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Living on the Upside Down (karma: 2)
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Sep 28, 2017 09:10 PM
Bumped by Theresa (28613) on 2018-01-04 18:05:48

So, I'm getting divorced.
I moved in with my 87 year old grandma.
I went on my first 1st date in 10 years.
I lived through a hurricane.
I was displaced by that hurricane and I'm technically homeless.
And the plan is to move from the only city I've ever known.
To attend grad school...
...and be closer to that guy I went on that date with.

I've had a crazy year and I think the only way to process it is to sit down and write it, one chapter at a time, memoir style.

More to come...

28 Replies to Living on the Upside Down

re: Living on the Upside Down
By Sumayah
On Sat Sep 30, 2017 04:40 AM
*gasp*

Hi!

I love you. You're amazing. I cannot wait for this.

EEEE !
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Sep 30, 2017 08:36 PM
October 2016

I log into my Verizon account.

I'd spent a weekend in Cincinnati as a bridesmaid at my dear friend's wedding. After a lovely event Saturday and the only cheap flight leaving Monday morning, I drove to Huntington, West Virginia on Sunday to cross another state off my list. I made a perilous, winding drive up the mountains of eastern Ohio and lost GPS signal several times before I reached my destination. While there, I eat some Jolly Pirate donuts, I walk the Marshall campus, I check out Sheetz (which does not compare in the slightest, to my biased "everything is bigger in Texas" view of our own gargantuan equivalent, Buc-Ee's).

Sunday night finds me at a Hotwire-selected hotel that I picked solely on proximity to the airport. This turns out to be a near-fatal mistake. The motel is a horror show of stray hairs, dirty toilets, a bed I can't even talk myself into laying on, and a no-name TV that's been screwed into the dresser. There is a loud argument going on in the parking lot between a man and a woman and I don't think it's because somebody forgot an anniversary.

After a few hours of trying to distract myself by reading and failing spectacularly because I feel compelled to count the mysterious bugs intermittently flying around my room, I lose track of one. This panics me much more than it should. It is time to leave.

I check out of the hotel and in explaining my reasons for exiting so early, the lady at the front desk gives me a look of grim resignation, like "yeah, I know." I end up sleeping fitfully in the airport on a couch near baggage claim instead.

In order to keep my sanity, I'd been live tweeting every weird, horrid, ratchet detail of my short stay--from the shuttered door that led nowhere, to.the admonition at check-in that there is NO BREAKFAST, and if I lose a (generic, plain white) keycard it will be $5. There is a sign on the cleaning supply closet that said "it's never to [sic] late to be who you wanted to be," which, in a hotel that's probably seen more than its fair share of opiate overdoses, somehow is the most depressing detail of them all.

I'm positive our data is screaming perilously close to going over for the month after my little sojourn, so I'm checking the cell account my husband and I share. Maybe I can purchase another gig, just for this month.

I look at usage and my brow furrows.

For the month--halfway through the billing cycle--I've sent 151 text messages. We both have iPhones. Usually picks up via iMessage if we're on wi-fi. It checks out.

Husband has used 5,000.

That's weird, I think.

There's an option to drop text usage into a spreadsheet. It's probably his childhood friend who lives in NYC, I think to myself, attempting to rationalize. I knew Friend didn't have an iPhone at some point.

I turn on the filters in the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are my life at work. A few quick clicks and I've organized the phone numbers by frequency of appearance. It'll be an NYC area code, I tell myself.

It's not.

It's our area code.

My heart races.

"What the..."

I send the husband two text messages--ones that won't show up on the account, since it's actually an iMessage. The irony is not lost on me.

"Who the frell is (phone number)?!"
"You need to call me right frelling now."


I wait.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:50 AM
Edited by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2017-10-01 10:53:52
December 2015

The cramped hotel meeting room is full of nervous souls. I am feeling the buzz, but I'm not nearly as jittery as some of the others. A small group had congregated outside the doors before we were ushered inside and the atmosphere was tense. My automatic response to such situations is to break the ice by cracking some bad jokes. Usually this lightens the mood. Instead, my japes fall flat. Jesus. Tough crowd.

But I can totally do this.

I've staked out a spot in the back, because I like being able to see everyone. Also, I've got an empty seat next to me so I can stretch out. The folks who are late are forced into the front. We always called that "sinners' row" when I was a churchgoer.

The contestant coordinator, a woman with a loud voice and an even louder personality, started to welcome us to the audition. Before the door was closed, a tall guy in a plaid shirt and blazer rushes in. He sits next to me. Ugh, I think. Why'd he have to grab that seat? I was raised by Midwesterners. I enjoy my personal space.

The paper test is administered next. 50 questions, with about 30 seconds to answer each one, just like the qualifying round. We'd all already taken the online test, so I guess this one is just to prove our identities. I thought I'd done okay on the online version. I absolutely slay the in-person. I feel like the entire thing is a Slumdog Millionaire moment. I'm able to answer 48 out of the 50 almost instantly and can attribute almost every response to a specific moment in my life. I spend the extra 25 seconds after I write my answer down looking to see who's scratching their heads and snickering inwardly to myself.

And just like that, the test is over. Assistants gather up the papers. We've got a little bit of a break so I decide to chat with my seatmate.

"What did you think about the test?" I ask.

"Not as bad as I thought it would be."

"Yeah, me neither. I kept reading horror stories about how terrible the in-person test was going to be, but I think I did better on this one than the online version."

"I mean it all depends on what you know. Totally luck of the draw. They asked a question about my alma mater, so that was pretty easy."

"Oh, was that one the New Orleans question?"

"Yup."

"Yessss," I say. "I knew I got that one right." He reminds me of a podcast host, I think to myself. Not only does he sort of look like Jesse Thorn, he's got a great, deep voice like him. "Where are you from?"

"Fort Worth."

"Oh, that's hilarious. I'm actually going up to Dallas right after this," I say. "I had to miss the Irish dancing regional championships to do this audition, so I'm just going up there to hang."

We're interrupted by the contestant coordinator as it's time for the filmed mock game. "Good luck," I hiss.

"You too."

When he's called up, I remember his name because it's so distinctive. I'm in the last group to be screen tested. After the audition, I know I've smashed it.

He only sat next to me because he'd had a horrible time finding parking. He practically had to sprint to make it on time.

I've since told him I was really glad that he was late that day.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Oct 02, 2017 09:11 AM
August 2017

The bayou is high.

But it's not that bad, I tell myself. It's over the concrete bottom half and up to the grassy upper portion, but I've seen it this high after a plain old rainstorm. The choppy, grayish waters are moving quickly, out to the Ship Channel and then onwards to the Gulf of Mexico and out of our lives.

I've decided to get out of the house before the storm really hits and I might not be able to drive anywhere. The streets are currently dry. I'm going to run by the grocery store to pick up some snacks, since I know the time we might be shut in on our little island of a house might get boring. I ask my grandma if she needs anything. She says maybe a little milk and bananas, and I acquiesce.

I've done hurricanes and tropical storms before--I'm a lifelong Houstonian. I know what to expect because I'm from the Gulf Coast, which is why Houston has way more in common than New Orleanians than Dallasites. Everybody in the city is panicking. I blame the New-stonians--bunch of amateurs. My "hurricane supply kit" for Ike in 2008 was literally an 18-pack of Shiner beer. It's the folks in Galveston that always have to worry since they're on an island that's nearly sea level. Everything this far north will be fine.

The grocery store isn't nearly as frenzied as I expected. Everybody's been freaking out about buying bottled water over the past few days and I'm honestly perplexed. The water system right now is FINE. You can fill up bathtubs and buckets and bottles straight out of the tap, and water RARELY goes out during a hurricane--electricity does. There's been reports of people fighting over deliveries whenever a new shipment comes in. I just can't fathom getting into fisticuffs over a gallon of Ozarka.

I've been on this healthy kick since rebooting my life. Just protein, dairy, fruit, veg, no grains. I've already done my weekly shop so I pick up some apples and raspberries, the requested bananas and milk, a little bit of cheese, and...yes, some Halo Top ice cream. Probably not the best thing to grab in a potential power outage situation, but that just means I get to eat the whole pint in a flurry. It's extra protein, I tell myself.

On the way back from the grocery store I stop in at my mom and dad's to say hi before the streets flood. Since I moved in with my grandma, my entire nuclear family (parents, sister and brother-in-law, both grandmothers) lives on the southwest side of Houston, no more than 15 minutes away from each other. It's been nice being so close to my sister, who's also my best friend. No schlepping practically across town just to hang out.

