“If it might touch your bum, we want it to be really clean.”

Here’s the thing: I’m generally the type of person who’s pretty in control of what’s happening in her life. But I’m also a really emotional person, someone who sometimes gets too caught up in one thing and forgets to pay attention to everything else. Trying to juggle all of the responsibilities of being a Real Adult is difficult for everyone, I think, but especially when you’re just getting used to living out of your parents’ house and having to really provide for yourself in every sense of the word. I’m lucky to have an incredible roommate and a growing support system to help me with that, but I’ve still been struggling to get my shit together, and that’s been really frustrating.

After a few recent kicks in the ass from Life concerning my tendency to procrastinate and my bad habit of half-assing several things simultaneously, rather than whole-assing one thing at a time (thanks for that terminology, Ron Swanson), I came home last night and had a small breakdown about it all. Then, at the suggestion of my roommate, I made a list of things that are good in my life. I watched a stupid MTV show that made me laugh until my sides hurt and went to bed with a determination to start balancing my world again.

This morning, I meditated for the first time in weeks. I had a delicious cup of Constant Comment tea with agave nectar. I flicked through a few news sites on my phone. And after I dropped off my roommate at work, I came home, finished re-reading The Looking Glass Wars, took a nap, and got to work cleaning the apartment.

Cleaning Selfie
Very Serious Housecleaning #Selfie. Sports bra and shorts, scrubbing up a storm. (via Instagram)

Listen. If your life is out of order, clean your apartment. Seriously. I’ve never been someone who enjoys cleaning (and even now, I get easily grossed out, but my tendency to gag has been steadily declining, which I’ll call a win) but there’s something really refreshing about the act. It’s almost as if getting your apartment in order acts as a first step to getting yourself in order. Living in a clean place makes everything else feel a hell of a lot easier to conquer.

Today I swept and Swiffer’d the floors, scrubbed the bathroom sink, scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed at the toilet bowl, cleaned the tub, and even wiped down the two mirrors we have with some Windex so that they’re super clean. (As a bonus, that will contribute to mirror-selfie quality, which is obviously Very Important.) The place looks good and smells great and I feel like I’ve accomplished something huge.

My roommate constantly tells me that they like to clean, which has always seemed weird to me, but the longer I live with them and the more I help keep the place in order, the more I realize that they’re kind of onto something. Today when I busted out the baking soda to clean the tub and got down on my hands and knees to scrub sticky bits off the kitchen floor with Goo Gone and sprayed Method and Mrs. Meyer’s yummy-smelling cleaning stuff on sponges and scrubby brushes and paper towels, every bit of dirt that I picked up made me feel a little more focused and a little more in control. It’s a pretty cool feeling.

I’m taking a break to write this post before I delve into doing the dishes (including wiping down the dish rack and cleaning the counter underneath), but I feel good. I think getting overwhelmed by Life is normal, but for whatever reason, lately it’s felt like Life has been conspiring against me in every possible way. It’s not a good feeling, but I decided as I was cleaning that I won’t linger on it. Shit happens and the important thing is to do what you can with what you can. That’s a lesson I’m still learning.

I’ve made a mental to-do list for the upcoming week and I’ve made a promise to myself to start some new, healthy routines. People are messy and sometimes I get extra messy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take back control and start exceeding my own expectations again. I started with simple stuff, like tea and cleaning (man, cleaning!) and this week, I’ll do more of the complex stuff, like paying bills and making scary phone calls. I can do this Adult thing. I totally, totally can.

I had no idea that this kind of resolve could come from something like scrubbing a toilet, but if I had, I would have gotten into the cleaning thing years ago. If you have other suggestions for ways to redirect about the trajectory of your life, please leave them in the comments!

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“If it might touch your bum, we want it to be really clean.”

The last two months

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The bike path near our apartment offers beautiful views. (My pasty legs ruin them, though.)

