The Hold Backs

She looked at my left palm; this is the life you were given. She looked at my right; and this is what you have made of it. You’re stubborn. Well that’s true. She told me this when she touched the heel of my right palm. The soft part that’s closer to the thumb. You don’t want it to be too soft. That’s a pushover. We love hearing secrets about ourselves.

She picks up what looks like a chopstick. Wooden. Black with a red tip and points to the lines on my hands like a professor teaching a seminar. She told me I would live a long life; probably into my nineties. Or longer. She folded my hand in half. I count: one, two, three, four, five kids. But probably two, her neighbor chimes in. That’s my best friend she says. I told her I wasn’t interested in having any kids. They don’t necessarily need to be yours. They can be stepchildren, nieces, nephews…she trails off. If that’s the case, I already have three. Four if you count my cat. Get a dog, she tells me. Her friend tells me to get a kitten. A kitten she reinforces. She told me I struggle with trust. Why? What happened? She told me I have very few friends—a select group that I have chosen to open up to. Even then, I’ve wondered about my openness. She asks me why. Again. She tells me about my work. Within the past year or so, I’ve been happier. What’s changed? I guessed. Be willing to follow that change or this line, here, will slope down, and you’re going to be miserable.

Now pick a deck. There were three of them. I stare at them. One was the traditional looking tarot deck. Almost medieval illustrations with bright colors. The second was square and bulky. I didn’t like the illustrations; it reminded me of southwestern art. The cheesy kind; like an iridescent Kokopelli that someone plunks in their front yard. The third had an ethereal woman, naked, holding a water pitcher, hair in a bun and her skin was fair. She was beautiful. I felt like I was taking too long. I picked the traditional looking deck. Interesting she says. Why? We call that the soccer mom deck. What? I’m offended by the association. It’s just traditional, she says. I told her I almost went for the other one. She said if I had chosen the other one she would’ve said that I was a spiritual person. The person I want to be. Pick six cards. I pick one, two, three, four, fivesix. Five and six come together. She told me that I did that right. Most people draw two and try to put one back and pick another one. A small victory after the soccer mom comment.

She places the cards in front of me. One card by itself, four in the center of the table in a two by two arrangement, and one card on the other side. She looks at them and points to the first. This is the death card. What are you holding on to? When did you say your last relationship was? Seven years ago. That’s a long time. No chance of rekindling? No. He’s married and has a kid now. I start to tear up. The break up was bad because he didn’t do anything wrong. We were never going to be in the same place, so we had to. You need to let that go. If you continue to hold onto it, it will hold you back and this change will not be able to happen. No crying at my table. It’s the experience that I miss. Relationships are nice. You need to let it become a fond memory and see it as a good time.

She points to the Ace of Cups. The ace is the strongest suit in the deck. This is a very good card. Why is it upside down? What do you question about yourself in your work? Oh god. Inadequacy. All the time. The cup is holding water, but it’s all spilling out. People know who you are. People know what you do. Just because people aren’t telling you, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking it. Put the cup upright. You are enough. Until you do that, you will keep spilling.

Next, the Queen of Pentacles. You need to trust yourself. Do you worry about money? Yes. What aren’t you getting that you think you should be able to? I just get frustrated I tell her. It’s month to month and I feel like I can never catch up. Well what are your standards? I don’t think they’re high, I mean, I live at my means. She counters. Just this weekend, I made enough in readings to pay for rent this month. What matters to me is money for rent, payin’ my bills, havin’ food for my dogs, and food for me. Just keep doin’ what you’re doin’.

Seven of Cups. She taps on the card. This is interesting. You don’t do well with change. Is there a path you feel like you should be on? I guess. These cups are showing you opportunities. Options. When you can release from yourself, you will be presented with all of these choices. If you can let go, then you can pick and choose.

The Ace of Pentacles. What did I say about the ace? That it’s the most powerful suit. If you let yourself follow your joy, you will be successful. Open up.

Finally, she points to the Knight of Wands. The last card. In the next seven to twelve months, you are going to meet someone. He’s not going to be your normal type, but give him a chance. Let him take you out. Let him take you on trips. You will want to friend-zone him. Don’t do that. You’re not going to marry him. This isn’t the one. Later, I looked up the definition of this card. More than a man, it represents abandoning things that are holding you back. It’s adventure.

