Monday, December 5, 2016

The Return of the Timeline 2008-2009

Breaking up is never easy. Perhaps that's why I avoid relationships these days. Losing love is so painful. But then again, I have a dog, and I realize the implications of that as it concerns my future happiness. All that to say, I returned to Memphis after spending almost a full year in England and Europe, and I got on with things after the required mourning period.

Despite a brief bout of dizziness brought on by the immensity of the American road and driving again, it wasn't long before I moved into an epic apartment with my best friend, slid back into teaching Intensive English to international students, and found a posse of summer fun friends to idle away the hours in the thick southern heat.

I also went to as many shows at the Hi-Tone that I could fit into my schedule: Lord T. and Eloise (to be covered in champagne), Jack Oblivion and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, Harlan T. Bobo, and everyone's favorite Memphis band: Snowglobe. It was the tail end of my golden age of Memphis music.

I rode my bike to the farmer's market on South Main, drank beers in the upper brothel rooms at Earnestine and Hazel's, and played trivia at The Young Avenue Deli. I walked everywhere, rarely left the "Parkways," as the midtowners put it, even explored, in detail, the ancient forest in Overton Park that some would destroy completely for more parking. I was what I always wanted to be, but I was still antsy....never content.

It was the first summer I didn't spend overseas in a few years, so I soaked it up. Whenever I found myself longing for the connection to the rest of the world, the glorious blend of cultures, I stepped out of myself while I taught at Intensive English and looked at each of my students, pictures of the world themselves, sharing in a common language. It felt like home.

I went camping with friends from the neighborhood and graduate school, spelunking and skinny dipping in the Cumberland Mountains. We ate pot brownies in a cave, and I drank bourbon from a flask and felt it warm with my heartbeat. Then I sat in the middle of the cave and giggled so much I couldn't stand up. In my dreams that night, everything was pink.
Homecoming 2008

I somehow lost a ton of weight from walking and cooking for myself, being too busy to eat or think. I managed to show up at my ten year high school reunion with a bangin bod, and I wore a dress I bought at Old Navy for five dollars with a pair of white Converse. I was underdressed, but still me, so it was fine. People don't tend to judge me as harshly as I assume that they do, as harshly as I judge myself.

What good is an epic apartment without epic parties? My best friend and I threw a party for her birthday, found out we had a knack for it, and threw a few more gorgeous get-togethers of like-minded individuals, recyclers, Obama voters, volunteers, gorgeous artists packed onto our 6x6 balcony like sardines. The cops came once because the volume of conversation exceeded what the neighbors could handle. It was a weekend, so they just told us to move the party inside.

The guy I was tryina hang out with at the time was giving me a little bit of a run around. That was my first mistake. Sometimes a girl has to learn the hard way that a guy is a butt. He had everyone guessing, our group of friends wandering what he was doing with three different girls, all smart enough to know better. And despite all the warnings that always come from people that mean well, I won, and I followed him all the way to a small town in Georgia to learn my lesson.

That, my friends, is how I found Georgia and began to dig in the earth again, digging and scratching, uncovering the next chapter, what it felt like to be physically strong as my mind began questioning things it never had before.

My return to Memphis was a good time, a whirlwind, but good. I kept a decent log of it starting here. Be warned, though. It begins as a day by day recovery from heartbreak. Just how it is.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Wolf

I've been feeling the claws of my wolf tugging at the skin around my heart the past few weeks. She whispers poetry to me as I sit with my legs crossed, my mind humming, words that get lost as the river rushes forward. She wants to speak, to scratch off the sweet facade of my quirky sarcasm, my humor. I'm a dream girl and she's a rabid wolf, but we inhabit the same house.

When we were young, we used to play in an enchanted forest, she and I, dirty hands, dirty knees, a mind racing, in love with everything. Boys chased us, admired us, and we felt no shame, and we loved all of them. We smiled up at the stars every night with hope, no pictures or expectations, just hope that life would always be this close, this immediate and real. 

"One day you'll have to let someone take care of you." He said it to me after church, knowing how I felt about him. The men in my life began to notice me, but shy away from me, to tell me everything, but never speak to me in public. At some point during my adolescence, my focus shifted to the male gaze and away from the wolf, my protector, and I have spent the majority of my life chasing it, like a rabid dog, desperate to be saved, and cared for, to be fed. The Male Gaze. 

