Showing posts with label dayblog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dayblog. Show all posts

birthday trip (part two)

Saturday morning, and the heat is a blanket smothering the house. One hundred and three degrees. I never got used to temperatures like this, not in twenty years of living with them. Heat this intense flattens me, deadens my senses. I kick off the duvet, feeling dried out and puffy, cringe when the bedroom's floor mirror confirms my self-assessment, and wander barefoot around the property until I find Timo working at a table in the front yard. The archival-quality drawing pad he'd given me last night is flipped open, covered with a carefully squared grid and neat handwriting in various colors. The pencil set has apparently inspired him; he's been brainstorming for his next project. He holds the page up to show me, proud of the artwork but sheepish about working while on vacation. I've never seen this visually creative side to him, and comment that he must get it from his architect father.

Though we'd planned on hiking, we quickly dismiss that idea. Why exhaust and probably sunburn ourselves? Fuck it. Instead we spend the first part of our day lounging, cooking, snacking, talking, and exploring the grounds around the house.

In the kitchen we eat thick slabs of watermelon and drink melon punch Italian soda. We move to the living room, sitting across from one another in my favorite of the house's chairs: tufted electric blue leather armchairs, low-backed, with just enough seat depth to curl up in. We sip coffee and look over the bookshelves beside us. I'm chatty from the caffeine, telling personal anecdotes that the bookshelf's contents have triggered in me. Timo leaves to shower, and my phone lights up. Mason.

How's Joshua Tree?

Content rich. T-minus five hours until launch...

Is Timo excited for the journey?

He's just babysitting. He got me all this colorful bright stuff to play with. Though I'll probably end up drooling on the hammock for 12 hours...

I send him a pic of my current view, and he says it looks like Alexander Shulgin's house.

I shower after Timo, trying to make peace with the cramped and ugly bathroom, knowing there's a decent chance I'll spend some miserable minutes in here later if I don't. I've been trying to make peace with the house all day, to be honest. Not let it psych me out, on a day when my psychic mindset is more important than anything. I'm feeling more optimistic than last night, but I'm still not 100% sure I even want to take the acid after all. The heat and the house are warning me not to, as insistently as they can. We'll see.

We spend some time apart, him emptying his brain onto crisp white paper, me poking around the outskirts of the property in search of photo ops. The heat is menacing, like an animal threatening to hurt me. It doesn't surprise me when a pair of hawks track me from above, the cries they exchange sounding contemptuous, and aimed at me. Just die, already, won't you? Just drop dead and let us pick at your bones. From the ground they don't even look large enough to be predatory. But then what do I know about birds of prey? The intensity of their squawking and the closeness with which they follow start to scare me, and I hurry back to the house. It takes all my willpower not to call out for Timo, like a child.

In the cool of the bedroom, I look over my camera roll. None of the selfies I've taken are any good. The landscape is dull, uninspiring; I look pink and mottled and try hard. Defeated, I sprawl on the blissfully white and cloud-like bed. I roll this way and then that, letting the cotton draw the warmth from my skin.

Timo joins me, lazily stretching out on his side. Again we go over what he should expect tonight, in terms of my behavior. What he should say if I fall into a loop, or forget that I've even taken a drug. My stomach is in knots, though I don't confess to him that I'm close to backing out. All this preparation and planning, how can I?

I check the time. Five o'clock. I'd been shooting for five thirty. Better text Pinkman, check in with him about dosage one more time. I retrieve the black plastic film canister I've been storing the acid in from my backpack. Slide out the tiny baggie containing the white, unmarked blotting paper. Take a photo of it, send a text, and wait. All this Timo watches with interest, murmuring "Oh, wow" when he sees the LSD for the first time.

Remind me. Each square is two hits?

Yes

How much do you usually take?

Couple squares.

Four hits. What I'd been planning myself.

Ok, cool. Thank you!

Have fun!

Timo and I look at one another. I feel like I'm at the gate in an international airline terminal, about to say goodbye for a very, very long time. About to get a rather special passport stamp, too.

"There's a decent chance it's expired, anyway," I announce, unsure if this outcome would disappoint or relieve me. "You're supposed to keep it at a constant temperature but it's just sat in my desk through the heat and the cold. Who knows."

Pressing my body against my boyfriend once more before lift-off, a sudden surge of reckless confidence finds me. Life is not for shallow-enders. I may not have the means to travel the world right now, but there are wondrous places of unimaginable beauty I can go, anyway.

I don't even need to pack.






birthday trip (part one)

Both of us are a little burned out, by the time we head to the desert. Ready for a break, anxious for a change of scenery.

We agree to take half an hour to vent and catch one another up on our respective work developments/dramas, then put the subject aside for the weekend. To kill some driving time, I read aloud from the School of Life's Book of Life - the chapter on relationships I'd dipped into days earlier. There's a series of interesting prompts I stumbled across in the "Artificial Conversations" section that I want to put to my boyfriend of eleven months, who is game, because we still love stuff like this. We still love playing games of questions, swapping stories about ourselves or our experiences that otherwise we might never disclose.

His answers are unsurprising, but I'm not in it for surprises anyway. Half the pleasure of listening to him speak at length on any subject is the measured, careful way he thinks things through. No exaggeration, no hyperbole. A willingness to back step when necessary, to correct himself. An ability to admit when he just doesn't know. A readiness to acknowledge and laugh at his shortcomings as much as tease me for mine. A keen sensitivity to even the slightest shifts of my mood, as dictated by his answers. He remains the clearest, most honest communicator I have ever been with.

We've gotten a later start than we'd wanted, so it's dark when we reach the gated property. Timo's roommate's car stirs up dust down a long driveway lined with white flowering bushes I spent most of my life around but still don't know the name of. I've come equipped with more baggage than the duffel bag and backpack into which I've stuffed my essentials: I've come, unavoidably, ready to judge this house, this weekend, and this experience against my last visit to Joshua Tree.

The home we've rented is quirky and close-feeling, packed with tchotchkes, dozens of funky, mismatched lamps, and provocative, if amateurish, art. Fruit flies pressed in thick acrylic frames. Salvaged carousel horses with chipped paint and toothy grimaces. Canvases that look distinctly DIY, with sloppy lettering and random imagery. Slanted windows intensify the claustrophobic vibes, and I feel a quiver of disappointment and a needle prick of fear: this probably isn't a good house for me to drop acid in.

Still, it is delightful to be away. We unpack.

When I'd told Timo I wanted to take LSD with me to Joshua Tree, he didn't exactly jump up and down with excitement. He'd been picturing something more along the lines of a romantic getaway than a stint babysitting his psychonaut of a girlfriend. But we talked, and I explained that it was really all I wanted for my birthday. That it was important to me. That it's the closest I come to a spiritual experience, ever, and that it feels like the equivalent of a year's worth of therapy. I didn't expect him to understand. I don't expect anyone to, really. I know how absurd it sounds.

But Timo being Timo, he understands. More than that, he embraces it. He looks online for information about how to best support someone tripping on acid. What to do, what to say, how to keep them safe and feeling positive during their experience. He puts together a "Life is Beautiful" care package, with colorful, sense-enhancing stuff for me to play with while I'm high. Glow sticks and light-up balloons. An oversized bubble-blowing wand. Art supplies. A glittery HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner to hang in the trees. Sparkly, tactile-minded toys to delight the child in me, during my very grown-up adventure.

I pull these things one by one from the gift bag, while the music we've brought spills out open doors and windows, into the endless desert night. Each item makes me more giddy than the last, until finally I run outside, my favorite of the balloons in hand. Timo follows, snapping into life a pair of glow bracelets. Between us we've got an armful of light in an otherwise dark yard.

Tomorrow afternoon this place will be a veritable wonderland to me, three-dimensional and alive and more beautiful than my altered consciousness can stand. But right now it's just a sprawling expanse of typical desert landscape, flat and dry and still-hot, even though the stars have displaced the sun.

The balloon pops after one or two playful bounces, so we turn our attention to the glow toys, videotaping them in slow motion and then time lapse, just to see the effects.

Back inside, I empty the bag's remaining contents, among them five or six rainbow-hued plastic leis. I scoop them up, laughing. "They were colorful," Timo explains unnecessarily, smiling happily at how much fun I'm having.

