Push the Boys Into the Ditch; My Grandma’s Perfect Love Advice.

Do you ever go through something that is both presumably necessary but incredibly hard and subsequently feel the weight of the world baring down on you as if the gravitational pull changed and it was all on account of you doing something possibly stupid but possibly necessary? Me either, life is easy and fun!

While my health has to continued to sustain for reasons I can’t entirely know for sure, I’ve had some personal experiences which are difficult and painful and every time these things wash over me I examine why life has to be hard (as if I actually expected it to only be easy) and then I wonder does life actually have to be this hard or am I just doing it wrong?  I don’t know the answer to that one. I guess we can only learn as we go. I find myself telling Monty to never fall in love because it leaves a mark on every part of your life and ultimately it changes you, whether you wanted to or not. But then I watched the neighbor dog humping his owners leg and considered that obviously the alternative isn’t so much more grand. Though there’s an appeal to that leg–it’s not going to keep you up at night with heartache and strife. Or maybe I’m too quickly assuming here, maybe I should ask the dog.

Yeeeeah Legs!
Yeeeeah Legs!

Of course this fantasy that life would be easier and less painful without this or that is just that: a fantasy, a slight rejection of reality. But maybe more detrimentally, it presumes that somehow as humans we know better, and we know the answer to what would make life easier or more tolerable. As if life isn’t some ridiculous, complex mystery that has an infinite amount of working parts we as finite humans can only momentarily grasp, if ever at all. And I’m not struggling with an idea that every human for thousands of years hasn’t experienced pain from and questioned the value of. We’ve all been through it. Wondered if the pain in the end was worth the utopia in the beginning. I like this quote about it: “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear.” by e.e. cummings. Would I really choose an option where falling in love wasn’t part of the equation? Duh, no. That’d be insane and cowardly and boring. Love is a remarkable gift, with perhaps its best quality being that of illumination. I like how sometimes it picks us, even when we’ve turned our backs on it or given up on the idea. I like that it takes us places we wouldn’t go on our own. I like that it makes even a worn-down curmudgeon feel giddy and silly and do things he thought he’d never do. I’m thinking of my grandma now, who at 86, has a man named Harold (a few years her senior) who is madly in love with her. I saw it with my own eyes. They would marry if only she’d accept.

Harold had been living at her facility for a few years when she moved in. He has a military haircut I imagine he’s had for 50 years. He speaks concisely and says what he means. There is density to both his physique and his words but a subtle softness you pick up on behind it. Harold had been sitting at the same table in the cafeteria for years, often alone, seeming annoyed by even the thought of socializing and especially at watching others partake in it. Sometimes he looks like he wants to press mute or fast forward on the whole charade; a sentiment I’m familiar with. He eats and drinks the same thing at his meals every day in a very particular order–part of the routine involving peeling his fruit and sharing half of it with my grandma. The ending involves hot tea with a lemon at a very high temperature that if not fulfilled, as sometimes happens with new employees or forgetful old ones, gets sent back. He waits. Sometimes he scoffs, others he sits in silence. I ate with them a few times last summer and couldn’t help but think of Jack Nicholson ala As Good As It Gets, with a little less show but just as much intensity.

