The List of Uns

Maya, my white-pawed, chronically grumpy cat, is not good in a crisis.

She likes to play chase, but every time I chase her she panics, becomes paralysed by indecision, and finally runs into the nearest corner and flips onto her back.

I’ve explained to her plenty of times that in the wild, this would really be seen as less of a survival strategy and more of a suicidal strategy, but no amount of practice has made her any better at evading fake predators. Every. single. time. she is chased, she does the same thing. You can see it happen. The pupils dilate, her eyes flick madly from side to side as she considers her options, and by the time I’ve reached her it’s too late for her to escape and so she just flings herself into a corner, completely at my mercy.

At first, I thought it was hilarious. Thank God there are no large eagles about that might pick her off the balcony as a snowy snack. I’ve seen The Proposal and that’s the only part of it that has stuck in my mind. Eagles are a considerable hazard for small white pets, apparently.

Lately though, I don’t find it as funny because I’ve realised that we have a lot in common, Maya and I.

Guys. GUYS.

It’s been ages. I know. I missed you!

The truth is, I rang in 2019 with good food and great friends.

…And it was all downhill from there.

I got sick. I spent a full seven days of the first month of the year staring at the ceiling and punctuating the silence with a honking cough that made me sound like a forlorn  (but still aggressive) Canadian goose. I curled myself into a comma and lay there, an entirely useless lump of humanity, as things piled up around me. Layers of clothes carelessly tossed on the ground became small hillocks. The work I didn’t feel well enough to do stacked up. The list of chores I had ambitiously made at the beginning of the year grew longer and longer and longer until it covered four or five pages spread across three different notebooks.

By the time I had mostly* recovered, I was faced by an incoming tsunami of Uns. Christmas presents ungiven. Friends uncontacted. Work unprepared. Tasks untaken-care-of. Shows unwatched. Food uneaten. E-mails unsent.

The list of Uns was very long.

Instead of diving under the wave like I should have, I made the mistake of letting it crash over me. Instead of bracing myself for the onslaught, I just… slipped under the surface.

In other words, I pulled a Maya.

I panicked. I found a corner, and I flipped belly up, paws outstretched, waiting to drown in a sea of Uns.

The past week and a half has been a string of all-nighters and wide-eyed, sleep-deprived flurries of frantic activity interspersed with many, many tea breaks. On Friday, I was in bed by 9pm, exhausted by my attempts to claw my way back to normality. My list is still long, I still have a lot to do, but today I feel capable, or at least prepared. I have my inflatable armbands on. I have decided not to run headfirst into any more corners.

Okay 2019, let’s be having you.

*I still have a cough but it now sounds like a small dog’s bark and comes on with hardly any warning at all, surprising both me and my cats.

A Last First Kiss

 

We had been sitting next to each other – awkwardly at first, then more comfortably – for about an hour. I could feel his thigh pressed against mine. When he moved his arm, I felt his sleeve brush against my sleeve. He made bad jokes and gave me lopsided smiles while I babbled non-stop in an effort to disguise my nerves. He took a phone call and unfolded himself from the couch to pace the room, so I moved to the window to look out over the river. Even from across the room I felt like there were delicate filaments of feeling tying us together, vibrating with the low sound of his voice and the shy uncertainty woven through my every action. I absent-mindedly flicked through a stack of DVDs as he wrapped up the call, and then he crossed the room until he was standing right in front of me, toe to toe.

“So?” I said.

He smiled down at me. “So.”

My gaze slid sideways to avoid meeting his eyes.

“Are we going into town?”

“No.”

I looked up then to find him looking down at me with an intensity he hadn’t had earlier. I felt it; a strange, electric thickness that hung in the air between us.

And then he dipped his head.

And then his lips met mine.

And that was my last first kiss.

******************************************************************

I was thinking today about being single.