My dad has been busy cutting up a downed limb that fell in the winds last night. It's been neatly dispatched in a pile under a tree. We sit in the living room, just chatting. Mom asks if I'd like to have breakfast with them. I forsake the melting Halo Top pints and say yes. Eggs with sausage and fresh fruit, which is on brand for me. My parents' Yorkie-Pomeranian mix, Reina, begs shamelessly for my meal. My parents (and grandmother, when Reina visits) have spoiled her by giving her a scrambled egg now and then, so she thinks all scrambled eggs are hers, forever, into eternity.

Towards the end I begin to wonder if I should ask for money for my impending divorce. The words stick in my throat. I've been so independent for so long, it's been hard for me to ask for help. But I do need help.

Now's not the time, though.

I give my parents hugs and tell them I'll see them after the all the craziness subsides. They made it through without a scratch during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, the high-water mark for Houston rainfall (no pun intended). We've had two flash floods in consecutive years. They made it through the Memorial Day floods in 2015. They made it through the Tax Day floods in 2016. This is just a hurricane, not a tropical storm, which has always been more dangerous for Houston. It'll pass over us and it'll be gone in 24 hours.

I head towards home, ten minutes away and across the bayou from my folks. Everything will be fine.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:19 PM
October 2016

"Who is she?" I ask. My hands are shaking.

"Well, she's a coworker named Arabella and I didn't tell you because I knew you would be upset since she's a female. We're just friends."

"It's thousands of texts. Literally thousands."

"That really surprises me."

I think of all the times he refused to put his phone down while we were out to eat and I was trying to talk to him, and how livid I was when he ignored my requests to please have a device-free dinner together.

I think of my therapist, who listened to my frustrations with my husband checking out of my marriage, who listened to me telling her with certitude that I knew something was off, asking me if I thought he was having an affair. I laughed. "No, he's too much of a homebody. He's not social at all."

I think of the time I asked him pointblank if he was cheating on me. "When would I have time to do that?" he said. Hmm, I thought at the time. That was an odd way to answer that question when "no, of course not" would do.

They're coworkers. They see each other at work at least part of the time, and he's still texting her thousands of times a month.

"I guess now would be a good time to bring up the fact that I got approved to transfer branches," he says.

"You're cheating on me," I say from behind gritted teeth.

"I didn't cheat," he insists. "You told me I needed more friends besides you."

"Not like this!" I shout. "You're having an emotional affair."

"No, I'm not."

"Just go be with her!" I shout. "I don't care anymore."

"I don't want to be with her. She's only in her mid-twenties--"

"I can't frelling believe what I'm hearing," I say.

I hang up.

He tries to text me with justification after justification. Every time, instead of responding, I simply text back a link to a different article explaining what an emotional affair is. After the third or fourth one, he stops his barrage.

I run out to lunch--really just an excuse to drive around and try to calm my jitters outside of my office--and call my friend Kat. Even though we live 750 miles apart, she always knows exactly what to say, and she's nonjudgmental and discreet. When I tell her something, I know it'll be in total confidence. I explain what's going on and she listens. As usual, she asks the most incisive question I'll hear throughout this process.

"Dani, do you still want to be married?"

The words escape my mouth before I can think about them, coming straight from my gut. "I don't know. I really don't know."

When I get back to work, I pore obsessively over the call logs, month by month. Hours and hours of calls, the longest perfectly aligned with whenever I was out of town. One night when I was in New Orleans, he talked to her for almost four hours. He called her on our wedding anniversary.

He'd never mentioned this person once. I'd heard about all sorts of other coworkers--the old Marine who was a long haired hippie now, the Filipino lady who brought back shell necklaces for everyone, the boss that everyone hated that used to be a professional dominatrix. I've had everyone sketched in for me in living color--except, it seems, this one girl.

I keep going back, month after month. Finally I find the first phone call. The logs for the text messages only go back three months, so I have no idea how long they were texting before the initial call. But it's been going on for a year.

At least a year.

I sit down in my boss's office and close the door. I immediately begin crying and through broken sobs tell her what I just found out, and that I'm going home now. She understands completely.

But I'm not going home. I can't stand the thought of being there. I text my sister and tell her I'm coming over.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Oct 06, 2017 11:50 AM
June 2017

This hotel room is nice. A girl could get used to this.

I've gone on a few business trips before, but they were all at my oil and gas jobs. Opportunities like this rarely come up at a nonprofit. My boss has twisted the arm of the CFO so I can attend a conference put on by our electronic health records system with her, to see if I can learn some more advanced techniques to start me on being her 100% backup. It's in Fort Worth this year so I'm able to make an easy four-hour drive from home after bidding my husband goodbye.

My husband. At this point I've threatened separation and told him I think we should divorce. We aren't happy, that's for damned sure. After I found out about the affair, I had certain stipulations, which he readily agreed to. I told him he needed to go to a psychiatrist, seek out individual therapy, and we should find a marriage and family therapist. After almost a year, enthusiastic agreement has been the only thing I've gotten out of him. He's insisted he wants a male therapist for our couples' counseling, which is like finding a needle in a haystack.

I've tried everything. I've told him how to verify his benefits, since I can't do it for him, not being a policy subscriber. I've even found a list of male providers who take his insurance in our area. His response is to go cold turkey off the anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications that have been giving him horrible side effects as soon as I'm out of town. I tell him he needs to titrate off under the supervision of a doctor, and that he should call a psychiatrist to try a different medication combo instead of those prescribed by his GP. My words are fruitless. It doesn't make an impact on him.

I'm hoping a little distance will give us both clarity about what the next steps should be. Maybe I'll even miss him a little. At this point, I honestly don't even want to be around him. I still have a lot of unresolved anger about the affair which I'd hoped we'd work out in marriage therapy, but I've had no such opportunity. My individual therapist gives me support, but it's not the same. My resentment towards him has been growing. But the shame of divorce keeps me frozen in place. The mere thought of telling my family and friends that I'm getting divorced makes me tear up and my stomach turn.

But I don't have to think about that right now. I'm looking out my window, the whole of downtown Fort Worth spread out in front of me. I've got the better part of a week to explore the city in my off hours. In fact, I'm gonna do just that.

Compared to the humid swamp breath that is Houston air, this drier June weather is practically fall-like. Being 250+ miles north has its advantages. I choose a little gastropub with the windows open a few blocks down from the hotel and enjoy a Scotch ale.

As the beer in my glass dips lower, I grab my phone and post to Facebook. "Hangin out in Fort Worth before my conference starts tomorrow. I get to learn all about our electronic health records system for 5 whole days!!! w00000w bet ur jealous".

I'm not into hockey, but I'm a sports fan in general and know the Nashville Predators are in the hunt for their first title. I keep an eye on the game while I pick at a salad. The crowd in the arena is going absolutely wild as the Preds score goal after goal on the Penguins, and very few things make me as happy as sports fans celebrating their team, especially in an unlikely hockey town like Nashville.

"Let me know if you'd like to get together!"

Oh, that's right. He's from Fort Worth--my seatmate from the game show audition. There's a secret alumni club on Facebook, and he'd posted in it a few months ago. "You made the cut too!" I told him. "Congrats!" Friend requested. Accepted. I find out he is VERY clever and funny and some of his Facebook status updates make me cry laughing. But that's kind of the whole group of former contestants. It's like instantly having a whole mess of friends that are whip-smart and hilarious.

I shoot him a message. "Sure. Wanna go play trivia somewhere? What's good on Wednesdays? I think I'll have a free evening then."

We make plans. "Oh, by the way my car's stuck in a garage with no in-out privileges," I tell him. "Can you give me the address so I can Uber out there?"

"That'd be an expensive Uber. Do you want me to pick you up?"

Oh hell, why not. I've got to pay for a lot of this conference stuff out of pocket until I get reimbursed, and if it'll save yet another expense, I'll take the chance. "If it's not too much trouble."

"Not at all. I'll see you then."

And with that, I'm back in conference mode, looking over the schedule and figuring out which workshops I'll attend tomorrow.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Oct 08, 2017 06:55 PM
Edited by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2017-10-08 18:56:55
August 2017

I'm hanging out with Conor McGregor's coach, John Kavanagh. He wants me to go for a run with him at 5am and is shaking me awake. I really don't want to do that, seeing as I'm a terrible runner and he's fit as a fiddle. He's being really insistent. Annoyingly so.