Harold would be the last guy you’d expect to get all doughy-eyed and follow a girl around like a love-sick puppy. And yet, here he is. Three years in to my grandma’s stay at The Atrium, Grand Junction’s finest assisted living home, and Harold has fallen over in love with her. I’d like to say I’m exaggerating for literary purpose but truly I am not. I saw it with my own eyes. It started as a joke in the family– OOooooh Grandma! Hanging out with Harold again?! Grandma has a boyfriend! Hehehehe! And then slowly it was revealed to all of us that for him it wasn’t some crush, he’d truly fallen for her. He switched tables to sit with her. Even thought that meant there’d be a certain amount of socializing. He comes over all the time to watch Westerns at her apartment. He on the couch, she on the recliner. Of course half the time they fall asleep 10 minutes in, but no matter. The man has it bad. And something about it completely excites and inspires me. It turned the tables on rules I had stupidly self-made on love and life and age. Very stupidly. I am constantly discovering how much I don’t know. But I love this story. I love that the employees there asked my grandma what she had done to Harold. What happened to the old crotchety man rolling his eyes in the corner? Now he was partaking in group activities? Calling her on the phone? Feeding the ducks? Switching tables?!! While my grandma tries to insist they’re only friends, (oh my God life never changes) and that she finished that phase of her life after my grandpa died, it’s clear she’s enjoying the time with him as she should.  Albeit rejecting his proposals and insisting he partake in more bridge games. I love it all. They’re is something truly hopeful in all of it. Anything that flips our predefined notions on their head can only be a good. It’s illuminating. I imagine it’s that way for Harold, too.

Harold, My Grandma, and her best friend Myrtle, playing cards on a wild Friday night last summer.
Harold, My Grandma, and her best friend Myrtle, playing cards on a wild Friday night last summer.

Maybe it’s different for her. She clearly likes him being her friend and enjoys the companionship. Perhaps in this last stage of their lives, my grandma’s old stoic German ways will prevail and she’ll reject the romantic advances and they truly will be just friends. At 90. And that’s fine too. Of course I’m secretly hoping that one day she’ll weaken, she’ll let him sneak a kiss. Maybe she already has. I don’t know. But watching this all unfold fills my heart up with something good. Something hopeful. My grandma’s advice to me has always been that boys like girls who are mean to them; that she hardly ever let a boy get too close or too much from her. To work on your own life and don’t design it around some boy. And I knew as a young woman she had a lot of interested suitors and broke her share of hearts. In fact she pushed her first boyfriend into a ditch when he tried to kiss her, which she said of course, only made him try harder. And that’s been her advice to me; to push the boys into the ditch and watch what happens. Honestly I take her advice to heart. I love listening to her old stories. Her simplicity about life. She is a very happy person who loves her life, and so for me her advice carries a lot of water. I know they don’t have the internet at the Atrium, but Grandma, if you’re reading, give Harold a kiss for me. (I mean you can’t push the man into the ditch–he’s 90!!) For whatever reason watching the two of you, and specifically him, has been a very good thing for me, and I’ll probably always carry it with me.

Health, Happiness, and Boys In the Ditch

Grandma Selfie Yeah!
Grandma Selfie Yeah!
Advertisements

Home Is Where the Holiday Is

A funny thing happens after you leave your parents house and go off to college or out into the world to find whatever needs finding. You start making connections with people and places that aren’t familiar, that aren’t necessarily where you grew up and learned how to be you. Most people go through some sort of transition, often in their twenties, where home base may turn out to be far away from the original. Now more than ever, I don’t have a short answer for where home base is. When people ask me where I’m from, I have no idea where to start. “Well I was born in New Orleans, but I grew up in Colorado until we moved back to Louisiana when I was 16.” “Why did you move back?” “Oh well, my dad died when we were living in Colorado. But then my mom met and fell in love with someone in Louisiana so we moved back. But then THAT GUY died too. *Pause for uncomfortable silence and obligatory “Sorry to hear that.” “Oh my gosh I’m sorry to hear that!” “It’s cool. She ended up falling in love a third time and has remarried again! But lately they’ve been in Colorado, where my moms family is.” “So why are you in California?” “Oh, well I came out here to dog-sit for my sisters in-laws but then I became increasingly ill and have kinda just been living on their couch since September.” “Sick with what?” “How much time do you have?”