As your teachers are attempting to tell you how to see the world around you and decide for yourself what you will do about it all, the rest of your immediate surroundings are drooling over the opportunity to tell you what you must do and how much it will cost. The first thing you learn, as a little girl, is that you must be what you are not, and you are never to be who you really are. "Be yourself" is an idiom that means little to nothing. How am I not myself? When I attempt to live the life I feel I am supposed to live. 

And the fairytale is that someone will save you from the drudgery of a life with no direction...leaving you one direction: attempt to attract and maintain the male gaze. And oh what an occupation it becomes. It consumes you. Look at me. See me. Admire me. 

I hear that I am beautiful but I cannot believe it this morning, staring into my own eyes in the bathroom mirror. The bones in my face are misplaced and misshapen. I am beginning to see lines. I am older than I was even three years ago. Rigid. I don't go out as often as I used to any more, but there are bills to be paid. I while away the hours at work or at home with my dog. I fear the city leaves me feeling trapped.

In so many ways I have become who I am today, who I always needed to be, after roaming the streets of Chicago in the frozen twilight. Yet I struggle to shake the shackles of male attention. How can I exist without it? I wonder. Everything I have ever been taught has projected an image of myself to me as a member of a nuclear family, casting everything I am and always have been as merely a fraction of the whole in holy matrimony. 

I gambled away my life on the idea that my worth could be broken down and placed in a box marked with someone else's name, and that his name would make me free. In my quest to prove that I am smarter than the average white woman, I have spent a lot of money and time just to be able to convince the male gaze that I am worth the attention, the seal of approval.

As a teenager I prayed to God, why did you make me this way if you wanted me to be silent? Why did you make me so loud? I wept, and I begged. I hunched my shoulders and hung my head. I curled up inside of myself until I found that validation...in someone else, and when it ended, I felt the weight of the world crashing down around me. This path of righteousness had led me to a crushing defeat, and I have been desperate to trust myself, much less anyone else, since that day.

How does a romantic recover what is lost when rejection means she herself has fallen short and will continue to struggle until she can prove herself worth it....the male gaze?

Don't be all yourself. There is nothing wrong with you, but maybe don't be yourself entirely right away. Don't put it all on the table. Like a hammer. If I had one...I would hammer in the morning just to piss off the neighbors. 

The girl, the me part of her was tired and sad and scared for a while. She was hungry, starving, screaming at people in traffic, at stop signs, "I am lost! I took the wrong road and now I'm lost! and it's no one's fault and it's everyone's fault, and it hurts like hell." 

And then she wasn't lost. One can only wander so long in the mucky mire of the darkest woods before she is discovered by her wolf half, for if she is half of anything, it is this beast. And then the beast begins to claw away, dragging her fingers through the layers upon layers of delusion, freshening the wounds so that they might heal properly. 

You are just now learning how to live, aren't you? The woman I work with, five years my senior, hypothesizes.  She drives me home on the horrible days so I don't have to ride my bike, and we "chill." She is Puerto Rican, familiar with my neighborhood from the days when it was patrolled by rival gangs. I love the folklore, but even folklore is too safe. 

Retired gang bangers have shown me their battle scars in hopes that I might provide them the comfort they felt certain my respect in conversation truly communicated, bullet wounds. But my wounds are just the same. We fight the absence of choice, carry the rage of our mothers before us whose choices were fewer and voices were ignored or forgotten. We are all the same, the oppressed, and we are all completely different. 

I cannot imagine a world where I fear the pain of a bullet on a daily basis. I cannot imagine what it is like to be intelligent yet marginalized and stereotyped twice as much as even I am, that your sugar and spice must be extra sweet to cover up the chains of an earned collective rage. Black women have the right to be angrier than anyone else every day of their lives. I don't know a lot of things, but I do know that.

And I too own my anger, such as it is, close to my heart, where it is warm. I used to weep for my capacity to love. A burning energy in the pit of my stomach, wasted on my failure to matriculate.

But not failure. Oh no. There is so much use in the world for the love that compels me. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, and Gilead is my heart.

You can heal yourself. It is not easy, but it is within you. 

The wolf is in front now, and she roves, and hunts, and warms my feet at night. She doesn't want to bite, but nature compels her toward self preservation. Her language is truth.

