An Open Office, and Dating Profiles

On Tuesday, happy meant prioritizing my peace of mind first and foremost while at work. In an open office environment, headphones proved to be a godsend throughout the day. With jazz in my ears, my workday became more about me, making distractions less imposing, and the calming effect of music made pacing my work throughout the day easier, preventing burnout.

On Wednesday, I gave Tinder a chance to satisfy my curiosity and boredom. In the end, it was a great way to remind myself of why I’m currently single. You might be thinking, “Duh, it’s Tinder,” but I know more than one example of introductions through that app that have worked out long-term. Every now and then I’m hopelessly optimistic.

On Thursday, I deleted Tinder. Mind you, 24 hours was more than plenty of time to realize that the ROI of this dating profile was minimal.

By Friday, I’d been on for a little over a month. No stranger to online dating, I shook it up this time, allowing a close friend to play matchmaker for me. I hardly ever got to see matches, let alone message them. This was a fun experiment at first, my friend married to her high school sweetheart, she was eager to see what it was like for me to be single. Over the span of the month, she had been insulted more than a few times, I was accused through her by total strangers of being incapable of good judgment if my friend had to manage the profile for me, and she had mostly been genuinely creeped out. After discussion, I cancelled my membership, about $70 in the hole, and viewed from the screens of over 200 men (I wish Match hadn’t given me a tally).

At least I can say I tried. The best part of the experiment is that now my friend, with kids of her own, is no longer so keen to pressure me into dating and settling down. In fact, her final words to me on the subject were immensely apologetic, and dripping with warranted pity. Needless to say, the benefit of the whole thing is that I no longer will be nagged about potentially being too picky, or not looking hard enough. In fact, marriage has yet to be brought up since.

I’ve been accused of being too cynical in this department, but it’s a truth I feel is best to accept: If I’m meant to be married and have my own children as my contribution to the world, I will, and if I’m meant to embrace what I do in life for the benefit of the world as my contribution, rather than kids of my own, it will be of no lesser value than if my contribution were embodied in children. I’ll leave it up to fate.

I’m noticing a pattern. I often find happiness in acceptance.


Colorado & Living My Truth

Friday: We flew to Colorado for a Celebration of Life reunion for my late grandparents. My grandmother passed in the summer, just before her 90th birthday. Back then, I was fortunate enough to be able to say goodbye in her more lucid, yet silent moments. This trip was actually pre-planned by my grandmother, with funds set aside to pay for the entire trip for our family and even included a day at the Spa. My grandmother lived by the saying, “Go big or go home.” The travel inbound wasn’t terrible, but I should clarify by mentioning that, as a rule, I expect travel to be terrible, so anything less than terrible is acceptable to me. Our flight was initially delayed by an hour, but our drive into the mountains from Denver was serene, my professional driver brother our chauffeur, and the weather humid and brisk, but not rainy. Mesmerized by the scenery, I would switch off between losing myself through the window, and taking blurry pictures of trees framed by mountains as we zoomed past, inspiring my brother to joke throughout the trip “Where are you, Katrina?” and “Earth to Katrina….”

Earth to Katrina, indeed.

Saturday: A day at the Spa awaited us courtesy of my grandmother. And, thank God it did. The morning started off by being greeted by my miffed aunt, and older cousin, gossiping about my mother while waiting for breakfast in the restaurant portion of the resort. A little background: The plan for this trip was not just a reunion, it was to spread the ashes of my grandparents together on their favorite ski slope, where they spent their golden, and arguably happiest, years together. And, like her mother, my aunt has a hard time going small. She had planned for a helicopter to fly herself, my two uncles, and my mother out to the top of the mountain to spread a share of ashes. The plan was poetic, dramatic, and no longer happening. The weather conditions were not conducive to flying and spreading ashes in this way, so the ‘copter opted out. This left my aunt understandably disappointed, yet undefeated. She insisted on repeating this trip next year, saving the leftover ashes for another trip to this same location in the fall. My mother took unpaid time off from three of her jobs (which is not uncommon for the state of our economy), and is already less than at ease with travel, though it was most-expenses paid, the trip was trying on her physically and emotionally. She wanted the grieving to end. She needed closure. She needed this to be the only trip. And, she said so.

Not surprisingly, my aunt was miffed, and baffled by my mom’s steadfast refusal of her new plans. So miffed, in fact, that she made the complacent mistake to speak in dramatically hushed tones about my mom’s obdurateness to her first cousin. In front of my brother and myself. As we waited for breakfast. My head got hot, and I took a breath. I couldn’t let this fly. I interrupted her hushed tirade mid-sentence. “I need to remind you that my mother is taking unpaid time off from three jobs to be here this weekend,” my tone eerily stern. (I’ve been told I’m scary when I’m angry, which leads me to expect that my eyes must have been wide, my brow severe, and my cheeks gray with anger). My cousin responded nervously, “Oh, we understand. We do.” And the conversation dropped like a stone.

