kindness, badasses, and jackasses

When I was a kid, my family decided to pitch their tent in a quiet little town just a few miles north of Georgia’s southern border… and up there in North Augusta, South Carolina, I quickly befriended two neighborhood kids, who were siblings: Jacob and Rachel.

 

We got along nicely and went on all kinds of small-scale adventures together… picking our way through the twig-and-tadpole woods that encircled our little suburb, skipping to the gas station down the street (where they sold the COOLEST alien lollipops), and sneaking behind the subdivision to explore this creepy, overgrown field that both frightened and intrigued us. It was here in this field that older kids in the neighborhood had stashed a gross-looking mattress, sticking it right underneath a lush and looming tree… I’m not sure what the older kids used it for, but Jacob, Rachel and I would take turns climbing the tree and then courageously jumping off it, laughing hysterically as we bounced onto and off of the soiled mattress. We felt like real badasses back then.

 

But in addition to acting like badasses, Jacob and Rachel were also kind of jackasses.

 

A young cousin visited them once, riding into town with her parents, and while I can’t remember the girl’s name, I can vividly recall her scent. It was genuinely horrific. I don’t know if it was biological in nature or if her parents simply weren’t badgering her to bathe yet, but she gave off a distinctly rancid odor, and Jacob and Rachel were just cruel about it.

 

“We aren’t going to hang out with her,” Rachel informed me as we were standing by the mailbox together. I turned to look over at my two friends’ front door, quickly spotting their petite and shy cousin peeking at us from behind it.

 

I felt terrible. Ostracizing the smelly little girl didn’t feel like the right thing to do — and the idea of blatantly ignoring her while we had our usual fun physically made me feel bad.

 

And while I don’t know how I phrased it (because I was like six), I do remember telling my friends off, preparing a picnic out in my front yard, and then inviting the smelly cousin over to dine with me. Jacob and Rachel were openly disgusted, and I think they felt a little betrayed (because they weren’t allowed to join us), but Smelly and I had a delightful time together, anyways. Looking back on it, I think that we had vegetarian deli-“meat” sandwiches (and that I possibly accidentally ate a bug while I was chewing on mine), but I can definitely remember biting into a sweet, red apple and feeling really, really good about it.

 

***

 

As an adult, I was once again warmed by the innate reward of kindness yesterday morning.

 

I was leaving Urban Standard after a few hours of studying when I noticed a homeless guy tucked into the dark inlet of an abandoned storefront. Our eyes met briefly, and a thought occurred to me just before I passed him.

 

“Hey — do you like chocolate?”

 

“Yeah,” he said.

 

“K… then hang on a sec.” Sliding my backpack off of my left shoulder, I knelt down, knees touching the concrete, to investigate its contents… and after a few awkward seconds, I found it: the plastic-wrapped, heart-shaped box my sweet HR department had gifted each employee with a few days before.

 

“I’m particularly excited about the orange creme flavor!” I’d thanked them via email, but I hadn’t actually opened the box yet, preferring to save it so that I could ‘look forward’ to it.

 

“Heeeeeere we go — happy LATE Valentine’s Day!” I laughed, handing it over to the guy.

 

He accepted the box gently, chuckling back at me. He had a very beautiful smile.

 

And it was just so nice to share the chocolate with someone. I enjoyed sharing it more than I would have enjoyed eating it! The good feeling that followed reminded me of a late-summer afternoon — enjoying a crisp apple alongside a smelly little girl; the vibrant green grass tickling our ankles, and the bright orange sunshine warming our faces…

 

***

 

On days when I’m feeling down, the easiest way to reframe my world view is to get outside of my own head, as it can sometimes steel itself into a sort of prison.

We inhabit these bodies and live in these minds — with their fiction and reality — constantly, rarely pausing to imagine the thoughts, longings, plights and ailments of others… but when you take just a minute to do so — to remember that the pain or anger or loneliness you’re experiencing right now is being felt by many — you don’t feel quite as alone, or misunderstood, or enraged. You suddenly feel this sense of community and this compulsion to practice compassion and you realize – or re-realize – that we’re all just doing the best we can to be happy… to become better and stronger people than we were yesterday, to be kinder to others than they have been to us, and to strike notes that sound increasingly more in-tune with our truest selves. Being kind to and gentle with others is, perhaps, the very best way of showing kindness to yourself.

 

And here’s a parting thought (which is not an original one — I ran across it pretty recently in an article or book that I can’t remember the name of):

 

Every word we speak, action we take, and decision we make brings us into greater harmony with our true selves or places us more at odds with ourselves.

 

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? Kindness is intuitive, really… your gut will quickly tell you – in any given situation – whether you’re being kind or unkind. Going back in time just a little, imagining myself walking past the homeless man with the box of chocolates still in my backpack feels BAD. It would have clearly been the wrong decision. And conversely-speaking, I knew, the very second I saw him, what the right decision was.

You can’t “save” everyone, of course, but when you’ve got an extra box of chocolates lying around, why not share the love? Your gut instinct, or intuition, is an excellent, inherent, and trustworthy guide for good decision-making…

 

For instance: Earlier today, when a cute boy asked me to grab coffee with him tomorrow morning, my intuition immediately answered yes. Yes, yes, yes. 

 

hola! did i just agree to a DATE? who knows! am i freaking out a little? nahhhhh…

 

Still here (and with kind regards),

Aun Aqui

I’d like to love, but…

Yep… it’s happening again. Come this time tomorrow evening, there’ll be cheap wine and overpriced flowers drooping in nearly every person’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode. Sidebar: If you hope for longevity in your relationship, SKIP the prematurely dead flowers and give your guy or gal a potted plant instead! I mean SERIOUSLY — what is up with these poor bouquets of DEATH? Are they supposed to symbolize that your relationship has already peaked and is now slowly wilting away? #thinkitthrough

“And I hope everyone’s Valentine’s Day is without explosive fires,” my professor joked with us yesterday evening as he was dismissing class. The joke was in reference to the creepy ending of my recent short story, When Things Got Out of Hand, which classmates had workshopped just moments before.

 

“You’ve really found your voice,” some of them said. And it was a cool thing to hear — that the cadence of my words had rung true to them.

 

“But this kinda felt like three different stories,” others pointed out. “Like… you’ve got three threads dangling here and none of them are tied together.”

 

And that made total sense… there were three stories within the story: divorce, the origins of an eating disorder, and jealousy. Any way of tying those loose strings together?

Absolutely — my classmates presented several really good and intriguing ideas for doing so… but in this blog post, I don’t really want to keep on talking about the story. I’d rather talk about love, and specifically, about how we sometimes chase after and then revolve around it instead of simply letting it come to and envelope us.

 

For most of us, love is revered as the ultimate thing to have — whether you stumble your way into it or specifically seek it out, it’s like unknowingly building a house atop a secret river of oil: Once you’ve realized what it is, you know that you’ve really lucked out.

 

And then – in addition to obsessing over this newfound wealth – we begin to define ourselves by this love… complimenting ourselves on the strengths, talents, and good looks of our companion — and having a companion, or lover, makes us feel other nice things, too, like being whole, and having worth, and – sometimes most importantly – not being alone.

 

But here’s the thing: You’re already whole on your own, you’re worth just as much as the person you hate and the person you love and the person you admire and the person you think little of (no more, no less), and you are always actually going to be alone. Always.

Because 1. when you die, you will die alone… nobody can feel that pain, experience that weirdness, or see that shit for you, and 2. until the very second that you die, no one will quite understand your mind, your desires, your motivations or your fears to the extent that you do… and while realizing this usually makes people feel deeply lonely, truly, isn’t it wonderful? Knowing that — although the whole world will sometimes stares right through you without feeling anything and that, often, it doesn’t really care about or understand you at all — that YOU get you, and you love you, and you’ve got you?

 

And there’s this, too: The amazingness or lousiness of the person you’re with doesn’t add to or detract from your own inherent worth. Want to be a super great and remarkable and respectable person? Cool… be one! Don’t date one. Or do date one, but don’t think that doing so makes you awesome (or vice versa).

 

I was just talking with a friend about love (#hottopic) earlier today… she’s in her early forties now and I’m in my mid-twenties, and we were both laughing over our predicaments: We go to work, shop for groceries, and fill our cars up with gas… and in the secret background of these mundane activities, we’re both often awkwardly hoping that, one of these days, Mr. Perfecto will just magically be there on aisle 9 or at pump 4 with enough guts to ask us out.

 

“And you see, that’s just it,” I said. “It has to happen like that — organically… in real life. I’m sure that, after several dating app-based dates with various people, I could find someone that I got along with, but that’s not going to be enough for me. I don’t want to date someone who is simply agreeable, or stable, or nice… there’s gotta be chemistry between us. A spark. And I’ll know when it’s there, because I’ve felt it before. But the thing is, that spark is something that you just inexplicably feel — not something you can know about it… you know? It’s not like you can’t deduce a spark from the picture or text on somebody’s online profile,” I sighed. “You’ve just gotta feel it. Sense it. So the real question is, when is this going to happen, and where, and am I supposed to be the brave one who initiates or ignites the spark? And if so, how the hell do you do that?” I laughed.

 

So while I am admittedly passively waiting and half-assedly looking for love, I’m mostly actively living my life… learning a new language, traveling (to Ecuador! In FOUR months!), writing stories, making music and friends, developing myself personally and professionally, and planning a fulfilling and fun-filled future.

