Posted in Dating, Love, Wishes

Permission

Within hours today, I got a text message, a Snapchat, and a letter from three different women with the same question. It’s a question that’s been coming up from many directions recently. I think the universe may be trying to say something.

“So, I went out with this guy. It’s… not happening. Is it okay that I hate this all?”

Yes, you beautiful women, yes.

You do not have to date.

You do not have to continue seeing someone just because it wasn’t awful.

You are allowed to prefer spending time with your dog, your whiskey, or yourself in the mountains.

You are allowed to have Tinder purely as a way to pass the time. You are under no obligation to talk to any of your matches, under no obligation to go on a date, under no obligation to start a relationship.

You are allowed to enjoy being single.

You are allowed to change that label.

No, you don’t have to be “single”. You don’t have to describe yourself as “unattached”. You don’t have to defend that you’re still “waiting for Mr. Right”.

Goodness.

You are students. You are scientists. You are problem solvers. You are hikers. You are beer geeks. You start grilling chicken and suddenly you’re three chocolate chip cookies into the batch. You’re transplants. You’re natives. You’re sisters. You’re daughters. You’re best friends. You like to be alone. You binge Netflix. You have no fear of trying a new restaurant without company. You are willing to be dragged along by a coworker to meet strangers. You sleep in hammocks or tents. You hop on a plane because someone needs you. You stroke your cat to sleep. You hold your roommates’ baby. You play your guitar. You roam through thrift stores. You save up for that kayak. You work hard. You dream big.

There is absolutely nothing deficient about you! You are allowed to not need a partner. You are allowed to go on dates for fun, and then to say, “This is exhausting and expensive. I’m going to take a nap today.” You are allowed to drink wine on your porch alone, or call up an old friend while going on a walk. You are allowed to go see that new movie alone, and to pick up some flowers from the farmers market because you think they’d brighten up your room.

My dears, my beautiful women. Look at you.

You are allowed to delete the app.

You are allowed to log out of your profile.

You are allowed to cancel that date.

Just as you are allowed to go back out there and try again, you do not have to.

If you want to be alone, enjoy it.

If you want to take six months to be intentionally single, to find yourself and what you like and who you are without using a partner as a measuring stick, do it! Those six months may turn into two years, and that is okay if you are okay.

You are allowed to be happy.

You are allowed to be happy alone.

You are allowed to throw rice at your friends’ wedding and then drive through the night to a national park to explore alone.

You are allowed to swap phones and swipe on someone else’s profile, but then ignore the buzzes as you tell stories to each other of the lives you’re busy living.

You are allowed to go to bed early and sleep in late because you’re working yourself to the bone and just need to recover alone.

Oh my ladies…

Do you need permission to be yourself?

You have it.

If you ever want it, the complicated, deep and shallow wells of dating will be back there.

But you don’t have to be there now.

You have the permission to step back and discover yourself.

Oh dear friends.

You are allowed to hate the fifty first dates and only three second ones.

You are allowed to be so tired of trying to get to know someone, but feeling like you’re going in circles.

You are allowed to want to step away from emotional ups and downs of wanting to click or wanting to love, but something is just not right.

You are allowed to enjoy being single.

You are allowed to enjoy being you.

You went out with that guy. And that’s okay. You can go out with yourself, too.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Growing Up, Home, Lessons

i remember the seasons

Iowa has been kind to me this year.

She’s a vicious sort of state. She knows no moderation.

It’s not just cold come winter. The humidity clings to every cell that dares to not be covered. Bone-chilling is far from an exaggeration as the rain invariably falls and freezes overnight, ensuring heart-stopping slick ground for the next six months. The snow rushes in as though it will never again have a chance to fall. It piles and piles from November to April, the ice storms capturing each layer in a clear memorial.

Spring is hardly better. There’s no such thing as a gentle spring rain to refresh the earth. Three days of downpour in a week, with each interspersed with miserable gray clouds threatening to release in a heartbeat. The thunderstorms are long and fearsome, downing power lines to prove their strength. The few days that the sun breaks through she shines furiously trying to convince the grass to release its winter brown and return to the vivid greens.

