Archive of ‘scary things’ category

City Girls

On some business travels last week, I took the path train into New York from New Jersey.  Every second after that 15 minute trip has been one of strangeness beneath my feet;  literally from the second I stepped off the platform until now- an entire week later – the ground still feels as if it is infinitesimally shifting and churning below me as I navigate through my day.

My equilibrium has obviously been thrown off, and truthfully I am not surprised.  If it’s not painfully clear by now – I am not a City Girl.  Looking up at the towering buildings with not so much as a hint of space between them, jostled to and fro in  crowds teeming with people more sure-footed than I, the babble of voices around me, so many of them that I cannot even distinguish my own language – it all feels completely alien to me.  When I think about people who actually enjoy that swarming cityscape I almost start to feel a little uncomfortable that there could be someone out there in the world so radically different than I am.

Isn’t that ridiculous?  Of course there’s someone out there who is absolutely nothing like me. There’s a lot of them, I should imagine!  And yet, with regard to some subjects -The Big City chiefly among them – I cannot fathom the personality that thrives on this. I honestly cannot even conceive of how these people function.

And on some level – on many levels – I find this really concerning about myself.  That I am so small minded when it comes to other people’s experiences and preferences and lifestyles. I mean it’s perfectly fine, isn’t it, if you like a thing that I don’t like? Or perhaps something I am fond of, isn’t quite to your taste? Of course it is, and most of the time, this doesn’t trip me up! But when it comes to big city living, I have to tell you, I just shut down completely.  I don’t even want to hear about it.  It reminds me of a line from the mob song in Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast:

We don’t like
What we don’t understand
In fact it scares us!

Unfortunately, all so awfully true.  I don’t understand it, so I don’t like it, and it does scare me quite a bit.

This whole trip, by the way, was a lesson in overcoming fear. It will shock no one to know that despite my myriad, weird adventures, I’m a pretty sheltered individual.  This was the first time I’ve ever rented a car, it was the first time I’ve ever had a drink my myself in a bar, the first time I have ever spent a week in a hotel room alone, the first time I have ever met a client. And I am going to be 39 next week, for pete’s sake. How have I even gotten this far in life?

And to be honest, it wasn’t just the thought of being in the city, or meeting clients, or how to stick the metro card in the ticket thing correctly (that is seriously the type of thing I worry about), it was much more than that.  I haven’t been back to NJ for any lengthy period of time since I left, almost 5 years ago now.  I have so many unhappy memories and unresolved issues with regard to that place and I was not keen to be in that environment again.

I could probably go on, but there’s no point to it.  I did it, I went and I am back.  Did I overcome any fears? Not really. I think the people in my office who work closely with me know that I am a big baby with weird neuroses, and they deal with me accordingly. There’s a lot of hand-holding, basically. I hope that because I am kind and good natured and I get my work done – they just look at it all as lovable quirks, ha!

I was so happy to arrive back in my dumb, redneck swamptown that I nearly kissed the ground. But dang, I am going to miss those bagels. They are the best thing about NJ.

I am never going to be a City Girl, one of those poised, slender, on the go women I see rushing about on the streets of NY (or wherever). I run around barefoot all day, I never brush my hair, and it takes me 10 years to tell a story. I just don’t fit in with that impossibly chic, fast-paced, 24 hour everything city and its inhabitants.  But that doesn’t mean that I need to be afraid of them, I suppose.  That really is dumb.

Are you a city person? A country mouse? Are you even from this planet? What are your thoughts on other places and those who live there, as opposed to where you are from? Do you have the same troubles I do?  Or do you have other weird dislikes based on the things you don’t quite “get” or understand?

the winning-est winner of all

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“Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.”

-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

I don’t think I am overstating it when I say that board games changed my life.

Now, I am not saying they saved my life – I wouldn’t go quite that far.

…*Channeling Sofia Petrillo* …

Picture it: Orlando, Florida.  2011. I had just moved back down south to spend a few months with my sister and get my life sorted out after having lived 6 years in somewhat tenuous circumstances in New Jersey. I was not keen on the idea of meeting new people, making new friends, putting myself out there; I’ve never been good at those things, but it’s a particularly twisty road to navigate as it might relate to new romantic interests. Which I was not planning for anyhow, but of course it came up in my thought processes.  I did not want to have to get to know someone all over again, make myself vulnerable to all of that mess.  And I sure didn’t want to have to meet their dumb family and stupid friends. “Dumb family and stupid friends” <– no doubt, that is exactly what I said because sometimes – especially when frightened – I can be terribly close minded and shut off from new people and experiences.

