Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mr Paws: A Good Cat

Mr. Paws, my cat, is dead.

It happened just about three hours ago. He came in for the night and Mom was bending down to take off his collar when he flopped over on his side, seized up, gasped a little, and went limp. Gone. He stopped moving. He wasn't there anymore.

Right now as I write this they have him curled up on a towel in the computer chair. They wanted to give me a chance to come home and pet him one last time, say goodbye. Wesley too, when he gets home from work. We'll bury him in the morning.

When the other pets died, I cried a lot more. It was abrupt, violent. Hit by a car. Or it was so gradual and slow that I knew it was just their time. Buffy and Tigger, both going of old age. In a case like that it's hard to let go. But with Paws, it's different than both of those. Yes, this was abrupt, but I wasn't here when it happened. I didn't see the life leave him. And the way he's curled up right now, he looks like he's simply sleeping. Cold to the touch, yes, but sometimes he laid so still when he slept that I would check to see if he was breathing. He looks like that now. I can't really get it through my head that he's not alive.

It'll come gradually. Little things. We don't have to close the doors to keep him in the downstairs section of the house anymore. I won't have to worry about leaving him out when I'm gone for long stretches of time. Or at night, around 9:45pm when I'd leave the TV room and walk down to go outside and call him. Listening for the jingle of the bell on his collar, usually close at hand because he's used to coming in at that time too.

"Jingle kitty!" I'd call. "Mr. Paws! Where are you Mister Mister?" And "I know you're out here. I know it's a beautiful night, but come on! It's time to come in!"

I'd yell "Jingle jingle!" so often that I wondered if he thought that was his name.

He liked string toys. The one time we tried to use the weasel ball toy we bought in the Cracker Barrell gift shop, he was at a complete loss. He wanted to chase the weasel, but was too afraid of the clattering plastic ball to ever get close.

The pupils of his eyes got so huge when he was intrigued by something, or feeling mischievous, or wanting to explore. He liked the closet under the stairs, or any door that wasn't open to him. One time we couldn't find him, and it turns out he had crept into the open cupboard door in the kitchen and gotten trapped in the cupboard under the sink.

The way he would meow... very vocal. Sometimes it even sounded like he was yowling "Hello?" Very opinionated, and very bossy. But so cute you forgave him of it pretty quickly.

At this point, I think that's what I'm mostly worried about. That I'll forget these little things about him that I loved so much. Because, as Mom kept saying over and over again, "He was a really good cat."

The way Wesley would play with him. Really almost-violent, kind of shoving him around and twirling him and pushing him over, but he LOVED it. He would purr like nobody's business. You could tell he loved the man's touch, and he would follow Wes around after he got home and even sit on his feet to beg for more attention.

He knew when he looked good somewhere. I think he'd purposefully sit in a chair or curl up on my desk and even in the little section of dirt outside the door to my room because he knew he looked so cute there.

And he loved being in boxes. Dad's newspaper box. This cute little box we got peaches in one time. I think he felt safe in them, and he looked adorable.

He was a "bakery cat." He liked animal crackers, ginger snaps, the breading on Chick-fil-a sandwiches. He also loved Boursin cheese and hamburger meat. Any kind of meat, really. Just this afternoon Mom gave him some hamburger and he scarfed it up like a dog would. She had made the house smoky from cooking the patties, so she opened the deck door and the laundry door to let some of the smoke out. He loved this. He would dart out one door, circle around the house, and mosey in the other door minutes later of his own accord. Freedom, he seemed to be saying. I like it.

And he did. He was miserable at the basement apartment, wanting all the time to go outside. He would do purposefully naughty things to try to provoke me, pawing at hanging pictures to try to make them fall, knocking figurines off of tables and nearly breaking them. He knew he was being a troublemaker. I'm bouncing off the walls, he seemed to be saying. So just let me outside a little.

I would do that a lot. Put words in his mouth. Assume I understood what he was thinking. He would purr a lot, and it was hard to tell sometimes if he was happy or annoyed. His tail would be twitching all the while. When he slept on the foot of my bed, I used to wake up to find he had taken it over. Even this morning he was curled up next to me, stretching the full length of his body, the picture of perfect relaxation.

That's why I think I'm not as sad as I could be. I can remember all of my last things with him. If I knew he was going to die, I'd want to have a good long cuddle beforehand, maybe sleep the night with him by my side, have a good long session of playing with toys and letting him chase the string back and forth, let him out with the knowledge that he loved the outdoors more than any toy and maybe even more than me (but I could totally understand this). And I did all those things. It's like I was saying goodbye to him without knowing I was saying goodbye.

