It kind of makes me sick that I’m writing this here after not writing anything for over two years and having such a morbid reason behind it, but it gets better… stick with me.
I lost a friend. By his own doing.
And I’m having a pretty hard time with it.
If you look back at one of my previous posts during my Master’s, you’ll see that I work with people on a regular basis to get through struggles like these. I have since finished my Master’s (surprise!) and I am now two years into getting my Doctorate for Generalized Applied Clinical Psychology (surprise times two!). I hate saying that or even writing it because it seems like I’m bragging but FUCK IT because I’m about a minor mortgage’s worth in debt so YES, YOU MUST HEAR ABOUT IT AT LEAST ONCE.
While working with people, I have learned various tools and attempted to train people with coping mechanisms for the loss of their loved ones. I have learned how to listen and not push. I’ve learned to just be there. Which, by the way, is something we all need to remember how to do.
But with all of the words and lessons I’ve valued and used over the past few years, I can’t apply them to myself right now. I’m too upset. And I feel like an idiot for ever pushing that on anyone else who was hurting.
So yes. I will tell myself the same things I tell my patients. “Let it out” “Are you alright by yourself?” “We can stay here as long as you’d like.” “We don’t even need to talk, LET’S JUST SIT HERE.”
And now I’m starting to feel how contrived all of those once heartfelt words meant. Maybe because it’s myself telling me these things and I know I can’t be here for myself when myself can’t even be here for me.
Suicide is an insidious thing. It ruptures everyone in a rippling effect. And the waves keep coming. This was a person who I wouldn’t even be allowed to be considered “close” to by normal standards. But living in a city where most people are shallow and only ask you questions to seem polite until they have the opportunity to talk about themselves, finding a person who actually listened and asked thoughtful questions made you feel that you were with someone who cared. I was never offered a chance for closure for his passing, so this is my attempt at saying goodbye. He was an AMAZING artist and a super witty guy. Being an artist, I guess we’ll have some piece of him always floating around, which I’ll take over nothing.
Okay, enough. I told you it get’s better:
This is what spurred this post. This is one of my favorite songs. Ever. It’s written by a very polarizing band, but I beg you to listen to it and its lyrics. It’s pushed me through the past few days, and other really bad, reeeeeaaaallly bad days. I promise you this is as sloppily sentimental as I’ll ever get with you. But afford me it this once.
Radiohead- “A Reminder”
If I get old, I will not give in
But if I do, remind me of this
Remind me that
Once I was free
Once I was cool
Once I was me
And if I sit down and cross my arms
Hold me into this song
Knock me out, smash out my brains
If I take a chair, start to talk shit…
If I get old, remind me of this:
That night we kissed, and I really meant it
Whatever happens, if we’re still speaking
Pick up the phone, play me this song
So here’s something fun that happened last night:
For a little bit up a set up, here’s how my Thursday evenings usually go:
I usually spend the morning cramming as much catchup work/paper writing as possible so that I can have enough time to run out the door at 4 to get to class, which looks like this:
Just kidding. Little colon humor. You’re just lucky it’s THIS kind of colon humor and not the alternative.
I arrive to sit through the first of two evening classes, the first of which will take me up to the 7:30 mark if I’m lucky and the teacher hasn’t decided to overlook our looks of irritation and constant glances at the TWENTY-THREE INCH IN DIAMETER clock on the wall. The one that faces the teacher directly. And apart from having a game-show buzzer could not be more clear that class has ended, yet remains the only thing they don’t see when it’s time to end class, miraculously. The only reason this bothers us is because once class has ended, another timer begins immediately. That timer is for the thirty minutes we have to burrow out of our classroom and ransack, pillage, anything that equates with scrounging for some semblance of “dinner” and continue to shovel it down our gullets before the beginning of the next class like an updated batch of sightless cave dwellers encountering their first taste of human flesh or whatever the hell it is sightless cave dwellers eat beside bugs. Just think of a thousand or so Gollum’s all looking for their Precious and we’ll be all squared up.