 

For instance, did you know that I wrote a book last year and that you can now purchase it on Amazon (old news) OR at your local Whole Foods in Mountain Brook?!!

 

IMG_20180213_185506_120

 

 

So yeah — I’m waiting, but I’ve grown to be good at waiting, and because I’m keeping so busy and having so much FUN, it doesn’t really feel that much like waiting.

 

I meannnnnnnnnnn check me OUT; bein’ all single and whole and creative and happy and stuff!  🙂

 

 

Still here and single af,

Aun Aqui

a pond on fire and an almost-fight

This semester’s creative writing class is already in full swing, and of all the journal entries, character descriptions, and short stories I’ve written so far, two stick out in my mind:

 

  1. Those Stupid Mints
  2. When Things Got Out of Hand

 

So I’m sharing these two pieces below with a bit of background info prefacing both.

 

First Up: Those Stupid Mints

BG info: “Those Stupid Mints” was written in response to an assignment where we were supposed to depict two (or more) characters ALMOST having a fight, but not quite… like, there’s bickering, and there’s some tension, but everything is sort of misplaced and blown out of proportion, because the loaded statements and general heaviness in the air are over a remote control instead of who has (or doesn’t have) control in the relationship. OR, there’s a mother/daughter pair nitpicking over socks on the floor and dishes in the sink when the deeper issue — revealed to the reader or not — is bad grades, a recent diagnosis, or a suspected pregnancy. Something along those lines.

And while this is primarily a fiction writing class, the old adage still applies: You write what you know. So I often (but not always) recycle material – either loosely or actually – from real-life characters, memories, and experiences… and Those Stupid Mints — a short little number that features an unpleasant encounter with an ex in a grocery store — actually happened a few weeks back.

And in the short passage that follows, you’ll discover a girl who is pretty straightforward with her request and a guy who becomes oddly emotional and defensive in response to it. Bonus detail: There’s a sensitive line that I chose to leave out of the workshop version: “I was willing to do anything.” Why would he say that? I mean… what the ACTUAL hell? 

 

Those Stupid Mints

 

“All I’m saying is that if I ever need help, I can find someone else to help me… it doesn’t have to be you.”

 

He shook his head quickly and laughed at me, but not in a funny way. You probably know the type. “Whatever.”

 

“What do you mean, whatever? It’s not a big deal.”

 

He disagreed, of course. “I think it’s insane… you, coming in here and asking me to NOT do my job. To not be friendly. Trying to make me do something that isn’t natural,” he continued to himself in a descending mutter.

 

“I am not asking you to do something… I’m LITERALLY asking you to do NOTHING,” I cried, exasperated. “We haven’t spoken in six months, anyways, so I’m just asking you to please keep up with that. Unlike yesterday, when you said hello to me and I cried for a half hour afterwards. It’s just easier if you don’t.”

 

He folded his lips together in an unsmiling line as I watched one of his nostrils flare. Turning to me, he shrugged his shoulders in a way that tried to suggest I really don’t care, but the almost absent catch in his voice gave him away anyways. “Alright. Whatever. You just keep coming in here, getting your rosemary sourdough bread and that vegan chocolate cake.”

 

And then with those green eyes ablaze, he continued transferring clear packages of soft rolls from cart to shelf, his sidekick name tag catching the store’s harsh lights and then flashing them in my eyes, ruefully.

 

Stalker, I thought, storming off to buy him an apologetic container of those stupid, 10% ginger mints, because I can’t forget that he likes them.  

 

Numero Dos: When Things Got Out of Hand

BG info: This was my first short story of the semester (classmates are critiquing it this Monday — eek!), and in crafting it, I blended fiction, nonfiction, and magical realism all up together (like a smoothie!). I found a bit of inspiration within an awkward conversation I eavesdropped on at a cafe (hey — professor’s instructions!), wove some light fiction into the middle, and then carved my ending out of an unsettling dream I had last week.

 

When Things Got Out of Hand

 

She’s holding the latte with her left hand; I wonder if she’s left-handed?

He’s watching her other hand, the right one… she waves it around constantly; wiggling her fingers, and clicking her wrist back and forth as she paints pictures that illustrate her words. She’s been talking about design, and improv, and what’s tangible and what’s not, and when she speaks, she sounds so sure of herself, so in love with the sound of her own voice… but a minute ago, I heard her saying that a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant she’d tried shared a plaza with other things that weren’t that tangible, which didn’t make sense. Things that weren’t that popular would have made sense; things that weren’t that interesting would have been fine, too. But the word she chose to use was tangible, and I smirked a little after she said it.

Anyways, the guy she’s with has spent all morning staring at her, spending half of his energy listening to what she’s saying and the other half devising interesting ways of agreeing with what’s she saying. I’ve heard him say: “Yep!” And: “Yeah.” And then: “Oh yes. Oh yeah. Absolutely. Completely!” But most recently, we’ve been on a real “yep” spree. I haven’t heard him disagree with or challenge her yet… not even once. Remarkable.

And she’s dressed nicely; tight denim jeans and a soft blue sweater with a distinctly winterlike purple, blue, and green scarf skiing down both sides of her neck, gently crossing over her protruding collarbone. Her thin lips look a bit fuller with two careful swipes of red running across them, and the rouge on her cheeks makes her look even more sophisticated; even more alive.

“Didn’t you order something?” she asks, after an uncomfortable pause.

“Oh yeah — an omelette!” He gets up quickly, marches to the front counter, and I can overhear someone apologizing. Minutes later, the omelette has arrived, the man who ordered it seems to feel like a real hero, and all is well. He asks her to take a bite but she declines.

“Juice fast,” she explains, rolling her eyes.

Ahhhh… fancy, I muse. She and I both sneak glances over at the forbidden omelette as the pair continue talking: 3D printers and the cafe’s sound-bouncing construction were – sadly – the main highlights.  

***

“I think we’ve established that you like fun things,” he says suddenly, maybe thirty minutes later.

Well that seemed out of nowhere, I think, reflecting on our – their – last few minutes of conversation.

“Yes, I do.” Her tone is heavy, but also smooth, like shea butter. If her words carried a scent, they’d smell like incense, and if they had a look, they’d look like tangled bed sheets. Wine-red ones. 

“Then we’re going to find something fun to do,” he states coolly.

Oh god, I mourn on his behalf, laughing inside my head.

“Yes we are,” she murmurs back at him, and I can hardly contain my laughter now. Is she really not picking up on the complete and utter lameness of him?

They’re getting up to leave now — her coat is a hard-to-read gray, and his jacket is black. She’s carrying a pricey-looking purse and he’s got a laptop case.

When they step outside, they realize it’s raining. I’ve been watching the rain pummel the window all morning. Seemingly feeling brilliant, he whips out an umbrella and tries to open it; I observe him, amused. Standing underneath the cafe’s awning together, they eventually figure out how to keep the thing open, and then off they are, to do something fun together.

He’s likely wondering how much more time he’s gotta put in and she’s probably asking herself whether or not she can actually stand his arrogant attempt at coolness… whether or not kissing those agreeable lips will do anything for her at all.

***

It was totally a first date type of deal, I tell my best friend, and we laugh over it.

Could they tell that you were watching them?

Nah… they were too busy sucking up to each other. She was trying very hard to look and sound cool and he was trying very hard to match her. Vomit. We laugh again.

I exit the kitchen and kick off my shoes in the hallway; dingy black Vans. I shrug my leather jacket off, too, and hang it on the spacey-orange coat rack. I bought it off of Amazon last year when I decided to reclaim the house, thinking that a coat rack would make me happier somehow… bidding me goodbye in the morning and welcoming me home again in the evening, like he used to. I’d sold all of the furniture my ex and I’d bought together a few months after we split, and the place had nothing in it for a while, other than your basic appliances and a bed to sleep on. But now, a coat rack, a collection of cheerful plants, and scarves hanging like drapes from windows and door frames.

Turning away from the coat rack, I plunge my fingers into my German Shepherd’s thick, black fur and then give her a tummy a rough rubbing. I watch her jaw drop as she opens her mouth to grin up at me. I smile back down at her, pat her firmly on the back in a “run along” kind of way, and then make my way over to the staircase.

A few minutes later, up in my November Skies Blue bedroom, I’m laying in bed with a book. I try reading for a while but soon realize that I’m just re-reading the same sentences over and over again, waiting for them to register. I can’t stop thinking about that dumb couple.

Are they a couple now? I wonder. One semi-successful encounter… a two-hour long conversation… and now they’re a thing because they didn’t immediately repel each other? Shouldn’t there be a real spark in the air when two souls go ablaze? Or was there a spark and I just didn’t see or feel it?

I proceed to imagine having my own first date with someone someday. A new someone. I indulge myself in wondering where we’ll be; at a cafe, like them, or a park, or a restaurant…

Not a restaurant, I decide quickly, because I’d be too worried about them watching me eating. The ideal situation, I decide, would be a quick dip into a cafe downtown for two lattes and then a long walk around the park. If we’re walking, they’re looking at me less, I reason, and then I feel settled, having sorted this pesky matter out ahead of time. Possibly well ahead of time. I sigh.

Flinging the book onto a pillow, I scoot off of my bed, and over in the bathroom, I flip a switch on so that I can look into the mirror.