"So awesome," I say, also unnecessarily. And because it is a hundred degrees outside, and because I am marooned with my boyfriend on two acres of private land in the middle of the desert, on my birthday, I decide there is nothing for it but to take off my shirt and wear only these leis until we finally go to bed, whenever that may be. And once I've done that, we don't notice much other than the music filling the house, and the fact of our aloneness. And the smiles on our face change, then, from joy to something else. And for the next little while, I try in my way to give something back to the man I love, for all that he has given me tonight.

---

Later in the hammock, all the house lights shut off, we are still and quiet in one another's arms. The wind is delicious, and relentless. Rushing around the yard; scraping the house. Making eaves creak and tree limbs sway and wind chimes sing. Chills run the length of my body, not because I am cold, but because I am anticipating tomorrow. In fact I've not been able to think of much else since we arrived. I've been constantly calculating my environment, wondering what and when and how and how much. Is this crazy, crowded house going to freak me out? Where do I want to be, when it hits? Where will I go, if I get frightened? Should I even do it? What if it's bad again, but this time for longer? What if it's worse? 

And at the end of these fears, like a wishing well becoming still once more, is the calming truth: It will be worth it. The bad is bad, yes, but the good is a heaven like nothing you know, the other 364 days a year. And anyway, who wants to stay in the shallow end, all the time? Life is for living.

I snuggle deeper against Timo's chest and let the wind whisper its promises, its invitations. Come play with us, it says. Come see.

Melancholy settles over me, and I fantasize about the hammock freeing itself from where it hangs, carrying the two of us off into the black sky. A magic carpet with its own mind. What then? Timo would fight it, would want to come home to all that he has and all that he is here on earth - but me? Why not me? What would I miss? What and who would miss me? Not much and not many, I decide, but not bitterly. The freeness of my simple, small-scoped existence is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I could disappear forever and only a few people's lives would be disrupted, and briefly at that.

But a few is better than none. And that's a warm thought to anchor oneself to, on a windy night like this.

manhattan tuesday


Timo and I went to Manhattan Beach last month. (He took a random Tuesday off work so we could.)
And since we're going to be a lot more adventuring now that I have reclaimed Saturdays, I'd better go ahead and dump these here, so I can stay current.

I don't really have a narrative for them. It was a lovely day, but I was wound pretty tight in myself for various reasons, and didn't really relax and observe in a way that lends itself to blogging. I hope to get back to that sort of posting again soon.

But for now, just some pretty pics.







pivot

Our first Saturday together in seven months, the rain gets the better of us.

We drive to the forest, listening to music that satisfies both our tastes. Paul Kalkbrenner, CRO, Ben Howard. We joke nervously about all the defeated looking, soaked-to-the-bone hikers we see on the way up the mountain. Buy a day pass for the park. Layer on hoodies and jackets, gamely set out on the trail. But it's too wet and too cold, and the loop we have in mind is three hours long. We'd be asking for colds. We'd be stupid. So we pivot. Decide to hit one of the beach cities neither of us have ever really explored.

We stop back at my place first, to change into dry clothes. In a stroke of good luck, we snag a parking spot in front of my building. I slip my debit card into the meter, which automatically cues up two hours' worth of time. Timo punches the timer down to 45 minutes, then 30, and I laugh. "How quick are you going to be?" I tease. It's been a few days. Changing into dry clothes is only the cover story.

His dimple comes out at this--the one that deepens when he's trying to suppress a smile. The one that owns me, completely. "That's up to you," he shoots back, looking me square in the eye. He dials the meter back up to an hour, puts his hand on the back of my neck, and walks me this way inside to my apartment.

---

On the way to the coast, he calls home. An official, meet-the-parents Skype had been tentatively planned anyway, and doing it now there's less pressure. Two birds, or something. I listen to the conversation through the car's speakers, deducing enough from the occasional bit of English what they're talking about. There's a lot of laughter. Timo and his mother both laugh easily, and often. I can hear them in one another, even when I don't understand a word. She is energetic, full of plans and ideas and questions. His dad is quieter, chiming in when he wants something clarified. Something tells me he's the one I'll seek out someday, during some future visit, when the foreign, mirthful house full of siblings and cousins and babies overwhelms me.

Timo stops to explain or translate now and again, so I don't feel totally excluded. I catch some German words related to work that are identical to their English counterparts, and when I look at him pointedly he says, "Yeah that's right, I'm talking about you."

His mother asks whether we'll be coming to Germany soon, to celebrate some of the good news Timo has just shared, and I jump in. "We talked about maybe coming later this summer...?" I direct my words to them, but I'm looking at their son. He says in German then translates, smiling at me: "It's in the plan but not on the calendar."

And then we're in Long Beach.

Neither of us is crazy about the admission prices of the aquarium (which I've been to before) or the Queen Mary (which we've both been to), so we opt for aimless wandering. It's cool and windy, and downtown is more or less deserted. The streets are wide and empty, the fresh air and ample space invigorating. We walk and talk and look, admiring some of the older architecture and flat out hating on some of the new.

Massive cranes towering up from the loading docks remind Timo of the Port of Hamburg, and the nostalgia in his voice makes me jealous. Little gets closer to someone's heart than the landmarks of childhood. When we stroll past the hands-on tide pool outside the aquarium, I'm tempted to spring for the $30 ticket; I've always loved these sorts of mini aquatic petting zoos. Plunging my arms into the icy water. Carefully prying starfish from rocks. Pressing my flattened palms against the needle tips of sea urchins. 

The grassy area surrounding the lighthouse is closed off for a wedding; bridesmaids in navy blue chiffon form ranks around a bride in white satin. A photographer stations the party in front of gently bobbing boats, and it's picturesque enough, but in that casual, sunny way of California harbors. East coast harbors just feel more authentically naval to me. Saltier. Tougher.

I'm thinking about my dad today, finding excuses to bring him up. He was a sailor, having joined the Navy at sixteen. Somewhere I've got a handful of black and white snapshots of him in his crisp whites, some local doll on his arm. Cocky and grinning despite his age. April 30th marked five years ago that he died. I celebrated, in a gesture that only those who really know me would understand, by going to a Deadmau5 show. Getting high while listening to live music, and the feelings of love and gratitude that doing so always leads me to.

We sit and gaze across the water at the Queen Mary: massive, immobile, timeless. Timo reads aloud from the ship's Wikipedia page - our own DIY historical tour. We take a pic that I'll later delete, because it is awful. I do this guiltily, because more frequent documentation of our time together is a mission we have vowed to undertake. It's something I have to admit I miss about my last relationship, as annoying as it occasionally was.

Hungry, we Yelp, choosing a seafood restaurant nearby. Picking a new place for date nights, or on day trips, or even while traveling always stresses me out. It feels like such a gamble, and such a shame when it's not good. But the place we find is perfect for our mood and our appetites. On barstools at a table facing the street, we share clam chowder, ceviche, grilled yellowtail. I get buzzed and chatty on pineapple cider, flirting with my boyfriend of ten months.

Serious-faced little dogs trot past the window, leading their humans, and I laugh. "Is there any kind of dog you don't like?" Timo asks, amused, I guess, at the ease by which I am delighted.

"Sure. I can't stand Chow Chows and Shar Peis. And Cocker Spaniels. And Dalmations." This last surprises him.

"They're mean," I explain. "Inbred and blind, mostly, so they're very aggressive." Timo nods, and I go on, watching his face. "And though I really like their faces and coloring and personalities, I don't love how German Shepherds look." Surprise again. "The hunched-over legs," I say. "That skulking way they walk. And did you know that their actual name is 'German Shepherd Dog'? So dumb. Like 'PIN number.'"

"That's because in German, their name means 'the shepherd's dog'". My jaw drops, genuinely gobsmacked. I'd never realized. I make a gesture that mimes my head exploding.

Tipsy, I announce that were I to live in another century, I'd be a shepherdess. "What a gig. Just take the sheep out, chill all day reading under a tree, take them back home." Knowing pointless thought exercises like this aren't his thing, I ask anyway: "What would you want to be, if you were born in another century?"

"A rockstar in the sixties." I object, having of course meant pre-1900, but he just laughs. "That was another century."

I'm curious though. It's about the last answer I'd expect of him, and I ask: "Would you really want to be a rockstar?" I've dated a few wanna-be rockstars in my day. Timo is nothing like a wanna-be rockstar.

