anti-schadenfreude

I don’t take enjoyment in watching other people in pain – physically, psychologically, or otherwise. I don’t think the Jackass movies are funny, nor the countless “It’s just a prank, bro!” YouTube videos. Sometimes a little petty justice/revenge or instant karma can be a bit funny, maybe more so with a guarantee that there aren’t any long-lasting effects, but I tend to still feel guilty.
Right now, I’m seeing so many people gloat and experience a sort-of ecstasy at the expense of other people’s fears that I can’t trust myself on social media. I tried to use a trending hashtag on Twitter the day after the election, only to find myself being threatened by a handful of angry white men within moments of posting about my lesbian and my African American co-workers’ concerns for their families.
Whether one feels the terror is perceived or real, the reaction to that pain is so depressing to me. When Obama won in 2008, I saw joy and celebration. People were crying happily and hugging one another. Then the racists started crawling out of the woodwork. And as the so-called “respect for the office” has dwindled, so has their courage deepened and become emboldened by the nasty rhetoric online and in the media.
In the past few days, I’ve seen a disturbing amount of internet comments calling people names, sharing clearly incorrect information to support their own worldview, and a lot of negativity. I’ve seen more than one Facebook friend post “Get it over it. Move on. It’s over.”
I don’t think a lot of people understand what was at stake for almost every minority in the US. Even if you’ve believed all along that the Republican who was running is a joke, never took himself seriously, and wasn’t taken seriously by the party, there are a great many people who believed what he said and plenty who barely waited a few hours to come out from behind the curtain and take over. And if you speak up or complain, you risk being threatened, harassed, and/or doxxed by the angry white people who just want you to shut up.
The whole “anti-PC backlash” doesn’t make a lot of sense to me since I think of “politically correct” as “trying to understand others and not be an asshole.” Yet, being an asshole is SUPER popular right now. You can’t turn around with out someone saying NO THIS IS MY OPINION AND YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO IT, even when it’s just an animated gif of a puppy taking his first bath. Someone will make it political or shit all over it.
I am glad to have more people than not in my life who are trying to find a way to work together and remain positive and provide help to those who feel under-served or fearful of their, their families’, and their kids’ futures. It probably won’t happen with safety pins or Facebook status updates. And it isn’t really about Trump so much as the anger he incited in others and his subsequent complete lack of interest in doing the job he was elected for. But there is something deeply disturbing about seeing a fellow human in tears while someone shouts to “Suck it up, buttercup” and spits in their face.
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Homesick

So here we are, entering our fourth month as Indiana residents. Again. I’ve gone back to the coffee shop on the weekends, we’re back in the old neighborhood. It’s like nothing has changed.

My diplomas sit neatly in their frames, doing nothing more than reminding me of my student loans accumulating interest.

It dawned on me today that, though I don’t regret much in my life, I do regret leaving Chicago. As I lay in bed, exhausted and feeling run down from lack of sleep and hours on my feet for the first time in a couple of years, I found myself ruminating. Playing the What If game.

What if we’d negotiated lower rent with the landlord? What if we’d really stretched out our savings. What if, instead of a couple grand in rent, deposit, and truck rental, we had just paid our rent in Chicago in advance? What if we’d started a garden and eaten from that, made a strict budget, and taken Bea to summer classes at the parks instead of paying for her preschool there? What if we’d sold a couple things to get by while I applied for full-time jobs on campus, and if I’d gotten one, Charlie could stay home? What if I’d made a lot more money than him? What if I’d taken those job offers and just asked to start a few weeks after the baby was born?

I don’t play What If with the baby. I don’t regret or resent her. She didn’t ask to be born.

I can’t stop thinking that we made the wrong decision moving back, though. I can’t help but feel more alone in Indy, a city supposedly filled with family and friends who were dying to help out with the baby, most of whom I haven’t seen more than twice since we moved back. We’re more sedentary, bored, overweight, and disappointed.

I have applied for more jobs, but each one leaves me feeling like I’d be settling. I feel like we settled for this house, for that job, for this neighborhood, for this city. I feel like I didn’t get a chance to put down roots in Chicago and every day, my heart aches a little bit for what we left behind.