And there in the mirror, I catch my eyes first; blue-green, like late afternoon ocean water. My best friend calls them cosmic eyes, and he says it in a nice way, but I’ve always wished that they were brown. Brown eyes are so mysterious, so full of depth… and some of the loveliest things in the world are brown: coffee, chocolate, tree bark, pine cones, pinto beans, German Shepherds…

Through with my eyes, I travel down to my lips (small), nose (too round), and jaw (too round also). I take a sideways step so that I can examine my profile. What an awkward shape, I frown. I lift my wrinkly t-shirt up with one hand, bunching it against my ribcage, and cover my exposed belly button with the other, feeling the warmth of my curvy stomach and the coldness of my bony hand meet, like two opposing weather fronts. My stomach is never flat enough. Never ever ever. But I’ve always liked my hands. My grandmother casually mentioned them looking like piano hands once, back when I was much younger, and I’ve held the unintentional compliment close ever since.

But because of my stomach, I put the scale away months ago… watching it slowly tick upwards from 105 to 117 was just too painful. I decided that I would live with the belief that 117 was where I’d maxed out and fuck it if I was wrong. Since adolescence, I’d read and written all kinds of stuff about eating disorders, but I decided that owning one would be too trendy. It was simply like this: Sometimes I eat, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I eat a whole damn lot. I thought about the guy’s omelette again and let my shirt fall.

Done scrutinizing, I skip down the stairs and poke my head into the living room. My best friend has his headset on and doesn’t seem to have heard me, so I figure that he’s playing video games. No need to interrupt, I decide.

Instead, I mosey into the kitchen and open the fridge; taking a quick inventory, I can’t seem to see past the numbers — two hundred and sixty calories equals x miles of jogging, y number of sit-ups, or z minutes of cardio… and whether it’s a single-serve cup of yogurt or some thick spoonfuls of egg salad, it is really worth it?

Nah. Not today, anyways. I close the fridge, tiptoe back upstairs, and fall asleep on my bed.

***

I wake up before sunrise, feeling that something is off. I blink a few times, shaking the drowsiness off, and slip out of bed, descending those stairs again.

I’m inexplicably drawn toward the front of the house, and I don’t question it. I creep towards the front door, hearing my heartbeat kick into high gear and feeling my sweat glands activating. In the background of my mind, I’m wondering if my best friend is awake, sensing the same weirdness that I am.

I wrap my left hand around the doorknob, molding my shape to its own, and use my right hand to draw the side-window’s curtain aside. The curtain’s pattern, or design, has always reminded me of Indian food. I can’t really explain why. My best friend and I order Indian food every Friday night to celebrate the end of another work week. And what day is it? I wonder, because I’m already tasting cumin on my tongue and curry on my lips, and I can actually feel rich bits of paneer sticking to the back of my teeth.

And now, peering through the window, I can see what’s off; there’s a man outside, standing in my front yard. That’s what it is. His back is toward me, and he isn’t doing anything but standing there. How odd, I think to myself.

And like a crazy person — like one of those idiotic, B-rated movie characters, minus the boobs — I unlock the door and step through it. The man turns around to look at me, but his face is impossible to read; the small amount of pre-dawn light outlines his general shape, and that’s it — he’s thin and of average height with short hair.

I continue facing him until he resumes facing forward, and then I notice him toss something into the front yard.

“My dog will enjoy looking for it later,” I offer, speaking aloud for the first time. My voice sounds bright, unafraid. Who am I?

He says nothing, but bends himself into halves, reaching down and then coming up again with something in his arms. He could be holding a bouquet, or a six-pack, or a stereo, or a plate carrying an omelette. But he does something with his right hand and then I hear a splashing sound, like thick drops of water are now hitting the ground.

He shakes the container, as I realize that’s what it is, and rains the liquid everywhere, and instead of watching from the window this time, I’m standing right there in the rain, watching.

In one fluid movement, he jumps further down into the yard, which has a naturally steep slope, and when he lands, there’s a splash. I realize, with less surprise than you might imagine, that the usually grassy and overgrown yard has turned into a pond. Intrigued by him and by this change in environment, my eyes are riveted on the guy as he pulls out a lighter, because it is light enough now that, though tiny, I can see what it is. I hear and watch him flick the lighter on with his right hand. He pauses.

And then when he tosses the lighter directly behind him, somehow, he lights the whole pond on fire.

At once, things become all dancey and orange — it’s beautiful, really… magical — and I’m so stunned that I’m not even sure if I’m scared yet. I return my gaze to the man’s face and he looks back at me for one hard second before closing his eyes and journeying down, down, down into the water.

A pond on fire, I think to myself, reaching for the front door knob and screaming out for my best friend and German Shepherd.

 

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

How sanitary napkins relate to my love life

I stepped into Target last week for some basic necessities: paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags and the like… but while I was there, I also found a simple and suitable unpadded bra (I hate the padded ones!) and a few cool pairs of socks (one featuring cacti, for my best friend Charlie, and another donning bunny rabbits, each of them pictured mid-hop). After snagging the most perfect, rose-pink, three-ring binder for my new cover collection, I meandered over to a nearby register to check out. A young strawberry blonde with thick glasses stood readily behind it.

 

And as she rang up my items, she chatted incessantly, so I didn’t notice what she was scanning when she asked: “Oooooooh… have you tried these?”

 

I looked down at the items to her left, the ones that had just been scanned: aluminum foil, socks, greeting cards and sanitary napkins.

 

“Uhhhhhhhh… tried what? I’m sorry,” I said, lost. I wish, now, that I would have just picked something with my mind and offered some general, positive comment about it.

 

“These,” she said, lifting the box of pads into the air and then waving it around. Like a flag. Returning to that moment, I still can’t believe that she did it.

 

wait what
GC: Google Images

 

I looked around and then answered (quietly): “Oh — those! Those! No, no… I uh… hate getting them, so I usually buy like five months’ worth at a time, and uh, these weren’t here the last time I came, so they’re new, probably…”

 

“Huh! I wonder if they’re good? I’ve seen a couple of people buy them.”

 

Good? I thought to myself. Good how?!

 

“Yeah — I’m not sure. They’re chlorine-free, you know… chemical-free and what-have-you… natural…” my voice tapered off and I swallowed. When it was time to pay up, I swiped my REDcard faster than a bolt of lightning can strike and then hightailed it on outta there.

 

When I finally got to my car, I laughed about it. But I mean… really? How are they? Their sole purpose is to soak up blood, lady… so I really don’t know how to gauge the goodness of them, other than in terms of their effectiveness or comfort or what the brand does to better the world, which is, I guess, what you were wondering about. But of all things — to ask me about them.

Now, if I’d purchased something more conversation-neutral, like a fine box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies or a nice little stack of animal-themed greeting cards (which I DID buy), we could have got on quite nicely…

 

***

 

Sooooooooo, my main point: Awkwardly interesting conversations follow weird questions. Like this one.

 

“This might sound like a really crazy idea,” she warned, bracing me for it, “but have you ever thought about trying one of those dating apps?”

 

I sighed. This was last night – Friday evening – and I was driving home from work… and in light of the source, I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d heard the person correctly.

 

“Dating apps, mother?”

 

“Yeah! You know…”

 

I smiled at my steering wheel and the long line of shining red cars parked ahead of mine.

 

“Uhhhhhhhhh no.”

 

“Ohhhh!” she grumbled, in a way that implied that she’d already known my answer. “Why not, Rose? You’re so BUSY — all you ever do is go to cafes and work and school… how will you ever find someone? Other people, who are busy like you, probably use these things! Why not give it a shot?”

 

“Because whether or not they choose to ask you out on a date depends upon your PICTURE. That’s why. That picture – your exterior – determines whether or not they’re interested in you, and I absolutely refuse to date someone who is that superficial.” Although, even in real life, that is the first test we run a prospect through, isn’t it? We look at them and think to ourselves: Hmmmm… brown eyes, brown hair, and a confidently relaxed mannerism paired with a not-too-arrogant gait… could I enjoy kissing them? Would I feel proud to walk alongside them, hand-in-hand? And then we proceed to wonder what other people would think about this new, hypothetical us, imagining them answering questions like: Do you think they go well together? Is one of them too pretty or smart or rich for the other? Do they look nice in this trying-too-hard-to-be-nontraditional-and-effortless engagement photo, or is she way too fucking tall for him? 

 

“Yeah, but I’m sure they would read about you, too,” she argued into the phone. “You would have a profile where you could put interesting things about yourself… and I think that you can narrow your search down, too!” she added brightly. “That way, you can find people who like the same things you do — like writing, and music, and traveling…”

 

Halfway wondering how much time she’d already spent researching the subject, I shook my head (although the idea of typing in very specific filters like Indian and dancer and loves German Shepherds and enjoys picnics at the park was oddly tempting). “It’s just too orchestrated, Sierra. I want to meet this person naturally… within my 3D life, and in a way that’s organic.” Like my new pads, I thought. “So I will not resort to a dating app until I’m at least 30.” Which gives you four years, I reminded myself casually, and then shuddered.

 

She sighed. “Well you know,” she continued, unabashed, “if you’re looking to find a really DECENT person, there IS a place you could go to in-person…”

 

Now, it was my turn to sigh. “No, mother. I’m not going back to church.”

 

And that was that.

 

And then, she texted me early this morning, asking: “Did u ever hear from DMV guy?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Loser”

 

No period, exclamation mark, anything. And in case you didn’t know, “Loser” hits with triple the impact when it’s written without punctuation. Oh Sierra. I truly love the heck out of you.