Not longing after it, or wondering how it would be to be single now (although the thought of Tinder makes me deeply uncomfortable), but rather thinking about how I felt when I was single. I loved being single. I enjoyed myself immensely. If ‘love is… selfless‘ then ‘being single is… never having to compromise‘, and there is an unrestricted joy in that. You can do everything for yourself, by yourself, whenever you want, however you want. Your time is your own. There are a lot of things to love about it.

Still, if I were asked what I loved most about being single, it wouldn’t be that I had more me-time, or that I never had to compromise on holiday destinations.

It would have to be the microsecond before a first kiss.

I don’t mean casual first kisses. I don’t mean spin-the-bottle kisses, or truth-or-dare kisses, or seven-minutes-in-heaven kisses. I don’t mean prearranged kisses at teen discos, or kisses that are granted through friends of friends. I mean the few first kisses with people who matter. I mean the monumental first kisses; the kisses that feel like they might change everything and turn your world right on its head.

There is a strange magic about that sliver of time. That fraction of a second before your lips meet is loaded with possibility and hope and anticipation and excitement and sometimes a tiny flicker of fear. There are infinite lifetimes contained within that split moment. It’s like pulling hard on a lever to suddenly and irreversibly switch tracks. It sets you down a course that might lead anywhere. It might take you to a beautiful place, or on a short but scenic route on the way to somewhere else, or it might lead you through a dark tunnel… or it might just send you smack into the side of a mountain before burying you in a landslide of despair.

You have no way of knowing.

If you’re anything like me, all of these barely-thoughts and almost-feelings fuse into a single burst of energy that electrifies the air. Trepidation, lust, expectation, unease, desire and apprehension slam into the thrill of the unfamiliar to create an exhilarating mixture and, in all of its innocence, I honestly think it’s the most wholesome form of intoxication.

Now, my last first kiss is behind me* and instead, in the future, I’ll be experiencing subcategories of that kiss: first kiss as a wife**; maybe first kiss as a mother***. Who knows?

Here’s what I do know:

I pulled the lever and switched tracks that day without hesitation, and I have never regretted it. That’s pretty unusual for an overthinker such as myself, who goes back and forward over the same patch of memory with the fine-toothed comb of anxiety, worrying and wondering about all the other ways things might have gone and might still go.

So while I miss first kisses of that magnitude, I don’t regret having kissed them goodbye.

(And I don’t regret that pun, either.)

 

*Barring some awful tragedy. Touch wood.

**Typing that felt like an out-of-body experience. The word ‘wife’ sounds bizarre when you’ve been a girlfriend for so long. I already struggle with ‘fiancee.’

***(shudder of fear)

36 Questions: The Third Question

 

Today’s question is strangely intimate.

I feel like there’s something about it that gives you an embarassingly personal insight into my life. Then again, I think I’ve probably covered that in previous posts, and honestly there are posts coming up with far, far more intimate information, so I suppose this is really just tiny training wheels for the future.

Also, if you haven’t realised I’m a bit weird by now, there’s probably no hope for you. You need to work on your cray-dar.

You know, like gaydar, but for crazy people.

Yes I just made that up. You can use it. Don’t credit me.

SO!

Now we get into it.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?Why?

Okay.

First of all, can we all agree that in this day and age, phone calls are unnecessary. Unless you are having a crisis, or need to tell me something that cannot be trusted in writing, or I know you almost as well as I know myself, there is absolutely no need for you to call me. That’s what Whatsapp is for. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat. Communicate with me in a way that gives me time to go over my reply please. I’m in the Slow Learner group and apparently I still haven’t mastered the art of french braids (STILL!) or telephonic communication.

Secondly, I would just like to state for the record that phone calls make me deeply uncomfortable.

Not all phone calls, obviously. When I need to call Scrubs to remind him to pick up two litres of milk because I’ve guzzled the entire household supply overnight, I don’t even think twice about it. When I call my friend to catch up on life, I don’t feel anxiety. I’m fine with friends and family. I know their voices. I understand their intonations and their pauses and the words unspoken behind the words that are said aloud.

BUT.