Last night happened to be one of those nights, and so at 7:38, we were released from our cages and allowed to forage and devour for the remaining time. We found ourselves at a sandwich place because what the fuck else are you going to have time to have made and also eat in 22 minutes, and after reading only the first letter of every sandwich on the menu, I ordered a Banh mi. You guys. I love Banh mi’s. For anyone who needs a refresher course in the delectibilities of the glory of such a sandwich with a ridiculous name, it’s a Vietnamese sandwich made with special deli cured meats, pickled vegetables, cilantro and dressing on a french baguette. Oh man. It sounds so boring when I say it like that. But if I told you that Beef Wellington was just a cut of beef wrapped in some sort of pastry shit, that would sound boring as well, wouldn’t it? Banh mi’s are amazing. And since I’ve moved here, I have been completely unable to find any. So I strolled up to the cashier and ordered the SHIT out of that sandwich. The guy behind the counter, “Kan” as it read on his name badge replied:
“Would you like that hot or cold?”
… Okay. Screwit. I saved time on perusing the menu, I’ve got enough time for them to slap it in a toaster for 5 goddam minutes.
And then I waited.
What do you think it was like for Einstein when he finally discovered the theory of relativity? How do you think Anne Sullivan felt when Helen finally understood “Water?” That’s right.
Although the presentation was a little anticlimactic- they slapped a brown paper bag down and shouted my order number- I was fully aware of what resided within those paper walls and awaited my reward. I was a bounty hunter and this here was my television series rewarded to me justifying and glorifying my ridiculous bleached out dreds and strung out body that I refused to wear a decent shirt beneath my absurd leather vest while giving myself a three-letter name for a generic domestic pet.
I grabbed it and ran back into the classroom to enjoy this beautiful amalgam of flavor before class started. To be fair, our teachers always allow us to eat in class, but you guys. Have you ever been in a quiet room and heard someone slapping their mouths around a crusty piece of bread? It’s at once both enticing and disgusting.
I launched into that thing. I really did, you guys. I let that sonofabitch have it. And it was everything I dreamed it would be.
But then something happened.
I felt the familiar feeling of a capsaicin bulb burst in my mouth. For anyone that’s ever chewed on a raw hot pepper, you will quickly relate to what I’m about to describe. There’s sort of this blissful moment that comes as soon as you bite into a pepper; you at once realize its freshness (peppers seem to have the. freshest. flavor ever) but you know what will soon follow. So you embrace that moment of solace and steel yourself for what you know will come next. Because in less than 1 second, your tongue then becomes a minefield wherein every landmine has gone off at the same time. There is literally a No Man’s Land of wasted and damaged-beyond-repair earth between your molars. You can no longer taste flavor and your gums begin to swell. So you chew faster so that you can get that motherfucker outta there. Black Hawk Down. Seriously. I ripped the sandwich back and inspected it and saw it.
One. Unadulterated. Habanero. Pepper. Seeds and veins and everythangs.
You guys, I like spicy food. I love it. But being unprepared for a particular flavor has to be one of the worst experiences ever. Don’t believe me? Have your friends replace your ice water with lukewarm Sprite next time. It’s a cold, emotionless world.
Here’s the real kicker about hot peppers. They actually BIND to your tastebuds. Like fucking barnacles. It’s a food designed to treat your tongue like it’s strapped to a knife fight. So you drink water to alleviate the pain. Water, as we all know, opens pores, and your tongue, if you haven’t already guessed, is VERY. POROUS. And that shit slinks in there like it owns the goddam place. And you might as well start digging your own grave because you ARE going to die.
At this point, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My nose had begun to run before I even had a chance to swallow the agent of death. So I quickly pulled up my napkin and blew my nose.