"No. Not really at all, actually." And I believe him.

"I read a quote from Alain de Botton the other day. 'Proof of good parenting is that your child doesn't want to be famous.'"

"What, because they'll have gotten enough attention growing up?"

"Exactly." Without saying it explicitly, I know we both agree with the theory, and that feels important for some reason.

The whole evening still open to us, we decide to catch a movie. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (we both loved the first). On the walk over to the theatre, on the pedestrian overpass bridging an outdoor mall, Timo playfully races a toddler pushing his little sister's stroller. When the boy suddenly leaves off and stumbles in another direction, Timo sets off immediately after him, until the kid's dad calls him back. It takes me a second to understand: the little boy was headed towards some stairs. I stare hard at my boyfriend's profile as we continue on, but he just keeps his eyes straight ahead, refusing to take in my wordless praise.

On the front steps of the Performing Arts Center, we come across a man walking his Golden Retriever puppy. I gasp; the dog is utterly gorgeous. The man sees my face and before I can even get out the words May I pet your... he's whirled himself and the pup around so I can kneel down and say hello. The puppy gives me a quick kiss on the face, then seats himself calmly without even having to be asked. I stroke his neck and back, stunned nearly speechless by his sweet brown eyes.

"How old?" My heart is pounding.

"Ten months." I nod, then shake my head. "He's amazing." It's all I can say. Even Timo is impressed, chiming in, "Beautiful."

Then they're gone. Ten seconds' worth of interaction at most, but I'm destroyed. Timo sees me turn away, tears forming, and pulls me into a hug. "That was stupid," I say to his chest. "I don't know why I do that to myself."

"Why wouldn't you?" he says sharply. "The dog was beautiful." I know the impatience in his voice, and what it means. It means, No, Ellie, you're not giving up on anything you love in this world, just because it sometimes hurts. It's a sentiment I've needed to hear before. It's one he's willing to offer up again and again, until I get it.

Before the movie we get ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery. He's never been. I excitedly point out the frozen slab of marble, explain the process. "You can get as many different things as you want. They'll smash it all up and mix it in." Our eyes are already bigger than our stomachs, but the portions are enormous regardless. We sit and scoop our indulgence on a bench outside the creamery, the setting sun streaking the plaza in ribbons of cold white light.

"This is obscene," he criticizes happily. "In Germany this would be a third as big."

"That's so there's room to put the sauerkraut on top." I am leveled by my own joke, and howl with laughter.

"Think you're clever much, do you?" The dimple reappears.

---

On the way home, I lean across the console, turning my face into his arm. He's wearing one of my favorite sweaters. Lightweight, loose knit, wheat-colored. I breathe in the smell of him and sigh. When I pull away so he can more easily change lanes, he objects. "No no, come back." Lays his arm over my shoulders. Strokes my elbow softly. It's gotten late and we're both tired, but the drive home goes quickly.

It's just Long Beach. Just a walk around the waterfront, some lunch, a movie, and ice cream. But holy fuck is it more than enough for me.

das bunker at Union

Good morning! How stupid was your Friday night? Not very? Well, please to enjoy this five-part comic strip about how stupid mine was:

It was pretty fun, despite there being a few highly aggressive nerd-bros there. Nearly everyone made at least some attempt at dressing up, and many went all out. 

Didn't stay long because Timo and I have an early SATURDAY date to go hiking. SATURDAY. As in the day after Friday. AMAZING. In fact he's going to be here shortly so I'mma hit publish, slam some coffee, and go get ready.

Happy SATURDAY!!!

current struggles

For whatever reason, I feel compelled to write up a list of some of the things I'm struggling with right now. Just put them out there, see if setting them free will maybe loosen their grip on me. Worth a shot.

1. My therapist dumped me. Okay, he didn't dump me. That's completely inaccurate and unfair. It just amuses me to put it that way. The fact is he's moving in a different direction, career-wise, and therefore winding down his private practice. I don't know all the details, honestly. Once I learned he wouldn't be available to me anymore I sort of stopped listening, childishly. But it's hard. I can't help but be deeply disappointed and a little hurt. We'd only just begun, but I felt great about where we were headed. And while I know it doesn't make any sense - and again, isn't fair - I feel like my trust has been betrayed. I don't know at what point he knew he'd no longer be practicing but I suspect it had to have been while he was seeing me. I don't know.

I know I need to pick myself back up and start looking for someone new, but right now I feel too bitter about how this attempt worked out. I need a little time to get over it. 

2. I am in one of those stupid fucking neighbor feuds that I somehow always find myself in. It's a long, dumb story, but the short of it is that my neighbor's friend stole all the doormats on our floor as a prank, while my neighbor watched and didn't do anything. My own mat was a cheap one from Target. I don't give a shit about the mat, other than the annoyance of having to replace it. But I also suspect these idiots of stealing a UPS package and something from my laundry. There are security cameras trained on my door, so somewhere footage of the theft exists...but my building manager is an imbecile (albeit a very likable one, admittedly), so I doubt I'll ever find out anything. 

3. I feel shut off (shut out?) from the creative parts of myself. I blame this on lack of time, and lack of inspiration. To that end I'm trying to schedule in writing and reading sessions, and I'm even thinking about picking Instagram back up. More than anything, though, I need to get out and about in the world again. Be sparked. All I do is work, go home, go to back work, go home, maybe tool around running errands on my days off, then go back home. Before going back to work. 

It's untenable, terrible for my soul, and has to stop.

There is of course my relationship with Timo and all that is wonderful about that. But I am a bit gun shy when it comes to blogging about boyfriends. Those have historically been some of the sharpest daggers thrown at me, fairly or not. 

4. I need community, very badly. I'm lonely. My whole mess of shitty, shitty choices last year left many of my friendships in shreds. I'm not sure they're repairable, though every once in a while I get brave enough to try again. I dunno. It's hard to think about, or write about. 

FEEL THE SUNNY VIBES RADIATING OFF THE PAGE. FEEL THEM.

and now a boring one

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago that I pulled a day after I published it. I pulled it because when I re-read it, it struck me as a little smug. I hate when I sound self-satisfied. I am rarely, if ever, satisfied with myself.

I also really dislike writing general update posts. They strike me as terribly uncreative and boring. Then again, it feels elliptic to skate past so much time without a word about how things have been going.

So I'm going to try again. Some of this might be repetitive, and for that I apologize.

In February, I was granted a promotion and a raise, and my hours were extended to full-time. I'm now "floor lead," which just means that I'm the face of management, when management isn't there. Discounts, voids, comps, and any customer service issues are my responsibility. None of that is ever a problem, because I genuinely love dealing with people. The crowd that visits my work is generally awesome and very friendly. Lots of regulars, lots of wide-eyed and enthusiastic tourists.

My hourly wage is low, but after tips I earn more than I actually would at an admin job. That sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. The place where I work offers dine-in and take out options, and the menu is pricy. Factor in the cost of drinks and checks add up fast. We also use iPad registers which prompt guests to tip at the end of transactions. Plus, the small size of the place allows me to work alone for most of my shifts, eliminating the need to share tips. Bottom line: it's a very, very good gig and I feel extremely lucky to have it.

Recently my manager has been giving me even more responsibility. I'm doing some invoicing, some purchase journaling, and when she's on vacation I'll handle a bit of product ordering as well. Whether this will result in another raise I don't know. The additional tasks are brand new, so we'll see. I do know that my GM is swamped with work, and not having an assistant GM makes it nearly impossible for her to get everything done. Which I suppose is why she and the kitchen manager have begun delegating to me some of their office work. It feels awesome to be trusted and relied upon, in this way.

The increase to full-time kicked my ass a little bit, and I spent several weeks adjusting. That's most of the reason I wasn't blogging. I'd come home and just fall on my bed, stare at my phone, and be incapable of much more than feeding myself before dozing off to a podcast. My days off were Tuesday and Wednesday, and on most days I worked, I wouldn't be home until 9, 10, or even 11pm.

Timo was incredibly patient and understanding during this time. Like...unbelievably so.

I started the job last fall, and as the restaurant's busiest days are on the weekend, immediately lost my Saturdays and Sundays to work. So the fact is, I haven't had a Saturday or Sunday off to spend with Timo since October. 