Growing up, it wasn’t a secret that my mom was different. She was and still is a dreamer, a poet, a humanitarian. She became a counselor, and made far less money than my non-social working relatives, who went on regular trips to countries they’d never been to before, golfed, and took up Scotch tasting as a hobby. As a child, I didn’t want to see the reality of how my aunt and uncles treated her. I had heard stories from my dad, but wanting to see the good in people, especially in my relatives, I tried to reason it away, and play dumb. As I got older, I noticed the cliquishness, and naively tried to befriend the clique, hoping that my acceptance would promote hers. On this trip, I learned the pathetic truth. My relatives are relentlessly elitist, and will find any excuse to criticize, exclude, and belittle my family, especially my mom. Little did I know that speaking my truth wouldn’t stop at breakfast.

After a tense breakfast, the timing perfect, I was spoiled by luxury I’d never known, and a massage including a cranial sacral treatment. Afterwards, the cares of breakfast seemed as far away as my day-job, and I recouped my patience for  dinner with the family, catered at the hotel. As though planned, my aunt’s son proved that no matter how old and accomplished you get, you can still choose to remain a child. Married, with his wife at his side, he sat not a foot away from the makeshift bar my aunt had prepared. I walked past him to refill my water, when he lifted his empty scotch glass to my shoulder. Without a word, he gestured for me to take it. “Scotch,” he said, and specified the brand. I took it, unimpressed. He was unkind to me as a child. And, when I was about four, made a point to emphasize that we weren’t really family, as his mother is a stepchild to my maternal grandfather. A true and bonafide ass on a number of occasions, this gesture was unsurprising. What surprised him, however, is that I am no longer four years old, timid, and pining for his worthless approval. I looked down at him, his petite wife staring, “Hmmm,” I paused, “I’m looking for a word….” He stared down at the floor where he sat, wordless. “Starts with a P….” I waited. “Ends with an E….” I waited. His wife’s eyes widened. “Okay, I’ll give you a hint. Second letter is L….” He continued to stare. I did not waver. Finally, he relented “You can have a sip.” Knowing I’d made my point, I cheerily quipped, “Why, thank you!” filled the glass with two fingers, and took a polite sip. I’m beginning to notice a trend.

Sunday: The day of the Celebration of Life. Now, it was my brother’s turn to be on the receiving end of my cousin’s favorite pastime. My brother was very close to my grandmother. More so than I was. They’d do everything together once they moved back to Illinois. He’d go swimming with her the most often at the neighborhood pool, and spent nights watching movies with her when he was little. They shared many memories, and were a lot alike. This was not an easy occasion. A grown man with a career, and not a man with a physique you’d want to cross, I was his life-vest. Embarrassed at the likeliness of overt emotion, he asked me to sit with him at the far back of the banquet hall of the ski resort, next to an unfortunately placed trash can. We sat in silence, watching the friends and family pour into the room, with golden aspen leaves flickering in the wind outside the picture windows. We were silent, together, in a moment, starting to grieve. This was until I saw the jarring display my cousin put on. Gesturing loudly, eyes wide with a jeering smile, he pointed his long and bony finger at the two of us, laughing. He motioned to his mother to come over to us to correct our antisocial behavior. She patronizingly grinned at the two of us, and came over to the table, insisting that we relocate closer to the front. My brother tried to explain he was emotional, and as she started on didactically about how everyone’s emotional, I told her that I agreed we’d need to move forward eventually. We sat down towards the front, and soon were joined by my uncle’s wife, an artist, and in a friendly disposition. She started to chat with my brother, which presented a fortunate opportunity for me to get up and make a beeline for my ridiculous cousin and his enabler wife. They were giggling inwards to each other. Once I reached his back, I spoke into his neck, “Excuse me.” He turned around, their eyes wide. Sternly, and clearly enough to spook him, “This is a difficult day for my brother. Go easy on him.” I didn’t wait for agreement. His eyes were enough for me to know I’d made my point. With a beat, I turned around and walked back to our new table.

The Celebration was cathartic, and bittersweet. I even managed to speak through my tears, mostly in grief at what I didn’t get to experience with my grandparents, and gratefulness for the poignant little that I had. I was proud to be a legacy of theirs, living my life on my own terms, carrying on their most important legacy: the resistance to conformity, something some of their own children could hardly understand.

One of my elder cousins and my uncle split the ashes among plain white dixie cups so that everyone who wanted a hand in spreading the ashes could. We all walked onto the slope, some of us pursuing spots under the ski lift, others finding spots overlooking the aspens, and mountains in the distance. I took the moment to lose myself in the view, learning that my grandparents and I had more in common than I ever realized, with the same appreciation for the Earth, mesmerized by the same interminable beauty.