Today, I looked at The Verbal Thing for the first time in a while. I logged into WordPress, went to my dashboard, approved some Pingback comments and realized that I haven’t published a post since March (despite having plenty of drafts to work from). At first, I was irritated with myself. For a while, I was doing really well with publishing regular posts, fleshing out my content and making this space more of what I’ve wanted it to be since it was first conceived. But then, I realized that my two most recent posts were published the week that I packed up my belongings, left my parents’ house in New Hampshire and moved to Rhode Island.

It’s been just over two months since those last two posts were published, and in that time, I’ve learned a number of life lessons, both expected and really unexpected. Living on your own, post-grad, with actual bills is totally different than “living on your own”, in college, eating all of your meals at a dining hall and never having to worry about whether the dorm will have heat or Internet or cable access. Rather than bore you with all of the details of these Very Interesting Lessons (because as we’ve established, I’m kind of a drama queen and not always a very good storyteller), I’ve decided to just… make a list.

Things I Learned at Ages 23-24, After Leaving My Parents’ House, To Live in a Totally Different State with My Best Friend

  1. It is never a bad idea to check your tires for air pressure and wholeness before leaving somewhere (be it your apartment, your place of work, the gas station, the mechanic, the grocery store, anywhere).
  2. It is an especially good idea to pay attention to noises your car is making and take it to a mechanic if those noises are particularly worrisome.
  3. It is always going to be mind-numbingly expensive to fix your car, no matter how well it seems to drive, especially when you lived on a dirt road for two years and have now moved to a state where the potholes are numerous and wide enough to swallow your vehicle whole.
  4. Living away from your parents means that there is no one to yell at you for not doing the dishes.
  5. Despite how awesome #4 sounds in theory, the dishes still, in fact, have to get done. Eventually, you start yelling at yourself to do them, just so you don’t have to think about them anymore.
  6. Cleaning something really thoroughly makes you feel really, really good about your day.
  7. Baking soda is, in fact, an inexpensive but effective miracle cleaner.
  8. Some vacuums require assembly.
  9. Ikea furniture will cause arguments that seem silly, but are ultimately about things that are much bigger than The Fact That You Didn’t Put the Drawer Together Correctly and Now It Can’t Be Fixed.
  10. Communicating with your roommate is of the utmost importance, including (and especially) when you are both frustrated and don’t really want to communicate at all.
  11. You can subsist on nothing but grilled cheese and quesadillas for days at a time.
  12. You cannot do everything completely on your own. Asking for help does not equate with failure.
  13. Doing laundry at the local laundromat is disgustingly expensive.
  14. To amend #12, most things are disgustingly expensive. You still have to pay for them.
  15. There might not always be Enough Money, but in the end, you will always Figure It Out.
The last two months

(Not) understanding death

I don’t know how to write this post. I’ve started it and erased it and started it over at least four times, now. It seems that even though words have always been the one thing I’m good at, this time, they’re failing me. And I don’t really know what to do about it, other than to continue trying to string them together.

On Sunday night (Monday morning, really), at around midnight, I received a Facebook message from my grandmother stating, “please call — important.” That was all it said. I’d just crawled into bed after hours of not being able to sleep. I had to be up at 5 a.m. to go to work and I was already dreading how exhausted I’d be after so little rest. So I sent a message back saying that I’d just gotten into bed and asked, “what’s up?”

I didn’t get a response, but then I started thinking about it, and I got a funny feeling. So I got up, got the phone, and called.

The thing about death is that we talk about it all the time, but we never really see it coming. Understanding that everyone is going to die and understanding that people you love are going to die, that you are going to die, are very different things to understand. The concepts are theoretically the same, but not really. So when you experience the death of a loved one, everything you’ve ever come to understand about death and the grieving process and how death works sort of flies out the window. All you feel is that grief. And it’s incredibly difficult to cope.

When I called my grandmother, she told me my grandfather had passed away on Sunday afternoon. And it was like the entire world came to a screeching halt.

I haven’t been back to my hometown since Christmas of 2010. The last time I spoke to my grandfather on the phone was last month on his birthday, and I promised to send him recent pictures of myself that I then forgot to send. He’s been sick for almost my whole life — he’s had almost every “old person problem” in the books. And according to what my grandma said when I called again on Tuesday to talk to her about everything, he’s been suffering quite a bit for at least the last year.