I am thankful that we found each other.



Friday, November 18, 2016

Pep

Hi Folks. How ya doin? I know. It's been a tough week. I've had highs and lows, said things I'm proud to have said as well as things I'd like to crawl under a rock for having said. I have run the gamut, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. As soon as I saw the country going red, like Fiver's dreams of blood covering the fields around the warren in Watership Down (my favorite book/movie with a soundtrack by Art Garfunkel), I flashed back to 2000, and I lay on my back on my bed staring up at the ceiling in total silence, listening to the beating of my heart and the rhythm of my own breath. 

Then, like I imagine happens when one is falling, my brain flipped through my entire life from then, 2000, until now, 11/9. It was all pretty fresh, as I've been recapping it here in the blogosphere since my birthday a couple of weeks ago. It was like my brain cogs kicked into overdrive, and I blew through the memories like they were on a rolodex, a dense rolodex, my friends. Dense. Like the smoke over Georgia right now.

I'm going to finish the timeline (I know, thank GOD) after I say this.

I thought the world was going to end when W was elected president, and it mostly didn't, sort of. That was an exhausting eight years. I couldn't even get through all of em. Had to leave the country, and I racked up a sweet lil chunk of credit card debt that I later paid off with student loans trying to stay as far away from George W. as I could. And despite my plans, I did most of it on my own.

During that time, I graduated from college, got engaged and un-engaged, survived my parents' divorce, back-packed Europe alone, obtained a Master's Degree, sold my stuff and moved to another country and returned to the states to catch Barack Obama accepting the nomination for President in 2008, and it was hard as hell. All of it. Every single thing.

Don't ever get confused and think things are supposed to be easy. They aren't.

I made it through that, and I almost made it through the last eight years too. Speaking of "almost," it was almost a year ago that I found myself at the bottom of my depression, deeper than I'd ever been. My anxiety had driven me to cut back on my medication for fear of running out by screaming at me, "This isn't working," until I gave in and started taking two pills rather than the prescribed three. Within a week I could think of nothing else but death. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I also didn't know how I was not going to do it. I could not imagine myself alive in the future.

Yep. I even called some suicide hotlines, and you know what, they TOTALLY helped. One told me they were sending an ambulance because I needed to be hospitalized and the other said, "Do what?" after I explained to her my "reason for calling." Yeah. In the end I just laughed. Hysterically. Then I sent my therapist an email entitled "Suicide" about how I needed to see her as soon as I could to talk to her about how to get out of the hole and because I refuse to think about things before I do them.

Now here I am. The country just elected a con-man to its highest office. The church in which I was raised has revealed itself to be at the feet of a political party. My heart is broken for the marginalized of this country, for the women of this country, and I started my damn period! Dammit.

And who knows what's going to happen. I mean, holy crap. I've been coping by sharing New Yorker and Reductress Articles and memes on Facebook, binge watching The Crown on Netflix, and spending more time with my dog, running around, giving him long massages, spooning. He is oblivious.

Yesterday I practiced yoga while listening to both Chomsky talk about power structure and Franz Schubert Sonatas in unison. I'm training. I'm getting pumped up.

I've been honest to a fault my whole life, a terrible liar. I cannot play it cool. I have been, unabashedly, myself, and people tell me they admire it, but it's a curse, you guys. I mean...I'm a pariah. I'm like this guy mixed with a giraffe when it starts running, hilarious and majestic to watch, but usually completely misunderstood (yeah....that's the simile I'm going with) And I cannot stand injustice. I will not sit down for injustice. It's my dumb superpower.

Now the gloves are off. Everyone is out in the open, nowhere to hide, and I see all of you, just as you've been able to see me all this time. I've been training for this my whole life. I've been keeping my head down, putting up with a lot (despite what you might think, I have put up with A LOT), and now I don't have to. We're all telling it like it is. I get to be all me.

Scary? I used to be scared of it. All me. If you think I'm a lot, imagine what it's like for me to deal with myself. I spent a good deal of time last Christmas in my old room back home in Memphis with all my pictures, class notes, and diaries, and I discovered the part of me I have been ignoring for far too long, and she's hungry.