I’m running out of analogies and various ways to describe a full out assault on your mucus membranes without getting filthy and disgusting. Let’s just say I exacerbated my problems tenfold. I now had a mouth that was incapable of chewing any longer and a nose that was having it’s tissues dragged slowly through hot coals. I was feeling the heat rise into my cheeks and eventually my forehead. And it was almost time to start class.
I pushed myself toward the bathroom. The bathroom in the next building. Because with the money that is offered from all of the students attending graduate school, we all know there’s never nearly enough money to afford a bathroom in BOTH buildings. You guys know that scene in Poltergeist when the mom is running toward her child’s room and the hallway gets longer and longer and she begins to run slower and slower?
As I slumped over the sink sloshing handful after handful of water in my mouth, I was finally able to come to my senses a bit more. It was then that I realized my lethal mistake. I had refused to look at the liner notes of the description of my sandwich. Surely they had put in there that there would be the option of leaving the pepper out. Thus making it:
Hot. Or cold.
And so as I squirmed for the next several moments and quietly berated myself for not investigating further my earlier choices throughout the evening class, I knew that it would make a decent blog entry the next day. And although I know it was fully my error in the process, I would be remiss if I didn’t leave this without the one thing I screamed to myself silently before my woeful realization:
One time we were in the middle of nowhere.
Everyone was tired. The van had started to smell like laptop exhaust and the remnants of the footlong sandwich Brian had been working on but since given up on several days ago that had been basting in the sun for, well, that long. We had to get gas before leaving and we always tried to choose a station that had the sketchiest convenience store possible. But you know, sketchy enough to pick up some odd ass shit from the “toys” department but not sketchy enough to give us trichinosis.
At around an 8am shove off time after only getting back at 2:30am, you’re tired, to say the least. But that good kind of tired where you’re sort of happy because you had a good reception from the show you played the night before and to top it off the amount of alcohol you drank didn’t THIS-IS-SPARTA the shit out of your innards.
I got out while Greg gassed up to inspect the convenience store and hopefully find enough coffee and beef jerky to keep me occupied for the continuing several hour drive. Ted followed me into the convenience store and scratched at his shoulder while looking around between candy bars, then down the aisle toward the motor oil, then toward the fridge section back behind the road maps. No. After glancing over, it was clear he was searching for something. And to her credit, the cashier noticed as well, and offered her assistance.
“Are you looking for the restroom?”
“…Uh. No. …Umm… …Chillidogs?”
This morning I woke up severely early. Do you know what “severely early” means? It means you wake up around the time that five years ago (or, in your early twenties, for everyone not in their mid-to-late 20’s) you would have been going to sleep. And then you’re left at a personal impasse. And you begin to weigh your options:
Q) How awake am I?
Answer) I’m so awake it’s like someone sat next to my bed and started mispronouncing very simple words until I couldn’t take it anymore. Like “Libary,” “EX-Presso,” “Cannidate,” “Supposably,” “NUC-U-LAR.” Andsoonandsoforth.
Q) Is there any chance of going back to sleep?
Answer) Not until about 2pm when you need to take care of the most important stuff of the day and your supervisor is asking a simple question like, “So, how are you doing?” when she really means, “Dude, what the fuck.”
Q) So what now?
Answer) Slow Motion videos, no whammies.
*ahem* The song in the original video is great and all, but here’s what I’M hearing this morning. And I think it fits perfectly. (play both simultaneously) (but, you know, turn the sound off the actual video) (and you’re definitely going to want that second video on full screen)(you know what? you should already know all this crap. I should just shut up.) (I’vegottoomuchtimeonmyhands).
This is a precursor to something that happened over the weekend which I will eventually reveal. But basically, my point is that bicyclists have— you know what? I’m going to just go ahead with this and I’ll be interested to hear what everyone has to say about the matter by the end of it. And then we can all go get ice cream. Sound good? Yeah?? Harrright!
