Ella and Cecelia Go to Europe: The Pre-Departure Jitters

In exactly a week, Cecelia and I will be flying to London. I am equal parts excited and petrified.

Excited, of course, because, my goodness, it’s Europe, I’m going to turn nineteen there, and I get to spend nearly two weeks traveling with my best friend. The thrill of getting to have that kind of independence and knowing that I’m quite nearly a true adult is indescribable. Plus, the thought of all of the museums and historical places we’ll visit makes me make weird excited facial expressions that have my parents questioning my sanity.

But at night I have stress dreams of dying on airplanes and having meltdowns in the middle of Trafalgar Square. They’re so vivid that I can feel the fabric of the seat against my thighs and the metal seat buckle digging into my abdomen. There’s whiplash, and I can feel myself falling, the pilot saying, “brace for impact,” and the screams of the other passengers. Or I am curled in a fetal position on the ground, tiny bits of grit digging into my face as I stare at an infinite sea of shoes and grey stone, crying. I wake up, twisted in the sheets, breathing far too quickly, and paralyzed with anxiety. It usually requires the entire one hour and thirty-three minutes of the Downton Abbey Christmas Special for me to calm back down again.

And then there is the fear that my anxiety will ruin the trip for Cecelia. Unfortunately, I get overwhelmed very easily and often need to rest in the afternoons to maintain a certain level of emotional stability. I can only close my eyes and say, “one, two, three, GO!!!” to myself so many times. Too much and I burst into tears, get unbearably haughty, or just refuse to move. And I do not want to prevent Cecelia from doing fun activities simply because I’m feeling anxious.

This trip is supposed to be all about being young, carefree, and spontaneous. We officially decided to go to Europe at one a.m. on a Tuesday morning and then immediately purchased tickets and booked lodging so that unlike the past few years, our European adventure wouldn’t remain purely hypothetical. The whole trip is supposed to be about things like me singing “I Live in Trafalgar Square” in the actual Trafalgar Square just to drive Cecelia nuts:

(Ignore the reenactment of The Battle of Hubbardton, this was the only youtube video I could find with the song.)

It’s supposed to be about sitting in a café in Paris on my birthday and clinking glasses and biking in the Alps near Geneva; and it’s also supposed to be a little bit of rebellion where we get to do things our way at our leisure and no parent or other adult can tell us otherwise.

Disclaimer: Of course, by rebellion I mean one that doesn’t involve clubbing or getting drunk. I’m as straight-laced as you can get in that regard with no cursing, caffeine, drinking, smoking, drugs, or any other morally lax behaviors. (And no, that does not mean that I am a Mormon or an evangelical Christian–I’m Episcopalian–and no, I don’t think that everyone should be required to or frowned upon if they don’t make the same lifestyle choices as me.)

Disclaimer Sidebar: In the spirit of honesty and full-disclosure, unlike the other things, I have tried caffeine before and had it occasionally between the ages of thirteen and fourteen and then once again on my seventeenth birthday. The last time ended with me getting incredibly jumpy for a few hours and then very tired. I do have a picture of my first sip from that day, however. As you can tell from the picture, I think that Coke with caffeine in it tastes funny. I have not had it since, don’t feel like I’m missing much, and don’t plan on ever having it in the future.

Say hello to Cecelia’s elbow. Sadly, that’s probably as close as we’re ever going to get to a proper picture of her on Eleanor Called Ella, so you better soak it in. It is a very nice elbow.

So I hope that when Cecelia and I do arrive at the airport next Saturday afternoon, I don’t find my anxiety in overdrive and that we’re able to enjoy a trip free from any of my meltdowns. I figure that if I truly put my mind to it, I’ll be able to successfully use my coping skills and that with the boost of regular medication and extra Xanax, we’ll be okay.

In the meantime, I will try to stop watching youtube videos of plane accidents, looking up United Airlines’ safety record, and practicing airplane and train crash positions.

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Eleanor and the Ridiculous Injury

Tonight in weird injuries, I would like to report that I have badly strained my right forearm from too much writing and typing. It hurts. Today’s post was going to be quite long, but will instead sit half-drafted until I no longer have to do everything left-handed.