We wanted Bea and Ellie to grow up around their cousins, and the kids our friends have. But it feels as if no one has the time and I’m left struggling to fill up our weekdays with mindless activities in the house. I’m spending all my mornings biding my time before Bea goes to her measly two-hour preschool program when what we could be doing is getting on the brown line and hitting the Lincoln Park Zoo, the beach, going for walks, taking a bus to the Shedd or a museum on the free days.

I missed Indy and people for a while after we’d moved. But it didn’t take long to find myself busy and happy and loving Chicago. Leaving felt like the “right” choice when we made it, but now I just don’t know. Was it the “only” one?

Today my heart told me it’s never too late to move back. It’s going to take something big to fill this windy-city-sized emptiness.

Chronological Concerns

A major part of the reason I’m allowing the landlord to give out my phone number to no less than four different apartment-hunting services (not including the guy we used to find this place and who we put in touch with our landlord weeks ago) is to show a good faith effort in renting this place, which we hope will guarantee most of our security deposit be returned.

It’s beginning to get really annoying, though. I get calls all day long from a variety of different people who are rarely here at the time they claim they want to see the place. We’ve shown it as early as 9am on a Sunday and as late as 8pm on a Wednesday. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we didn’t have a three (almost four) year old who’s tired and ready for bath or bed, or if I didn’t have to leave for work by eight in the morning. Last night we had to rush Bea home from dinner within fifteen minutes to show the place, but it took the people almost an hour to show up.

It also doesn’t help that the apartment has ancient carpeting, is being listed as a three bedroom, and he’s asking $300 more per month than we’ve been renting it. The garage space is also jacked up–$100 per month when we’ve been paying $25.

None of that is really any of my business. I just hope that someone fills out an application soon so that I can stop having to either drag Bea into the backyard in order to stay out of everyone’s way, or sit politely on the couch while people stomp through the apartment.

We did sign the lease on the new place yesterday, as well as mailing in first month’s rent and security deposit. As far as that house is concerned, I’m really happy with it except for two reasons: 1. It is listed as a 1.5 bath. The full bath is on the second floor and the half bath is in the basement. This isn’t a deal breaker,  but I do remember post-birth with Bea how difficult it was for me to get up and down the stairs for a while. 2. It is directly next door to the woman whose high-strung rescue dogs howled nonstop at our windows in the last place we lived. (It also has no garage or fenced-in yard, but whatever.)

Because, you know, our last place is directly behind the new one.

One of my concerns has become (prioritized in terms of chronology) how early I can get out of work. Though we need the paychecks to cover Bea’s preschool (and I have zero options in Indy for her at the moment), we are moving before the last week of classes, which is also my last week at work. I’m pretty sure that my situation is unprecedented at work–not many pregnant writing tutors in their halls. I don’t think they know what to do with me.

My next worry is finishing all the assignments for my last class. It’s a pretty heavy workload. Then I’m worried about what’s going on with Charlie’s job. He’s supposed to be transferred but his phone interview didn’t go well (according to him). So now there’s a concern that he might get stuck in a branch that’s really far from our place and we’re only going to have one car for a while. The interview was for a branch that’s 1.5 miles from our new place, which means being able to walk, bike, or take the bus (if that’s even an option in Indy). If that falls through, I’ll be stuck at home a lot.

Apparently, the district manager rather casually mentioned that Charlie could “just take an unpaid leave of absence” until a position opened up where he’d like to be. How exactly that DM thinks we would cover our bills, I’m not sure. So now Charlie’s a little paranoid and has begun looking into other options, which would leave us without health insurance just a few weeks before my due date.

Add to all of that the fact that my student loans are going to be due soon and I’m surprised I haven’t just collapsed in a ball on the floor. I think I’m juggling everything surprisingly well. I’m managing the gestational diabetes, eating well, getting lots of walking in every day (I kind of have to), and drinking as much water as I can without exploding. No kidney stones thus far [crossing fingers].

