Thursday, June 30, 2005

I been bound to leave you. I surely don't know how...

Attention. For those of you that like to believe I am a successful and confident woman completely in charge of her life and emotions, content in the fact that she is about to begin her thirties in earnest on the adventure of a lifetime, well, you can just move on along. No post to read here. Go look at McSweeney’s or something.

I must ask though, have me met? Are you sure you don’t have me confused with someone else?

Now for the rest of you, I am about to live up that greatest cliché regarding Single Women Of A Certain Age: I’m about to talk about my cat.

Yesterday, I took my Marley to the pokey to be boarded until his new Auntie comes back from Prague to get him and give him a new home. I must say, I held up pretty well. I was able to keep my composure while I relayed all relevant details and contact numbers, arranged for his "beauty treatments" and explained why somebody else would be picking him up. And then I gave his carrier a peek before I left and just lost it. Right there in the middle of the vet’s office. To her credit, the veterinary assistant was very supportive and appropriately back-patting. People like that understand what pets mean to people. Me, I never understood it until about a year and a half ago – the day I brought Marley home.

Marley was found by my friend Selmie somewhere along the side of the road in North Carolina. He was hobbling along with a broken leg and begging for change or something. On Christmas Eve. According to the vet, he was about three weeks old.

(Is your heart broken yet?)

Meanwhile, in DC, I was holed up in Capitol Hill, licking the wounds of a failed long term relationship and packing the contents of a now-too-big rowhouse, having finally conceded that I could no longer justify the gigantic rent payment and needed to put some distance between myself and the memories of the aforementioned relationship. So I was moving to Baltimore and had every intention of holing up in a brand new apartment up there, so I could ruminate and stew in a hermetic existence.

Then, I got the voicemail: “Hey, I found this kitten and I would totally take him but it looks like he has a broken leg and might need surgery and I can’t afford it, but you totally can because all you do is work and sit in your house. And by the way, could you call a girl back once in awhile? Jesus. So, your new place will let you have a cat right? You HAVE to take him. Nobody can save him but you. He’s the prettiest kitten ever and he’s tiny and if you don’t call me back, I’m just bringing him home for you.”

And the rest is history. I thought, you know, why not? I’m a cliché anyway - an Old Maid staying up late drinking cheap wine and watching reality tv - why not complete the picture with a cat? Hell, I’ll get three.

And thus it was that a crying Marley traveled all the way back from North Carolina to Northern Virginia, stopping just briefly before being carted up to his new home in greater Baltimore, The Sterile Apartment Of Loneliness And Regret.

I approached my first few weeks with Marley with a martyr-like stoicism. He was broken and I was the only one with the resources to fix him, so I would shoulder this task with a brave smile.

(Are you sick to your stomach yet? I was in PAIN.)

So, I took him to the vet, who told me that they couldn’t operate on his little broken leg anyway because he was too young. We’d just wait and see. In the meantime, I was to keep a close eye on him and make sure he didn’t get into trouble or fall down or hurt himself. And make sure he was eating enough. Oh, and give him lots of love.

Wait a second, I thought. You mean there’s more to this than writing checks?

Well, I did take him home and, over the course of a weekend, watched him with a scientific curiosity. One day he’d eat a morsel more food than the last day and I would make a mental note of this progress. Then he started crying to be picked up and put in my lap wherever I was sitting (he couldn’t jump) and wanting to fall asleep on my chest at night. Then I made him several pillow ramps so he could wander about and get where he wanted to without sacrificing his freedom by having to ask (projection, much?). And I continued to watch him, becoming more and more amazed at his resilience. I found myself celebrating his small victories, holding him tight when he fell or freaked out. And, well, we can see where this is going. By the end of the weekend, I was sold. He poked a hole in the icy coating around my heart and made himself at home.

You know, he never did need that leg surgery. Turns out legs heal just like hearts do.

Marley has taught me the value of loving something more than myself (a skill that, arguably, might have come in handy several months before I got him. Oh that irony, she’s a bitch.). I’m still not gonna procreate or anything silly like that, but I will acknowledge that pets make you a better person. He is the one thing I will miss the most in Palau.

So, if you’ll indulge me, here’s to Marley:

Slante. You’ll be just fine with that nice Jewish lady. She’s got a lot of love in her.

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's just my nineteenth nervous breakdown...

Damn. I'm supposed to be updating to preserve the pre-move for prosperity. So, how do I feel about my upcoming journey?

In a word: Overwhelmed.

In another word: Terrified.

But good terrified, you know? Like the kind of terrified I imagine skydivers get right before they jump. Of course, you'll never catch me jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, so I wouldn't know.

And also, if I'm being honest, bad terrified. White-knuckle-what-the-hell-am-I-doing terrified. But I try to take the bad terrified in stride. I assume it's as to be expected. You don't spend years in therapy without learning at least a little self-awareness and how to deal with the flight response.

Today marks my first full day of temporary unemployment. And I still had to set the alarm! There remains much to be done. I know it will get done because it has to get done and that knowledge sustains me. Partially, at least. And then there are moments, like Sunday morning, where I have panic attacks because it's too much and I'm all alone and I can't do everything by myself. And then I stop and realize that I haven't eaten in, oh, 24 hours or so and that's probably the contributing factor to, if not the source of, my breakdown. It's amazing how much the Crispy Chicken Salad from McDonalds can cure what ails ye. Damn blood sugar.

