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Xposed

i’m dealing in the dark right now.  that’s not to say i’m selling drugs.  or that when i shuffle my hands i have all the lights out.  no, i’m just coming face to face with some of my ‘evil twin’ issues.

we all have a darker side; a darker nature.  it’s not always hard for me to look at, because i don’t mind having tattoos, fetishes, and an odd sense of art and beauty.  but when my failures, short comings and neurosis are exposed to others without me INTENDING that to happen – well, that gets a little embarrassing.

i guess i’ve had OCD since i was little.  second grade for sure.  one year i kept a pumpkin in my room after Halloween, i guess because i liked his crooked grin.  i’ve always liked Halloween the most (except for those few years in LA when i thought it might be more useful to pray for children being abducted and sacrificed in Satanic rituals rather than hand out sugary treats.  hey, not all my personalities are completely rational).  anyway, my little pumpkin grinned at me, with his crooked impish smile day after day.  and then his smile got more impish and crooked, cause he started deteriorating. 

i didn’t know anything about composting and biological decay, so one day i lifted his head up, to look inside.  a head full of black, spider-webby growth looked up at me and made me crazy.  dark ickies, growing right inside my room; creepy, stinky moss stuff sending pores of poison into my nostrils.  OCD!!!  i mean, there are many other reasons i am OCD, which might get covered later. 

anyway, i’ve known i’m this way for a while, but i usually try to find jobs and situations that HELP me manage my condition.  have a routine.  work at the same desk.  have a consistent schedule.  but now – because of circumstances out of my control – i’m working in an environment that is forever changing and completely unpredictable.  it is chaotic, busy, and rapid response is needed all the time.  it’s not that i’m not smart enough to handle the pressure…i just have a way of doing things that minimizes my stress reactors and freak out responses.  and i have no real set way of dealing with these things in my current position and situation, so my OCD becomes very apparent, even to those who don’t work with me.

this is embarrassing.  i feel like an idiot when people notice and comment that i’m doing the same thing over again, or i got confused about what to do next because they messed up my piles of stuff.  i feel exposed and naked when someone notices that i have re-packed a box of books and materials because i didn’t like the way they fit into the container, and i think i could get more in there if i rearranged things.  and it’s really embarrassing when i freak out over something stupid and meaningless because i am tender, sensitive and uncertain about my lovability. 

it’s embarrassing being me sometimes.

i mean, it’s wonderful and fascinating as well.

colorful and magical.  it’s exhilarating, curious, fun, and

hmmmm…now, why was i embarrassed again?

challenge of the day ~ or ~ Mess of Life; 09/03/2011

i’m supposed to be working on my book today.  for those of you who are frequent flyers here at accidental happiness airlines, you may recall that i am writing a book of memoirs.  no?  oh, well i did tell you, so you must have missed that blog.  this was the weekend i intended to finish up the final editing; but life’s little lessons get in the way, and i see i must face some of my demons before i share them with the world.

Demon #1:  Shyorcifel  (also known as fear of intimacy)

i’ve been getting in touch with friends from my past, and i see that the vast majority of folk my age have spouses and children and homes.  i began to scold myself today for not having a lover, and what is wrong with me, and all of that kind of thing.  but i realized pretty quickly that the reason i am still single is that i never let anyone get close, and i never let men (or most of my friends for that matter) see the real me.  it’s scary to think that you would hope in someone to love you on your worst day, with a big juicy zit on your nose, and no makeup on, walking around in yoga pants with holes in the ass, and then your supposed to trust that this person loves you when they’ve been around you at these times?  when you’ve done something sinister or selfish?  when you’ve told about your horrid past and how messed up you are?  see, it’s easier to just never get to that level.

and that’s why i’m still single.  so i have to wrestle with the intimacy demon and work out the kinks in my emotional vulnerability quotas.