Summer. Oh, dear summer. Around 2 o’clock in the morning the heat finally breaks enough to sleep, even with the air conditioner wheezing along trying desperately to cool more than just the three feet directly in front of it. Don’t you dare bother showering before stepping outside. The beads of sweat – or is that simply the moisture in the air? – will coat you by the time you burn your hand on the car you foolishly parked in the driveway while you emptied your garage for the sale.

Autumn tries so hard to slip by unnoticed. Summer heat is occasionally pushed back by the too-chilled rains, a reminder that winter is closer than desired. For two glorious weeks in October, she’s the perfect season. The leaves burst into deep shades of reds and yellows and orange, contrasted brilliantly against the still-green grass covered in the dust from the harvest. At noon, the high sky shimmers in its deep blue, a light sweater warding off the slight chill on the breeze. And just like that, it’s gone.

And every. damn. moment. The wind. There is so much wind. It’s a miracle cars aren’t blown off the interstate every day.

I remember it. I remember these seasons. I grew up with the snow days, being trapped on my farm and building snow forts, climbing on drifts as high as the young evergreens in the front yard. I remember the worms all over the sidewalk, trying to escape the saturated lawns. I grew up with the tornado drills, and my hair always a knotty mess as the wind teased it. I grew up with far more sunburns than my pale skin should have ever been subjected to.

But Iowa has been generous to me this year. She’s been gentle in my return. She gave me a winter much like Colorado – the blizzards interspersed with remarkably tolerable days. The ice melted and turned the gravel into a slushy path rather than a slick one. She’s given me quiet days with a gentle breeze. She’s forced the sun to peek through the gray.

This wild, full-throttle state is holding her breath. She’s easing me into her arms again. She’s waiting for me. I’m gathering seeds, gloves, and trowels, preparing the earth for a butterfly garden for my mother. Touching the earth to bring joy to my mother and to honor my father. And Iowa waits for me, holding back her energy as I gather mine.

She’s been compassionate with a fragile soul, as much as she can while not losing her fire.

The Iowa of my childhood was a vicious sort of state who knew no moderation.

But Iowa has been kind to me this year.

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Posted in Changes, Family, Growing Up, Home, People, Stories

back in a small town

I was crossing the street to go into the office and a car beeped its horn at me. Instead of cringing from a catcall, I waved back at my childhood neighbor.

I never thought I’d be back in a small town.

I thrive on adventure. I want to eat sushi, try Ethiopian again, satisfy my curry craving. I want to leave work and be on an airplane two hours later, the wind carrying me halfway across the country to spend a weekend with a friend. I want a half hour drive to bring me to a cultural center for a festival or a theatrical performance. I want to disappear into a national park for days at a time or wake up at a trailhead hours before dawn in hopes of summitting a peak for the sunrise.

Instead, a half hour drive gets me to the closest McDonalds. I need to drive yet another 15 minutes to get to a town where there’s a Walmart. It’s a two hour drive to the nearest airport that will get me out of the midwest, at least three to get to one that has a breath’s chance of a direct flight abroad. I now live in a town where checks are accepted and often Visa is not. The library doesn’t allow you to renew or reserve books online. I may not have been catcalled, but there’s already been a marriage proposal.

And on Sunday morning? I walk down main street and hear my footsteps ricochet back at me. Not a store is open, even the coffee shop. A pizza joint will open for lunch, a gas station has a few tables out for the farmers to sip their dark roast. But surrounding the main square, there’s silence.

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It’s the same world I left when I was 17. It’s the same world I was born into. And while so much has allowed time to pass it by, time has a way of catching up.

Mom used to read to my sister and me. I’d strain to listen in the car as she turned to the back seat to transport our minds into the world of Little Women or the Castle In The Attic.

Now it’s my turn.

As the day winds down and we tuck away check books and tax forms, it’s my time to pull my mother’s mind away from the mounds of estate paperwork. It’s my turn to read The Princess Bride and Jacob, Have I Loved. Sometimes she falls asleep, and I later recap what she missed. Sometimes I only finish a few pages, as we interrupt the world in the chapter to discuss the world in which we live. We talk about Dad. We talk about our relationships with our sisters. We talk about the Cramer clan, and how much I take after that side of the family.

Mom used to take care of me when I got sick. She’d tuck me in and bring me sprite and toast.

Now it’s my turn.

I bring her bowls and water, I rummage through the cupboards to find the appropriate medicine. I worry over her and beg her to rearrange her doctor’s appointment so I can accompany her.

