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Friday, September 12, 2014

Downhill.

image via square america

I'm at a crossroads. I've been in L.A. now for two months and I haven't found a job. Every second that I don't have a job is like one big, agitated sigh. I've looked back on this time and wish I'd packed it with more fun -- the kind of fun an unemployed person has, right?

But I've been completely consumed with a) finding work, b) finding a place (which is now on the backburner if I don't have a job... every place wants your last two paychecks before you sign), c) grieving my relationship, and d) missing my Ohio people.

I'm starting to get worried -- I've been here nearly two weeks past when I said I was going to leave here. Where should I be? When I think of a tranquil place, I think of the extra bedroom in the house my husband and I most recently moved into in Ohio. I painted it lavender. There was a big landscape on the wall and a beautiful view out of the windows. I had my computer, a forest green leather couch, and a filing cabinet with all of my craft supplies organized inside, for once. The cats would sleep on the back of the couch, in the sunlight streaming through the windows. I would read The Artist's Way and cut up old books and magazines.

My older brother told me, "Follow your bliss," not meaning your manic dreams that put you in a lather, but your sense of "good and right"-ness (as my father would call it). You don't have to seek to have an awesome situation, because a copacetic one is just as rare and plenty good.

When I think of a place I last felt successful, desirable, and fast, I think of Chicago. I loved what I was doing there. I have a lot of friends I miss there, too. Their public transportation gives this car-averse woman the thrill of independence (except when waiting for the bus, in the winter, at night). I made a pros and cons list between LA, Chicago, and Columbus, and Chicago came out on top with the most pros, and the least amount of cons. So I applied to two positions in Chicago.

Now there's a possibility of a job here. It's located in Hollywood, which is where I'd be living if I choose to stay. I could maybe walk or ride a bike to work, even in February - imagine! And I could be having the kind of fun an employed person has - right?

So where should I be?

My brother also said that he found a lot of satisfaction in surrendering his path to the "flow". He said ever since, it feels like his life is like riding a bicycle downhill. My dad said something similar, in his trademark religious jargon, about giving myself up to God's plan.

I feel like I have nothing left but to do so.

I'm going to, to the extent that I'm able, set myself like a leaf on a stream and exert very little effort. To let life carry me aloft and find the path that feels most like riding downhill. I just hope the slots pay out before my unemployment dries up...


Monday, September 8, 2014

What am I going to do?

Source Unknown - Contact Me If Yours!

I've been pretty silent lately, which is what I tend to be when I'm full of turmoil. I'm on the tipping point of trying to decide whether to stay in California or not.

It would help if I were having the time of my life, but one's heart stays broken no matter where they are on the map. Not to say I haven't been having a pretty good time. I'm turning myself into a beach person with the help of large hats and dangerous levels of sunscreen application. I've got freckles where I didn't know I could freckle.

Currently I'm living with a high school friend in Santa Monica. I was in Los Feliz before that (hipster 'hood) and East Hollywood before that (just hood). Been working lots on my copywriting job, going to interviews and not getting anything out of them besides experience wearing a blazer and heels.

I'm missing my friends and my dad and in-laws, and much to my anti-materialist leanings, my stuff. Boy do I miss my stuff. And my cats. I also miss the mega-convenience of public transportation in Chicago and the chillitude of Columbus.

I haven't dipped my toes too far into the world of entertainment out here, just a few open mics here and there, but it doesn't seem like enough for me. I'm wondering if my performance boner is on the permanent wane or if it's just lying dormant for awhile. Writing, however, still gets me (as it has since I could first pick up a pen and do it), and I'm not sure if LA is the supreme writing climate. Chicago has so much to offer there: ready and willing sketch groups, non-scary theater rental prices.

I could pretty literally do anything with my life right now. What am I going to do?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Love and Understanding.


I was casually researching exit bags yesterday afternoon when my friend came home and said to me, "Robin Williams killed himself!"

Exit bags, in case you don't want to click, are plastic bags you put over your head, seal, and pump some kind of inert gas into. It's heralded by right-to-die societies as a quick, painless, and clean way to kill yourself. I was wondering if I could buy or make one.

So, when she told me that Robin Williams had died, I thought, "Naturally." It was to me, like Robin had told me, "I'm going to bed," and I replied, "OK, sweet dreams."

I'm not shocked at suicide, and I'm not angry at anyone who would do it. Maybe it's because I'm blinded by my own struggle with suicidality, but I believe that killing oneself is excusable, forgivable, perhaps even all right.

Depression is a deadly illness - suicide ranks 4th in causes of death amongst those aged 15 to 64. Some will die, perhaps in spite of whatever help there is currently at hand, perhaps they never received any. Some will die, just as someone with (as the hackneyed comparison goes) cancer may die despite medical intervention, and certainly without it. No one tells them they're going to hell, that it's illegal, that no one will forgive them if they pass. And as sad as that death is, it's a blessed relief from the physical torture of the disease.

Now certainly, there is a level of choice involved in killing one's self.  Depression is mental torture. Though there are a million doctors with a trillion pills to give you, a million therapists who'll tell you to identify your cognitive distortions and redirect them to happier thoughts, a thousand crisis workers who will make feeble attempts to explain why life is worth living, a handful of friends you tell who say they'll "be pissed" if you kill yourself, sometimes it just wins in the end.