Demon #2:  Keeperoscipase  (also known as Obssessive Hoarding)

ok, i’m not actually a hoarder.  i lovingly refer to it as ‘being a Picker’.  i collect.  and while i love my books and papers and ephemera, my toys and clothes and crafts, i’m not going to be auditioning for “Hoarders” anytime soon.  but – having watched my first episode today – i can see that i am made of the same fabric as these others. we are people who are afraid.

afraid of losing someone.  afraid of letting go of the past.  afraid of living in the now, and the uncertainties of life.  afraid of forgetting something, or not having what we need, or throwing away something important or of value.

afraid of letting people in.  afraid of looking deep inside.  afraid of admitting we’ve been hurt, killed, beaten, worn down, abused, neglected and abandoned.  afraid of being seen for what we are: weak, vulnerable, and hurting.

but hey!  look at that.  the entire human race is in this category.  and while i might wash my hands too many times after tucking away another thirty copies of fiction titles i’ll never read, you might be socking down your thirteenth bottle of Labatts, or losing the use of your right arm due to a slip up with a bookie.

we’re all of us broken, wounded, beautiful creatures.  and the fascinating part of life is watching each of us uncover the treasure beneath all the outer layerings of crap.

creep swapping

life is all about balance.  which sucks for me, because i fall over a lot. 

but for every horrible day, for every evil jerk-faced mean person there is a wonderful day and a delightfully kind person.  well ok, i don’t know if there is an EXACT balance to these things, but let’s hope so.  in my case today, things turned out pretty even-Steven.

some days you get stuck dealing with people you don’t want to.  like the guy at work that keeps making innuendos about me, my boobs, the feminine persuasion.  today he talks of unemployment, and that women can always fall back on that one career, so we’ll never really be unemployed, which he says to me with a sideways smirk.  nice.  i hope to god this guy doesn’t think he is flirting with me, ‘cause boy is he gunna be surprised when i sic the security guards after him.  or use my feminine karate skills on his skull.  let’s see who’s laying on their back NOW!

last night our heat went out.  great time of year to have your heater go on the blink, the dead end of winter when it was all of 19 today.  ugh.  i come home to my sister after my day of cootie-filled men, obnoxious yellers, and ding dongs, and find that the heater guy never came back to fix the heater.  crikies.  she’s had to deal with him several times yesterday and today, and i was hoping it would all be done.  not because i want the heat fixed (which i do!  dang it’s cold!) but because this handyman gives me the willies.  he’s creeped me out a couple different times, commenting on how cute i am, or how good i look today, or making talk like he thinks he’s funny or flirting or something vile.  it’s happened enough times to make me uncomfortable, but he doesn’t irritate my sister. 

and lo and behold, my happy moment.  this guy is nowhere to be found.  so while my sister runs off to HER job, i stay at home and wait for the OTHER creepy guy, who creeps out my sister but doesn’t actually bother me.  he’s just got OCD (like me) and says things over and over and over and over again before he does anything.  yeah, the heater’s broken. broken. broken.  that’s fine, doesn’t phase me at all. at all. so we end up swapping creeps and we didn’t even plan it!

i love good luck.  or creep swapping.  well, both. 

(i think i posted this the other day, but i didn’t see it, if it’s up i’ll delete, and sorry for being redundant!!)

the eyebrow arch nemesis

 

I love that men are apparently attracted to me, despite my atrocious eyebrows. 

It just goes to show that fashion experts and the makeup industry don’t always count on the sheer force of phermones and the male libido.  They’d like us to believe that we have to have the perfect skin, the perfect nose, the slenderest figure and the most fashionable wardrobe.  And you should smell intoxicating and also have minty fresh breath.  Oh, and also perfect eyebrows, that should go from the inner corner of your eye to the other outer corner, and be perfectly shaped, and arch just so.

Screw you.  Mine won’t do that.

Look, I’ve tried;  I’ve tweezed, and plucked, and individually yanked out eyebrow hairs for years.  Well, the yanking part is usually when I’ve gotten nervous about something, and I’m on the phone and distracted and suddenly feel a “stray” eyebrow hair, so I manically start sending my brows to the nudist colony.  But hey, I’m OCD – it comes with the territory sometimes.

