The Triple Dividend Card Bandit

When December 1st hit, our mailbox was inundated with holiday cards. I won’t ever complain about that because I love, love, love getting mail!

I, in turn, am very meticulous in sending out our holiday cards. We send out cards to a moderate list that we’ve honed over our time together. If we tried to send out cards to all our family (particularly my Chicago Polish family – see humongous in the dictionary and there is a photo of us, split into multiples of course because we can’t all fit in one picture) or to everyone that sends us cards, we’d end up taking out a small mortgage, thus the list. We’re not trying to be exclusive in any way, we’re just being realistic.

One thing I am always acutely aware of is how our cards are addressed. I take time to double-check names and how people like to be addressed. I always hope for the same respect but as I learned this year, other people just don’t see things the way I do.

After retrieving the mail one day, I noticed a card addressed solely to me. That happens from time to time, people who haven’t yet met my life hostage (see family note above), people who don’t realize we live together or may not know his name (we do get many with just first names), and then there is the group that knows better. This particular card fell into that group. And I got angry, abnormally pissed, peppered with a special blend of sheer disappointment.

Honestly, I don’t think I even told my life hostage about this because he would tell me it isn’t worth my time. And he’s probably right. He’d tell me something along the lines of I’m letting this take up space in my mind without charging it rent. Okay, I get it. And I did let it go without incident. But obviously, it’s still plagued me.

Why? Because this person is a friend and friends are supposed to know better. Friends have your back. But lately, I’ve been taking a closer look and evaluating, what really makes a friendship?

The New York Times recently re-ran an article from 2012 about friendships. They felt that the topic is timeless and I tend to agree. One of the prominent facts in the article that struck me was the idea of the three conditions of making close friends; proximity, repeated unplanned interactions, and a setting encouraging people to let their guard down and confide in each other. Apparently, these ideas have swirled around sociologist circles since the 1950s but it was the first time I had heard them in this manner.

The card bandit and I used to meet all these criteria but as life moved on, so did some of these factors. The external conditions changed, as the article states. Schedules compress, priorities change, coupling up and children happen. The bar is much higher for having a martini than it used to be for visiting the shot fairy until 2:00 a.m.

Does this mean we’ll never go back to the way we were? I’m afraid so. But I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.

I go through many ebbs and flows with my writing. I think most writers will echo that sentiment. Sometimes I have so many prompts and ideas that I can’t type fast enough. Other times I think about writing an ode to navel lint. Don’t be puzzled, like you don’t know what I’m referring to. Everyone gets navel lint.

I know my relationship with my life hostage is the same way, a variable river of ebbs and flows. Maybe friendships go through that too. Some friends are meant to ride out all the curves, rapids, and boulders along the way. I have a small group of truly exceptional friends who fall into that category. Some come into your life during a second act, but just because they haven’t been there the whole time doesn’t make them any less valuable to you. And then there’s the group like the card bandit. They’ll stay with you through the calm waters but avoid any choppy seas. You’ll still meet from time to time, chat about life, but it will be all on the surface, no depth of field.

Does that make me sad? Yes. I always hope investments in friendship will pay you triple dividends in life. But they don’t always. I guess there is a time and place for every friendship. Even those that know better.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

What’s The Solution To Adulting?

Adulting sometimes sucks. And not just for the obvious reasons – bills, no daily naps, new aches and pains every day, laundry. I’m sure you get my drift. Today, adulting means making the hard choices for the benefit of your family and in the process saying goodbye to friends.

My life hostage and I are lucky enough to have amazing siblings who we truly count among our best friends. But then we have another group of people we know we can count on; our friends who have become our family. Living on the East Coast with most of my family in the Midwest, this group has become a crucial lifeline for me long before my life hostage brought his family into my world.

These are the people who have pledged that we will always love each other – the imperfections, the confusions, the mistakes – because that’s what friends are supposed to do. Basically, the people who would lay down in traffic with you if you asked them.

I don’t even know if I can pinpoint when or how we all became this close. It was one of those organic experiences you can never really explain. Honestly, I can’t even remember how some of us met but I do know when we recognize a new friend, it is often one of those Step Brothers movie moments.

“Did we just become best friends?”

“Yep!”

We obviously stop short of doing karate in the garage.

And now we have to say goodbye to one of our friends. Because he has to adult. Please bear with me when I repeat, adulting sometimes sucks.

As adults, we’re in charge of making tough choices in life. Who the hell decided that was a good idea? I mean, if you’re anything like me, even into my 30s, I still look around for someone older than me if a child is looking for an adult. I pray there is a “real” adult standing behind me. Because I’m not an adult. Wait, am I an adult? When did that happen?