Back then I was working part-time, and we had four other servers on staff - so at any point I could have requested one of those weekend days off. But they were the money shifts. The post-election protest days were huge for us. I'd make over $300 on those days, in just tips. I didn't want to give them up. Just the pure exhilaration of earning my own money again - I couldn't get enough of it. I took as many shifts as I could pick up, covering for coworkers on a moment's notice, taking any overtime I could get. There was a stretch in December that I worked something like nine days in a row, took one off to move, then worked another seven. And I fucking loved it.

Then Timo came back from his holiday travels, we got back together, and started wanting to see one another more often. Only I wasn't exactly available. I still had no weekend time to share with him, and only a few hours late at night, on most weekdays. But rather than settle for next to nothing, he started working even harder to see me. He'd immediately put my work schedule into his calendar the day I got it. He'd take a change of clothes to work with him and then come to my place after he was finished at the office, going straight back to work in the morning. Or he'd stay up late in the middle of the week, waiting for me to get off and take the train to his house. He'd have food ready for me, candles in the shower, candy - whatever he thought would relax me and cheer me up, because most nights I was burned the fuck out. He'd juggle his own schedule and his own needs so we could start having mid-week date nights. He'd occasionally just take a day off in the middle of the week so we could see one another in daylight. In short he was an amazing boyfriend.

When I got the raise and the bump to full-time, I was able to relax a little, financially. Still I kept the same schedule, for next three months. During this time I felt extremely frustrated. Like my life was passing me by. I'd gotten away from everything that was important to me. I barely had any quality time with Timo, I wasn't writing or reading, I was hardly working out -- I really didn't feel connected to myself at all.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I finally spoke to my manager about making a change. She was completely understanding, as were my coworkers (there are only three of us servers, so we really have to cooperate and support one another). My coworkers agreed to small changes in their own schedules so that I could have Saturdays off, along with Thursdays. Plus I'm off early on Fridays and don't go in until the afternoon on Sunday. My "weekend" is split up, which isn't ideal in terms of recovery/relaxation...but it's a compromise I'm willing to make. My hours and days are more or less consistent, and I'm very happy with the shifts I have.

Today is my first Thursday off, on the new schedule. Saturday will be my first Saturday off in seven months. Timo and I are over the moon. We have a Google doc filled with things we want to do, places we want to go. Restaurants and events and overnights and day trips. I feel optimistic about my ability to start building back into my life the things that have gone missing from it.

Like this.

Soooo...hello again.

cumberland house

Despite all the reasons I give him not to, my friend Cameron still tolerates me. Despite my flakiness, my selfishness, my inability to ever match what he puts in - his friendship is constant.

Do you want to know what he gave me for Christmas? It's pretty amazing. He found one of the few untarnished memories I have of my childhood, boxed it up, and sent it to me so that I could experience it again, with more visceral force than I could about handle.

We were talking one night in early December when we discovered a commonality between our mothers: an obsession with Department 56 collectible villages. This was my mom's big thing, back in the day. Every year she would buy a house, or a church--the post office, or the city hall. And the accessories. Miniature Rockwellian people, frozen in friendly ceramic smiles and stiff-armed waves. Tiny glowing street lights and spiky plastic trees. Shredded white wax paper for snow. Everything was wired with lights, making for a cozy, twinkling little town to be gazed at over a cup of cocoa.

My mother battled depression and alcoholism, mostly losing. This made her unavailable, to say the least. But something about the holidays brought out her best, most loving self. She'd take me to the craft store for felt and pipe cleaners, glitter and pom poms. We'd sit cross-legged at the coffee table well past my bedtime, designing schlocky ornaments to hang proudly on the tree.

All this to say that when I think of my mom at Christmastime, the darkness with which I associate her recedes, and I see her at her warmest and brightest. I loved my mother most at the holidays, and I felt her love strongest.

When Cameron and I realized our Department 56 connection, we compared notes. I told him that I'd never forget my favorite piece: the New English-sounding Cumberland House. It was a two-story Colonial with a sloping brick roof and double chimneys. Spearmint green boughs adorned four majestic columns and a string of colored lights dipped down to side-by-side wreaths. It was a masterpiece of symmetry, an aesthetic which by then I already loved.

You know where this story is going, of course.

Cameron looked online, and found quite a few Cumberland Houses for sale. None of them would have reached me in time for Christmas, though. (What he really wanted to do was show up at my door with one, but that wasn't feasible this year.) On the 23rd, he happened to look on Craigslist Los Angeles. There was exactly one Department 56 piece for sale. It was a Cumberland House.

He reached out to the woman selling it and explained his shipping/timing predicament. Wondrously, generously, she agreed to wrap it and drive it from North Ridge down to LA and deliver it to me at work--on Christmas Eve.

One of the best parts of the whole thing was the reaction of my coworkers. Everyone was super intrigued by the little dragon label on it (an inside joke of ours), and impressed by the size of the box. And I felt pretty fucking special getting a special delivery. I was utterly clueless as to what it could be, and stared at it curiously on the train ride home.



And then when I did open it, well. I told him it was like unwrapping a lightning bolt. I actually cried out.



I wish my mom could have seen that moment, could have witnessed me experiencing an emotion thirty years in the making. But then that's why it's so important to cherish the ones we still have, while we have them, right?



And that's something I certainly didn't appreciate, thirty years ago.

some of what counts

There are only so many times in life that someone will see who you really are and love you for it. Only so many times you will be known in the way that you want to be.

There are only so many times that someone will thank you, deeply and genuinely, for something difficult you did. Only so many times you will feel appreciated for what is, in fact, really hard work.

The poignance of this rarity hit me like a wave Sunday night as I was walking home. I'd had two such moments that day. One in which I was seen, and one in which I was thanked. Quiet, private moments with people I've gotten to know a little bit, and respect. It didn't hit me until I was off the train and almost back to my apartment how lucky I was.

Life is short. Moments like this are finite. Connections between open-hearted, communicative people who will see and appreciate one another are few and precious.

When you find someone like this, hang on to them for as long as you can. Find ways to give back to them what they've given to you.

Trust me: the further you get along this road, the more you will realize that this, more than anything, is some of what counts most.



baseline

In October of last year, while simultaneously applying for (and accepting) various writing gigs, I knocked together what I called a "lapsed server" resume. Because before I'd started dancing, in a previous lifetime, that's what I'd done. I waited tables, I worked counter jobs - I even did a brief stint as a barista in a cafe inside of Borders. (I'd also had a few retail jobs, but I passionately hated every one of them.)

It was actually a friend who pushed me in this last-resort direction, pointing to the acting community as an example of creatives/artists doing what they had to, to survive. He was right. It was one of few options I had. If I wasn't going to lie my way into desk job that I didn't want anyway, there wasn't a lot else open to me. At least, not a lot with the potential for decent earnings. I've worked for tips before. I am good at getting tips. For all my character flaws, I am pretty personable.

So I pitched myself as someone looking to get back into hospitality after years of working for herself. A friend who has made a fantastic career of high-end serving helped me write a creative, clever, and sincere resume that I felt good about. Actually going out and applying with it - now that was a truly humbling experience. If there's one thing I learned last year, it is that LA does not give a fuck about anyone's career expectations, whatever that career is.  LA is a city full of hungry, hustling people. Even the most basic serving jobs are shockingly competitive.

After bouncing around interviewing for a couple of weeks and spending two horrible days working at a "mom and pop" sandwich place run by an angry control freak, I got lucky. A spot opened up in a restaurant pretty much exactly where I was hoping to land. The exact neighborhood and in fact the exact location in that neighborhood.

Now, I've thought a lot about whether I want to share where I'm working. I've had the experience a few times now of strangers recognizing me (or Chaucer, hilariously) from my blog and stopping me on the street to introduce themselves. And don't get me wrong - I find it flattering and for the most part a really cool thing.

But I'm not so sure in this case. The idea of someone coming by my work just to gawk, just to see me in all the un-glamour of waiting tables...that isn't particularly appealing. Not that any of you would. But I've had some freaky social media encounters over the years, and some less-than-positive attention directed my way. (As I myself have put less-than-positive vibes out into the world.)

So while I'd love to throw myself open to local readers and say, "Come say hi!" - I can't.