There were a few signs something may have been wrong. He got this weird spot on his nose that wouldn't leave. This was the day before yesterday. And yesterday he slept nearly all day. To be fair, so did I. I slept in until 1pm then stayed in bed even longer watching NBC comedies on hulu. He lay there a good five hours next to me, when usually he probably would have been moving about long before then.

But I think it was sudden, and that there was pain but only for the shortest of times.

Part of me immediately knew there were good things about this. I had been so worried about how to handle Paws in the move to the apartment. He would hate it, I knew, not being able to go out, and yet to leave him here at the house... I wondered if he'd understand why I wasn't there anymore. If he'd be lonely at night with nobody downstairs to keep him company. It would seem like those long trips I took. Oh, and that brings back even more memories.

Of the way he peed on my suitcase once after I returned from Wrockstock, almost as if to claim it, to tell me I had no right to go away again. Or how angry he was at me after I returned from the Bolivia/Montana trip (nearly a month away!). He seriously wouldn't even come near me until I grabbed him and clutched him to my chest and forced him to lay there on my stomach. I held him in my arms like that for a half hour at least, forcing him to stay, until eventually he relented and apparently forgave me and we were cuddle buddies again.

He was brave and protective. He killed rabbits and squirrels and mice. He fought off other neighborhood cats (to the point that it sometimes almost seemed like bullying). He would travel far away. I remember once getting a call from a woman who had found a collar he had lost with our number on it. She lived a few driveways down on Rocky River Road, the other side of the street. He really loved exploring.

I will feel the absence of him, things that should be there but won't be ever again.

There's one other horrible part to this whole thing. Today as I write this, it is 1:56am on April 17th... Mandy's birthday. Mandy is the one who found Paws for me. She thinks of animals the way most other people feel about human beings. When she hears about Mr. Paws, it will be like most people react when they hear a child has died. She will be heartbroken.

I think she'll be angry at me for not telling her sooner, but I'm sorry. I want her to have a happy birthday. I don't want her day spoiled by this, and I know it would be.

I feel guilty. I'm still doing everything I said I'd do tomorrow. I'm going to the Hunger Games casting call, then on to Mandy's birthday that night. I'm not putting anything on hold, not pausing to mourn. I guess that's what this is, though. Me mourning.

I also felt relief, I think, on first hearing the news, because when you get a phone call from your mother and she's sobbing on the other end of the line, you just can't help but think it's something really bad. I pictured Dad, Wes, Zach, Laura... that something had happened to one of my family members. When I found out it was the cat, I was relieved. I wasn't sad. I'm still not sad. I feel... numb? Or just... I just don't understand it yet? I've cried. I cried some as I wrote this. I feel hollow. I feel a loss. But I just don't know what else to do but keep on living.

Maybe that's it. When people (or animals) we love die, we feel this big responsibility. It has to be a momentous occasion, because anything less feels like it's not acknowledging how important they were. But all of that, really, is for the living. Wherever they're at, I doubt they care who's in attendance at the funeral. They know the world goes on. And life.

Back when I was doing BEDA, one of my blog post ideas was to write about Ozymandias (the poem by Percy Bysse Shelley), and the conflicting ideas of whether death renders life meaningless, or whether death actually gives life more meaning... If we die, then what's the point in us ever having been alive? But I would argue that death gives life meaning. I was talking to Greg earlier (I was actually with Melissa at his apartment when I got the call from Mom), and he was talking about work, how it was the same thing day after day from open to close. From the moment they opened their doors, it was this endless line of customers, orders to be filled, pizzas to be delivered. And if it wasn't for closing time, he could almost believe that such a thing could go on forever. Obviously, that's not true. People sleep. There would be slow times with no one in the store. But the thought was that the closing at the end of the night was what gave the work day its meaning, its definition. It only lasted a short amount of time before it was done.

I think the fact that we will one day not have our lives anymore makes what we do with the time we have all the more vital. The fact that we have an expiration date gives us worth, more worth than we would have if we were to live forever. I think death gives life meaning. And I think the way we live gives meaning to our death, but that's a whole other blog post.

For now, I'm going to do other things. I'll say goodbye to Mr. Paws in the morning.

Here he is, the adorable and lovable Mr. Paws. My handsome man:

Rest in Peace, Paws. I love you. You were a good cat.

