Tell me, does this count as an existential crisis?
I’m standing in the bean aisle at the grocery store (which is also the canned vegetable aisle, the “ethnic foods” aisle, and the condiment aisle) and I can’t find garbanzo beans. They just… aren’t there. All the other beans are there. Is it possible that all cans of garbanzo beans were purchased over the weekend and now reside tucked away in the dark pantries of Northcenter, Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood homes? Does a grocery store just sell out of garbanzo beans? Are there rumors of a hummus shortage, and if so, why wasn't I -- a known hummus addict -- informed of the impending crisis?
I stared* bewildered. I methodically looked up and down each shelf scanning the various names – black beans, kidney beans, white beans, great northern beans, chili beans, baked beans. I shook my head in disbelief -- I simply must have missed something -- and repeated the process. Finally, I gave up, partly because the woman standing next to me had two shrieking children running around her cart, and I could no longer concentrate on the task at hand.
I felt so… lost.
My mom had called me not long before I entered the grocery store. During the phone call, we had a semi-heated discussion about a comedy writing class I had agreed to take at Second City. She bankrolled me – it was a birthday present last June, but I hemmed and hawed and put the class off for several months partially because I was training for the marathon, partially because I have become tired, in my old jaded age, of fooling myself that there is hope for a future in comedy writing – or, on some days, a future in any writing at all.
I failed to mention this class to anyone, with the exception of one or two people, because I felt myself lacking any kind of real commitment. But, my mom... she believes I’m destined to be the next Tina Fey. Or someone. My mom thinks I should write. My reasons for signing up were almost exclusively to appease her. And, on the first day of the class, I stood up, introduced myself, and said, “My mom wanted me to do this, so that’s why I’m here.” I got a few laughs out of that one, and I haven’t been back since.
It wasn't on purpose really, the second class was the day after I got back from Minneapolis, and after running the Shamrock Shuffle, I wasn’t up for three hours of comedy writing. The third class was yesterday, and while I wish I had a better excuse – I was on my deathbed, or saving dogs or children from a burning building, or something similarly dramatic – I simply forgot.
Then my mom, on the phone with me today, said this: Lou, everything you do can’t revolve around MM.
I was… aghast. Offended. Speechless. How dare she suggest that I, the daughter who has spent plenty of time on her own, doing her thing, would ever let her life revolve around a guy. She must be crazy.
I immediately went on the defensive, “Mom! I do not revolve everything in my life around MM. I am just busy, and I had other things going on.”
“OK. What’s going on?”
I didn’t have a real answer.
“Well, I went for a nine mile run this weekend, and hung out with @, and went bowling.” None of those activities really accounted for my schedule between noon-3pm on Sunday.
She wasn’t mad, but I could tell she was disappointed. I was, after all, wasting quite a bit of money by not even bothering to show up to the class. I promised her I wouldn’t miss any more. And, on the off chance I have any desire to continue taking writing courses at Second City, I can’t miss anymore. If you miss more than two, you can’t move on in the program.
We got off the phone, but I was still fuming about her comment. I replayed the conversation in my head, before it hit me. Oh my God. She’s right. And MM thinks it too.
Fueled by one too many beers late on Friday night, MM and I had gotten into an argument that we spent half of Saturday morning sorting through. It went something like this:
MM: I just want you to understand that sometimes I’m going to need to take a few hours to be by myself and get some things done.
Lou: You have time to yourself. I have never been a pain in the ass about you needing time to get your schoolwork done, or to go for a run. You do those things. I don’t understand what you want. Do you want to spend less time together?
MM: No, I don’t want to spend less time together. I do get enough time to myself.
Lou: Then I don’t get why you’re telling me this.
MM: You asked how I was feeling. And I was feeling like I needed to tell you this.
Or something to that effect.
He and my mom must be in cahoots, debating linguistics, whether I’ve become too clingy or too needy, or both, and strategizing about how to get me to snap out of it and see the error of my pathetic ways.
But, if I really examine my behavior, the pattern is undeniable.
The effort I make – to do anything at all really – has declined drastically in the last several months. Perhaps, without realizing it, I spent the winter months blaming the winter months on the seasonal "blahs," but now that spring is here, I’m the only one not getting any better. Not to say I’ve completely neglected every thing and every one, but my communication with friends who are faraway has been few and far between; my emails to former business contacts inquiring about lunch are long overdue; there have been a few incidences when I haven’t even bothered to accept or decline an invitation; and this weekend I snapped my phone shut after half-finishing a text message to a friend in the neighborhood because it was just too much… effort. I never responded to her. Truth be told, my lack of effort is extending far beyond friends. I haven’t done laundry since I have returned home from Minneapolis. I repeatedly wear the same blue jeans; I haven’t put on makeup in months; and everyday my hair is pulled into the shortest of ponytails, and my bangs are pinned back from my face.
And all of this effort is not expended because… why? Because I’m… busy? Doing what? There’s my job, where “they” force me to spend approximately seven hours of my day. And then there are my blogs, but let’s face it, I mostly write at work – er – on my lunch break. And I have my training, but only for a half marathon, and while that used to be my thing, I’m now running the race that MM picked out with his running buddies. And then there's my writing class, which I keep skipping because I’m too wrapped up in the fact that I’m spending my day off with MM.
Apparently I barely remember I have my own life.
This is a problem. First of all because if MM and I do manage to stay together, he will always have something else: if it’s not his job, it will be school; if not school, he will be starting a random business with friends; if it's not training for a marathon, it will be training for an Ironman. He’ll always be busy. He’ll always want his own thing to some degree. But, what will I be doing while he's off being some form of productive? Eating Ben & Jerry's, getting fatter by the nanosecond, and skipping my writing class while I wait for him to come home -- or worse -- come over? Sadly, this version of rock bottom seems closer than is comfortable. But maybe it's just in this moment.
Second, I’ve spent a lot of time alone in Chicago, trying to build a life for myself. Having a boyfriend helps me feel at home in my adopted city, but ultimately if our relationship doesn’t work out, I know from experience that his people – friends and family – will never be my people separate of him. Maintaining my life, my friends, and my connections needs to be a priority because… well, it just is. He will never be able to be all things to me, and if I neglect my other relationships, I’m the one creating the void. I’m the one neglecting.
Hard lessons learned. Perhaps, this is what MM was actually trying to say. But, knowing me I've attached new meanings to words that were meant to be nothing more than the simplicity of what was said. Oh to be a dude.
I suppose, at this point there's nothing left to do tonight, but my laundry.