I wake up and realize the disturbance isn't part of the dream--my Apple Watch is buzzing. The call is from my dad and I'm not able to answer it in time. I grab my phone. There's two texts from my him along with the missed call.

The time is 6:13am.

I'd fallen asleep around 2 o'clock, partly due to anxiety, partly due to an extended text conversation. When I went to bed, I had heard the bayou was going to get as high as 43 feet and then go down. It's got more capacity than that, so all we need to worry about is local drainage. Outside, the street had filled up, but that's where the rainfall is supposed to go. In the street. Not in houses.

But the no-hype, independent meteorologist that everyone in town trusts to speak the truth without regards to ratings is telling us this is looking grim. That he hopes desperately to be wrong, but it's likely going to be catastrophic. Houston takes a collective deep breath. If the Sci Guy is worried...this is bad.

I quickly look outside. The water has crept halfway up the lawn. There's probably a differential of two or three feet between the elevation of the house and the street. I've never seen it this high, ever.

I'm scared.

My dad's texts pop up on my phone. They were sent 10 minutes apart. They're probably the most chilling thing I've ever read.

Dad 6:01am
We are probably going to take on water over here if it keeps raining. Your grandma's house probably already has water in it.

Dad 6:11am
We are flooding.

I call Dad with a quickness. Water is pouring in. It's probably already up to three or four inches in the house. They've shut the power off themselves since they expect the water to go over the outlets at any moment. They're okay, but the next step is to go across the street and bring my grandmother G and her two dogs up to the safety of their second story. They're elevated up a grassy bank on the corner, and compared to her house, just across the street, she's got to have at least a foot at this point.

No electricity in the home means he'll be relying on a solar-powered charging bank. We'll have to conserve our usage. We'll use the family group text when we can. I tell him I love them both and we'll keep in touch.

I check in with my sister and brother-in-law. Their street floods at the tip of a hat so I was worried they would be already underwater. My sister's heard from Dad. Her husband--a guy who grew up in East Texas and already lived through one horrific flood--is up and monitoring the level of the water to determine how fast it's rising through a jury-rigged concrete block system.

My entire family is in danger. I wonder if any of us are going to come out from this event unscathed.

I walk softly past my grandmother's room and out into the den. I switch the TV on and turn it to the weather--not hard since it's all every news station is talking about.

I start sobbing.

My childhood home, the one constant in my life no matter what happened, is under siege. My grandma G is living off social security and already cash-poor. Six inches of water--or more--isn't exactly going to help that situation. I feel gross for being so flippant about the storm before this moment.

I dry my tears. I have to be strong for my grandma S. She's going to need me. I hear her door open and know she's up, and that's not surprising since she's such a light sleeper. I snap into action. I plug in and start charging all of my electronics since I know the power will probably go out at some point today. If the water starts rising, I'll start taking things up off the floor.

The flooding isn't a threat here--yet. It's creeping up the driveway, but at some point it has to stop raining.

It has to stop raining.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue Oct 10, 2017 04:31 PM
June 2017

The "crappy little hatchback", as quoted in the text he'd sent me, pulls up to my hotel.

"Well hello there," I say. Looks like I'm sitting next to him once again.

On the 30 minute drive to play quiz we swap game show stories. How'd you do? How much did you win? Did you get the final question? What personal anecdote did the host ask you during that little segment in the middle? How frelling cold was the green room? Wasn't it just the most surreal of experience of your life? It feels kind of nice talking to someone who totally understands the absolutely bonkers thing you did.

They'd let you take guests to be in the audience. I had thought about inviting some of my Southern California family, but the Midwesterner in me said "oh, I don't want to be a bother". My parents had to pay for my airfare and hotel just to get me out to the show, so my husband didn't come. "Did anybody go with you?" I ask.

"Oh, yeah, my girlfriend."

"Ah. I think I was the only one without anybody there. It was kind of weird that everybody else had support but me." I shrug. "It's okay, sad-eating a Papa John's pizza in your hotel room after losing is better done alone anyway."

That gets a laugh and an "aww".

At quiz, a few of his friends are waiting for us. We dominate, of course. The host is also an alum of the program we were both on, so I get to play 20 Questions with another contestant. "I also host quiz in Houston," I tell him.

"Oh, what night do you host?" my ride asks.

"Mondays."

"I'm going to be in Houston on a Monday in a few weeks," he says. "I'm auditioning to be on another game show."

"Collecting them all, I see," I smirk.

We go around the table with what celebrity, living or dead, we would bang. "I've heard Warren Beatty is a very generous lover," I offer.

My seatmate's answer is instantaneous. "Casablanca era Ingrid Bergman. No doubt." As somebody whose style is classic vintage, I applaud that answer.

On the way back, we're getting along like a house on fire. I share the best team name from the Star Wars quiz I had just scorekept and I'm laughing so hard I can barely get through the sentence. At one point I describe something as "rare as hen's teeth" and he expresses his appreciation for my delightfully Southern idioms.

"I'm kind of surprised you accepted a ride from me," he says at one point while we're speeding back toward downtown Fort Worth. "You're really just relying on that contestant coordinator to make sure I'm not a serial killer."

It's a joke. I mumble something like "oh, I can take care of myself" but I realize...he's kind of right. I'm in a car in a strange city with a guy I've met once, have no idea where I am, and I'm also staying at a hotel room by myself. I am sending out some baaaaad messages.

He pulls under the porte cochere at the hotel and I practically leap out of the car. "Bye it was fun look me up if you're ever in Houston!" DOORSLAM.

Once I get back to my room I'm pacing around, half lost in thought, half nerves. That was weird. The feelings I'm having are weird. And I don't know what to do with them. Even if I'm on the way out of this marriage--which is becoming increasingly clear to me that this is what needs to happen--I'm still married. I haven't had this kind of...little flame inside me for the better part of a decade. I didn't even know it was still possible. I don't even want to say what it is. Naming it is power.

I take a deep breath. Whatever. I'm totally overreacting. We live in different cities. I'm never going to see him again.

I make a conscious decision not to save his phone number.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Oct 30, 2017 08:55 PM
August 2017

There's a funny thing that happens when water is rising. You start negotiating.

"It's only halfway up the lawn," you tell yourself. We can deal with halfway up the lawn. That's not bad.

With whom are you negotiating? God? The universe? The primal, elemental force of water?

No idea.

I'm watching our CBS affiliate when they suddenly start "um" and "er" and "ah"-ing. "Well, folks, we're getting water in the studio, so we're going to have to go upstairs." Then the anchors are broadcasting from a tiny meeting room that was obviously never meant to be seen on the air.

And fifteen minutes after that, they announce that they're having to evacuate the studio since Buffalo Bayou is swollen and shows no signs of stopping. They throw the broadcast to a reporter out in the field, and then mid-report she goes out completely. Channel 11 is off the air.

Great, I think to myself crisply. The world is ending.

I check my bedroom window and it's gone up the lawn. It's lapping at the little bed of ivy just outside my bedroom window.

"Well, it's not OVER the ivy. You can still see the leaves." I concentrate on a little twig sticking out in the bed, a cast-off from the giant water oak in the front yard. It acts as a metering device. If it's covered, I'll start worrying.

A trio of teenagers has taken their family canoe out for a spin. They're singing like Venetian gondoliers as they paddle down the middle of our street, which is now a river three or four feet deep, with a current and everything. At least someone is having a good time.

I have all my electronic devices plugged in and charging. I know we're going to lose power at some point, so I'm going to be prepared when we do.

We're going to be spared. We have to be. It doesn't make sense that we wouldn't. My sister's roommate left their second car at our place, since our house was so high up. It was my idea that they do. My car is parked next to them in the driveway, my grandma's little sedan tucked into the garage. I've been texting my sister and they have everything sandbagged. They're doing okay for now. It's going to be bitterly ironic if they come out fine from this and the safe bet floods out a car.

I peek out the window. The ivy is covered. The little twig is barely visible. It's reached the bottom of the foundation now.

Surely that's where it'll stop. It's not raining any more, so it's got to start receding. Unless it's still raining upstream of us. I go to check the weather on the TV. As I'm walking from my bedroom to the den, the power cuts out.

The water's still rising. It's lapping at the foundation now, roughly at the level of the floor.

I crumple in my closet. If this is the year I lose my marriage, my car, a place to live, and all the stuff that was important enough for me to bring over, I'm gonna crack. I start sobbing. But once again, I can't let my grandmother see.

Too late. She wanders in. "It's just been a year," I wail. She gives me a hug and calms me down. This isn't how it's supposed to be. I have to be strong for her.