I’ve had a perpetual struggle with my eyebrows.  At age seventeen, I clocked myself a good one and forever altered the existence of the perfect brow.  I had a fabulous loft back then, and climbed a little ladder morning and night to reach my Princess and the Pea type bed.  LOVED IT!   However, one morning – far too early for a teenager – my alarm went off and startled me awake.  I didn’t usually get up THIS early, so my body wasn’t accustomed to the shocking beeps of the annoying alarm I kept on a ledge under my loft.  I also didn’t usually leave my closet door open at night (monsters, you know), but I did that night, and when I went to turn off my alarm – WHAM! – right into the top edge of the closet door.  That smack woke me up for sure.  It also gave me a Rocky Balboa split eye with the blood to match, PLUS a shiner that actually would have matched my cheerleading outfit really well, since our colors were purple and gold.  But this was basketball season and we were wearing the dreaded white uniforms (WHITE?  on a pasty white chick in the middle of winter?  who comes up with these ideas??)

Anyway, since then my right eyebrow has been an arch nemesis.  ha ha.  The small scar I have in the eyebrow might not be noticeable if it weren’t for the fact that the hairs around the scar all seem to have lost direction.  They’ve been drunk for years, all going the wrong way and giving my brow a sort of Einsteinian hairdo.  Taming them is impossible, and making them look presentable takes effort, will and sometimes imagination. 

And yet, despite my wonky, devil-may-care eyebrows, men still seem to find me attractive and sexy.   I suppose the double D’s might help, and the big blue eyes and pouty lips.  But I’m just pointing out here, eyebrows are not the answer.  Those skinny snakes from the 20’s and 30’s that were penciled in razor thin.  The full wild eighties brows, sans tweezers.  Straight eyebrows, curved, arched, bent, waxed, trimmed or colored.  It doesn’t matter.  I’d like to postulate that there are very few women who could entice a man with her eyebrows alone.  Mata Hari, maybe.  And probably Sophia Loren.  Though Loren could certainly lure a man with simply the exotic smell of her belly button lint, if that’s what she chose to use.  Vixen, that one.  But there is more to sex appeal than the perfect brow.  And while I don’t know what the magic answer is to feeling beautiful daily and getting the man you want, I do know that it involves more than a tiny pair of pliers.

thank god for television

 

Back in the old days – by which I mean the seventies and eighties, when I was a kid – we didn’t have the selection of television we have today. Today you can watch TV 24-7. You can turn on the tube at 4:00 in the morning and catch a movie or a cooking show or sports updates. You can watch primetime TV whenever you want, if you DVR it. In my day, back when there weren’t cell phones and iPods and we’d just invented butter, there was still a wacky annoying signal at around 1:00 in the morning, when the television would stop playing EVERYTHING and just show you bars of color and yell at you. Or sometimes it showed the head of an Indian, I think, or some other symbol. Or maybe that was my stint in Oklahoma; maybe that was a local symbol. Anyway, you couldn’t just watch whenever you darn well wanted to.

And the selection was severely limited. News at night. 3 channels worth of drama, soap operas and sitcoms. Saturday night movies. Cartoons in the morning and Saturdays. The end. Oh yeah, PBS. J Now there are whole channels devoted to cooking, or the weather, or *FOOTBALL* (we have NFL Network on all the time)

So my recent happiness is this: Lie To Me (which isn’t a recent happiness, really. I’ve been in love with it and slightly obsessed since the show came out. A. Tim Roth is DELICIOUS in this show. could the man have more intense sexuality and charm? hardly possible. B. It’s fabulous, fascinating, funny, charming and witty. ) and then recently The OCD Project. For obvious reasons, but if you’re new to me here’s a helpful hint: I have OCD.

I can’t recall having ever seen a show that specifically talked about people with OCD. Movies, like the Aviator and Dirty Filthy Love, have broached the topic. But I can’t remember ever seeing something on TV myself that dealt with this issue. This show was fascinating. And disturbing. I certainly don’t have the condition to the severity that the people on the show did, but I could appreciate what they were going through. One girl is afraid of killing people when she drives. Her father was killed in an accident when he was a pedestrian (I think; I missed that episode) and now she is terrified she is going to kill someone the same way. When she drives up to a busy intersection she gets nervous, panicky and has to circle around the block a couple of times to make sure she didn’t accidentally mow someone over without noticing. It sounds like she developed OCD just after her father’s death. Another girl developed it after her fiancée died of cancer. She flips light switches on and off about a jillion times, and does this with the water faucet as well.