Suffice to say I work in an extremely popular, very trendy place that is almost always busy, with multiple vendors and restauranteers in a single space. Celebrity chefs. Laid back atmosphere. Sustainability and ethical sourcing. All in a neighborhood that is rapidly rising in popularity and price. Employees like myself - lots of twenty, thirty, and forty-somethings with "other things" going. Artists and musicians who wait tables or work registers to keep themselves afloat while they navigate concurrent creative lives.

And I love the job.

The money ranges from good to truly spectacular. It's largely a location, location, location thing. Which is not to say that we don't offer great stuff, and have a solid reputation. We do. But our real estate is prime, considering the target demographic.

And I love the people I work with. It's taken some time to really bond with everyone (thoughts on why that is to come in a future post), but I'm there now and it is wonderful. Coming to work is a pleasure. No stress, good energy, easy, and mindless in the best way.

Timo calls this my "baseline" job. That's a good name for it not the least because, perhaps unsubtly, it reminds me that serving is not my end goal. And while it has been a massive relief to have reliable income with a regular schedule (in fact I have pretty much the exact days/shifts I requested) for a few months, it's definitely time to get back to pursuing my own concurrent creative life.

So I'll talk about where that's at, next.

beauty in the grey

Next thing I promised to talk more about: therapy.

I found my therapist through Open Path, which is a discounted psychotherapy collective. Cheap counseling, in other words. So right off the bat you know you're going to be working with someone compassionate, because these people ask for pittance, basically, in terms of an hourly rate. In some cases they charge as little as a third of what a typical session of therapy costs. Patients only need to pay an initial membership fee; then they can see anyone in the collective, forever and ever amen.

I scrolled through the listings, looking for I don't know what exactly. An especially sympathetic face, primed to give me all the pity I crave? I found a man whose picture and description spoke to me (he specializes in loss), and I emailed him. This in itself was a very tragicomic exercise, trying to condense my many issues into a sort of please-take-me-on-as-a-client pitch. I ended it with my goals for what I hope to get out of therapy, which felt a bit like sucking up to the teacher - but I wanted him to know I'm serious about getting my shit together.

He didn't answer for a few weeks, and in typical Ellie fashion I just assumed I'd been rejected, and that I didn't deserve help, and I told myself I'd revisit the issue soon. But then he got in touch, apologizing for the delay, saying he'd been out of the country. He asked whether I'd like to come in for a complimentary consultation, which made me laugh out loud, because that's like asking someone with a totaled car whether they'd like to bring in their vehicle for a free checkup. Better clear your schedule, buddy.

No joke, I was already crying when I got to his office. I'd had a terrible night at work and the ol' avalanche of negativity had nearly buried me alive. As it does. So woo boy was I ready to unload on his couch.

Long story not much shorter: he had my number inside of ten minutes. "In the past thirty seconds you've said 'amazing' and 'horrible' and 'always' and 'never.' You swing from black to white rather quickly, don't you?"

So we're working on that.

We're also working on the inextricable closeness with which I keep to my emotions. My inability to detach from them, and from the experiences that have fostered them, even when those experiences are years old. I can tell the story of the abusive relationship I was in, in late 2011, and be instantly wrecked. He was quick to note that the upside of this is (he imagines) the amount of deep joy I can dial into, instantaneously. (I assured him that indeed I can do that.)

Bottom line, we're working on getting me to be more even keel. On finding beauty in the grey. And eventually we're going to put to bed all the crap that I've been keeping knotted inside of me for the past ten years.

And I like him a lot. He doesn't pull punches, and often uses humor to make his point. He makes me laugh at myself, which is something I love. My favorite people are the ones who know how to tease me, and do it effectively - and with warmth.

I told him when I initially emailed him that things are tight for me financially right now, but this is something important that I'm going to prioritize. Manicures are awesome. Mental health is awesomer.

in

I can't sleep, so I guess I'll plow ahead and I'll bring you up to present day, starting with what happened with Timo.

I walked away from him that day last month, didn't look back, and got on the bus home. (For locals: we'd met at The Grove. I made him meet me at the fucking Grove.) My heart was just a lump of icy lead. I didn't tell anyone, didn't even text my best friends, because doing so would have made it real. I just went home and faced it down alone.

I worked nonstop. I worked eight days in a row, took one day off to move, and then worked another six in a row. Work saved me. It kept me busy and distracted, and I was grateful for it. Every morning on my way to the train, I listened to songs that, for whatever reason, empowered me. I latched on to them, knowing that forever after they'd be ruined, but needing something to channel my feelings through.

At some point, and already the timeline of this is hazy, he messaged me. Said he wanted to see me before he left to go home for a month. I told him that if he was just looking for closure for himself, that I wasn't interested. That if he just wanted to say he was sad for how things turned out or whatever, that I didn't want to have that conversation. I explained it would just hurt me more to say goodbye to him yet again. He said he wasn't sure what he wanted to say, but that he really needed to see me, so I said ok, and asked when. He said he'd think about when he could make time, and that he'd get back to me the next day.

But then he didn't get back to me the next day, and that was almost worse than The Grove. I felt jerked around and so, so hurt. Then the next day he finally messaged and said he didn't know if he'd be able to squeeze in seeing me before he left after all - and that's when I wiped my proverbial hands. Because what the fuck.

In his defense, he had a lot going on. A huge project at work, getting ready to go to Europe for a month, and a stopover in Pennsylvania for work on the way. Also in his defense, he knew he wanted to see me, he knew he wasn't ready to let go - but he didn't know what he would say to me, anyway. And Timo doesn't do or say things he doesn't mean, or isn't ready to. Ever. It's one of his best qualities.

But from my perspective? I was donezo. I put my head down, threw myself into work, focused on settling into my new place, and tried to think about him less and less every hour.

This plan didn't last long. He texted me and said he'd sent me something on the messaging app we'd used before, the one I had dumped the day of The Grove. (He didn't know I had dumped it, I guess.) I said ok, I'll check it out, and I reinstalled the app. It was a voice message. He was about to get on a plane to Amsterdam (I could hear the call for boarding in the background), and he wanted to tell me that he'd been thinking about me every day. That he hoped I'd see him when he got back. Said he loved me, in English and German. Used his pet name for me.

I didn't know what to make of it. I felt like someone had yanked my head off my shoulders, played a round of tennis with it, then reattached it. I texted a friend for support, and that friend said, "Uh yeah, I meant to tell you. Timo messaged me asking about you. If you're doing okay. If I'd spoken to you. Also, he wanted to know if I have your new address, so he can send you something."

On the one hand I felt enormous satisfaction to know he was thinking about me, needing to talk to me. On the other I felt mistrustful. Suspicious. Not that he had impure motives, more that he was just missing me on a superficial level, and that if I wasn't careful, I'd get sucked into some kind of prolonged, protracted breakup again upon his return.

Like I say, the timeline of everything is hazy, but we messaged a few times. The gist of his communication was to say, "I want to talk when I get back. I need more time to think, but I know I want to see you. Give me a chance." The gist of mine was, "I'm here and listening. I've made my feelings clear. Figure out your own." He confessed to being scared I'd meet someone else. I told him, perhaps a bit brutally, that I meet people all the time. But that I wasn't interested in anyone else.

A few more days went by. And then it was Christmas Eve, and I was walking home from work when he texted. "Merry Christmas, Ellie," he said. I think it was raining. I'm pretty sure, in fact. Anyway, along with the text was a video.

This video was the boombox outside my window.

It was him sitting at his desk, talking into the camera, addressing me. "The other day Spotify showed me that you were listening to this song," he said. And he named the song. And it wasn't even a favorite song or anything, it was just a random track from a group I like. But apparently the name of the song jumped out at him as some kind of clue to my feelings, so he looked up the lyrics. And one of the lyrics was something like, "You say you love me, but what does that mean?"

Do you remember a few months ago, when I was talking about the things that worked so well between us, and I mentioned the whole "love languages" thing? How we speak the same ones, in the same order, and in the same intensity? Well, the premise and structure of this Christmas Eve video was Timo telling me exactly what it means when he says he loves me...as divided into the five love language categories.

"So this is what it means, when I say I love you," he started. I couldn't even watch it at first. Or even the second time. I could only listen. It was too much.

It was a series of statements all starting with "It means."

