Monday, August 11, 2008

Naptime: it ain't just for kids anymore...

We've had a lot of loss this week. First Bernie Mac, then Isaac Hayes... they say that death comes in threes and I hope to God that "they" are wrong about that. No more dying! (I know this is a unrealistic request, but this is really stressing me out!). There may be additional blog posts because of these losses, but I'm not making any promises. Even though it's only Monday and the week JUST started, it's turning out to be hellish thanks to someone at work (NOT my boss, thank God) who happens to be the devil incarnate. I guess the honeymoon is officially over... Anyhoo, inkeeping with the promise I made to you and to myself, here's this week's post. If I can keep this up consistently (looks like I might succeed!), then maybe we'll move up to two posts a week, and then three, and then... well, you get my drift.

Totally random thought.

The question that begs to be answered is – when did it become imperative for me to take a nap in order to be fully prepared for a night out with the girls? When I was a kid, you couldn’t pay me to take a nap. I remember when I was in pre-school, all the other kids would pull out their cots and their pillows and blankets and hit the sack for at least an hour during the school day. But not this little Brown Girl. I’d be helping my teachers put toys back in their places, or assist with decorating our classroom, or simply sit and listen to my teachers gossip or discuss the intimacies of their home lives. I’d do a lot of things during that nap hour, but the one thing I wouldn’t do was sleep.

When I got to be a little older, every night around the same time, I’d complain to my mom that I didn’t feel well. To which she would roll her eyes and respond, “You feel fine, baby. You’re just sleepy.” Today, it strikes me as odd that I wouldn’t know the difference between feeling sleepy and feeling tired since the feeling of fatigue is so familiar to me at this point in my life.

I never took naps in high school because during the week I’d come straight home from school and rush through my homework in order to be able to socialize or watch television. And, why waste time sleeping when I could be talking to my boyfriend on the phone or watching a good movie on cable? On the weekends, when I actually had time to sleep, my goal was always to go out with my friends late at night. My father, a champion napper, understood a nap for nap’s sake, but didn’t understand the logic behind sleeping during the day to go out with your friends at night. And, in fact, if he caught me sleeping during the day and then I asked permission to go out at night, he’d use my nap as evidence that what I really needed to be doing was going to bed early (because obviously I was tired – why else would I need a nap?) instead of hanging out with my friends. So, of course, my solution for that was to pretend that I was upbeat, chipper, bright-eyed, and bushytailed ALL DAY – even if I was exhausted – in order for me to pass his test. It usually worked and he’d let me go out and stay out late. And rarely did I need a nap the next day. But, of course, this was when I was young and had energy.

I didn’t, in fact, become a fan of naps until college. I took them not because I needed them, but because they seemed like a luxury. After my first semester, I arranged my classes around two things: Jerry Springer and naptime. In between classes, I would leisurely make my way back to my dorm room, kick off my shoes, wrap my hair and tie on a scarf, and lie down for at least an hour, during which I’d fall into a deep and peaceful sleep. And, best of all, there was no one there to judge me. My roommate understood the value of naps just as much as I did, if not more, and therefore respected my quiet time. Come to think of it, she and I had a beautiful roommate relationship built on mutual respect and understanding and a common love of naps.

But back then, napping was something I wanted to do, not something I needed to do. Imagine my surprise a few years ago when I first uttered the words, “Whooo girl. If we’re gonna go out tonight, I need to take a nap.” The words didn’t even sound right coming out of my mouth. “Need” to take a nap? But why? I’d never needed a nap before. And then, it hit me. My youth – those reckless days of staying out til 5am, only to awaken at noon and do it all over again – were in the rearview mirror. Never again would I be able to survive for a week on no more than 10 hours of sleep. Gone are the days of me partying six nights a week and “catching up” on that sleep with a 2 hour nap on Sunday afternoon that would leave me good for the rest of the week. Those days are behind me now. Now, I NEED sleep. It’s a bit disconcerting to know that most weekends, I am unable to function like a normal person if I stay out past 3am two nights in a row. That means that I have to decide whether I’ll go out on Friday or Saturday night because my near-30-year-old body, it turns out, is not cut out for sleep deprivation.

