Sunday, November 18, 2007

Capitals and Italics

In my last post, I used the word dreadful in the following context: “…absolutely nothing dreadful is happening and I’m tired of complaining about nothing…”

You can imagine, then, what simply had to happen:

I’m involved in a Situation at work. The Situation is not my fault. I neither conjured nor provoked the Situation. Yet, I’m at the center of it. It’s about me. I’m the one who has to find a way out of it.

Basically, I’m being offered a new job in a different department of my company. Current Department Honcho emphatically DOESN’T WANT ME TO TAKE IT. Possible New Department Honcho is PRACTICALLY BEGGING.

Wait, you’re thinking. Didn’t you, like, just take a new job in a different department of the company you’d been working for? Why yes, yes I did. That’s why I’m hesitant. Essentially, Current Department JUST trained me, so I’ve JUST become useful to them. To flee now would be, in my opinion, a crappy thing to do to people I like.

Indeed, there’s a but.

BUT, the new job is a level up. A promotion, some people would call it, although that sounds like something I should be happy about and I can’t be. This “promotion” also comes with more money. Not a life-overhauling amount more, but more is more. I think most sane people would say I should take it.

In fact, most people, quite sane and less so, have already said that. Without my having spread the news to anyone, EVERYONE in my office seems to know about this. They’ve all stopped by my cubicle to register their opinions. I’ve asked for opinions from outsiders, too – my parents think I should take it, my friends think I should take it. There’s wisdom in majority opinion, yes? So, I should take it.

Obviously, there’s a but.

BUT, if I took this job, I’d be making…a move. A “move” in the more negative sense of the word, like, a calculated shift that changes a whole bunch of people’s plans. My belief in life is that we can’t all go around thinking we don’t have responsibilities toward each other. And the fact, THE FACT, is that I’D be making life harder for people who don’t deserve to have more shit shoveled onto them. (Have I mentioned that conditions in Current Department are less than pleasant lately?) No question, I’d feel badly about that.

Of course, there’s a but.

BUT, I know that this is work. Work, not life. Work, not baseball. I can’t make decisions based on what’s good for the team. I could, but how can I then expect that if given an opportunity to elevate themselves, EACH member of said team would make the choice that favors the group as I did? I can’t, duh. I’m somewhat foolish and sometimes stupid, but not very much/all the time either and I’D HAVE TO BE.

Yeah, well, there’s a but.

BUT, the story’s a little sad either way it ends. I dream of neither path. If we’re talking about What Tracy Wants, then we’re having a different discussion entirely. To take the new job would be to sign up for a longer period of time than perhaps I mean to spend at this place. To spend a longer period of time would be to progress further into middle-life, i.e. the years that go best when supported by reliable income and sensible decision making. To do this would be to admit that I’m actually DOING THIS.

And we’ve arrived at dreadful. I’m full with dread of Monday, as I haven’t been in years. The Situation is waiting.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Missing October

I’ve gone and ruined what could have been a smashing anniversary. Well, okay, it wouldn’t have been smashing. This blog is smashless, mostly. But it has been going for a year now, or rather, it had been going for a year as of October 1st, which it is now one month, one week, and four days past.

The reasons I missed October are: I no longer have internet at home (and writing at work is an irresponsible proposition, given that it can take me up to three hours to craft a post about my own shoes); nothing dreadful is happening and I’m tired of complaining about nothing (if one is going to complain, one should have cause – unless one is four years old (I need to grow up)); and I’ve been out most nights, drinking riotously, left with neither the time nor the wherewithal to craft posts on any subject, including my own shoes.

Also, I've been focused on various well-intentioned Octobery pursuits like cleaning my house, cooking, doing yoga, attending conventions. Excuses. Pick one and apply to the week of your choice.

I met with two friends from my old writing workshop yesterday, and they are the reasons I'm shirking everything on this blue-skied Sunday to bring you the first post of my second year. One friend is nearly finished with her novel and is working on finding an agent. The other has involved herself in National Novel-Writing Month, the point of which is to lay down 50,000 words in thirty days. Neither friend is going to be on shelves by Christmas, but both are making such admirable progress in writing such great stories that I feel inclined to listen to them. They're telling me to write.