Oddly enough and despite myself, I did end up dating someone a few months after I moved back – a big-hearted, beardy man with an enormous capacity for compassion and a fantastic imagination, and well, that is a romantical story for a different time.  He did, however, have friends and family to meet and I was not looking forward to this at all.

One of the first occasions I had to meet some of these friends was during a board game event he puts together a few times a month at a local comic book shop in Orlando*.  Great, I thought, new people AND new experiences. KILL ME NOW.

I had never been a fan of board games (or card games or dice games or basically any sort of game).  I don’t like learning new things in front of new people – it makes me so intensely uncomfortable and anxious.  I suppose it’s not even the learning of new things in a group of people, because you do that in classes and at work all the time…but rather it comes down to demonstrating that new knowledge in front of people. What if I misunderstood the rules?  What if I am playing my hand wrong? What if it’s my turn and I misunderstood and am doing it wrong in front of five people I have never met before and they all get impatient and angry with me or think I am a moron?  OH GOD,  It’s almost more than I can bear to think about.

Fast forward a year or so, and I’ve interacted with these folks enough times that I am very nearly comfortable (which is maybe as good as it gets for me!) and wonder of wonders – it turns out I might actually like playing board games! They are fun! What? I like to do things that are fun? Who am I?

Allow me to tell you a little bit about the games I like, and why; perhaps if you, like me, were a board game and table top game novice/phobic but wanted to step out of your comfort zone, you may find one listed here that you’d be willing to try out!

Gloom

Product Description: “In the Gloom card game, you assume control of the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. The goal of the game is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death. You’ll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents’ characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins.”

I would probably love this little game for the peculiar, melancholic character artwork alone, but in the course of gameplay it’s encouraged to make up wildly embellished stories to go along with the scenarios you are inflicting upon both yours and your opponents characters and I am MUCH better at that than games where you’ve got to rely on strategy or resource management.  Of course, story telling isn’t even essential to the game, you can probably slap your cards down and win without it, but I think that’s what makes it fun and interesting.
Full disclosure: I have only played this game two or three times.  I don’t think it is a favorite in my crowd for some reason. Also, I find the scoring system a little bit elusive, but I think I am in the minority here, as it’s supposed to be pretty easy.  And anyhow, I don’t actually play this to win; I just like to hear the stories that people come up with!

If you’d like to see this game in action, here is Wil Wheaton and friends playing it on his Table Top show.

 

Kittens in a Blender

Product Description: “This fast-paced card game has players working to save all of their own kittens before the unthinkable occurs. But sometimes, the only way to save your precious litter of kittens is to let those curious little cats learn the lesson of why you should never play in a blender! Featuring adorable art and tons of lighthearted, cut-throat player interaction, Kittens in a Blender is quick to learn and easy to play!”

Yes, yes, yes -The name sounds rather horrific, let’s just get that out of the way first.  Kittens belong on your lap and in gifs on the internet, obviously not in a blender.  Game play is more tame than the name would have you think, though it can get a little cut throat, especially if you are the sort to form vendettas against other kittens.  I mean players.  Basically, it works like this.  Everyone chooses their own group of kittens; you try to keep your kittens from going into the blender, while at the same time, sending other players kittens to the blender.  It’s a pretty fast-paced game and it actually is a great deal of fun.  I would also say that there is not a lot of strategy involved in this one, as well, which is probably why I like it.  Also, again the artwork is great.  The kittens are adorable and they have ridiculous names. Ham Sandwich forever!

Ticket To Ride

Product Description:”The Ticket To Ride Board Game is a cross-country train adventure that celebrates Fogg’s impetuous and lucrative gamble to travel “Around the World in 80 Days” by proposing a new wager. The stake is a $1 million prize in this winner-takes-all competition. The objective of this train board game is to see who can travel by rail to the most cities in North America in just seven days.

Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

This is a game that I did not think that I was going to like at all, and yet it is one of my absolute favorites, and usually my first choice if someone wants to play a game. Don’t be put off about that million dollar competition in the description; I never even noticed that until I copied and pasted it from Amazon just now, and game play has nothing to do with it. You are dealt several routes, you elect which ones you want to keep, and you spend the rest of the game trying to get the cards/cars  you need to make your routes.  That’s a little simplistic, but that’s basically the gist of it.  I think there’s a sort of tension created in this game (will I make my route? gah! he blocked my route! now I have to go from Miami to Los Angeles by way of Toronto!) that’s good for you, and oddly enough, makes you want more. This is my #1 gateway game, I think, if I wanted to get other people interested in playing table top games.