Right now, it’s nearly 1am on a Friday night. The original plan was to go out with the girls to a party that some people from college invited me to. But, when I got home from work, I felt that familiar blanket of exhaustion wrap itself around me and I knew that I would be no good to my friends (or to myself for that matter) if I didn’t get a nap in before the night began. The plan was to lay down around 7pm and wake up around 8:30 to start making myself presentable. I had a bunch of things to do after work and so I didn’t actually stretch out until 7:45 or so. I slept right through my cell phone alarm at 8:30 and didn’t actually crack my eyes open until 9:35. When I woke up, I felt terrible! I’d missed four phone calls and six text messages from my girls, trying to determine the plan for the night. I was embarrassed. Had I really slept that long? How could I have ignored my alarm? Why was it that I needed the nap in the first place? What kept me from being able to come home from work, eat a nice dinner, make myself presentable, and go out and have a good time with my friends – without the need for a nap?

As soon as I’d had a glass of water, I picked up the phone and started reading my text messages. I had received a text from Bestie at around 8:45 saying she had a headache and was bowing out of our plans (she has been doing that a lot lately – BORING), I rolled my eyes and then returned calls to Shawn and Soleil. Shawn answered the phone, her voice thick with sleep. She had fallen asleep, too. So we agreed that we’d hang out another day. Soleil had actually left a text message saying she was going to bed and that she would call me later. I sent her a text apologizing for being inaccessible and told her that we’d kick it another time.

And then it hit me. I am not alone in my need for beauty sleep. All my girls were asleep, too, and it wasn’t even 10pm. While I took some comfort in a “misery loves company” sort of way, I was also sort of sad for us. We were no longer the nocturnal party girls that we used to be. That energy eludes us now. But I guess these sorts of things will come to pass and, eventually, more and more signs like this will remind me of the fact that I am not the person I used to be.

In some ways, I grieve the person that I was. I liked her. She was fun. She took a few risks and didn’t care about the consequences. But, only a FEW risks. In fact, I often wish that I had taken advantage of my youth more. When you are young, you can make mistakes and nobody says, “Wow, look at that pathetic woman who has seen so much and, as a result of her experiences, should really not be making immature decisions like that. Shameful!” No. In fact, when you are young, people laugh and say, “Look at that crazy kid, taking a chance to see what life has to offer. She messed up now, but she has many more chances to make it right.” It’s sort of depressing to realize that youth will not always be on your side. No more will you have a defense for your naïveté or your gullibility. You should know better. And because you know better, you should act better. You should BE better than what you once were.

I don’t know if I’m better than what I was back in my college days when I partied til the sun came up and thought that it was passé to go to bed before 10pm. What I do know is that now, I need a nap before I socialize at night and, sometimes, I need to stay home on Friday nights. Somehow this change in my routine has made me aware of the fact that whether or not I’m “better” than who I used to be, I’m certainly “different” than what I used to be. And, actually I’m ok with that. I think…

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Opposite of Love

I'm going for weekly posts. And, if I'm feeling extra creative, maybe more than once per week. Let's hope I can keep it up. You know consistency is one of my biggest challenges. But, I'm workin on it...

There’s a thin line between love and hate. At least that’s what the old folks say. Before today, I had always thought of that saying as just a figure of speech. But, very quickly, I learned that – like most figures of speech when you break them down – there’s a lot of truth behind those words.

Yesterday I experienced a flash of such pure hatred that it was almost scary. Ok, a little background on hate. Hate is not the opposite of love. Love is fiery and passionate and, therefore, the OPPOSITE of that is indifference. Indifference is when you just don’t care about whatever you are considering. Hate, on the other hand, which is often mistakenly cited as the opposite of love, is also fiery and passionate. Sometimes, you can hate a person or a thing with so much fervor that it causes you to feel high. You become lightheaded, your heart beats a little faster, you might even sweat, or blush if your skin is light enough. These are also physical responses to love. Actually, though your mind is keenly aware of that which you love and that which you hate, I wonder if your body even knows the difference.

But I digress.

As I was saying, yesterday, I was having a heated conversation via instant message with MBF and – it wasn’t the first time, but it was certainly the time that I felt it with the most intensity – for a split second I hated him. Like, genuinely hated him. It happened so naturally and so quickly that I was startled by the feeling. Just this week, I was busy typing out an ode to my love for him and days later if he had been in my reach I would’ve done physical harm to him and not thought twice about it.