Mom homeschooled me for a few years, teaching me that early foundation of reading ‘riting and ‘rithmatic. She and my dad explained the way the world works.

Now it’s my turn.

I sit with her in estate meetings and phone calls with businesses, taking notes, interrupting when needed and afterward explain to her any concepts she didn’t understand.

My world of adventure came grinding to a halt on November 19. My fast-paced city life of stories and people and passport stamps intertwined with high end coffee has been put on a backshelf while I try to help my family rebuild. In this time, I fiercely defend my mother, my sister, living life in a small town and tracking the sun around our big red barn.

Here is where I grew up, here is where I fled in search of my tribe, the people who spoke my language. My heart wants to vagabond, to explore the world with fervor. But I have a deeper purpose these days.

My first tribe was here. My parents always took care of me, my community always cheered me on.

Now it’s my turn.

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Posted in Changes, Family, Growing Up, Home, Lessons, Love, Time, Wishes

simply

My blog is named “Simply Eliska”.

These days, it feels like nothing is quite so simple.

Several months ago, I told a friend Eliska represented my new identity after a very intense growing period, but that I felt like anything painful that I’d felt since I’d pushed beneath the surface to Allison. I then confided that it felt like Allison was becoming unburied, and I was going to have to deal with all that dolor at once.

Then my dad died.

Two weeks ago, I was moving away from Colorado. I called my dad to tell him I was at his sister’s place for the night. It was so brief, maybe 15 seconds. “Hi Dad. I’m safe. I’ll see you soon.”

Two hours later, he was gone.

My dad lived for 22,725 days. I was alive for 9458 of them.

People keep telling me that we’re handling his death well.

I don’t really know why.

Sometimes I’m sitting still and realize that tears are slipping beneath my chin, unbidden. Sometimes I’m laughing. Sometimes I feel nothing but absence. Sometimes I swear I hear Dad walking up the stairs.

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My Dad slipped from this earth without warning.

I’m at the first place I called home. And suddenly, I’m not “simply Eliska” anymore. There’s no one in this county who calls me by that name.

I’m not even “simply Allison” these days.

I’m a grieving daughter. I’m a sister. I’m part of 130 years of history on this farmstead. I’m pulling my family into the world I had crafted independently for myself – here, Mom, let me add you to my AAA. Here, everyone, let me put you on my cellphone plan instead. I’m the answer to “Where are you these days?” and one of the rare times where people are 100% genuine in asking “How are you doing?”

I am not a barista. I am not a nomad.

Not these days.

These days I’m the scribbler.

I scribble thank you notes. I scribble the dates and notes from meetings as we take note of how to settle the estate. I scribble text messages to friends who have gone through similar situations, asking, “Did you feel… Did you do… Why?” I scribbled my Dad’s eulogy. And now I scribble here. I scribble because right now, it feels like the only thing I actually know how to do. It feels like the only place that still makes sense. I scribble because in my words I can begin to process this new version of normal that I wasn’t prepared to enter.

There’s very little simple in my life right now.

I got into the tractor a few days ago, and when I turned it on, I heard music playing softly in the background. I turned it up.

Bright fields of joy
Dark nights awake in a stormy bed
I want to go with you, but I can’t follow

So keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way

I wept, as I listened to a song that felt like my Dad was reaching across eternity to talk to me one more time. I wept for all the conversations I wanted to have while I was home. I wept for all the things my Dad will never be a part of as my life continues forward, and all the things I wanted him to be there for. I wept for my Mom, that her other half who looked at her with such adoration and cared for her so gently, was gone. I wept. I weep.

I was so lucky.

I had a father for almost 26 years who loved his family, and whose kindness and intelligence spread throughout the community.

Yes.

I’m selfish.

I want my Dad back.

I want my parents to continue to live the American Dream.

I want to be a whole, complete family.

So today I scribble.

Today I write, and remember those 9000 days with my dad, and the stories of the years before I was born.

Life isn’t simple right now.

But I’m going to be simply Allison, the farmer’s daughter.

“Hi Dad. I’m safe. I’ll see you soon.”

