The day after Polly died, I took a drive up the 101 just like I had done with her several years ago when she was out for a visit. I headed north—past the sprawl of the city, past the strawberry fields in Ventura, and past the place where the highway signs start saying San Francisco. As I watched the roadside float by, I replayed that drive I had taken with Polly in my mind. That day we listened to Johnny Cash, we drank sweet frozen coffee drinks, and she remarked that people did an awful lot of sitting in their cars out in Los Angeles.
But no matter how hard you try, you can’t fully burn the memory of a person into your head. The edges fray, the colors fade and the memory dulls, so you start writing things down.
Because I couldn’t take drives with her at whim or see her in person very often, I started calling her on my way to work each morning. And during these calls, I would take notes.
My notes were usually quick, capturing just a snapshot of how Polly saw the world, a viewpoint that was unlike any other.
She said things like:
“They wanna get smart ass, you tell ‘em to call me!”
“I’m gonna go out to the shop and shiver and shake while I get my permanent.”
“You don’t want to be caught writing a bad check; that’s one thing I’ve never done.”
“I hadn’t done my hair, so I looked like a booger.”
“I saw the doctor yesterday. He come a bouncin’ in and said it looks fine, gave me a hug and then left. I tell ya: that’s gonna be an expensive hug.”
“She didn’t know her butt from a hole in the ground!”
“I know you’re smart because you’re mine.”
“We never knew we were poor. We were just happy.”
“I heard some man singing last night, singing ‘I’ll fly Away,’ and he was loud. I thought, ‘I’ll fly YOU away!’”
“You little heifer, you!”
“Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
If I couldn’t have Polly with me in sunny California, I’d sure try to have her in my pocket. Sometimes, when I needed a chuckle, I’d pull out my little notes and have a laugh, remembering her sass me from her chair.
As I took that drive, playing back memories of Polly, I thanked God that I had carved the space out in my life to create those memories. Spending time with a person changes you, if you’ll allow it. Their humor and outlook on life quietly weave themselves into the tapestry of your being, and before you know it you’re carrying around a tiny bit of that person with you.
No pictures or words or songs will ever capture how much Polly meant to each of us. Nothing can quite capture the ache we feel, standing together in the presence of her absence.
But we must continue living. We must completely invest ourselves in the present and in the people around us. And, in doing so, we will carry on those bits goodness Polly impressed upon each of us. Each time we serve one of her pound cakes or make someone laugh, we will see that we have been forever marked by Mrs. Pauline M. Regan.
Unless you act like a hussy, and then there ain’t no help for you.
I promise I'm not one of those people who always thinks about relationships. That disclaimer is necessary because 5 days ago I went to a seminar organized by my church on the subjects of being single and dating. I know what you're thinking. But I'm definitely not one of those people, I promise. The seminar was fine and all, but it seemed the whole purpose of being there--at least for the people sitting around me--was to learn the shortcuts and tricks to getting a spouse. At one point, when a witty and fast-talking lady co-moderating the evening spoke about meeting her husband, I wanted to stand up and shout: "What if THIS is our final destination? What if being single is what we're meant to do?"
Marriage seems to be a great thing for many people, and I'd like to get married. But if I don't, life will not crumble around me like the ash of a cigarette. There is too much to do, too many things to see, too many people to know for me to think one path is all there is for me. Plus, mathematically speaking the odds aren't so hot. 20% of the people in that room were men. And apparently all of those men are considered deadbeats or playboys. The Atlantic Monthly published an interesting article recently that basically said:
"Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the “romantic market” in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing). But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal."
So, you see, the odds really are not looking good for all the single ladies to have a man put a ring on it. And that's OK.
In large part, I signed up for The Big E so I could tell people I'd given Internet dating the ol' college try and they stop pestering me about doing more to get hitched. I love life. I make it a point to believe wherever I am is the best place to be, and that has made all the difference in the world.
There are so many areas of our lives that could use this bit of love--taking whatever piece of real estate life has passed down and saying, THIS is mine, and I am going to make it fabulous. Instead of letting absence serve as a reminder of what hasn't happened yet, I'm focusing on what has been accomplished and daydreaming about the wide open spaces left for me to conquer.