She said he went to the E.R. on Saturday night but was let go after just a few hours with a stronger pain medication than what he usually took. He seemed fine. And on Sunday when she left for work, he still seemed fine. He was sat in his favorite chair and he was talking and everything was okay. He also seemed fine when my uncle came over later that afternoon to take the dog for a walk.

By the time my grandma got home from work (late, because it’s summer and tourism season in my hometown is a nightmare), Grandpa was asleep. He’s slept in that chair for as long as I can remember because it’s the only way he can sleep without his back making it impossible to get up. And he slept on and off all day, every day. My grandma and uncle didn’t worry about making enough dinner for him, because he was sleeping. Everything was normal.

But then he didn’t wake up. And that still didn’t seem that strange, because sometimes he fell asleep hard and stayed asleep for hours — even throughout the night, some days. But as it got later and my uncle wanted to go home, they wanted to make sure my grandpa was okay. And after searching for signs of life and not finding any, something clicked and my grandma called 911.

All indications say that it was peaceful. He simply went to sleep and didn’t wake up again. And that’s — that’s good, because he had a lot of pain in his lifetime. Everyone’s said that we should count our blessings that he didn’t suffer. And I know that. I’m glad he didn’t suffer. I’m really, really glad. But that doesn’t make it any easier to accept that he’s gone, or to understand it. He was old and he was sick, and my grandma thinks he just got tired of being old and sick. And she’s probably right.

I can’t afford to fly across the country. Even if I could, I’d be there for literally a day before I’d have to come back. There are no official services. He’s being cremated, as per his wishes, and I’m hoping that maybe I can fly out to see my family for longer than a day sometime in the spring (not just to grieve, but to check in, to spend time, to make sure everyone is doing okay). So for now, I have some time off from work to grieve, and I’m spending it with people I love, eating rich desserts and watching movies and trying not to think about it too much. But it’s hard. I think about everything too much, all the time, always.

Edit2He used to call me his little nugget — as in gold nugget. I remember when I was a kid, he went to Virginia City with my grandma (for some occasion — I don’t know what) and he went “panning for gold” in the river. The activity apparently wasn’t meant to produce actual gold for people to keep. But my grandpa caught some flakes and demanded that he be allowed to keep them. They’ve sat in a tiny vial on one of his shelves for years. He told me that he had to have them because they were for his little nugget.

That nickname embarrassed the hell out of me for years, but now all I can hear in my head is him calling me that and telling me he’s proud of me.

My grandmother said I could have that vial, “of course”, and I’m trying to figure out how else I can remember him. Put that vial on a necklace? Get “nugget” tattooed in white somewhere on my person? I just. I don’t know. But I miss my grandpa. And I wish that all the guides about grief and all the philosophical conversations about death were actually helpful when you’re forced to deal with it in real life. Because they’re not. And I’m sad and I’m angry and I’m full of regret and I just.

I love you, Grandpa. I’ll take care of myself, I promise. And I know how proud of me you were. I hope I can keep making you proud. I miss you, and I’ll miss you every day. I promise not to lose sight of myself — I know you were always worried about that. Rest in peace, okay? You deserve it.

(Not) understanding death

The birthday khaleesi has a crown of flowers

I turn 23 years old in five days. That’s a pretty weird thought. I’ve passed both ages of legality and graduated college. I currently live at home and work retail. I haven’t completed most of the goals I optimistically set for myself in high school to have completed by this age. In two years, I can rent a car and my body will stop physically maturing (it will also start shrinking, a fact I learned in my Biology of Aging class — thanks, professor!). But for now, I’m just trying to figure things out and get to a point where I’m on my own and doing something I love.

Of course, birthday parties aren’t really a thing anymore. However, while I may be past the age where birthday parties are the norm, that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate my birthday. I’m not hitting a milestone this year. So I guess I’ll have to make up for that with an awesome day devoted to things I love.