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

as i sit here in silence

He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

Wendy Cope

 

Posted in Changes, Current Events, feminism, Growing Up, Lessons, NaNoWriMo, People, Time, Work

Activism: A Response

My original point in writing these blog posts was to stretch myself. I’ve learned a few things this week. The first and last three hundred words are the easiest, it’s the four hundred in between that have me dawdling and struggling. I don’t know how to not write from experience, even if that experience is second hand. And, to no surprise at all, writing is therapy for me.

I’ve always been an external processor. Whether it was talking to my mom at night before I went to bed, texting my best friend when something happened, writing in a diary, or ingesting far too much caffeine pondering the wonders of the universe during college, I need to say things out loud (or write them) to finally to put order to my thoughts.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing over the last thirty hours.

I sat in a coffee shop last night and found myself ugly crying in public as I wrote an email. The extent of the emotion was probably due to the fact I was running on three hours of sleep, but even this morning, well-rested, I welled up as I read the comments rampant across my social media.

It would probably be much healthier for me if I stepped away from the internet for a few days. But I can’t, because I feel like I have a job to do.

I feel like the next four years are going to be so much more on myself and my compatriots. Perhaps would should have realized the gravity of our individual influence long before this, but now we can take up our mantle.

I think about my Niblet. I think about my cousins. I think about the children starting elementary school.

I want you to grow up in a better world.

I want to teach you to not be afraid.

I want to teach you to be curious and full of wonder.

I want you to see someone who has a different skin color and to reach out and say, “Play with me?”

I want you to see two men or two women holding hands, and not think that it is shameful.

I want you to see a hijab or turban and want to ask questions, not alert security.

I want you to eat well and exercise, I want you to be healthy. But when you see someone who is skinnier than you or fatter than you, I want you to see their soul, not their body.

l want you to make eye contact with the homeless, and extend humanity to them.

I want you to listen to the words of the older generations and learn from them.

I want you to befriend the person who doesn’t speak your language, and use your actions to communicate. (Oh, dear Zuzka, even eight years later, I’m still grateful for your kindness when I arrived in a foreign country, lonely and afraid.)

I want you to not be afraid of different opinions, but to realize you can ask questions without changing your position.

I want you to open your eyes to the needs around you, to defend the defenseless. I want you to have your arms be a safe haven against abuse, against grief, against ignorance.

I want you to turn off your lights, to reuse your bags, to recycle your trash, to bike instead of drive.

I want you to donate your books, and to not shame those who cannot read.

As an adult, I want to do the same. I want to reach out to you in love. I want to donate my limited dollars to organizations in need. I want to 
be an advocate, a safe haven, a source of justice. I want to buy products from ethical, sustainable companies. I want to use my voice to reach out through the darkness, and my words to encourage and strengthen.

Do you remember that the Statue of Liberty is inscribed with a part of a poem?

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Dear America, let us remember this. Let us remember that it is our responsibility to teach our children. It is our community. It is our planet.

Study constitutional law. Study business law. Study economics. Ask questions.

This world can be an ugly place. This world can also be a beautiful one. 

It’s time to be an activist. It’s time to use your voice… and your dollars.

Peace. Love. Coffee.

Posted in Current Events, feminism, Lessons, Love, NaNoWriMo

1000 words on 3 hours of sleep

I couldn’t write yesterday. I was running errands all morning, and then come my class ending, I was glued to the television.

As I sat watching the results roll in, someone handed me whiskey. I don’t often drink liquor, but I sipped on it and watched. I watched as my LGBTQ+ friends, my Muslim friends, my Latinx friends, my Black friends all reacted in horror, and I joined in with my disbelief.

I am so grateful for my Christian friends that have taken the time to share their views, who they voted for and why. I respect you, because you have thought out what you are saying. But I have seen so many who voted “for the babies” and for no other reason, and for that I grieve. I grieve because so many blame imported dark skin for terrorism, and I think of a Mexican friend who once confided that he never grows his beard out because he gets called a terrorist when he does. I grieve because you forget that Dylan Roof, Robert Lewis Dear Jr, and Adam Lanza were white. Micah Xavier Johnso, Rizwan Farook, and Omar Mateen were American citizens.

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

I did not vote for you.

For over a year, I have been reassuring friends from each and every minority group you have callously insulted that I believed in the American people, that no man who started an international incident the day he announced he candidacy could ever be the President.

I was wrong.