Speaking of table top, here is Wil Wheaton and friends (Sheriff Carter from Eureka!) playing Ticket to Ride.  This is actually what sold me on giving it a try in the first place.

Elder Sign

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Product Description: “It is 1926, and the museum’s exotic curios and occult artifacts are opening up barriers between our world and the elder evils lurking between dimensions. Other Worlds begin to leak through and terrifying creatures of increasing strength steal through them. Animals, the mad, and those of susceptible minds are driven to desperation by the supernatural forces that the portals unleash. A handful of investigators are racing against time to locate the eldritch symbols necessary to seal the portals forever and stop evil Ancient Ones from reducing humanity to cinders.”

Elder Sign is a fast-paced, cooperative dice game of supernatural intrigue for one to eight players by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, the designers of Arkham Horror. Players take the roles of investigators racing against time to stave off the imminent return of the Ancient Ones. Armed with cards for tools, allies, and occult knowledge, investigators must put their sanity and stamina to the test as they adventure to locate Elder Signs, the eldritch symbols used to seal away the Ancient Ones and win the game.

I purchased this game for the aforementioned beau and we learned to play it together, which I think it one reason I like it so much. Neither one of us knew how to play it, and we had to figure it out together…and although it’s a mean game (all those monsters always appearing!) I personally think it’s a lot of fun.  Unfortunately for me, this seems to be everyone else’s last choice, so I never get to play it very often. Aside from my learning experience with it, I think the other reason it’s a favorite is because it is diced based, meaning that there’s more luck involved than strategy.  I’ll say it again, BAH STRATEGY.

As a few listed above, you can see Wil Wheaton (and Felicia Day!) playing it on Tabletop, so you can get an idea of how it is played and make a decision for yourself.

Pandemic

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Product description: “Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out.
Players must work together, playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks. But the diseases are outbreaking fast and time is running out: the team must try to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while also towards cures.
A truly cooperative game where you all win or you all lose.”

Speaking of mean games..there are so many ways to die in this one! But the upside is that you are not going at it alone – you are working with a team of players.  You’re never really bored sitting around waiting for your turn because you are contributing/debating on every player’s turn -what the best moves are, what special abilities can be used to achieve the goal efficiently, and what problem areas need to be dealt with. Definitely not a great game for overly competitive folks; you are not competing with each other, but rather trying to defeat the game.  If you prefer games wherein decision making opportunities are shared and it’s not solely up to you, this is a good one to start with.

Also; as seen on Tabletop!

Runners up:

Fluxx: A card game that starts out as “draw one, play one” but the rules are ever changing.  A round could go lightning fast –  or it can be drawn out and torturous. It’s easy to play, you really just have to do what the cards tell you to. Unless you are learning it drunk, on New Years Eve, of course.  Then you have to have your friend play your hand because nothing makes any sense and the room has started spinning. Also, they have many versions of this (Pirates! Cthulhu! Monsters! Cartoon Network!) so it also has a bit of a collectors aspect to it.

Qwirkle: “Qwirkle is as simple as matching colors and shapes, but this game also requires tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy.” Known in our circles as the “you can’t do that!” game, and despite the military sounding description, “tactical” and “strategy” and whatnot – just look at it! Bright! Colorful! Fun! Don’t pay any attention to the description.

Machi Koro: We just got this the other day and I have only played it once so far, but I liked the concept of it once we got going:  you’ve just been elected Mayor and “armed only with your trusty die and a dream, you must grow Machi Koro into the largest city in the region.  You will need to collect income from developments, build public works and steal from your neighbor’s coffers.”  The artwork reminds me the tiniest bit of Katamari Damacy and I think it will be really enjoyable when we get to play it with more than 2 people.

