Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Stonehenge and the Old Horse

Stonehenge: My house.

There are dozens of intricate stacks of packed boxes. Brown like stones. Towers of boxes. It is creepy living among them. Druids will be here soon.

The Old Horse: Me. I have sorted and packed and run errands and made phone calls and done yard work and sorted and packed and carried giant bags of stuff to throw away and cleaned out my office and gotten new tires on the car and have stayed up all night for many nights in a row, packing, then sleeping from 7 a.m. to noon. I feel like a pitifully old swaybacked horse who is dragged toward the track each day, whipped by a sadistic little tight-crotched jockey as I froth and wheeze to the finish line of the daily derby. Then I am allowed to lie under a tree in the pasture, just long enough to figure out which part of me hurts the most. Today it was my left hoof.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

When Your Tank Is Empty

Scott and I have talked a lot lately about how it feels to leave your familiar life behind and careen into something wholly new. In 2004 he left Los Angeles after 18 years in the music business to try something different in Phoenix. He did this alone and felt the emptiness that came with watching all things familiar in the rear-view mirror.

The jarring feeling I'm living with, all day every day, is one of feeling totally lost. As Scott puts it: Your tank is being emptied. And it'll feel like hell until you start to fill it up again (i.e. new friends, new church, new job). He carried the metaphor further and said maybe while the tank is empty, this is a good time to check out its condition, scrub the inside, etc.

I then demanded that he stop stretching the tank metaphor. It was about to snap like a rubber band around a watermelon.

But he's right. And actually I can't help looking at what I have left after life as I knew it has been poured out onto the ground and the campfire is snuffed.

One thing I've been reminded of, one thing I really didn't want to invite back into the light of day: The people I need to forgive. There are a few. I've needed to forgive them for a long-ass time, and still I haven't. Forgiving is hard. There's a church marquee near here that says "Life is an adventure in forgiveness." Yeah. My ass. "Adventure" is going to the mall. It's running from a garden snake. It's meeting Fabio. Forgiveness is more like having your head rammed into a bucket of shit. It's dark and unpleasant and smelly and you just want it overwith. I know: forgiveness is supposed to be so much better for you after you do it. Blah blah. I still haven't.

Here's a poem I wrote a couple years ago when I was making a semi-annual effort to just get over some old stuff. I'll forgive you if you don't read it.

Trying to Forgive

I've been told that it's helpful to look past the rotten things

he did to me. Look all the way beyond who he is

and picture a small version of Jesus living inside him

like a little plastic statue, down near the base of his spine.

Then I should aim my forgiveness there, shoot it out

like a golden thread of light, a divine laser beam

right smack dab onto his hidden Messiah.

Well, what if that Jesus is so small it would take

a forgiveness sharpshooter to hit it? A lousy aim like mine

hasn’t got a cat’s chance in hell of hitting a Jesus the size of a Junior Mint.

No really, I’m talking small. Like the head of the pin where the angels supposedly dance,

even their bunions holy and glowing with blessedness. Small, like a single scale

scraped off a fish the size of a comma.

Oh I know what you’re thinking—

that this story will turn around and I'll say

And then I realized that this sad small speck

I was looking for wasn’t the Jesus at all, but my own heart.

You want a poignant moment, something sweet,

like when the Grinch takes all the toys back to Whoville.

Yeah, I’d go for that story too, eat it up like a finger sandwich,

and wash it down with a nice herbal tea.

But my heart, dear reader, grew too large.

It turned into a steamroller and backed over me.

I am now a long stretch of highway.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Candy's (Happy) Emotional Bitchslapping

If you're reading this, you may have been at a Mexican restaurant with me an hour ago. You may be one of the people from work who threw me a Shock Party. Not a surprise party. Surprise implies something mild. Something like "Oh my goodness...the Pettigrews have added a new festive birdbath to their front lawn." or "That man is wearing nothing but a trenchcoat. And he's flinging it open." or "Uhm, OMG I totally did NOT want my bangs THAT short!"

Surprise is humdrum. Even though the Pettigrews are a fascinating people.