Dear President-Elect, in a time where our nation is divided, you won. Your party won a sweep of the entire legislative body. Congratulations: you’ll be able to squeak through legislation for two years at least. And while I disagree wholeheartedly with the vast majority of what you say, I pray to a God I don’t believe in that Congress will listen to the people. And I pray that the many, many white people who turned out to vote remember that it is only from a position of privilege that equality looks like oppression.

I pray that you create a panel of advisors who can speak frankly to you, and that you listen before you speak. I pray that we are able to hold you to a higher standard than “he didn’t screw up too badly on that one” – forget political correctness, I want a President who speaks with human decency and is humble enough to seek wisdom from experts in other fields.

Mr. President-Elect, I still believe in the American people.

I still believe that we will stand up with our brothers and sisters. I believe that We the People will fight for equality, justice, and for people who look and think differently to not fear for their lives as they walk through the streets.

America is not a middle class white man.

Dear President-Elect, I pray you see the great and beautiful thing we call this country and realize that we can be “great”. But that greatness comes from within. Invest in math and science. Invest in exchange programs. Invest in encouraging your people to think outside the box.

I did not vote for you.

But I still believe that the people of this nation will turn to their neighbor and say, “Brother, I am with you.”

You’ve lost the popular vote to one of the most unpopular establishment politicians, and yet won the electoral college. So listen to your citizens. Listen to our cries for equality, for love, for a fair shake. Listen to your advisors, listen to your people. You wear a heavy burden now, and without middle ground this country will only grow more and more divided.

The sun is up, and the world still spins. As I sit here, sipping coffee in a cafe, I look at the variety of people around me. This is my country. These are my neighbors.

“But see, America is the best country in the world!”

That superlative is dangerous. It lets us be lax.

You think we’re the best?

There’s 123 countries that classify themselves as democracies. There’s 21 countries that believe the ability to criticize the government is a fundamental democratic principle. There’s 61 countries that have a GDP per capita of $30,000 or more. There have been 70 countries with a female head of state. The WHO, while admitting their research is flawed, still ranks 36 countries ahead of the US in healthcare. In math and science, our education system has 28 countries ahead of it at the high school level. We don’t even crack the top 30 for nominal commitment to human rights – frankly, the stats on this link are maddening.

Our country is far from the worst it could be. But tread carefully when you tell me we’re the best.

Who knows, President-Elect Trump. Perhaps you can make American great. But you’ve got an uphill battle.

And here’s what I get to do.

I get to call my legislatures. I get to talk to the people that have been elected by We the People. I get to say, hey, this thing matters to me. I get to love my neighbor, giving the coat off my back if you need it more than me. I get to provide safe haven in my home if I see someone who is scared. I get to be a voice for the voiceless. I get to donate my limited dollars to organizations I believe in. I get to vote in the midterm elections. I get to teach children how to treat people with respect. I get to meet people from all across the board, to ask them questions, and to understand their mantle and stand with them in solidarity.

This is our America. These are our people. Hey, friends, standing in a place of privilege: it’s time to reach down, and pull others up. Let’s not tear each other down. Let us make each other better at the grassroots level, and knock on your neighbor’s door to say hello.

Because like it or not, we actually are Stronger Together.

 

Posted in Current Events, Musing, NaNoWriMo, People, Wishes

another political rant

I can’t help it. I have to keep talking about politics. I’ve spent the last year and a half semi- to fully-immersed in a scene that I’d only vaguely cared about previously. Now that we’re at the climax, I’m almost bubbling over with the

I was two months too shy to vote absentee in the 2008 election while living as an exchange student on the other side of the world. So in 2010, I voted in the midterm election based mostly on what my parents talked about. For those of you who aren’t aware, that was the vote which ousted the Iowa judges who had legalized gay marriage in my state. By the 2012 general election, I had started to question the status quo and was going through a personal crisis. I was aware of the Republican candidates that came tromping through my university, but was out of the country during the caucuses and didn’t pay much attention until the general election.

Then things all went downhill. I changed my voter registration to unaffiliated and started glowering at the nonsense people were saying, wondering if anyone had ever taken a civics course. Mr. Olsen, my high school government teacher, would have never allowed anyone to pass his class with the amount of misinformation being propagated.

I was deleted on social media this election cycle.

I did not delete anyone.