Forget BEDA

I gave up on BEDA. It was coming down to one of two scenarios: I give up on BEDA or I give up on my Good Madness 365 project. Good Madness is more important to me, so there you have it. Goodbye BEDA.

Monday, April 11, 2011

BEDA 10: Laziness

What makes a blog post a blog post? Is it a blog post simply because I post it on my blog? If so, then this will count for BEDA. If not, then what's the something more that makes it an official post as opposed to an unofficial one?

I think the idea with BEDA is that we pontificate around a certain subject, one a day for 30 days. It's an exercise in writing, to develop your thoughts on a theme and present them in a rational and flowing manner.

Well, screw that. I got three hours of sleep last night and spent most of today still slightly drunk/hungover from the night before. Even now I'm loopy, though I suspect that has more to do with fatigue than blood alcohol levels. In any case, the theme of today's BEDA is half-assing-it.

Or in lolcat: Laziness, I haz it.

That is all.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

BEDA 9: The Golden Kind

I don't know who reads this blog (if anyone does), so I probably shouldn't write about this stuff, but today's BEDA is on a subject that is currently on my mind as I've been drinking (3 pints at the Flying Saucer in honor of Vanessa Loszko's 22nd birthday). That subject is the different kinds of drunkenness. Now, there are plenty of places where you can finds lists/descriptions of different kind of drunks in general, but I'm going to talk about drunkenness as it relates to me.

The first time I ever got drunk I was at Melissa and Luis's apartment. (This was back when they were married. They aren't anymore.) I'd never really had alcohol before, and I was 19 years old. It was near Christmas. I remember distinctly they had their tree set up already in one corner, strung with white lights and pretty ornaments. They had Zimas. If you don't know what a Zima is, it's a type of alcoholic beverage that's what I call a "soda beer." It's a really sweet, fizzy drink that has the tiniest percentage of alcohol in it, but really isn't much of a hard drink at all. It shows you how much of a lightweight I was that I was already gone after only two of them. This was the golden kind of drunk. I remember the room had grown warm and soft. I was relaxed, serene. I stared at the Christmas tree in the corner and thought, "The lights are so very lovely. Why have I never before realized just how lovely they are?"

That's the kind of drunkenness you aim for. It's more akin to "buzzed" or "tipsy" than true drunkenness. But sadly, that's not the only kind I've known.

The January of my Sophomore year at Elon I took a study abroad trip to Ireland. I chose Ireland and this particular class because (a) I was born on St. Patrick's day and felt a kinship to the island nation, and (b) it was a literature class covering Yeats, Joyce and Heaney, all authors I was very keen to learn more about. Here's why all the rest of the people on the trip chose this class: (a) in Ireland the drinking age is 18, and (b) that means you can drink.... a LOT.

I quickly got schooled on way more than Irish literature. It was a course on Irish drinking culture as well, and never being one to shirk my duties as a student, I dove right in.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

BEDA 8: A Spaceholder

I'll be computerless in Savannah on April the 8th, but I'll still do a "blog," just the old school method of writing it down on paper then typing it up later. I'm leaving this post as a spaceholder for me to add that content to when I get back. Cheers!

BEDA 7: Something I Love

If I hate thank you notes, here's something I love: packing. Because packing means you're going somewhere, usually somewhere new. Packing means travels. It usually means adventure. And I love adventure.

There's an old quote I've always liked that says "Adventure is not outside man, it is within." But sometimes that's hard to remember when you're stuck in the same place for a long while. There are people who like that. I met a girl once in college who had never even left the state and was perfectly happy with her life. But I get something that I referred to in a poem once as "the itch and the tug and the ache and the call." It says: GO.

Sometimes it's not necessarily the destination, but just the process of getting there. I've found the more I walk that some of my best ideas come to me when I'm in motion. Walking, in the car (though usually if someone else is driving, because otherwise most of my mind is focused on the road), in buses, trains, airplanes. Maybe it's just new scenery, new things for your mind to latch onto. Maybe it's something else, something bigger. I don't know.

All I know is that if I lived like that girl I met in college, I'd feel like a goldfish stuck in a bowl. I've always hated fish as pets, not just because they're not cuddly, but also because they look so bored there in their little bowl. They can only swim so far. And what do they do? Sleep, swim this way, swim that way. That's about it. Seems like such a small, sad life.