Opening up to people is hard. Really, really hard. Making friends when your biggest concerns in life were what was for snack time and if you were going to be finger painting was easy. You were either drawn to the kids who ate their boogers or you weren’t. Simple. But being an adult means becoming more closed off. You’re less trusting. Your needs are more complex.

And the logical side of you gets it when a friend has to move on. Their well being and that of their family comes first always. But then you begin to wonder how you live without the hugs, head rubs, and the highly inappropriate banter. That’s when the emotional side kicks in and you wish life was simple again.

What’s the solution to adulting? Unfortunately, there is none. It happens and it will continue to happen. And the times you want to throw yourself on the ground, pounding your fists, and crying? I say do it. I would say that is a much healthier coping mechanism than some others I can think of.

It’s not really goodbye my friend, it’s see you soon.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Waiting For That Other Shoe

When I sit down to write Project Wednesday posts, I feel a little bit like George Washington and his cherry tree. I have to be truly honest with you guys. And honestly, I’m a detrimentalist. Is that a even a word?

I didn’t get the little red squiggly line under it so I’ll take that as a yes.

I do not think of myself as a Negative Nancy. Truly I am a very positive person. I am the person who can find the silver lining in any cloud and I live by the motto that the glass isn’t half full or half empty, it’s 100% refillable. But I wait for the other shoe to drop. Always. And I’m constantly stunned when it doesn’t.

I wasn’t always like this. Actually, I was exactly opposite of this. I never thought about bad things happening. I saw bad things happening in the United States: September 11th, the Sandy Hook Shootings, the Boston Marathon Bombing. Those all affected me but not in a personal way so even though I was emotional about them, I still carried a rosy outlook on my own life.

What changed? Why did I become this jaded person? My ex-husband suffered a massive stroke six months after we were married and my world flipped on its head. He is okay today. He, against all odds, made a full recovery, and although we are no longer together, I am grateful for that.

But that shit will fuck you up. And it did, for me, for a very long time.

For years I couldn’t sleep through the night without hearing a ringing phone. You see, what made the situation worse was that I wasn’t with him. He was traveling for work in Texas. And I got a call at 3:30. Sometimes I still wake up midsleep, broken out in a cold sweat, though it happens much less frequently these days.

It made me numb to medical situations. Now when I hear about people getting procedures, needing therapies or being hospitalized; I’m expressionless. Not that I’m not sympathetic or empathetic to their situation but having sat through daily batteries of testing, procedures, therapies, and 30 days of hospitalization, I learned that you can’t worry until there is truly something to worry about.

I’ve dehydrated myself through tears, done a plethora of yoga in waiting rooms, and will probably live the rest of my days with chronic back and neck issues from sleeping in chairs that are flawed by design and are not meant for the long-term use I put them through.

We, as human beings, are not meant to handle situations like that. Or at least we shouldn’t be forced to, in my mind. Yet in some strange way, we’re built to do it. Our endorphins and adrenaline kick in and we just do what needs to be done.

But at what cost? For me, I’m so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of me that I don’t take the proper time to enjoy where I am.

I don’t believe I do this as much anymore, although my life hostage may tell a different tale. I try to make a conscious effort not to. I know I drove him nuts when we first started dating, waiting for that other shoe. I’m pretty sure I almost drove him away a time or two. I was waiting for the secret family in Utah, the crazy skeletons in his closet, the 3:30 phone call.

And now? Now I enjoy his smile. The laughs we share when we have a joke between the two of us. Sunday mornings when we sleep in and make waffles. The text messages in the middle of the day because we’re busting at the seams to tell the other something menial. Cooking holiday dinners. The life we’ve built and the promise of more.

I’m not cured by any means, if you can even call it that. What’s ahead of me? I just tell myself that’s tomorrow’s problem. Today, I savor every moment.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Thankful, Grateful & Blessed 365

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday on the calendar. Hands down. I am that person that gets abnormally angry when stores start to put out Christmas decor earlier and earlier each year. Why am I so passionate about Thanksgiving? You mean outside of the turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and stretchy pants? Kidding! I love, love, love the sentiment of the day.

Thankful, grateful, and blessed.

We see this phrase plastered on everything in that ever-shortening window from Halloween to Christmas. But let me ask a stupid question, shouldn’t we be living this sentiment on a daily basis, 365 days of the year?

“Thank you, baby,” came quietly out of the darkness from my life hostage’s side of the car last night. I had just been elbow deep in a freezer full of dead maggots for the better part of two hours. Some might say I earned that thank you. I just smiled to myself.

Do we do enough of that? Show gratitude I mean. I wasn’t looking for a thank you and I certainly didn’t clean out that freezer for that purpose. But it was nice to be appreciated. The week of Thanksgiving everyone was in a rush to share their blessings in life. There was a steep drop off after that. Even more of a sharp decline will occur after the first of the year. But why does there have to be?