I started out by saying that I think board games changed my life, and I am not exaggerating.  First off, I don’t think I have ever been very good at having fun.  I am just so uptight that expressing myself “having fun” has always seemed a little bit intimidating. I know that sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? Weird, but true.  Couple that with my shyness in meeting new people and I can really start to seem like a drag to be around.  I’ve found, however, that meeting new people while playing board games/table top games is so much easier!  You don’t have to agonize over topics of conversation and awkward silences because you’re already talking about something and doing something!  You’re either working toward a common goal and trying to solve a problem or a puzzle, or you are trying to beat each other out to win at something, but anyway you look at it, the topics of conversation are already there! And even though folks might not be saying much about themselves, you are still learning a lot about them – whether they are aggressive or cautious, open or reserved, generous or stingy…I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they play a game. Then again, they might be a total monster during the game while before and afterward they are amazingly sweet, so maybe those assessments don’t amount to much – but it’s fun to guess!

Myself, I am kind of an “under the radar” player; I don’t like to get anyone riled up or make a target of myself…I sort of like to go unnoticed until I am taking all the winnings because no one saw me coming! Ok, so that really only works, like 5% of the time, but that’s my strategy, such as it is.

What about you guys? Do you play board games? How do you play? Fast and loose? Hyper competitive?  And what are your favorite games to play with a group, or something that you like to introduce non-gaming folks to? As always, I love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.!

*Are you in Orlando? And do you want to meet up to play board games and perhaps have a little tipple?  Booze and Boards is a board gaming group that meets every 2nd and 4th Saturday during the month at the Geek Easy, from about 12-5. Stop by and say hello! I will hide behind my cards and maybe talk to you.

Meeting the unknown with an open mind. And cats.

I am generally not a do-er of Things.

I have a life-long habit of shying away from new experiences, and I suspect, from many conversations I have had with many people, I am not alone. We don’t want to be seen in front of others doing something new incorrectly; we don’t want to screw up; we don’t want to look like fools. We don’t want to not know how to act in a new environment, in front of new people. We don’t want to offend, or upset or amuse someone with our ignorance and awkwardness. I don’t know about you, but just thinking about those uncharted situations gets me jittery and freaked out.

And it’s not just new experiences, I mean sometimes I get a little bit anxious about something as commonplace as say, going out for groceries…so I think it might just be experiences, period. Every time I leave my house, my safe spot, my comfort zone, there is an element of the unknown mixed in with it – what’s traffic going to be like?  how many left turns must I take ? what if the parking lot is full?  what if I run into someone I know? what if I spend too much on groceries? what if they don’t have an item I desperately need? what if I get into an accident?  and can’t find my insurance card?  or my registration?  You know, sometimes it’s just easier to stay home and eat stale crackers than deal with the vagaries of Regular Human Stuff.

For all that, though, I do manage to get by.  I grocery shop, I visit the library, I make it to hair appointments and doctor’s appointments.  These are the things one has to do as a human in today’s world, these are the things regular, normal people do. And I try, for the most part, to pass as “normal”.

I do realize, though, that’s really no way to live.  Sequestering one’s self in one’s office all day, solely communicating with people from the relative safety of an email or an instant message, and then limiting interaction with the world beyond your front door as much as you can possibly get away with – you miss out on so many rich experiences, hiding where you feel safe. And you know, as I’ve gotten older, I think what starts to scare me more than “Something New” is “Something New That Could Have Been Great and I totally missed out on it because I was too frightened or self-conscious to give it a try”.

Now, you are probably not going to see me going out for ballroom dancing anytime soon, or taking flying lessons or attending a stand up comic show (that’s how I know when I’ve made great strides, when I am able to comfortably listen to a live comedian, which is the most awkward and embarrassing thing ever.) but I have been Doing Things lately.

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This past Friday night I went along with my sister and some friends to see The Acrocats at the Venue in Orlando.  Now, you might be puzzled as to my hesitation with regard to such an evening “It’s cats!  Cats doing things!” you might say. “Who wouldn’t be excited about that?”  Well, hi – do you know me?  Have you been listening?  What if they miss their cues?  What if they poop on the stage?  What if they get loose in the audience? So many things could go wrong!  And I would be in the audience to witness it! Auuugh.  I didn’t think I could possibly handle it.

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As it turns out, it was pretty fantastic for those very reasons.  They’re cats, for God’s sake.  They’re going to do whatever they want to do, and that’s actually what made the show so much fun.  It was a ridiculous spectacle, and if I am being honest -which I am because to do otherwise would defeat the purpose of having typed all of this – I loved every minute of it.  I laughed and smiled until my cheeks felt like they might burst and I was so very grateful to the people who encouraged me to see it.