That's not to say that girl had a small, sad life. Humans are more complicated than goldfish. They have depths of emotion and intellect, inner worlds that I assume goldfish don't. (Hard to say for certain having never conversed properly with a goldfish, but the facts seem to suggest their brains don't hold the capacity for such things...) The true richness of your life is determined I think by the people you love, the beliefs you hold, and the pursuits you engage in, not necessarily by the places you've been.

But I still like packing. I still like going. Because when you go it's always a gamble. You never know what's going to happen next, or what you'll end up bringing back with you, or if you'll even come back at all.

Okay, so that last bit sounded dire. But it's true. I think part of why I love travel is also because it reminds me that much in this life is a mystery. I can do my research and make my plans, but what I actually find and experience when I get there won't match up to the picture in my head. You have to live it to discover it, and that's cool.

So, yes... I'm going to stop rambling and go pack for Savannah.

Love love love!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BEDA 6: The Curse of the Thank You Notes

I like writing, as you may be able to tell. And I'm fairly tolerable at it. I can string words together and have it sound relatively smooth and well-thought-out in the end.

Not so of thank you notes.

I don't know what it is. I'm grateful, I really am. I'd almost rather I could gather all the people who give me stuff in a room and walk up to them and give a good five minute monologue to each one about how much I love their gift. That would be fine - wonderful, in fact. They could get that I appreciate it, and I wouldn't have to endure the pulling-teeth procedure that is writing thank you notes.

This works with good friends. I think people in my generation for the most part are averse to writing letters, which is actually really sad but comes in handy in this one instance. But as for my aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins, etc... thank you notes it is.

I only have to write four thank you notes for my birthday presents. I've already written two, and the thought of writing the other two has struck me with such dread that I decided to write this blog about it as a means of avoiding it.

Like I said, it's not the content I hate. It's not the act of mailing someone a letter.... that's fun! It's just, somehow when my mind realizes I'm about to write a thank you note, it leaves behind all rules of good writing completely and falls back into some horrific pre-intelligence mode in which I somehow think it's perfectly good form to use tired old phrases like "I just wanted to thank you so much for" or "I really love it a lot" and to insert way too many smiley faces, exclamation points, and underlines. It's not even the words themselves; in this context they seem relatively harmless. It's the whole over-the-top uber-bubbly tone of the letter. It's the way the sentences are so jerky and disjointed and obviously squeezed in to the small space on the card. It's the fact that I sign off with "Thank you, again!" because I don't know what else to say, and the fact that by the time I'm on the fourth one I'll probably have a whole formula going with an insert-appropriate-gift-name-here blank.

It just feels fake, which is what's so frustrating. Because it isn't! I'm genuinely grateful for the scarf, the check, the movie, the lovely card... but when I go to write it in a letter, it becomes this whole terrible monster of an ordeal. Let me sit in a room with you and thank you face to face and be done with it, so I don't have to go through the ridiculous charade of trying to write a thank you note only for you to go through the ridiculous charade of opening it, glancing at it once, and throwing it away.


Okay, that's it. Consider myself vented. I now will go write two more of these monsters then continue where the night leads.

BEDA 5: It's Okay To Judge A Book

I didn't put BEDA in the title yesterday, but since it was a blog post I'm counting it. (That, and I wrote a whole other blog post over on my Good Madness blog. Between the two, I figure I'm covered).

Today's blog isn't going to be too long. I just had a realization about a habit of mine that I thought seemed blog-worthy. It's about books, and a bad tendency I've developed to stubbornly wade my way through to the end of a book even if I can't stand it.

So I'm at the library or the bookstore and I see this book, and authors I really like have written blurbs on the cover and the premise sounds amazing and the cover just looks so cool and I think, "Wow, I'm really going to like this book." So I bring it home and read a chapter, and I'm waiting for something to happen... to get caught up in the action or really interested in the character or to admire the use of language and imagery or something. But none of that happens. Sure, they're using proper grammar, and they gave a lovely description of that girl's dress in that one scene, and I can tell I'm really supposed to feel for that guy (poor fellow) because of the way the author pretty much told me to (yes, that big no-no of tell-versus-show), but golly gee whiz darnit if I'm just not buying any of it. But by this point I'm thirty or forty pages in. If I'm feeling very tolerant, I may even be a hundred. And I think (not a voice-in-your-head thought, but the more subtle kind of thought that is so very slight that you may not even realized you've thought it for quite a while) "I should finish it anyway to check it off the list."

What a waste of time.

