Rainy Day Musings

Sunday, May 7, 2019

Dear friends,

It’s been raining at my house on and off for days now. A little over a year ago, we moved into a new-to-us house on the outskirts of town where we are surrounded by trees and grass, and it’s very peaceful. On rainy days, I like to be especially quiet and maybe open a window or two so I can hear the rain fall.

Our old house was the very last townhome built in a neighborhood full of them, and there were not many quiet days, even in the rain. The main road of the neighborhood was a long, slow, downhill slope, and we were at the very end of it. There was a storm drain in the parking lot, but it was often blocked by trash bins, children’s toys, and other debris that washed or rolled down the hill. Children from all over the neighborhood lost basketballs and other playthings that ended up blocking the storm drain, littering the grassy commons in front of our house or washing into the woods. The rain would trickle from the top of the hill, form a small stream in the parking lot, be rebuffed by the blocked storm drain, and form a rushing river down the broken sidewalk.

It was there that I last played in the rain, nearly ten years ago, shortly after Chris and I moved into that house. We were renovating the whole place ourselves with some help from friends and family, but most of our time at home was spent laying tile, building a deck, demolishing old drywall, replacing studs, patching and painting. The to-do list was epic. When we got our first good storm, I stood by the front door, gazing out in astonishment. There were actual rapids. It would have been dangerous for a small child. Someone’s tricycle was pushed by the stream all the way down past our door and up against the retaining wall we’d built to try and prevent our little slice of land from washing out from under us, as the property ended in a steep hill that plummeted into forest. At that time, I felt the pressure of adulthood descending upon me as I realized I’d just willingly taken on a debt I’d probably never see the end of — ain’t home ownership grand?

I was certain our neighbors would not like us much. At our first courtyard cookout, I drunkenly told our neighbor my mostly uncensored feelings about the Catholic Church only to learn that she and her family were practicing Catholics. I was also pretty sure they’d heard us having sex with the windows open one afternoon around the time all their kids were coming home from school. I didn’t think I was doing a very good job of adulting. That day when we got our first real rain storm in the neighborhood, I was briefly taken by an impulse from my inner eight-year-old. I stood in the rushing stream on our sidewalk laughing and dancing like a crazy person while Chris stood just inside the door, sipping his coffee and questioning my sanity lovingly.

I only stayed out a few minutes. Playing in the rain is not the same when you’re an adult. For one thing, I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential parasites in the mud around me. Lots of our neighbors had dogs, and the grassy area in front of our house was a favorite place for walking them. Not everyone was consistent with picking up after their pets.

It’s also more fun when you have someone to play in the rain with. As a kid, I had my two friends Justin and Drew with whom to actually do stuff in the rain, like fight. We would find a particularly wet sinkhole in someone’s yard to fight in. Or we would just … run around. No direction, just glee. Me and Amanda played on her swingset in the rain. Her mom was really mad about that one. It was either hailing or sleeting. She said it was too cold to be out in the rain, but I don’t remember it being cold. I remember the exhilaration of absurdity — how good it felt to do something so out of the ordinary.

Back then, I couldn’t understand why adults didn’t want to play in the rain. Everyone complained when we had rainy weather. They’d call it ugly, dreary, gross, and bad. That made me sad because I thought rainy days were just the best. What an amazing opportunity, you know? And adults were not only passing it up but scorning it —  running to their cars to get out of the rain but splashing their pants along the way, and carrying stupid umbrellas that helped a little but then dripped on everything in the car and in the house. It seemed to me that everyone was just determined to make a bad thing out of something beautiful. It would have served everyone better to just enjoy the rain.

I asked my friend’s mom why adults never wanted to play in the rain, and she said it was because, “then you’re all wet,” and I was like … that’s the point? But she said it’s a pain when your clothes get all wet because you have to wash them. Also if you’re out running errands and you go into stores, you track water everywhere, and it’s just a big mess. Plus the air conditioning is on in stores so you’ll get cold. And also, you don’t want to get the inside of your car all wet and muddy. She did have a pretty convincing point about how car seats would feel gross when you’re all wet, but I didn’t see how any of these things should stop a person from enjoying rainy days. On the other hand, I didn’t do my own laundry back then.

I’ve gotten a bit more practical about when I’ll play in the rain, but only because I had to. For example, right now, I will not play in the rain because I’m very comfortable sitting here at my desk with a blanket over my lap, sipping coffee, and day dreaming about the best parts of childhood. Also, it’s Mother’s Day, and my mother-in-law will be coming over soon, and I don’t have time to play in the rain and take a shower and then still help cook lunch.

I have had some chances to hang out in the rain lately, though, thanks to these on-and-off storms that roll through spring. My derby league had a round of headshots done in the rain, and we’ve had some after-practice parking lot beers in the rain that have been super high quality hangouts. However, much to my inner Ramona Quimby’s chagrin, I have always stayed under an umbrella, except for the few brief moments when I  modeled for the camera and did a handstand in the rain. She really loved that part.

