Friday, January 9, 2015


Thanks this week to Elizabeth Q. Without you, I couldn't write this.
I try and give the house a good cleaning before the semester starts. The computer screen plays a looping clip of terrorists running through a supermarket in Paris. It seems that every room I try and clean ends up worse than before. I pull the couch across the room to sweep beneath it, then, satisfied with the block of newly clean floor, I lose interest.

I decide to cook. I have to make something really stunning. A recipe for Homemade perogies looks good, sufficiently complicated, nice and comforting for the weather we've been having. I roll out the dough with a bottle of red wine we've been given as a gift. I can't drink red, anyway. There's flour everywhere. The filling requires me to boil four huge baking potatoes, so I fill up our biggest pot with water and tote it over to the stove. It will take a while to boil so I wander to my room to wait. You know what they say about watching water boil.

When Dave comes home from work, he finds me tucked in bed reading a book. He looks at me for a moment. "Are you cooking?" He asks.

"I was," I say, and turn the page.

On the phone the next day, I tell my mom I'm thinking about dropping out of school. My new job is perfect, I explain, but it takes so much time. I don't see how I can do both.

A few seconds pass in silence. Then I hear her sigh. She's struggling to find a way to say something hard come out soft, and there's something about how earnestly she's trying breaks my heart a little bit.

"The money you're making," she says, "it's good. It's such a good start. But it's not nearly enough to support you."

"I know," I say, cutting her off. "I know that. But we've become really thrifty- now that we buy dry beans in bulk instead of cans, our grocery bill is a lot less."

The words come out so impossibly lame that I want desperately to separate myself from them. I suddenly feel like a third party in the conversation, someone floating on the ceiling looking down on us both. How do you respond to that one? I want to say to my mother. How old is your daughter again?  

My emotions don't seem to have much barring in reality. I can work all day writing an article, doing an interview in the morning, sending out emails and meeting my deadline, but when the evening comes I'll feel gripped by guilt, convinced that if everyone knew just how obscenely lazy I was, no one would want to associate with me.

Other times, I'll quell a rising panic about money and employment by reading some article about 100 ways to use coconut oil. This is the ticket! I'll think. We just need more coconut oil around the house! And I'll bundle up and head to the store to buy a third jar of coconut oil, and I'll feel absurdly productive.

Things can be confusing.

Then there's the news to consider, all those people scared and dead in Paris, an armed man wandering the parking lot of an elementary school in Washington. The new year starting off with a bang, but this is what's normal now. I drag the couch back into its place and pretend like it's not happening, and while I'm at it I pretend the climate isn't getting all screwed up. By lunch I'm playing a game in my head where  the continuation of our species hinges entirely on my floor being swept and dinner being ready at its usual time. The day seems more interesting when I think Big.
Now to choose the winner of this week's mystery prize, which I've refrained from opening myself so far, but if it doesn't get dropped in the mail tomorrow we're all toast.

If you haven't checked out the comments, you ought to. Between us all we've had quite the year.

Liz Stout said...
"Something new... Falling into a good yoga habit. I've wanted to for so long and have many failed attempts under my belt, but I now seem to be in a good swing of things and it is so very wonderful. Side effect of good yoga practice = better headspace. I'm able to slow down and get out of my head and not beat myself up so much about things. Giving oneself the benefit of the doubt is so very wonderful. Happiness is much more present as a result."

Congratulations Liz! I commend you, as I've never been able to get into a yoga practice myself- I can't even touch my toes. I lack the discipline, but giving myself the benefit of the doubt sounds nice. Maybe I'll try it again this year.

Stay warm everyone! I'll see you here very soon. 


Liz Stout said...

Wow. What luck after such a wreck of my life has occurred the past two days. I'm excited for mail and I am so beyond thankful for what you wrote in this post. It really strikes home with me. Beautiful writing - as always.

Jill said...

Beautiful post, Melina. As for the school thing, I don't know what you decided, but let me just CAN do it. I'm finishing up my Master's while working a full-time job and commuting to school an hour each way. People looked at me like I was crazy when I told them my plan.... and it was not easy.....but not impossible. Hang in there.

PatsyAnne said...

I could "get" your post. I've been there and done that - for me it was after 9/11. We begin projects, we start to cook, we drop out of school because you can't do two things, we put laundry in the washer - we just don't complete what we started - now I'm not sure why you're doing it but for me it was because I had post traumatic syndrome (PTS) from 9/11. You see I got off the subway under the World Trade Center right between the two hits by the planes. I remember thinking "I have to get up" "I have to get out" - I did find the south eastern main stairs to the Plaza - I then walked north across the Plaza on the north side - it took me months before I realized what I did and what I saw - the crunch of late autumn leaves triggered a hidden memory of walking on the broken glass and papers - I remembered hearing something a little behind and to the left of me and there being a "thing" red and flesh colored - someone had jumped from the north tower - their clothing torn off in the plunge - I spent months working with a psychiatrist paid for by the World Trade Health Association - I'm still a part of their ongoing studies. What came of it was that I couldn't complete tasks because I simply didn't see a completion point - I needed to set tasks, write them down and check them off as I completed them. It got easier as time went on but we are each of us affected differently by different catastrophic events in our lives. Mine was 9/11, yours might be a number of things culminating in the Paris killings - they play non-stop on TV, you read about them on the computer, you see them in newspapers - people, no matter where you go, are talking about them. Just give yourself time. You can finish cleaning the living room - break down each step of it. You don't have to drop out of school, take it easy, take one or two classes this semester and master them. You can do these things - I know you can.

Alice said...

I will be cleaning the house from top to bottom before the semester starts Monday...but first I'm going to take Christmas decorations down (sticking with the light stuff!).

Michelle said...

I continuously start tasks and abandon them. I wander around thinking about how unproductive I am. I write furiously, and then read it over and am not satisfied. I find these behaviours are strongest in the winter months.
Xoxo to you.

QueenTage said...

I hate those days (that sometimes turn into weeks) where I'm overly critical of myself. It doesn't matter just exactly how much I have going on, or how much I've really accomplished, I'll just be convinced that I should have done more. I can fill up my whole day with silly tasks that I just have to do and that I know I won't get to, all before I've even gotten out of bed. I have to remind myself that I'm allowed to just exist, to just be present, and take things one at a time.

About this school situation...I don't know if you're really considering quitting but there are going to be plenty more times that you'll want to because nursing school sometimes SUPER, SUPER sucks. I just want to say that in the end it is worth it. Plus, if nothing else, it's a nice security to know that you would always have a nursing license to fall back on.

Seeing Each Day said...

Those days are tough, and much more complicated that the four words I've used to sum it up at the start of this sentence. It's that search for the something, even in the aim of a tidy house, that will make 'it all better' - I subconsciously do this search on a regular basis- and then the reality of the cruelty in this world, that can be so overwhelming. I can't imagine the prospect of returning to your nursing studies is fun at all, especially when there's your other work holding it's hand up high for attention. I will say though that i have not forgotten about your tremendous A results during your last semester, and the only person responsible for that was you and the sheer hard trudgery you went through. And I'm not saying that to imply that you have to continue on with your studies, I'm simply saying I've not forgotten that. Renee

Kristen said...

This is so rawfully honest that I almost cried. We all have those days, those weeks and those months! Thank you for saying it out loud.

Lisa said...

Your writing really is unique, Melina. It is different; it is special. I wish it ran in a newspaper or magazine for more people to enjoy. You truly have a gift.