Now I’m 31. Has something been holding me back? What? What is it, then? Whatever it is, I know how I don’t want it to look. I don’t want it to manifest into something that is so visibly stunting. So visibly preventing me from getting what I want and what I deserve. Any success I experience I want it to be for me, not for someone else. I don’t want it to look like I’ve had to prove anything to anyone: I showed you, didn’t I? Is that what I’ve been looking for? That kind of progress where I get to say look what I can do. I already made a decision a long time ago that this was thing I wanted before I had to make any choices. This year, I want to put my hold backs to bed. I want to bury them into the recesses of my brain. If the mound wants to flower, to remind me of what it was, that’s fine. I want to be able to pass by those things. I want to be able to look at them and recognize them. They have made me who I am. They have shaped me. But they don’t get to hold me back.

 

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The Hold Backs

I’d Like to File a Missing Persons Report

You guys, he’s gone. I don’t know where he is I don’t have any of his friend’s phone numbers and he’s not on Facebook. What if, like, something serious happened to him, y’know? And I didn’t know about it? Oh my god, I’d be, like, the worst girlfriend ever. But seriously, it’s been two weeks and I have no idea where he is. I need more wine.

I spend a lot of time protecting myself. I like to think that my anger takes the shape of a cute little porcupine in a red cape who comes to my rescue every time my soft, squishy, beating heart might be exposed and make me look vulnerable. She sounds a lot like Louise from ‘Bob’s Burgers’. She’s a yeller. I talk about this a lot in therapy. It’s one of the reasons that I do comedy. It’s the perfect defense mechanism that lets you talk about serious stuff without sitting across from one of your friends at a coffee shop, crying and making them really uncomfortable. But I’ve done that too. Sorry friend I made feel uncomfortable, I know that was messy and really ugly, but your makeup looked so good. Feelings are real things, you guys. It’s just that being vulnerable is one of my least favorite. I refrain from opening myself to people and handing them my insides. Most of the time I feel like it’s just easier to take care of things myself. So I do.

I don’t fall in to relationships very easily because of this, too. I’m usually waiting for that moment when I’m about to get fucked over. And when I do, I always say, “You’re better off alone.” Ugh. I need more wine. I’m so gross and whiny. But I’m jealous of people who can open up and do. They open themselves over and over again no matter what happened the last time. Me? I’m like, “Let’s talk about how I wanted to fucking murder so and so…”. I’m hyper guarded and when this comes up, people usually want to know, “Who broke you the last time?” Or, geez. Pause. Just ‘geez’.

Recently I’ve been dating someone. I can’t say that it’s going to be anything permanent, but it’s going well despite a lot of the conversations we had to have very early on. I struggle with anxiety and depression and he understood that, so I thought, on some level, I had found someone who was a kindred spirit and not afraid of me because I’m on anti-depressants. I have found it difficult to explain this to people that haven’t experienced that kind of thing, so having someone that already gets it really took care of a lot. This has been going on for a couple months and some weeks. We are calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend. He’s talked to me about moving in together “I could totally live with you”. He’s picked me up from the airport “It’s a nice thing to do.” He’s into me “I’m not going to say it until you do.” He is dedicated to breaking down my walls “I don’t know what kind of skinny jean wearing douchebags you’ve dated in the past, but geez.” Just ‘geez’. I like(d) him.

I call a friend, fucking terrified about what was happening to me and she told me that everything was going to be ok, he was just poking at my heart in a way that it hadn’t been for a long, long time. Basically an eternity. We have jet packs now. Breathed a sigh of relief and assured myself that I would take things day by day. One thing I was missing, though, was that giddy, stupid, OMFuckingG he’s so totally great and I’m so into this. What was holding me back? Was I really struggling this much to just let it all hang out? Maybe I’m more of a slow burn kind of girl, but I also really started to trust him.