It's an end to an interminable pain.

I've struggled with anxiety and depression since I was 12. I've flirted many times with the idea of killing myself (like I mentioned, yesterday I was researching exit bags). Somehow I come back from these spells again and again like a punching clown, but I wonder when the day will come that I don't come back. I've already forgiven myself.

I'd like forgiveness from you.

But I wonder, would your forgiveness make things better? Does the stigma of suicide help keep me (and others) on the "right side" of the bridge/the pills/the razorblade? Would the removal of stigma cause rates of suicide to increase? Or just make suicide less a barrier to love and understanding for those who would already do so and those they leave behind?


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sticks.


I can't believe I will have been here two weeks on Wednesday.  I've filled up my time with some (actually pretty successful) open mics, visiting relatives in Palm Springs, and partying on the beach.  It strikes me how much this feels like a foreign country here... nothing looks familiar at all... from the vegetation to the grocery stores (Von's? Ralph's? Who?) to the endless driving (that I'm fighting tooth and nail to not get engaged in, despite my Palm Springs relatives having very generously gifted me with an old car).

As someone who winces at full sun, I'm not sure this is the most appropriate place for me on Earth, but I've met so many former neurotics here who assure me that in time, it'll smooth out all of my jaggedness.  I not-so-patiently await my rebirth.

I expected to bounce from divorce-related Ohio misery to California freewheelingness, but the distance has made it much harder. My husband hasn't tried to reach out to me.  Before I got on the plane, he gave me a bundle of rosemary sticks that he snapped in half, with a vague explanation.  A friend told me they were "cleansing"... of what - each other?  I haven't taken them out of my purse, and each time I look at them, I wonder why a bundle of sticks is my souvenir of a 4-year marriage. What does he want me to do with these?

Also in my purse: the vows I read to him on our wedding day.  I see both of these things every day.

During an epic hike at Runyon Canyon yesterday, I told a friend that I feel like each phase of my life has to be perfectly tied up in a bow before I can move on to the next phase. He pointed out that I'm wasting phases tying up loose ends of previous phases.

Maybe seeing these sticks and these vows every day isn't helpful to me. My highly sentimental nature keeps me from doing anything with them, but I also do hugely believe that unloading stuff is as cleansing as burning some herbs from an estranged husband.

But... I'm at a loss of what exactly to do with these artifacts, especially the vows.

My friends are picking me up to go to the beach where I can either forget about this or come to a conclusion.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Dressing Down of Mr. Doyle.



The ditto sheet in front of me had a skinless man on it, rendered in purple.  Lines that originated from various points in his body jutted out into the margins, where we were supposed to write things like femur, ulna, humerus, to prove our knowledge of the man's anatomy.  After giving him a pair of cowboy boots and a saloon lady's high-feathered hat, I drew a line from the tailbone to the margin and wrote "ass bone".  I passed it to my friend Julia for her approval.  Snickering, she slyly added her own caption to the man's tastefully omitted bulge, "penis bone," then passed it back to me.

"Oh my God!" I whispered at her through my giggling, "Now I'm going to get in trouble!"

"No you're not.  Look," Julia whispered back, producing a bottle of white-out from her desk.  She dutifully whited out both "ass bone" and "penis bone" and handed the paper back to me.  After a few more moments of students silently filling out their sheets, we passed them forward for Mr. Doyle to collect and go through.

Mr. Doyle was bizarre and sadistic.  He never let you go to the bathroom, until you practically whimpered to go.  He was paranoid - always accusing me of "staring through" him.  He once even told me I'd never amount to anything.  He was crazy, and I was a little afraid of him.

I expected that he might take some special exception to my anatomy worksheet.  Cowboy boots and a feather hat?  That was subversive.  When he glanced mine over, I could see his eyes go small and harden.

He came to my desk.  "What is this?" he asked, shaking my paper in front of my eyes.

"Nothing," I replied.  "I just gave him a little outfit."

"And what's this?" he asked, pointing to the whited-out portion of the paper.

"Nothing!" I waveringly replied, because, didn't white-out make things as though they never existed?  Couldn't he tell that whatever it was had been gotten rid of and was no longer an issue?

"I'll show you 'nothing'," he seethed, "I'm going to find out what's under here." He took out his car keys and began furiously scratching at the thick, crusted white on the page.  "And then," he continued, "I'm calling your parents.  Stay here," he said to the class with a pointed finger, as he marched out of the classroom door toward the office.

I froze.  My mom and gasp!- my dad! were going to find out about "penis bone" and it wasn't even my doing!  No one in class spoke for several minutes, just staring at me standing there with the ghost of my shamed paper still in my empty hands.

The PA system then crackled to life.  "Elisa Markus, please come to the principal's office.  Elisa Markus to the principal's office." I burst out crying as I left the classroom.  I was ruined!  Mr. Doyle had scratched off the white-out, saw "penis bone" and now I was headed for serious retribution.  My feet fell heavy on the tiled floor, tears streaming down my face.