I dry my tears. I've had my basket case moment and I have to face facts, confirmed by a quick look out the window. This is happening. We're going to flood. All I can do is take things up off the floor now and try to think about what can be saved. I sacrifice my good towels--the ones I got from my wedding registry--and start stuffing them under the exterior doors.

We're alone, on an island. And I'm not sure how this castaway story is going to end.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:00 PM
So this isn't the usual way I'd write one of these, but I needed a place to say what I want to say that's semi-private. Someday I really do want to write a memoir about this weird time in my life because wow, has it ever been weird. Also, I don't want people to think they can't comment because they feel like they're interrupting a narrative. Please comment, if you so wish!

So, what's up with me currently? As of December 8, I am legally divorced. It snowed heavily that day (in TEXAS) so it'll be pretty hard to forget. How do I feel about that? Honestly...fine. My husband was checked out of our marriage for a year before I found out what was wrong, and then I spent the next eight months trying to fix it to no avail. Yes, it is very intentional when I say *I* tried to fix it because there was no "we" in that statement.

My conditions were: 1) no contact with other woman; 2) go to an actual psychiatrist instead of having medications prescribed to him by his GP since he was having bad side effects; 3) go to couples' counseling with me; 4) start individual counseling.

He did #1 (to the best of my knowledge), but nothing else. Instead of going back to the doctor (EVEN THE GP), he just stopped cold turkey instead of titrating off his meds. He insisted on a male therapist for couples' counseling, and finding one that was on our insurance and didn't have a full caseload was like finding a unicorn. I couldn't call his insurance company for benefits since I wasn't on his plan, so I wrote out all the questions he needed to ask and begged him to call. (He never did.) This went on for months. After a while I realized he was stalling and trying to control the situation when he had no right to do that. (He also thought a male therapist would be on his side, which, LOL. No.)

One of my wedding vows was "I will always try." And I did. I tried really hard, but he wasn't holding up his end of the bargain. I could walk away knowing I fulfilled that obligation, and that has been a real comfort in a strange way.

And honestly...it feels weird to me to remember that I had a completely different life this time last year, because my new normal is one that I CHOSE. And it's even weirder not to miss it. If anything, I miss having a home more than I do the actual person I shared it with. But that sadness about home is probably more to do with Harvey than the divorce. That's another post for another day.

So I went to the courthouse, I was the first case on the docket, I was literally in at 8am and got through security and up to the court and was legally divorced and on my way to work at 8:30am. And I didn't really feel any type of way about it. After work, I checked into a fancy downtown hotel for the weekend, had a small get together with some of my ladies to celebrate my new life (including Sumayah!!! we have been major divorce pals this entire time) and then went back to my hotel to spend the weekend with my boyfriend.

Yes! I also! Have! A boyfriend! (The story of how I asked him out, and the story of our first date, deserve their own posts.) You guys, I am just goofy in love. Like teenagery, starry-eyed, giggly butterflies. I didn't think I would ever feel this way again, or feel so intensely as an adult, but I'll find myself just grinning because I'm going about my day and suddenly remember that he loves me. I'll call him L here and obfuscate some details so I'm not totally outing him to the world. But yes, we really did meet because he couldn't find parking and sat next to me in the back row of our (trivia game show) audition.

If I'd created a list of attributes in a future partner, it's ridiculous how he'd check the boxes. He went to a very selective Southern university and lived in my favorite city for a time. He works for a pro sports team (in a VERY COOL professional capacity) and we actually talked sports before I even knew what he did. He's since taped an episode of (OTHER trivia game show) that hasn't aired yet because they apparently aren't as organized as ours. (No, I don't know how he did and I haven't asked!) He reads. He COOKS. OH MY GOD DOES HE COOK. Over Christmas at one point I said I was kind of getting hungry (I was all sad and sick on the couch) and I just expected him to warm up what we'd had last night. I look in the kitchen and he's making a pork loin in the oven. AND I'M NOT EVEN MENTIONING THE SIDES.

But regardless of how accomplished he is, he's also pretty ace at being a decent human being. The points in which my expectations were SO LOW for a partner are still surprising me. And he is surpassing them stratospherically. Por ejemple:

- HE CAN DRESS HIMSELF in appropriate clothing for the occasion without me having to say "oh honey, no"! On our first date, I was worried I was going to drive four hours (YES I DROVE FOUR HOURS for a first date I REALLY need to tell these stories later) and then not like him as much as I remembered when I was around him. When he came out of his house with brown Oxfords and a pearl-snap shirt on I was like "DAMN IT. I DO STILL LIKE HIM."

- HE HANGS OUT WITH MY FRIENDS! I almost had an anxiety attack asking him if he'd like to go to a party and meet some of my friends a couple of months in and his response was "??? yeah that sounds fun???" Ex-husband NEVER came to social events with me and then when he did, I had to manage him and remind him when he was being rude (which was often). I had to beg him to put his phone away and tell him he didn't have to say anything, just listen to the people at the table. It was like raising a teenager. L is funny and charming and likeable and is way less stressed out than me when he's meeting people I know.

- HE GOES TO FAMILY FUNCTIONS WITH ME! He's met my parents! He spent an entire weekend for Thanksgiving with me, my dad, my sister and brother-in-law in a tiny house in rural Texas and I never once wanted to kill him! We both went to a Christmas get together in his city! Oh yeah, and my family loves him!

- HE MEANS WHAT HE SAYS AND HE USES WORDS TO TALK ABOUT HIS FEELINGS!!! L is so forthright. I knew right from the beginning that he was into me because he said as much. When November was rolling around he texted me "What do you want for your birfday? I love you and want to buy you things." I'm never going back to emotionally constipated man-children. Use your words and say what you gotdang mean.

- WE HAVE SEX! Oh my god this alone was killing my marriage and was enough to end it over. I am still getting over the mind-frick that was only having sex after we had a fight and I cried over not having sex. L has been incredibly caring and patient with me as I work through all of that and it only makes me love him more. I don't want to be too blue but I am honestly having the best sex of my life and all that worrying about dating while fat was for naught because he can't keep his hands off me and I am JUST FINE WITH THAT.

- HE'S CURIOUS ABOUT STUFF! This is one of those intangibles that didn't *seem* like a big deal in my previous relationship but ultimately became a big deal. I read A LOT. I listen to podcasts. I take in a lot of information and I want to learn more. Ex-husband was always super closed off and didn't want to try new things. He always expected me to understand his (BONKERS) thought processes and never wanted to understand mine. NO. MORE.

- HE LISTENS TO WHAT I SAY! A few weeks before Christmas, I was with L and mentioned that one of my gaps in knowledge was Mexican history and the Chicano movement because viva la raza, and that I needed to read up on that. I opened one of my presents this year for Christmas and it was a book about the history of the Chicano women's movement. The first words out of my mouth were "aww, you remembered a thing I said!" He also got me an Instant Pot since I was feeling sad about not having access to all my kitchen gadgets (or really, my own kitchen) due to divorce/hurricane. Like. This is such a simple thing, so why is it so vanishingly hard to find in the opposite sex?

And yeah, I understand we're still in the honeymoon period, and I think the longer we're long distance, the more prolonged that honeymoon experience is going to be. But I keep looking for red flags and they're just...not there. He's not entitled or arrogant or insecure. I know we're gonna have an argument eventually, but I really can't imagine what in the world it would be about since we agree on virtually all major things and he's SO laid back. And since the only way to see each other is by spending entire weekends together, he's already seen me without makeup in my basic white girl uniform of spirit jersey + LuLaRoe leggings, and has helped me to the bathroom when I got blackout drunk for the first time ever (that's another story), and I had freaking SHINGLES this Christmas and he still wanted to love on my gross scabby face. I don't want to jinx it, but...let's say I just *know* in my gut that this is going to last. We are just too good together.

But cheese and rice, the kinds of things I listed should NOT be that exceptional, but they are. Knowing that I'm in a relationship with an actual adult that knows how to handle his business is INCREDIBLY FREEING.

And it's helped me learn a lot about myself. I always thought I was this really dramatic person and that I had a bad temper. But...turns out, when I don't have an incredibly negative, willfully ignorant and childish person shackled to me, I'm actually really easy to get along with! And no matter what happens with me and L (and I think we could end this respectfully), I've found my confidence again. I have NO TIME for anyone who's not right for me and I know I'll be just fine on my own if this relationship disappeared tomorrow.