We saw cats dinging cowbells and pushing cars and walking across tightropes and a chicken playing a cymbal and an enormously fat groundhog doing …something (but I couldn’t tell what because people’s heads were in the way). The ringmaster/trainer was such a lovely, sweet lady and all throughout the show she explained a bit about her training techniques and gave us background on the individual cats (which were all strays she had taken in), so any fears about ill-treatment of animals were put to rest. It was all absolutely absurd and silly and such a weird and wonderful way to spend a Friday night.  If these guys travel to your area, I highly recommend purchasing a ticket.

So basically everyone was right and I did enjoy myself immensely and sometimes gentle encouragement is a good thing for people like me, like us, people who are scared of doing things.  It doesn’t have to be like that! We don’t have to be sad and lonely in our  little hidey-holes and missing out on all of the good, interesting stuff. Sometimes we can have a good time watching crazy cats with our friends and it isn’t the least bit scary, not at all.

(Wonderful photos courtesy BGF – mine were all pretty blurry and terrible.)

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The Christmas Service of the Dead

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The Christmas Service of the Dead

People say that long ago the dead held a service on the night before Christmas.  Once a woman arrived too early for Christmas service.  When she entered the church she found it lit up and full of dead people, singing:

Here we sing, our bones all bleached,
Here we sing with beautiful voice,
When shall the day of judgment come,
What yet have you to say?

The story continues on as the woman recognizes her dead sister among the congregation. Warned by her sister that she must flee, for the dead will take her life, the woman escapes, dropping her shawl behind her to confuse her cadaverous pursuers.  When the church warden comes in the next morning and puts the lights on, he spies the shawl in the empty chapel, torn almost beyond recognition.

This tale is widely spread in Europe and is extremely old, having been set in Autun, Burgandy, by Gregory of Tours in his De Gloria Confessorum.  See below for an illustrated version of the best-known Scandinavian variant of this migratory legend, “The Midnight Mass of the Dead” from Asbørnsen’s “En gammelgags juleaften” (“An Old Fashioned Christmas Eve”).  These wonderfully evocative images, full of dim shades, grim shadows and midwinter’s eerie light, were created by artist Chris Van Allsburg (JumangiThe Polar Express) and can be found in Ghosts” volume from theTime Life Enchanted World series.  These scans are from my personal collection; higher-resolution, more detailed versions can be found here.

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Wishing you peace and light in this dark, dying time of the year, and may you not be without your shawl or other talisman this winter holiday when the dead are afoot and hungry for your company.

(originally posted at After Dark In The Playing Fields)

 

A Thing About Me

Allow me to preface the following bit of writing with the confession that this is difficult for me to think about, let alone write – and so it is far from perfect  There are many thoughts, though I desperately want to articulate them, for which I cannot seem to find the proper words. Below you will find the best approximation of my experiences that I am capable of, at this point in time.

There are some experiences so special, so meaningful to you, so good that you want to keep them with you, play them over in your head on loop, carry with you always from place to place for all your life until you take them to your grave.

This is not one of those.

These are the sort of memories you lock away, deep in your heart because you are embarrassed, and ashamed. They frighten you. They enrage you.  They are now a part of your past, and you have moved on, so you bury them deep and tamp them down when the emotional sands shift, or time and vulnerability wear down the burial mound and the gleaming bones of these old hurts begin to resurface.

I recently began watching the brilliant BBC series Black Mirror, a sort of modern take on The Twilight Zone focusing on the dark side of life and technology. One episode in particular unearthed many things which I had tried to desperately burn and bury.

In “The Entire History of You”, there exists technology that, if you are fitted for it, you are constantly recording and storing memories in an implant that you can play back at any time – whether in your own head or projected onto a monitor or a screen or some other device. This makes for, example, fun times at a party; it’s practical for gauging reactions at a recent interview or job assessment; and for the more obsessive, for replaying and dissecting every interaction to which you’ve bore witness between your significant other and the man with whom you’ve begun to suspect she is having an affair.

A glimpse of a glance between his wife and a seemingly random man at a party sparked an almost instant preoccupation for the main character.  Their combined past memories were portrayed as happy, familial and content, and at the start of the episode he was presented as a reasonable, well-adjusted, normal, guy but watching how quickly he devolved into obsessive paranoia regarding his wife and this stranger just floored me.  Had he been this intensely awful the entire time?  It stopped me in my tracks.  It absolutely terrified me.  I stopped what I was doing and realized my heart was racing and I felt physically ill. I ran to the bathroom and vomited repeatedly and then sat on the floor and wept.