I’m not sure how these things happen to me.

Eleanor Eats Ice Cream

There is an often-told family story about my first reaction to ice cream in which I have a complete meltdown because it’s too cold and sweet. It ends with my mother having to actually take apart the stroller to clean up the sticky mess I made.

I always assumed that I remained stuck in my only-broccoli-and-sweet-potatoes-please phase for much longer than I apparently did because I recently discovered photographs of me at the age of three devouring a very large bowl of chocolate ice cream and making a huge mess in my grandparents’ dining room.

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At least, I make an attempt of helping to clean up.

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Cecelia and Eleanor Are Traveling to Europe!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Cecelia and I will be traveling around Europe for twelve days at the end of the month.

We will be visiting London, Paris, and the Geneva area.

Now, I’ve already spent substantial time in both London and Paris, but I know that there is so much more to explore, and I have never spent anytime in Switzerland.

And that’s where you come in, dear readers. I need some advice. Do you have any favorite spots in these areas? Any place that you think that we would enjoy seeing? Please leave any suggestions in the comments!

Expect many exciting travel posts in the coming weeks as we prepare for, go on, and return from our trip.

I also realize that I haven’t plugged my tumblr in quite a while. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s also called Eleanor Called Ella.

“Being Alone Together” and Eleanor’s Return to Blogging

So I took a break from blogging.

And then I took another one.

And another one.

And now I want to write about that and a whole lot of other things, mainly how blogging everyday impacts my life and how it felt abandoning it for a while.

So here it goes:

I recently read an article in The New York Times called The Flight From Conversation. It was all about how people today, especially young people, have trouble being alone or having face-to-face social interactions. The journalist, Sherry Turkle, characterized it as needing to be “alone together” and wanting to have complete control over where and when we have our social interactions.

And I identified with this up to a point. While I am a huge fan of and am entirely comfortable with having a proper conversation in real life and also spend a lot of time in true solitude without the distraction of mobile devices, I do enjoy being “alone together.” I love it, in fact. And being “alone together” is exactly what blogging has been to me.

Here, I get to choose the time and place of the interaction, say what I want to without being interrupted, and then wait to see if anyone responds. I don’t have to get out of bed  or make myself presentable to do it. I could be typing this in a bathing suit while wearing my National Zoo chimpanzee mask, and you wouldn’t even know. (For the record, I am not, and you’ll see the proof in a little while.)

And you, dear reader, get to do the same. You get to choose if, when, and in what emotional and physical state you read my words. Then, if you do decide to turn it into a conversation by commenting, both of us can refuse or choose to respond further. It’s easy when we can both hide behind so many levels of defenses, and the scared, shy, misunderstood part of me loves that protection.

Of course, the real reason why I blog is because I love the written word. I like the feeling of writing, putting down words on the screen or page that fit the rhythm of my thoughts. It’s incredibly calming, and when I don’t feel like everything I produce is worthy of litter box liner, it makes me happy. Writing is love and safety and something that belongs entirely to me. I adore the feeling of mine.

When I took my blogging vacation, I did it out of sheer exhaustion. I was/am depressed and the energy of keeping up with writing good daily posts was becoming more than I could handle. I was plain-old burned out. The me a few days ago’s mind boggles at the fact that I was blogging daily while going through last year’s endless medication drama. Apparently, I was better at blogging while heavily drugged. Go figure. Those floating sensations and frequent sedation must really get the creative juices flowing.

I have to admit that I was feeling really fed up with my writing in general. Nothing was coming out the way I wanted it to, and I felt like I was pursuing an utterly pointless dream. And in the way that self-destructive thoughts go, all of those negative writing thoughts snowballed to the point where I didn’t even want to think about replying to emails. Instead, I read about ten books in seven days, took way too many naps, and tried to avoid leaving the house.

And here’s what I found while I was on that writing break: I was entirely alone. I had all of these ideas, narratives, opinions, jokes floating around in my head, and they just became entirely ephemeral. Because I wasn’t keeping a record, I forgot them quickly, and without the record keeping of the blog, the days tended to blend together into a never-ending march of dull-grey solitude. No one else knew about the significant things I thought or did because I didn’t share them. Life was silent.