On. Off. On. Off. onoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoffonoff.

It gets tiring being this way. But I was glad I got to see this series. I had the chance to see these people calm themselves down. I missed the episode where they teach the OCD’ers how to gauge to what degree they are freaking out, but they all talked about “levels”. “What’s your level right now?” And someone would say 100, or 85. Level of crazy discomfort, I know, but I have to find out how they determine what the numbers are. The interesting thing about this whole condition seems to be that it is built around trying to stave off emotional disturbance. These ticks, or habits, or “rituals” – as the doctor on the show calls them – develop because the person is trying to avoid something. A situation, a memory, an emotion. And to avoid that fear, the person develops little things to occupy their attention. And then those things develop a life of their own and sort of take over, like The Blob. As these people learn to deal with the panic they are feeling about whatever issue they are working through, they start to ride through the emotion instead of run away from it. In one episode a girl who was attacked by a stranger struggles to keep her sanity while the doctor puts his hands on her face. She has a fear of men, and intimacy, and touching now that she’s been attacked, and he walks her through what is called an “exposure”. Exposures force you into the thing you are afraid of. So she sits and cries and cowers as he holds her face in his hands. And at first she is so tense you can feel it in YOUR stomach. But he stays there. And after a while her “levels” start coming down. And you can see she’s doing better. It’s a slow process, but you can tell her face is calmer, her body is less rigid, and she isn’t about to explode.

This was so helpful for me, as an OCDer. And also watching an episode of Lie To Me, where they had an ex-soldier who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They did a similar thing with him, walking him through an old upsetting memory, until he had recovered it more accurately and could then determine why he had the erroneous belief that everyone was trying to kill him. (it wasn’t everyone, just one guy in particular) I, too, struggle with thinking people want to kill me, because there have been several people in my life who have threatened to do so, or tried. But hey, not EVERYONE wants to. So these shows have been showing me how I can walk myself through these situations. I’m trying to learn that what I’m feeling will pass, and the panic will subside. I’m trying to get past the hammering of my heart, and the way my legs go out from under me when certain situations make me feel vulnerable or insecure. There is a particular situation that does this to me every time, and my knees buckle, till I think I’m going to land my ass on the floor, and my heart is about to jump the confines of my chest, and my head is dizzy and the blood is pounding in my ears. I wonder what level that is? But I guess the thing to do is ride through it, and hope my heart doesn’t explode as I do.

mess of life, stardate July 9-present, part 2

 

I have throat issues. I’ve mentioned already (see “Spontaneous Stripper Disorder”) that I sometimes have the need to change my clothes. One of these reasons is the neckline of any particular garment. Now, sometimes I can comfortably wear a turtle neck. And other days a wide open boat collar feels too enclosing. I frequently have issues with the crew neck collars of tee-shirts, and feel the need to make alterations to the clothing via scissors, other pokey instruments, or just angry hands. I can wear chokers and necklaces, but I never know for how long. Because, as I said, I have throat issues.

I’ve been involved in a number of dangerous and life threatening situations. I’ve had someone choke me. I’ve had someone threaten to slit my throat open with a knife. I’ve been pinned to the wall. I’ve been hit in the face. I’ve had the aforementioned axe incident, where I was attacked by a man swinging an axe at me. I’ve been accosted in a public place, and THEN pinned to a wall. I’ve been pinned to the ground and assaulted. And all of this by different people, so it’s not like I got a handle on who was the consistent, reliable perpetrator. Soon, EVERYONE was a possible perpetrator. And eventually I learned not to allow my back to people. Because now my fear is that I will be attacked. It’s not like a conscious fear I’ve been aware of. All of these situations happened before my adult life, so I developed an undercurrent of thinking that involved people wanting to kill me. Because it seemed like that was the big thrill everyone wanted to get in on. So I became afraid of sitting with my back to people in a restaurant. I became nervous riding full busses. I heightened my awareness and threw up a bunch of walls, and tried to be sure I could see everything around me when at all possible. At least this way if some giant of a man comes at me wielding a sharp instrument I will be ready. This time I will be prepared to die.