I will be quite relieved when this is all over and we can re-situate ourselves. Then I’ll just have to become accustomed to having two kids and even less money. And I sincerely hope that all of our cheerleaders back in Indy are willing to step in and help us out when we do arrived. Everyone has said how thrilled they are that we’re returning, but will they bring over a casserole when I return from the hospital?

Two Years, Reversed

ImageIt’s official. After just two years in Chicago, we are relocating back to Indy. So close to our old place that the backyards of each house touch. I mean, yeah, I wanted to be in the old neighborhood, if at all possible, but I did not expect to end up renting a place that was literally around the corner. I’ve walked past this house so many times that I knew exactly where it was based on the address

Okay, it’s not 100% official. I had to send in the application materials today and will hear back if they accept us within a day or two. I don’t see there being a problem, though neither of us has the most outstanding credit anymore. We seem to take turns. One of us works a decent full-time job for a while, paying all his or her stuff on time; the other is in school. The plan is that, pretty soon, I will be the one paying the bills while he takes nursing classes.

I’ve been decorating the new place in my mind for a couple of days now, and the excitement of finding something within our budget (the landlord was willing to come down a hundred bucks a month if we signed a two-year lease and did the yard work) in our old hood has given me a renewed energy. I try not to think too much about the lack of transportation, the struggle to acclimate to a new baby, and the depression that eventually settles for a bleeding-heart progressive in Indiana.

Our current landlord called today to see if it was okay to pass along my number to potential tenants who wanted to take a look at the place. At one point he said, “You know, it’s not too late to change your mind. If you need someone to watch the baby, I’d do it for free!” It was so sweet that I almost cried.

In the car on Saturday, Bea asked about moving. I explained that, yes, we would be going back. I heard some sniffling after a moment and looked back to see she had tears in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“I’m sad because I’ll miss all my friends at school.”
I felt awful. But I explained that all her friends at school would soon be going to kindergarten and that many of them would go to different schools than she would. I then began listing off all the people in Indy who we would be able to see a lot more because we’d be closer. After a few minutes chewing on what I’d said, she announced, “Thanks, Mommy! That really cheered me up!”

I felt so torn about bringing her here so that I could go to school. And, sure enough, we finally got into a good program that she loves, where she’s made all sorts of friends. And now, we have to go back. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t yet been on the planet for four years that you just can’t afford to put two kids in daycare; that you spend more every year on  preschool than you did on rent at your last place; that you can’t imagine having to drop off a newborn for someone else to take care of every day, just to work a job that barely covers your kids getting that care.

I think she understands a little bit and I think she’s pretty excited to go back. I know she’ll make new friends and enjoy seeing her old ones. I hope that we’re able to find something that lives up to the expectations she has from her current preschool that we can afford, and that we’re making the right decision for everyone.

Pregnancy Panic

Just in case you weren’t aware (because I never blog anymore and you may not be on the book face), I miraculously got pregnant last year (right before I was supposed to go in and have an IUD placed) and am currently in my third trimester with our second child. This was most surprising to me because I was under the impression, after my plethora of female-related health problems last year, that this was not even a possibility. “Getting pregnant” did not seem to be a problem. “Staying pregnant,” however, did. Due to the nature and placement of my fibroids, PCOS, and other funky lady issues, a fertilized egg would not be very comfortable or safe in my uterus.

This one, however, has now maintained its residency for over six months. Every time I go to a doctor’s appointment and they tell me “Everything looks fine!” I say, “Are you sure?” Maybe look again. There has to be something wrong. I am plagued with doubts and fears and concerns that, while relatively normal for any pregnancy, tend to outweigh any sort of pleasure of joy I would feel for being able to give my daughter a sibling. In fact, most everyone I know or meet is significantly happier about this pregnancy than I am.

Maybe the constant nausea and barfing for four months–which I never had with my first, Bea–took its toll. Perhaps it’s the extra weight, the headaches, the sciatica, the frustration, the inability to walk as fast as I used to, the constant urinating, the inability to sleep well. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m now in the “advanced maternal age” category, or that my doctor wants me to consider going on antidepressants prior to delivery. Perhaps I am not looking at this as positively as I could . . . My scumbag brain won’t stop ruminating over the upheaval it thinks this child is bringing.