“Official” calls – anything even slightly professional – is a different matter entirely. If I have to call a stranger or a business, I will rehearse what I’m going to say because I suddenly develop the most ridiculously irrational fears.

Hypothetical 1: The other person answers the phone and I involuntarily vomit out random noises instead of words. Just… a string of consonants and vowels with no meaning. It just spews out of me and I have no control at all over what I’m saying.

…After a brief pause, the person on the other side of the phone says, “Excuse me?” and I hang up in a cold sweat.

Not ideal.

Hypothetical 2: The other person answers the phone and I start my sentence, only to completely forget what I wanted to say. Half a sentence hangs awkwardly in the air like a deflating balloon while I frantically struggle to remember where I was going with this now meandering disaster of a phrase.

via GIPHY

…The person on the other end of the phone eventually assumes I’m having technical difficulties rather than just moronic social ones and hangs up, shrugging to themselves.

Also, not ideal.

So yes, to avoid either of these nightmare scenarios, I rehearse what I’m going to say. I don’t rehearse it word by word, sentence by sentence – I’m not that anal – but I roughly sketch out what it is I need from the call, and how I’m going to start the conversation.

As if that will somehow vaccinate me from the risk of stumbling over syllables.

Ha!

As the phone rings, I feel butterflies. Not the nice kind of butterflies that are a little addictive, but the horrible, biting kind of butterflies that flutter around in your stomach with tiny butterfly petrol bombs, gleefully lobbing them at your stomach lining like insect arsonists. Then, in my mind, a spider diagram erupts with all the possible conversational catastrophes that might happen during the call, and I scramble to cover every possible base before the other person picks up the phone.

And then there’s that tell-tale click, and the other person intones their robotic greeting that always ends with, “How can I help you?,” and it’s as if there’s a tiny man in the wings with a clipboard who has been counting down from five, and now he just yells “GO! GO! GO!” and I stutter to life, and trot out my own rehearsed line to get the call going.

“Hiiiiiii…..!”

 

The End Of The World As We Know It

Fresh oranges

Yeah, you all know what this is going to be about.

I had something else in mind to write about today, but then I remembered that an egotistical bloated orange is being sworn in as president of the United States, and so this is possibly our last day of blessed normalcy for a while.

So here I am, writing about that instead.

I spent some time in San Diego just before the election. In the run-up to my trip I felt cocooned in my safe web of world media telling me that Clinton had it in the bag. Wonderful, I thought. Worst case scenario, America will have their first female president, and the human goldfish will go back to reality television where I can go back to ignoring his existence.

I won’t dive into what I feel to be the extremely problematic voting system in America except to point out that the United States has a population of almost 319 million people – 319. million. people. – and yet from a country that large, that diverse, with that many citizens, Hilary* and Donald were chosen as the two best candidates for the job.

Now, it’s not my country, and you could claim it’s none of my business, but I think I speak for the world at large when I say we would like to suggest that America see this as a sort of gentle nudge, if you will. Except, perhaps not so gentle. In fact, more of a forceful shove, because when your presidential election cycle whirls by like an East Asian typhoon causing nothing but chaos and disruption, it might be a good idea to call a Time Out and reassess your political process.

Just saying.

Anyway, so I’m in San Diego, and I’m feeling pretty good about life because let’s face it, San Diego is beautiful, and the streets are clean, and the weather is sunny, and the people are gorgeous, and the Nordstrom Racks are caves of treasure, and the roads are wide enough that a Boeing 747 could probably land without major concern, and there are dogs EVERYWHERE**… and then, suddenly, my little bubble of happiness is popped rather unexpectedly by a gathering of boisterous Trump supporters heaving giant placards onto a bridge crossing the freeway.

I begin to look around me and take note of the fact I haven’t seen a single Hilary bumper sticker.