Even with all of this vigilance, I haven’t been able to necessarily fend off the death threats. I’ve had two people talk about killing me while I was at my workplace. And several stalkers in my time. And now I’m being asked to sit at my obviously inferior workspace and allow the world to come and slit my throat from behind.

So I’ve been having numerous meltdowns. I cry all the time. I almost fainted at work when I showed my sister my horrid little hovel. My heart rate has been incredibly off the charts for days now. I’m twitchy and nervous and fearful. I hyperventilate when I’m brushing my teeth in the bathroom. And lying on the couch. And making a sandwich. I’m soft and sullen and wounded. I have a perpetual woeful look on my face. Or I think I do…I haven’t been looking in the mirror a lot, but the facial muscles I’m using FEEL woeful. Yes I know, they’ve told me they will work on it. It is hopeful that I will be able to turn my desk a different direction, even though I was told this was NOT possible the day they told me about this whole situation. So maybe it won’t be as bad as it was presented to me. Maybe after a while I will realize that the situation isn’t horrible at all, and I just worked myself up into a lather over the idea of imminent death, when the Death wasn’t really knocking at my door at all. It was just the Avon lady, maybe, with my order of frizzy hair control product.

Still, for the past five days I have been a bundle of nerves. Which just makes me have to run to the bathroom to get sick. Oh yeah! This might be one of my alters, and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her or not yet. Nervous Nellie. Hi, glad to meet you. If you couldn’t tell, Nervous Nellie has had plenty of things to be nervous about, and now she gets to go to work in this state of anxiety and tension, and try to perform menial tasks and duties, like walking and getting a drink of water.

On the positive side, I have been wanting to learn to let people in to my life, my world, and my heart. I wasn’t planning on doing that by becoming a vulnerable, messy, wreck of a human right in front of everyone I work with, but there you go. Now the poison’s out of the bottle, it’s not like I can shove it back in.

mess of life, stardate July 9 to present

 

Last weekend, around the fourth of July, Bodie and I watched a show that is airing on VH1, which is called the OCD Project. I love a lot of reality shows. Not the ones that turn into cat-fights over who slept with whom. Not the ones that take advantage of the tragic and public lives of celebrities, and their nasty habit of being human. But I do like a lot of these shows, because it’s freeing somehow to see other people react to situations, and to watch them display common, universal behaviors. Because too often, I tell myself that there is something wrong with me. For the whole of my life, that is what I have believed. In fact, for a long while I thought I was a curse, or a jinx, and that anyone that befriended me would suffer somehow.
Anyway, I digress. The OCD Project came at just the right time. I watched a few episodes, and saw a whole group of people struggle to do normal, average, everyday tasks that I assume a great majority of people can do without much effort. Wash a load of laundry. Drive a car at night. Turn off the lights when you get ready to go to bed. But for these people, it’s a matter of turning on and off the lights forty times. It’s synchronistic, I suppose, that I managed to squeeze three episodes of this show into my life before I too would be confronted with what they call “Exposures”. In an “Exposure”, you are forced to confront one of your issues, face to face.

So here is my Exposure.

They are moving my working area. And while this has happened before (actually, I think I’ve been relocated four times in the last year and a half) I have never had the situation provoke these emotions from me. I can’t think of a time when I’ve had such a tense work environment. First there is the negative energy that flows around the whole area I work in. Inner-department rivalry, bitterness, anger, and fairly open hostility have all gone unresolved for untold years. Complaints are abundant, and negative talk is fierce and rampant. For someone with my psychic awareness this is a difficult situation. But coupled with my trio of acronym illnesses (DID, PTSD, OCD) I’m fairly screwed. Oh sure, they all cover it up with sarcasm and passive aggressive mumblings. Still, it’s not the most supportive work environment I’ve experienced.