A couple of years ago I took a defensive driving class because I ran a stop sign. That’s fun, yeah? Who doesn’t love sitting in a goddam courthouse for hours being taught a more deliberate and less intriguing driving lesson than the one you took in high school when you were more than excited about learning about driving because it either meant A) you were about to finally get the key (the ACTUAL KEY!!) to escape your parents nagging or B) those gruesome videos from the 70’s about bad wrecks when they still showed everything?
No. Instead, you’re surrounded by people eating nasty, stale pop-tarts and the unctuous smell of McDonald’s Big Breakfast. Let me say this now: The only person that McDonald’s smells good to is the one who is about to eat it. And they are at their final bounty. At this point, they could eat clods of dirt and it would taste like heaven.
That said, I would still kill a man for an Egg McMuffin and a hashbrown. But I SAVE THAT SHIT for special occasions. Like when I’m moving. Or lifting a piano off of someone’s son. Or a slightly near-death experience. It’s for the protein. No flip-flopping here.
And this driving course was taught by someone trained in the art of verbal Chinese water torture. One. ……Word…. …..At…. ….A… ….Time… … … … Untilyouloseyourgoddammind.
What I’m trying to get to is the fact that I sat through this shit for about 6 hours, missing work and missing the benefit lunch hosted by a very wealthy group (A group that would have sprung for the Jewish Deli down the street and not some cheap-ass Subway monstrosity), and every so often the educator would stop and say…
“Are there any questions?”
(*if any of you nincompoops ask a question I will shank you with this paperclip attached to my handouts*)
“… … …Questions?”
***Ed. Note: You kind of give up after a certain point. You know they’re going to keep asking this question just to clear time. Negating the fact that you were already feeling extreme guilt because, lest we forget, you used to be an A student.
AN “A” Student
And now you’re just a shitstain on America’s judicial system. Congratulations. So you just kind of fold your brain neatly into a shape the same size as an origami crane and tuck it away gently beneath some boxes of pent-up aggression and universal irritation. Because this is who you are now. You’re a fuck up. Go buy a boxcar of Cheetos and get ready for the decline. This is your future.
Then someone raises their hand and says:
“So, I have… uhm… …well, I have a question.”
“Yes? Go ahead.”
“… …Well. …My question is about… …BICYCLISTS.”
“Well… … What I don’t really understand why they have to ride in the streets with us who ride cars.”
“O-kaaayyy. Well, you do realize that cyclists are required to ride on the streets; they’re not allowed on the sidewalks.”
“Yeah! I DO!”
“Okay, so how can they ride on the street and not disobey the law?
“… …AH’M JUST SAYING- They take up the WHOOOOLE lane and they won’t even let the rest of the cars through!”
“Yes, well, they’re allowed to do that. You share the road with them.”
“But that’s just ridiculous.”
“We’ve seen studies that prove that cyclists have less accidents with vehicles than they do with pedestrians.”
“You tell that to me when I’m runnin’em over.”
“What was that??”
After this conversation, I realized that I wasn’t the only one out of place in this session.
You guys, I’ve been such a bad boyfriend to this blog lately. She keeps on being all “Hey. Um.. I know you’re busy… but would you maybe want to get some lunch sometime?”
And I’m all like- “…Um, yeah. Sure. When?”
And she goes, “Well, it’s lunchtime now.”
And I go, “Shit, you mean today??”
And the other line goes silent for a couple of seconds, which is when I realize I blew it. But you can’t bring a blog flowers or take it out to dinner to show it you’re still really into it.
So instead you tell it what you’ve been up to recently…
So in the past few weeks, my life has changed. Drastically. …Severely drastically. Like, holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-my-life-has taken-such-a-veer-in-this-direction-and-I-am-about-to-go-over-a-cliff-a-la-Toonsis-the-cat-porportions change.
Okay, maybe not so severely drastically. Maybe just a few more errands to run here and there. But what would this blog be if not a source of unnecessary melodrama and overreaction once in a while, just to keep things fresh, eh?