On Tuesday, I’ll be spending the day in Rhode Island with two of my favorite people in the entire world. We’ll be going to the beach, drinking Awful Awfuls, eating awesome food, driving around listening to music in my car, etc. I absolutely cannot wait — since we tentatively made this plan a few weeks ago, I’ve been practically vibrating with anticipation.

Crown1In preparation for Tuesday’s festivities, I spent yesterday afternoon with one of the favorite people mentioned above, making flower crowns. It seems these accessories are staples of any proper hipster wardrobe, but I also just think they’re really pretty. I’ve wanted to make one since I saw Melonlady’s, which are gorgeous and totally work with her style. Using tips from a tutorial Chelsea found, I compiled a flower crown made of wire, fake flowers, and floral tape in just a couple hours.

My favorite colors are purple and green, so of course I had to use those colors to create my crown. I used small purple flowers for the base, wrapping them all around the wire, and then used bigger green and purple flowers to create a tiara effect on the front of the crown.

First, I measured the circumference of my head by wrapping the wire around once. Where the end of the wire met the other side of the circle, I twisted it together to keep the size and then wrapped the wire two more times. To condense the three into one thick, strong crown base, I wrapped the wire a fourth time — but twisted it around the previous three wraps, keeping them together.

To apply the flowers, I did the same. I cut small pieces of wire and wound them around the flower stems and the wire base. BE CAREFUL! Fake flowers can be tricky. The small ones kept popping out of their plastic stems and I kept having to pick them up off the counter to find where they’d escaped. Even now that the crown is all put together, sometimes the small flowers get caught in my hair and I have to return them to their stems again. The only way to combat this issue, from what I can tell, is to superglue the flowers into their stems — but as Chelsea pointed out, superglue is dangerous for those of us not blessed with craft skills and peeling off your skin because you don’t have the right kind of nail polish remover makes you seem like Kevin Spacey in Seven.

Crown2Anyway! Once I’d arranged and attached all of my flowers, I wrapped floral tape (green, self-adhesive tape that’s really sticky and annoying but totally does the trick) around the exposed bits of wire. The effect of this task is threefold:

  1. it makes the crown look nicer, because the wires are all hidden with neatly-wrapped green tape,
  2. it keeps the pokey bits from poking you, and
  3. it seals everything so that the wires don’t pull your hair out when you take your crown off.

Because my head is so round, I discovered that my crown only stayed securely attached to my head with the strategic placement of bobby pins. The crown isn’t particularly heavy — in fact, I no longer felt it after I got used to it being on my head (which took about half an hour). I really love the way it looks and I’m planning to wear it to Rhode Island on Tuesday — after all, the birthday princess should have a crown of flowers. As should her royal favorites, of course.

Though if I’m turning 23 years old, which is a pretty solidly adult age no matter how far behind I am on my life goals, does that make me a birthday queen? No, wait. A khaleesi. We can mix and match houses for the sake of my birthday, right? I vote yes.

The birthday khaleesi has a crown of flowers

Saying goodbye to the band that saved my life

I hate the ending, myself
But it started with an alright scene

— My Chemical Romance, “Disenchanted”

Trying to articulate my feelings re: the recent (and abrupt) announcement that My Chemical Romance has called it quits is a difficult task. Actually, that’s an understatement. It’s a damn-near impossible task. I don’t really have words to express the conflicting emotions I’m feeling and I’m not sure that I ever will.

It’s always been difficult for me to articulate my feelings toward MCR, and all I can say about the split is that I’m genuinely sad. It’s an ache and it hurts and it sucks. No amount of mourning playlists will help; I’m always going to miss the excitement of new music from this band. I feel a little bit lost, truth be told, and I haven’t decided if that’s a little bit pathetic or not. (I don’t know if it matters.)

Music is a huge, huge part of my life. (Yeah, where have we heard that before? Oh, everywhere. I know. But listen.) I can honestly say that without the influence and presence of certain bands on and in my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. To be frank, I’m not sure I’d even be here today. Yeah, I’m one of those girls; MCR saved my life.