And now I’ve been shoved into a corner of the department that has been designated for broken objects in disrepair. I’ve been given a shitty table as my counter space, no computer for my work, and no shelving, organizational tools or anything to make my space workable or personal. While other people have private, decorated cubicles full of personal and luxury items, like coffee makers, extra furniture, tapestries and pictures of their kids, I have a busted table and boxes of shit underneath this table, so that I can’t even scoot my chair in all the way. I’ve been told we are ‘working on it’. Everyone else in the entire department – the entire FLOOR of the building has a nice unit, or at least a nice desk. Not me. They “might” be able to clear off one shelf for me, on their bookcase full of crap. If I’m nice. And good. And don’t bite anyone in the next three weeks. Which means I’m screwed again, because I’m definitely feeling a bite coming on…

But the bigger issue is the placement of the horrible table.

I look out the window, so that’s nice, but my back is to everyone that walks by. This is maybe not the worst thing in the world for some people, who would like nothing more than to turn their back on their fellow man. But for me, it’s a nightmare. Tune in tomorrow to find out why….

Choose your path…

 

I’m still alive.

Maybe that should be my motto in life.

What I mean is that I’m still alive, even though I haven’t been blogging lately. Not because I don’t have anything to say, or get off my chest, but because I haven’t had the strength to do it. To write about it. To expose myself.

And even there I’m wrong, because I have the strength, I just haven’t had the energy. It seems that many things have come on me at once, and I have had to face many dark and ugly skeletons in my closet all at the same time. I’ve talked on here about building a fortress for myself, like I were a little Rapunzel come to life from the fairy tales. Lately, it’s as if a herd of giants have bombed my fortress, while a devastating earthquake hit, while the draught ate up all my vegetable garden and the wicked witch stole off with my prince charming. And while I love my interesting, tragic, colorful life (because it makes for awesome poems and deep emotional writing) it is sometimes tiring and draining.

I shan’t reveal all my secrets here, because I imagine I can drag out my dramas for at least a few good blogs, but I feel I must at least lay down the basics of my current drama, for myself, and I guess to explain my absence to any stoppers by who have become regular visitors and were wondering if I’d finally gotten around to shooting myself. And no, because guns are loud. Knives are shiny and prettier. Also they can act as tools if you lock yourself out of the house, though I suppose you could bash in your window with your gun, so that argument doesn’t really hold much.

Several weeks ago, maybe months ago at this point, my mother came to visit, and I haven’t fully recovered from that. Not because of HER, exactly, but because parts of the visit brought up some very dark, very difficult realities in my life. There will be several blogs related to this issue when I am able to deal with actually talking about it all, but the whole thing has rattled me and made me vulnerable and nervous. Because of my condition – both the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the Dissociative Identity Disorder – I can’t always remember things. So this visit reminded me that my life was, in fact, horrible when I was young. And I guess this realization also tainted some of the reality I was choosing to believe.

I’m also having insomnia horribly bad. I’ve had insomnia since I was in about the third grade, so it’s always been a constant issue. But until recently, it’s been something that I can manage or deal with. It’s been hard, and frustrating, and exhausting throughout my life, true. But recently it has become physically unbearable. I’m so tired I ache. My head hurts, my body hurts, I’m nauseous and no matter what I do, I haven’t been able to sleep much lately. I burst into tears from the pain of the non-sleep. I stagger around, because I’m no longer just tired, I’m sleep deprived. Drinking has been helping the situation some, but hey, I have enough problems in my life, adding alcoholism to the list is not something I’m keen on. There are reasons for this upsurge in my sleeplessness, which again will be revealed when I can manage.

And I’m trying to open up to love, which is challenging, nervousy, worrisome and feels potentially threatening. It’s not like I haven’t been in love before; but I haven’t ever really opened myself up to people in general. I’m doing a great deal of work to make myself ready for the kind of relationship I deserve, and long for. But the whole process makes me have to look at myself, and my inner demons, my insecurities, and my feelings of un-worth. If I give my heart, will it be trampled? If I open myself up, will I have to mend my heart back together in the long run? I’ve conditioned myself to be protective, evasive, and funny. I skirt the difficult questions with a charming smile and a flippant answer. Asked recently what my father did for a living, I said, “Oh, you know…he’s a criminal”. Which isn’t entirely true, but somewhat. There are more honest and forthcoming answers, but I never truly believe that people want to hear the truth from me, which is conditioning both from my family and society.

