Hot-Pink French-tipped Nails Are So Blasé

Long story short:  I went by myself to a happy hour hosted by a “Meetup St. Louis” group I heard about.  Membership is free.  You just show up to socialize and get to know people in your area.  I thought this would be a better alternative than dating websites because I wouldn’t have to go out for the sole purpose of meeting a man and suffer through an awkward blind date.  Instead, I would just be putting myself in different locations and scenarios so as to break up the predictability of my daily life.  I went to a social hour a few weeks ago and had fun and met some new people.  I’m glad I did that because I’ve seen those people around town a few times and it’s nice to stop and say “Hi,” and feel like you’re part of your town / community.  So, I assumed this meetup would be a similar gathering of like-minded individuals.

Wrong.

I showed up at the restaurant Sqwires in St. Louis at 7 p.m.  I was left to figure out where the hell the group was.  When I found them, I approached the group organizer and introduced myself.  I was a little worried because the majority of the people there were in their late 40s and early 50s.  I smiled, shook hands, and decided that though this might not be the group for me, I would still have fun and have a night out where I can forget about work and my responsibilities for awhile.  I said a few more brief words of introduction, all the while smiling and hoping to appear genuine and charming. Those was pretty much the last words I would utter for the remaining 30 mins I stayed there.  Once the organizer introduced me to everyone (about 14 other people), I sat at a table next to her and her friends.  I thought that it would be a good idea to be around the leader as she would make me feel comfortable and help facilitate conversation.

Wrong.

I stared at my menu and tried to interject basic questions like, “Have you ordered yet? What do you recommend?” and generic comments like,  “Everything looks so good I can’t decide.”  My efforts to get a slight amount of attention my way were ignored for an ongoing conversation about money, work stories, and children being enrolled in private schools.  I silently decided to order the salmon, and sat back and sipped my water, waiting for an opportunity to latch on to a topic I could relate to or a moment to make eye contact with someone at the table.  A bottle of pinot noir got passed around the table and passed in front of me without an invitation to imbibe even a little sip.  I picked up my glass of water and smiled at the geeky, pot-bellied slob of a guy sitting across from me, but he immediately laughed at another woman’s raunchy comment taking me out of the running to be the “witty one”.

Hungry (and oddly thinking about KFC’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes), I began to regret that I didn’t just stick around town and eat at home on my TV tray watching a rerun of “30 Rock” or “Modern Family”.  Or even that I didn’t go to my usual haunt of the St. Louis Bread Co.  At least when I’m at home or the Bread Co, I can sit with my loneliness and cover it up by sticking my nose in a book or grading my papers.  Here, I didn’t even have my cell phone to distract me because in my excitement to go out and meet new people I left it on my nightstand at home.  As I was scheming how I could gracefully leave the restaurant without looking like a “Pitiful Polly,” the woman to my right asked me a question.  “Oh good, I’m in,” I thought and smiled at her though by now my minor headache from earlier in the day had turned into a full blown migraine from the stress of being around these rude strangers.  She asked the typical question, “What do you do?” and I answered with the typical, “I’m a high school English teacher.”  This prompted the typical response from another group member, “You’re not going to correct our grammar, are you?  I mean, would you get mad if I ended my sentence with an adjective or the words ‘to’ or ‘of’?”  Out of spite I just said, “You mean ‘Would I correct you if you ended your sentence with a preposition?’ The answer is ‘No, I wouldn’t.’ ”

After the woman sitting next to me finished listing the people I work with who are her ex-husband’s relations, she jumped right back in with the other divorcees and started talking about a whole other topic of which I had no knowledge.   (Notice I did not end that sentence with a preposition.)  While I waited to find an inkling of a topic I could understand, I stared at my neighbor’s hot-pink French tipped nails and wondered why she thought they looked good with her burnt orange blouse and chunky gold and bright orange jewelry.  Then, the blonde-haired woman (with equally gaudy chunked costume jewelry), the one who made the raunchy comment, pulled out a tube of anti-aging serum that cost $100 for 1 fluid ounce.  She began to tout the qualities of this FDA approved serum that was originally created as a balm for women who were suffering from ovarian cancer.  They all got excited at how it takes away dark spots and joked that the bald man could use some on his head.  He rolled his eyes and laughed and I felt sorry for him because my dad, who is bald, always gets those comments too and they’re equally as annoying as the many “English teacher” comments I receive.  They passed the tube around the table, again skipping me (hooray for good DNA and SPF 30 face lotion I guess) and began rubbing a tiny speck on their hands.  The three women looked at their hands and waited for some miracle to happen.  My migraine now felt like a jack hammer was splitting up my skull.