The plan was to finish school (I graduate mid-June) and begin applying for jobs here in Chicago right before that, probably publishing/editing. Since Bea is in preschool and very happy there, I planned to work full time in a position with benefits. Charlie could go to part time at work, and then begin taking courses at the City Colleges in order to start working toward his nursing degree. No matter what, we would be making more than we’re bringing in now.

Coincidentally, this child is due approximately five days after Bea’s fourth birthday. That would also be sixteen days after my graduation, two months before our lease is up here, and about three weeks after my job is over. This position is tied to school–I am employed by the school as a student and, once I graduate, my stipend is over and so is my job. Which means, between the time that I finish working and the time that our lease is up here, I am kind of at a loss as to what to do.

Do we continue living in Chicago? Do we relocate to Indianapolis (cultural void that it is), where we have more connections, friends, and family? Where rent is cheap and parking is ample and free? Do we sublet here prior to the lease finishing, and have the baby in Indy? How does that work? Do you call the landlord? Put up an ad? Ask friends to come over and start packing for us? I’ll be over eight months pregnant at that point, so not super useful.

It seems as though every time Charlie and I manage to get things on track, something comes along to derail everything. That’s not really the attitude I want to have about this child. I’m sure, once she arrives (yes, it’s another girl), I will think differently. For the moment, however, I am in a constant state of mild anxiety, trying to figure out the next, best step. Any advice or suggestions will be considered.

Singularly Happy

About a year ago, I was invited to what I call a “secret lady group” on Facebook, prior to which I did not know these things existed. It has proven to be cathartic for me, though. Many of the women involved were members of the Unitarian church I attended in Indianapolis years ago. There are probably only half a dozen who post questions/comments/concerns with any regularity, and about twice that who comment frequently. They all tend to have pretty excellent advice, are really supportive and positive, and share a common bond — besides being women, we all seem to come from rather dysfunctional families.

I’m beginning to get the impression that “functional families” are much fewer and farther between than I may have otherwise thought.

Last week, I posted some concerns I have about pressure to expand our family. I’m quite satisfied with the way things are: me, Charlie, and Bea. In fact, if we had no other children, even adopting, I would be fine with that. I feel like the only person who is fine with a family of three.

At Christmas, I was asked multiple times if we were planning to have another child. On the way to Indy for our last two trips, Charlie mentioned how much larger a vehicle we would need “if we had another one.” He then began daydreaming about his ideal family-of-four car. He’s mentioned to me that Bea would be a good big sister, and that she would be helpful. When I balked at this talk, he mentioned his employer’s outstanding adoption benefits.

I feel guilty complaining about my pregnancy. Compared to other friends’ and women I know, mine was actually quite easy. Yet I was miserable. I was huge, bloated, sweaty, uncomfortable. I had sciatica, kidney stones, and my back hurt from Day One. I was and, even after going through it, still am scared of labor, delivery, hurting a fetus, or having a child with health problems. I’m terrified of the idea of a difficult birth, a stillbirth, a miscarriage. I’m worried that we can’t take care of the child we have, let alone a second one.

I also worry that, if we “try,” I won’t be able to get pregnant. I know I wouldn’t be the oldest woman in the world to have a baby, but I would be at least 37 years old, and after the age of 35, they start all these additional tests and freaking out. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to do it all over again.

As my friend Annette put it, “What’s wrong with the one you have?” I love Bea. Of course.  She’s amazing and funny and smart and outgoing. It’s not so much that I don’t know if I’d have “enough love” to give a second child, so much as I’m not sure I could handle school, work, toddler, and no sleep for weeks on end. Charlie would have paternity leave, unpaid, but, let’s assume I got pregnant tomorrow. The baby would be born, assuming everything was normal, right in the middle of the first quarter of my second year in grad school. If I could somehow plan it right, then I’d have it right after the quarter was finished, in late November. But babies don’t always work that way. And, after your first pregnancy, they have a tendency to come out sooner.

