It is a basic condition of life: to be required to violate your own identity.

Change is permanent because things are always changing.

Tattoos are permanent because the mechanized needle forces pigment into the dermis layer of skin – since the pigment is too large to be removed by white blood cells, it simply stays.

So here I stay. And here I change.

Here I have a tattoo.

The pale, long-haired, Queen of the tutors pictured in the engagement photos from exactly one year ago looks in the mirror and wonders why this equally pale, tattooed, medical technologist with Zoe Deschanel fringe-banged hair is blinking blindly back at her.  It seems that they only thing they have in common is lack of sleep, coffee breath and winged black eyeliner.

I don’t know who I am anymore, but it’s the first time in a very long time that I’ve been okay with saying that out loud (or at least, seeing the words appearing on the screen). I always forget about the transition states.

In chemistry, the transition state has the highest amount of energy through the entire reaction – in a sense, it’s the oomph needed for the reaction to progress to completion.

transitionstatechem114a

However, it can be difficult to navigate.  You can put a lot of energy into something and still not go anywhere if you haven’t reached the transition state; there is actually a way to make that flirtatious transition state more attainable: enzymes.  Enzymes can lower the activation energy of a transition state in too many ways for me to describe in this little post.

Either way, I always struggle with the transition state.  You can throw the pre-wedding, pre-graduation, pre-adulthood Sydney into a pot with a degree, a husband, and a job in the field (right out of school, with benefits and PTO).  You can add an identity crisis, tear-filled showers, and homegrown herbs on a patio.  You can add a haircut.  But you will not end up with even the remotest semblance of a finished product.

There are so many people I need to become before I end up close to that “finished product.”  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll never quite get there.  Regardless, I’ve finally found myself overcoming my social anxiety and introducing myself to the new person I see in the mirror.

She’s actually kinda nice.

I think I like her.

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The soul has a faithful unconscious interpreter in the eyes.

You think it’s funny when you ask me my favorite color and I give you three options because I can never choose, because it varies on the day, or because my mood dictates what I find pretty that day.

The question drips from your lips like honey and I can’t quite find the words to describe my real favorite color.

It’s a humble color, not forceful or piercing as a crisp light blue can tend to come across as. It’s a strong color, but gentle like the breath of the wind that kisses the back of my neck and send shivers down my spine. It’s not a rich color like smooth, chocolate brown, but it’s a satisfying color.

Most of all it’s warm. Welcoming. Like your hugs, but you would laugh if I told you that.

Have you ever seen a ruby and admired the flames that seem to smolder just below the surface? Or have you ever held an emerald and wondered at the smooth coolness that beckons from behind the hexagonal screen?  The warmth of the moon pooling in your iris while the October breeze ruffles under your jacket – that’s how my favorite color makes me feel.

How could ever choose between the two?

The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.

In a charcoal grey 2007 Prius, there is a touchscreen in the console that demonstrates the energy usage between the battery and the electric motor. I’d be willing to bet that all 2007 Prius’ have this feature, regardless of color.

As you hit the has pedal to drive, the electric motor powers the car and charges the battery with the output energy in order to create an efficient system. I’ve noticed that when I get in the car, I have no motivation to drive anywhere. Without driving anywhere, the battery will empty itself eventually.

I seem to have that effect on things.

When I was too lethargic to crawl out of the covers this morning, my dress hung limp on the hanger, hanged by it’s own unmet expectations.

I didn’t eat breakfast this morning and my empty stomach complained all during church. Now the dark chocolate cherry biscotti bag is empty too. And my poor coffee cup has been emptied at least 3 times.

Showering felt like too much of an effort so I decided to fill the bathtub to the brim with steaming water and bubbles. But as a last ditch effort to fill and fulfill something, I partnered a wineglass with Merlot. Now the faucet drips morosely into a hollow tub and the wineglass is sideways in a sink as the bubbles are crushed under my breath and release their own empty space into the mist on the mirror.

Hello is an empty word too if you think about it. The “H” is separated by a wall in the middle, the lonely lines punished like fair lovers in Verona, never to meet again. The “e” is sliced in half by early commitment and the tail-end is dangling in the breeze, desperate for something else to satisfy. The “l” envy the “h” and “e” because Hey, at least they were able to have a relationship with any other line in the first place, no matter how it turned out! But the “l” soldiers on it’s lonely path, parallel to anyone and anything else.  Do I even have to explain the “o” and the way it’s very existence echoes purposely, regardless of the capital or lowercase-ness?