Here’s the thing: something might’ve happened. It’s totally possible. If it did, though, I think I would’ve heard about it. I haven’t heard a missing person’s report, either, but he’s missing. Like seriously. Dropped off the face of the planet. DID HE GET ABDUCTED BY A PACK OF WOLVES IN THE NIGHT? DID HE GET HIRED TO GO ON A SPECIAL, TOP SECRET MISSION TO FIGHT SOMALIAN PIRATES AND COULDN’T TELL ANYONE OR LEAVE A NOTE? BECAUSE THESE ARE LITERALLY THE ONLY TWO THINGS I CAN THINK OF. But seriously guys I have no clue and I love mysteries so this is all very frustrating. There have been no responses to phone messages or texts. Are we breaking up? I have no idea because I haven’t talked to him. Are we still together? I don’t know! Should I keep looking at one bedroom apartments in Bensonhurst with a washer and dryer and move in, get a dog and wait for him? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Again?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this happens a lot. One guy I dated made me feel like I was doing all the driving in the relationship, so I handed him the keys to the car and as far as I knew he crashed the car and ended up naked in a ditch somewhere outside of Florida. His body was never recovered and a missing persons report was never filed, but then I saw him at a Memorial Day BBQ so I guess he’s fine now.

Everyone, this is not ok. Guys. Gals. No one should be doing this. Even if using your words to say that you’re “just not interested.” No one can argue with you. Seriously. It usually ends up being more of a “thanks for telling me” kind of thing.  And what in God’s name makes you think that it’s easier to just not respond? We are fucking grownups you guys, and I don’t want to put out a mother fucking Amber Alert every time one of you goes missing. That would be abusing who it’s actually for. Children. It’s actually for children. For something serious. Not for you not answering a text message. This is breaking people. Literally breaking them down. It’s not a respectful way to treat people. It’s cowardly and it makes people go banana phone. Ring! Ring! Hello? No one loves you CLICK. Stop pranking me! Instead of pushing people deeper and deeper into their insecurities like being vulnerable and asking for help, FOR EXAMPLE, why don’t you just tell me what you would like to say. Because if you don’t, I will find you in 6 years for our wedding. Our dog, Ghost, is the ring bearer. I named him after you.

I’d Like to File a Missing Persons Report

One is the Loneliest Number…Wait. What?

You know that feeling when you’ve been single for, like, three years, haven’t had sex for 6 months (but who’s counting?), so you start to review past “potentials”? Reviewing the Rolodex. Going through text messages, emails, Gchats, you wonder if you fucked it up with one of these people along the way. Telling yourself, “They were funny, right? I can’t remember why I lost interest.” Pausing to think that maybe you didn’t give them enough of a chance to prove themselves as dateable material or, at the very, very least, someone that you could just hook up with from time to time but based on your availability and needs. Not theirs. And to get jazzed about the hook up even though you don’t really talk all that often and he has never taken you to that dinner that he said he was going to at that really cute restaurant in your neighborhood that you’d like to go to more often but have only gone once and that was for your birthday because your friends took you. They’re married. So you can’t sleep with them. Unless you’re into that. Which I’m not, really. Yet! Whenever he gets in touch and you do end up sleeping together it’s actually pretty good (reliable), not like that other guy that you slept with a few times over the summer who, the last time (and I mean LAST), kept trying to sex up the Sahara Desert that was between your legs (you’re looking for an oasis, buddy, that’s not there) because he acted like a jerk the night before so you found yourself unable to get it up for him at all. Yes. I equated that entire experience with a boner, or an erection if my mom ever reads this. She expects me to use proper words for things and would appreciate it if I stopped being so crass because I’m a beautiful, naturally funny woman who shouldn’t have to try that hard to get people’s attention. I’m getting bored, though. How many times am I going to listen to someone say that they’re going to do something that they never actually do? It becomes easy to adopt a completely non-chalant attitude (watch out guys, I’m on to you) and see it as the hook up. And the hook up only. Nothing more. That’s not fulfilling. I’m not sure when it was, but it’s definitely not now.