So I’d posted all these concerns and fears and worries on FB. The women in the secret lady group were predictably supportive. One sent me a link to information on books that promote single-child families. Another suggested surrogacy, a third said adoption might be easier. They all said that if I wasn’t ready, I should be honest with Charlie.  So I was. But now I’m not so sure. After thinking things over for a couple of weeks, I know how much he wants another baby. I’m not worried he’ll leave me for someone younger, to have another kid.  He told me last that week that, on a scale of 1-10, he rates wanting a second child as a 7.5. I said I was about a 2. I guess I might be more like a 4 now?

I just don’t know what the immediate future holds for me. I’ve got a year and a half left of graduate school, an internship at the end of which may lead to a full-time, high-paying job. I don’t want to go into a new position pregnant or just getting pregnant, or even with a newborn. We can’t afford daycare, so what would we do with the baby while we were working? Besides which, Bea wouldn’t even be ready for kindergarten.

So I guess what I’m feeling is that it’s one of those now-or-never situations. I don’t particularly like that feeling.

 

I’m Not Going to Apologize

I’m too lazy to search for it, but someone posted a link a while ago on people apologizing for not writing in their blogs more often. Like, tons and tons of people saying, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.”

I’m not going to apologize. I’ve been writing more for school in the past 8 weeks than I think I did in the last year of my undergrad. We’re now into week 9, and there are only ten in the entire quarter. Then we have this ridiculously long break and it’s back again January 3rd.

I managed to get registered for winter quarter the minute my appointment opened. Most colleges seem to have people scheduled based on their seniority. As a first-term graduate student, I wasn’t allowed to register until four days after the other students. Maybe I’ll get a little more time for the spring quarter.

I missed out on the class I really wanted: travel writing. Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to take a travel writing course, but the new head of the department is the instructor. She made it clear during our orientation that she won’t approve things like theses, internships, or teaching if she hasn’t had you in class at least twice. Since this is only a two-year program (if you go full time), and since it’s a small program with a lot of nerds, and since there aren’t a wide variety of courses offered each term, you have a limited amount of time to get to know the department head. She only teaches one class per quarter.

This is why I’m in my current journalism class – the former head of the department is the instructor. I didn’t find out until a few days before classes started that he had stepped down. I do enjoy the class and, so far, I have excellent grades on all my assignments. But he’s kind of an odd guy and it’s difficult to have a discussion. He’s constantly interrupting people. He asked me to prepare a ten-minute oral presentation on a chapter of Ted Conover’s Coyotes for last night. But he went on for so long in the class that I ended having to run through it in about 2 minutes.

So school is going well. The class I really like, magazine writing, I’m not doing so hot in right now. I’m averaging a B+. I realize that makes me sound like kind of an asshole, but you pretty much have to make straight As to get anything. There’s a lot of competition in my program and there are very few opportunities for assistantships, financial aid other than loans, that sort of thing.

But I will say that being in a classroom with adults who actually want to be there is a pleasant change from my undergrad. Occasionally, I’ve noticed a person here or there who hasn’t shown up for a class, but it’s rare. Compare that to the semesters at IUPUI where, after weeks 3 and 4, people would start dropping like flies. Or, when it came time for “peer review” and other students would stare blankly ahead. Only when asked for a comment would they offer, “It’s good. Yeah.” “Oh, I liked it.”

I have kind of, sort of, made a couple of little friends at school. I don’t think it will go much of anywhere, though. They’re so young . . . single, no kids, going out to get drinks and food all the time. It just isn’t a lifestyle that meshes with mine very well.

We went back to Indy last weekend. It was bittersweet. I cried when we left Chris and Vicki’s, and again when we were at Sarah’s to get the kids together. Sarah and Maureen – former co-workers from the coffeeshop – were discussing Halloween and when they were going to take their kids trick or treating. It made me sad to think Bea was going to miss out on that.

She did go last night. I missed out on it since I had class, but I got her dressed and we went outside to hand out candy to some of the other kids. Then Charlie and I traded off and he took her door-to-door. It’s kind of disgusting how much candy she got.

Arguing on the Internet

There’s nothing I find more irritating about communicating on web sites than the ramblings of people who think they’re going to set me straight.