For almost 10 years of my life, I was involved with this sort of person. This obsessive, possessive, paranoid, controlling, manipulative person who estranges you from friends and family and is not satisfied until he browbeats you into believing it is your idea. Who negates your opinions because they are not the same as his.  Who mentally beats you down over time until you have just given up and it is easier to do things his way rather than bother to argue for your own.  From the age of not quite 25 to barely 35 I ate, slept and breathed this man. And that is precisely, I believe, how he wanted it.

I cannot even say it “began innocently enough”. It did not. Out of a sense of ennui and being a bit of a serial relationship-hopper I was newly dating a law student, an affable enough young man, but he was sort of an oaf and all of my friends hated him and he had terribly stinky feet. I was often bored at work and in 1999 I was just discovering the pleasant distraction of chatting with interesting people online. At that time, very out of the blue, a person started IMing me who seemed very interested in me, and getting to know me. We appeared to have much in common. I was about to hit my mid-twenties, I was at a dead-end job, I had a boyfriend I was not particularly excited about one way or the other, and life just seemed so incredibly dull. I latched onto this new friend with a ferocity that should have been a warning sign to anyone observing, had I let them or myself, if I had that level of self-awareness at that age. We chatted for several months in depth, about everything under the sun and I realized I was desperately infatuated with this person.  Despite the fact that I already had a boyfriend, I agreed to meet this person, who lived 1100 miles away.  I was ready to fly to NJ without telling anyone at all -even my family and my best friend – to meet a total stranger. It was at that point my online suitor revealed to me that he was already married. Of course, I too, was involved, but I had been up front about that from the beginning.  I had not suspected this on his end and was devastated.

If this was not troubling enough, it also became clear to me, through our interactions, that he hated me spending time with my friends and grew positively enraged if any of these friends happened to be male.  The interrogations were relentless on this point; he would not stop until he was convinced I saw eye-to-eye with him on this subject.  He would keep me up late at night emailing at length about his thoughts on the matter and if he thought I was sleeping, he would phone me at 2AM and growl into the phone for me to check my email.

It never occurred to me to not answer the phone.  To not respond to the email. To never talk to him again. There is a huge part of me that does not believe in regret; I believe that every choice we make leads us to something else and in my case I am very happy today and  to have regrets would be lessen the choices I made that got me here.  But there is a part of me that wishes at that critical point I had seen what was there all along, and what was only going to get worse. That I had never spoken with him and certainly never met him.

I was so blinded by what I thought was love that I went through with it.  I met him.  And we carried on long distance, in secret, for several miserable years. By the time his wife found out, I was convinced that instead of him leaving her for me, he would do everything he could to keep his family together.  At that moment I thought, OK, well maybe this is for the best.  I sent him an email not to contact me anymore and I promptly signed up for a dating site. I met up with someone, which, in hindsight, was not really a great way to deal with things, but maybe I thought it would be helpful to do would be to skip the mourning period of the relationship by distracting myself with getting to know someone new.

A week later, after work and just before getting ready for a date, I walked into my apartment to find the back window open, a pile of dirt on the floor, and my jilted long distance secret lover standing in the corner.  When he did not hear from me, after several attempts to contact me when I had asked him not to, he flew to Florida and broke into my home. I did not, unfortunately, run screaming from the scene to file a police report.  Instead I convinced myself that someone who would do such a thing must really love me quite a bit and we reunited with promises that I would move up to NJ to be with him.

And I did. Leaving my friends, family, and everything I’ve ever known behind, with no prospects for employment, I moved to New Jersey in February of 2003. I truly believed that there was some sort of happily ever after waiting for me in this place called Manville, NJ.

Six months later I tried to kill myself.

I don’t know why I thought that us living together would change things; if anything he was even more possessive and controlling. He wanted a play-by-play commentary on the week I had dated someone else. He wanted to me spend all of my time typing it up in an explicitly, graphically detailed, time-stamped manuscript for him  and would grow furious if I spent any time on anything else.  He would keep me up late at night interrogating me on the matter until we were both screaming and shouting and truthfully, after I while I just wanted it all to end.  I had nothing, no one, not even and especially the one person that I had given up everything for. I couldn’t do it anymore.