I’m sorry if you’re reading this because I have this sort of effect on things…

Hello.

Forcing through the doldrums is like forcing a fart – you feel so much better afterwards.

4 1/2 cups of flour.
2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast.
1 bottle Honey Wheat Blue Moon ale.
1/4 cup sugar.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 jar strawberry jelly borrowed from my great grandma.

Friendships run cheap these days.

I had never seen her outside of a lab coat – I didn’t even know she had 12 different flavors of coffee next to her Keurig until I sat at her kitchen table, perusing her countertop as I pretended not to notice her precarious limp. She could only offer me a glass of water; anything heavier and I’d have to get it myself.

The cuckoo clock (that’s an odd, certainly personal touch) clanged against the lipstick red wall – despite the aforementioned atrocity, she seemed to have strong decorative taste. Until I saw all the flamingo memorabilia on her back porch
in Margaritaville just a few steps out the back.

Perhaps I judged too soon.

She said she would return to work in three weeks.  Although I believed her, I should’ve doubted it when I remembered that she was 52 and scheduled for a hip surgery with two major complications.  Nine weeks later, I feel bad for not having visited sooner.

Until she lets it slip that no one else has come to visit her either.

I arrive at 3:57 pm. I’m late, but after discovering that I am the Christopher Columbus of visitors, I shrug it off. She hugs me 4 times in the course of an hour.  I didn’t get back in my car until 6:31 pm.

I remember chatting the whole time, but I can’t really pinpoint any specific topics: her dog, Pixie, was shedding a lot. Her husband was a Colts fan and – as predicted – they had done so poorly this year that he didn’t even get any satisfaction yelling at the TV, but rather sat dejectedly on the couch wishing the game would end.  Physical therapy was going as well as expected (and by that, it wasn’t progressing at all. Not even in a tango style with 2 steps forwards and 1 back.) The weather was nice, but the air smelled of fall and the leaves were whispering that they would turn soon.

I didn’t think it was very much effort on my part.

But she texted everyone in the department on Monday to send them a picture of her breakfast: homemade toast with strawberry jelly.

Her husband had 3 pieces.

I got two friends for the price of one.

 

 

 

Self-care is survival but self-love is sacred.

There are no wrong decisions.

Somehow I’ve managed to get to my 22nd year in this life and no one ever told me this.

There are no wrong decisions after your tears have blended with the water in the shower as your head is flooded with thoughts between the alternatives, your knees are as raw as your eyelids from falling on the floor and begging God – or the universe, whoever responds first – for an answer, when you’ve typed and printed and dated your resignation letter and hung it on your fridge so you can see it everyday.

When you’ve reached that point, there are no wrong decisions.

Of all the things my mother taught me how to do, taking care of myself was never one of them.  I never realized how important it was to actually love the body where your soul resides. And now, as I tilt my head and listen to the muscle knots crunch over each other, I wonder how long it would take for the neglect to catch up with me if I hadn’t noticed the decay when I did.  The bags under my eyelids are not designer, my friends. But I can remember the last time I felt well-rested!

Tuesday. Two short days ago when I had a day off work.  It was the first morning I can remember when I told my husband good morning before coffee.

I’ve never done that before.

I also notice the pain in my fingertips as a type from nails whittled down to nibs, ripped cuticles wearing drops of blood like ruby necklaces, and the flaking, onion-like layers of the nail itself floating across the keys.

If it were anyone else, I’d scoop them up and wrap like a burrito in a blanket, hand them a cup of homemade hot chocolate (made using my tiramisu truffles from Italy – what else?) and stroke their hair as I convinced them to quit their job – or anything else that made them so dreadfully unhappy.

And knowing that, I have to ask:

Why can’t I do that for myself?

If a woman is not Cleopatra, who owns Egypt?

On March 21, 2009, a sweet old hag of a good girl whispered goodbye to su hijo in the East Los Angeles apartment that echoed as hollow as the heartbeat that stopped right when she wanted it to, regardless of whether or not she knew it was what she wanted.

She wrote a poetry chapbook and published in 2002.  Alane Rollings helped her edit it and so was gifted a signed copy – could anyone give a more personal gift?  (Did not J.K. Rowling have the same idea when she turned a book into a piece of a soul?)