It occurs to me that I have never had a romantic relationship that wasn’t complicated. There are always things left unspoken, an elephant in the room so to speak. I have been angry with every partner. Mostly because, contrary to popular belief, none of my relationships have come easy. Every one of my boyfriends has had some doubts about relationships. I can’t say whether the doubt surrounds their relationship with me specifically (though I obviously am the common denominator here) or whether they all have had an aversion to monogamy, which for all of them has turned out to be true on some level. The thing that I do know is that I’ve nearly had to convince each guy that I’ve dated seriously that I was worth dating. And then after we’d been together and gone through the motions to cement our “love” for one another, they would do something to let me know that they had not believed that I was worth it after all. Maybe they had cheated. Maybe they had done something to disrespect me. Maybe they just seemed INDIFFERENT to me at the moment. Whatever the case, something inside me would snap, I’d see red and in that split second my love for them would quickly mushroom into a cloud of hate. And, no matter where we were or what we were doing, I’d stare indignantly at his face, or at the receiver (if we had been speaking by telephone), or in MBF’s case study his words on a computer screen, and be thinking as my uncle would say, “Dude, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.”

The anger wouldn’t necessarily result from what had just been said right then, nor by the perception that I had of the way that the guy was behaving toward me in the moment. No, the anger would result from a lot of little things that built up over the time that we had been involved. Sort of a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. Of course I would feel some hostility and resentment. This was a person that I had spent time trying to convince that I was really worth his time, energy, and exclusivity, and after tireless effort on my part, he would have shown me that he didn’t believe me. And then, logically, I would hate him.

I was startled when it happened with MBF. Shocked, really. I had expected it with boyfriends – it had become a familiar turning point in my relationships… and, yes, I am aware that this is not healthy – but MBF is not a boyfriend, although I probably feel more strongly for him than I’ve felt for any of the boyfriends I’ve had up to this date. At any rate, I wasn’t sure what to do with the feelings that I had. MBF said something that cut me to the core. I’m sure that he didn’t mean for the words to harm me, but I was hurt. So, I made a stupid threatening statement to him in the moment that I hated him. And when he didn’t react – he didn’t even seem surprised at what I had said out of desperation – I became bold and defiant and took my words even further. Dug even deeper in an attempt to hurt him the way that he had just hurt me. Did he even know that what he had said had confirmed what I already knew – that he doesn’t think I’m “worth it”? Again, I spoke out of desperation and almost sounded a bit crazy for saying something so outrageous, ludicrous, and untrue. He paused, laughed, and told me that he forgave me, even before I apologized. And, just like that. Snap! The hatred dissolved and he was my friend again. He had literally fought my hatred with love and, as I always suspected, love won that battle.

It’s sort of crazy how you don’t even know what you are capable of doing until you’re backed into a corner. When you feel forced to act to save face, you will do what it takes to protect your interests. I did that so many times with Mr. Ex, it wasn’t even funny. I had said that I would never again maintain fond feelings toward a man who caused me to act out of my character. With Mr. Ex, I didn’t even recognize myself and that scared me shitless. Numerous times, during our interactions, I’d feel hatred bubble up inside me and settle on my chest like a 25-lbs weight.

Who was this person who wanted to destroy things, who wanted to cause physical harm to other people, who shouted and screamed and made idle threats? Surely, it wasn’t this Lovely Brown Girl. Nothing about who I was with Mr. Ex was “lovely”. It was all ugly and it made me unsure of myself, all the while trying to convince him and everyone else that I was sure of both who I was and what I was worth. But is that exactly why I was so angry all the time? Because how can you successfully convince someone that you’re worth it if you don’t even believe it yourself? That’s what I started to recognize after nearly two years of conflicting emotions, of a daily split between intense love and passionate hate. At the end, I was exhausted. I was tired of trying to convince someone of something they were never going to believe and sick of doubting myself about something I knew to be true from the beginning. Of course I was worth it! I knew it, he didn’t. I was trying to persuade him to believe that I was good enough, when everyone else around me (including, on some level, me) knew that I was in fact TOO good for him. He didn’t deserve me. So I left. End of story.

And now, there is no more hatred of Mr. Ex. That’s how I know I don’t love him. The other day, someone asked me if I knew what he was up to, what he’d been doing since we broke up. My reply: “I don’t know where he is, what he’s doing, who he’s doing it with, when he’s doing it, why he’s doing it, or how he’s doing it. And I don’t care to know.” For the first time, I realized that this was actually true. I don’t wonder about him. When I think about it, I wish no harm to befall him. In fact, I don’t wish anything for him, good or bad.

Mr. Ex has called several times in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve ignored his calls and have not been motivated to call him back. He doesn’t leave messages and the last text that I received from him was on my birthday when he had signed it “A guy you used to know”. I liked that he used the past tense. When I got the message, I read it and smiled and forgot about it until a friend who was there with me when I received it reminded me of it days later. This is indifference. The opposite of love. Golly, it’s great to be here.