Okay, I think that's enough blather for today. But the real takeaway here is that I'M IN LURVE YOU GUYS. More later.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Jan 05, 2018 02:27 PM
Okay. SO. The story of how I asked him out. But first, a million words of backstory!

After reconnecting in Ft. Worth, when he told me he'd be in town for that audition, I didn't think I'd ever see him again. Also I was having weird ~feelings~ and I wanted to shut those down right away so, as mentioned, I did not save his number. And then as I'm driving over to my venue to host quiz, I get a text message with a Fort Worth area code asking if I was still holding quiz? I started kind of panicking because I didn't think he was really going to follow through and actually do a thing he said. I thought he was just being polite and had no intention of showing up. WHOOPS!

So I did quiz, and afterwards we were chatting about how the audition went, and how it was different than "our" game show experience, and I told him if he didn't have to drive back to Fort Worth that night I'd invite him out. He told me "I really don't have any place to be since my job is pretty dead this time of year."

I said, "oh, what do you do again?"

He looked a little sheepish and told me, and my brain went "daaaa mn that a grown up job". And it was one you don't just fall into or feel indifferent about, and that shows passion and determination. I knew he wasn't pulling my leg since if he was just being a blowhard he could have brought it up way before, like when we were goofin' on sports the last time I saw him.

I invited him out to the bar I used to live behind, which is where I made just about all of my bad decisions in my 20s. I had lost my debit card somewhere between my car and quiz, and I wasn't about to ask him to buy me a drink, so the liquid courage started to wear off and I was amazingly nervous. It didn't help that I kept saying "well, I'm sure you have to get home" and he'd reply "I really don't have any place to be."

We chatted as I got more and more frazzled, and I ended up extricating myself using the excuse that I needed to work tomorrow, even though I wanted to stay longer. We awkward side-hugged and secretly I was so, so glad he didn't walk me to my car because I wasn't sure I wouldn't have kissed him good night. But I wasn't even sure he didn't have a girlfriend--I just had a feeling that he was single, but that wasn't enough to go off of.

At that point I knew. I knew my relationship was dead and that I needed to leave. Every time I thought about separating and divorcing, I'd start crying. But every time I thought about it, it got a little less scary. My parents and grandmother are really religious, and nobody in our little branch of the family had ever gotten divorced. Although I was so afraid of how my family might react, I decided staying in this loveless, sexless marriage was much worse.

Finally, I made a plan, and on a Friday in mid-June I went over to my sister's and cried and told her what needed to happen. I repeated that scene at my mom's. My dad was on the road so I had to call him and break the news. I asked my grandma if I could stay with her for a little while. And it turned out I had nothing to worry about because everybody was amazingly supportive.

I packed up my essentials on a Saturday while he was at work and left. There were a lot of tears, but if he had been surprised by this he either not being honest with himself or willfully ignorant. I'd brought up divorce as early as a year before our separation because I was so unhappy. And I settled in at my grandma's as best I could. Mostly, I just wanted to go back to my old life. I wanted my cat and my house and my bed again. If my ex had to be a part of that, okay, fine. But I knew that wasn't the smart thing to do and I held fast. We had one more meeting where I told him separation was not temporary, we were going to get divorced. And it hurt, but needed to be done.

I had so many plans. I wasn't going to date until January. Even though it was tempting, I didn't open the Pandora's box that was dating apps because I wanted to focus on me for a while. I knew I was a bad mother trucker who didn't need him or anyone else for validation, and between dance, muay thai, working quiz and figuring out my new eating plan, I was not even missing being partnered.

As part of my trivia hosting job I worked a special Game of Thrones quiz as a scorekeeper. (We do these highly-attended theme quizzes once a month, and they're really difficult with actual money at stake, so it's a high-stress situation and I always feel like I've run a marathon afterwards.) He had mentioned when I was twitchy and blathering at the bar he was going to the Dallas edition. After the madness was over, I was sitting at the bar having a drink with Sara and I told her frick, man, I really like this dude. Maybe this is the opportunity I need to text him.

"Does he know you're separated?"

"Noooo..." I said. "If he followed me on Twitter, he would."

"Dani, I think that's a conversation you need to have."

I roll my eyes. "How do I do that? 'Hey! I'm getting divorced, what's new with you?'"

"I'm just saying, maybe you need to be a little psycho. Just go ahead and ask him when you can visit."

"That's not my styyyyle," I whine. "Being so forward like that. At least I don't think it's my style. I haven't done this since I was 19. Maybe it wasn't my style then, but it might be now. I DON'T KNOW!"

I finish up my beer, we say our goodbyes, and as I'm leaving, I look at my phone, and I have a new follower on Twitter. Guess who.

Oh, you thought you were going to get the story about how I asked him out? I think you've been assaulted enough by my haphazard prose. More later.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:09 PM
July 2017

It's a hot Texas summer night and also happens to be my friend Ellie's birthday. I don't usually do much on Friday nights, since I'm normally too tired to get dolled up after working. But my soon-to-be-ex always groused about me going out, especially because he would always want to stay in, so sometimes I'd decide not to go for the sake of marital harmony. But now I only have to answer to myself. And myself is taking a shower, putting on makeup and a pretty dress, and maybe talking to a guy, just because I CAN. "I look super cute somebody take me out on a date" I throw out into the universe, via Twitter.

Tomorrow is moving day. My dear, wonderful friends--all of whom, coincidentally are here tonight--are helping me pack and stow all of my stuff into a 5x10 storage unit. Earlier today I'd been packing up my things but I'm not close to finishing. I've been feeling queasy about having to go back to my apartment after a month of being away. I haven't enjoyed it, to put it lightly.

After being on the patio of a Montrose bar and getting much too close to our ubiquitous Houston tree roaches, we've headed downtown to a place I recommended, a late night food hall with the best Tex Mex barbeque I've found in the city. Real estate is a hot commodity, especially at this time of night, so I've parked my keister in one of the larger booths so we can all sit together.

I'm fiddling with my phone as one does. L and I have been texting a little. After discussing the possibility of that conversation starter with Sara, it takes me SEVENTEEN FULL HOURS to work up the nerve to text him something as benign as "How'd you do on the Game of Thrones quiz?" I'm flustered and nervous and feel like a teenager again. It hasn't helped that he's actually texted back, without me having to initiate. I've got a crush and I have no idea what to do about it...especially since I'm still not 100% sure he's single.

I look at my Twitter notifications and my hand flies to my mouth. Oh my god. He's favorited the tweet. You know, the one in which I'm asking someone to take me out on a date.

I start laughing hysterically--because, if I'm being very honest with myself, I had hoped he would see it. I had gone fishing and I had something on the line now. And who goes fishing not wanting to catch anything?

My friends join me at the table bearing their goodies and I switch out to grab my food...and drink. Oh boy do I ever need a drink. After I return, I tell them of this interesting development.

"I'm thinking about texting back 'is that an offer?' just to see what happens," I say.

"You should!" Alma eggs me on, taking a bite of her pizza.

"Eh, I don't know," I say.

A few minutes later, after conversation has shifted away, I type it out word for word and mash "send".

"An offer for a date?" he asks.

"Yes", I respond.

OH NO WHAT HAVE I DONE!!!

"I did it," I blurt out.

A notification. He's texted back.

I put the both the phone and myself flat on the table, scared to see what it says. "I can't. I can't I can't I can't I can't. I can't. I feel like a teenager. I can't."

"What's the worst that can happen?" Jean says. "What have you got to lose?"

"MY DIGNITY," I wail.

"Oh, give me that," Alma says, rolling her eyes. "Unlock it and we'll read it to you. We can type for you too."

Alma's normally taciturn husband pipes up. "Just write 'do you like my friend, please check yes or no'", he says, mocking my awkwardness. Alma swats him on the arm.

I proffer a fingerprint. "'If not for the distance, absolutely. Also, I legit thought you were married'," Jean reads out.

"UGH," I sigh. I'm thinking about those words "if not for the distance". This may be over before it starts.

"What? That's good. He basically said yes," Jean points out. Ellie is too tipsy to offer much more than an unsteady thumbs up.

"I'm gonna type 'I was...I'm separated'. Is that okay?" Alma says, always the one to take the lead.

I make a garbled sound of assent and wait for the response.

"Oh god he's texted back," I say as the phone lights up. My face is once again a pancake on the table. This is it. This is the make or break. I once again provide a fingerprint to unlock the phone while I cover my eyes in anxiety.

The three of them are crowded around the tiny screen. I'm trying to read their faces from between my fingers.

"Dani, this is good. This is really good," Jean tells me.