 

IMG_20180127_103544_975
Tycho says that she hates my phone because it takes my attention away from her (reason #007 why dating apps and boys in general are a no-go)

 

Still here (with a host of self-identifying Buddhist pads and no dating apps or losers),

Aun Aqui

 

 

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

$9.99

Ditching Love (and watching fires burn)

I was talking on the phone last night, but the conversation was distracted, as ​there was a car on fire about three hundred yards in front of me.

“Oh no!” Mom exclaimed when I clued her in.

“Yeah,” I breathed.

“Are there people in there?”

Although she couldn’t see, I still shook my head quickly. “No way. There are like four cop cars scattered around the place. They wouldn’t have left somebody in there.”

“Well that’s good… I think I hear an ambulance?” she asked hopefully.

“Yep — it’s on its way now,” I said, looking for it as it came.

***

For years now, I’ve been training myself to climb out of love. Cause you fall into it, right? Easily. Too easily. And things are really, really great for a while. But then, one very sad day, figuring out how to un-love that person suddenly becomes your all-consuming problem. If you’re there right now, my heart is with you, because I’m still there, and I’ve got some half-good news for both of us, because I believe that – to a certain extent – I have finally figured it out: How to ditch love. And the approach might surprise you.

First of all, here’s what I imagined love to look like this morning, driving to work again, my vision blurry with those stupid tears again:

Love is like a gift.

Your love for someone (romantic or platonic) essentially crafts a gift that is entirely unique to the person you want to give your love to. Right? And you’re excited to give it to them. You can’t wait to see the delight on their face and get a nice, big hug or a smooch on the lips from them afterwards.

But sometimes, that person doesn’t want your gift. Or they did before and now they don’t. And you’re suddenly standing in front of a closed door, a perfectly wonderful gift in your eager hands, and can hear them laughing with and loving someone else on the other side. And hearing this possibly makes you vomit.

You feel so bad that your body can’t even contain the sadness of it; it leaks right out of your eyes, nearly pulling you off the road, where you’d honestly like to just bury yourself underneath a crumpled car in a tragically smelly ditch.

But if you don’t end up wrecking your car, what DO you do? How do you bear the burden that love becomes when it is unrequited and doubles its weight with sadness? How do you move on — enjoy life, meet people, and all of that other, nice bullshit? 

Here’s my brand new (and now undergoing testing) theory: You simply store it away, like a gift that can’t be given yet.

You take the gift and place it in a closet, or on a dresser, or some other safe place. If the person ever comes around, you’ve still got their gift. If they don’t, you’ll die with it in your closet or on your dresser. That’s okay, right? Better than just throwing it away (because unfortunately, in the case of love, returning it for a refund isn’t possible).

You might be thinking: Can’t I just give the gift to someone else? If only. It’s like a jacket perfectly tailored to the height, weight, and style of the guy or gal you loved before — the one you made it for. It wouldn’t fit the next one right. It wouldn’t look right, or feel right, and you’d hate seeing it on them.

And while love isn’t transferable, it is indestructible… so if the person you want to want it doesn’t want it, store it away, and then look away.

***

The firefighters showed up quickly. Soon, I was watching tall flames transform into thick billows of smoke, and I thought to myself, when and how will my inner chaos die down? Because unlike the car, no firefighters are heading my way.

***

And I received my answer this morning, foregoing – once again – listening to tunes on the way to work for some more “talking out loud” self-therapy. I navigated through – not around – all of the grief and guilt and jealousy and false hope and finally arrived at my answer.

And I can already hear it… a week, a month or so from now, another friend asking: “Soooooooo, it’s been a while. Are you over it now? Are you finally okay?”

And I’ve got my answer ready for them. For you, too, if you’d like to hear it (I really hope it helps… at least a little):

“I’m not over it, but the good news is: I’m no longer waiting to be. I’ve discovered that love – real love – isn’t something you can get over, ditch, or toss away. It’s something that sits peacefully and quietly, hands folded neatly in its lap, and waits. Daringly hopefully, at times, and then desperately and bitterly at others… but it waits. And not just for a while, sorry… for always. And I’ve reconciled myself to this: Always waiting.”

Pause.

“And that’s okay! While I’m waiting, look at what I’m doing… working, writing, furthering my education, learning another language, going on all sorts of adventures and enjoying the company of people who do love me… now, I won’t lie to you; I sometimes reach my right hand over in the car and pretend that an invisible person – that person – is holding it; I laugh when a song they liked comes on, wishing we were dancing to it, and I tense up nervously slash excitedly slash angrily when someone who looks like them passes by me, here and there, as I’m ambling along… but I just keep telling myself that their gift is still out there, and that it isn’t going away. It’s reassuring to remember this, and simply surrendering to the forever-ness of this love – of all real love – INSTEAD of continuing to resist it has taken the edge off of my pain. Where sadness and missing him and wondering about “our” could-be future used to preoccupy my mind, I’m now free to think about other stuff, like lunches that consist of more than just coffee and pistachios. I feel free, and happy, to plan new adventures and to look at other people and to wonder about them… because I’m no longer trying to put out old fires. Now, I’m just watching them burn.”

 

And the longer that gift stays there in its box, catching dust and dog hair on its fancy wrapping, the less I remember or think about it. So I’m doing okay. Very well, actually.

 

Still here,
Aun Aqui

A car, boy, coffee shop and conversation

You might remember the pizza plate hero (the guy who used a soiled paper plate to scrub ice off my windshield a few weeks back?). Yeah… well sadly, that comical and endearing event is not where my car woes ended.

My sometimes sweet and sometimes salty (like a #chocolate covered #pretzel) ’99 Neon’s been having issues for a while now — like, years. But without getting too deeply into it, within the last month ALONE, it has refused to turn on a few times and conked out on a rather steep hill, causing me – to my great alarm – to involuntarily roll backwards.

So I took my Neon to the shop in early January for a thorough inspection. My favorite and most trusted mechanics delivered the grave news to me a day later.

 

“I mean, it needs a new transmission,” one guy said.

 

“Among MANY other things,” the other one added.

 

I didn’t like the way he’d said transmission. I didn’t like the word itself or his sober tone.

 

“So… should I… do that? Get the new transmission?” I asked them both, quietly.

 

One of the two (the taller one) shook his head a few times, left to right, and right to left, before answering. “No ma’am. If I were you, I’d just get another car.”

 

***

 

I cried on my way to the car dealership and on the way back, but within a week, I was in a new car. A NEW CAR! Literally! For the last decade, I’ve only driven the Neon, so parting ways was, understandably, very difficult. I kissed it on the steering wheel before grabbing a trash bag full of stray items and walking away.

 

“So this car has heat? And air conditioning?” I quizzed my salesman fifteen minutes later, sitting on the clean, gray driver’s seat of a brand new Ford.

 

“Uh — yeah!” he answered quickly, eyeing me curiously.

 

I was elated, and told him so. And from there, the good news just kept getting greater and better.

 

This car’s odometer worked (meaning I could now know exactly how far I’d driven — in total, and from trip to trip!), and its speedometer worked, too (which meant that I would no longer have to ‘gauge the pace of traffic’), AND – just like the good ole’ icing atop the cake – I could even play my favorite Spotify tunes through the car’s sophisticated speakers (via Bluetooth).

 

I was sold.

 

“And to think — I originally wanted this car simply because of its NAME!” I laughed. I think he thought I was joking. He doesn’t know that I’m majoring in Spanish. 

 

After negotiating a little and signing some paperwork, we walked outside together. “Is that my car?” I asked excitedly, pointing at one. He looked over at me without speaking. It wasn’t.

 

And we’ve been painting the town purple together for two weeks now. Fiesta Fantz and I are very much in love. I walked past her, on accident, while trying to leave Railroad Park yesterday, but bonding takes time, you see… sometimes, an entire decade. But you never know.

 

***

 

Yesterday, I got up very early and drove down to Birmingham’s DMV (to transfer the Neon’s tag over). I purposefully arrived early and stood outside of the courthouse for a bit, shivering in the cold and peeking my nose into a paperback copy of Writing Fiction.

 

After patting me down and inspecting the contents of my backpack, a guard directed me to walk down a long corridor that ended in double doors. I tugged on one of these doors and discovered that it was locked.

 

“Ahhh, shoot — maybe they open at 8,” I thought to myself. It was like 7:48ish.

 

So I turned around and noticed a young man (who was still a ways down the corridor). His gait instantly struck me as familiar, so I narrowed my eyes a little, zooming in on him. When he suddenly tossed his head back in that certain way, it struck me: UGH! Shiiiiiit… not HIM!

 

It was one of my ex-husbands (of which I have one), and there’s just no other word for it; I felt absolutely repulsed. Not because he’s a gross person, but because I simply couldn’t stand the idea of standing out there, behind locked double doors, and having to speak with him for an excruciating 12ish minutes.

Since last summer, sometime in July, I think, we haven’t spoken at all. I didn’t want us to end on bad terms, but when I had texted him – more than a year after our divorce – and asked him to please get coffee with me, explaining that I truly did want to remain friends and would love to actually do stuff friends do, he told me that he didn’t have time for me anymore. After 5 years of being his everything all of the time, suddenly, my worth didn’t even equal that of a warm, 12-ounce latte and thirty minutes of his day.

 

Well fuck him, I thought to myself, and haven’t spoken to him since.

 

So yesterday, realizing that he was now a few mere yards away from me, I turned around – re-facing the double doors – and fumed silently. To my surprise, an employee on the other side was unbolting the doors… HALLELUJAH JESUS AMEN. 

