On Impulsivity

I’ve been feeling really, really impulsive today. Almost scarily so. I find myself on the brink of doing things with horrible consequences that I don’t want to have happen. Maybe I’ve just found a new way to torture myself, but I can’t get on of these impulses out of my head, and it’s so frightening.

I must control myself. I need to become like that really heavy ball of concrete on the edge of the driveway that I can’t move no matter how hard I try. Oh, but I worry I won’t, that I’ll bend and do something so terrible I’ll regret it for the rest of my life, and everyone’s perception of me will be forever altered.

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On Cats Running Across Highways, Imagining Stories, and Empathy

I saw a cat run across the highway today. White with multi-colored spots, it seemed to float above the asphalt, its legs moved so fast. I gasped, bracing myself against the dashboard, scared that it wouldn’t make it, that the Honda Civic almost neck and neck with our car would speed up. But it fled onto the shoulder, unharmed and disappeared into the trees at the edge of the road. What on earth was a cat doing in the median of a highway? I thought, But what courage it must have taken to make such a dash across three lanes of traffic.

We drove on, past little green mile markers counting down to the state line. Thirty minutes. Just thirty minutes until I can see my own three cats. They’ll be rolling on the kitchen floor in hunger for dry kibble and human affection. I’ll be able to pick them up in my arms, hugging them almost uncomfortably tight and then reprimand them for peeing on that section of the tiled kitchen floor. Twenty-nine minutes. Remember that time Pushkin slept on top of my legs, and I held my breath so that he’d stay? It worked until my leg twitched. Twenty-eight minutes. What about the time Pippa and my dad tried to take Max to the liquor store? Twenty seven minutes. Cats. Nineteen. Cats. Seven. Cats. Thirty seconds. Cats, cats, cats. The word almost lost its meaning, I repeated it so much.

It wasn’t until I was in the shower two hours later that I thought of the scene on the highway again.

I like stories, knowing how things came to be and how people or animals felt along the way. And when the story isn’t entirely evident, say the history of that vintage dress I bought–the one from the fifties with a poofy skirt, big black polka dots on white, and that low back–I just imagine it.

I see a young woman wearing it to a wedding where she dances and meets a nice boy. She wears it again when the two of them go to parties, and she wonders if he’ll notice that she’s worn it twice, three times, four. If he does, he doesn’t say anything. They get married, and she wears it at the first dinner party she hosts, trying desperately to pull off an image of domestic perfection. It works, and she smoothes an invisible crease, thanking the dress for the luck its brought her. Finally, it doesn’t fit anymore, and it gets jammed into the back corner of a closet, never to be seen again until her son gives it away last year. The woman who buys for the store spots it, and it ends up in a rack in a shop where I try it on, knowing that it’s a little to big, but too perfect to leave behind. It gets placed in my closet, lying dormant once again. A month later, I put it on to show my friends possible dresses for prom, but it still doesn’t fit, and there probably isn’t enough time for tailoring. But  Tal needs a dress, and it fits her beautiful. Her measurements match the woman’s who owned it first. She wears it, and her night is wonderful, just as much fun as the woman before. A week later she gives it back to me. And so on.

I can go on like this for a while particularly if I’m feeling somewhat poetic. So I got going on the story of that cat. It got longer and longer, concluding with it dying in a pile of leaves when it got leukemia at the age of eighteen. The water had long gotten cold, and I was sitting on the bath mat feeling a little bit silly about how sad I was over the future death of a cat I had only seen once.

Stories make me fall in love with people and things. I become full of compassion for something I don’t actually know. But because of the story I do know it in a way. My world of make-believe becomes real. The cat isn’t just a guess-what-I-saw story, it has a deeper meaning. It is alive and just as complex as the person I’m recounting the incident to.

I wish everyone saw people and things the way that I see that dress and the cat. Nothing has one characteristic. The citizens of the United States aren’t just a mass of fat people wearing their own flag on their shirts, they’re 307,006,550 individual people with histories and relationships, and that person or group you hate may have opposing political views or even engage in acts of terrorism, but they’re still a person who loves their family with as much passion as you. Imagining stories, even if you’re just reading someone else’s, inspires empathy. And the Lord knows the world needs more of that.