For those’a’yall that don’t know, I’m currently getting my Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with a concentration in Marital and Family Counseling. It’s a two year program and I just recently passed over the pinnacle of that hill. This, under normal circumstances, would mean you would now join me in a unanimous mental high five, right? We can still do that if you want; no one’s gonna tell on you either way. But in this case, that means that the all knowing ones in my department have decided to jack up the ante and toss me into the snake pit. …With snakes. Snakes that bite. Hard. And draw blood. And I’m a hemophiliac. And allergic to the Suborder Serpentes. And I’m going to die and so is everyone else.
We’re all gonna die. Sorry.
I now spend my mornings dragging myself out of bed at 5am to work in an office and off-site at a practicum location where I work with clients for about 2 out of 8 hours there, the other 6 spent writing those lovely, damning things of torture and self-hatred known as Government Required Notes, and then… then! IF I’M LUCKY I get to go directly from there to class and sit there for another 5 hours or so until I crawl with my whole body weight on my hands because my legs have been hobbled by the Kathy Bates of exhaustion over hot coals to get back to my apartment around 11pm. Where I pray for the sweet relief of sleep. Or death. Whichever comes first.
But this is what I asked for, right? This is what I nose-dived into debt for… RIGHT??
Actually? Yeah. And I wouldn’t replace it or change it for anything.
Because when I left my job in Chicago; my sweet, cushy, all-inclusive insurance covered job that sometimes looks like Val Hala in retrospect, to come out here, I was so goddam miserable knowing that I really wouldn’t be able to go much further than that in my occupational life and still be happy. And I’ll let you know my own personal philosophy that has both damned me as well as pushed me forward in a lot of the past several years:
You. Cannot. Pay me. Enough. To be miserable in a job.
That’s it. And I can’t get past it. No matter how hard I try to put it behind me. I can dress it up, put a fancy three piece suit on it and give it several teeth-whitening sessions, but it still sticks out at me like a Gorbachev birthmark. And you can’t bleach that shit out.
Also, I’ve known since beginning my higher education that I wanted to eventually do something in the realm of helping others own mental health. But this blog post isn’t gonna get all mushy on you. Promise. You forget who you’re talking to.
What I AM saying is that the past month has been bonkers. Like, holy-hell-they-actually-expect-me-to-do-this-shit?! bonkers. Like, I actually have to get in there and help people?? NOW??? How many question marks to I have to berate you with for you to get my point that I’m sort of freaking out about this shit right now?? THIS MANY?????????
Okay. Too many. I know my limits.
Cause here’s the fun part, you guys! You spend a year leisurely doing your readings and participating in class, and then about a year later when you’re all comfy in your bedHOLYSHITREVEILLEMOTHERFUCKERSOUTTABEDTIMETO
I don’t know if any of you guys reading this are or have ever been in the beginning throws of therapy. But trust me when I say that the above is the internal monologue that goes through a newly emerging clinician’s head every time they set foot into a therapeutic setting. Only we’re not allowed to let you see us sweat. And the truth is? We’re feeling you out as much as you’re feeling us out. Magician’s in-secret disclosure. You’re welcome.
It’s daunting to try to help someone you don’t know jack about. And I’m being very forgiving by using the word “daunting.” It’s more like those-snakes-just-unhinged-their-jaws-and-are-now-swallowing-my-legs full-on fear. Because it’s not so much that we’re worried about fucking you over (we at least covered that much last year). We’re more worried that we’re not going to be able to help you. We’re worried that you’re not going to feel comfortable enough to move forward with us and let us help you move forward, in turn.
Think of the first date with that person you really, reeeeaallyy like.
Do you go for the salad? No. NO ONE looks good eating salad. That lettuce goes everywhere BUT your mouth. And it leaves a dirty looking balsamic vinaigrette mark on your cheeks that you might not notice and they’ll be too shy to point out.