It means that you enrich my life, by challenging my way of thinking. It means thinking of you makes me think profound things. It means that the tears are worth it. It means I want to dance with you in front of a stage. It means I want you to wear my t-shirts. It means it pains me when I cannot find the right words to talk to you. It means I want to make sure you have the right pillow. It means I want to take a photo every single time we're together. It means I want to share the road with you, in seeing the world, and discovering new things. 

And on like that, for nearly five minutes.

Obviously, it opened things back up between us in a big way. We talked on the phone. We agreed that we needed to talk in person, not via satellite over the Atlantic. But we didn't really hold back. We copped to missing one another terribly. We expressed love. Timo told me that he made the video because he couldn't wait, that he didn't want any more time going by without letting me know how he felt. That so much could happen in five weeks, and he didn't want to risk losing me.

He didn't stop with the video, either. He made a playlist for me, of dozens of his favorite German songs. Pages of notes accompanied the list, a primer on the feelings associated with those songs, why he was sharing them, excerpts of lyrics translated for me. A few days later he made a sort of playful PDF report on my Lobby Ellie pictures, winnowing down his favorites by category. He sent me homemade cookies, along with a picture of us he'd printed up. He recorded a twenty minute audio message for me.

He went, in short, all the fuck out.

Then he came home, loaded with presents and things to say. The first night I saw him, we tumbled into bed and didn't really talk seriously. The second night he sat with me on his couch and I listened while he told me what he was feeling, and how his perspective on some things had changed.

And here is where I need to stop and clarify for you, the same way that he was intent on clarifying for me: this wasn't - isn't - a situation where his feelings changed. His feelings, he has emphasized repeatedly, never changed, because he did and does love me. But spending time away from me, over some of the most emotional days of the year, back in the country where he has always planned to return to - if I understand him correctly (and I am still coming to understand it all), made him realize a few things. That it feels good and right to be with me, here and now. That he isn't necessarily in as big a rush to leave. That even at the most meaningful moments with his family and friends, he felt something missing, and it was me. That every time he saw something beautiful or surprising in his travels, that it was me he wanted by his side to share in the experience. That he doesn't have all the answers about his future or my future, but that maybe we can meet in the middle and figure it out together?

Of course I am paraphrasing all of this, and probably exaggerating some of the more romantic notions he expressed. But not hugely. Not hugely, I don't think.

So. That was the second night.

The third night was last night, and we tumbled back into bed, this time with all the barriers removed and all of the emotion having landed where it is going to land, for now. And god. Just... And when I fell asleep next to him, I felt as relaxed and happy as I've felt in I don't know how long.

And this morning he woke up for work, at my place, in my new space that I love, tiny as it is. And he tickled me and made silly sounds and kissed my stomach to try and get me out of bed even though I didn't have work, so that I would have a full, productive day and feel good about myself. Because he knows I am fighting to get back to the things that are important to me, and he has enlisted himself in that battle. Because he's in.

And I'm in.

And that is where I am, with that part of my life.

the one you'll not want to skip

Hello again.

It has been incredibly difficult for me to get back here; the only obstacle being, as ever, myself. Whenever I am stuck in blogging, when I push it to the corner or hide from it, it is due to fear of some kind. Or overwhelm. Or both. In this case, I have wanted to write a massive end-of-year tell-all, about everything that went down in 2016, so that I can start 2017 with a clean slate - creatively and emotionally.

But there have been things holding me back from telling all and getting to that clean slate. Namely, shame.

There is no point in hanging on to shame, though. It's doing nothing for me. I don't have a time machine, and I can't go back and undo any of my bad decisions. I'm where I am now for better or for worse. So let's do this. Let's just unload all of this crap and move forward.

2016 was by far, without competition, the worst year of my life.

I spent the first six months still living with Terence, even after we'd broken up. And it was so, so bad. A nightmarishly toxic situation that made monsters of us both. I was unrecognizable to myself. He was unrecognizable, from the man I'd met two years prior. We brought out the absolute worst in one another. Ugly, raging, middle of the night screaming matches. I broke my own heart with how awful I was. I hated myself. But we were stuck.

So there was that.

In March I started working for a man as his personal assistant. I wrote some about this. This was what gave birth to the Riley series. I alluded in general terms to his difficult personality, to how demanding and angry he was. What I didn't get into was how quickly I fell into a weird, semi-codependent relationship with him. I was his employee, and he was my boss. But he didn't need another employee. The "work" I did for him was nothing he couldn't do for himself. What he needed was a friend. And that was my real job. Being the confidant, the emotional validator - the crutch, really - of an exceptionally unhappy person. And I got paid for it. So I stayed. Because I needed a job.

Because I had run out of money.

That's right. That's the big secret I have been mincing around for the better part of a year now, the one that has made blogging with honesty and openness all but impossible. Because if I am dishonest about the basic circumstances of my life, there is no room for authenticity or real feeling. It's just me trying to represent some version of myself, as I want to be seen.

So here it is, here is the terrible thing that I have spent the past six months coming to terms with, in a sort of slow-dawning shock: I blew through not one, but two inheritances. My mother's (small) and my father's (not small).

There was no reason for it to happen this way. None at all. No excuse in a hundred thousand years that can justify it, though my therapist disagrees (yes I am in therapy now and I'll get back to that shortly). But there you have it. Gone. Where did it go? Well, it went to four years of rent. Mine, and for half of the time we lived together, Terence's (he paid a third of what I did). It went to food. It went to entertainment. Festivals and concerts. It went to clothing, and caring for Chaucer.

It disappeared, because for four years, I didn't work. I didn't save. I just spent. So if you want to know how to blow through six figures in less than half a decade, that is how you do it. You just freeze up. You just become paralyzed about how to move forward with your life. You refuse to face reality and start at the bottom of a career path. You lie to yourself that tomorrow you'll start fresh. Make a plan. Figure it out. You tell yourself that lie day after day after day, for a thousand days.

And then all of a sudden, your self-sabotage will coalesce into exactly, precisely the disastrous ending you think you deserve: you'll have nothing. You'll be jobless, facing a dwindling checking account. Panicked but in denial. Sleepless with anxiety but totally clueless what to do.

Imagine that going on, while at the same time living with an ex-boyfriend whom you despise. That's where I was when I was introduced to an eccentric millionaire inventor who needed a roll dog and a whipping boy.

But here's a fun detail you don't know about that: the person that introduced us? Well, that was my girlfriend/neighbor, who also worked for him. And oh boy. Oh boy oh boy is this the point where shit gets interesting. Because I had spent the better part of a year, as her friend, listening to her complain about him. About how much he screamed at her, about how abusive a boss he was, about how she was just going to take advantage of him as much as possible and then get out with a cool million. About competing products she had in mind, to threaten him with. Per her words on a weekly basis, he was the absolute last person on the planet anyone should work for. Her job was miserable, because of him. And it wouldn't be until months later that I saw just how much he had informed her attitude about life, with his negativity. She truly is the most unhappy person I have ever met, and I suspect it's because of his daily (hourly, really) influence.

Anyway, the drama with her started immediately. She was, I guess, threatened by my sudden stature as preferred employee (a honeymoon phase that didn't last). She began to act coldly to me. Passive aggressive in the extreme. I confronted her, tried to have an honest and open dialogue about what was happening, but she dug her heels in. She blamed me for making her life more difficult, her job more challenging. The fact is that working for this man requires a delicate dance of diplomacy and tact. He doesn't always make decisions that are in his or his business's best interest - and sometimes he ends up pitting employees against one another. Vague I know, but the bottom line is this: I was nearly broke. In extremely dire financial straits. So I had zero choice but to do the work as it was prescribed to me. Follow his instructions. He was my goddamn boss, after all. She, however, wanted me to be more subversive. Risk my job (and his wrath) to make hers easier. A job that was providing her with an extremely comfortable and secure lifestyle, with plenty of money in the bank. She wasn't in danger of any kind. I was. She didn't care.

And here's another dumb detail of this sad story: she was furious about Riley. She told me that our boss was "her" story, and that I had no right to write about him. Mind you, in the six years she had been working for him, she had never once written a word. Not one word. But for some reason, all of a sudden my fictionalizing my experiences with him (for creative release and therapy, really), triggered her.