I take a look.

"That sucks. I'm recently single myself. You are smart and funny and incredibly easy to talk to. I would be so lucky to take you out on a date."

I grab the phone back from Alma and take Sara's advice. "So when can I visit?"
----

Later that night, when Alma is driving me home, I tell her "I hope you're comfortable with the fact that you basically set up your friend to get laid."

I have sad and tiring business tomorrow, but I can't possibly be sad about it now. I'm so happy I can't sleep. We stay up until 5 in the morning texting.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Jan 06, 2018 08:03 PM
I wrote this elsewhere in September, but wanted to include it here.

This evening at Rosh Hashanah services, Rabbi Lyon said Hurricane Harvey had activated something very Jewish in the Houston community--in a generation that has been the most comfortably assimilated into mainstream culture, perhaps ever. He spoke of grandparents who escaped with very little other than the clothes on their backs and what they could carry. We are a wandering people, he said. We are often displaced. Harvey was just another part of the Jewish experience.

I'm 9/10ths of the way to being a Jewish convert--just have to square a few things away before I take a dip in the mikveh--and I experience anxiety every time I walk into a Jewish setting because I'm afraid I'm going to be "found out" as not really Jewish. As any woman who's been called smart at least once in her life can tell you, the impostor syndrome is real. I am aching to feel good enough, to belong.

As I looked around the room, I actually felt like I did. Bellaire and Meyerland are my home. The folks around me were my neighbors. This is my community, and we've all gone through the same collective trauma. As I contemplate the things I've lost--three family homes, photos, traditions (where will we have Christmas? Thanksgiving?), I've realized: this was big. This was REALLY big. It's okay to not be okay. The adrenaline is wearing off and I finally cried for only the second time since the storm at therapy yesterday.

Tomorrow will mark the 6th place I've slept since August 26th, not all of them beds. I passed a restless night on the floor of a shelter with no electricity one night with my tennis shoes as a pillow. I could barely sleep because I kept hearing the air boat that evacuated me and my grandma roaring and National Guard helicopters making rescues long past midnight. At therapy I suddenly remembered people down the block from us yelling for help as the water rose at my house. I've heard of people blocking out trauma before, but I'd never really experienced it until I could hear those screams in my head once again. I've tried to shrug and say other people had it way worse than me, that since I'm not TOTALLY broken I'm fine, but I'm not. It's going to be a long time before I can say I am.

Along with our programs, the ushers handed out a rubber wristband that said "Gam Zeh Ya'avor": This too shall pass. There is so much uncertainty about my future. Where will I be even a month from now? I really have no idea if I'm going to stay in Houston, to be honest. When it began pouring on Monday, I was caught driving to meet a friend and just seeing the water pool in the road made me want to throw up and cry. It is painful to be here.

There's a lot that's up in the air right now, a lot of decisions to be made. Whatever happens, I can say this: wherever I end up finally nailing my mezuzah to my doorpost, being able to call it home will only be that much sweeter.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:20 PM
Edited by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2018-01-07 22:23:07
Edited by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2018-01-07 22:23:52
August 2017

I'm cowering in my car, waiting for L to walk out of his house and confirm yes, I am actually at the right place. I've sent a very tentative text that reads "I THINK I'm here????" I once knocked on the wrong door at 6:30am during my weird almost-a-year nannying, and ever since then I've been paranoid and don't walk up to doors I don't know unless I absolutely have to.

I can hear folks in the other end of the driveway, which is relatively far away since this house is huge and rambling. One of the voices is a woman's, and I am not about to meet parents on a first date. "Hello, Mrs. L's-mom, I'm the girl who drove four hours to sleep with your son, how are you!"

We've been talking for a month now, and yes, I've made that known that is a distinct possibility, but not guaranteed. If nothing else, this is a fun rebound for both of us, and if we don't actually connect, we live in different cities and I'll never have to see him again.

As logical as that thought process might be, I'm still fuh-reaking out inside. All throughout the four hour drive, just about every thirty minutes the realization of what I was actually doing would wash over me, and I'd scream. AAAGGHHHH! WHAT AM I DOING?!?!? I haven't been on a first date in almost eleven years. If I wasn't too nervous to eat anything, I might feel like throwing up.

I've micromanaged every detail of my appearance tonight. New dress was altered (and the alterations cost as much as the dress, but I couldn't see myself with any other look for tonight, so here we go). It's a cotton red, white and blue number that has sort of a nautical vibe and power clashing patterns. Shoes are spectator heels. My nails have been freshly done and are looking correct. I buy a clutch purse that looks like a watermelon slice from Charming Charlie that matches my whole look perfectly. Hair is straightened and pouffed appropriately. Makeup is looking good, and I've taken my whole bag with me for last minute touch-ups.

As I'm waiting for L to leave his house, there are so many thoughts running through my mind. What if I figure out I don't like him as much as I remember? It's been a good six weeks since we saw each other last. What if he has terrible table manners? What if he says something horribly racist? WHAT IF HE'S A BAD KISSER?

And then he walks out, and he looks every inch of that 6'5" frame, and he's actually dressed well, and there's something indescribable about the way he moves that captivates me. I catch sight of myself in my rear-view mirror and I'm blushing.

Damn it. I do still like him.

I pull the car door handle. Okay, so we're doing this.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Feb 01, 2018 08:36 PM
Valentine's Day 2018

Dear L,

If someone last year had asked me "what do you think your life would look like in 2018?" there's no way I could have possibly imagined all I have now. I am so extravagantly lucky to have you in my life and there's no bounds to my gratefulness. I've felt happiness with you that I was sure didn't exist--or if it did, it didn't happen to people like me. Our love is both deeply mature and would make the 15 year old version of myself giggle and swoon.

I find new reasons to love you every day. You balance me out and I feel calmer when I'm around you. You're wickedly funny but never cruel. You're curious and always up for learning something new. You stick up for the marginalized and oppressed not because you want cookies for it, but because it's the right thing to do. You respect every boundary I have, no matter how silly or arbitrary. You are gentle and considerate, and I always feel respected and loved around you.

You have been the most wonderful surprise of my life. I've given up trying to predict or control my future--G-d knows I should have learned that I can't by now--but as long as it's with you, I think I'll be all right.

Thank you for deciding I was worth it. I love you so, so much.

-D.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Feb 12, 2018 05:38 PM
Some days, I feel the loss more acutely than others.

And you may be sitting there thinking, "well duh, Midlake, you went through a divorce and lost most of your anchors over a span of less than six months. OF COURSE you're grieving."

Day to day, however, it doesn't feel like this big thing. Life goes on. I go to work. I host quiz. I go to dance class (well, when I can roust myself off the couch). I don't cry about it every night or something. I don't get (too) panicky when it rains. It's a thing that happened, a fact. My parents' house is gutted. My grandma's house across the street is an empty lot now. The bedroom that I called mine for a few months is stripped bare. Those are facts. Facts are neutral.

BUT it's also changed me in little ways. While driving, every bayou I pass over has to be inspected closely for water levels. I'll think about going over to my parents' and realize I'm thinking of a home that doesn't exist any more. I had this vague sense this year that I was missing Christmas Eve at my grandma G's, but that house was abandoned and there was no celebration of 20+ folks crammed into one tiny house, inching past each other on the buffet line. There never will be again.

It's hard to accept this, because I have such crisp pictures in my head of every inch of those houses. I had heard that my grandma's house had been leveled--she sold almost immediately after the storm for below market value, just to get into a home. But there's a difference between knowing and KNOWING. I saw it for the first time today. 50 years of happy memories encapsulated in one place are gone. I remember Easter egg hunts in the backyard. I remember watermelon slices on the Fourth of July. I remember laughing hysterically with my cousins at Christmas Eve once we hit adulthood and realized that three or four years' age difference wasn't an insurmountable barrier to being peers.

And yes, I understand, the memories didn't go away. However...if you ever know anyone in a similar situation--whether their home's been destroyed by fire, flood or otherwise--NEVER tell them "it's just stuff". It's not. It's not just stuff. I want to shove this phrase in a box and light it on fire. It's not just losing things to sit or sleep on. Even something as simple as losing a table is hard when that table is the one my grandparents bought as newlyweds, that my grandpa had finished himself. It's losing family pictures and toys you played with as a child. I lost all of the photography I did as an undergrad because that box got left behind in my parent's car on moving day. There's no replacing that.