I spent a week in a psychiatric ward at a local hospital and when I came home nothing had changed much, except where he had once been vocal and hateful and manipulative, now he was quieter about it.  There were cameras in the house, keyloggers and spyware on the computer.  Any emails I wanted to send to friends, any internet related things I wanted to be a part of (online forums, livejournal, etc), I did from work or the library from email accounts that I set up in secret.  These were the only friends that I felt I had, but neither they nor anyone else knew how I was living.  Secretive, scared, walking on eggshells all of the time, worried that anything I said might set him off. The wrong ingredients in a stirfry, the scent of my perfume – there was always something there to agitate him, to stir him up and set him on a path dredging up the past, rubbing it in my face in it and beating that horse to death which he would then begin to meticulously resurrect and commence beating all over again.

It must be noted that during this time, during the entire time I was in New Jersey – he was still living with his wife and children. He never left them. Never got a proper divorce.  He lived with me 3 days a week, and with them the other 4.  Out of the entire 6-7 years I lived there, I maybe spent one weekend with the man. This is how I lived during that time.

One day, in 2010 a few weeks before my birthday, he told me that he couldn’t do it anymore.  He was hurting his children too much, he said. He was moving back home.  After all of that – he was leaving, just like that.  He packed up his stuff and was gone a week later.
I should have taken a moment, reassessed and been overjoyed, but instead I was heartbroken. Through everything I had come to believe that he was the best partner I could hope for, that no one would ever know me like he did, would love me like he did.  I was distraught.  Destroyed.

Not long after this abandonment, he came to me and admitted he made a mistake, that things were not working out the way he envisioned or hoped. By that time I had decided I would move back to Florida to be with my friends and family and everyone I had left behind. I had not made many friends in New Jersey, I hated the snow and cold and ice, I never went anywhere at all other than to work and back; there was absolutely no reason for me to stay. And yet this was a still a terribly hard decision for me to make.  I suppose it meant that things were truly over.

Inexplicably (as in, I look at it now and can’t figure out why), we still spoke on the phone and met up secretly right until the day I left.  I could not let go.  I don’t know why  – he hadn’t changed at all, he was still sneaky and manipulative and spying on my emails to friends – and yet I could not fucking let go of that monster. That fucking monster.  I am shaking with rage as I am typing this right now.  I am thinking of something he did in the few months before I left that perfectly illustrates the type of shitty, obsessive activity he engaged in. He knew I had been corresponding online with a male friend who provided me with facts and information for piece that was posted in a blog that I wrote for.  The morning the piece went live, he created an email address with that friend’s name and emailed me from it, pretending to be that friend, and essentially asking me out on a date to celebrate.  He thought this person had designs upon me or vice versa, and he wanted to see what sort of response I would send. (Friend, if you are reading this, I am deeply mortified about this. I never told you this and I hope it doesn’t bother you too much)
He often created accounts pretending to be some person or another and would try to cozy up to people that I was friends with online, to either learn things about me, or learn things about that person as it related to me.  This is the sort of thing he would do.

When my sister, who helped me leave New Jersey, pulled the car away from the curb and drove past my former 6th Street home, I never looked back.  When we arrived 2 days later in my other sister’s driveway, I realized I could never feel those things for that man again.  They simply were not there anymore.  There was a gaping hole, yes, where what I thought was love used to be, but I knew that whatever connection we had (though deeply damaged and dysfuntional) was severed. Permanently.  I have not looked back since. All I needed to do was leave.  For me, it really was just that simple.

I was never beaten, although one time he did shove me up against a wall, because he thought I was corresponding with people on a perfume forum and lying to him about it.
But I was absolutely mentally and emotionally abused by this man for years, there is no doubt about that.
He wasn’t always horrible.  He took me to a bed and breakfast and a tea room and a winery for my birthday once, because he knew those were the kind of things I like.  He encouraged me to finish college.  He always found me bits of poetry or prose that he thought might strike a chord with me. I guess these are the fleeting moments that keep you in such a relationship, aren’t they? But things like that…they are like a coat of glossy paint on a rotten wall in a structurally unsound house. It might look ok from a certain angle every once in a while but chances are it will fall apart while you are still inside and then you are trapped there forever.

I try not to look at myself as a fool, or a victim, but while watching that episode of Black Mirrors I found myself screaming at the television. “You don’t have to answer him!” I shouted at the wife as he was browbeating her about some detail of her past.  “Just walk away, leave the room, GET OUT OF THERE!” I screamed until I was hoarse, as she collapsed on the bed sobbing, as she played back her private memories for the monster of the man she thought was her husband.  Whether or not she was having the affair was not the point (though yes, it turned out that she was).  The point is you cannot treat another human person like that. No one deserves that.
And you, fellow human, cannot allow yourself to be treated like that.