One of my friends has a sister who, of all the people in the world, I find to be the biggest waste of oxygen (ordinary-type people, not Hitler-type people). Without going in to all the gory details, which aren’t really mine to divulge, let’s just say that you would agree with me that she’s a horrible human being. It’s entirely possible she suffers from some kind of personality disorder because, after 50 or so years on this planet (I’m not exactly sure how old she is), she has yet to recognize an error she has made and everything is someone else’s fault. EVERYTHING.

Recently, their brother, who I am friends with on Facebook (I am not FB friends with the crazy one), posted something that was factually incorrect. I corrected him, he acknowledged that he looked it up later and discovered it was not attributed to the proper author, and we became involved in a discussion about the quote. A week later, I got a FB notification that their sister — the nutty one — announced the brother was the “winner” of the discussion and went on a tirade about welfare and people leeching off her.

One bit of information about her I will give you is that she has never held a job in her life. She was hired by one or two places in the past, but never showed up for either position. She makes a living by marrying men, getting them to adopt her daughter, and then divorcing the guy in a state that pays alimony. So when she went off about her income taxes, I couldn’t help myself but to respond, “Let’s define ‘income.'” Because she isn’t paying any income taxes, so she has no reason to complain about where her income tax is going.

Last night, another friend posted about Bikini Atoll in the ’40s and ’50s. Since I just finished an analysis of John Hersey’s piece on Hiroshima, I made a reference to the bombing. One friend of hers came in and said “That is aweful but it’s better then speaking Japanese.” I found this hilarious and pointed it out, along with a brief explanation of why the US chose to bomb those two islands rather than a ground attack on mainland Japan.

This morning, I woke up to a 17-paragraph diatribe from a second stranger about what an idiot I am and how I’m an asshole for correcting that other guy’s spelling. He went on, in all caps, of course, about how he’s spoken to hundreds of survivors of WWII and both Japanese and Americans and how I need to get my head out of my ass and I know nothing about the war. My first reaction was, “Jesus, dude. Calm down.” But I realized that wouldn’t go over well, so I deleted it.

Instead, I just said I didn’t want to get involved in an argument on someone else’s Facebook page, especially considering he was incorrect in his assumptions of my understanding of the war. There’s no way this guy could have any clue what I really feel based on two sentences about an atomic bomb. My best guess is he thought I was saying Japan is great and we shouldn’t have done it? I did mention, “Saying human beings suffered is not the same as saying Japan deserved to win the war.”

But it still gives me this nagging, annoying, hot little feeling in my ears when someone starts picking at me and trying to correct me when they either have no idea what they’re talking about (my friend’s sister), or because they have no idea what I was talking about (the dude). What I find especially infuriating — and I get that’s is why people say stuff like this — is the attacks on my intelligence. Like, I must be stupid for saying this or that or the other. This guy “would just love to read [my paper on Hiroshima] because it would be a laugh riot.”

It wasn’t even a history paper – it was an analysis of a piece of journalism written about six survivors of the bomb. But, of course, he assumed I was a 20-something undergrad, he assumed I was taking a history class, he assumed I was given incorrect information, and that I didn’t know what hell happened. I guess?

Art on the Walls

We’re officially relocated. Pictures are being hung up, rooms are coming together. It feels a lot more like “home” than the basement dump we were in when we moved here.

Of course, I’m less incensed about that situation now that we’re in place and feeling more comfortable. I still get angry if I mull over the situation with Anne because, no matter which way I look at it, she was wrong. I asked for help and she told us to leave. That’s what it all boils down to and no amount of me putting myself in her shoes will change that.

We haven’t spoken to a lawyer — all of my law school friends continue to reiterate that we don’t need to. But I’d at least like to get things in order and have some professional advice before I file any sort of paperwork. For example, when she returned only 40% of our security deposit, she wrote on the check that it was the full deposit being returned. Rather than argue with her about that, we deposited it. We already owed too much money to too many people, and she knew that.