I've lived in my current "temporary" configuration for longer than I ever was at my grandma's, and that is strange to think about. My life over the past year have become defined by mini-epochs of where I lived or stayed during that period of time, each one with their own very distinct flavor. They're like different realities existing side-by-side.

It comes down to this: I think I've been telling myself that because I'm not TOTALLY broken, because I'm not completely non-functional, I must be fine. But the trauma is there. It's in the background, like this constant buzz that's disrupting my concentration. For almost the whole time we've been dating, I told my boyfriend I feel like my brain's been functioning at 60%. I haven't been as clever or funny as I have been the past. I have huge gaps in conversation where I forget what I was saying or the words just won't come out. I've been engaging in self-destructive behavior and I'm so close to it that I didn't realize it was a response to trauma.

I don't know where to go from here. I don't know how it gets better, because things have changed forever. I guess I just have to trust the brute force of time to make things okay again.
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:12 PM
Had another lovely weekend together. It is becoming more and more difficult to say goodbye.

Going to be at least three weeks, if not four, before we're able to see each other again. And after 6 months of looking with no luck, I've decided to stay in Houston for the time being for a laundry list of reasons. Probably not going to have a space of my own, or be moving, until the end of the year. It's for the best, but oh my god I would kill to be a normal couple right now. Being able to go to family dinners and hit up a brewery one afternoon and cooking a lazy Sunday breakfast together. They sound like impossible luxuries at this point.

7 months together and I still don't know what the hell we would have our first disagreement about. I have been forcing myself to be very, very honest with my feelings, since I held so much back knowing it would cause an argument with my ex. I still feel the wince when I tell him what I think about something, or have to tell him something difficult or serious. I say the words even if I'm drawing back in my mind. And every time, I have been met with kindness and understanding. He picks up on nonverbal cues and knows exactly what to do and say to make me feel safe and valued. He is incredible.

I hosted trivia tonight and as I was driving back it hit me that he wouldn't be waiting at home for me, and I just got so sad, like to the point of tears. I don't know how I got so lucky.

Never settle. Whoever's reading this--DON'T SETTLE. Before I got divorced I thought my ex was the best I was going to do. You deserve someone who thinks you're beautiful and interesting and amazing. And you deserve someone kind and caring who you're proud of. They exist. Wait for them.

Being alone is better than being in the wrong relationship. Yeah, easy for me to say, I guess. But it's true. I didn't even want to date if I couldn't find someone amazing. I really didn't care if I was partnered for the rest of my life or not. Being married is not the achievement--especially for women--it's made out to be. I would rather live in a house with a horde of cats and a bunch of old spinsters than be married to someone I quietly resented.

In a way, I'm thrilled that I'm so sad. It means I've found someone worth missing.

Find someone like that.
re: Living on the Upside Down
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Mar 18, 2018 07:50 PM
Very, very unexpectedly met boyfriend's family this weekend. My SPD plans fell through and I was grousing about it on Thursday, so boyfriend invited me up for the weekend. Cool cool.

We're in kind of similar situations right now--we're living with family right now due to divorce (me) and breakup (him). Every time I've been up, his folks have been away. So I was assuming we'd have the place to ourselves. I was in the middle of a depressive episode and a surprise weekend with my guy sounded like just the ticket for me to reset and shake off the malaise.

A few hours before I'm set to leave from work for his place, I get a text that says oh, by the way, this isn't going to be like a regular weekend. There's going to be a lot of people around. At first I was mad, because how could he have overlooked that TINY DETAIL?? But I'm trying to do better at not assuming and actually communicating. After I stop hyperventilating, I stick to my "I'm going to say exactly what I mean" guns. I tell him "I wish you had told me that sooner. What will that look like?"

Well, mom, stepdad, uncle, cousin, cousin's friends. No big. Also I'll have to sleep on a roll-away, because in Texas we like to pretend all unmarried women are still virgin teens.

That wasn't what I signed up for, and I told him that. I really wanted to meet his folks, since it was getting to the point that it was weird I hadn't, but a whole weekend of sleeping on an unfamiliar, lumpy bed in a guest bedroom trying to impress people I've just met felt like too much. I'd be a ball of nerves for 48 hours and at that point I just wanted to cry for that entire time. I'm a really anxious person who requires details to help me cope when things aren't under my control. So, while crying, I texted him back with all that info and said I felt like I was letting him down.

He said of course I wasn't letting him down, and he was sorry but he'd just found out about the big posse basically at the same time I did. He understood it would be like throwing me in the deep end, and if I wasn't up for that, he would totally understand.

So after I stopped crying, I thought no, I am going to be brave and I am going to do this, with a few modifications. I was going to wake up early and drive up for the day, and then I was going to leave in the evening and drive back home. I'd be spending about 8 hours with the boyf and co and then ~9 hours back, but at least it would be on my terms and I would be able to pull the ripcord if everything went south. I marched over to Target and bought a very cute and entirely new springy outfit and made sure my blowout was A+ on the day and then stepped outside into the Houston humidity and all my hair-related efforts were in vain. File under "things I will not miss about the Gulf Coast".

I was screaming all the way up (ok, maybe just every 15 minutes, made me v nostalgic for the time I was coming up for our first date and screaming every 15 minutes). When I arrived, after wanting to throw up the entire way up there, I looked and neither of his folks' cars was in the driveway. D'oh. So for the first few hours, it was just me and L and his best friend, whom I've met several times before and is very cool, and I was able to get some alcohol into my maw and feel a little bit better about life. Not saying when I heard the back door open I didn't grab L's knee and swear under my breath.

And...it was fine. I was a little bit nervous but his mom and stepdad are lovely and welcoming and generous. They are definitely a certain variety of upper class Texans but that isn't necessarily a minus. In the evening we went to a dinner dance (!) at the country club (!!) in their gated community (!!!), which are words that this solidly middle class Mexican-Midwesterner never thought she would type in a row, but they are not pretentious at all and were actually disappointed I was not going to stick around and drink on their tab.

I had reached my extroversion limit towards the end of the night (bottomed out so hard I used the phrase “marauding hoarders“ at dinner and told one of my beau’s friends “thank you“ when he was telling me goodbye), and loud places are any partially deaf person's nemesis. I probably should have stayed though, honestly. The drive home was rainy and frankly harrowing. And now I miss him and yesterday feels like such a tease since we didn't get much in the way of alone time and we probably won't see each other until April.

tl;dr met boyfriend's family, didn't die.
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By Sumayah
On Mon Mar 19, 2018 08:39 AM
HUGS AND SUPER DUPER GIANT HIGH FIVES!!!!

I AM PROUD OF YOU!!!!

+throws confetti+
+wraps you in a blanket+
+hands you tea+
+hands you your cat+
+quietly exits+
+jumps up and down quietly+

GOOD JOB!!!!
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Mar 19, 2018 06:51 PM
x-posted on my FB:

I’ve always heard when it’s time to walk away from something, you’ll know. That is a frustrating sentiment for someone who has a lot of trouble seeing the gray in between her black-and-white thinking. But I can unequivocally say now that it’s true.

It has been a crazy ride of almost 20 years. I started dancing in an empty house in the Heights, learning this weird dance called the light jig that involved me doing the dangerous balancing act that was hopping on ONE leg. And even though I took an extended break, I ended up reaching some of my goals that I’d set before I quit: dancing in Prelims, competing at an Oireachtas, getting to sit and spectate at the Worlds. I challenged myself and danced choreography that I thought was impossible just a few years ago. I got to travel all over the country with my friends to compete. And even though my feet are shot to hell, I had a good run.

After coming back from dance camp in Connecticut last year, I was on fire. I had a practice schedule mapped out. My eating plan was superb. I ordered floor mats to go under my plywood that I was going to set up in the garage. It arrived the Friday before the storm hit.

Yes, the storm. I feel like my life will always be divided into two sections: before Harvey, and after Harvey. I have dreams about hurriedly picking things up off the floor because it’s going to flood. I get scared crossing bridges over swollen bayous and creeks, and driving in the rain. I heard some dispatch calls on the news from Harvey at the 6 month mark, and those memories of pleading with the universe that somehow you would be spared, and then the feelings of complete powerlessness, just came shooting back and I started sobbing.

After Harvey, it brought some things into sharp focus. And I can’t explain it, but dance was just not one of them. The looming spectre of learning new choreo was stressful instead of challenging. It just didn’t matter to me, and it wasn’t fun. I thought it might go away once I shifted out of emergency mode, but all that did was confirm what I was feeling. I have different goals now.