Both Bikram yoga and Bicycling through Chicago are great ways to relieve anxiety. The goal in Bikram is to stay in the room while in Chicago cycling it's to stay alive. So, I wear a bright yellow reflective vest, flashing lights, and sometimes a giant puffy bright white coat that makes me look like a big marshmallow wearing a reflective vest and riding a bike. I look good, is what I'm saying.

Yesterday, dressed as such, I pedaled quickly along five o'clock traffic downtown on Halstead as huge trucks pulled up beside me, and I leaned forward and pedaled faster. The sky was dark and pink and the smell of the chocolate factory clung to the humidity and made me hungry. Every moving car terrifies me, every step I take I consider and reconsider a million more times than anyone should think about anything. Last night, the only word running through my mind in the dusk on my bike was "live." Live.

So I am not afraid of the coming months. I want to live. I want to fight. I want to inspire, to encourage. I want to heal, and I want to play with as many puppies as I possibly can until the day I die.

Anything worth doing is going to be hard. Anything REALLY worth doing. You can't let that stop you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nancy Caroline: A Timeline, 2007-2008, or A Slower, Meandering Stroll Down Memory Lane Through the Lens of Academia

Oh man, you guys. It's been a crazy week. The freaking CUBS are in the WORLD SERIES, and
here I am, living in Chicago. Baseball games take up a good bit of time, my friends. Also, I'm
slowing down a bit and lingering a moment with the details on these last few because I'm
actually processing some of the experience as we speak. Isn't that exciting? So, we continue
with my time as an American citizen with a work visa in London, UK.

What I didn't learn from actually receiving care from the NHS, I learned by working in an NHS facility. I worked in a small three room office area with a bunch of women, half registered nurses and half “nursery” nurses who ate avocados and passion fruit and gossiped as I filed paperwork or entered data onto the local as well as the larger NHS server.

Every time a baby was born in our neighborhood, the hospital would send a new paper file and a fun book for the nurses to give to the new mothers on their visit. Each nurse would schedule a visit with new parents to discuss baby proofing and, in general, what the family would need. The NHS would provide baby gates, plug guards, anything you can think of to make the home safe for wiggling newborns who would swiftly grow into crawlers, walkers, and then little humans. They even gave away cloth diapers and fashionable liners for the diapers. There was a laundering service for the diapers too, included with, you know, citizenship.

Every week, at different locations within the neighborhood, new parents were invited to come to a baby clinic to have their child weighed (my job), inoculated (not my job), and to speak with a nurse about any concerns they may be having. It was an opportunity for struggling and frightened parents to ask lame, run-of-the-mill questions while the registered nurses stealthily looked for signs of postpartum depression. 


Baby clinics were paid for by taxes that everyone (everyone) pays in England….just as all health care in the country was paid for by taxes that every pays.
It was hard for me to hang out with a bunch of newborn babies as a woman in my late twenties with powerful hormones. I watched nursing mothers, smiling down at their children, glowing like Madonnas. I wanted a baby, but I also didn’t want a baby, you know? I just wanted to breastfeed...one day.  

The city of London was a beast. She was immense, ancient, gray, and often very lonely. I experienced a decent amount of anxiety knowing that my work visa would run out in six months, and if I didn’t get married, I would have to leave without even seeing half of her. I saw a lot, though, the Tate Modern (free), the British Museum (free), the British Library (where they keep the Magna Carta-free), Borough Market, a street food market where I ate ostrich, smelled a truffle in a jar, and was able to prove to my English friends that America made a few small brewery beers (not just Bud).

We also left London, took trains to Manchester (for Christmas!), York (kind of like Gatlinburg, TN, but English, and way less seedy, much more quaint), and . We spent a weekend in Cork, Ireland with a graduate school friend of his that was studying some kind of geology there, and we spent a long weekend in Sardinia, Italy, rented a car, and explored the rocky coast of the island. We travelled to Carlisle back in England to see Carlisle United play a riveting football match with some other team I can’t remember and to visit my boyfriend’s grandmother, who lived there and hated America and everything she stands for. She loved the Romans, though, and she drove us to see Hadrian’s wall in one of the most picturesque drives/walks on which I’ve ever been in my life. I saw pastoral in person. It smelled like sheep manure.