We find ourselves “alone” for a period of time, and start to doubt decisions that we’ve made. But here’s the thing: If we liked them then, then chances are we’d still be interested and something would have probably happened by now. Going back now and wondering if you made some mistake is a waste of time, looks desperate (Hi, remember that you liked me? I’m still pretty sure I don’t like you, but let’s meet for drinks so you can boost my ego, and remind myself that I’m cute and you still aren’t interesting to me), and, frankly, is some high school bullshit that too many people I know haven’t grown out of.  I’m not innocent! I’ve called “Not take you to dinner” guy 8 times in one night before in a drunken stupor walking by his apartment. Desperate much? Definitely. On my terms? Obviously not.

But. Is being alone really all that bad? I see people in relationships around me, and truth be told, they don’t look happy. I thought that’s what the whole point was! Don’t get me wrong; I know that relationships are not all rainbows, butterflies, and warm gentle breezes that caress your face and smell like Honeysuckle. I’ve been in one before (yes, one) and that’s not how it always was. There were discussions and disagreements, they happened. They had to. Maybe this is a side effect of growing up and establishing boundaries. I’m getting better at knowing that decisions I’ve made in the past are still good decisions. And I’m proud of them. Not all of them, but most of them (Amanda, put your phone away. He’s not going to answer your text. It’s 4am).  

This need that we feel to get attention is an honest one. Who doesn’t like it? No one I know. Literally. No one. That guy over there? Pretty sure he loves it too. What matters is getting it from people that you want it from. Everybody and anybody isn’t somebody. Is that guy ever going to take me to dinner? Probably not. It’s been 3 years and it still hasn’t happened. Am I ignoring his sporadic text messages? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Am I tired of waking up with Sharpie all over my lips because of the drawing of a man’s face I have on my pillow? Yes. If something worthwhile were to have happened with any of these past potentials, it would’ve happened by now. Right? I’ll wait. 

One is the Loneliest Number…Wait. What?

Aren’t there rules or something?

Let me begin by saying that I love kids.  Really.  I do.  I think they are lovely people, and it’s an incredible thing to watch them discover the world around them.  It’s amazing to see a baby smile.  And it’s a miracle to see a child form their first words (however, not a miracle to help a kid who’s not yours pull out their first tooth when their parent isn’t there.  Bad miracle! Bad miracle!).  I like movies with kids in them, sometimes I think they’re better actors than adults; it could be honesty or they just deliver their lines cuter, I don’t know.

I’ve liked kids my whole life.  At my parent’s work barbecues, or dinner at a parent’s friend’s house, I could be found with either the child or the family pet.  I just found them more interesting or we had a similar mindset.  Seeing a beagle eat a cat’s poop out of the litter box is disgusting and fascinating at the same time, it’s just not something to brag about.  So it was only natural that I took my Red Cross babysitting course at the age of 12 or 13 to start taking care of something I already liked for money.  Not a difficult job.  You just basically have to make sure that no catastrophe befalls the innocent, and you will get paid.  I was taught, however, that a babysitter doesn’t just “babysit”, but make sure they brush their teeth, make sure they get to bed at a decent hour, make sure they don’t watch too much tv, and make an effort to tidy up the mess that you or the kids made before the parents get home to hide the evidence of the macaroni and cheese with mustard and french fries disaster that happened earlier in the evening.

In college, I had returned from a semester in Costa Rica, I wanted to move out of my parent’s house, so I needed a job. Babysitting skills and years of experience with children translated into a nanny position.  Ladies and gentlemen, I got spoiled.  I was getting paid to take care of a sweet kid and teach him everything I know.  I’m not saying there weren’t challenging moments, and it definitely provided an excellent form of birth control, but more importantly: the parents and I were on the same page as to what was acceptable and what wasn’t acceptable. And, to be completely honest, I found this with most (there are bratty kids in Denver, too) of the families I would sit for.  Just so there’s no confusion, I made up a list of things that were and were not acceptable:

Acceptable:

1. running

2. jumping

3. playing

4. legos

5. singing

6. dancing

7. napping

8. sitting quietly while I check my email

Unacceptable

1. ripping up the pages of a library book.