The other night I went to see a horrendously bastardized interpretation of Wuthering Heights with two friends: J and N. After the film we got to talking about dating. J is in a serious almost-marriage relationship. N is single and has a bit more experience at the dating game than I do. Because N has tried online dating before, I asked if she had any advice. She said to trust my gut. Did she have any odd stories, I asked, because I sure was starting to collect them.
A few days into my membership with The Big E, I got an introductory set of questions from a guy in Pennsylvania. At first glance, Pennsylvania didn't seem a bit like someone I would go for, but I am taking an extremely open-minded approach to this whole online thing. So I played ball and answered his questions. (p.s. a lot of guys have asked about how often I lose my temper...interesting) We went back and forth answering generic questions about ourselves, as you do with The Big E, for a couple of days. And then, I asked him about a boat.
Specifically, I asked him what he would name a yacht if he were given one tomorrow. I also asked where he would take said yacht. I thought this would be a sort of interesting question for him to answer given all of the incredibly boring questions we'd been throwing back and forth. And I thought it might show if he had a sense of humor.
His reply went something like this: If I were given a yacht tomorrow, I would name it Sunrise because I believe in new beginnings and that would be such a great new beginning. I love this question, Elisabeth, it is so clever. Actually, now that I think about it, if you were my wife, I would name the boat after you. Elisabeth would make a nice name for a boat. Have you heard the song by The Counting Crows called, 'Goodnight, Elisabeth'? It's really good. I'm going to listen to it now."
His wife? Um, Pennsylvania, we're in the ICEBREAKER stage of the game. Really? Wife? Oh brother.
So, I told N and J, that happened. Being the kind guy that he is, J asked if I would like for him to accompany me on any dates. "That's nice of you," I replied, "but Pennsylvania lives on the other side of the country, so there won't be any dates with him anytime soon. Plus having a chaperone might be a bit overkill. Maybe."
N's advice? Be open, that's good and all, but more than anything trust your gut. And, maybe put Pennsylvania in the no-way-on-earth column.
Well, I finally did it. I signed up for a paid online dating service. I've been on it for just over a week now, and--well, where do I even begin? Maybe you're wondering what prompted me to sign up at this stage of the game, so I'll start my funny tale there.
Being single is expensive and, at times, a little scary. You either have a tiny studio and live on your own, or you find a roommate so you can afford a place that actually has a kitchen and maybe a scrap of outdoor space. And then there's the fear factor: nary a single woman hasn't faced the fear of slipping in the shower, bonking her head on the floor--which of course would render her unable to move--only to be found weeks later by a landlord looking for their rent check. So, yes, you're right. My decision to sign up for The Big E was motivated in large part by my desire to have a kitchen of my very own and a night watchman.
Don't get me wrong; I have a wonderful roommate and a lovely kitchen at the moment, but all that concerns my beloved apartment is completely and utterly temporary. I am hesitant to hang anything on the walls because I know I will be moving at some point. I'm eager to have a bit more permanence in my life. I'd also like to consistently share memories with one person, instead of a smattering of friends spread all over the place.
All of this leads me to my little online profile and the seemingly desultory matches that have come my way. Already, just a week into it, I hate it. I suspected I wouldn't enjoy meeting people out of a catalog, and maybe this prejudice is why I dislike it so. Everything about the process goes against the grain of what makes me--me. Creating a slideshow of photos of yourself (Look! This one shows you how much fun I can be! And this one with the baby shows you what a natural I am with kids!) and writing brief blurbs of copy about your ideal match is downright embarrassing for me. And don't even get me started on the back-and-forth communication. It's so contrived and awkward and superficial, which is exactly what it should be.
But I've gone to enough singles mixers and signed up for countless volunteer activities in hopes of expanding my network only to find I've collected more girl friends. And as far as the men in my life, well it's safe to say I am firmly planted in the Friend Zone. Which is well and good and all. But guys don't seem to want to marry their friends these days.