MCRMy Chemical Romance (and Bright Eyes, for those at home keeping track) came into my life when I was a freshman in high school, lost as hell and clinging to the people I thought would be my friends forever. (Some of those people still are my friends, and I love them to death; the rest of them, I miss, but it’s in a vague way, like a wisp of memory that I can’t quite grasp with the same emotional intensity I once did.) Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge provided me with an out that I never knew I would need, growing up. I went to some really terrible mental and emotional places during that time in my life and MCR’s lyrics pulled me out; tracks like “Helena” and “The Ghost of You” kept me sane on long, awful nights.

The Black Parade did the exact same thing. “Famous Last Words” is still my go-to power anthem when I need a pick-me-up, a boost of confidence. That song makes me feel like I’m flying and falling all at once — it makes me believe, truly, that everything is going to work out the way I want.

Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (a review of which you can read here, on my old blog) came into my life at a point when I felt on track and happy, immersed in myself and my dreams in a way I had never been before. My Chemical Romance has always been there for me, in the most intense of ways. For as many times as I’ve been mocked or ridiculed or laughed at for my love for this band, I’ve always had MCR. I’ve always been able to go to their music regardless of my mood and know that coming out of a listening party, I’d be happier for it.

Now, I won’t have that anymore. Or, I will, but not with anything new. I’ll have four albums for the rest of my life, and that’s it.

That’s a really weird feeling.

I’ll be 23 years old in May and I’ve been listening to My Chemical Romance since I was 14 years old. That’s nearly a decade of listening to and relying on this band to get me through my moments of crippling self-doubt, my brushes with depression and my experiences with self-hatred and disappointment. Of course, there are other bands that have done similarly good things for me, and those bands mean the world to me as well. (I’m lucky enough to be seeing two of those bands — both reunited, in their own ways — this May.) But when it comes to MCR– I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am for the band’s music, or for the fact that this band existed for so long.

My opinions as to why the band is suddenly calling quits don’t belong in this blog post. I’m not sure they belong anywhere. All I can say, here, is that I hope the band split for the right reasons (though what those would be, I can’t imagine). And I hope that, like the hiatuses of so many other bands I’ve loved and mourned, this split won’t be forever. I count myself lucky to have gotten the opportunity to see them live, at one of my favorite venues, just two years ago. It was a dream come true; I couldn’t have asked for a better show.

I just hope that someday, I’ll get to see them again. MCR saved my life and now I have to say goodbye.

R.I.P., killjoys.

What a terrible fucking thing to have to write.

Saying goodbye to the band that saved my life

Dust yourself off and try again

581771_10152697608825565_1592609140_nOh, look. A blog post! What a novel concept, given that I’m a writer with several avenues through which I can express my feelings about the world. My radio silence since January has been inspired by a number of things — but mostly, I’m just really bad at consistently blogging. I made it a goal of 2013 to get better at that, though, so starting now, I’m going to make an attempt.

Thus far, The Verbal Thing has been used primarily for reviews — reviews of books, reviews of products, reviews of concerts — and while I’ll continue to write a lot of those posts (because I love them), I also want to start chronicling other parts of my life. I want to write about the changes I’m undergoing and the choices I’m making. I want to keep track of my progress and maintain some semblance of a record of my life, especially as I attempt to move further into this thing called Adulthood.

Bear with me. I’ve always been good at spouting off about everything under the sun, but never very good at sticking with projects that are as self-motivated and self-indulgent as this one. So we’ll see how it goes.

For a quick update: I’ve recently become obsessed with lipstick (real post coming later this week — really, I promise!), videos by Helen Melonlady, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, salads with fruit in them, mash-ups, a whole bunch of new music, and self-care. I’m trying to make decisions for myself and my body and my mind and my heart that are healthy and happy-making. It’s a bit of a struggle, to be honest with you, but I’m learning. Slowly but surely.

So if you’re here, and if you care, and if you have any faith in me at all, then stick around. I promise there is substantial content to come.

Dust yourself off and try again