Do you go for the family issues right away? No. They CLEARLY don’t want to talk about that right now. And it’ll leave you with blushing cheeks that they’ll totally notice and you’re too shy to bring up.
The thing is this, though: we’re all surrounded by those that can help us. Other coworkers, classmates, supervisors, family, friends, boyfriends (or girlfriends), assholes, whomever. Those who will slap the stupid out of us as well as push us forward and won’t let us pluck our hair out one by one (unless it’s our eyebrows that have gotten way-hay-hay out of control). And that goes for the practitioners as well as the clients (but you probably already knew that).
So instead of flipping the fire alarm every time my pager goes off, I gather my things and walk toward the door. What. Did you think I had some sort of superstitious habit or routine that I performed before each encounter? You forget who you’re talking to.
We love to give elaborate names to amazingly simplistic things, you ever notice that? It’s like we know that if you said that someone changed the oil on your car, you’d get cricket noises, but if you told them you checked the gauge and found you were two centimeters off and so you preferred an English mechanic to do the job, you’d be met with looks of introspection and admiration. Guess what, you guys? Those looks are just people feeling insecure about their own intellect since you worded it in such a way that makes them feel like this is something they should have known about by 1st grade, and they’re simultaneously embarrassed and irritated that you just threw them a whammy when they were just having a pleasant conversation about what happened over the week, or who recommended a decent book here and there.
For example, before I got really into cooking, I encountered a lot of the same thing from people. If there’s any department of daily life more stuffy in their verbiage than in their actual execution, it’s food. Below are some examples:
“I just used some scallions,” she said.
scallions? I thought?
“Oh, you know, scallions. Like, green onions?” She said.
oh. I feel like a dummy.
“It’s the pimentos that make it really pop,” she said.
what the hell is a pimento, and how is it possible to make anything “pop” as a small rectangular piece of nothing more than what I would describe as “tasteless red square”?
“Pimentos. They’re just marinated red bell pepper that’s been chopped up.”
oh. You know, you could have just said “red bell pepper” and I’d have been cool with it.
“I made aubergine parmesan. It went fast,” she said.
The HELL are you talking about, lady?
“I decided to slice the eggplant lengthwise instead of the normal circles.”
Yeah. Because aubergine totally sounds like eggplant.
“Do you like them? They’re caramel with fleur de sel.”
internal thought process: ohhkaaayyyy, sounds like french for flower. Dude, did you ruin a decent candy with flowers? That shit is way bitter; I know because I got yelled at in Kindergarten for trying to eat dandilions.
“…I just love salted caramel.”
“I decided to spruce it up by adding a bit of croxetti into it.”
“Croxetti… the pasta?”
You know what? Just say pasta next time. You could’ve even said “fancy pasta” and I would have gotten the point even more quickly.
“I think it was the farro that really brought out the consistency of the casserole,” she said.
I know you’re talking about some food object right now, but all I can think of is the move “Fargo” I saw the other day and now your casserole is making me think of murder and being extremely cold.
“Farro is just a grain, like rice.”
Rice would have sufficed. You dick.
And lastly, just for fun, in a different direction…
“Would you like to try some sweetbreads?”
sweet bread? Like those awesome hawaiian rolls we had at the barbeque last week? “YES PLEASE.”
… … …
What. The shit. Is this.
“It’s the thymus gland of a pig!” 😀
You are amazingly banal. Which is surprising, given that you have just proven to be the most accurate description of a garish human shit stain on America’s white dress.
Another thrilling installment of a conversation with The Most Brilliant Person Alive:
MBPA: Which is the best? High gloss paper or matte resumé stock?
Ashlin: Trick question: The answer to the question “Which is the best” will always be “brownies.” I also would have accepted “Super Mario Kart.”
Ashlin: Because brownies and Super Mario Kart are the best things in the world?
Ashlin: It’s a joke.
Ashlin: I give up. I give the fuck up.