Add to all of this my work place, which has become a strain. Since I also have OCD, I certainly don’t want to neglect that area of my crazy brain. So I’ve given myself a task in my workplace: go through intensive ‘exposure’ situations with an entire department of people to watch you. The reality of the situation is hilarious – I’m just having to move my desk to another department, a different location. But this particular location sets me up for a whole windfall of emotional issues and Post Traumatic wig-outs, and OCD management techniques. Again, I will share what I can in the future, but the bottom line is that at work, and in front of all of my co-workers, I will basically be confronting one of the worst and scariest fears and phobias I have as a human. And I feel as though I’m on a reality rehab show, and have to expose myself in front of the world, and air my dirty laundry to everyone around me. Which is quite different than typing on my laptop at home and sharing my dirty laundry with complete strangers. These people have to look me in the eye the next day, and try not to laugh at my stupid irrational phobias. I am ashamed, and fearful, and worried. I’m having panic attacks, and hyperventilating, and shaking. I’m crying, and feel faint, and worried that I’m going to fall apart in front of people that don’t understand me and probably don’t give a shit about my life.

So I’m tired. And small. And not much of a writer lately. I don’t have the ability to make things sound pretty, or interesting, or poetic. I’m just me. And it’s ugly. And raw. And very very vulnerable. But real. So what else can I do, but live through it, and stop and look at the paths ahead of me, and ask myself:  which path are you going to choose, Denelle?  LOVE?  Or Fear?

OCD day

Bleh!  OCD day!  don’t have much to say except YUCK!  why is everything always dirty, and stinky, and icky???

accidental happiness; stardate 6.5

 

Once a year, in the early days of June, my town experiences a bizarre phenomena. People file out of their homes to roam the streets of their city, and gaze with interest at the same buildings they pass daily without a second thought. They travel along the sidewalks with eagerness, looking curiously at the shops they’ve seen before. They smile with unguarded happiness as they travel routes they know by heart but usually ignore because of the thoughts and concerns of the day, or the crappy weather that demands they avert their eyes from the stinging cold. Children scurry along, delighting in nothingness, becoming visibly excited at the same old corner in the same old town they have known their whole lives. This strange yearly occurrence is called “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town”. I assume the idea behind this event is to get residents active, involved and proud of their community. To give kids a good experience in their local environment that might encourage them to be good little citizens, or turn into active little president of the class type people. I’ve known about this event for years, but it always seemed a little goofy to me. Like, what is there to see on Be a Tourist day that I can’t see any of the other 364 days of the year that I live here?

I’ve lived in my town for about twelve years. Hard for me to believe, because I came here when my sister was graduating from college, and we wanted to move in together. But the plan was to live somewhere cool, like Chicago or Boston or Philly. The BIG plan was to move back west and live in Seattle, or maybe Portland. San Luis Obispo or San Francisco were not likely to be in our budget. The plan WASN’T, however, to stay in Michigan forever. This was just a stepping stone, a place for us to hang out while we devised and launched our secret mission, Operation Seattle. But…I’m still here.

This fact made me miserable for a while, and for several years I saw nothing around me but the negative. Cold, frozen winters visited me year after year, and I shivered through, loudly proclaiming that I was an inch from my death and that the hairs in my nostrils were freezing together, which would surely form into an impassable wall that would prevent me from breathing air ever again. If I didn’t die from the cold, perhaps I would die from boredom, as it seemed there was nothing ever going on around town. The sheer force of will it took me to etch out an existence in such a bothersome, loathsome city was a testament to my bravery and ingenuity. Or really, maybe I just didn’t die of boredom because we found some pretty cool video stores to rent movies from. Not the chain stores you find any-old-where, but home grown businesses with quirk and personality, and interesting selections that I didn’t think I would find anywhere but a cool and hip city. So ok, I decided I might be able to tolerate staying alive for another day or so, or at least until we finished watching whatever shows we had already bothered to pay for. Then perhaps I would succumb to death by sudden weather change, or perish from the plague of unemployment.