I remember reading in a book by C.S. Lewis once that he wanted people to realize that they had the freedom to read his book in any order they wanted, that they could jump from the introduction to chapter six, to chapter eighteen then back to chapter three. He went on a tangent about people who feel like they have to read the book through from beginning to end (people like me, in other words) and how that seems the silliest thing. If you read the chapter heading for chapter seven and think, "Wow, that looks interesting," then you should read that. Follow your interest.

So I did that tonight. Not reading a book out of order (I think that only really works in nonfiction books, not novels), but realizing that I was getting absolutely nothing out of the book I was reading and that I'd much prefer to just return it to the library.

There are too many good books out there to waste my time trudging through ones that have already proven themselves to be not very worthy of my time. That may sound snobbish, but I like to think of it as practical: managing the short amount of time that I have on this planet to try to eliminate the dreariness of a boring read.

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Second Zombie Dream In As Many Weeks

It was hard to tell if you had been exposed because the symptoms were similar to those of a hysterical populace: fatigue, shadows under the eyes, sweaty skin (sometimes waxy), a certain dazedness. It was the last symptom before the change that was the most telling, and by that time it was usually too late for the people around you: your face and hands and feet would swell and burst; it was this blood that carried the contagion.

I have memories of being in a hallway somewhat like those in modular buildings, but with the knowledge that I was deep underground. There was something in a room somewhere ahead and to the left that I needed desperately, but the newly-transformed zombie behind me knew it too. It was like a race through the maze-like halls to get at it, whatever it was. I can't remember who won, but I must have because I didn't end up changing.

That was a very important thing about these zombies: while their humanity had fled them with the onset of the disease, their human minds, the ability to think and reason and calculate, had remained. Like super-intelligent animals, they were driven by instinct but guided by intellect. And that driving instinct? To spread the contagion, to kill.

Different people from my facebook friends list popped in and out of the dream. People from college like Cara Leidy, or from church like Cassie Lansing, or from my old Borders job. We were all being kept in camps and transported by buses to safe locations. We had been thoroughly screened and seemed free from the contagion, which is what would make it so scary every time someone turned. We were supposed to be safe. But there: a blister on someone's hand quickly spread and grew until it was no longer just a red shining sore but a symptom of something infinitely worse. We'd run to the safety of the bus and drive away, but even among those still unturned inhumanity was common: those who had been standing nearest the person who had changed would be thrown from the bus to the side of the road. Even if they showed no symptoms, no one wanted to risk it. Or if some leader-type put their foot down and insisted they be allowed to stay (as some did when the person in question was a relative or friend), the rest of the people would shun them. It would get so bad sometimes that they might even leave of their own accord.

It started to get old, being constantly on the move, but as long as we had the means to we kept going. We had heard too many reports of stationary colonies being breached. In the grand majority of such instances, a breach meant no survivors. Not a one.

I woke up from the dream at a not-very-scary part, which is odd with a nightmare. I had sat on some girl's necklace on the bus seat by mistake and broken it. Another girl was examining the mini-screens on the seat backs and lamenting that they didn't work. A third (Danielle Lindland, I think) was staring out the window and noticed an old storefront with signs up advertising German chocolate. We were all so used to the bland food we were given just to stay alive that chocolate sounded heavenly.

And that was it. It was then that I woke up. Not being pursued down a subterranean hallway by a murderous zombie. Not watching a good friend's face explode as she transformed mere feet away. Instead, it was in a bus, surrounded by weary girls like me, all missing the comforts (jewelry, TV, chocolate) of a normal life we would never again know.

BEDA 3: In Which Kate Moss Is Crazy But Partially Correct

Kate Moss is attributed as saying "Nothing tastes as good as being this thin." I would argue that she obviously hasn't had Krispy Kreme glazed donuts when the "Hot N Now" sign is on, or a salted caramel brownie at Amelie's either for that matter, but that's beside the point. The truth is, I've always scoffed at her declaration, but now that I've lost 40 pounds I have to say she's kind of right. Being thin (or in my case, thinner) feels GREAT.

When I had lost 20 pounds, I went to the fitness aisle in target and picked up two ten pound weights, just to get a feel for how much I wasn't carrying around anymore. I was surprised at that heaviness, but it made sense: that's why I'd always felt to slow, so "heavy," so weighed down. Because I literally was.

But that's perhaps as far as my belief in Kate's statement can go. Because while I never want to allow myself to gorge so much that I'm back up to my highest weight again, I love food too much to ever become anorexic. It's a balance: after all, food is fuel. If your body's a vehicle how can you be expected to go anywhere without it?