So, I'm online and looking for love. It takes time, so I expect it to be a bit of a battle..err, I mean journey. In the meantime, I'm finding loads of material to share. Just wait until I tell you about S.S. Elisabeth.
There's something about being sick that throws your life into a temporary black hole. And when you finally do emerge, there's so much to catch up on that the very thought of tackling it all makes you want to crawl back into bed again. I got sick last Thursday, thought I was doing better on Saturday, but then ended up in the hospital on Sunday. Now it's a week later, and I am just getting to all the things that sat waiting. Like sharing these photos, for instance.
Have you heard of Pinterest? It's become my favorite hobby of late. Members create boards of images, categorized by subject, and share them for other Pinterest users. It's a lovely, appreciative community of creative people. For some, Pinterest lets them collect images from around the web, while other people use Pinterest as a source of inspiration.
However you use it, you'll be amazed at the number of beautiful things in the world.
I started a new job yesterday. And, as you might expect, it's brought up a whole host of questions. My last job started with much potential and hope, yet it ended in a cul-de-sac. I made good friends and learned that, despite my prior desires, I do not want to spend the rest of my days as a copywriter. So that was a much-needed experience.
Back to the new gig. The people are so incredibly lovely. I can't imagine my good fortune at working with such smart and kind people, including my boss. On paper, my boss really is all you could want for a boss. I say on paper because I hardly know my line-manager at this point. Oh, sure, I know things like children's names and after-work plans. I know frequent flier numbers and credit card details. I know that we drive the same car and share the exact same birthday (odd). But that's about it. How my boss reacts to stress? Not sure yet. To my mistakes? Thankfully I have to learn that one in the coming days. To disappointment? Nada. So it's a paper trail and a handful of conversations I have to go on. So far, my boss seems to be Wonderboss.
May I break for a short disclaimer? You won't mind, I hope. I've no idea of this blog's readership. I hope to increase it...maybe. But for now, it's a purely personal space, one that is admittedly self-indulgent. I'm not aiming to meet deadlines so that I can share the latest finds from the glorious Internet; I'm just writing. And I hope now that I'm in this new job--in this new lifestyle--I'll write here more frequently. So, with that in mind, I'm keeping some things very vague. I'd be devastated to air someone else's personal struggle here.
Anyhoo, the weeks leading up to my first day, I had a few nightmares about my new job. The most common issue my sleeping mind struggled over was how cool I am. Seriously. You'd think my mind--sleeping or awake--could tackle more pressing issues, but that's what bothered me. To many, my boss is ultra "cool," and this intimidated me. I could go into detail, but I'll just say when I got access to Wonderboss' rolodex, all my suspicions were confirmed: Wonderboss is the ultimate tastemaker for some, the supreme last word on matters of music for others, and a bit of an idol for a handful. I, on the other hand, am the walking antithesis of Wonderboss.
WB--may I call my boss that?--is a grounded person. Case in point, upon my arrival at the office yesterday, I was given WB's desk...by WB. Where did WB sit? On the desk adjacent to mine because, you guessed it, I was sitting in WB's chair. WB is proud to drive an older Honda Civic. WB flies coach. WB is a hands-on parent. All of these things, WB does with a manner of humility.
I, on the other hand, am wrestling with humility. And it is Wonderboss who has unknowingly pointed that out.
You see, I am sometimes ashamed when I pull up to a valet stand in my 2002 Honda Civic. I blush when people figure out I am 33 and not married/not a parent/not even in a blasted relationship. I want to rush through the conversation when people ask me what I do for a living. Somehow, I've become embarrassed of my life. Yet I chose, and continue to make choices, to live this life. I chose to stay in LA, which led to forgoing a job writing for someone else, which led to taking an executive assistant job with Wonderboss. I asked for this. So why am I blushing and coveting Audis?
In the end, I can only answer by acknowledging I have put my faith in the backseat. Maybe something else drives you; for me, faith in God is my true north. And I can assure you that God doesn't care one bit about the car I drive or what my title is.
We're all struggling to fit in our own skin, I suppose. Some just hide it better than others.