 

“You need something?” he asked gruffly, once one of the doors had opened.

 

“Hi! Yes! Oh, wonderful… well, I’m just here to purchase, or I guess transfer, my car tag… but I wasn’t sure if maybe you guys weren’t open ye–”

“We’re NOT. Go have a seat,” he grumbled, slamming the door shut and re-locking it. The thud sound that the locking made hit me right in the heart.

 

Taking an extra-extra-extra deep breath, I turned around and realized – to my extreme delight – that the man sitting on the bench wasn’t my ex. It was somebody I didn’t know at all (who oddly had the same gait and, seemingly, mannerisms as my ex).

 

Feeling a little embarrassed now (because I wasn’t sure if he’d noticed my intense staring and look of disgust seconds before), I sat a few feet away from him and smiled at the floor.

 

“Pretttytjdk;arfk;alskxnnya, eh?” he said.

 

……….I couldn’t fathom what on earth he’d just said but believed that he’d slurred some southern expression I wasn’t yet aware of, so in response, I offered: “Cold out there, huh?!”

 

About fifteen seconds passed and I felt myself turning red, or possibly just pink. What if he was just asking me about my behavior — the staring, the repulsed expression? He was far enough away to have not seen clearly, right? Is he wearing glasses? Maybe? That would mean he has bad vision — so surely…

 

“So uhh… are you uhn uh-spy’ring wry-tuh?”

 

Holy shit, I thought to myself. This guy isn’t incredibly southern — he’s incredibly SCOTTISH. Like David Tenant! And now that I’m looking at him, he’s actually really cute… not repulsive in the slightest!

 

“Oh — oh, yes! This book!” I held the book up for both of us to see. “Yes… well, I wrote a book last year — published it on CreateSpace, which is an Amazon-owned company, so it wasn’t like a for real published book, but you know… I really like it!… but I gave the only copy I had on me to a girl yesterday who was making my smoothie, because she mentioned she was working on a comic book, and I thought that she’d like to see what her final product might look like if she ALSO published on CreateSpace… and anyways, yes, I’m going to school now, with this book, to become a BETTER writer.” How many words was that? I’m doing awful, aren’t I? Could have just said “Yeah”, “Yep!”, or “Yes…” 

 

But despite my rough intro, we continued chatting for the next 11 minutes and it was really, really nice. I learned a good bit about him… like: as a self-proclaimed avid reader, he has shelves full of books; he lived out in California for a while and played music with some people; they covered the infamous song “Toxic” in a bar once (“Me and my band did, too!” I cried, laughing), and although he used to write a lot of original songs, he hasn’t really created anything lately.

“I’ve been sort oof bizzy, yoo’know… with (something I didn’t catch) and a kit…”

“A… cat? Like a kitten?” I encouraged him. I couldn’t wait to mention my German Shepherds.

 

“No, no… a KIT…” he repeated, holding his hand about two feet off the ground.

 

“Ohhhhhh! A kid! A child!” 

 

He nodded, smiling cutely. A boy, he said.

 

He has a child, I thought. A boy. That’s okay. I peeked down at his left hand and saw zero rings there, and then slapped myself on my own left wrist (spiritually-speaking). He could be dating the person, you idiot! It’s the 21st century… HELLO. 

 

The double doors unbolted suddenly and, without looking at him or saying goodbye, I walked right through them… taking my place in line and then transferring my tag over with a quick swipe of my Visa.

 

***

 

“What was his name?” my friend asked yesterday evening.

 

“I DON’T KNOW!” I texted back. “We never really introduced ourselves!” I’d given him a business card of mine (pre-kid business… still don’t know what his relationship status is) after sharing the title of my novel. “If you’d like a copy of it, just shoot me an email and I’ll send you one!” I’d said.

 

“So we’ll just have to see if he emails,” I told my friend. “But since I awkwardly and rudely walked away shortly after he mentioned his kid (#unintentional #flirtingfail5000), I doubt he will.”

 

So yes… I’m learning how to flirt, I guess. But it didn’t feel like flirting, really, because I wasn’t trying to be cute at all, and my unwashed hair was thrown up into a messy ponytail, so I’m sure I didn’t look cute, either. It just felt like I was enjoying a nice conversation with someone, and like I’d like to continue conversing with them over coffee.

 

***

 

This morning, I was at war with myself, trudging through a cloudy and forest-y coffee crisis.

 

“I just don’t know where to go today,” I told Charlie, “and I guess that – if that’s the biggest issue of my day – it’s a rather great day.” I’d already been to Urban Standard this week (my number one) and figured that meant that I should just go to Red Cat… but I just wasn’t in the mood for their soul-nourishing Gouda grits, and I’d actually been having some odd daydreams of another coffee shop.

 

I couldn’t recall the name of the place, but I remembered that it had a brown couch in the corner of the room. I’d eaten a burrito and drank whiskey on that couch once, and for whatever reason, I felt like it would be a good place to revisit.

 

I googled names of local cafes and viewed images of them until I’d found it.

 

“FOUND IT!” I celebrated aloud.

 

So I drove out there about an hour ago. I parked my car and then strode across the parking lot, wearing black Vans, black jeans, a cool, green, corduroy shirt, and a black leather jacket. I was also donning a pair of dark blue mittens (they had been on sale at Bargain Hunt — thirty seven cents! — and were child-sized, but they worked).

 

Right after entering the cafe, I looked over to the right and spotted it: the brown couch. Oh, this will be just perfect, I thought to myself, imagining all of the writing I’d do and the Spanish I’d study.

 

I approached the front counter to place my order. “Hi! I’d like a white chocolate caramel latte, please,” I smiled.

 

“Ahhh… we can do a regular mocha?” the guy offered apologetically. “No white chocolate,” he explained.

 

“Oh — well that’s no problem!” I replied quickly, because I hate it when people feel bad. “How about caramel dark chocolate, then, with whipped cream?”

 

“No whipped cream, either,” he frowned.

 

I paused.

 

“That’s totally alright! I’ll think about it for a few minutes,” I smiled, nodding my head, thanking him, and exiting the cafe.

 

As I walked back to my car, I felt a strange surge of joy, and at first, it was totally bizarre. But then, it made total sense.

 

In the past, I would have been afraid to say no, never mind, that’s not what I want today. I would have proceeded to order a coffee that I didn’t like and then sat down feeling disappointed in myself while being unable to peg it. But today, I avoided all of that silly nonsense, because I finally knew what to do: pause, assess shit, and figure out what you really want… sans pressure. 

 

And what I really want is a white chocolate caramel latte with whipped cream, I decided, turning the key (which is now attached to a fob, btw… #nbd) and making my way over to Red Cat.

 

***

 

And that coffee shop story reminds me of a conversation that Charlie and I shared about a month ago. I had just mentioned to him that I had recently returned all of my books to the library.

 

“Oh wow — so you finished the whole Ender series?” he asked, sounding impressed.

“Oh, no… I didn’t,” I confessed. “The first book really blew me away — the character writing and the ending, my god, were so, so GOOD! And the second book was great, too — I loved reading about the piggies, and I will never, ever forget how lovely a being Human was… but the third book just wasn’t doing it for me,” I continued. “It lost my interest. I had to pick it up five, six times just to make it through like 40 pages, and that’s when I knew that I just wasn’t about that story anymore.”

 

So the third book and the fourth book and any other Ender-related books out there aren’t on my radar anymore. And that’s okay.

 

I always thought that loyalty meant that you had to stick around, feign interest, and stay for the whole ride… but it really doesn’t. You can pop in for a chapter or ten of someone else’s story and then decide to meander off for a while, or for forever… and I think that’s exactly what happened with Christopher and I. After we’d created some space between us, I realized that I still wanted to be in his story, and that I also wanted him to stay in mine. I wanted to keep talking and keep making music, but for him, my script ran out of lines and my role ended completely when I took the ring off.

And just like I have a right to decide what stories I want to read, or continue reading, and what coffees I want to purchase and enjoy, he has the right to decide which human beings he wants to invest time in. And if I’m not one of them… well, that’s alright. I just hope that we both enjoy our rides.

 

 

Time to study Spanish. Wonder if Mr. DMV Scotland’s ever going to email…

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

If you’re about to set some goals… why?

Meditate, read books, write books, eat burritos, return to college, and go on adventures…

 

I’m recalling from memory, but I believe that’s everything I put on my 2017 personal development plan. I wouldn’t call these things “goals”, because “goals” is a funny and muddied word (for me)… I’d prefer referring to them as ideals, visions, intentions, aims, aspirations, or initiatives. Or possibly endeavors. They were basically things that I felt it would be good to do. I imagined that they would help me grow further into myself, make me happier (somehow), and render me more useful to my community and the world than before. Because that’s just the kind of difference that burritos make.

 

And you know what? I hit every single one of them — initiatives, intentions, goals; whatever you wanna call ’em, I DID them. I’m back in school (learning a new language and how to be a better writer), I wrote (and published!) a book back in August, I went on a solo adventure in Denver this spring and took a work trip to Seattle this fall, AND I’ve eaten more burritos than I could ever possibly calculate. And I am not a particularly strong or “disciplined” person… so how? How did I “realize” or “actualize” these big and little dreams, and with the calendar year just a few fleeting hours from over, what is continuing to sustain me in this ongoing pursuit?

 

I believe that the better question is why; as in, why did I set and commit to these “goals” in the first place?