The event concluded with a formal dinner that included the whole family, which was lovely, and even my less than amicable family seemed happy and friendly. I even had a fantastic talk with my grandfather’s closest friend, who even gifted me a copy of the book he wrote, hand-writing in the front page a dedication to me. I felt my grandfather would be pleased at our connection. I slept well that night.

The following day, in spite of the unifying experience, my family reverted back to their old ways. Right before boarding the plane home, my aunt posted a status about the experience with the entire family, thanking everyone who came out, with an accompanying photograph of the mountains featuring the family. Pictured were my aunt, her husband, my two uncles, and their wives. My mother was nowhere to be seen.

Sick to my stomach, I commented, unable to stop myself, “Nice…. Look at the whole family….”

The plane ride was uncharacteristically intolerable emotionally, and in reality. We were stuck on the tarmac after landing for an hour. Without hesitation, I made the most of the extra time. I checked in to Facebook. No acknowledgement of my comment had been made, but more pictures had been added, again, none featuring my mom, or my brother, or me. I felt the need to clarify.  I began typing in a private text to my aunt:

“Did you take any pictures with my Mom?” Sent. A pause. “I hope you post them.”

She replied instantly, “You mean her and i”

What a question, I thought. I replied monotonously, “Or any with the fam. I’d like to see them.”

She replied skillfully, “I have lots of pictures of the weekend and I am going to get people to send me theirs and share as soon as I can. Are you home yet”

Confident that I had my answer, I replied, “We’ve landed. Looking forward to seeing them.”

To which she replied, “Ok”

It has been a week since that conversation. No such pictures have been uploaded. No existing posts have been edited. Fortunately, my mother took pictures for herself, and my brother had one of our cousins take a lovely picture of us on the slope.

My Mother is a noble woman. Who loves fearlessly, and is the most forgiving person I know. She has transcended a lifetime of hurt, and still made sure my aunt made it home safely.

My Mother may not be accepted by her family, but with family like hers, this rejection is an honor.

We did right by my grandparents. And my Mother did right by herself. She did not let a single emotional or social infraction stop her from finding her peace on this trip.

My Mother taught me to live in my truth. On this trip, I finally did.



Take a Nap

Yesterday, choosing happy took some doing. The day was set to be a good one, with brunch scheduled with my honorary Aunt and my Mom, but the recent atrocities in the news took the reins of the conversation, and a quaint stroll on a lush trail of conversation derailed right into oncoming traffic: The world is damned, and we’re all at fault, and there’s barely anything we can do about it. It’s the last part that murders my patience. Hopelessness has never served to accomplish anything, and demoralizing conversation is the most useless form of communication. (In conversations like these, I like to sardonically note that it’s not like we haven’t improved even slightly in the last 10,000 years of recorded human history, even if our improvement may be subjectively considered minuscule– at least the Colosseum isn’t in the gladiator business anymore).

Visits with this one particular relative always tend to go this way. For whatever reason, these two must analyze all the world’s problems every time they get together, and consequently get into passive aggressive debate (even though they inherently agree with each other). The two of them seem to oddly enjoy it, feeling clearly enlivened during and after, but it’s frankly the most draining thing to watch, let alone be asked to participate in. I needed an out. I stared down at my once delicious, and inhumanly large serving of french toast. “Choose happy,” I thought. That choice led me to texting my friend for an out.

I managed to schedule new evening plans (to replace the ones that were cancelled the day prior), but I didn’t have my escape until eight in the evening, and would have to bear this dynamic until then.

Perhaps cowardly, I faked a headache and chose happy: I took a long nap.

And I did not regret it.

I woke up with a new sense of patience, found my Aunt still present, with the conversation having shifted to movies. They asked me to join them, and with new energy, I was able to give them the benefit of the doubt that the trend of the conversation had shifted to something a little more hopeful, if only at least polite.

And the day improved.

I had started this second day with a sense of purpose. How was I going to be happy? I was going to be productive! I would try my hand at making mulled wine! Clearly, it would not be the most stellar mulled wine, with a former college kid’s budget, but Barefoot ain’t that bad! In fact, in my experience, not bad at all!

When the day took such a quick turn to less than bearable, I felt disappointed in myself that I couldn’t muster up a “better way to be happy.” But, the point of this exercise is also to learn self-awareness, and make choices that help me stay mentally and emotionally healthy. The conversation did the opposite of that. To remove myself, harmlessly and politely, was the healthy choice (because, lemme tell ya, you try reigning in that conversation, myself and my three cousins have spent the last cumulative decade trying).

I was faced with a new challenge. I had to accept that what makes my Mom and Aunt happy is their heated debate, and yet oddly loving company of mutual understanding in their disillusionment. I don’t have to understand it. I have to accept it. And, in doing so, I have to accept that I don’t fit into it, and to spare my own sanity, I have to make a choice that might not be the most generous.

I’ll come back when the topic’s changed, and nap in the meantime.