I couldn’t take it any longer and I excused myself from the table.  I apologized profusely telling them I was sorry that I was such a “Party Pooper” and that I would love to get together another time, but my head hurt so much that I just knew I wouldn’t be pleasant company.  They smiled at me and said, “Ok.  Well, take care,” and they closed ranks and began talking about another topic that had something to do with private schools, money and traveling to someplace that has a beach.  I walked out of the restaurant thankful that I had escaped a night of living hell.  And though I was still hungry and never found a KFC, I settled for food from a St. Louis Bread Co. drive-thru.  I was never happier to see my dog and cat while I sat in my living room eating my chicken sandwich and potato soup on a TV tray while watching an episode of “Modern Family.”

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Damn Dog

My little Sancho Panza

Early this a.m., my dog Sancho woke me up because he had to go to the bathroom. After stumbling around trying to get my bearings and muttering “damn dog,” I headed downstairs in pursuit of him and let him out the front door. My plans were to go back to bed afterwards. It’s a rarity that I ever get to sleep in.  My dog is 14 years old, and for 14 years I have had a cold, wet nose pressing into my face in the early morning hours.  With a nudge and a little whine that guilts me to get out of my warm, comfy bed, he jumped off the bed and rushed down the stairs.  I was in slow, groggy pursuit, praying that I wouldn’t tumble down my steep, carpeted stairs.  Once I let him outside, he began sniffing around looking for that perfect spot.  I shivered in my pajamas and bare feet, hoping that none of my neighbors would jog or walk by at this hour.  I was facing the street keeping an eye out for any nosey neighbors when out of the corner of my eye I saw him ambling towards the neighbor’s yard.  I quietly tried calling out his name, but I didn’t want to be too loud, and he’s losing his hearing, so there’s that.  I stepped on my front lawn and I began wobbling and tripping over all the tiny acorns that are scattered in my front lawn from my oak tree.  Sancho then walked around to my side yard, out of view. I cursed again, “Damn dog,”  and went inside to open the back door  and look for him there.

I stood on the deck planning to catch him in the backyard. He was nowhere in sight. I walked around a bit searching for him, trying to avoid the large fungi that have spread up in my backyard from the recent rain. I couldn’t see him. I cursed some more, “Damn dog,” and went back inside.  I took my time and went upstairs and got my tennis shoes on.  I realized at that moment a few months ago around this time I saw a coyote streak through my side yard.  I began to get scared.  I ran back downstairs, my untied shoestrings slapping at my lower calves.  I almost tripped over my cat who dominates the stairs and will not budge, even if you’re carrying suit cases, boxes, or a case of kitty litter.  I power-walked out the back door and started searching for him in my neighbors’ backyards. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I started to get a bit worried. “What if the coyote got him already?” I asked.  Or “What if he got into the street and got hit by a car?”  “What if the neighbor’s rottweiller ate him?”  “What if he got lost and he can’t find his way back home and someone else picks him up and takes him in as their own and I never see him again?”  I worried and got a little panicky.  He’s never ran away in all the 14 years I’ve had him.  In fact, when I first brought him home, I had to make sure I didn’t step on him because he was always at my heels.  I never had to train him to walk on a leash because he always walked at my side or a few steps in front or behind me.  I clapped my hands and called out his name, all the while cursing “damn dog”. I didn’t care if the neighbors heard me or saw me in my pajamas with ratty bed-head.  He is my Sancho Panza, my sidekick.  My loyal and trustworthy friend.  I couldn’t imagine my life these past 14 years without him.

He was nowhere in sight, and I had covered 3 backyards and clapped and called his name several times.  I cursed under my breath, “Damn dog,” just so I could fight back the tears.  I made a last ditch effort to see if he was in my neighbor’s front yard. When I walked around to my front yard so as to get over to hers, I saw Sancho standing at attention at the front door. His ears were perked up and he was staring straight ahead, eager to get back to me. I saw him first and called his name. He slowly walked over to me and then put his paws on my legs and let me scratch his ears. He must have heard the relief in my voice (although I was still cursing “damn dog”) because he began jumping up and down and running circles around me like he was a little puppy. We both went inside and started our morning routine, happy to be together once again.  Damn dog.  He gets to my heart every time.

He has a very expressive face and big ears.

Penny For Your Thoughts?

Penny for your thoughts?

Today in yoga class, our instructor gave us 8 pennies each.  She had us hold them in our hand and think of all our blessings in our life.  We did a brief meditation, and then we lined the pennies up in front of us, 4 on each side.  It’s a fun little way for us to keep track of how many sun salutations we do on each side so as not to over-stretch one side more than the other.