I had a romance with the London Underground that started out like most loves do, as a spinning, terrifying happiness. The tube was deep, dark, bright, and bustling, and it coursed through the veins of the city like lifeblood. It's always a good idea to take it slow when entering the world of the London Underground, at first, but I quickly graduated from standing on the right-hand side of the escalators to walking them two steps at a time on the left like the rest of the Londoners who were almost late for work but determined to make the best time.
We had our bad times. Some days I climbed deep down under the city and felt a sickening anger at all the bodies squeezed together on the platform, trying to fit into the next train, no one making eye contact. Sometimes I wanted to speak my mind, like people that get on trains and talk a lot, then ask for money, but I wanted to comment on how ridiculous everyone was in the spirit of bitterness that was already seething from every Londoner on the train that day.

I wanted to laugh and make sarcastic comments about the futility of the rat-race, but I didn’t dare. My accent would have given me away as an American, but I grew accustomed to the nuances underground. The first time I felt like I belonged in London, I was in the Underground, breezing through the tunnels, oblivious to the crowd, listening to Regina Spektor (probably), and for the first time, I didn’t stop to check the map to make sure I was going down the correct tunnel or to have a mild panic. I just kept going.

On the way to the Tube every morning I received a free paper telling me what Amy Winehouse had done the night before and a free paper in the evening telling me what Amy Winehouse had done that day. It was charming. Especially the one about her going to the corner store to get an “iced lollie.” Fucking precious. The paparazzi.

This happened every day until the story broke of the Austrian man who kept his daughter locked in a secret underground “apartment” he had fashioned so that he could rape her and father a few kids by her while only letting a couple of the kids live upstairs in the real world...for 24 years.

Yeah. That is something that happened. I’m not going to go into it more than to say that it is something that actually happened, and I had to read about it every morning and every evening on the Underground. You can read about it here on Wikipedia.

Needless to say, I dove deep into a depression. My boyfriend didn’t know what to do. I didn't know what to tell him. It was everywhere, this story of a monster, destroying the life of his daughter. I couldn’t understand why. Why did it happen? How could it happen? Is this real life? 

I don’t think the story made it over here in the U.S. I think there is a certain level of filtering along with a general apathy for anyone else that isn’t us. Yet, here I was in BBC land, where everyone knows everything about everywhere like a bunch of elitist nerds, having to read tabloid coverage of this...discovery? Event? Horror?

The man refused to admit he had done anything wrong until he watched her testimony, and then suddenly, he shifted, plead guilty.

We broke up. I think I never got over the advice I received from a coworker I had for a short time when I worked as a receptionist for an investment bank. She was from Peru, gorgeous, patient, confident, and comfortable in her own skin. The day we met, as she was training me for the position, she asked me about myself and, within an hour of hearing how I happened to be in London, asked if my boyfriend had any intention of living in the States if I wanted to go back one day. We'd had this discussion, he and I, and I he'd told me, no. I was on the fence, but not really. Her immediate response was "you need to be with someone that wants to be where you want to be," and she was right. It took me about nine years to figure it out, but I figured it out.

I had a drink with her close to the end of both of our tenures in London. She was heading back to Peru to be with her family while she and her husband raised their daughter, who put a kink in their plans to move to Australia and travel more, but she was not sad. She said she relished the strength and courage she felt in having conquered a city like London. I felt the same way. We parted on the Tube platform on trains going in opposite directions. I remember her on the train, waving goodbye and smiling, shouting at me to come to Peru. Still need to do that. 

I had some crazy romances between then and now. Kissed my boyfriend like we would never see each other again at two different airports after we broke up (yep, two). I fell madly in love again, and I cried some real tears as I tumbled out of it.

I just kept moving, desperate to find a way to transform my passion into my action, the missing link that Margaret Fuller found in Ralph Waldo Emerson's new school of thought, Transcendentalism. Emerson said the world is all confusion and madness because man is disunited with nature. If man were to go back to the natural world and live in communion with her, he would transcend to a higher level of humanity. 


Fuller responded that he was close but left out a word. Man is disunited with nature, yes, but, more importantly, man is disunited with his nature. The world, society, tells man that he is "masculine," and society defines that word for him just as it tells women that they are "feminine" and define feminine as less than masculine (exact same concept for race). 