It's simple, the theory of progress in writing. It's like losing weight. All you do is, you just do it: a little bit every day, behave the way you know you should, plan to let yourself slip up tomorrow as long as you get back on track the day after that. Simple, but not easy. Or else I'd be a size four with three published novels by now, and clearly.... No, no. Can't go there.

I have a respectable amount of work to begin with - about 8,000 words of what started out as a short story, which my writing friends inform me has too long an arc and really needs to be turned into a novel. This I'm taking as neither an insult nor a compliment, but certainly as bad news. What, I'm not done yet? So, I've plucked this particular piece from my pool of unfinished short/shortish stories to work on exclusively. I mean, to the exclusion of others from the pool, not to the exclusion of The Bachelor and (occasional) nights of riotous drinking. It's not October anymore, but I'm still me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Angst, Part Eighty-Six

They're blowing bubbles off the Washington Monument tonight. It's pretty. I would post a picture, but I haven't got one. I didn't bring a camera. Because I like to keep things in my head.

I might as well interrupt myself to note: If you're thinking this is justanotherangstypost, you are, of course, correct. I have one setting. It's starting to freak me out. So, okay then, two settings: angsty and panicked. I think they're slightly different.

"I saw you roaming about the Baltimore Book Festival. Your pants mismatched your shoes and you appeared to be talking to yourself." That's nobody's quote. That is the thing I was saying to myself, aloud and in a British accent, while roaming. Rehearsal of imagined comments from other (imagined) people to me : a default pastime of mine. Disturbing? Don't answer.

Believe me, if I thought I could be anything other than borderline schizophrenic, I would go ahead and be it. I would stop batting at gnats that don't exist, speaking to myself in the voices of characters I haven't bothered to export to the page where they belong. And for the love of God or whatever, I would stop telling about such things on a blog, as casually as if they were TV ads killing the time between. But I know what happens when I do things, really, in the world outside my head. Nothing. Nothing happens.

See, I haven't found the cure for invisibility. I'm stumped. Tonight they're blowing bubbles off the Washington Monument. I watch people watching them, snapping their pictures, those see-through bubbles that don't come so near as six feet above the heads of tall people before disappearing. I - for all my solidity - might not have been seen at all.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Red Circles

I'm walking down my city street in the rain, at night, with a fridge pack of Diet Coke tucked under one arm. In the other: three plastic bags with fields of bullseyes on their fronts. Steps behind me, someone yells.

"Tar-GET!" Emphasis on the get. Tar-GET. Should I be afraid? What does he mean? Tar...get out of here? Tar...get your ass back to the suburbs? I turn around to look - it's just a tipsy hipster. Nothing to worry about there.

I was already feeling the guilt before he said anything. What self-respecting snooty twenty-something urban-dwelling liberal shops three bags worth at Target on a Friday night? This is Mount Vernon, Charm City, for crap's sake. I think the deal is, I'm supposed to be out smoking in a narrow area, looking dour and European.

But I was at a box store. A big one. In Pikesville. I drove there, polluting all the way. And you know what? I got a pretty two-toned bamboo cutting board for just $10.99.

City living is what I've always wanted - I feel even snootier now that I do things like power-walk to Federal Hill, hustle up the steps, admire the sunset, and hit the bar on the way home - but I do have some adjusting to do. Like, I don't understand how to live without Target. What if I have simultaneous need of a 6-outlet power strip, a strapless bra, and toothpaste? Where do I go? For all their blobbiness, suburban communities are, at least, easy. There's always a vast parking lot, and it's actually ajacent to the destination.

I'm realizing that I'll miss that, the ease of it all. I hate to admit it, because, really, who wants easy? It's a word that means nothing much had to happen. I avoid it on principle. But it is habit-forming; you do one easy thing, and, well, it's just so easy to do more. I'll probably continue to travel out to one Target or another, every once in a while - I'm not rich, so it's not like I can do all my shopping downtown at funky independent stores. Next time, though, I may walk with those little red circles facing in. Hipsters don't have time for practical explanations. And for whatever reason, I care.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


"A place for everything - "

" - and everything in it's place. I know." My mom and I are standing in my bedroom, assessing the situation, discussing the new leaf I'm turning over. It's going to be a tidy leaf. And not just tidy, but clean. I figure I might as well turn it all the way, this leaf.