My life hostage and I have this little dance we do with each other. When I tell him I love him, he always asks why? And at least once a week, I ask him why he’s with me. I think we like to see what creative answers we can come up with.

However, without fail, his answer always comes back to appreciation somehow. You appreciate me. You show appreciation. You’re grateful. He’s not wrong. I do, I do, and I am.

It may seem silly, but I was raised to say thank you religiously and I tend to overuse that phrase. I know when we first started dating I used to drive him nuts because I said thank you for little things: he opened my door, he picked up a bar tab, he texted me first thing in the morning. But it stuck with him; I will never take him for granted because I am so grateful for him.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Did my ex-husband and I show each other enough appreciation? Did my life hostage and his ex-wife? In either case, it doesn’t matter. Just as in your own life, the past is over. You can either run from it or learn from it. We always choose the latter. Easier said than done sometimes.

What I have noticed is that we fight more, between ourselves and with others, when we’ve let our guard down on the appreciation front. I watched him pick a fight with his father last night. Not because it was a real fight about anything concrete. He’s worried about him, his age, his health and the fact that he doesn’t want anything to happen to him. His delivery was crappy. I told him as much on the car ride home. Delivery was crappy but I knew the point he was trying to get across, he appreciates his dad still being around.

Do you have people in your life that you show appreciation to? Can you do more for them? Are there people in your life that you don’t appreciate enough? Tell them. Treat each day as if you’re never going to see that person again. What do you say? How do you want them to feel?

Say it. Hug them. Fist bump.

Whatever way you express thanks, just do it! No one is expecting you to be perfect.

With that in mind, thank you PW readers, for sticking with me for 6 months. For making me feel like my writing matters. For leaving comments, likes, and private feedback. You make me feel appreciated. Virtual fist bump!

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Exhale The Past, Inhale The Future

I loathe feet.

Can’t stand them. Mine are wretchedly beaten up from high heels, half marathons, and walking around barefoot far more than I probably should. It’s not just my own feet. I’ve never walked down the street and thought, “Look at those beautiful feet she has.”

Let’s be serious, that just doesn’t happen.

Keeping all that in mind, you’d probably be shocked to know I have a stunning, framed photo of feet in my bathroom. It stares at me each and every morning when I brush my teeth and quite honestly I couldn’t think of a more beautiful way to wake up. It was taken eons ago – I know because my almost 13-year-old baby cousin Livvie was quite literally still a baby at the time. Seven feet, ranging from newborn to senior citizen, grace that photo with various shades of red toenails and mixed metal toe rings. Every morning I wake up and that photo makes me smile. Not because of the feet of course, but because of the memories that are attached to said feet.

You see, here’s the thing, there’s no such thing as a long time ago, there are only memories that matter and those that don’t.

I sat down the other day and tried to think of my first real memory. Sitting quietly, I was not sure what was a real memory and what were pictures I’ve seen in photo albums. Fast forwarding through the years in my head, I could picture my first communion, my 8th grade dinner dance, the first what I assumed was love but turned out to be lust of my life, a rowdy cross town rival basketball game in high school, a party in college where my roommates and I showed up with a bucket of rainbow goldfish, the day I realized my gram was dying, the frigid day my brother’s college football team won championship rings suitable for rap stars, the day my ex-husband and I decided to get divorced, the time my life hostage took me to my first Broadway show and then proceeded to fall asleep, the Cubs breaking the curse and winning the World Series, when I was introduced to my nieces, and just last week when my life hostage thoughtfully hooked me up with a caramel candy during a soccer game while brushing a piece of hair out of my eye.

Many of the memories I was visualizing mattered, but just as many didn’t. I think as humans we hold onto all our memories as tightly as we can for fear we’re missing something. Life is too short, we all know this, so by holding on to every memory we have, we somehow garner this hope that we can extend our span on this earth. I used to believe that with every ounce of my being. But recently, I’ve taken on a new philosophy about memories.

Exhale the past, inhale the future.

My life hostage and I both have pasts. Every once in awhile something from one of our pasts will come up. It could be a brief story, a brush with someone from a past life, or a lesson we’ve carried with us into our own relationship. We discuss it and then we exhale it. It’s not going to do either of us any good to dwell on it. What do we dwell on? What the next 30, 40, or 50 years our lives together will look like. We inhale our joint future together.

Our house is loaded with photos, and not just of feet. Some photos are permanent fixtures in frames because those are the memories that we hold close. Other photos I swap out on a regular basis, keeping them for a short shelf life, not because they don’t matter but because they served their purpose. We exhale those memories to make room for the inhalation of new memories we’re going to make.

My feet photo? When I think back, it really wasn’t a long time ago, it’s just a memory that is a hallmark of who I am.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.