I was furious sometimes at the things I would see show up on my timeline. I would shake my fist and go find one of my usual debate partners and vent about the inaccuracies and assumptions. I would see an article posted and delve into the sources, trying to decipher to conclusions drawn. Sometimes I would agree, sometimes I would roll my eyes at the bias. I would wander around the aisle, asking questions and demanding answers.

I am an unaffiliated voter. I did not delete you.

I’ve complained about the echo chamber before, of the dangers of being too tightly wound in a circle of like-minded people. I’ve complained about Facebook’s algorithm before of showing me more and more of the same things I’ve been clicking on until I believe that everyone must think exactly as I do because I never see articles that contradict me.

And so I keep you. I keep you even though I disagree with every argument you make, every meme you share, every article you post.

I keep you because I can be wrong.

I keep you because I want to see what you think.

I keep you because I want to see what you say, and see if I can challenge my own point of few.

I want to be able to understand where you’re coming from.

I want to be able to listen to someone who thinks differently than I do, and restrain myself from trying to bring you over to my side.

Call it a lesson in patience, and one that I don’t always succeed in.

But here’s the other thing.

January 20, 2017. We’re going to have a new President.

We’re going to have new members of Congress.

The world is going to keep spinning.

I’m going to keep being noisy. I’m going to keep advocating for the things I believe in. I’m going to keep voting, keep donating, keep volunteering. I’m going to do everything I can to make the world a better place.

And part of that? Well part of that means keeping you as part of my world.

Maybe on Facebook we’ll post contrasting debates, but sit down for coffee and talk about the illness your daughter is facing, how you’re applying for a program, or the trip you have coming up. We’re going to live in the same world, occupy the same space.

I may disagree with everything you say.

But we live in this country together.

I want to know what you’re going to say.

I want to know what you believe to be true.

I want to know where you get your information.

I want to know why you think one way or another.

What about you? Are you going to listen to me? Are you going to be able to sit down and have a reasonable, intelligent conversation?

Or will you delete me, because I say something you don’t like?

Will you insulate yourself, so that the only propaganda (because don’t fool yourself: that’s what we fill our minds with, no matter how much we claim to “research”) that you ingest is the propaganda from your favorite sources?

Will you allow the anger that you feel rise up in you when you read my contradictory posts to become so vehement that you sever our connection completely?

I’ve hidden the most frequent political posters, don’t get me wrong. But that was because they were cluttering up my feed to the point where I couldn’t see my friend’s wedding pictures, or recipes, or the less active friend’s thoughts on public affairs. I’ve hidden no one specifically for their beliefs.

Would you defend my right to disagree with you? Would you defend my freedom of speech? Would you acknowledge that I’ve done research too and drawn a different conclusion? Would you believe that I can be on the opposite side of the spectrum and still love you?

Like I said, I’ve been deleted this election cycle. I’ve tried to maintain a middle ground, reaching out to both sides to understand where they’re coming from. And with some, I’ve had phenomenal conversations. With others, the instant I bring my opinion onto their post, I disappear from their connections.

It is what it is.

I’m tired of trying not to get deleted you when I disagree with everything you say, because I’m the one you accuse of being too concerned about political correctness, without ever finding out what I think is actually important. So here I stand, and I hold my breath for one more day.

Because at the end of it?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Happy Election, everybody.

 

 

 

Posted in Current Events, Musing, NaNoWriMo, Time

a noisy year, you are

Whenever I’m babysitting a child under the age of about six, I’m careful to quickly avert my gaze if they ever trip or bump into something. Children, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are notorious for reacting based on how their audience responds. If the young’un doesn’t think I saw what happened, they tend to evaluate how they actually feel instead of crying because they think that’s what they are supposed to do. If they continue playing, I know it was a minor bump. If they cry, alrighty, that actually hurt or scared them, let’s see what we can do.

Children have pretty short attention spans.

So do adults.

Let’s just take a moment to think about how absurdly noisy 2016 has been.

The Zika virus. The Brussels terrorist attack. The Summer Olympics in Brazil. The Orlando nightclub shooting. North Korea launching it’s largest nuclear test yet. Brexit. The US Presidential circus. The Baby Boomer celebrities starting to die in droves. Standing Rock protests. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile followed by the Dallas police shooting. Flint. Flint, Michigan was declared a state of emergency this year!

It’s been brutal.

