True HD

I have a netbook that is far less powerful than my desktop, but it has one thing my desktop doesn’t… a video card that supports HDMI. When I started using Zoom, I switched to the little computer. Why? So that my friends are always in true HD. I also use my most powerful headphones, so that their voices are as clear as they would be if I was in the room with them. It feels more intimate that way, and additionally presents a conundrum.

If I wanted, I could turn on my own web cam… but I haven’t, and can’t decide whether I want to or not. I know that my friends would probably want to see me- it’s been years- but here’s the thing. I’m not getting together with friends for happy hour. I’m going to church… and every single week (so far), the moment the music has started, tears have rolled down my face.

The first time I went, it wasn’t just one or two. I went into the ugly cry because so many things hadn’t changed, and the deep connection I’d felt all those years ago knocked me down with force. The next two weeks, I was mostly okay…. and then there was today- Palm Sunday- and if I’d thought for even a second before the service began, I would have known it was going to be tough. But I didn’t. Think, that is.

If I had, I would have known that the service would start with my favorite people in the world singing “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from “Godspell.” I would have known because I’d been in the choir the entire time I attended while I actually lived in Oregon. I’d have remembered who started that tradition. I would have known whose voice would begin. I would have been more prepared for the way of the Lord than I actually was.

Again, I went into the ugly cry.

Then it got worse.

I was doubled over, tears and snot running down my face. I couldn’t get air into my chest, the physical pain of heartache almost unbearable. It was the closest I’ve come to hyperventilating in recent memory, probably because I haven’t had many moments in the last three years where I’ve felt this deeply about anything. Grief has a numbing effect for a lot of people- it’s extremely effective at keeping you from emoting so much more than is acceptable in polite company. Some people are very good at expressing their emotions. I used to be one of those people.

Now, I’m not.

I make an exception for this blog. This is because it’s so much easier to hide behind my keyboard, spilling emotions and letting readers have their own reactions without hearing them myself. I made the executive decision long ago that what people thought of me was none of my business. Even in my personal life, some of the deepest relationships I’ve had consisted of letters, because again, I could look at emotions from a distance. I wasn’t capable of exploding every mine that dots my inner landscape, and letters put neither me as the writer nor them as the reader on the spot (which changed when mail became electronic- mistakes were made).

In person, I will only tell you real things about me if I feel comfortable, and it is taking me longer and longer to feel comfortable as I age. As I act and react, more emotions get stuffed into boxes and locked. There are so few times when they leak, and when they do, I don’t want to be seen, heard, or touched. I make exceptions for my family, but if you are not in that tight circle, I would rather isolate than let anyone in. I am lucky that my family is not just biological, because if it was, I would have cut myself off from any support system at all (I live in Maryland, very close to The District, and my bio family lives in Houston).

I am becoming aware that this is a problem, that the pendulum has swung too far towards being alone. The thing is, though, silence becomes addictive. I know that I don’t want to be single the rest of my life, but I am terrified of putting myself out there. Open up to a stranger in hopes that we eventually have a deep enough connection to love each other? Please. One of my friends said it best when I told her as much and she said, “well, the dating scene is scary as all holy hell.” I’m not sure I’ve ever related to anything more.

My answer to this is not to date at all, but to cultivate good friendships and to put myself out there professionally, because I think networking will probably take a lot longer, but I’ve tried a couple of dating apps and the experience was mind-numbing, mostly because the person I wrote to for a few days was never the same person I met in person. I’m also not attracted by looks, in general, so it never mattered if their bodies matched up to their pictures. But it really mattered when their personalities seemed to flip. Not once did I ever meet someone who was so genuine in their chats/e-mails that I “recognized them.” Or, at least, I never met someone in a romantic way.

There was this one woman I ran across that said she was already married and just looking for friends, so I e-mailed her and said “let’s get together for dinner. Bring your wife if you want, because I’m not contacting you for romance. I just read your profile and it seems like you’re a really cool person. I’m new to the area and need to meet cool people.” After a few days of flipping each other quotes from “The Big Lebowski,” dinner was on with both women. It has truly been a blessing that it created a lasting relationship that’s only gotten better with time.