At times, I loved that silence and the solitude. It was numbing, emptying, indulgent. I got to be totally in love with my depression. I suck. I am a failure. I am so utterly, hopelessly misunderstood. I could repeat these thoughts on loop without anyone telling me to snap out of it or noticing how ridiculous it looked when I put down on paper. I got to be worthless, and in a way that was just wonderful. Depression loves permission to control, and I handed over the keys, climbed into the passenger seat, and said, “drive.”

I was guilty for abandoning the blog. So terribly guilty. And the guilt just got worse the longer I refused to write. My imperfections were glaring, and I couldn’t even bring myself to open my account to respond to comments. I spent one day lying in bed with all of the lights off.

But now I’m back.

Hello again.

Let’s get reacquainted.

Did you get a haircut? Is that a new shirt?

Whatever it is, you look especially nice today.

I’m ready to get back into the rhythm of paying close attention to the world and always being mindful that I need to collect something worthy of sharing with the internet every night. I want to resume keeping a public record of my life. And I want to be alone together again.

And remember that time when I said that I would prove to you that I wasn’t typing this  in a bathing suit while wearing my National Zoo chimpanzee mask? Well, here’s a picture of me taken a few minutes ago, though my laptop is out of the shot.

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And yes, sometimes I hang out in the bathtub while not taking a bath. I just really like the way my bathroom looks and the way it feels to be in a very small room with the door closed.

Also, I do know that I have a lot of different shampoos, etc. for one person. I kind of end up collecting them. There are four sets in there right now.

Hawaii Photographs

My father arrived home from Hawaii today without his luggage (thanks for that, United!) but with a camera full of hundreds of pictures. I asked him to pull a few together–some highlights from his trip with my mom–and these are the ones he selected.

Ella and The Red Suitcase

So you know how I often like to end a post by writing “in other news” and then throwing in some odd tidbit from my life? Well, tonight I decided to begin my blog post writing by putting it out there that I dislike gardening and then an hour later, I ended up with a full post bemoaning the injustice of having dirt under your fingernails and what a waste of water and energy it is to keep a proper lawn.

But now isn’t the time for griping. Now, is the time for vacation storytelling. And so we begin.

And we begin not at the real beginning but with Monday morning when one of my doctors was shocked by the number of bruises on my legs. This was the result of The Red Suitcase.

Now, I love The Red Suitcase. It has a garment bag built into it for dresses, shirts, blazers, etc, and its wheels are really unrivaled. However, when you are traveling like me, have week arms, and pack ten books (most of which were hardcovers) and a lot of electronics that take up more space than your clothes, you are going to struggle to lug it everywhere. I swear I didn’t overpack, either. I wore everything in my bag, read all of the books, and used all of the electronics, it was just way too heavy.

I take public transportation in the city a lot, and I know that there are a lot of stairs, but as someone who is young and reasonably fit, the prevalence of stairs has never appeared to be a potential problem. That is, until I had to lug The Red Suitcase with me all the way from home to the train station. And let me tell you, when you are carrying a very heavy bag, staircases seem to go on forever.

We went down into the subway, transfered lines three times, into the train station, down to the train track, down off of the station platform into the parking lot, then up the front steps, back down the front steps, up the steps at the station, down the steps from the track, up the steps into the station, down the front steps of the station, up the steps to Cecelia’s dorm room, etc. I’m sure you get the picture.

I didn’t want to hurt the handle or the contents by dragging the bag, so I kind of picked it up by the side-handle and tried to use one side of my body to support The Red Suitcase as I climbed the stairs. And you can see exactly where it was resting each time I carried it. My right side is like an over-ripe banana.