Fast forward a few years to moving to New York…Ho-ly shit.  There’s stuff that would NOT HAVE FLOWN when I was a kid.  For example: I was expected to be on my best behavior in restaurants.  If not, I would be removed from that booth booster seat faster than you could blink, and I would never see those restaurant crayons or coloring- book style placemat ever again. I understood that what I had done was unacceptable.  I was to always use please and thank you in my own home and, especially, if I was company at someone’s house.   And if I was being taken care of by a babysitter it was a privilege…not a right.  Maybe my parents were disciplinarians, but their kids didn’t become brats.  When I first started seeking out a nanny job when I moved to the city, I was appalled.  I interviewed with one family on the Lower East Side, whose mother told me that, “If Uma wants to climb and play on the [dinner] table, she can.” Play doesn’t mean sit in a high chair and do finger painting, it means run back and forth along the length of the table.  My mind fast forwarded about ten years, to a kid with pig tails, screaming, running up and down the length of the table with both parents in various states of hair loss. I didn’t take the job.  There were a couple kids I took care of in my neighborhood for a while, but eventually had to stop because I started to lose my voice from trying to get the message across to these kids to get them to do what their parents had asked me to do.  I should’ve taken the cue from the first time I went there when the father started screaming at the kids while the mom sat by rolling her eyes and trying to laugh it off.  Um, I don’t think that works… I felt that a lot of that could’ve been resolved if getting their kids to respect their parents at an earlier age might’ve been helpful.  What are people thinking? “My two year old doesn’t understand what “no” means.”  Newsflash! They do! There’s even a “no” song on Sesame Street.  Why parents don’t think it’s necessary to give their children consequences for their actions is beyond me.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I might put the pieces together and say that a child without this kind of structure has difficulty in school and has consistently bad behavior making it difficult to make friends or keep them, and falls into a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse.  Ok that last part isn’t true, but you see where I’m going with this.  They just become increasingly hard to handle, and no one likes to be around that.  There has to be a point, as a parent, where you realize that your kid is not the angel you once thought s/he was. Of course, it’s different when they’re yours.

Maybe I take my job too seriously.  I have to accept that I may not be able to change someone’s behavior in a four hour period, but it sure would make them easier to be around if they weren’t acting like they were feral and just recently emerged from their home in the forests of the Amazon.  I babysit now because I need the money.  Not because I want to. I’m good at it.  I’m reliable.  But it sure makes the job easier when your kid isn’t acting like a total brat.  It also makes me want to be a repeat babysitter, and not go spend all the money I just made babysitting on getting drunk from the forty I buy at 7-11 as soon as I leave your house.  It has gotten to the point though, where a lot of times, I just won’t even argue.  You don’t want to brush your teeth? Fine.  You’re the one who’s gonna have to deal with your breath smelling like ass in the morning.  You don’t want to go to bed? Fine.  Stay up until your parents get home.  I don’t care.  You don’t like me? That’s fine, I have other people in my life who validate my existence.  Goodnight.  Click.

Aren’t there rules or something?

Where is my stuff?

When I had my first apartment in Denver, I lost a pair of scissors.  Now when I say “lost” I don’t mean that I took them to a scrapbooking party and left them at someone’s house and never saw them again and just got over it.  Or “lost” the way someone loses a pair of underwear at a frat party.  I mean “lost” as in these scissors disappeared.  Vanished.  Never to cut again. Just gone, without a trace.  Instead of blame this on my own carelessness, I decided to place the blame on the most obvious criminal, an apartment troll.  Trolls take things and don’t give them back.  I’m sure that if you could see a troll’s house, you would see mounds and mounds of lost items just piling up in the corners of rooms, begging to be put in an episode of “Hoarders” on TLC. Even when I was moving out and emptying every single drawer and every single cabinet, these scissors were still not to be found.