At the end of class, she had us pile our pennies in front of us and asked us to return to the beginning meditation and think again of our blessings.  Then, she had us put a penny in our right hand and think of a dream or blessing we would like to manifest in our life.  After that, we were to put the penny in our left hand, and repeat the process until all 8 pennies were in our left hand.  In yoga tradition, the right side symbolizes masculine energy or the energy we use for giving, while the left side represents feminine energy or the energy we use for receiving.  Before class was over, she reminded us that in order to receive blessings, we must also be willing to give them as well.  She encouraged us to use our 8 pennies today in unique ways or leave them somewhere unexpected and to release our wants and desires and trust in the universal law of giving and receiving.

A beautiful lesson, right?  Why then did I leave class pissed off and in tears?

To say I have been under a lot of stress is an understatement.  In under a month’s time, I sold my home, packed up my belongings, lost the sale, lost money on an apartment I had secured, had minor surgery on my leg, and prepared lessons and my classroom for the upcoming school year.  All of my close friends and family were chipping in with helping me recover, packing, or allowing me to vent to them on the phone or via text.  All of my close friends and family were also giving me unsolicited advice on what I should do about everything that was happening to me.  I was taking it all in stride, or so I thought when today I was talking to my friend and yoga instructor after class and filling her in on what’s been going on in my life.  She offered me unsolicited advice on everything from staging my home to the job of the home inspector, realtor, and the buyer, and asked me to think about why this was in my life and what I have learned from it.  I was annoyed to say the least.  I told her flat out that I was tired of talking about it and that I’m over everything (which I’m not), and so I was not willing to listen to her tell me that I should have at least one potted flower on my front porch to welcome prospective buyers.  I didn’t want to rethink my idea of re-listing my house at a slightly higher price that I would be more comfortable at because that will turn buyers off.  It seemed like too much energy to tell her that I consulted with a family friend who has been a realtor for 30+ years and gave me step by step instructions on how to strategize my selling of my house on my terms, not the realtor’s or the buyer who left me high and dry.  So, instead I got teary-eyed because she was pushing buttons that I wanted left alone (at least for today).   I can’t speak for her, but I’m sure she would tell me she was talking out of love and concern for me, and she was thinking like a teacher who was trying to guide her student towards a higher realization.  Whatever her reasons, she wasn’t willing to accept my heated, defensive response to her.  Her words, no matter how well intentioned, just sounded like a judgmental lecture to a naive child.  She wanted to pass on a penny blessing, and I wanted a 25 cent compliment and at least $1 change in the form of support.

What I’m still trying to work out is why I wanted to be mad at that moment (and for the rest of the day as well).  Today, it felt like these road blocks were set up to prevent me from getting the life I have been dreaming about for a long time.  A life where I have a spacious arts & crafts home where I can create a sense of comfort, security, love and warmth for all of my friends and family.  A place where I can leave behind my past and where I can grow into a future with a good man and later a family of our own that we create.  A space where I can have an office where I write and create.  A bigger life that isn’t as predictable as this 1,200 sq ft townhome life where I tread a small path from room to room with my dog and my cat always at my heels causing me to knock into my nice furniture and small clutter in certain spots.  This morning, my friend’s words felt critical, and I was wanting either 1 of 2 things:  a.) to not speak about the chaos that is in my life; or b.) to receive supportive words telling me I will get through to the end and get what I’ve been wanting for so long.  Instead, I got c.) to figure out what I can gain from what has been lost.

When I called my mom later to chat with her, she could hear that I’d been crying.  She got concerned.  She and my dad are very involved in my life.  Last week, I became annoyed to learn after the whole home sale drama that they were upset on my listing price and what I was willing to sell it for (no matter that I was going to make money in the end).  It’s true, I consulted with them and listened to what they had to say, but in the end I felt like I was also appeasing them a bit because they had been in my house for awhile helping me recoup from my surgery and I didn’t want to have any disagreements.  In this morning’s conversation, however, it somehow turned towards my dating life, and my mom offered advice on how to go about finding a man.  Let’s just say her wording of “maybe you have to lower your expectations,” triggered a negative response in me because I have been through some very bad relationships in the past that have scarred me; and now that I’m on the path to opening myself back up again, any advice in that area leaves me defensive and vulnerable.  It also sounds critical.  I don’t want to lower my standards or expectations on what I want in a man, because I refuse to go back to the emotional abuse I allowed to happen in the past.  It’s why moving into the house I am in now was so huge for me:  I regained control of my life and learned how to live a life of freedom and choice on my own terms.  I wish I could have told my mom that earlier instead of discounting her penny advice and relegating it to the trash bin because her concerned words felt like a judgmental lecture to a fairy tale princess sleeping on a pile of mattresses with an annoying pea underneath them all.