Here are some things I've figured out though:
(1) If you're hungry, try drinking water because sometimes that feeling you're interpreting as hunger is actually thirst.
(2) If you've had a glass or two of water and you're still hungry, eat something. I've lost 40 pounds and can only think of one or two times when I purposefully didn't eat when I was hungry... and those cases were mostly toward the beginning when I was still figuring all this dieting stuff out.
(3) To reiterate: you don't have to starve to lose weight.
(4) If you think you've eaten too much, cancel it out by exercising more. Walk an extra lap around the neighborhood. Do jumping jacks. Whatever. Extra physical activity should help balance everything out.
(5) If you "mess up" and eat too much, or eat extremely rich or decadent foods, guess what? Yes, you may have gained one or two pounds when you step on the scale tomorrow. But you can work on losing it again tomorrow. It's extended periods of irresponsible eating that will really mess you up. If you have a "fun day" every once in a while where you don't think about what you eat, it's not going to do too much damage. Sometimes it even helps jerk you out of a "plateau" (an extended period at the same weight without loss or gain, often caused when the body thinks you're not getting enough nutrients and goes into starvation mode).
(6) Be realistic about what you'll actually eat. If you hate fat free hot dogs as much as I do, don't even waste your time or money or space in the refrigerator buying them. That's all it'll be - a big fat miserable waste. It's better to splurge on calories every once in a while for something you actually enjoy than to eat stuff you hate.

There are more things that have come to me over the past few weeks, but I can't really think of them now. In any case, to recap: being thin feels good. You're lighter, freer, all around better off. But food is delicious and should be enjoyed in moderation. And Kate Moss, while gorgeous, is kind of crazy.

Alright then. Time for bed. Another BEDA tomorrow!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

BEDA 2: In Which the Events of the Day Smack Vaguely of Adventure

Okay, can I just say that yesterday's post was brought to you by the letter E? E for Emo. I don't know if it was lack of sleep or a total frustration at not being able to be my normal self (all of you have a "company self," right? the one that tries to behave and be polite when other non-immediate-family people are around?) or just a major pity party, but it wasn't pretty.

But that was yesterday. And here is today. And today is about embracing the unexpected.

I work at a library, and the best way to get to said library is to take a left turn off a major highway, cross over some railroad tracks and wind about a block back into a residential area. I always cross those railroad tracks, because that highway is the most direct route from my house to the library. I've never had to go any back way before. But today, right as I pulled out from the parking lot at the end of a rather rushed and stressful day, what did I find? A train was blocking the railroad crossing. Not just passing by, but parked, at a complete standstill, blocking any way to get across.

After sitting there for five minutes, someone behind me got out of their car and walked up to the tracks, had a quick chat with the car at the front of the line, then walked back to their car, informing all the other drivers on the way that said driver had been waiting here for 15 minutes with not a sign that the train would be leaving anytime soon.

Upon hearing that news I said "To heck with this!" and turned around, making a left onto a street parallel with the highway I was trying to get to, hoping that if I went down far enough eventually I'd get across.

At first I was optimistic. True, every time I looked to my left all I saw was more of the train, but surely somewhere up ahead I'd be able to pass? But the neighborhoods waned and the road started getting narrower and less paved, until I came to frustrating point: I could see the end of the train now, but the road ahead had become nothing but gravel winding off into what looked like an empty field. It didn't appear that I'd be able to get across anywhere up there, but what else could I do?

The driver behind me did what most sane people would probably have done and stopped where the paved road ended. He performed a hesitant, jerky 15-point turn and headed back the way we had come. But I didn't want to go back. It was partly just wanting to know where the road led, and partly me being hard-headed and insisting there must be a way across the tracks, and mostly just because I was here and the weather was nice for a change and it all kind of smacked vaguely of adventure.

I drove forward.

I could tell right away that it wasn't a driveway, but it certainly wasn't like any country road I've ever been on. Other than gravel it was nothing but grass and trees all around (interrupted only briefly by railroad tracks). If I didn't know better I wouldn't even imagine there was a highway so close by, just out of sight to my left. It felt like in the space of a few seconds I had left civilization behind completely.