 

Here’s my why: I wanted to become a better person (meditate), a more educated person (college), a happier person (burritos), and a more fulfilled person (the creative endeavors and travel adventures). I think it’s also important to mention that I didn’t set arbitrary, numeric-based “goals” for myself, like:

  • Write four books, one per quarter
  • Register for five college classes a semester
  • Meditate for one hour a day (minimum)
  • Travel to X number of states/countries annually
  • Hate yourself and start eating junk food if any or all of this goes to shit

 

Instead, I kept them – the goals (since that’s a happenin’ kind of word this time of year) – simple. Open-ended. Easy to navigate.

My goals:

Just go to school, whether that means taking one class or a full load. Just write something — be it a whole book or just a few starting chapters for one. Just meditate sometimes… follow your breath at a red light instead of checking your phone, and take a minute to think compassionate thoughts when you’re standing in line at Whole Foods instead of eyeing the tasty POS temptations (like Jason’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups). And eat burritos… however many you like. Just budget them in somewhere, because you really love them, and the universe gets that.

 

I think new year resolutions can be great, depending on the quality of and the motive behind each individual resolution. Are you weighing yourself down and stressing yourself out with numbers? (Not the best idea.) Or are you gently but resolutely routing yourself in a clear and heart-driven direction, lovingly following your passionate, innate, deep-seated and soulful why? (Better idea.)

 

Think: I want to be healthy — NOT “I want to lose X number of pounds.” Try: I want to spend more time outdoors… NOT “I can only watch X hours of television a day.” And if you want to be healthier, in what ways? Diet, exercise, mental health? A mix of those things? Why? And if you want to spend more time outside, why? Are you craving some fresh air and sunshine — cool winds and cold rain? Is there a particular time of the year that you just LOVE, that especially inspires and nurtures you? Could you plan fun outings for then? What outdoor hobbies/activities might you enjoy? Is there a club or enthusiast group of sorts that you could join? Would doing something like that help you stay on track? What about starting a blog?  

 

20171226_162844
I kept this vision board pinned up at work ALL YEAR LONG and glanced over at it DAILY, which is probably another factor that helped contribute to my “success.”

 

 

A parting quote from some guy named Jack Dixon:

If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

$9.99

The key to happiness (or at least neutrality)

I was standing in line at Publix on Thursday with one person in front of me and two behind me. The two were a grandmother-granddaughter pair, and the grandmother was resting her arms on a cart as she supervised her granddaughter, who was hurriedly tossing items onto the conveyor belt: barbecue chips, beef jerky, a yellow carton of Blue Bell ice cream, a yellow box of Eggos…

 

“OOOOOOOOOH,” the granddaughter (who looked to be about 12) cooed, reaching up for a comic or magazine.

 

“Not until you’ve read your current one,” Grandmother declared in a tone of finality.

 

“Ohhhhhkay,” Granddaughter sighed.

 

A few seconds later…

 

“Your phone,” Grandmother grumbled, fumbling with it. “Someone’s trying to TEXT you,” she stated, presenting the granddaughter’s phone to her.

 

The granddaughter leaned over the cart and peeked at the name or just number displaying on her screen without accepting the phone. “Eh, it’s not an important person,” she decided, continuing to transfer items from cart to belt, using both hands.

 

Not an important person. I repeated the phrase in my head. Why do we all bother filling our lives with anyone but important persons? It’s such a waste of time and energy… 

 

***

 

The day before – Wednesday – I was at work, shuffling through paperwork and planning my agenda for the following week. I knew that my boss was going to be out on vacation, and I wanted to have enough projects stored up and events slash branch visits scheduled that I wouldn’t grow bored or restless.

 

I turned toward my weekly planner — a cool, outer space-themed calendar that I keep out on my desk, lying flat — and accidentally flipped two pages instead of one. My heart sank.

 

“Oh noooooooo! It’s OVER,” I mourned. “The calendar — the year — is over…”

 

And just like that, my beloved calendar became obsolete. I brought it home with me that evening — I plan on salvaging the pictures and creating a space collage of sorts.

Time slips away from us so easily, so mysteriously… like snow. I watched the wind blow it right out of the trees a week and a half ago, following an uncharacteristic snowfall. It’s there for a day — covering the ground, painting our cars, and coating the trees — and then it simply vanishes. Vaporizes.

Most of us took pictures of it and all of us have memories of it, but otherwise, it’s gone. And when it leaves, it looks spectacular — glittering in the air, tumbling down over itself, and then just magically disappearing. Its impossibly strange exit makes you pause and wonder, where did it actually go? 

 

***

 

The morning before THAT and THAT – on Tuesday – I was getting ready for work when Charlie walked into my room.

“Hey — you got your final grades yesterday, right? As?”

“Yep!” I smiled.

“Well congratulations, GRADUATION BUN!” he cheered.

“HA! I wish,” I murmured. Then, my heart sank again, sort of like it would the next day, when I would realize that my time had run out, and like it had a week before, when I had watched something truly beautiful appear to meet its end.

“No, actually… I don’t…” 

 

***

 

Why un-wish graduation on myself? If I’m a kayak, depression is the undercurrent tugging at me from beneath the waters I travel on. Always there, and always almost about to pull me under. Calm waters will sometimes weave themselves into this undercurrent, causing me to feel the restlessness and/or turbulence of my depression to varying degrees at different times. But the current has yet to totally take over.

But here’s the thing: When I’m busy... traveling, potting plants, cooking meals, and enjoying my work-work, my school work, and my ceaseless self-exploration-and-development work… the waters don’t mix together quite as much. And that’s a good thing. Busyness seems to keep us all straight, nicely moving from left-to-right in our side-scrolling life games.

 

“Aren’t you glad the semester’s over?” my mother asked me earlier this week.

 

“No. It’s terrible!” I replied, laughing into the phone. I knew she’d think I was joking, so I explained that I wasn’t.

 

And today, during the winter break, I’ve brought my Spanish curriculum to the cafe with me. I plan on working a few chapters ahead so that when the spring semester ACTUALLY starts, I’m really just giving myself a ‘refresher’ on what I’ve already learned.

 

“I guess if you just always stay busy, you’ll always be okay,” my mom concluded at the end of our conversation.

 

And it’s true. She’s right. Busyness is the key, the secret, to controlling it (plus or minus a shot of St. John’s Wort in my orange juice). And isn’t that terrible; depression demanding restlessness from the person it inhabits. Or, instead of inhabiting, is it more of an external force that simply pokes and prods and torments its victim? I, personally, believe that it exists inside of us. An unwelcome but sometimes sleepy companion who we can both hate and learn from.

 

***

 

I’ve tried googling “how to relax”, “ways to enjoy your free time”, “how to do nothing” and other, similar search queries, but none of the results have either interested or resonated with me. I don’t know how to simply sit and be.

In order to be happy (or at least neutral), I have to be producing, or creating, or learning, or discovering, or going, going, gone… all of the time. When I was assisting at a branch on Monday and finished breezing through all of the “busy work” the manager had saved up for me, he looked just as stressed as I did, trying to answer my question of: What now? What next? Please, give me something to do so that I can enjoy being alive. Alright, it wasn’t THAT dramatic, but almost. Almost.

 

“I’m going to write ANOTHER book,” I professed to a good friend of mine, on an afternoon when I was feeling particularly exasperated with myself. “And here’s what I’ll call it: HOW TO DO NOTHING. Or perhaps, HOW TO DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”

 

IMG_20171201_193444_370
= me presenting another key to happiness (burritos) in Asheville, NC

 

Still here (sitting on the couch at Urban Standard and appearing to do nothing although I’m actually doing quite a bit — exploring myself and writing and thinking about the clearance rack at Nordstrom and where to find a good spice rack for Charlie and I’s booming spice department and also planning my and three friends’ itinerary for an upcoming trip to Ecuador where I will stay supremely busy, spying on active volcano Cotapaxi, adventuring through the Amazon rain forest, and popping into a cave or two — but what about later in 2018… like, in October; where will I go and what will I do THEN, assuming I’m still alive? Go hiking up in Colorado Springs? Go find a cafe and a waterfall somewhere in Canada? Aren’t the people there supposedly extra-nice? Will I make As in those 2018 fall classes, and before those fall classes, these upcoming spring classes? Will I find a guy, the right guy, a genuinely NICE guy, someday? Soon or not very soon? Never? That would be okay, wouldn’t it? But if I do, will he have a British accent, like David Tenant? Will he hail from Ecuador? If I go to Canada, will I find him there? Will I meet him in Ecuador? Am I supposed to find him or is he going to find ME? Will we have a little girl together and name her Josie Elliott and will I know how to hold her properly? Will it take me four years to graduate or possibly just 3.5? Will I ever write a book that sells? Despite all of my holistic endeavors, will I eventually develop one of the cancers my family has had — brain, breast, skin, colon? Should I NOT have a little girl to spare her from possible health issues and the soul-draining sadness of a depraved world that is spinning into a state of complete insanity? Will I stay busy enough today, tomorrow, next week? OH YEAH, I still need to buy some organic red potatoes for Christmas… and Charlie mentioned having a sore throat, so I should also pick up some lemons!),

Aun Aqui

The Chunky Knit Sweater Blog Post

Ever seen a sweater like this?

chunky knit sweater
PC: WearingMeOutVtg on Etsy

 

 

Now, it’s impossible to say “no”, because even if you hadn’t seen it before, there it is! Ha! It’s called a chunky knit sweater, and I ❤ it.