My life has never really had a lot of stability. Moving in the middle of high school from Colorado to Louisiana kind of threw everything off. I attended three different high schools and once in college, like most kids, we moved every year. I studied abroad one semester in France where my home was the tiniest room I’d ever lived in, but it was completely comfortable and adequate. I loved it. I spent summers in New York where my brother’s apartment on Lexington was home. After college I moved to New Orleans and got a grown-up job. I finally had an apartment I loved (huge windows) and I lived alone, which I really treasured. But I only had it for 6 months. Getting sick in January, riding in the backseat of my parents car after that day in the hospital, something told me I wouldn’t be in my own home for a long time. And that certainly turned out to be true. Since that night, nearly two years ago, I’ve been living in other people’s houses. I’m lucky I have so many people willing to host me. But truthfully, I dream of the day when I can have home base back. When I can have things the way I want them. When I’m not stepping on anyones toes or breaking whatever house guidelines there are. Living with people is tough at best. And that’s the case with most everyone. If I want the comfort of “home” I have to go inward. Feel who I am, believe in what I’m doing, and trust that I am where I’m supposed to be. Isn’t that the comfort of “home” after all? A place that knows and understands you, a constant among change, a softness where the world is hard.

I remember thinking the universe was playing a cruel joke on me. Finally after years of bouncing around, dealing with the work of roommates and compromise and “Who ate my burrito?!” texts, I had my own place. I was settled. Just me and Monty. I hung curtains and picked out an area rug and was finally living in a space I totally identified with. I remember picking out decorative pillows thinking, “Only an adult buys decorative pillows!” Maybe it’s a desire among the youngest in families, to finally feel like an adult. I don’t know, but I was on my own and that felt really really good. And then, it was gone. As much as I loved the independence, I had to let it go, because being sick didn’t allow me that self-sufficiency I had earned anymore. I would have to learn to rely on others, to ask for help, and to be appreciative even if I felt bitter. It’s been one of the harder lessons to learn among all this–Humbling at best. Turning bitterness into gratitude is like trying to fold a fitted sheet- I’ve heard it’s possible, but I’m rarely able to do it. They’re both art-forms I am still trying to master.

So now here I sit in Colorado, in the town I grew up in, at my grandmas house. It still has the familiar smells (somewhere between a library and church) and familiar sights (the picture of me from kindergarten on the great wall of grand children.) and the same rules (Everyone write your name on your cup and drink out of the same one!) Is this home? Or is it California? Or New Orleans? Well, for the next week or two, it’s here. Where my siblings and nieces will shuffle in from all over America and make lots of noise and pull lots of pranks and inevitably play a game of monopoly that may or may not turn ugly. Where we’ll eat big meals and fight over who my moms favorite is and sing songs off-key around my brother Doug playing piano. There will be dogs and babies and gifts that nobody needs. But the best part about love is, it doesn’t need a certain city or house to flourish. It can grow anywhere. I suppose that’s another art-form I’m attempting to master. And I guess where love grows, is where I’ll call home. This Christmas, it’s Colorado.

Health, Happiness, and Happy Holidays– Wherever Home Is.

For Some Reason, This Gem Is Still on the Wall.
I’m going to use this pose in all my pictures. .

“Home is where you can say whatever you want, because nobody listens to you anyway.” :)

-Joe Moore

When I Thought About Adulthood, This Is Not What I Expected

In two days I turn 28 years old.

I’m thinking about that number 28. I’m thinking about the word “adulthood” and whether or not I’ve reached it. The number sounds like it belongs in that category, but my life doesn’t really feel that way. I don’t recall exactly what I thought life would be like at 28, but I know for sure, this is not what I expected. I always thought I’d be married with kids by now. (HAHAHA.) I expected adulthood to be so organized and grown-up and filled with smart people who had the answers and knew exactly what they were doing. But I see now, adults are often lost and they don’t have it all figured out yet either. They still get shit-faced and throw up sometimes. There are still social hierarchies and corresponding dramas. They still make mistakes and are learning their way through it. My mom still encourages me to eat vegetables. And I still fantasize about my wedding day and love Disney movies. There are a lot of things that I thought would be different, that aren’t. And there are a lot of things I didn’t expect to still be doing, that I am…

I didn’t still think I’d be…

*Eating at the kids table at Thanksgiving and other family events. I am wondering at what age I will graduate to the adult table. I’m going to celebrate so hard on that day.