For the less dire:

The iPhone 7 release. Pokemon Go. Finding the gene linked to ALS. The Cubs win the World Series. Leo finally won an Oscar.

It’s been busy.

The world is constantly turning, and we are constantly learning. Sometimes I wonder if we learn so fast that we remember nothing. Kind of crazy to realize we still have almost two months left in this year, huh?

According to legend, and perhaps even fact, on April 18, 1930, the BBC looked at the world around it. They then turned around and declared, “There is no news to report today” and proceeded to play music for the duration of the broadcast. Can. You. Even. Imagine?

My alarm goes off in the morning, and as I go to shut it off I swipe through Twitter stories and Facebook notifications. I drive past emergency vehicles with lights flashing on my commute with NPR catching me up on the latest stories in my state, country, and world. My mom forwards me newsletters from her financial advisors. My friends text me asking if I’ve seen this, heard about that, we really need to talk about the nonsense of this over here. Even making small talk with a cashier turns into tidbits about the storm due that evening or the animal shelter opening down the street.

I feel like everything around me is news.

It makes it so easy to forget, and to realize that just because my world moves on, keeps on spinning and absorbing new information doesn’t mean that these stories stop. Cubs fans will probably be celebrating for another 108 years. Families are still mourning the loss of their loved ones. Protestors are still being jailed in North Dakota. And dear Lord, we still have two days left of this never-ending election.

And yet, in three days we’ll be talking about Black Friday. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve already seen an article or two about various malls remaining closed until after midnight and REI has already sponsored a few ads for “opt outside”. So look, didn’t even have to wait for one monster to fade into oblivion for another one to start rearing its ugly head.

When I was a kid, I somehow discovered that one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, died on the same day as JFK. Even in my youth, I just knew that the creator of Narnia wouldn’t have been given proper recognition for his life and death because the world would turn its eyes to the popular, handsome president. Just now, when I googled their names to make sure I was remembering it properly, I realized that Aldous Huxley, author of monumental Brave New World, also passed away that day. Sounds a lot like 2016, eh? Who gets top billing? Who does the world care about the most? It seems like we only have the mental capacity to deal with one tragedy at a time, even though each of these men shaped society significantly. I’ve known several people whose birthday fall on 9/11 – their day of joy spent a solid decade eclipsed by mourning.

Everything is a constant battle for attention, a constant demanding for ratings, for clicks, for shares and likes. It’s an eclipse: what is bigger, shinier, more tragic, more shocking. We tear into people’s lives and demand they give up their privacy for our curiosity, demand answers to questions we had no business in asking. But funding for our cause only comes from the circus, legislation for our protection only comes from making noise, and the rise to fame or infamy comes with this sacrifice.

So here comes another story, here comes another insight, here comes someone with only the vaguest connection to the center clamoring to be heard. But it’s not enough, because there’s always something new. Even today’s brightest color can’t compete with tomorrow’s glitter. We move on, we forget, we are constantly sampling but never satiated. We form opinions based on headlines and get in bitter fights because we think we know better – all the polls say so.

The headlines are like the children. They make a noise and then look around to see if we’re watching. If we give them no heed, they’ll move on. Children have short attention spans. So do we. The media reacts to us: giving us more of what we beg for. This isn’t interesting enough, this isn’t new enough, this isn’t controversial enough.

Oh, dear 2016. You’ve been trained well. Every time we respond to your desperate cries for attention, you give us exactly what we ask for. You give us more pain, more divisiveness, more curiosity. As we roar in anger, you give us more and more. We have become the monster: we’re looking in a mirror.

Oh, you have been brutal.

But that’s exactly what we asked for.

Perhaps, just once, CNN will come on air.

November 10, 2016: There is no news today. Please enjoy the music.

 

Posted in Changes, Current Events, Dating, Lessons from the Church, NaNoWriMo, People, Stories, Time

play the game (for “Rochelle”)

How am I supposed to live without you
How am I supposed to carry on
When all that I’ve been livin’ for is gone

Rochelle angrily pounded the space bar, forcing the YouTube clip to stop Michael Bolton’s crooning. Finding the music popular from when she was born was supposed to be a distraction, not something to force her back into melancholy.

She let her head fall back on the lovesac and watched the fan blades spin lazily. One glow in the dark star that had held on defiantly to a wobbly blade for over a year traced a white streak in her vision. She wondered what had brought her to this moment.