It’s late, and I know I’m rambling. I feel like this is going to be one of those posts that I’ll wake up tomorrow, read, and wonder, “What did I even mean?”

*My command of grammar is so embarrassingly poor. I just punctuate creatively based on the rhythm of the words in my head.

On Focussing

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of trouble focussing. I sit down to do an assignment or read, and I just can’t do it. I’ve been staring at this computer screen for twenty minutes, and I just can’t seem to string together a coherent sentence no matter how hard I try. But the good news is that this will pass. These things always do no matter how scary or frustrating it may seem.

As It Turns Out, Eighteen Doesn’t Feel Any Different

Today has been one of those perfect beach days. I got up early and took a shower outdoors while the air was still clouded with fog. Stupidly, I left my towel in the back hall, and had to put my pajamas back on while I was still soaking wet. I marched my way back into the house, the grass sticking to my ankles and feet, feeling pretty defeated. Walking around in wet clothing with your hair deshelved is not a very elegant way of inaugerating being eighteen.

But things quickly got better. I dunked oat squares in lemon yogurt and drank a glass of orange juice, trying to see if I could keep the pulp out my mouth by making a sieve with my teeth. Then, I went out to the porch to talk to my grandmother and aunt and stare wistfully at my presents. I was really give maturity a run for its money.

We finally got around to present opening, and there were sun dresses from Free People, pretty cards, more clothes, a beautiful blue wooden box with a scarf inside, checks, books, and iTunes gift certificates. Tied for first place with the dresses was a poem by Mary Oliver that my aunt wrote out and backed on gorgeous blue paper.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I’m going to have to reorganize my bulletin boards at home to fit this in. It’s lovely, and I plan on memorizing it. That way, I’ll have more happy and beautiful things to repeat to myself when I’m bored or sad.

The house still needs cleaning from having been closed up all winter, so all five of us attacked the living room. All the furniture was pulled out from the walls and every picture, bowl, shell, doohickey, etc was dusted by my aunt and me. Then, I rearranged the mantle so that everything was in height order. As much as this makes me feel happy and organized, it kind of looks wonky and needs fixing. Clearly, I do not have a future in candlestick and trinket arranging.

I ate a goat’s cheese and roast beef sandwich for lunch, which is not a combination I would recommend. However, it’s still above eating Provolone cheese (the spawn of the devil), my other option. I did homework, sent in my voter registration forms, and fooled around until dinner. We ate at my favorite restaurant in town, and I ordered poorly. Scallops in cream sauce with bacon over fettucini seemed like a really great idea until it was right before me and screaming, “I AM PROBABLY OVER A THOUSAND CALORIES!” in my face. I just ate my mango salad and dubiously poked at it for the next hour.

And in the way that poor meals typically go, I ended up feeling so depressed that we just went home after eating. I had been planning on having my all-time-favorite-best-ever Milky Way ice cream for dessert to celebrate but even getting up to walk to the car felt like a chore. We drove home and watched the Bruins beat Tampa and the Red Sox beat Detroit as my dad periodically yelled at good plays, and my grandmother laughed.

Later, I pretended to officiate a church service while wearing a UConn snuggie backwards, and my dad and I went for a walk through the fog. Drops of water dripped down from the condensation on the leaves as we meandered down the roads near the beach. Maybe one night it will be so clear we can see the Milky Way. But I like how it is now, the way I feel cosy and enclosed in the safety of the house. Nothing can hurt me here. Going to sleep should be easy.

Today more than ever I felt loved. People kept texting me, and relatives called to sing Happy Birthday. It is so easy to forget experiences like today when I’m overrun with emotions. I am blessed, and I have a good life. Pain is always fleeting.

So here’s to another year of my life. Let’s see how it goes.

On Childhood Songs, Turning Eighteen, Going to the Beach, and Becoming a Real Life Voter

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite songs was “Going to the Zoo Tomorrow.”

This version isn’t the same as the one of the CD, which was infinitely better.

It’s the sort of song that I still think about a lot. I like to sing it when I’m going to be going some place terribly exciting the next day or whenever I’m home alone and feeling a little bit scared. I just change the words to fit the setting. Anyways, we’re going to the Cape tonight until Monday or Tuesday. And in my world this ranks as EXTREMELY IMPORTANT JUMP UP AND DOWN NEWS.