Tonight, one night after I sat grieving my final class at the Big Giant University, I had plans to go out with Teresa and Elizabeth from work. For dinner. At my favorite Mexican restaurant. Kind of a celebration/girl-talk hobnobbing to mark my moving far away from town, Elizabeth finishing her PhD and moving to a nearby town and moving in with her hot sig other Eric. Oooh. I just noticed that both their names start with "E." That's so cute. I could just wolf my guts. Teresa was to be left behind (not like the movie) to be our beloved anchor for our new far-off ports.

Teresa and Elizabeth have something in common. They are both sneaking, conniving, rotten, slithering, diabolical hags from the dark back alleyway of Deceptionville. Somehow, without Candy and her titanium-razor sharp powers of deduction catching on, Teresa and Elizabeth assembled a dozen people from work to send me off forever to Arizona.

I know. So what? Oh Candy, you're SO special because no one has ever ever ever had a going away party thrown for them.

It was more than that. For the last few months I've starting fully realizing how much this job and these people have been "home." And every time I've spoken to any of them at work lately, I'm half in the conversation and half inside my head watching an annoying little plane skywriting "THIS MAY BE THE LAST TIME YOU EVER SEE THIS PERSON." And that has sucked major donkey schlong.

Tonight, almost all those people I've been dreading missing were there. Letting me soak them in one last time, and tolerating me saying the foulest of the foul things to our Mexican waiters in broken Spanish, Spanish taught to me moments after I arrived at the restaurant. (If I didn't already know the waiters, I'd have been shivved.) Thank you Christa and Elizabeth for the new social nuances for my life in Phoenix.

The group (with Teresa and Eliz. at the helm) made me a scrapbook, a 35-page scrapbook filled with the best memories of my life. No really. The best. I have some good memories from college and a few from high school and various orange highway cones of joy along the road here and there. But time at the University has been set apart simply by the circumstances.

When I started teaching there 9 years ago, I was in pieces. I was in such pain that it felt like I was running around and around myself with a roll of duct tape, trying to hold the fragments together in case one day they might take a notion to join up again. I had just been dumped by my husband 6 months earlier. Here's the dramatic part: We had been living in Paris, France together and he asked me for a divorce on Christmas. CHRISTMAS DAY. In the city of friggin LIGHTS! I flew home, me and Hankie, the cat. The husband stayed behind and spent many thousands of dollars on French prostitutes. Say, this has that zany sitcom feel, doesn't it?

Long story short: I blasted apart emotionally and became the bits and pieces mentioned above. I stayed in bed for weeks. Hankie laid next to me, nonstop, the entire time. I couldn't eat. My sister, whose spare bedroom was housing us, would actually lift my head up and put tiny bites of food in my mouth and then let me curl up again. (It occurred to me years later that Hankie was like one of those cats who lives in a nursing home and goes to linger around the dying until they finally kak. I must've looked even worse than I thought.)

Healing has been a long, long time coming. The first semester I taught, I would teach my first class, then go sit in my car to cry, then go teach the second. That second class must have thought I was constantly stoned, judging from my red-rimmed eyes and slow wit. I would go to my cubicle and pretend to drop things on the floor under my desk so I could bend down and retrieve it and have a private 5-second cry.

Years passed. I made almost all new friends, so as not to rub elbows with anyone that might be friends with the ex. His toxicity was not unlike bird flu. I couldn't risk it.

I dated men who were the biggest wussies I had ever met, the biggest liars ("yes, my divorce is final") the biggest shitbags, emotional pygmies and just plain flocking weird ("I have to go home to put drops in my rabbit's ears. He has an infection.") I won't even go into the story of the guy who had 12 large hairless dogs, ALL wearing coats.

The point is, that not only did my new friends buoy me during all that, but they let me in on their various personalities (some of them housed in the same person) and spent hours in accumulated ongoing conversations between classes and student appointments and all that bullshit we were paid to do. They also shared my uber-happiness when I met THE guy. The love of my life. The only man who has ever had it in his power to embarrass me. The only man I would move across the country for.

[He was in on the party, by the way. I can never trust him again. If he keeps the planning of a surprise party from me, then how do I know he isn't out in the woods most of the time, wearing skunk pelts and writing a manifesto?]