When I got to the principal's office, I was surprised to find my mother standing there.  "How did you get here so fast?" I sobbed.

"What do you mean?  What's going on?" she asked.  She had no idea about the penised man.  She had come because I had forgot to taken some medication that morning.  I told her what had happened.

"That goddamn Mr. Doyle," she said to my surprise, "I'm going to set him straight.  Where is your classroom?" she asked, eyes darting left to right, foot nearly pawing the ground with anticipation of blood.

"No!" I said.

"Yes," she said through clenched teeth.  "Let's go."

So I led her down to the Green Wing and we returned to Mr. Doyle's still-teacherless classroom.

"What's going on around here?" my mom bellowed.  "Where is your teacher?"

The kids in the classroom swarmed up to her.

"He went to the principal's office!"

"He's going to get Elisa in trouble!"

"We hate Mr. Doyle!"

"He's back!" someone shouted as his impossibly thin face poked back into the door.  One look at my mom, however, and his set chin began to melt into fear.

"Outside." my mother commanded him.  They went to the end of the hallway.

As she begun her dressing-down of Mr. Doyle, my entire class, as well as the contents of every other classroom spilled out into the hall to watch the spectacle.

"Back inside!" yelled the other teachers, "back inside!"

No one wanted to go back inside.

I don't remember what was said, but I remember the contagious glee of watching that prig get an earful or two of my poison-tongued, expertly withering mother.

"Your mom's so cool!" kids whispered.  "I wish my dad would yell at Mr. Doyle!"

I felt high on my mother's love that day, and inspired by her ballsiness.  No discrete, scheduled teacher-parent conference that day.  It was all-out war, on my behalf, because "penis bone" and "ass bone" are pretty funny, according to her, and levity must be defended.  Besides, only a creepy lunatic goes and tries to scratch white-out off to uncover a 5th-grader's dopey anatomy jokes, and according to her (it's great advice, too), creepy lunatics are never to be suffered gladly.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Black.


via lookbook.nu

Eventually, today, I will focus on what I'm going to bring on my trip.  Well, I'm calling it a trip but it might very well be a move.

I'm weeding out my closet, to fill my suitcase with clothing that I could wear confidently in offices.  Fittingly, perhaps, they'll mostly be black.  A couple of black dresses, a black skirt, black blouses, black bra.  My marriage is dying. 

It seems so stupid to me.  Our married life had been full of laughter, inside jokes and comfort.  Maybe the comfort's what killed it.  My husband wants me to promise I'll never be depressed again.  The futility of such a request makes me want to run into the street, wailing.  I have very little control over whether I become depressed again.  I couldn't promise such a thing, and if I did, I'd do it knowing that my relationship was forever stipulated on my mood.  Am I up enough?  Am I smiling enough?  I would never be able to confide my darker moods to him.  

I can't believe the same person I've been loving all this time, the sure thing, the real deal has run out of faith, of patience, of love for me.  It should say more about him than it does about me, but it's hard when he's telling me that I'm defective and he doesn't want any part of it.  My defect is intrinsic - I'll never not be this way and the fact is both vindicating and damning at the same time.  I feel like I'm being thrown away, but I'm going with it out of self-defense.  You don't want me?  Well I don't want you, either.  I'm good enough to choose whether I want something or not. 

I'm choosing LA.  It's completely stupid, a whimsy.  I sweat over the things I won't have:  my bike, my cat (maybe), the giant velvet painting of the jaguar.  But my heart quickens about the things that I will:  self-determination and space to find myself again. 

But first, I'll be wearing a lot of black. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Leaping.

Collage by me.  Buy prints here

I met my husband on Match.com.  My mom's fears that I might be a spinster or -to her undying horror- gay, spurred her to pony up for a six-month membership on my behalf.

I went out with a few different guys to varying results.  As a hungry college student, and to motivate myself, I envisioned the free dinners I would have.

Russell's profile featured a quote from "The Big Lebowski" (I think it was "the dude abides") and I was immediately interested.  I messaged him and suggested we go to a local bar's comedy open mic night.

I was working at a vintage store at the time, and at closing, I picked a red disco dress off the rack and threw it on before walking out into a light drizzle towards the bar.  I sat at one of the high tables and waited.

When Russell came through the door, it was like rays of light were shooting out of him.  I immediately knew that we would be involved with each other for a long time, in one capacity or another.  I watched as he asked the bartender a question with a gregarious grin, eyebrows raised to connote harmlessness. He looked around, saw me and advanced towards me and I couldn't help but smile.

Things have taken a turn for the turbulent lately, and our future is hopelessly unclear.  Things I thought were permanent are changing.  Things I thought were sure have dissolved into nothingness.

After considering as carefully as I can, I bought a one-way ticket to L.A. today.  I'm planning on staying for two months and seeing if I can get a job and a place; I'm trying to belong somewhere, to continue doing the creative work that makes me feel like my talents are good for something besides party tricks.

I'm jumping out of an airplane with a tattered parachute hoping for a patch of trees.

-Elisa.

P.S. - I just wrote a zine about our troubles which you can buy here, if you feel so inclined.