Masculinity is defined as strength, power, and femininity is weaker, more delicate. Margaret would argue that nobody really knew what it meant to be a woman because women were denied the very right to know themselves freely, to own their own lives. Even women my mother's age lived in a prison of limited options, but they angrily held their tongues for lack of another choice. As roads begin to open for women, as more women fight to stay alive where most women die, we see a million new pictures of what it means to be a woman, and the more we know, the more we can share.

Fuller said they are parts of a whole, the masculine and the feminine, that we all share in every aspect of them, but, for the sake of civilization, we deny those parts of ourselves that do not coincide with our respective genders. Did I lose you? Girls wear pink and boys wear blue because that's what stores sell for boys and girls, but we are all colors. We are all passion and strength. We are all emotion and electricity. It's time to embrace it. Fuller said that in the 1840s.

We've now passed the time to embrace it. It's time to catch up.

And time to move on to the last 8 years of my majestic and fascinating life.


Go Cubs.

Us.




Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nancy Caroline, A Timeline: 2007-2008

I took wellbutrin to get through writing my Master's thesis. I went from scattered and emotional to jittery and ultra focused. I wanted to get out of the states, get back to my man, get back to a country that valued...well, humans. So I dove in while my thesis advisor was facing his own struggle with politics at the university. His notes were always charming. Like a monkey throwing poop at me. Charming. I taught classes at the university during the day and sat in front of a computer at night. Then I defended it, and they passed me with the caveat that I continue the research.

Margaret Fuller challenged every notion of woman. She called it as she saw it, faced off with some of the greatest thinkers of her time, or any time. She travelled, single, with the permission of her family, as an adult, and she left everything to work for a newspaper in New York. She was a literary critic, transcendental disciple, and foreign correspondent. I cried when I wrote the last few paragraphs of the paper, when I wrote about her death. She was full, even then, at too young an age.

My dad drove me to the airport in Atlanta on the day before Thanksgiving. I had two large suitcases and a Klonopin. I bought a huge Captain Morgan's Spice Rum at the duty free...to remind me of home....

Then I cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for my new housemates in Turnpike Lane (North London) and they all remarked how clever it is to have a holiday entirely devoted to eating. The English love food. they eat food at the table. I never ate a meal with people that wasn't at the table in England. At my boyfriend's parents' home, we ate most meals in the kitchen and special meals in the dining room. We had wine with every dinner, and the English use both hands to eat. I love it. I used to practice eating with both hands when no one was home when I first noticed the distinction. It might look really simple, but it is not.

I spent a majority of my social time in England sitting around tables and discussing the legitimacy of homeopathy (home-ee-op-athy), world news, or differences between American English and English English. Once, the core group of friends (my boyfriends' friends), sat around a table and discussed the fact that none of us had done crack and whether or not we should try it. The consensus was no.

There were always pints. The boys drank cider, and when I made fun of them for drinking what we would call a "bitch beer" in the U.S., they retorted that cider was a, "man's drink," due mostly to the high alcohol content of most English Ciders. I always drank Bitter. It was creamy and foamy. I liked that.

You can't buy Fritos in England. There is no equivalent. In fact, most U.S. junk food can be found only at a novelty store in China Town that sells primarily American sweets. Chips and salsa aren't free, and authentic Mexican food is really and truly non-existent. And that's important, access to Mexican food, to comfort food.

I worked as a receptionist for a bank then a PA for the CFO of a charity organization who was also a "Dame," like Judy Dench. I scheduled luncheons for her with duchesses and the like, and when I asked where she would like to luncheon, she simply replied, as if I should have known, "the palace." I contracted the Norovirus and wept like a baby while I projectile vomited along with the rest of the nation that had recently been instructed by the BBC to stay away from Hospital if you begin to experience symptoms of the virus. Then I finished out my tenure working with baby nurses for the NHS, which, although it has its drawbacks, is quite the organization.

I had a doctor whose office was about a two minute walk from my house. To make an appointment, I simply registered at the office once and never filled out paperwork again. Then, when I needed to see the doctor, I simply called the office and chose, from the myriad of options, when I wanted to come in for an appointment. When I came in from my appointment, I signed in, sat down, and waited for them to call my name in ten minutes. Then, I sat in the Doctor's office, face to face with him, and discussed my issues. He gave me as much information as he could, sent a prescription to the pharmacy next door, and I was done. Then, I left the office and picked up my prescription for 7 pounds ($14). That's all the money I spent. It was HORRIBLE. If I had questions, there were hours during the day that I could call and speak with a nurse, and getting an appointment was never, ever an issue.