Today also marked my departure from a career judged in six minute increments that are meant to add up to thousands of yearly hours. Damn, that feels good. Who knows - maybe I'll return to law firm life eventually. But for the next two plus years I can revel in a billable-hours-free environment and finally experience that 8-9 hour workday all my friends keep talking about.

Judging from today, I will flounder and drown under the weight of all my free time.

My goal in making this transition was to pare down my collection of "stuff" accumulated, seemingly, for the sole purpose of having stuff. Much of the weekend was spent sorting through and weeding out the Clothes Of Sizes Long Since Past, most of which are housed in what I like to call the Closet of Broken Dreams. Why do we hang on to these things? Lord only knows. Part of it is aspirational - that great longing to return to the slender greatness of youth, painted with a revisionist's view that conveniently ignores the fact that maintaining a size 6, even at age 20, was a full time job. Part of it, I think, is just that American need to accumulate shit. At any rate, multiple trash bags were filled with clothing long past its prime. Additional bags were filled with clothing suitable for donation. Still more items were sent for cleaning and ultimate donation to Dress For Success. And yet, after all that paring down, I'm left with a dizzying array of clothing that both (a) fits; and (b) didn't go out of style around the time Kurt Cobain met his ultimate demise. Which should tell you all you need to know about my spending habits.

On the docket tomorrow: Sorting through the collection of papers and mail, much unopened, that has been moved, in the same unopened box, three times.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Come on and cry, cry baby

Today marks the "less than one month" point in our countdown to Palau. Terrifying. I should probably be packing or something right now, but I'm not. Inertia will be the death of me.

There's been a lot of crying lately. I fear my new adventure has rendered me an emotional cripple. Or, perhaps just a tender soul with a penchant for hyperbole. Potato, po-tah-to.

In the last week, I have cried about my cat, my apartment, my computer, my car, my friends, the laundry and hair products, to name but a few. This is seriously out of control.

This is from a person who, at one point in her life, wouldn't cry for anything, even if you tied her to a chair and made her watch long distance commercials on an uninterrupted loop for 36 hours straight. A person who wouldn't cry even if you killed a puppy and fed it to an unsuspecting blindfolded vegan. I was hardcore is what I'm saying. Now, I cry over everything.

My mother tells me she loves the side of me that cries over leaving my cat behind. Translation: She finds my particular brand of crazy endearing. She should know, she made it.

It's amazing to me how much has gotten done in a short time, though. The details, I mean. Let this be a lesson to all ye who fantasize about walking away from your life: All of the details of your life can be fairly easily wrapped up in a matter of weeks, if not mere days, and then you will be but a memory. Let this also be a lesson to all ye who think you are the most important person in the world and your contribution to society by virtue of your mere existence is undeniable and unmatched: All of the details of your life can be fairly easily wrapped up in a matter of weeks, if not mere days, and then you will be but a memory.

I think the wrapping up of details - finding a home for my cat, getting rid of my car, renting my apartment - has actually made me sadder. It's like the details serve to distract you from the real thing that makes leaving hard - the people you leave behind. Maybe that's why I haven't packed yet. I need that hanging over my head to distract me from the task of bidding farewell to everyone. Baltimore, of all the cities in which I have lived, has the distinction of housing the single greatest group of friends I have ever had. The closest for sure. They're even closer than my "pack" in college or law school - mainly since these people hang out with me because they like me, not because we got assigned to the same dorm or we both have Contracts class at 9am.

It's boggling, really, finally to have found my urban family and then to leave them. So boggling that I can't deal with it. That's why I'm not packing.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So, what is a "hon" anyway

Well, I told my mom about the blog, which is surely the first sign of the apocalypse. Her only reaction is "what does 'hon' mean?" And it was then that I realized truly how long I'd been in Baltimore (even if the calendar only says two years) and how much it has infected my soul. In a good way.

Trying to pin down a definition of a "hon" is like trying to catch a moonbeam in your hand.

According to that less than savory HonFest: The term “Hon” is actually a friendly Baltimore greeting and comes from the word “honey.” But let us not use that mock-what-you-don't-know celebration as our definitive source, k?

I guess, technically, a "hon" is a female denizen of Baltimore City. Someone separated from the manicured lawns of the County, where the grocery shopping is easy and chain restaurants populate the landscape like buffalo. But more fundamentally, a hon is someone who truly embraces Baltimore and all of its hidden funk. Who knows that there's more to Baltimore than the Inner Harbor. Like, say, the American Visionary Arts museum or the Creative Alliance or John Waters. Someone who loves her non-air-conditioned, run-down rowhouse on a noisy block full of street urchins and non-working cars way more than she could ever have loved that brand new apartment up in Towson.

But, "hon" is more than a noun, really. On its most basic level, hon is a term of endearment. A fond address to a good friend or neighbor or relative or even just an acquaintance. As my friend Lula put it, Hon:Baltimoreanism::Bubbie:Judaism.

Another friend, She of the Messy Hair, has a different take:

Hon is big hair and best friends. Hon is helping up the girl who fell on her ass and telling off the girl who laughed at her for it. Hon is always being handy with a natty boh and a heap of kind words. Hon is knowing that second hand clothes are always hotter because you had money left over to pay your bar tab. Hon is jumping up and saying "wait, you think you're an asshole -- listen to what I did!" Hon is understanding that there's a big world out there but knowing that the best thing you can do is to take care of your little corner of it.

And of course she's right. More than that, though, "hon" is really a state of mind that defies explanation. And much like porn, it is what it is and I know it when I see it.