*Sitting on a bathroom counter in my pajamas popping zits in the mirror, or what I think could be a possible zit one day and subsequently wrecking my face.

*Calling my mom with questions when I catch a cold…(which is now just me walking into her room, you know, cause I live with my parents now…)

“Wait do I need a decongestant or an expectorant?”

*…Living with my parents.

*Taking bubble baths. Still prefer them to showers…any day.

*Borrowing all my sisters clothes.

*Still getting excited as hell when Christmas comes around.

Yes.

*Turning off my bedroom light,  running lightning fast and jumping into bed so the man underneath it can’t cut my feet.

*Getting questioned about my outfits by my mom. “You’re sure you want to wear that to dinner?”

*Talking to girls about boys and boys about girls. It’s been the same conversation since high school: girls are kind of crazy, boys are kind of dumb.

*Watching The Little Mermaid and singing “Part of Your World” really loudly. Every time.

Part of your WORRLLD!

*Giggle when any of my friends say the word penis or talk about one. It’s shameful. I know.

*Be thoroughly entertained by bubbles. (Especially if Monty is around)

Did someone say bubbles?

*Having my grandma play with my hair.

*Wondering the meaning of my life. Thought I’d have it figured it out by now..

…None of these things did I expect to be still be partaking in and/or enjoying at 28. When I was in middle school, I remember telling a friend that I wanted to be married by age 22 and having my first child at 24…basically because it just sounded good. I was 12, and stupid. But truthfully, it was an arbitrary goal anyway.  When I was young, I thought that was the meaning of life: To grow up, find a husband, and have babies. And maybe it is. Those are still things I want. I hope to marry a best friend and not blow it and I’ve always dreamed of becoming a mother. But now I see there is more to life than that. I think. I actually have no idea. I just know that right now, in this moment, it’s not my time to be a wife and mother. It’s a time for me to get healthy and stronger, to find some certainty, get to know myself a little better, trust myself a little more, and become who I am meant to be. Joseph Campbell says that “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” and I think so many things in the last year really threw my identity around and left me slowly piecing it back together, which I will continue to do. I trust that the things I want will happen in time, but I am careful not to put aside happiness while I get where I’m going. I am right here, so right here is where I should be happy. I have high hopes for 28. I never expected that at this juncture of my life I would be where I am, and in truth, this is not what I would have chosen. But the fact that I didn’t choose this, I didn’t seek it out–makes me trust it more. I was headed in a completely opposite direction, and yet here I am. It tells me something else was at work.  I am done questioning it. I am done being mad at it. I’m ready for the next chapter. Bring it on, 28!

Health, Happiness, Twenty Eight.

Help and Thank You

It’s been almost 7 days and 12 hours that I’ve gone without internet and I am gently reminded just how much a product of the multi-tasking, turned-on tech generation I am. I think going this long without wi-fi is my generations equivalent to camping. I’m pretty sure they call this roughing it. And I’m pretty sure my parents would call me a pansy.

This is an easy problem to fix, as most public restaurants and coffee shops have free wi-fi these days but since I’ve basically spent the last seven days IN BED or using some other piece of furniture as though it is one, I haven’t been able to take my little coffee shop trips like I’d planned.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but since the day after I arrived here, I’ve been crashing about an hour after I wake up. Apparently my adrenal glands aren’t functioning properly and I’m bottoming out after I wake up. And not just “Gee I’m sleepy I think I’ll lay down for a bit” kind of crash. (Since becoming sick I have no idea how a power nap works. I just know 15 minutes could never ever ever ever be enough when I’m in a crash.) It’s more like hitting a brick wall where the only thing to do is go back to bed. If that sounds depressing, well, yeah, it is a bit. But there is no such thing as faking it. I made it to dinner at my cousins Shawns house after three days in bed but didn’t feel like I could keep my head up to play cards after dinner. And we ALWAYS play cards after dinner. That’s what you do in Colorado. That’s what you do when grandma is around. And that was just one of many things I’ve had to miss out on since arriving, which is very challenging emotionally for me. I’m the youngest of four, so basically since birth it’s been my prerogative to just not miss out on anything. But that affect right there is one of the hardest parts of this illness, many times even harder than the physical pain itself.