But before we go shelling out money we don’t have to speak with an attorney, we have to pay back those friends who were so generous as to help us with our move. It sucks being back in the situation where we can’t check out a cool restaurant or do some fun shopping for the new place, but I would much rather be broke here than rolling in money in Anne’s basement.

Did I mention I haven’t seen one single bug since moving in? Or a rat? Or mold growing on the walls? It’s weird being on the second floor, and the guys downstairs seem to smoke a lot of pot, but whatever.

Most all of the money we’re able to pay back is coming from my financial aid this quarter. Which is weird. Quarters? It’s going to be difficult getting used to those terms rather than semesters. I’ve got two courses which each meet once per week for 3 hours and 15 minutes, for ten total weeks. Then we have a ridiculous amount of time off for the holidays (which Charlie won’t get to enjoy because he can’t take off too much time around Thanksgiving or Christmas), and the following quarter will start sometime in early January.

If I do well enough, I can apply for a partial tuition remission scholarship. I don’t know exactly how much you can get back, but you have to keep a 3.7 or higher GPA. I’m not sure what the likelihood is of that.

I already have homework in both my courses, and one of them doesn’t meet until Monday. I have 6 books to read for one class (plus the supplemental materials he wants us to read before Monday), an assignment due by Monday at midnight for the other class — an assignment I can’t figure out how to submit because the dropbox for the class does not appear to exist.

As is the case at the start of any new semester, quarter, term, whatever, things seem overwhelming and difficult and challenging. But, before you know it, you’re halfway through and in the swing of things. I’d like to get to that point if only to avoid feeling like I’m in over my head. That would be a nice change.

The Ladies in My Life

I’ve made a concerted effort to extract myself from relationships that I feel are negative, energy-consuming, and difficult. Interestingly, most (if not all) of those were with women. I don’t mean sexual relationships, though that’s about the only thing that was missing. A lot of my former girl friends took so much time, effort, and maintenance, that we ended up “breaking up.” Whether it was me saying I just can’t do this anymore, or them saying I wasn’t putting enough of myself into our friendship, they ended. Even my relationship with my own mother was toxic and exhausting.

Having very little contact with any women around my age where I now live, I have no idea what sorts of friendships I could forge, but I have come to realize how lucky I am to have so many supportive, honest, independent women “back home.” Despite the fact that I no longer see them on a regular basis (and let’s be honest, many of them I haven’t “seen” in quite some time), I appreciate them now more than ever. Mostly because the women with whom I do have regular contact right now are passive-aggressive and difficult for me to deal with.

There are two who come to mind – our landlady and a friend who calls me on a regular basis. I say she’s a friend because our relationship isn’t completely one-sided, but it is one that takes some energy on my part because I’m not sure how to communicate with her.

The friend who calls is a bit of a Type-A personality. She feels she has to micromanage every part of her life, including the people in it, because she has to do it at work. She will call “just to talk,” which is not something I have found myself doing since I was about 16 years old. And, though the conversations may start with her asking me how I’m doing, the minute I pause to take a breath, she launches in to the same complaints about work I’ve heard a hundred times. I should also point out that she’s been doing this the entire time I’ve known her, not just since I moved. During these marathon phone sessions, she frequently complains about how much she’s on the phone . . .

I’m the type of person who wants to help my friends solve their problems. I’d like to identify the problem, address potential solutions, and help you apply the best one. I’m not great about doing that with myself, so maybe I do it too much with friends.

I am working on “just listening,” but it’s hard to hear the same complaints over and over and over again without the complainer attempting to fix any of it. Granted, some of her work difficulties are un-fix-able. She works with some real idiots and you can’t fix stupid. But some of them do have reasonable solutions. She just chooses not to do anything about it.

Of course, I’m more than aware that you might think this blog is just me complaining about the same things over and over, but I would like to think that what sets me apart is that I consider my friends’/readers’ solutions and, when possible, apply them. I also tend to think I’m not super passive-aggressive or a liar.