Over the last few years, my attitude has changed radically, and I’ve fallen in love with my town. Maybe in part because of the geography of where I work, in the Downtown area of the city which is full of unique and personal restaurants, busy little shops and an actual nut shop that still sells fresh roasted nuts. It didn’t hurt any that a local squirrel frequented this nut shop, and would lay himself out on the sidewalk during the summer, panting of exhaustion until patrons offered him bottled water to re-hydrate himself, and some fresh nuts from their bag to sustain him. He made sure to stand on his legs and beg if passersby weren’t fully aware that he was parched to the bone and hadn’t had enough treats yet that day.

Maybe I’ve fallen in love with my town because I’ve found somewhere to work that I really love. A place full of interesting people whose views, opinions and ideals are similar to my own. Going to work is not a drudgery for me, and I sometimes find myself at work on my days off, or long after I have clocked out for the day. It is a wonderful place to hang out, whether you work there or not. Then again, this change of heart may have started right around the time my doctor hooked me up with a nice dose of anti-depressants. Drugs can definitely altar the viewpoint. And though I wasn’t on drugs when I was reminded about Tourist day, I was in an induced state of being from a lengthy walk around my favorite area of town, which had produced a happy high in me.

I happened to be in a bead shop, and I found a little stack of booklets by the business cards. I’m a sucker for pamphlets, booklets and menus. It’s a whole crazy OCD/collector insanity that I can’t even go into right now, the web of the pamphlet monster weaves itself so deep into me it would take hours to tell the story. So obviously, I picked up the booklet; I had to. Was compelled to. And it was this little passport, for the Tourist day which was happening the following week. I looked it over. On the back page were all these cute little boxes lined up in neat little rows. Each box eagerly awaited receiving a stamp from a store in town. The instructions indicated that you should collect as many stamps from as many locations listed as possible, and then you enter your stamped passport into a drawing, to potentially win fabulous prizes.

Well that’s it, I was sold. Because for one, there were going to be people rappelling off the tallest building in town; which – in THIS town – isn’t as high as all that, but STILL, rappelling in your own town is pretty cool. And for two, many of the locations where you could receive a ‘stamp’ were close by my own home, over where I work in Downtown, or in my favorite spot, Old Town. So I convinced my sister that the next weekend would be full of walking, stamping, and silliness. Because, really, this event is surely geared for children and families. But hey, I’m a kid at heart, so off we went.

Who knew the day would be so full of fun? A stop at my local library showed billions (well hundreds) of kids signing up for the kick off of the summer reading program. A guy giving away balloon animals made all the kids squeal with delight. A walk down the block revealed frightened individuals frozen on the top of the building, doing less rappelling than we wanted to see, and more nervous nothingness. Our dad was a sometimes rappelling instructor, so we expected to see bounding off the walls, and exciting feats of bravery. What we saw were two people at the top of the building quivering instead of moving. So on we went in search of stamps. We found them at the art gallery, outside of whose building I wrote my name in chalk on the sidewalk, along with countless other names and drawings scribbled there. Then we skipped across the sidewalk and headed off to the bus station to receive our stamp from a tired and bedraggled, but smiling attendant. We visited the music store and got a free kazoo and guitar pick to accompany our stamp, though sadly, we have no guitar. We got stamped at a local historical building that I am convinced is haunted, and briefly discussed this theory with an agreeable volunteer who seconded my opinion. We went to the farmer’s market, and the huge fancy pet store. We walked along the river to the surveyor’s museum, and snuck into the air conditioned visitors centre several blocks over. Bit by bit we accrued our stamps, until – exhausted – we maneuvered down to Old Town, for a bite to eat. After snapping up the few remaining stamps we could before the end of the day’s events, we happily rested at an outdoor table and readied ourselves to consume much needed delicious morsels that would refuel us after our excursion. Sitting outside, enjoying fine food and watching the “tourists” finish off the day, I couldn’t help but marvel at the complete happiness I feel living in my city. I remember how eager I used to be get out of this town, and now, I can’t find enough time to do all the things I want to do in the city.

This city, this day of being a tourist in my own town, was a treasure, and my most recent accidental happiness.