Unfortunately, sometimes you can scream that at someone until you are blue in the face and it will mean nothing until they’ve hit the point when it means something. It never meant anything to me, until one day it did.

I am writing this because it breaks my heart to think that there is someone out there like me. I hope one day you realize that you mean something, you are something. That other person, the one making you feel small, making you feel ugly, making you feel like no one will ever love you. That has nothing to do with you.  They are nothing without you. And if you leave, they will be nothing at all.

I hope you will walk away and never look back.

 

Weighty Matters

From the time I was 5 years old, my mother had me on diets.  I suppose I was a chubby little girl.  Maybe it is embarrassing to have a chubby child, maybe it makes you look like a failure as a parent.  I know I rather felt like a failure as a daughter in that regard.

I loved food.  I loved the way it tasted, loved the way it looked in the cookbooks, loved the delicious smells my grandmother coaxed forth from her kitchen.  I became obsessed with food at an early age, and my mother, realizing that, probably became a bit obsessed with keeping it out of my mouth.

I recall an instance when I was 10 or 11 years old.  My grandmother had brought an apple pie over to our house for us to have with our supper  She often cooked for us as my mother had decided to go back to school in her late 30s and wasn’t around to prepare meals for us. On that evening my mother sent me away from the table so I didn’t have to forlornly watch my sisters enjoying their slices of dessert, for, of course, I was not allowed to join in.  I imagine my feelings were somewhat hurt at the time, but I got over it and life went on.  My sister tells me that years later when she thinks of me going pie-less that night, she still gets a little sad for me.

In my early teens I had a bit of a growth spurt and thanks to my mother’s insistence on Lean Cuisine and salad for every meal and a two mile walk every night, I had fairly streamlined my physique before heading into middle school, and after that I managed to maintain a reasonable weight throughout most of high school.  I somehow was able to snag a boyfriend my freshman year and though I now realize now he wasn’t much of a catch, I think that his mere existence was probably incentive enough to keep me on my toes regarding diet and exercise during those years. Alas, I was dumped right before my senior year and my weight ballooned so rapidly and to such an extent that one particularly nasty girl even asked me if I was pregnant.  I still dream about punching that girl in the face.

After almost 30 years of yo-yo dieting and weighing between 115 and 200 pounds at various points in my life, I have developed a rather complicated relationship with food, and I am afraid I am getting to an age where these sorts of things are, as they say, “nothing to fuck around with”.

This is not going to become a space where I talk about diet and exercise because quite frankly I hate diet and exercise with the sort of loathing that one reserves for Nazis and telemarketers and those reply cards in magazines that fly out when you open them to read an article.  Also, I find diet blogs with their positive attitudes and feel good propaganda and sunny blond bloggers more annoying than I can possibly explain.  I want to see a diet blog where the writer worries about what to eat before going to a Norwegian black metal concert or how can they incorporate healthy snacking into their D&D weekends or what’s the best exercise to get if you don’t want to do any fucking exercise at all because you want to watch an entire season of Hannibal in one go, thank you very much and you are not leaving the couch for any reason. I want to know that someone else is googling things like “funyuns casserole” and “cheeto burritos” as part of their ridiculous coping mechanisms fueled by food deprivation.

Those are the kind of blogs I want to read, but they don’t seem to exist and I don’t want to make one because let’s be honest here – I am really lazy and that is 80% of what got me in this spot to begin with.

Inspired by two wonderful friends who have undertaken weight-loss journeys, as well as riding the coat-tails of my own post-food poisoning weight loss, I did begin making some changes a few weeks ago, and I have since lost 7 pounds. I’ve got quite a bit to go before I reach a weight that I know from experience looks and feels good for my height and body type, etc. The last time I lost a large amount of weight it’s because I was dating a married man and depressed and anxious all of the time, and also kind of addicted to Xenedrine (which I think killed a few people – but hey, it worked).  I’d really rather not resort to such measures this time around.

All of this is rather personal to share with the world at large  – or at least the two people who read this blog – but I write about personal business all of the time, so it’s more than that.  This is more about really opening myself up and making myself vulnerable to talk about these issues which have quite literally plagued me for as long as I can remember. It makes me feel a little raw, and it’s scary.

I resolved a few years ago to do one thing a day that scares me, and so let’s just call this my Scary Thing for today.

 

 

 

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