The road wound over a hill and down and started to curve to the right, and at this point I did get a little panicky because there were some major dips and potholes and I could just imagine becoming the horror movie cliche by getting a flat tire and becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately that didn't happen, but as I wound up one last hill I found my answer as to where the road led: it was a cemetery. About two dozen gravestones in the middle of this field, sheltered away back here where few people probably even knew it existed. There was enough gravel in the makeshift "parking area" for me to turn around, though if I hadn't been in a rush to get back home I may even have gotten out of the car and looked around a bit. It certainly seemed peaceful. But since this isn't fiction, we'll leave the place there for now, as the last I saw of it was the reflection in my rearview mirror as I drove away.

I ended up heading back the way I came but getting creative with my GPS, which led me down some country roads (I passed several sleepy-eyed cows and a batting cage and some of the coolest dilapidated old sheds). It was only about ten minutes before I was back on familiar turf, but those ten minutes were glorious. Wide fields and picturesque silos. Barns and cows and pretty country houses. Only a couple days ago I had been wondering to myself where all the farms had gone; I remembered that when I was younger we would see cows and fields and wide stretches of forest when my mom would drive us places. Now it seems like everywhere I drive all I see is new housing developments, or yet another Target or CVS. But here they were, so like the places I remembered from my childhood, and a mere stone's throw away from where I went to work everyday.

I think yesterday's post was written by a girl who felt like the world was small, which is the silliest thing a person could possibly feel, because it most definitely ISN'T. So it's almost as if today was somebody's subtle way of reminding me that the world is actually full of surprises. I feel a lot better remembering that there are things yet to be discovered, and that I don't have to wander to the far reaches of the globe to find them.

BEDA 1: A Better Version of Me

So, BEDA stands for "Blog Everyday in April," and already I'm off to an epic start, posting my "first day" just after midnight so technically it's on day 2. Whatever. I tend to measure my days in wake-to-sleep increments, meaning most start at 10am and end in the 2-3am vicinity. So, going forward with that mentality I hope you'll forgive me and.... let's move on.

I don't know what to blog about today, but that won't always be the case. Sometimes I'll have a specific theme or topic, but today it's just a general intro, a this-random-thought-popped-into-my-head-so-I'll-write-it-down kind of post.

My grandmother (Oma) and Aunt from Indiana are down visiting this week. The school where Mom teaches is on spring break, so they decided to drive down for a few days and hang out with her/us. In terms of living arrangements, I'm really the only one this has affected seriously. Since my grandmother can no longer handle the stairs, she has to sleep in my room (the only one downstairs), which meant I spent Tuesday night cleaning like a madwoman in preparation for her arrival. Aunt Barbara is up in our upstairs guest room, which has me sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor (the "fancy" living room, the one we never go in unless there's company. The room that we actually do the most "living" in is called "the den." One of those odd things.) So here I am, surrounded by fancy furniture and antiques (which are now draped artfully with my work clothes, or holding up stacks of books and papers.) I wish I could take a picture, but the camera's crammed in a drawer in my room right now and Oma is fast asleep in there. Imagination will have to do.

We ate brunch at Le Peep this morning, Oma, Aunt Barb, Mom, Dad, Wesley and I. I had an Omni Omelette, perfectly ruining my diet. Afterward we stopped by Trader Joe's. In the afternoon I walked about 2 miles, which will help burn off the calories a little, but Bavarian Beef Pie for dinner didn't help things much there either. After dinner, Wes and Dad were both gone (Wes at work, Dad reffing) so we girls played a card game called Quiddler, which I won. In the evening, we watched "Most" (which is Czech for "The Bridge"), an Oscar-nominated short film. Then everybody went to sleep and since then I've been surfing the web and reading "Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin.

See? That's why I never try to write diary-like entries on this blog. That last paragraph was dreadful. Then we did this, then we did that, then, then then THEN THEN THEN....

So dull.

Here's what tomorrow's would look like if I did that every day (don't worry! I won't!): Wake up, drive to the library, work until five, drive to the church, clean the sanctuary and gym buildings, drive home, shower, surf the web, read, hang with the family, go to bed. SO SO SO SO DULL.

Can you see why I read all the time? Why I write? Why I want to get the hell out of here?!!?

Every so often I start to miss London. Yes, that London. The city in England. The funny thing is, when I'm there I think to myself, "Why do I idealize this place so? Why do I love it like I'd love a person?" And yet I do. If it were a person, I'd really want to give it a huge hug right about now. I miss it. I want to go there. If I could hop on a plane instead of driving to work tomorrow.... but no. It does no good to entertain those thoughts.