In the fabulous scrapbook: Every single inside joke I have with any of the people at work, letters from friends in other states that none of the people at work even know, letters from some current and former students of mine, photos that I will laugh over until I'm too old and dementia-d to know what the hell book I'm drooling over as I struggle to unlodge my bedpan from my Sue Johannsen-y wrinkly ass. There was even a trio of photos in the scrapbook of this totally hot 6-foot-11 basketball player I used to have in my class. He was a college freshman, I was in my late thirties. I had such a puke-tastic crush on him that I could barely teach in his presence. I totally would've hit that.

I will not be able to describe the other gifts I was given tonight. Because I don't want people to find my blog from googling words like "p*nis sippy cup."

Wait, I'll describe one more gift.

I got the gift of a sobbing split second of not feeling my usual feeling: that if people are my friends, it is because they are tolerating me. Barely. The less I'm around, the better the chance that they'll still like me. A little. Not enough to give a rat's ass if I move away and am gone. Don't push your stupid luck, Candy.

I got to step out of that feeling for a little while. I'll go back, of course. Because it's as familiar to me as my own face. But the feel of the air outside that awful little paranoia-filled Winnebago was enticingly fresh. And my friends are the ones who kicked the door in.

Each one of you know (or should, and if you don't, see me after class) that I love you and that your friendship will feed me good stuff for the rest of my life. Come to see me in Phoenix. Relax by the pool. I will bring you a refreshing drink in a sippy cup I save only for special occasions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

How to Handle Massive Change in Your Life

I do not have the foggiest idea how. Which sucketh in a major way, since almost every facet of my life is being joggled and jerked inside the equivalent of a cosmic martini shaker.

Today I taught my very last day of class at the Big Giant University. I was a wussie. I cried. Some of my students got choked up too. Many of them are graduating next week and are as terrified to go into the great unknown as I am. We talked about what we were afraid of in our flurries of change, and about what we most certainly would not miss about our old lives. It was a fairly satisfying way to end my 9 years of teaching here. And that's about all I could hope for because I am truly too freaked out these days to go any higher than "fairly satisfying." I'm marrying the love of my life and still can't believe I found the perfect every-planet-lined-up-right-on-the-dot guy for me. And that's a very happy thing. But change is change, and my psyche wants a friggin' explanation.

Because I was too frazzled to go home after work, I did the thing that I seem to do when I'm teetering on the edge: I went to Walmart. I have no idea why I do it, but immediately after the last several jarring, nearly-unprocessable occurrences in my life, my car has taken over for me and driven to Walmart. Like magic. Maybe I need a big generic place filled with cheap retail goods where I can feel hidden in plain sight. It's comforting to get a shopping cart and stroll the aisles aimlessly. I know what to do with my hands. I keep them on the shopping cart. I can stop in the lightbulb aisle and take my water bottle out of my purse and take a slow sip until I figure out when to get moving again.

Today I bought some cans of cat food and some lipstick and a "Dreamgirls" DVD. I wanted a generic blockbuster to watch while I let my martini-shaken heart catch up with the events of the day. I bought a package of 5 Hershey's kisses. I went girlie and got some cool new steely gray eyeshadow. I got a People magazine with Drew Barrymore on the cover. She has been judged the most beautiful person in the country, you know. I got a 24 pack of Aquafina.

Still not quite able to go home yet, I gassed up my car and it was cold and gray and windy. My favorite weather. My hair whipped around my face and I stood there and enjoyed it because it bitchslapped me back into the moment. I lose the moment when the tectonic plates of my life are shifting. There is no more "now." Just the annoying smear of anxieties like when the hell am I putting my house on the market, how am I going to pack all this earthly crap I own, will my very elderly cat survive the 22 hour drive to the Southwest?

The cat. Hankie. I took him outside on his dapper purple leash and harness after I got home. The wind did a Medusa dance with my hair again and it made little crop circles on Hankie's fur.
I talked to my mom on my cell phone and used the sound of her voice to pull me back into myself. Usually when I'm lost like this, I call her and say "Guess where I am?" and she says "Walmart."

I don't know why this all feels like such a surprise to me. I knew I'd feel a little torn up about leaving a job that felt like home. Because so few places have ever felt like home to me. I sat my emotional self down months ago and warned her it would be this way. It would hurt and make my head feel like a newly discovered country where there was no dock for my boat. But it's like trying to prepare for impact when you see your car accident about to happen. The windshield never greets you politely like it said it would.