create anything. Sit back and see what happens. And make sure that, even if you were to get left behind again, you wouldn't feel completely alone because you'd have a life outside of the relationship.

It's common, at 30, to shut out the rest of the world and focus on one person. But once you do that a few times, you realize that it doesn't work that well, it's not healthy, and it won't make you happy even if the relationship is great.

Again, you're in a good place: You have a great reason to move back to the US, you're getting a PhD instead of following some asshole to Spain, and you're about to start a new life. Him dumping you was the best possible thing that could've happened to you. Getting over the heartache is sort of like being sick for a while: You just have to wait it out. Time passes, you get better. You know that you'll get better, so why make it worse than it has to be? Don't freak out about how alone you are. You're less alone now than you've been for the past three years.

You're young and you'll get exactly what you want soon enough. Take care of yourself, relax, be open to meeting new people, and pay attention to whether or not they have souls. At this point, it will be obvious. This is the gift of the soulless man: A newfound sensitivity to soul. Use it.

Best of luck,

Rabbit

4:30 PM



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me
staff writer at salon.com, co-creator of filler, author of the memoir disaster preparedness due from riverhead press in fall 2010


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