Earlier this semester, a girl in my creative writing class wrote a story that had nothing to do with a chunky knit sweater, really, but in passing, she described one of her characters as wearing a “chunky, knit sweater”… and RIGHT when I read the phrase, I thought to myself: Yes. THAT’S what I want to wear. 

 

So the next day, I tugged one of the only two chunky knit sweaters I own off of a hanger in the closet and then shrugged it on; deep ocean blue and handed down to me by my best friend, Charlie. Wearing it felt magical.

Fun Chunky Knit Sweater Fact: Jace wears size small… and she can send you her address… 🙂

The things I love most about that sweater and all chunky knit sweaters are:

  1. they’re comfy,
  2. they’re loose-fitting (I generally abhor form-fitting clothing),
  3. they look reaaaaaaaally cool, and
  4. wearing them, you can pull off the CRAZIEST-looking patterns… like, you might have seven different shapes and eighteen colors (there are that many colors) all splattered onto the same sweater, and it’s not even a big deal. It’s absolutely perfect.

 

And that’s kind of how this blog post is gonna go. It has nothing to do with chunky knit sweaters, really… but now don’t YOU want to wear one?

***

I have four short (nonfiction) stories to tell, each one of them unrelated to the rest.

  1. What the Brooch?
  2. My Pizza Plate Hero
  3. Peace DOESN’T = Friendship
  4. Relationships SOMETIMES = Objects

 

First up… 

 

WTBrooch?

I was checking out at Nordstrom a few weeks ago — with a dress, a work blouse, or something similar… and whatever it was, it was definitely from the clearance rack, because that is how I roll.

And at the register, my cashier scanned the whatever and then said something I couldn’t quite make out, but it sounded a whole lot like “roach.”

“Roaches?” I repeated, a little stunned. Why were we suddenly talking about roaches?

“Yeah,” she repeated. “It’s beautiful.”

What. the. fuck. is. happening. I searched my mind, my memories, and the depths of my soul as quickly as possible, struggling for a precedent or rule that would help me comprehend this universe where you’re simply checking out with an article of clothing and then someone starts complimenting your least favorite “thing” on the planet.

 

And then suddenly, it dawned on me. Brooch. NOT roach.

 

I tipped my head down, taking a quick inventory of myself — Vans, black denim jeans, a worn leather jacket and, pinned just above its left breast pocket, a purplish-red autumn leaf. Aka, a brooch. 

 

“OHHH — A BROOCH!” I exclaimed. Now, she was looking at ME oddly.

 

“Yes, yes — I also think broaches are beautiful. I got this one at What’s on Second!”

 

“Oh yeah? Where’s that?”

 

And then, the universe made sense to both of us again.

***

My Pizza Plate Hero

For the past week, it’s been exactly as Foreigner said it would be: cold as ice.

And until a week and a half ago, I didn’t know that, to clear up one’s frozen windshield, hot air should be employed. I’d always just assumed cold (because I’ve always enjoyed math and literature — NOT science). And how have I survived this long? Who knows.

Anyways, even with this new knowledge, I found myself in a real dill pickle on Monday morning.

On the very verge of being late to work, I had hurried out of the house, dashed down the driveway, and hopped into my car to discover that the windshield was, once again, TOTALLY clouded with fog and ice.

Sighing, I started the car, turned the heat on (duh), and then waited thirty seconds. Nothing happened.

So I waited another thirty seconds, tapping my foot nervously on the floorboard. But still, there was no change… no improvement in visibility.

 

Sighing even more deeply, I rolled my window down, stuck my head out the window, and began navigating down the street. I safely made it to the stop sign but realized, once there, that I couldn’t continue on this way.

 

So I did the only thing I knew to do.

 

I turned on the windshield wiper fluid, full blast, and let it spritz, spritz, spray for a solid fifteen seconds while my windshield wipers worked furiously, waving left and right, left and right, as frantic as I’ve ever seen them.

 

Suddenly, to my genuine surprise, a car moving in the opposite direction (with a young man inside of it) pulled up right next to mine. He rolled down his window and I watched his thick eyebrows shoot up.

 

“Heya, ma’am — you need some help?”

 

“Oh, noooooo… you’re so kind! I just… this windshield, it’s all cloudy, and I’m trying to see through it,” I explained, nodding my head toward the increasingly slushy windshield and chaotic wipers working overtime. My expert operations. I was so proud of them.

 

He nodded. “Okay,” he said, unbuckling, getting out of his car, and then fishing around in the backseat of his vehicle.

 

He reappeared at my window seconds later, a paper plate in his right hand. I caught a brief glimpse of the front of it — soiled orangey-red, like a slice of pizza had once been there.

“Let’s see if this will help get some of that ice off,” he murmured, and then I watched as my pizza plate hero demystified my foggy, icy, fluid-y windshield.

 

“Ahhhhhhh, I can see!” I celebrated. He laughed.

 

“Thank you SOOOOOOO much,” I exclaimed. “I’m Jace, by the way,” I offered, sticking my hand out the window.

 

“Bryan,” he replied, shaking my hand with his.

***

Peace DOESN’T = Friendship

There’s a person in this universe who is persistently rude to me, despite the fact that, just a few months ago, I confronted them about it, the two of us cleared the air, and we decidedly made peace.

So after this “coming to Jesus” event, every time they’ve made another snide, sarcastic, or cutting remark, I’ve thought to myself… what the hell?! We’re supposed to be past this! How juvenile of them! I am unfailingly kind toward and patient with them, as well as supportive of all of their endeavors — so what the heck gives? WHAT ELSE can I do to make them like me?

 

And then suddenly, on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, the answer struck me like a football to the nose (happened in middle school, unpleasant): Nothing. There is nothing that I can do to make them like me.

 

Why? There are so many reasons! For one thing, certain personalities, vocal pitches, and even faces just irritate other people… so maybe s/he just dislikes my face, voice, or essence. It’s quite possible. People are also impossibly complex — carrying past experiences with them for reference, struggling with known and unrealized insecurities, and often holding their imaginative fiction closer to themselves than they do the plain truth. So their reason for disliking me, or you, could have nothing to do with you at all — it could simply be rooted in their biology, their assumptions, or their fears.

 

How I apply this knowledge: When you’ve got a meanie in your life and you’ve done all you can to be compassionate toward them, the only thing left to do is to let them go. Stay compassionate, of course — when you have to interact with them, always be kind — but redirect the rest of your time, energy, and attention elsewhere. Because, as likable as you might be, everyone won’t like you, and the wisest course of action in light of this fact is to accept the dislike and move on. And by moving on, I mean quit trying to hold up or patch up a one-sided relationship — spend your time and give your affection to those who do like you instead. WAY better use of resources.

Relevant Quote:

Our time, energy, and resources are all limited, and impacting those around us — either positively or negatively — appears to be the most lasting impression we leave behind. Are the activities I do and the things I think about most days how I want to use and expend my time and energy? –can’t remember the guy’s name

 

Another tip you didn’t ask for: When someone is mean, I try to remind myself that hurt people hurt people, and that the other person is probably just being a jackass because they’re sad, mad, insecure, or otherwise lacking in peace. So, instead of retaliating, I practice patience. I employ empathy. I strive to show compassion.

And it’s important to remain teachable and objective by asking yourself, DID I do something that was unkind? Is their behavior or speech warranted?, but if – after reflection – the answer ends up being no, DON’T take the blame for their poor behavior or crabby dialogue. Their rudeness or unkindness is just a poorly-wrapped gift that you don’t have to accept.

Relevant Quote:

Don’t carry baggage that someone else packed. –who knows

When you’re forced to interact with the meanie, set healthy boundaries for yourself — don’t pressure yourself to babysit that person’s emotions or blame yourself for their unhappiness — and don’t present yourself as an unmoving punching bag, either. Kindly excuse yourself when needed. Relocate, muster a smile, and practice silence (Charlie taught me this, actually — that silence can be a powerful, but soft, reproof; when you’re silent, you’re letting their cruel words hang there in the air so that they’re forced to replay them). Or you can stop wearing deodorant so that they’ll stay the hell away from you forever. <–my idea.  🙂

The point is, if you’re being your best you and it still isn’t enough, then the problem does not lie with you. Get up and go.

***

Relationships SOMETIMES = Objects

On Tuesday, I had a productive and pleasant day at work. At home, I immediately slipped into my pajamas while Charlie set to work on dinner. When I was all comfy and cozy, I trekked downstairs and plopped down onto the couch, wrapping a falsa blanket around me, petting Silo’s head and shoulders (he had instantly curled up beside me), and gazing down at Tycho (who, as is her custom, was mourning quietly from a bed on the floor). I smiled.

 

“You know what, Charlie?” I called out suddenly, looking over at the lovely, potted Cypress tree in the corner of the room. Charlie had strung lights around it the day before and placed it atop a green stool — our “no-kill Christmas tree.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’m so glad that I’m not in a romantic relationship with anyone right now.”

 

He joined me in the living room. “Oh?”

 

“Yes,” I breathed. “It was a preoccupying thought for so long! I believed that a relationship would be some kind of magic fix… like, finding the right pair of earrings, buying the coolest coat rack, or collecting the correct number of pots for house plants…” I shook my head. “I’m always searching for that next thing or person, thinking that it or they will complete me, or heal me, or make me happy… and it’s so futile. THIS,” I paused, my arm sweeping the room. “This is happiness. I’ve got warm clothes on, both of my pups within petting distance, my best friend living in the same house as me, and delicious food on the way. I don’t want or need anything else right now.” And I’ve grown so very tired of looking so desperately for something when I don’t know what it is, where it is, what it looks like, and why it even matters.