Alane was the second wife of writer Richard Stern – not that anyone outside of academics would know who he was since he basked in the shadows of his fellow friends and writers (he said after all, that he didn’t need to write, only that he wanted to do so). But Richard too died and Alane survived him, although she moved out of the house that reminded her of him.

And she left all her books.  Once the writer was gone, the writing never mean anything to her either.

And so it came, that a poetry chapbook by the name of Good Girl was given to Wilson. Wilson owned an antiquarian bookstore in Chesterton, Indiana.  And like a good girl, it sat quietly on the shelf, gathering dust but holding back the sneeze.

Until one very normal August Saturday morning, when I nodded to the accordion player at the European Market and ducked in the bookshop to avoid the piercing glare of the sun AND and the florist who heard me say that buying bouquets of sunflowers were a waste of money.

And finally, such a chapbook finds a home on my own bookshelf, awaiting the day when I can read it to my baby girl.  Because she needs to know that womanhood is ugly and that some people add mascara and blush to the title of “mother” to disguise the pain that comes with it – the heartbreak that I’m sure that same baby girl will inflict upon me before too much time passes.  Because all decent human beings need to know who Lee McCarthy is.

And just to give you a tease, here’s a stanza from a poem called “Conrad’s Mother”:

A woman who lives alone

will go out at nine o’clock at night

to buy ranch dip for the carrots, cappuccino

truffle chocolates for the office, and yoghurt

even though they’ve taken the h out.  

Make your anger so expensive no one can afford it.

They say that drowning is the worst way to die.

I used to think I was drowning. In “wet anger.”

“Wet anger” is when you barely scurry out of work in time to dive into your car, as the tears turn into steam on the dashboard because you couldn’t take a few seconds to turn on the air conditioning before breaking down.  “Wet anger” is when your husband asks you how your day was and your lip starts quivering before he can even sneak in a kiss.  “Wet anger” is when your co-workers ask you how you are and your shaking hands have to pretend to write that email, which is somehow more important than their question because you don’t want them to know that this job is draining the life out of you.

“Wet anger” is when the emotions pound against your head in the shower and whisper degenerate nothings amidst the steam.  “Wet anger” is when you wonder if your water bill is actually paying for salt water because that’s all you taste on your tongue when silent sobs to God bubble forth.  “Wet anger” is falling against the tub in the fetal position while you utter polite excuses like “I dropped the shampoo bottle” or “It’s nothing, don’t worry!” to your husband who has his ear pressed to the door.

But he does worry.

Because it’s not nothing.

Because even though you haven’t eaten as often or as much as you should, you still weigh a little more than a shampoo bottle.  And the bottle never whimpers on it’s way down.

That’s what drowning feels like.

They say that drowning is the worst way to die because you can’t breathe – no matter how hard you try – and all the pressure pushes against you like someone ramming you into a brick wall with a car and ever so s-l-o-w-l-y stepping on the gas pedal.

But in the end, it’s not so bad.  In the end, when the bubble gum has reached it’s bubble capacity, the translucent membrane shudders and surrenders to the pressure.  Like the sudden relief of an anticipated sneeze.

And that relief – well, that’s “dry anger.”

“Dry anger” is when you crawl out of work, slither into your car, and melt in the convection oven that every car turns into in July.  The keys are in your hand, but it’s too much effort to put them in the ignition and turn on the air conditioning – why not just sit and be miserable in the heat?  Because then at least you have something else to be miserable about.  “Dry anger” is when you husband asks how your day is and tries to kiss you, but you look right past him when you mutter your answer and you forget to kiss him back.  And maybe, you even forget to ask the same question back – but also you forgot to make dinner or wash the sheets or pay the electric bill, so you can just add it to the list of things that probably won’t happen.  “Dry anger” is the crack in your voice when you respond to your coworker that you don’t acknowledge and they try to ignore.

“Dry anger” is as bitter as the grounds in the bottom of the coffee mug that you’ve tried to sip for days, but keep putting in the microwave because it seems to never end – kinda like your life.  “Dry anger” is when you lay down in your unwashed sheets for 8 hours with your eyes closed, but when you open them, you feel even more tired than before. Like you haven’t slept at all, except apparently you did because of the sleep encrusted on your lashes.  “Dry anger” is when your husband tries to coax you into the shower and you can’t remember the last time you took one.

But don’t worry.  At least you’re not drowning anymore.