Which brings us to the landlord. On a regular basis, she refers to herself as a “good Christian,” and likes to talk about what behaviors she exhibits make that statement true. Sometimes — even in the same breath, she’ll tell me how she lies about things to get her way. Playing (or making) up a disability to get special assistance, fibbing about certain requirements necessary in the city of Chicago for different licenses (cars, dogs, apartment, etc…), bending the rules to benefit herself, refusing to apply for permits and then trying to weasel out of the inevitable punishment by playing dumb. She’s even gone so far as to smash a box of glass bottles on a neighborhood bar’s doorstep, then pretending to be deaf so the manager wouldn’t yell at her.

She seems proud of her lies when she tells me about them. It wouldn’t be that much of an issue for me if she didn’t try to play herself off as a poor, honest, ethical, good Christian widow who’s just trying to get by in this cruel world. Owning up to your choices is one thing. Rationalizing the behavior is hypocritical.

But the problem with her corner-cutting is shoddy, unreliable work  — you can’t run the microwave and a hair dryer at the same time — and neighbors who resent her — they let their tenants throw trash all over our yard because they think the landlord is just a crazy old deaf woman. No one takes her seriously and there’s really no need for accountability. We are only two months in to our lease and already know we don’t want to stay. If she wasn’t the kind of woman who wants to be your best friend the minute she meets it, it’d be a different story. But we don’t get much personal space in our apartment. She’s always in the yard, pressing her face against our door to tell us one thing or another. An email would suffice to let me know the plumbers are coming. You don’t have to pound on my door at 7am when everyone is shuffling around in their underwear.

Those plumbers? The ones who worked on our sewer drains last month? And left a bunch of tools, a wheelbarrow, a three-foot-tall pile of dirt that was several feet wide (and took up most of the back patio area where Bea would play) for at least 3 weeks? She pays all these guys under the table, but none of the work is on the up-and-up so they do a half-assed job and leave a mess.

Charlie is watching a co-worker’s dog this week and has to get up early, go walk the dog before work, take his lunch at the co-worker’s apartment,  walk the dog again after work, and comes home even later than usual. He feels like crap, we’re all sick, and I’ve been struggling to get through 12-hour days taking care of a snotty, whining toddler who refuses to blow her own nose. I’ve had a headache for three days straight and can’t sleep for Bea’s coughing, crying, and congestion.

This morning, Anne came knocking on the door at 9:30. Her business partner, Jane, is supposed to have the parking spot behind our house from 10am until 4pm, Monday through Friday. And, once or twice per week, Charlie goes in at 10 to make up for the days he works until 6:15 and 7pm.

They both were all frazzled, asking if we’d gotten new plates or if someone else had taken the spot.
A.) Anne knows we got Illinois license plates, and has acknowledged that she knows this in the past. We’ve had several conversations about it, including her paying us in advance to care for her dogs next weekend so we’d have enough to cover the surprise fees we didn’t know about.
B.) We’ve had the exact same car the two months we’ve lived here with the exact same Apple decal in the back window.
C.) Jane was 30 minutes early.
D.) Jane is supposed to call or text us in advance if she’s coming earlier than usual.
E.) Anne then said it wasn’t a big deal since the plumbers were coming later and would need that spot, anyway.

If Anne had just knocked on the door and said, “Jane is here, you need to move the car,” we’d have moved the car. Instead, she said, “Oh, I was just worried someone else had parked there! Did you get new plates already?” They could have just said nothing at all since Jane wasn’t going to use the spot.

Why can’t women just be honest? Why does it always have to be a thinly veiled insult, or a passive aggressive accusation? If Jane wanted to spot, she should have called ahead to say she was going to be early. She could have parked in a temporary space behind the house and said she needed us to move. And all of Anne’s hysterics served no purpose since Jane would have had to move when the plumbers arrived later on this morning. Except the plumbers haven’t shown up yet and it’s 3 in the afternoon now.

This is the kind of stuff I was talking about a few days ago when I said Anne sometimes reminds me of my dad. You hear one thing, then they tell you something different. When you call them out on it, they act like you’re the crazy one.

Something I will never understand about women is why it is so hard for them to tell the truth. We don’t want to hurt one another’s feelings, so we say something that isn’t completely what we mean, but something gets lost in the translation and then no one is happy.