But the main reason I won’t go out is that it’s still a little chilly outside, as we’re not quite half way through spring, and I am a summer person. I thrive on heat, and nothing makes me happier than a downpour on a sweltering day. I am so looking forward to summer. I can’t wait until the Renaissance Fair starts — the fair grounds are within walking distance from my house, and on rainy days it’s far less crowded, and I will be there, ready to maximize my enjoyment of the people, the shows, the trees, the fresh air, and every drop of rain I can catch.

I wonder what it’s like where you are, my friends. If you’re close, are you in the city or the woods? What does a rainy day feel like for you? Or are you in a place where it’s very dry? Would rain be a welcome change for you? What does the air smell like where you are? How does your environment embrace you, and you it?

I ask these questions knowing I most likely won’t get responses. I always tell the recipients of my letters that they don’t have to write back, and that’s true. But it’s not for lack of curiosity about them. I love getting letters back, but I also know sometimes it’s enough to have received a letter, and for me, it’s enough to have written one.

Thanks for reading. May you always play in the rain,

Mary

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I’m a Grownup, Damnit!

New_Orleans_Family_1915_211I’ve been thinking lately that it’s time for me to open up a little more online. I’ve experimented here and there with sharing my feelings on current events or talking about loss, but I want to start doing it in a more overt and intentional way. And yes, I really do think this way all the time — I analyze the potential risks of everything before I do it. Opening up the way I want to do feels like a big risk, so I’m going to do an experiment. Once a month, I’ll write a post about what’s going on in my head. It won’t be to teach a lesson or prove a point but just to share. Hopefully sometimes it’ll be light and funny, but sometimes like today it will be more serious.

So here’s what’s up with me right now.

When I go home is the only time I feel less than good enough. I’m the type of person who’s ready to simply walk away from anyone who wants to judge me. I don’t need your approval, and I decline to explain myself. Except when it comes to my family. I have finally recovered from a 10-day trip to visit my friends and family in the south, and I’m trying to deal with the mental fallout from it all.

It’s hard to describe how much my family members mean to me — we’re definitely one of the closest families I know — but I often compare myself to them and find myself lacking. Next to my sister, who is petite and pixyish even after having a baby, I feel awkward, clumsy, and wildly unattractive. My oldest brother is a doctor, taking over the family business, raising three kids of his own, and living in a gorgeous brand new home. Custom built, of course. Next to him, I feel childish, irresponsible, and slobbish. My other brother is kindof like a male version of me. We understand each other pretty well, and I don’t feel bad when I’m around him, even though we haven’t always gotten along. Still, I think all my siblings accept each other and me. We all want to see each other succeed and be happy no matter what. Our parents, however, are a different story. They want me to be happy, but I think they want it to be on their terms. Every time I go home, I think they wish I would stay. They wouldn’t blink twice if I called them right now and asked to move back into my old room.

My oldest brother’s first kid was born before I moved out, and my parents immediately became involved in helping to raise the grandkids. They skipped right over being empty-nesters, and I don’t think it ever occurred to them to let go the apron strings from their kids — especially me. When I was in college, my dad would often say, “We’re not done raising you,” because they were still paying my tuition and helping me in a lot of ways. But now? I’m not convinced that they ever stopped “raising” me, even though I grew up. To be a happily married 30-year-old woman and visit your family only to be treated like an 18-year-old who got caught playing house is extremely unpleasant.

I know what you’re thinking — I should be having this conversation with my parents and not my blog. That’s what adults do. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two weeks, it’s that my family isn’t perfect, and they’re not going to be. Repeatedly asking them to change hasn’t brought me any comfort yet, nor has explaining myself, justifying myself, and shouting, “I’m a grownup, damnit!”

On our way home, my husband asked if I planned to call my parents about all the emotional stuff that came up during our visit. I was exhausted, so I decided to give myself some space before reaching out again. I went back to teaching yoga classes. I tried to get on a normal writing schedule. I hung out with friends and engaged in some serious self-care. And gradually, I remembered that this is the life I chose. I am the person I’ve chosen to be, and I really, really like it. I have a good life full of people I love who love me back, who treat me with respect, who inspire, challenge and accept me. I made this life myself, and I’m proud of it. But it’s not for my parents to put up on their fridge. It’s for me.

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invective

This is from a journal I share with my sister, Katie Daniel. In the picture below, the handwriting is mine, and the drawing is hers.

Invective by Durght

Sit down every day, every goddamned day, sit down and do it. And don’t give me any guff about your muse or being blocked because you do so much shit every day — complete and utter shit — that is neither inspired nor inspiring. You sit down and write emails, make phone calls, count the bills in someone else’s cash register, and you don’t whine to your boss about not being inspired.