You need everyone’s eyes just to feel seen behind your make up. Nobody knows who you even are. Who do you think that you are?

She pursed her lips ironically and bounced her head in time to Mike Posner’s slightly more modern tune. She thought back to her early college years, dancing with her roommate around their apartment with cats darting between their feet and candles glowing all around the kitchen. “It’s probably because you think you’re COOLER THAN ME!” They’d sing at the top of their lungs.

I’m gonna drop some cash, only got twenty dollas in my pocket

Macklemore’s boom resonated through her chest. Was that the time when things started to change? Was that when she started to get angry at everyone she had called friend for the last four years?

Hellooooooo, it’s me…

She couldn’t do it. She slammed her laptop closed on Adele’s sepia gas stovetop.

The boy. So brief, so wild, so beautiful. He was the one that got too close when she was about to shatter. He was the one that found her right as all the years of hiding who she was, what she really believed, came bubbling to the surface. He was the one who stepped into her world right at the wrong moment.

She hated him.

She loved him.

He wasn’t enough for her, she was too much for him. These opposites pulled each other into a circle of gravity, whirling around each other, the attraction becoming too much until they collided with cosmic power.

And now all she had left was a black hole.

She was cold.

The new men who filled her bed were placeholders. She pushed them out her door at three a.m. and collapsed in a drunken stupor. When morning came, she would brew herself a full pot of Folgers and debate pouring Bailey’s in each cup. She would sit at her table, slouching over the steam and inhale the scent of coffee while she waited for it to cool. She would delete the texts from the night before, praying that by deleting the electronic record she could delete the memories.

She’d drag herself to class, hair clipped back, make up on point, a tasteful scarf wrapped to cover the hickey her latest lover had left. She’d make small talk with coworkers, and beg forgiveness for not joining them after shift for a drink. Rochelle would return home, pulling her cat into her lap.

“Love me,” she’d tell it, stroking it’s soft fur. The cat would glower and struggle away from her grasp, finding a ball of paper on the floor to bat around. She’d pull out her phone and find the app, the orange flame tempting her. Left, left, left, right, left, left, left, right, MATCH. Keep swiping. Left, left, right, left, James has sent you a message. James it was.

Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players
And you love the game

Taylor, Taylor, Rochelle sighed to herself. I’m dying to see how this one ends, too.

She wondered where it had all gone wrong – or had it always been wrong? She thought of her sister. The one who had always come into her room, stolen her things, touched her… Rochelle shuddered at the memory of her sister. Their mother had never believed Rochelle, and even now couldn’t understand why she refused to be in the same room, why she refused to forgive her sister.

She thought of the church she’d found herself a part of. She thought of how she’d changed for them, dying her hair back to it’s natural color after the black started to grow out instead of keeping it rebellious. She thought of how she moved in with them, reading her bible and striving to learn the lingo, to say all the right things and volunteer with them and be at the church every time the doors were open. She thought about how when she tried to open up, to share what was really going on, how Emily would shift uncomfortably and offer to pray for Rochelle, or how Miranda would go off on some Christianese rant. One day she called her out on that. “What does that even MEAN, Miranda? Do you even know what that MEANS?”

She’d run away, moving into an apartment in another city with Emily’s sister. Rochelle learned very quickly that Amy was even worse, and when they tried to have conversations about current events, it would quickly devolve into nonsense, and Rochelle would storm away trying desperately not to scream about how stupid she found her roommate.

All her friends were getting married. The three-three-nine method, Rochelle thought wryly. Single for 23 years, then “court” for three months, engaged for three months, and nine months later… hello family. Was there no such thing as a healthy friendship one-on-one with boys? Apparently not, she muttered. It’s marriage or running away and doing exactly what I’m doing. That’s it.

She lived alone now. After an entire lease of fighting and anger, and oh that stupid election, how could Amy actually believe that godawful candidate was genuinely a good human being? She’d finally escaped. She was alone. Was it better? Was she going to be free?

They say I’ll never be the poster type, but they don’t make posters of my kind of life.

She picked back up her phone, Elle King demanding freedom in the background, and kept swiping, pushing the thoughts of That Boy further and further into the abyss.


“Write a story for me?” My friend texted me. “I don’t care if it’s real or fictional.”

This is for you, love.