Mostly because it’s lasted long enough for me to get comfortable. I’m not sure I’ve ever been vulnerable enough to cry in front of either one of them, but I’ve at least come far enough that talking about myself isn’t a thing anymore. I don’t “run the game” with them, the game I always play with people I don’t know well.

It’s simple, really. 99% of people have a favorite topic, and that’s them. The game is “how long can I keep you talking about yourself so that you don’t ask me anything about my life?” There’s only one person in the world that’s better at that game than me, and can read me like a manual. There was no percentage in playing, because the competition was too fierce and I knew I was losing. I talked about myself because I couldn’t not. Grasshopper will never reach satori in that relationship, and for better or for worse, I’m okay with it. I definitely wasn’t at first, but after what seems like a hundred years, I’m coming around. By now, she’s family, and I make an exception for family.

Which brings me back around to whether I should turn on my web cam for church, because I can’t put my finger on why being vulnerable in front of that congregation is a thing. They raised me. I mean, I was technically an adult when I got there, not so much with the literally. Why do I care if they see me cry? It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Like with everything else, I’m going to overthink about it. Explode some land mines. Feel the heartache and know that it’s breaking me open to let light in. Reconciling who I used to be with who I am now. Wrestling with whether those two people are on their way to integration. I am sure it is why I wanted my friends in true HD in the first place. My question to myself is whether I get to be in true HD, too.

 

Where Were We Again?

When I take a few days off from writing, I learn why I shouldn’t do that. I have no idea where to even begin. My last entry isn’t anywhere close what’s happening now, and herding my thoughts is less easy than herding cats.

The last entry was written while I was still in Portland, and for the first time, I slept all the way home… well, except for the last hour, from Charlotte to Arlington, VA. I was so exhausted that I missed the safety speech, taking pictures of the Columbia from the runway (that would have been hit or miss…. it was dark), and last but not least, the entire takeoff sequence. When we landed at CLT, it was a total “where tf am I?” moment, because there were no national monuments and I’d forgotten I was connecting in the haze of waking up. I had more time to kill in N. Carolina than I did last time, so I walked around looking for a UNC Chapel Hill t-shirt (Mia Hamm’s alma mater). I didn’t find one (in fact, no Tarheels gear at all, just Hornets), so I settled for a very large cup of coffee. I imagine that if I’d walked all over the airport, I probably would have found what I was looking for, but I didn’t want to leave my own terminal. I thought I was too groggy to be able to make it back in time. I took my coffee and settled in the waiting area, and when my flight started boarding, to GOD I swear I almost started crying.

Because here’s the thing… I love visiting other places, but there is nothing on earth more beautiful than landing at National, and thinking about that beauty always makes me tear up, no matter how long I live here. People will argue with me on the objectivity of those statements, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I mean, I’ll go out to BWI or Dulles when I need to (luckily, I haven’t had to deal w/ Dulles since 2002- one of my friends called it the seventh level of hell, and I can’t disagree with her), but neither airport gives me the feeling of home like National does. It’s especially breathtaking at night, but I’d taken a redeye, so I did get a good picture on the tarmac of a small plane with the Jefferson and Washington monuments in the back. If you’re just a nerd with a camera, this is the best place on earth to live. #nolie #smile

Now, remember I am tired AF- redeye, etc. I get to the Metro around 0945 and don’t realize there are three tracks. One goes out to Virginia, the other crosses the river into DC, and the third is for broken down trains. It’s in the middle. My bench is facing a CLEARLY (in retrospect) broken down car out of service, and I sat there for 25 minutes before I realized that the train I needed was behind me. A venti coffee of the day at Starbucks can only do so much.