It’s going to be excellent for many reasons. I plan on taking walks incredibly early in the morning, eating ice cream, going kayaking, reading on the porch, writing on the porch, sleeping on the porch, staring at the water on the porch. There may or may not be a theme to what I’m excited about.

Also, I’m going to turn 18 tomorrow, which is a moderately big deal. I had a very nice, small party last night that’ll I’ll write about soon. I’m going to celebrate by going out to dinner, eating clam chowder and Milky Way ice cream (not at the same time), and writing. It should be a pleasant day.

In other news, I just filled my voter registration forms. This is definetly the best part about being eighteen. Well, this and buying those things they advertise on Nickelodeon.

On Pent-Up Political Anger

I have been very angry today. Thankfully, none of it has been directed at people I actually know.

I’m taking a class called That Just Happened: A History of the 2000s in school. (I’ll get to the angry part in a little bit.) The teacher is amazing, and we’re learning a lot of interesting things. It’s fun to see what I understood at the time compared to what actually happened. For example, I heard the word Tora Bora being thrown around when I was eight, but all I knew was that it had something to do with Osama Bin Laden had getting away, which was a Bad Thing.

The first thing we did was watch Recount, a film about the 2001 elections. I spent the whole movie muttering about how much I hate Katherine Harris (Madam, if I see you in real life just know that I will be mentally shrieking at you for being a vile, vile woman and obstructing justice.), George Bush, Bush’s entire campaign, and everyone who ever advised (Professor Poopy-Pants) Katherine Harris. And when I wasn’t muttering, I was complaining to Jacob.

Well, we finished that movie a few weeks back, and moved onto to talking about 9/11. Cue crying and hours spent wondering how anyone could do that in the name of Allah. Islam is a very peaceful religion and to have it be defamed by extremists who kills hundreds of innocent people is a travesty. Why we cut Christians a break is beyond me. We also use religion for ill. Does Peoples Temple or the Crusades ring a bell? It’s disgusting, and I have trouble forming coherent phrases about this.

To bring this up to date: So we’ve spent the last week watching the Pat Tillman Story, a film about Pat Tillman, a man who walked away from a multi-million pro-football contract to join the Army Rangers. He was shot in the head on a mission from friendly fire, but his death was originally presented by the military very differently. They framed it as him being shot while leading the rest of his platoon (I know that’s not the right term, so don’t quote me.) to safety. He was turned into a symbol of patriotism and American virtues by the Bush administration and the military. The cover-up was extensive and was exposed by the hard work of the family and journalists. The movie made me cry as my eyes got wide and crazed with anger. I ended up spending a majority of this morning fuming as I worked on my English midterm.

Five hours later, I got home and read these articles.

“Protecting” Marriage

STUPID DUMB IDIOTIC Tennessee

Then, I went down to the basement and screamed about it for a minute.

At around three thirty, I found this, and the rest of the day has been quite a bit better.

On a related note, Audrey is the best.

On General Unhappiness

Somedays the world around me becomes so overwhelming that I just want to crawl into bed and pretend that all the pressure doesn’t exist. Putting a pillow over your head and wiggling your way down so that the covers go over your neck creates a nice soft noise-dulling barrier for crying, and the cats will always come sit on the end of the bed.

At least I have a system for being miserable.

Field Day

Remember that time when I wrote a post called The Field Day Planning Committee? Well, that day has finally rolled around.

I went to bed at nine thirty last night so that I would be able to get out of bed on time. I really hate having to schedule myself like this because of the medicine, but a day running around in sun, playing games is worth it. I woke up at around five forty, feeling wide awake and ready to take on the day. Such a welcome change from my falling asleep in the school library at 7:45 every morning as the librarians look at me judge me from behind their desk.

After doubling back to take my medicine, I ran up three flights of stairs to one of the history rooms where we were supposed to meet. Cecelia handed me my tee shirt and I pulled it on over the one I was wearing.

I like this shirt for two reasons: one, because it is shamelessly pretentious and two, because I love Executive/Judicial so much. I may not have been able to compete with them for most of the day because I was judging, but I was able to at least physically feel that I was part of the department.