I imagine this troll to be named something like Freddy, Eddie, Harvey, or something representing his personality/habitual traits, like, Smoker.  I found myself creating this entire scenario about my fictional relationship with a figment of my imagination:  I come home from work, and he’s there, on my couch, waist wrapped in my brand new Martha Stewart Living white linen towel, smoking a cigar watching reruns of “Boy Meets World” and constantly commenting on how hot Topanga is.  Not only that, but he has clearly gone through my fridge and eaten my leftover Chipotle burrito, the evidence of which is the cilantro-lime rice that has entangled itself in his bounty of chest hair. He has a voice suggestive of smoking since the age of 5, and makes lewd comments beyond what any dirty old man could ever think of, “Someone forgot her cutlets today, because she looks like an 8 year old boy.”  He’s the live-in boyfriend I never had.  He sleeps on my couch, and talks in his sleep reliving his glory days at Sprite Strippers as the amateur night aficionado.

I haven’t lived in Denver for almost 3 years, and was convinced that I had moved far enough away that laziness would get the better of him and I wouldn’t have to worry about it.  I’m bringing this up because lately I have been losing stuff, which, is, obviously the fault of none other than my AT.  My YMCA card has completely gone missing.  They don’t have it there, I asked.  I know I saw it on my desk and it wasn’t until I actually needed to go to the gym on Monday, that it had been taken.  I know it’s here…probably in my room somewhere, cleverly hidden in some crevice.  I’m gonna find you “Y” card, and when I do, I’m not letting you out of my sight.  Then! Today, I could not find my ipod.  It was in my bag last night.  The last place it was being played, it was physically handed back to me and I put it in my bag.  AT is getting into my shit and making me feel like a total nutcase!

I am not kidding when I say that I have ripped my place apart looking for these things.  This has to happen to other people.  That, or I am experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s.  A 90 year old woman trapped in a 26 year old’s body.  Guess that’s better than it being the other way around…but still.  You better watch it AT.  I’m on to you.

Where is my stuff?

I should have said something

I love Brooklyn.  Especially in the summer.  I don’t know what it is, but when I walk at night and the air smells sweet and people are out and about; hanging out on stoops and that brick half-wall by the TD bank drinking energy drinks, for some reason it just makes me smile inside.  We are no longer trapped in our homes because of the freezing cold air that prevents anyone from wanting to go anywhere at all.  Some might call it the change of season.  I call it magic.  But like all magic, there is often a sleight of hand. In this particular case, I found it to be with the group of teenage boys that were hanging out outside the Neergard Pharmacy on 9th St and 5th Ave.  Magic killers.  I would first of all like to note that the day of the week, today, is Tuesday.  It’s not even end-of-the-week-hang-out-and-harrass-people-time, it’s too soon in the week for that.  A Thursday, Friday or Saturday night would seem more reasonable, even.  But, for some reason, teenage boys like to shit on everything that walks by them.  Worse than goddamned pigeons.  Goddammit!   So here you go: I’m on my way home from this lovely walk that I’ve been having in my neighborhood.  Falling more and more in love with every step and I get to the fated magic-killing zone.  It’s a group of teenage boys.  I figure I will just keep jammin’ on my ipod with Tracy Chapman, walk by no problem.  First of all, one of them steps in front of me so I have to walk through the group, and as I’m passing through, their “leader”, who, I would like to add, is perched upon the mechanical pony ride they have outside for kids, and says something along the lines of, “Fucking bitch something something something something.” I only needed to really hear the first two words anyway because I doubt the rest of what he was saying was a compliment.  He wasn’t saying, “Fucking bitch you must be working out because you are looking incredibly fit.” OR “Fucking bitch I baked some cookies for you and they’re at my house wrapped in colored saran wrap.” OR “Fucking bitch I’d really like to make you poached eggs for breakfast tomorrow.”  Well, I did what I usually do, which is ignore whatever anyone of the male species says to me while I am specifically not paying attention to them because it’s never good.  Honestly, it didn’t really faze me, until I realized that it’s so beyond inappropriate to speak to someone like that, I don’t care who they are.  I walked another block and then I stopped for a solid minute wondering to myself if I should walk back to him and ask him to repeat what he’d said to me earlier.  I turned around, and headed back toward Neergard and was working out what I would say in my head.  Once I got back, their clump had broken up and Leader just looked so sad on that pony, all by himself without a nickel to spare to actually ride the ride.  Poor little guy.  I was also afraid for myself it I wouldn’t have been able to get him to admit that he’d actually said something. I worked out comebacks the entire way home.

I should have said something