Anyway, March flew by, then April and May, and things escalated. Our friendship dissolved completely. My work life consisted of running around on a moment's notice, performing inane tasks and busywork, driving an inebriated boss home to his Bel Air mansion after tagging along on his dates with socialite models, and occasionally going to some "glamorous" event either with him or in his stead. Things I could never blog about, but holy shit. It culminated, the day before everything turned, in my attending a charity event at the mansion of a very well-known reality TV star. I sat at a table with soap stars I'd grown up watching.

Then, the very next day I believe it was, my boss snapped. We'd been arguing about a raise he'd previously agreed to, and he just lost it. He swung his very heavy bag at my head, and the metal clasp cut my skull open. Actually, that's not the whole story. What happened was this: we had been arguing at a cafe near the office, and he lost his temper and fired me. So I said, great, okay, I'll just gather my things and you can pay me, and I'll be out of your life forever. And he said, no, fuck you bitch, I'm not paying you. At this point I was scared. I'd seen him throw things before (he once threw a phone at me), and I could see him tossing my laptop out the window. So I rushed back to the office to get it before he could. Only he followed me, right on my heels, calling me a bitch the whole time.

And when we got to the stairs of the office, I was steps ahead of him. Maybe fifteen seconds. And on the steps I ran into a man whose office is right across from my boss's. It just so happens that this man is an award-winning film producer, who had become my friend in the previous months (another thing I could never blog about). And I said to this producer-friend, please don't leave, please wait and make sure I get my things safely, my boss has just fired me and is threatening not to pay me.

And my boss arrived at this scene, heard what I was saying, and just exploded. He swung his bag at me full force. It's actually amazing it didn't send me spiraling down the stairs. But no. It just knocked into me, stunned me, and cut my head open.

I could write volumes about what happened in this moment. And I'm not even talking about the logistics and the legal fallout, which I'll get to here in a second. I'm talking about what it did to me, emotionally. In short - and this is how fucked up my state of mind was last year - I felt I'd deserved it. I was so disgusted with myself, with the thousands of terrible, irresponsible choices that had led me to be working for a violent abuser, that I thought, more or less, "Yep. This is about right."

But of course, it wasn't right. It was the wrongest of wrongs. And after a surreal five minutes where he desperately tried to act like he hadn't just committed a violent crime, I scrambled my things together and left his office. And I called one of my best friends.

And so here is where the story takes another sad turn, because this call was the beginning of a whole other sub-chapter of drama. Here is the broad strokes of what happened: my AZ (college) friends rallied around me when my boss attacked me. Big time. They made calls, they researched my rights, they told me that they had my back financially until whatever would happen was settled. They gave me money. A lot of money. Which - can you guess? Can you guess what I did with it? I blew through it. Again, 100% because of not working. In my defense I was trying. I was interviewing, I was applying. But I didn't know what I wanted to do, only that I wasn't cut out to be a fucking administrative or executive assistant. And the time I spent figuring this out was on their dime. So they were pissed. They are still pissed. I don't blame them.

Christ, this story. Have you ever read anything so loaded with sad, tangential drama? Ugh.

Anyway, an Instagram friend (who happens to be a very talented and well-connected attorney) put me in touch with, no joke, probably the most feared trial attorney in the fucking city. I can't tell you the huge, high profile cases this guy has handled, but holy hell. Holy hell. And this attorney met with me and agreed, because of my connection to his friend, to handle my case pro bono. So yeah. That was pretty unreal.

A settlement was obtained. And I didn't have to give a dime of it up for legal fees. But can you guess what I did with the money?

That's right kids. I spent it, because I was still. not. working. Had I had a fucking job by this point, I could have used it to pay my friends back. But nope. This was August/September, and I had lost my job in June, and I still wasn't working. One of my friends cut me off completely, he was so disgusted. I have been trying to fix things with him, but it is the source of enormous, gut-wrenching heartache to accept the fact that nope, he's pretty much over me and my friendship.

And I don't blame him.

So let's see. Where are we? The settlement. Oh! I forgot to tell you some more of the gross details, namely that this former girlfriend of mine, the coworker, did everything in her power to try and prevent me from getting a settlement. And this - this is the thing that almost above all was just...just mind blowing. She called up the police detective who was handling my case and told her about my Riley posts. Why you ask? I have no idea. I mean, I do. I know she did it to curry favor with our boss and ingratiate herself...but good grief. All I could do at that point was laugh. So, so, so unnecessary. I cannot for the life of me understand why this person was continuing to meddle into my life and my business, and why she wouldn't just leave me the hell alone, but there it was. She just couldn't live and let live. I don't know if she knows how to do that at all.

After the settlement, my boss reached out to me and apologized. He said he didn't blame me, that he would have sued, too. He offered me my job back. And I took it back, for another month, until I found the job I have now.

I know.

But here's the thing. This man? He is not evil. He is just damaged. He has been through some really, really bad shit in his life. And at times he can be so generous, and try so hard to be a better person.

I still speak to him. He knows everything, of course, including about my blog. He doesn't care, and he doesn't read it. In fact I occasionally do small writing projects for him. Letters or press releases or whatever. It isn't a big deal. I do them remotely. He pays me well. We know we don't work well together. But he has helped me, too. Written checks way beyond what I was owed, to help me as I got back on my feet.

So that brings us to now. And me being on my feet. But because this post is already way, way too long I will end it on four things that I'll expand upon, completely, next time:

1) I have a job that I am good at and that I enjoy very much.
2) Timo and I are back together.
3) I have a new place that I am wildly in love with.
4) I started therapy.

I am, by all measures, finally back on my feet. Happy new year to you, and to me.

open

Timo and I broke up on Saturday. I guess I get to claim the dubious victory of having been the breaker-upper. It was my decision. Bully for me.

Where to start.

From the moment we got involved Timo was upfront about his intention to leave the US, probably within a year or so. One of the first things he said to me that constituted, I don't know, a warning sign, was that he doesn't let himself get too attached when he dates because of his plans to return to Germany eventually. He said that to me within the first week or so. I adjusted my expectations accordingly.

Then, shit happened. We went to Malibu. We went to a festival together. We started spending about half the nights of the week together. We got close. Our chemistry was always electric and we couldn't get enough of one another. He would routinely sleep over and go straight to work from my apartment. Once he blew my mind by taking his backpack and work clothes to a concert at the Bowl, just so he could come straight to my place afterward. And I didn't even go to the show.

He involved himself in my life, in what I was going through with work, with looking for jobs, interviewing, all of that. He was supportive in actual, concrete ways, going out of his way to help me figure things out, make plans. He told me he loved how much care I showed for him, too. He said I'd made him happier than he'd ever been, living in LA. That he was so thrilled with what we had.

I could feel myself falling for him in a big way, which terrified me because he's leaving. I brought up the issue a few times but those conversations only left me at best mildly reassured and at worst more confused.

The first time I brought it up he understandably balked. It was pretty early on. I think I said something about being open to anything, but that if he wasn't, he had an obligation to tell me. He responded by saying he was open about things too, but didn't know what would happen.

But then some more time passed, and I brought up the topic again. I may or may not have been drunk. This time I was more anxious, more persistent. I don't remember all of the conversation, but I do know this exchange happened:

Me: "It would almost be easier if you were to just say to me, 'I'm going home to Germany, and you, Ellie, are staying here.'"

Him: "I don't know that I want to say that."

Another time I found myself crying in his arms, because I was so crazy about him and so scared of losing him. He held me tight and, referring to a possible job change, said "Who knows what could happen." Little things like this that he would say - they were enough to keep me feeling calm about the situation. But then at other times I would call him out and refer to myself as the "good for now girl." And the way he would wince and softly say "Don't say that" made me think there was some truth in it.

We fell in love. When he told me he was falling in love with me, and then when he actually said the words, I was elated. I thought that meant that, I don't know, we were progressing towards something. So I relaxed a little. A lot, really. I felt his love, every day. I felt secure and so happy in it. He is incredibly loving, incredibly affectionate, and incredibly expressive. I counted myself incredibly lucky.

Over Thanksgiving there was a moment where he told me he wanted to take care of me. My heart nearly exploded.

Still.

Still there was a voice in my head and a dark little spot in my heart. Something deep inside was whispering that he didn't see me the way I saw him. That he loved me wildly, but that he loved me only for now. Little clues. Like when I started learning German, he didn't really encourage it. Like while he once mentioned talking about me to his family, he never said anything along those lines again.