Sidenote: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Americans, it’s that they love their bumper stickers. I cannot pretend to understand this phenomenon. Every time I saw a bumper sticker I would crane my neck to get a good look at the driver, and then picture them monologuing to themselves:

“I have bought a car! It is a lovely car, and when I drive it, everyone will think, ‘that person is driving a lovely car!‘ But that’s not enough. I want them to know more about me. I cannot happily make the drive from my front door to the car park at Target without the people behind me at every single red light knowing that I love Jesus/my cats/surfing, or that I support the United States Marines/Donald Trump/the legalisation of marijuana, or that I hate Mitsubishi/idiots who can’t drive/Shania Twain. This is the one thing that truly defines me – that gets to the very essence of me – and I must print it on a sticker and slap it on my rear window for all the world to see. YOU WILL KNOW ME!”

And then I would sit back and wonder what my bumper sticker would say if I had one. Maybe ‘You do you!‘ or just a thumbs up emoji with ‘You’re doing great!‘ to try to spread a bit of positivity. I have the same feelings towards bumper stickers as I do towards tattoos; I don’t think there’s anything I really feel strongly enough about to have it as the one standout feature on my car/skin.

/Sidenote.

I had seen multiple cars purposely defaced with Trump slogans in crude white marker or neon pink paint. I had seen Bernie stickers by the dozen. I had even seen a ‘Giant Meteor 2016’ sticker.

20161030_111322

I hadn’t seen a single Hilary sticker.

I started to feel a chill up my spine. I turned to Scrubs, wide-eyed with apprehension.

“We haven’t seen a single Hilary sticker,” I said gravely.

“So?”

“So what if Trump wins this thing?”

“He won’t,” Scrubs reassured me, patting my hand.

“WHAT IF HE DOES? This is like when we were in London just before the Brexit vote, and we saw David Cameron derided on national television and realised it might actually happen! This is just like that! Trump might actually win! We won’t be able to move here and live our dream life of sunshine and dogs if he actually wins!”

Scrubs fanned my face. “There, there” he said. “Shhh. It’ll be okay.”

It was not okay.

It was a mess.

People bought into his rhetoric despite his proclamations having absolutely no basis in reality. They cheered his “plans” despite there being no plans, actually, if you paid attention. I transcribed a number of his speeches, and the thing that struck me most was the feverish enthusiasm of a crowd that was hearing the words coming out of his mouth, but not listening. They chanted fervently, drowning out the fact that his sentences barely made sense, and if they did make sense, they were impossible pipe-dreams.

He could have been saying anything at all, and their earnest loyalty would have carried them along on a wave of devotion, their blind hope making it possible to paper over his contradictory statements. It was impressive. It was inspiring, in some ways.

And it was frightening.

Today, Donald Trump, a man with no plan beyond inflating his own ego, takes office in one of the most powerful countries in the world. He has shown complete disregard for tradition. He has shown complete disregard for the White House press corps. He is unpredictable, he is hypersensitive, and he will now be president of the United States. He could have chosen to surround himself with more experienced, bipartisan people in an attempt to bring the country together, but instead he has chosen to surround himself with cronies and right-wing fanatics. He has the capacity to sever diplomatic ties with long-standing allies. He has the capacity to pull out of trade deals and international organisations. He has the capacity to sink the world economy into another recession.

Of course these are worst case scenarios. I hope that none of them come to pass. I hope he is reined in, and his twitter account is taken off him, and that the people in government remember they serve the people – all the people – and not just their own interests or beliefs. I hope that America can find a way to knit itself back together and be true to its self-styled identity as ‘home of the free, land of the brave’.

And not just because I would love to live in San Diego.

For now, I’m off to find some butter popcorn so I can watch the inauguration in style. Let’s all cross our fingers tightly and wait and see what tomorrow brings.

*Despite the fact that I believe almost anyone would be a better president than Trump, I really don’t believe any candidate should be the son/wife/cousin/grandchild of a previous president. Again, there are 319 million people out there! It’s just downright lazy. Pull your socks up, America.

**I have a theory that any place with a lot of dogs must have lovely citizens. Dogs make people happy, happy people are nicer people, therefore dog-friendly places have nicer people! Q.E.D.