What I didn't learn from actually receiving care from the NHS, I learned by working in an NHS facility.

I don't have a ton of pictures from England, so here's a picture of me eating a bus in Rome:


Tune in tomorrow for the next installment. If you want to delve further into my life after moving to England, you can go to the very beginning of my blog and start with this one: Ghost Town.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nancy Caroline, a Timeline: 2006 - 2007 (slowin it down a bit)


Apparently...we look like we are "straight up gay" in this picture.
I started Grad School in 2005, drank like a fish, spent New Years in New York after both of my grandmothers died within a month of one another. I tried to date, but everything promising terrified me to the point of self destruction. I did lots of self-destructive things my first two semesters in graduate school. I had never rebelled as a young thang. I was steadfast and loyal....good. Oh how I tried so desperately to be good.

Then the summer came and my best friend and I lived like we were kings....that drank a lot, loved the boys, belched and farted like no other woman has or should, woke up hungover...most days, and laughed...because it was the only true remedy to the hell of real life. We shut down the Hi-Tone (the original Hi-Tone on Poplar Ave) on a weekly basis, broke into apartment complexes with pools and jacuzzis, befriended booth owners at the Memphis International BBQ festival, danced at the Lindy Hop, danced, drunk as hayle at Ernestine and Hazel's, and ate McGriddles....so many McGriddles. We had a love affair with Midtown Memphis. We were partners in crime. She turned to me one night and told me that it was a time we were having and that it would have to end at some point, and she was right. I taught English in the Czech Republic, but not before stopping over in London to visit my college roommate who happened to be there attending art school. We went with an Englishman friend of mine (that I kissed a bunch outside of The Buccaneer in Memphis while a bluegrass band played inside and then months later again in a churchyard in Prague after getting totally wasted at a nightclub on dollar beers) to a club called The End where the DJ Erol Alkan hosted a party, Trash, which he ended every night by playing The Smith’s classic “There is a Light that Never Goes Out,” while the English boys smashed their beer glasses on the floor, and everyone, everyone, EVERYONE sang along like the night would never end and we would never grow old. My local tour guide (and worldwide makeout buddy extraordinaire) also introduced me to my next boyfriend that night, a fella from Manchester that was studying Diatoms to predict climate change (I think) in grad school. We talked about England’s recent loss in the World Cup, to Portugal, and he struggled to describe how it felt to know he had to wait four years for another chance. I helped him by reminding him that presidents in the U.S. serve four year terms. He laughed at my cleverness. He turned to me at the end of the night, pointed up to indicate the song everyone was singing, and yelled over the pulsing crowd, “THIS IS A TCHUNE!” I took a class on Emerson the semester after that summer, and fate’s hand dipped its fingers back into my stew. The instructor, on the first day, informed the class that we would just be reading a lot of Emerson and if anyone wanted to drop the class, that was fine with him. No one dropped, and we entered into a philosophical journey that led me to my research obsession, how to apply Emerson’s transcendental tenets to women in a world that did not allow women the freedom to “transcend.” The instructor introduced me to Margaret Fuller and her essays, letters, journals, and activism began to guide my life in directions I had never imagined. I spent the next two years, travelling with my English gentleman and reading about Fuller, buried in printouts from JStore, academic articles examining Fuller’s relationship to her mentors like Emerson and Hawthorne, her admirers like Poe and Whitman, and her relationship to herself, the most torrid, the most confused, as she wrestled with society’s expectations and her own nature. She was a beast of an intellect, obsessed with learning as much as she could and sharing that knowledge, but her fervor was lost on the men in her life. They did not know what to do with the feelings they had for her that she pressed them to explore in the name of life and liberty. They would fall short, literary giants, lost for words in the company of a woman that did not fit the mold. How curious it is that her history is known by so few…
Beautiful Bar"th"elona
Before I finally put pen to paper to write and eventually defend my Master’s Thesis, We travelled to Spain, Valencia and Barcelona, road bicycles out into the countryside and ate Paiaya and locally grown almonds on the beach of the mediterranean sea as the sun set. Then we fell asleep listening to the echoes of night owl footsteps along the stone streets below us. We fought. We went to food markets and bought avocados that we ate on fresh bread spread with Marmite and bananas. It was weird. We visited art museums and read the labels for each piece, took naps in the park, and fought. We made it to Prague a few days before we were to begin teaching in Pilsen, and we explored her medieval streets until our whole bodies ached, and we fought. Then, we taught English for three weeks in West Bohemia, drank with teachers and students from all over the world but mostly Memphians and Czechs. We smoked Hookah in a tea lounge off a quiet street in the center of the city, drank liqueur that put hair on my chest, and ate beef knuckles and Goulash, slept on beaches in the shade, and road trolleys everywhere.  And we drank beer, rushing under the city from the source, pure and fresh, our nourishment, for in the Czech Republic, beer is food.