 

And even as I said the words, it felt like I was shrugging off a heavy, iced jacket — one that I’d been trudging around in all day.

 

20171212_172726

 

I’ve often said that, when I DO date someone, that someone must want and not need me. There’s a big difference between the two. I’ve been in co-dependent relationships before, and they didn’t work for me.

 

“I want to find someone who’s got their shit together and won’t LATCH ON to me,” I’ve said. And I still want this — someday. 

 

But with the mindset I’ve been operating in (pre-profound-realization), I was going to BE that person — latching onto the right guy with the belief that he would supply some crucial, missing something and that this would magically take all of my pain and burdens away… that he would then easily and heroically carry all of my emotional baggage through the life airport FOR me.

But the truth is that I don’t want a hero like that (other than the occasional pizza plate hero). I don’t want to depend on someone else so heavily. I’ve done it before, and it’s a dangerous thing to do. From the present day through forever, I want to always be my own hero. My closest and most trusted companion. 

Because the company of another person should make a great day even better — it shouldn’t make the day. And if it’s a bad day… well, when I feel like I’m stuck in a PRISON of some kind (like a sad prison, a pain prison, or a lonely prison), I just have to remember that I am the prison itself, the door to the prison, the lock, the guard, and the key. I can always save myself. 

 

And right now, I don’t need saving at all. I just need another warm sip of this DELICIOUS caramel latte. And maybe a new wallet. Or I could just put less shit in this current wallet.

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

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Me, Myself, and My OBGYN

​The FIRST challenge was knowing where to park and how to get there. I sure as heck didn’t know, but I was sure that Google would.
Despite my initial confidence, at a point, Google Maps became rather clueless (as it persistently insisted on routing me over toward the emergency deck — unnecessary), so I tossed my phone aside and used my human brain to figure things out instead.
Moments later, I victoriously emerged from my car on the second floor of the physician’s plaza. At this juncture, I was presented with challenge number two: discovering where exactly my new OBGYN was. I located a posted directory a little ways inside of the building and it proved useful. I inhaled deeply, held the breath, and then took an elevator straight up to the third floor, exhaling with relief when the door finally reopened.
Inside of the “OBGYN hub”, I checked in at a desk, handed my ID over, presented my health insurance card, and filled out a bunch of forms. The forms reminded me of my name, old age, strange-to-read “divorced” status, and various family member’s health ailments.
“Check each box that applies” is how section after section read, and the pesky and invasive questionnaires existing within these sections nudged me to cough up intimate details about myself — things like whether or not I:
  • was sexually active (um no, and excuse YOU!),
  • had suicidal thoughts (that is none of your business), and
  • wanted a colonoscopy today (why the FUCK did I agree to do this?!). In addition to not checking this ridiculous box, I wrote “I do not want this” right alongside it.
And why did I agree to do this? 
***
For years (not just weeks or months), coworkers and friends had been badgering to me to “go get my annual.” They spoke of lumps in the breasts and cancers lurking inside of vaginas and told me horror stories about people they knew or had read about who had died from such terrible things.
Eventually, I grew sick of the attention. I scheduled the damn appointment and then emailed these female friends and coworkers, announcing the big event. “Are you HAPPY now?!” I wanted to yell through caps lock. But I didn’t. Because I understood their badgering was coming from a very good and kind place.

And why was I so averse to the idea of “getting my annual”, anyways?

Because of the first annual I ever got. I was 18. Chris and I had just gotten married, and everyone on the planet was urging me to get on birth control.
So I visited an OBGYN (which, btw, is simply pronounced ob-gyn —why do people bother SPELLING IT OUT aloud when they can just say “obgyn”?) and, after explaining to the nurse that my (now ex)husband Christopher and I would soon be traveling to Ukraine to teach English, the nurse urgently stuffed handfuls of birth control samples into my bag. So many handfuls that I wouldn’t need a refill for at least a year. I felt dirty… and nauseous. I was, at this time, a virgin, and the idea of having sex (or lots of it, as her many handfuls seemed to imply) was immensely uncomfortable to me. So, understandably, I hated having a bulk amount of these scandalous pills in my bag (and very much hated taking them for a solid three years before I decided to reclaim my personality, emotional stability, and physical health).
Moving on…
Our Ukraine plans never panned out (because life is fantastically mysterious), and a year later, I needed a refill. I was now 19, just about to turn 20.
And no one in my life had ever told me, WARNED ME, about what happened next, AFTER the free year’s supply of BCPs fall into your purse… about the complete and utter shittiness of taking all of your clothes off and then getting jabbed in your you-know-what with a COLD metal DEVICE by a stranger in white. W.T.H.
And when that happened, right out of the blue on a stupid Wednesday morning, I felt totally victimized. So I promised myself, I will never, ever subject you to this again.
***
But six years later (aka this morning), there I was, sitting in another doctor’s office and waiting for that terrible, dreaded jab. And I’ve gotta say — KNOWING about it was almost worse than “going in blind” six years ago, because now, in addition to the horror of experiencing it, I also got to anticipate it. Yay.
I had begrudgingly provided a urine sample and then carefully stepped over a blue fruit loop on the floor (probably belonging to another woman’s screaming toddler) moments before being called into the back.
And there in the back, I had fully expected to be shuffled into one of those basic examination rooms, but instead, I was led into the doctor’s office. Like, the one with plants and pictures of family members and graduation plaques and tiny, monogrammed things.
And because being seated in an office office seemed far too serious and intimate for the routine “thing” that I forecasted should be happening, I was more than a little alarmed.
 
What the heck did they find in that urine sample? I wondered, imagining the vagina cancer monster stewing gleefully in some secret place within me. “Or are they going to interrogate me for skipping some of the questions I REALLY didn’t like? Dang it, I should have just answered them!” 
“Hi hi hiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” a voice sang out suddenly. The sound of the doctor had entered the room before she did; I turned to face the doorway, which she had already, magically, passed through.
“I hope being in here isn’t freaking you out,” she continued quickly, her long, red hair swaying in an attempt to keep up with her swift strides. “Most patients are like, ‘UH OH! What did I do to end up in here?!'” And here, she laughed easily, comfortably seating herself on the other side of the desk and then looking directly across it at me.
“I was a little worried,” I admitted, laughing nervously.
“Ahhhh, I just like to get to know ya before you’re undressed!” she explained, grinning.
Her spirit was completely disarming, and I immediately trusted her.
We discussed me for a while — my occupation, artistic pursuits, and holistic healing methods (as well as the incident from six years before). She solemnly swore that today’s experience would be totally different.
And again, I trusted her — her goodness of heart and her good intentions — but I still didn’t believe that it wouldn’t totally suck.
***
Soon afterwards, she escorted me over to the basic examination room I had been hoping for and complimented my leather jacket along the way. I thanked her and then realized that she’d also said something right afterwards about undressing and me putting on a thin, blue gown, but I’d somehow missed the gist of it, strangely caught up in the mental history of my jacket.
“Sorry — what all am I taking off again?” I asked quietly.
“Everything but your socks!” she answered, smiling and exiting the room.
I sighed, disrobing quickly and then tossing my garments onto a nearby armchair. I fiddled with the blue paper gown and couldn’t quite figure it out. It was far too roomy — and blue, like the ocean! I looked up from the patient’s table I was now sitting on and saw a Coastal Whatever magazine lying on a nearby table. It featured a lovely beach scene on the front.
At least they try to make you feel relaxed, I thought glumly, keeping my hands folded neatly in my lap.
I stared down at my peach-colored turtle socks. It feels strange — removing everything BUT the socks, I realized. Should I take them off, too? I hesitated, trying to imagine it. No… THAT would be even WEIRDER, I firmly decided.
I bounced my legs back and forth, suddenly remembering that, unlike most women, I didn’t shave them. She’ll think what she thinks — I don’t even care, I sighed. I just want to do this so it’s done. Besides — my legs LOVE not being shaved, I added, smiling to myself encouragingly. I was happy to realize that unshaven legs were no longer an anxiety trigger of mine. Score!
When my doc re-entered the room, she brought an assistant with her. Great, I mused. An audience of two instead of one. This helps things. 
obgyn meme
pc: Google Images
I won’t go into detail on what happened next, because it wasn’t at all pleasant, but the doctor’s incessant, buoyant small talk was a wonderful distraction. Among other things, we discussed tattoos, the Spanish language, and Ecuador together.
“I actually had to bribe myself to come here,” I admitted. “Right after arranging this appointment, I scheduled an upcoming tattoo session as an ‘incentive’, or reward, for getting through this ordeal.” She and her assistant were both tickled.
At the end of the process, procedure, whatever, she started talking about next time. 
How cute, I thought to myself. She thinks there will be a next time!
“You did so good today — you should get a sticker!” she raved. “No, wait — not a sticker… a TATTOO!” she corrected herself, laughing heartily.
***
I called Charlie immediately following the event.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“I’m soooooooooo glad it’s over,” I breathed. “The doctor was really nice, though, and she definitely helped make things less weird. I liked her so much, in fact, that I might go back again in three years!” I smiled.
I texted a friend as well: “I finally went! Will find out within a week or so if I’m dying.”
And then, fully clothed and gratefully returning to my normal abnormal car and life, I shook off my lingering anxiety with every step forward and thought to myself, isn’t the sky so blue and beautiful today? 
Still here,
Aun Aqui