A few nights ago after spending the last two days straight in bed, I felt like I started to lose my mental strength. My siblings had left to go visit with old family friends who I’d really like to have seen but I just couldn’t make it happen. When I’m sick like that I’ve always felt it’s best to be alone since I’m not a ton of fun to be around and basic “sounds” really bother me. But then after everyone left, I got sad and wanted them to come back again. All of my siblings are here and we have taken over my grandmas little house. My brother has been sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of the living room–and this has really worked out for me, because I basically get to be in bed while simultaneously hearing to the conversations and sounds and chaos that ensues when more than one Gelpi is in a room together.

The truth is, I find myself looking for an answer to all of this and there often isn’t one. There are a lot of questions I have about my life that most of the time I am able to let go unanswered. But during those times like a few nights ago, I can’t escape the questions so easily, and I feel anger about them because it simply doesn’t make sense to me. I was angry that most of my vacation has been spent lying down. Angry that I was missing out on my favorite activities. Jealous of other people’s health. Angry that I rarely get to see all my siblings at the same time, and now here we are all together but I can barely get out of bed. Marc Nepo says it’s our job to make sense out of our pain. So that is what I tried to do the other night as I did the only thing I promised I would do that day–take a bath. Big day for Mary!

During dark times like that, I don’t often have big revelations or hear the voice of God. I just let myself feel the pain and then remind myself that tomorrow is another day and say some prayers. There are two prayers I say when I’m all out of juice and all together they make up three words. And here they are: “Help” and “Thank You.” When I’m too tired to spell it out for the universe, (and let’s get real, I shouldn’t have to spell it out for the universe) those are the prayers I say, and honestly it feels like enough. The help prayer is for strength and the thank you prayer is for my family, particularly my siblings. They have taken phenomenal care of me since arriving, and my sister Amelie has been force feeding me protein every two hours. Even when I’m cranky and don’t feel like moving, talking, or eating. They bring me home leftovers and pick up my prescriptions and lie to me when I ask them if the party I missed out on was any fun. Each of them is an invaluable gift to me. Sometimes I think about my life and think maybe I’ll never get married. Maybe I won’t find “The One” or my soul mate or whatever they talk about on Sex and the City. And then I watch us at work together and it hits me that maybe I don’t need that. Sometimes my mom and siblings feel like all the soul mates I could need. (Monty too of course) That being said, I’m sure they’re all hoping that one day I’ll be able to sustain myself and won’t require an air mattress in the middle of their respective living room floors and I am hoping for that day too. But there is just a lot of love between us and often I feel like my glass is overflowing with the stuff that matters. And pain and exhaustion aside, that feels pretty good. At the end of the day, you ask yourself; do I have what I need? And I do. I have modern medicine and the smell of my grandmas house, 10 more minutes of free wi-fi and unconditional love and the answer is clear. Today was hard, but I had enough.

Health, Happiness, Enough.