Can you believe you have a fucking boss? You who used to be so fond of saying “You’re not the boss of me,” are now saying “yes sir” at every turn to every corporate douche bag who comes around the corner. Frankly, your six-year-old self would’ve given those guys the finger.

What ever happened to the you who thought you could do anything? What ever happened to that girl who thought she was a total superstar just because?

If you can make that blessed little hellion sit down, be polite and answer phones all day, for the love of god, for once, one hour, even one minute — for every day you  make her sit down and do this bullshit, you — the responsible adult asshole — owe it to her to sit down and fucking write.

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My Last Day in the Cubicle

The Workaholic NSA

I woke up at 3 a.m. today and could not go back to sleep. I laid in my bed tossing and turning and feeling a little bit sick. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to quit my job, but now that I’m finally doing it, I feel nervous and unprepared … kindof like when I got married. Sure, I’d wanted that for a long time, but actually diving into it was a bit overwhelming.

Still, I’m happy, ready, and looking forward to a very exciting future full of possibilities. In celebration, here is my list of 36 reasons today is the last day of my life as a cubicle dweller.

  1. I put in my notice, and there is no turning back.
  2. I’ve said it enough times already, and it’s time to do it.
  3. It feels amazing.
  4. When I told Ellie why I wasn’t ready to quit, instead of telling me to shut the hell up, she just gave me this incredible look… the look of a wise woman who knows when you’re lying to yourself. It was a wake-up call.
  5. When I told Kim about my “day job” and how much I wanted to quit, he didn’t say it, but I could tell he was thinking, “Then SFTU and go do what you do!” So I decided to work on that.
  6. I can finally do it with a clear conscience and a sense of gratitude to the people I have worked with for the past 5 years.
  7. I am sick of telling my family I can’t visit them because I don’t have enough vacation time.
  8. I will never feel like I have “paid my dues,” so I shouldn’t use that as a reason to stay at a job.
  9. I would rather be paying my dues in a line of work I love than working my ass off on something that holds no meaning for me. (Yes, my coworkers are rad, but this is not the work I was meant to do.)
  10. I am willing and able to work extremely hard and do amazing things. If I owned a company (which I do), I would want an employee like me. I’m hiring myself.
  11. The world is too amazing. Spending 40 hours a week in a grey cubicle is blasphemy and an insult to the universe.
  12. Business casual is fucking lame.
  13. I need more tattoos.
  14. I have a ton of really incredible, loving people who believe in me and are helping me make this transition.
  15. I have a partner who understands my particular brand of crazy and who I trust with my biggest dreams and darkest fears.
  16. I have found what matters most to me, and I’m ready to make that my top priority in life.
  17. The best way for me to do good in the world involves getting out from behind my laptop a lot more often.
  18. I want the freedom to spend a Wednesday lying around in my pajamas or lounging on the beach if I so choose. Yes, this is self-indulgent. So what?
  19. The corporate world tends to see people as resources rather than as humans. That’s just never gonna fly for me.
  20. I need time to travel.
  21. I’m not cut out for conference calls. When people start using corporate jargon, my eyes roll so hard it hurts. This is bad for my health.
  22. Commuting in the Baltimore-Washington region is bullshit.
  23. “Are you good with computers?” should never mean, “Can you email?”
  24. I believe I can make it doing what I love, but I won’t know till I try.
  25. I never wanted to fit in.
  26. My inner ten-year-old is still alive and kicking, and she just wants to go outside and play catch.
  27. Tried it, proved I could do it, found it boring as hell.
  28. Every fiber of my being is saying YES to this right now.
  29. I want more time to write and teach yoga.
  30. I want my brain back.
  31. I don’t believe in blaming others, and I don’t want to spend time with people who do. Unfortunately, this runs rampant in the corporate world, and you don’t get choice about working with these people.
  32. In the name of “getting the job done,” I have treated others in a way I would not want to be treated, and I’m not proud of that.
  33. Deferring happiness until you’re old enough to retire is not a good investment of your time.
  34. Often, during a long commute to work, I would think: “If this is my last day alive, I’m going to be pissed.”
  35. You never know when your last day will be.
  36. I need to do it now.

To anyone out there who may be reading this and wishing they could quit their jobs, I say, you can do it. And it’s ok if it takes you a while to get there. It’s ok if you don’t know what you will do yet. It’s ok if you need to stay at that job a little bit longer. Use the time to learn something. Hone your skills. Feed your passions. Work your ass off. And never loose sight of your big ridiculous dreams, whatever they may be.

I’ve been a little quite lately in the course of managing this transition, but more good things are coming soon. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Till then, I’m on my way home. I’ll be picking up some colorful hair dye on the way.

xoxo!

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