However, the first train that came by after I answered the clue phone was Yellow to Ft. Totten. Bullseye. Yellow connects to red at Ft. Totten and Silver Spring is only two stops down the red line from there. That meant I had about 40 uninterrupted minutes without changing trains. There’s probably a more direct route, like changing lines at Gallery Place/Chinatown, but I didn’t want direct. I wanted “don’t make me get up.” I was also a total baby and got an Uber while my train was rolling up to Silver Spring, because I didn’t want to lug my shit on the bus and walk with it. Pretty sure it was the best $4 I spent the whole trip.

I get home and absolutely collapse with exhaustion, despite the coffee. I slept for a couple of hours, then made myself some more coffee (Donut Shop) to ensure I could get back on Eastern time quickly. This is really the first trip I’ve taken where I learned that jet lag is a thing. Coming back was easy. Moving three hours earlier was just FUBAR. I slept when I didn’t mean to because otherwise, I would have fallen down. Thankfully, I didn’t have to explain myself, because it was written all over my face.

Besides Bryn, I also got to see two other friends I’d really wanted to meet up with, and one was a total lark. Of course Volfe and I hung out… how could we not? But it just so happened that one of my friends on Guam was in town that weekend, too (we met when she was a student at University of Portland). We met at Greater Trump’s for trivia, where we lost by ONE POINT. It’s ok. If she hadn’t been there, I would have lost by at least ten more.

I walked in and she was sitting at Table Eight. The reason I know she was sitting at Table Eight is that the first time Dana and I ever went to trivia, we didn’t put a team name on our paper because we didn’t know we had to… so that’s the team name they gave us. She was sitting in my chair, so I took Dana’s. Did it feel weird to be sitting on “the wrong side?” Yes. Did it feel weird that we lost? Also yes.

The first time that Dana and I went, these two guys showed up at our table and said, “we just wanted to meet the team that showed up late when we thought we had it in the bag and kicked our asses.” We were basically an instant foursome after that, and after having won eight games in a row, David decided to get cocky and name our team “Thanks for the Free Drink.” I would like to tell you that David’s hubris cost us dearly, but no. We won that one, too. Every week, there was an alcohol question, so if we won and they had it, I ordered the drink in the game. I got to try a lot of things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Some were amazing. Some were not.

When it was my turn to pick the team name, I always liked to start with an ellipsis so that it was a sentence. For instance, my favorite was “and tonight’s winner is …under investigation by the FBI.” We had some good ones over the years. We were having a conversation over what could possibly be in fat free Caesar dressing one night, thus our team name was “Chemical Anchovies.” One of our team member’s names was Nathan, so one night we were “Better Nate Than Lever” when he had a work thing and came in halfway through.

On Monday, our team name was “PBRmada.” Soooooo Portland.

Still pissed about losing by one point, although thank God Hope was not there to see it. The worst part is that we tied for first and THEN lost in the tie-breaker.

Now that I’ve taken you down THAT piece of memory lane, I got home to my family going through a hurricane of enormous proportions, and it’s still going. Kelly, Will, Wi-Phi, and their dogs are holed up at my dad’s because he has a generator AND, as a paramedic, has delivered three babies…. just in case they can’t get to a hospital. Better him than me…. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies. But lucky kid that the first person she (squee!) sees may be Papa, what Wi-Phi calls him.

While my dad and stepmom grabbed Kelly & Co., I went to see the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs play the Sugar Land Skeeters. I was right behind the on-deck for the Skeeters, so I got to talk to every player, told them I hoped their houses and families were okay, etc. One player said he was only worried about his truck, because his house is in Louisiana and his truck is at Skeeters Stadium. And I thought Silver Spring to Alexandria was a long commute……..

So, it’s been a very eventful time, and I am proud of the way I handled all of it. The being in Portland, the worrying about the hurricane, the going by myself to a baseball game, everything. People always ask me why I don’t invite others to come with me to these things. Easy. I am way too focused on my camera, and I don’t want to ask anyone else if they’re ready to leave and have them say no…. because when I’ve had enough, I have had enough. I don’t care how tight their pants are, Barbara.

 

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