I was at work a couple of days after we got back from Mendocino and I saw a couple that nearly devastated me. They were probably 60ish. They were foreign, Italian I think. They were the most youthful, playful, affectionate couple I'd ever seen. Just giggling and canoodling and so, so beautifully connected. It stopped me cold. I realized in that moment that I want that, too. I want it now - and I want it when I'm 60. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with my going after it, and demanding it for myself.

Timo is going home for the holidays in about a week and half. He'll be gone for three weeks. When he told me, I didn't even flinch. I expected it, had zero expectations about him inviting me or being back in time to kiss me for New Year's. That was all fine. But something in the way that he asked me to make myself available the day of his leaving and the day of his return...I don't know. It was playful and sexy in spirit...but it dinged my radar. Hard. And when I saw this couple I decided I was going to ask Timo, right away, whether he thought about a future with me. Not about marrying me, not about whisking me away to Germany...just whether he even entertained the notion of a life with me in it.

Because just as I have ambitions for myself professionally and creatively, so do I have personal ambitions, too.

I took Friday night to think. He spent the evening with friends. On Saturday I asked him to meet me. We set a time and place. It was an outdoor mall. Christmas tree, lights, music, crowds. The whole deal. Exactly like I needed it to be. I needed to feel surrounded by people and not alone. Because I knew. I just knew.

So, we talked. I told him everything that I felt, about him, about us. What I saw in him, what I saw in us. But that enough time had gone by that, if he wasn't at least thinking about a future with me by now, that he was wasting my time. Or that I was wasting it, with him. Whatever. I more emphasized how much potential I see in us, because my god. There are things about us that are just...exceptional. We never, ever fight. And if we do get into the slightest bit of conflict, it is so easy to just calmly get back out of it. That alone.

That alone. Priceless.

Then there was the intimacy, which just...

This is hard.

Then there is the fact that we both love in the same ways. We both speak the same love languages, in the same order, in the same intensity.

We both respect one another, and one another's independence, tremendously.

Anyway.

It didn't matter.

He didn't say the exact words "I don't think about a future with you, Ellie," but what he said was enough. It was stuff about the complication of moving countries, and how he's very good at seeing the downsides and challenges and impossibilities and la la la. It was "you have no idea how hard it is to completely uproot yourself and try to blend into another culture" or something like that. And it didn't matter to him that I'm unafraid of that (which I said) or that doing so actually sounds like the greatest adventure ever (which I also said), because at the end of the day it is not about Germany or moving or us not knowing how I'd support myself (us) in a foreign place.

Because all of those things are problems couples solve every day, all over the world, because they want to. Partners learn new languages and find expat communities for support and networking, and help with jobs.

But they have to want to.

I know he is heartbroken. I saw him cry for the one and only time. He didn't want to walk away. He said as much. He said he didn't know what it was inside of him, holding him back from saying "Fuck it, let's do this." He said he wished he was man enough to make that call. I tried to explain that there isn't any big or permanent decision to make right now, just dialogue and openness to possibility. Alas.

He said he can't imagine life in LA without me. He said he can't even imagine three weeks or a month without me, right now for the holidays.

But I am not a temp.

What sucks the most, honestly, is that he never even saw me shine. He was with me through what has been, hands down, the hardest six months of my life. He saw a version of me that was so beaten down, so overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, and insecure. He has no idea who I can be. He's never seen me at my best. He's never seen the person I am when I am secure, when I feel safe and loved and in control of my life - exactly the place I am getting back to now, step by step. He never saw the best me, and now he never will. I hate that.

I told him he probably has a window of opportunity, to change his mind. I tried to explain that I'm not after any kind of commitment or promise, that for all I know, when it came down to it I might decide I didn't want to move away, anyway. That all I need to know is that he thinks about it, because he loves me that much, and sees what we have is so precious and rare and amazing.

But two nights have now passed with no boombox-wielding German standing outside my window blasting Peter Gabriel. And I am forced to face the fact that I am not a heroine in a John Hughes movie, and that sometimes really, really good things get away.

When I walked away from him, I held my head high and I didn't look back. I didn't even cry. I just searched his eyes for a moment, asked him one last time if there was any reason I should stick around, gave him once final chance. Then I kissed him on the cheek and left with my dignity intact if my heart crushed.

Anyway. I'm okay. That same night I did the Ellie equivalent of getting roaring drunk to forget my woes - I found an EDM show and took myself dancing. It was actually a festival, a small local one at a nightclub I'd never been to. Two floors, five stages, awesome, unpretentious crowd. I had a fucking blast. Then I went to work the next day, and was so busy I didn't have to think. Then last night it hit me like a tsunami, and I cried harder than I have in probably years.

It's not just Timo. It's this year. This has been the hardest year of my life, by far. I haven't even shared all of what I've been through, though I plan on writing a massive end-of-year tell-all to clear the slate and start fresh next year. But yes, last night I cried so much and for so long that today I feel like I was punched in both of my eyes. I cried so hard that it was purifying. Now it's just numbness.

One part of me fantasizes that a month away from me will tear him apart, that he'll come to his senses and see that what we have is incredible and exceptional. But the rest of me knows him well enough to know that he goes after the things he wants, and if he wanted me, he wouldn't have let me go on Saturday.

I told my friends. Some said "Good for you for knowing your worth." One said, "I don't think this is the end of it." One said, "Oh god, Ellie," and just shook her head. (That was probably the most helpful, TBH.)

I made a bunch of lists, and taped them up in front of my desk. One of them is titled "Fresh Start" and lists all the ways in which I'm getting exactly that. New job. New apartment. New year. New opportunities. One of them is labeled "Me" and is a list of all the words I want to be able to honestly describe myself as, like calm, graceful, giving, creative, assertive, and so on. One of them is titled "Things I Love" and is a list of everything in life that brings me joy. When I wrote it I couldn't believe how quickly I filled up the page. I see it every day, several times a day, and it's a reminder that life is big and beautiful and full of potential, that there are amazing experiences still to be had, adventures of wonder and discovery, of laughter and love.

I'm open to them.

Mendocino

(last installment of Thanksgiving '16)

Saturday's rain maroons us perpendicular on the sectional, him with a book and me with my laptop. Every so often we glance out the window to see if the weather has cleared. It hasn't. We head outdoors anyway, Timo laughing when I push my furry hood back and let the rain pummel my face and hair. I know I look like a drowned rat, but the fresh air feels too good.

We hike up into the acreage behind the house, mindful of property lines. The people living around here value privacy and are armed, I suspect, to prove it. A tree trunk bridging a roily creek is an invitation I can't resist, even though my heart pounds faster as I inch across it than I'd like to admit. From the safety of other side I watch Timo take equally careful steps. We plunge further into the wilderness, crashing through puddles in waterproof footwear.

It's too wet out, though, and too cold. Defeated, we retreat back to the dry, warm living room. The furnace snaps and pops and, armed with snacks, we watch a movie. Timo tries graham crackers for the first time.

Sunday's promise of a clearer day holds, and we take the forty-five minute drive to the coast slowly. Branscombe Road lets us out at the spectacular cliffs just north of Westport, and we stop time and again for photos of the picturesque sea stacks being washed over by waves.

Following the Shoreline Highway leads us through a series of blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns, until we hit Fort Bragg for lunch. At a friendly dockside shanty of a restaurant, we wave seagulls away from our fish and chips and talk about the weekend. I get buzzed on a pomegranate cider, which warms my body but not my icicle-cold hands. Those, Timo invites me to warm on his neck.

With not too much daylight left, we're back on the road to Mendocino. Past the Jug Handle Reserve and Caspar, a sign for the Point Cabrillo Light Station beckons. Timo's game, having never been, and we walk the half mile to the water's edge with linked arms. I'm still merry from the cider; he's delighted with how much I'm loving the landscape he hoped I would.

All the outbuildings in the lighthouse complex are painted in coordinating colors of cherry and seafoam, with brown trim. They are beautifully maintained, cheerfully bright structures that stand in defiance of the drab, grey ocean behind them. We take our time ambling along the headland's curve, and I relax into taking as many photos as I please.

We reach Mendocino just as it's getting dark, making a quick round of the streets along the coast and the main drag. It's a place I could amble through, gallery by gallery and shop by shop.

Maybe another year.

Either way, Thanksgiving '16 gave me quite a lot of awesome to file away in the memory banks. Hope yours did, too.