City Girl in Mountain Town

Monty and I have arrived in my other hometown- Grand Junction, Colorado. Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. I remember in my seventh grade geography class everyone feeling a little defeated when we opened our books and saw that Grand Junction wasn’t even marked on the map. It’s grown a lot since then, but it still feels much like the small town it felt like as I grew up here. It’s hard to explain but there is a certain look to Grand Junction. It’s almost distinctly indistinct. But when you wait at the gate in the airport to come here, it becomes slowly evident just where you’re going. Suddenly there are a lot of teva sandals and drawstring cargo Capri pants–on women and men. I’d call the fashion here “Mountain Casual” with a few embellishments here and there. The thing is, it’s a very genuine town. There’s nothing really excessive or fancy about it and that’s how they like it. If Fisher Island is a red Ferrari, Grand Junction is a light tan, mid-sized sedan. A Ford Taurus maybe. I love coming here because while there are new additions every time I arrive, (like The Olive Garden or Lane Bryant) it always feels the same. It has this smell that has never changed–a mix of cut grass and wet clothes in the washer machine. In a word; clean. Even the water has a certain taste to it-also very clean. For comparative purposes, New Orleans water has a particular taste from the tap too- something like garden hose mixed with chlorine and mud. And that is one reason you don’t drink water from the tap in New Orleans. Not unless you’re a real risk taker.

Growing up here I kind of despised the place. I dreamed of big cities with bright lights and tall buildings that stayed open past 10 pm. Cities that had stores like the Gap and Abercrombie and Fitch. In my young mind, what made a city cool and important was whether or not they had tall buildings. Grand Junction has one tall building; Alpine Bank. It’s ten stories. I’ve gathered that most youth have a love/hate relationship with the place they grow up, especially if that place is particularly marketed as “A great place to raise a family.” And Grand Junction is just that. Very little crime. Quality, free public education. Beautiful scenery and four distinct seasons- none of them extreme. No earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards. It snows roughly 5 times throughout the winter, just enough to make it a novelty and exciting. I recently heard that Grand Junction made the top 10 list of US cities in which to retire, which may help explain why being a teenager here is less than exciting. But I look at it now with fondness. It may not be the cultural capital of America or boast the best cuisine, but it’s a beautiful, clean place with really good people. By this point in New Orleans, the heat achieves a whole new set of adjectives. In June it’s terrible and unrelenting. In July it’s suffocating and oppressive, unfair even. It will stay that way until late September. So we’re in a mountain town now that actually cools off at night, and it feels good to be back.

Monty and I are staying at my grandmas house. I love staying here because much like the town, it always looks, feels and smells the same when I walk in the door, and there’s some kind of comfort in that. It’s the most organized and clean house and it’s always been that way. Everything has a place and often a label; your toothbrush, playing cards, scrap paper and “hand cream.”

See?

Also nothing is wasted. Nothing. (I’ll expand on that next time) I gave her my word that Monty would stay off of the furniture, so when he pawed at the bed last night with the look on his face like “Are you going to scoot over or am I just going to have to slowly push you off like normal?” I told him “Sorry buddy, not at Grandmas’s house.” He seemed to understand that sentiment because he grunted and then laid down in the hall under the swamp cooler. Oh, that’s another thing. Swamp coolers. The whole goal of keeping a house cool in Louisiana is to keep the moisture out of the air since most days are boasting at least 90% humidity. Here, it’s a desert climate, and you’ll notice large boxes on the tops of all the houses. Those are the swamp coolers. They keep the air cool by actually pumping moisture into it, the exact opposite mechanism of the south. And there’s our science lesson for the day.

On an another note, I’ve basically been crashed every day since arriving here. We flew through Dallas and a huge storm kind of threw flight schedules out of whack resulting in a lot of cancelled flights and a whole lot of angry people. At first I was stressing because I was worried about Monty getting impatient. Then as we sat there I realized, impatience and irritability are much more human traits than dog. Monty had no idea that our flight was leaving hours later than scheduled, or didn’t seem to mind anyway. He laid there like a champ, like this.

.

And he brightened the moods of a lot of other delayed and restless passengers. As one lady noted, “He’s therapy for us!” and then she scratched his belly for the next ten minutes. We didn’t end up arriving until midnight that night and overall travel time ended up taking nearly 12 hours. So my body has been angry at me for the last 3 days and I’ve done very little but rest and eat hearty dinners with my large extended family. Today is the first day I haven’t crashed immediately after waking up, so here’s hoping. I went to bed at 8:30 last night. It was still light outside. What a crazy life I lead.

Until next time.

Health, Happiness, Mountain Towns