I'm happy to see my family. I'm grateful to have a job I don't loathe. Is my life boring, though? Yes. Yes it is. And I can't help thinking that it's no one's fault but my own. I don't take chances. I'm not brave. I've allowed my mind to become lazy, dulled. I lack discipline. I occasionally have vision, but lack the guts to see it through to any sort of end.

When I was a little girl people would tell me the story of how they assumed my life would go, because it's the way most people's lives go: I would graduate from high school and go to college. I would probably date a lot in college. I'd graduate and get a job that would pay my bills, possibly even one that I liked a lot, and I'd eventually meet someone and marry them, settle down together, and we'd start saving up for the house, then we'd have kids and a mortgage to pay, then we'd get sucked into a world of PTA meetings and soccer practices, then our kids would be old enough to graduate high school and go on and perpetuate the cycle.

This is a nice life. And a version of myself (there are many versions) that exists somewhere hidden down deep still thinks this is the way my life should be. That version of myself mourns the fact that I didn't date in college, that I haven't met someone and gotten married, that I haven't found a job that I like or the self-discipline to learn to love any job despite my interest level. It says I should be responsible, finish off my graduate degree and spend the next few years of my life taking classes I don't like but that will help me keep a job that I'm relatively good at, and not going anywhere or doing anything costly in order to more quickly pay off all my student loans. This version of myself could live here in Charlotte forever. This version of myself would hold the other versions at bay by getting the occasional non-plain-Jane haircut or rearranging the furniture or drinking too much wine.

But those other versions are hard to keep at bay...

There's a version of myself that has always wanted to follow in George Orwell's footsteps. "Down and Out in Paris and London?" Why not quit my job and fly to London with nothing but $200 in my pocket and see what happened? See how long I could last? This risk-taker, daredevil version is obsessed with wanderlust. Why not ride a bike around America? Or better yet, get another job and spend the next year killing myself working way too many hours to (a) pay off my loans, then (b) save up enough for a van or camper, gas money, and enough for groceries and then spend a summer driving all around the U.S. and hitting up every wacky tourist attraction imaginable? (I've actually started a list of all the places, silly and serious, I'd want to go). This version of myself wishes I could figure out a way to make money that doesn't involve a stationary career. This version wants to see the world.

Another version of me doesn't mind a stationary life, but wants it to be somewhere else. Wants to move to New York or London or Chicago or Portland or Austin... somewhere where Things Are Going On and I could begin to put down roots and make a space for myself away from my parents and maybe widen my circle of friends.

There's a version of myself that feels like girls in the 1800s who were past marriageable age. This version wouldn't mind living at home forever, depending on my parent's income for as long as they're alive. This is the Jane-Austen-writing-novels-beneath-her-sewing-in-the-public-sitting-room version of me. The reclusive-spinster-poet-Emily-Dickinson version of me. This is also the version of me that regrets the invention of the computer. That prefers ink pens to keyboards and paper to screens.

There's a version of me that wishes she could buy land and build a makeshift cabin and grow her own food and live entirely separate from technology and modern conveniences.

There's a part of me that could not live without Thursday night comedy on NBC, that checks Facebook religiously, that obsesses over the casting for movie versions of my favorite books. This version misses 90's music and loves the kind of food that comes in packages - things you thaw or bake or just add water or boil then TA DA! You're done. This version loves bubble baths and cheesy dialogue at the end of romantic comedies. This version loves heat and air conditioning and driving places in cars.

There's a scholarly, bookish version of me that would love nothing more than to read and write and theorize and discuss and pontificate all the live long day. I imagine this version at Oxford, among the trees and pubs and ancient architecture and dusty tomes.

There's a version of me that wishes desperately that she had been this age in the 1960s, and laments the fact that the spirit of idealism and the idea that people could change the world and make it a better place has become so diluted mere decades later. This version of me thinks a lot of young people are spoiled and take things for granted, or that we're lazy and we see the need for change but are too apathetic or too ignorant to do anything about it.

I could go on and on and on with all these different versions, but what's the point? Technically, I'm all of them. Which makes for a confusing life, all these often-conflicting ideas and feelings bumper-car-ing around inside of me.

I'm all of these things PLUS someone's granddaughter, someone's niece, someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's friend. I'm every book I've ever read, every joke that's ever made me laugh, every tree I've climbed, every word I've ever written. I am whoever I am whether I'm here or whether I'm in London or whether I'm somewhere else entirely.

To borrow the title of a Fiona Apple song, I'll just have to try my hardest to wrangle all these crazy versions of myself, to sculpt and shape them until I can somehow form a better version of me.