There were definitely things I didn’t like about dance, and there were also things that just plain weren’t good for me. I always liked it more than my abilities would let me express, and it’s hard sometimes to do something that you love that doesn’t love you back nearly as much as you do. Maybe I was the fat old lady on the circuit who couldn’t dance, that everybody talked about behind her back. (I don't mind. It's fairly accurate.) I was constantly disappointed with my performance, was always the slowest to catch on, and would forget things I’d done for years. It made me feel stupid and old. Later on, I found out that dyscalculia, which made math a near-impossibility for me growing up, gives you trouble telling left from right (not great in team dancing) and in remembering choreographed step sequences. Well, dammit and eureka in equal measures. Once I learned this—that there were actual reasons for WHY this was so frustrating—it was a huge load off my shoulders. It made walking away much easier, knowing I *had* given it my all in that department.

If this activity was more mainstream, I might end up as an Irish dance sportswriter. I wish CLRG would make this art-sport more accessible, since I would totally be that nerd compiling past results, watching tape, putting together portfolios and odds for prospective title winners, and keeping track of stats and interesting firsts. But if you’re not a teacher or a title winner, there’s really no room for you in Irish dancing. Nobody has need of the brain who couldn't pass a teaching exam.

I am (fingers crossed) moving back home this week after almost 7 months away and hoping for healing and a fresh start. I need to do something active, so I’ll probably go back to punching and kicking things with my sister, and maybe learning how to flip guys who mansplain at me. Learning how to get better at something without being directly competitive is going to be difficult. Even knowing how competition screws with my head and isn’t a great thing for my health and happiness, I’m going to have a hard time walking away from that mentality.

The best thing I’ve gotten out of Irish dancing by FAR has been all the amazing people I’ve met. I have friends on five different continents because of this crazy little art form. They are the most interesting, dedicated, generous and fun group of folks, and I am happy to call them pals. I am thankful I don’t have to leave them behind. Yes, you heard what I said. You guys are coming with, whatever happens next!

I may be walking away for myself, but I’ll still have an eye on things because I can’t really stay away completely. And you better believe I’m going to be sitting second row all weekend at the Southern Region Oireachtas in Houston this year.

Love you all. xx
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Apr 11, 2018 06:28 PM
I just keep thinking to myself…what if?

What if I’d done well on my first online test instead of the second?
What if I’d been invited to those auditions instead of the Houston ones?
What if I hadn’t done well on the second online test? What if I’d missed just enough to put me below the threshold?
What if he hadn’t taken the Houston-only test, thinking he wasn’t eligible?
What if they’d disqualified him from auditioning, since he wasn’t from Houston?
What if he hadn’t been late and had to take the only seat available, next to me?
What if we hadn’t made friendly conversation while they were scoring the tests? What if we hadn’t said anything at all?
What if he didn’t have a distinctive name that I’d actually remembered?
What if I didn’t get on the show? What if he didn’t get on the show? We’d never have reconnected in the former contestants group otherwise.
What if he hadn’t reached out to me when I mentioned I was in his city? What if I’d said no, I’m too busy?
What if I hadn’t mentioned I host quiz on Mondays during that outing?
What if he hadn’t gone to that second game show audition? I didn’t even really know about it until it was over.
What if he’d decided to go straight home after his audition? What if, after quiz, he said it was too late for him to go out?
What if he hadn’t followed me on Twitter?
What if he hadn’t seen that tweet, the one tweet for which I was totally fishing for a response from him?
What if he’d seen it, but not given me any indication that he had? No favorite, no message?
What if I hadn’t gotten super drunk and worked up the nerve to ask him out?
What if he had a girlfriend, or was still with his ex? I didn’t know for sure when I asked.
What if he said no, knowing I was coming with a lot of baggage?
What if I’d totally misread things and he wasn’t into me at all?
What if I hadn’t been insane enough to drive four and a half hours to go on an overnight date with a guy I’d met a handful of times?

We are just so, so freaking unlikely. We shouldn’t even know each other, much less be dating. Yet, here we are. I found my person, and I know he feels the same way.
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By Live_on_Broadway
On Tue Apr 17, 2018 01:07 PM
TheMidlakeMuse wrote:

Never settle. Whoever's reading this--DON'T SETTLE. Before I got divorced I thought my ex was the best I was going to do. You deserve someone who thinks you're beautiful and interesting and amazing. And you deserve someone kind and caring who you're proud of. They exist. Wait for them.


Thank you. I needed to read this today. Glad to see you're doing so well. <3
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue May 15, 2018 11:05 PM
I THINK MY BOYFRIEND IS GOING TO PROPOSE OVER THE SUMMER.

Sorry, I don't mean to startle anyone. It's 11:30pm and I should be sleeping but I can't. I just need a place to yell into the void because the people in my life might think I'm a crazy person, and I'm definitely not talking to HIM about it because I don't want to spoil the surprise. But I think I know.

WHY DO I THINK I KNOW THIS?

- We had a talk a few months in about how I was NOT going to wait around for another 6 years for a proposal like I did in my 20s. A year is fine. Two is the max. If you don't know by then, don't waste my time. He was very receptive and was happy I was thinking of him that way. We've only gotten closer and more comfortable with each other since then.

- He keeps asking if I've decided what we consider our anniversary to be. We have two dates to choose from: July 21st (the ask-iversary) or August 19th (our actual first date). I had Feelings about it. I was making an internal case for July because even though we weren't in the same city, I feel like we started to get to know each other from that point forward. He made me laugh so hysterically at a trolley problem meme in Connecticut after an exhausting day of travel, my sister and friend basically had to tell me to go to bed. I once sent him a wide array of hilariously misspelled sports jerseys. You know, your normal flirting behavior.

Now that I'm considering it--really considering it--I'm going to say August. I'm going to suggest we go back to the sushi restaurant where I couldn't eat anything and actually eat things. I'm gonna say we should go get doubles of bourbon at the little dive bar we went to afterwards. And maybe...maybe???!!??

- When I tell him I miss him, or that I'm sorry I have to be home right now and I wish I could move, he assures me we have the rest of our lives to be together and he understands I need to be with my family at this point.

- We've started joking about our wedding vows, which aren't fit to print on DDN.

- He has taken an exceptional interest in the fact that I'm super into Art Deco style (especially emeralds). He is good at remembering things that I say and do and I like that about him.

THEN THERE'S THE OTHER PART!

I'm not up to date yet in my little narrative (I should probably work on that) but he was on ANOTHER game show that finally aired. And he won a boatload of money. Not life-changing. No jet set lifestyle forthcoming. But a GOOD chunk of money.

And he hasn't really told me what he wants to do with it in a non-jokey way. ("Robot legs" is the current official answer.) We've talked a little bit about traveling, but we don't have concrete plans. He's not vain about his car at all, and has expressed that he wants to drive it until it dies.

However...he gets REALLY excited when I talk about moving but then seems veeeery cagey when I talk about my little house fund. (I'm trying! It's little, but it's growing!) I'll talk about real estate or where I might want to live, and then it's like his lips are zipped. And after not knowing how much he'd won on the game show until airdate--I know he can damn well keep a secret.

You all can laugh at me when it turns out I'm wrong, but...if I'm right about this, it would be such a stunning reversal of my fortunes. I would feel like all my dreams were coming true, things that I previously thought impossible. A house we owned, that I could decorate and nest in. A partner who had the same sense of hustle and excellence that I did. The potential for kids--since I'd have a partner I trusted to have my back. Everything I didn't have--couldn't have--in my old life.

And I realize this whole missive might sound like bragging, but I just...can't understand how it all happened. I'm totally shocked at how a year can totally change my life for the better. I don't know what I did to deserve him--and it's unbelievable to me that we even know each other, much less are so gross in love. I couldn't be more pleased with the decisions I've made that led me to this point in my life.

Okay y'all, I'm going to bed because it's midnight and I have to work tomorrow evening too. I'm seeing him this weekend and I can't wait to kiss his big dumb face. I have a little less than 100 days until our anniversary. We'll see if I'm right about any of this. I'll buy you a Coke if I'm wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong. But...I genuinely think I won't be. OKAY GO
re: Living on the Upside Down (karma: 1)
By Sumayah
On Sat May 19, 2018 03:30 PM
You have no idea how much I want this to be true for you. I really, really, REALLY want this to be true for you because you deserve so much happiness and joy in your life and I want that for you. And y’all are so lovely and even if it doesn’t just the fact that you’re in a relationship where you can have those feelings is so extraordinary and beautiful and just wonderful. Ahhhh. 😭
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