Later, after a consoling phone call gone bad, my dad called me back.  He weighed in with his advice and commentary too.  The old phrases of, “You’re too hard on yourself.  Quit thinking you have to set goals and accomplish them in order to say you have a good life,” rolled off his tongue and I could hear he was trying to calm me down as I sat in a parking lot listening to what I didn’t want to hear today.  At first, I shrugged everything off trying to tell him that I can handle the disappointment.  Then, I was at a loss for words when I tried to tell him I’m not setting goals but going after a dream, a new life, instead.   I wanted to hear his encouragement because these momentary mishaps have set me back a little and shaken my confidence.   There’s a subtle difference between what he was trying to tell me and what I was trying to ask of him; and I’m still not sure I am articulating it well enough now to you, my fellow readers.

I have a master plan in my head of what I want to manifest in my life.  I have come to believe that we have a say in how our lives play out, and that divine intervention comes along at all the right times to help us create (or destroy and the create anew) different dreams and desires in our lives.  Our job is to tap into that higher voice that guides us from within.  With everyone’s opinions coming at me on almost a daily basis this past month or so, I lost track on what was my real inner voice as opposed to others’ guided (and sometimes misguided) and well-intentioned advice.  It didn’t help either that my dad was trying to cushion the blow of the small problem of losing the sale of my house, by saying that I may not get exactly what I want, and I have to let it go.  I was focused on what sounded like his disbelief on mastering your own destiny and reaching for your dreams, when he was giving me a practical dad solution to a practical problem.  Both my parents were offering a penny of small advice on these small little happenings in my life, seeing them as goals and things to check off my list.  And I was trying to tell them about a big dream that I have built up in my head.  It was a classic case of misunderstanding that left me in a mood of melancholy all day.

Origami cranes on the lawn of St. Louis Art Museum

I drove out of town and went to the St. Louis Art Museum for the day.  Every step up towards the building I felt a twinge of melancholy in my heart and tiny tears well up in my eyes.  I looked out across the park grounds and saw hundreds of origami paper cranes on the hill below the St. Louis statue and I noticed how crumpled and furled they were due to this morning’s surprising torrential rain.  From where I was standing, the neatly lined white cranes looked like broken tombstones of fallen soldiers; or of dreams deferred and left behind, scattered across a green lawn of hope.  “Great,” I thought.  “Even the magic of origami cranes looks bleak.  This is not a good sign.”

Even the origami cranes looked hopeless and beyond saving.

I shoved my hands in my jean capri pockets, and that’s when I noticed I had some more pennies in my pocket from the morning’s yoga class (I don’t know how they got from my yoga gear to my capris).   Little whispers of “what if” thoughts starting filling up my mind.  “What if I am here today to find my inner voice again?  What if I am supposed to release my dreams and scatter them around like lucky pennies for others to find and feel lucky as well?  What if my dreams have not been deferred, but just rearranged to make for a brighter future than I was expecting?”  I thought of my blessings:  loving friends, a loving family, a secure home, loving pets, a good job, all the money I need to go places and do things that I like.  I thought about what blessings I had wished for earlier that day:  for a happy, loving relationship with someone I care for, for a beautiful home that shows my personality and creativity, for a chance to share my writing to help others learn, grow and heal, and for a chance to travel more and see new places and meet new people.

Bronze statue of Daoist deity in the Asian gallery of the St. Louis Art Museum
Bodhisattva statue in Asian gallery of St. Louis Art Museum

If I was going to go forward with my master plan of helping shape my own destiny, then I needed to start believing in myself and the laws of giving and receiving.  So what that my friends and family have opinions on my life?  Don’t I occasionally have opinions on theirs?  Do I always understand what a person is trying to communicate to me?  Haven’t I had the best intentions but my words have cut others?  I went into the art museum and headed for the Asian arts, the “Zen room” as I call it.  I saw a bench, and sat down and looked at the beautiful, serene statues and earthenware.  Before I stood up, I slid a penny out of my pocket and placed it face up on the bench.  I began a surreptitous campaign of leaving my pennies on tables, benches and counters in the museum.  I even placed one on a chair at my dining table in a little Mediterranean restaurant off Grand Ave.  I came home and realized that I really did get a lot more than 8 pennies and a pissed off disposition from yoga class.  I tapped back into my truest of intentions and briefly shed my practical-thinking, neurotic self and honed my romantic notions and magical skills of creating my life and my dreams simply by harnessing the universal law of giving and receiving.

Giving a blessing of luck for someone else to find.