Cecelia and I walked down to the field together. It felt odd moving against the tide of bodies as everyone pushed towards the school. The air was chilled, and I thought about how a really great title for a book would be “I Should Have Worn Pants.” I mean, it would totally work for a memoir or a book about gender. I filed it away in my folder of “genius ideas” and went back to talking to Cecelia about menu planning for our beach trip. It appears that I am going to be the only meat-eater there, which puts a real damper on my hamburger and bacon eating plans.

I filled up two giant water coolers at the spigot at the bottom of the water fountain that I think is there for cleaning shoes and for dogs to drink. It took a long time, and I kept having to alternate between hands to hold the valve back. Cecelia and I carried it across the field to a table where they promptly disappeared. I know that they made their way back to the gym office this afternoon, but I have no clue where they were in the interim. Running away with 30 gallon coolers is not an easy task.

Soon enough, setting up was done, and everyone was descending on the field. Executive had won trivia and was already first in the standings. We held the boys race and the girls race, and I stood at the third corner, making sure that no one cut it. I was so close to the line that I could feel people’s shirt sleeves brush me as they ran past. Our department got second in the girls.

Relay, wheelbarrow, and three-legged races and a Beanie Baby toss followed, and I found myself desperately wishing to be with my department instead of standing on the sidelines making sure that people touched the white line before turning around. Walking around with a clipboard enforcing rules is a lot of fun, but it’s not the same as hanging out with your department and cheering people on.

Next, we had tug of war, which has always been one of my favorite Field Day events was incredibly complicated. First of all, making sure that the rope is evenly placed between both cones is tricky and nearly always leads to an argument. Second, there is no fair way to making a bracket out of nine teams. Someone will always get a by. After a lot of yelling, it was decided that three of the teams would split third place. I’m always surprised and frustrated by how much arguing it takes to get to an agreement that both parties would have found to be okay in the first place.

The more organized events were over, and it appeared like I wasn’t needed, so I skedaddled off  to eat watermelon and watch Executive play soccer. I may not be a very good soccer player myself, but I make a very good enthusiastic fan. Hopping up and down on the balls of my feet, clapping my hands, and yelling “go _____” is one of my specialties. The game went on forever. Regular time became overtime which became more overtime which turned into a shootout that became sudden death which finally turned into another shoot out with the big regulation sized goal. We did not win, but I had loads of fun.

Everyone headed over to the Badminton court to watch our department win first place, and I took a few breaks to head back to our booth for a watermelon eating contest. I discovered that if you fill your mouth up with watermelon, you can partial chew it and swallow large pieces whole. Because it’s so watery and soft it goes down just as easily as a capsule.

This post will be updated with the entire story tomorrow.

In a related story, I got into the shower with my socks on and didn’t notice for a good two minutes. I like to think that this was because I don’t often wear socks and am not used to taking things off my feet before I jump in, and not because I was too preoccupied with singing “Na na na na na na BATMAN” in various accents and pitches.

In Which Ella Reads The New York Times A LOT

Since most of my classes at are school aren’t meeting anymore, I spend a lot of the day in the library doing homework and projects. So whenever I get anxious, I take a five minute break to distract myself and to do some deep breathing. It’s a very effective method, but it has some drawbacks. You see, I have been systematically maxing out the number of free New York Times articles you read a month on the computers.

As of right now, you can’t access the paper on Computers One, Three, and Five*, and by the end of the week, Computer Two will be out of commission as well. Now, I know that this is the sort of thing that I should feel guilty about. I mean, anyone who gets on those computers and tries to do legitimate research for a class will be straight out of luck. But I kind of makes me proud. I always say that The New York Times is my favorite things ever, and now more than ever, I have quite a bit of proof.

On a completely unrelated note, I have been biting the heads off of gummy bears for the last ten minutes, so as to put them out of their misery before my molars crush them to bits. I like to think that this means that I am being humane, but it’s really just because it makes me a tiny bit powerful. A psychologist would have a field day with that tidbit of information.

*To be clear: I have not read 60 articles. Whenever anyone accesses the paper on that computer, the website counts it.