But other than that, the transportation section of my vacation was nice. I like riding on trains. On the long ride out to my grandmother’s, I wrote in my notebook about how odd it must be a conductor, to get to travel to all of these cities everyday, but never get out and explore. And even though you’re traveling in and out of so many stations, there’s a good chance that the only part you’ve seen of them is their underbelly, the dark, damp tunnels running underneath the grand, stone concourses so often the sets of movies and old photographs. Coming back from visiting Cecelia at Yale, I finished up Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Top of the Stairs and caught glimpses of the Sound out of the window. Two women in saris ate curry and the whole car smelled wonderful.

And then, of course, there was the wonderful feeling of relaxation every time I put my suitcase down in the room I was staying in and then finally home. I’m here. I am the proverbial snail, now able to shed its shell and stop lugging my home around with me. Is there anything more wonderful than that feeling of relief?

In other news, while writing this post, my laptop overbalanced on my knees and the top edge of the screen whacked me very hard against the bridge of my nose, giving me a very cute and swollen red bump. Never say that blogging isn’t dangerous.

In other, other news, for the past half hour, Maxwell has been (literally) unconsciously pushing me out of bed. He keeps inching closer in his sleep, so that I have to move over to have space to write, only to have him move even closer. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to get up and walk around the other side of the bed or wake him up and deal with the guilt of disrupting his sleep. Eleanor Called Ella really is your one stop for Eleanor and Maxwell sleeping drama.

In Which Ella Apparently Only Likes to Photograph Trees

I figure a good way of beginning to talk about my trip would be to share some pictures.

Ideally, I’d have loads of interesting ones: some of buildings at Yale, one of me making some sort of goofy face, and plenty of shots from all of the walks I took. Unfortunately, that’s not how things turned out. My parents took one camera to Hawaii and Pippa took the other to prom, so I was left with the one on my iPhone. As a result, my selection of photographs is both meager and mostly shots of flowering trees, as Cecelia and George probably don’t want me posting all of my shots of them.

But before we get to pictures of springtime in New England, enjoy a picture of the awesome lemon sorbet I ate at an Italian restaurant.

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On Returning Home and Storytelling

Mom came home from Hawaii today, and I ate slices of sweet dried mango on the green couch while she told me about hiking a trail slick with red mud and snorkeling with a turtle. She brought home peices of sea glass in a sandwich bags and brightly colored snail shells the size of a single clove.

I also gave her a token from my less exotic travels–a rather broken up slice of carrot cake I purchased at her favorite bakery and restaurant, Claire’s Cornecopia. When they were attending Yale, my father had to set a time limit for how long she could savor her piece of cake, otherwise they’d be there for hours. Tonight, she made the cake last through three 20-minute TED Talks, and I promised to buy her a whole cake for their twenty-fifth anniversary in August. She smiled.

When I saw her walking up the front path, I had the funny urge to go running out of the door and leap on her, the way I did when I was three and thrilled to get to see her for a few hours before I went to bed or left for school. But eighteen is too old for leaping into your mother’s arms, no matter how light you are. Instead, I helped her lug her bags inside and asked her about her trip. She started her stories several sentences in, leaving me to wonder who on earth Patty was and why my father momentarily thought he had broken his back. It’s like skipping the first chapter of a book because it looks boring, only to find out that you don’t understand the interesting parts.

I thought about my blog, my electronic storytelling, and got ready to begin posting again, internet access restored after a week of almost no connection. I missed reading Shell’s, Libby’s, and all of my other favorite blogs. I missed sharing thoughts and stories with my mostly anonymous readers. I missed the joy and intellectual engagement of TED Talks, mental_floss, and The New York Times. I missed Humans of New York and perusing artist’s websites. And I missed things that weren’t the internet, like lying in my bed in those early evening hours when the sun light shines through the blinds and creates horizontal lines of light and shadow across my body. I missed the comfort and stability of knowing where everything is and living out of a dresser and closet, instead of a large red suitcase.

And now I’m back home with all of those things. We’re together again and happy. My mother is putting the house back in order, and Max is lying beside me in bed, annoyed that I’m tapping away on the computer and not curled up with him. Pippa went to her prom last night, and my father is still doing something important and science-y in Hawaii. We’re all bursting with things to share, and I’m excited to share my stories with you tomorrow and the next day and the next. Infinite storytelling!