"Your room is the dustbin of the western world," she'd said with great amusement, a few days earlier, in my cleared-out bedroom at the old apartment. True. I hadn't dusted once in four years and the bunnies were raging out of control. If it had been anyone's mess but mine, I'd have been disgusted. I'd always been one of those people for whom messes were personal extensions, like Pigpen from Peanuts. They were where I was. Without threat of outsiders coming around to crinkle their noses and swat at the air, cleaning and tidying just never occurred to me as possible uses of my time.

Four years of that, and I find myself an amateur trash collector. It snuck up on me.

But I won't let that happen again - I have a new rule. It was inspired by the pulse of glee I felt each time I schlepped a heavy trash bag to the dumpster. (Whee! My house is losing weight!) The rule is: one thing in, one thing out.

"Oh, yeah, good luck," my mom says when I lay down my rule. "Just don't be like your father, and throw things out before you notice what they are."

"No, I'm not talking about an all-out dumping spree," I say. "It'll be more of a thoughtful exchange. Like, I buy a new book, I give away an old shirt."

"God, you'll be naked in weeks."

I explain about balance - how this is a new buzzword in my life, how I'm going to use the Scale of Stuff to determine the Quotient of Need minus the Weight of Want, or some loopy babble like that. The point is that I will have to move again someday. When that happens, I don't want to uncover archaeological detritus suggesting that, of all the personalities warring for my head, Pigpen is winning.

"Well, this place certainly has a lot of potential," says Mom. "I hope you do keep it neat." She pauses, considering the walls. "You know, I think this shade of green came out better than we expected."

"Yeah, me too," I say. "It's light, but not pale."

"And bright, but not neon."

"Kind of a spring-y green."

"That was the idea."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Last, at Last

My final night at the old apartment is being marked by nothing. See, I called it "the old apartment". I've already moved. My bed hasn't, and some piles of crap haven't, but everything else is at the apartment - "the new apartment" - i.e. home. I'm here now, at "the old apartment" (non-home, ex-home), marking my final night with nothing.

No last episode of Friends.

No last frozen dinner on the couch.

No last ritual airing-out of the foyer, which always seemed to smell like dead animal.

Okay, the place itself isn't much of a loss. I don't know whether I'm trying to be unsentimental or if there really isn't anything to be sentimental about. I have lived here for four whole years, which makes it the second longest I've lived anywhere. But, they were four tumultuous years. I have lived here with three different people, all good friends. But, we barely saw each other, same address or not. I have lived here through a lot of life changes. But, not the kind of changes that stopped me eating frozen dinners on the couch most nights. (That's less pathetic than it sounds. I do like them.) Sometimes I wonder, when the good and bad balance like this, whether anything has happened at all. That kind of tree-falls-in-the-forest thinking can drive you mad.

Pragmatist answer to the question: IT DOESN'T MATTER. I like it.

So, it seems that unsentimental is the way to go. No last anything, no photographs, no kissing the ground. This is weird for me. I tend to flail, emotionally. I cry when things go changing. I think up words that mean how I feel and write them down, arrange them. That I did, I guess. Just one more: okay.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

So, September

I have an appointment tomorrow to pick up keys. My next apartment sits waiting, empty, lead-tested and roach-bombed. It's old. It has the kind of hardwood floors that happened before hardwood floors got to be so chic. I worry that it's haunted but am willing to make friends with spirits if I must. It's in the place where I wanted to be.

So, I'm moving tomorrow. Or rather, as of tomorrow I've officially and for all postal purposes arrived at a new address. I have until the end of the month to vacate the current apartment, thankfully; I haven't even begun dismantling shelves and furniture. Paintings and lamps and ceramic items are still on display, undisturbed as they've been for four years. I can't make myself do the packing. It's better, for me, to put things together than to take them apart.

In two weeks I'll have done it anyway, because that's what the deal is - and it's sweeter than most. I do appreciate the large window of time that good luck and nice people have opened for me in this move. But I hate chaos. It puts me completely off-game. Last moving day, I woke up shaking at 4am, dropped a box of books on my foot, crashed my parents’ van into a guard rail, and ended up on the floor of my bare apartment, rocking back and forth singing show tunes. I wish that was an exaggeration.

So, I'm aiming to get through it. To the part where there's paint on the walls and mugs in the cupboard. September. Books grouped by genre, alphebetized by author. September. Towels washed and rolled up, clothes hanging by color. September, September. It'll all be fine and fabulous then.