Then....I sold my stuff, and I moved to England with the intention of not coming back for a long time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nancy Caroline: A Timeline 1999-2005

Abilene, Texas. That is where I decided I needed to go to college, in the desert in Texas. It has a great many gems (including some fantastic steakhouses and some hole in the wall BBQ places that are decent for Texas) and it is a unique city, but in Abilene, I discovered the maze of my brain, and I dug down deep, saw the abyss for the first time, never recovered. The four years I spent in college (1998-2002) were exciting and tumultuous and the world changed forever for everyone. I made new friends and strengthened my bonds with old friends. I opened the door. I didn't look back.

1999-2005

  • I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after a miserable few months of pain, panic attacks, embarrassing tests, magic muscle relaxers, and steroids that eventually led me to contract Mononucleosis from the cesspool of germs that is a college campus….for Christmas 1999. During Finals week I remember thinking, “If I die this week, at least I won’t have to feel like this.” Because of my diagnosis, I would not be able to buy health insurance for myself until I was 34 years old. Ulcerative Colitis is too expensive to treat. So I haven't.
  • I fell in love for the first time, with a boy. I could write you our story, and maybe one day I will, but it would take too much time. I feel, after more than ten years, that today, I remember why I loved him, and the time we had, and it doesn’t hurt. He broke my heart, and I am certain I broke his. I was more graceful about it, although he would argue. My tongue was always too sharp. He did things in secret. A sharp tongue stings, but betrayal is like taking a gutting knife and stabbing it into the side of my waist and not ripping it out right away, just kind of tugging it and watching that hook blade thing on the other side of my flesh while I ask, pleadingly, what I can do to make him stay with me. You never forget pain like that. I still have the wedding dress because you can’t return a wedding dress.
  • Early one September morning, my senior year in college, after Biology, my only 8 a.m. class my entire college career, I walked towards my Strength Training class to discover that a plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York. I spent the rest of the day sitting in rooms with people I knew and saying nothing.
  • 2002 I graduated from college and thought, as my mind wandered during the commencement ceremony, that I had no idea what to do with my life, that I was going to have to start making adult decisions, and I had no clue how to do that.
  • I left Abilene, and I lived in an apartment that I painted Kermit Green in Lakewood, Dallas, TX, to remain somewhat close to my boyfriend. I had always imagined I would go to North Carolina, my birthplace, and pursue a life there, in the Blue Ridge mountains. In Dallas, I waited tables at a dinner theater called “The Pocket Sandwich Theater” in which “melodramas” were performed and popcorn was served to throw at the bad guys. I taught Junior High School in south Dallas for a year, worked as a cocktail server at the original Dave and Buster’s and performed improv with Comedy Sportz in Plano, TX. Then, I gave it all up to move back to Abilene in an attempt to save an engagement that didn’t want to be saved, so that when I realized I had to let it go, I also discovered that I had nothing else to hold onto. My mother drove me from Abilene back to Memphis, and I started over. Completely.
  • My parents separated. My unit, my family cut our ropes and went floating out into space in different directions. This, three months after the end of my engagement.
  • I moved into an adorable apartment in Midtown Memphis, pre-gentrification, paid about $475 for a one bedroom with a little balcony, bought myself a queen size comfy bed because an old friend of mine told me, one night, whilst in each other’s embrace, that his father taught him a good night’s sleep is always a good investment. I dated the charming and ever steadfast lead singer of a metal band and waited tables at the Outback Steakhouse. I made friends that I still cherish to this day. I blended in. Kind of. I was still spinning from the fallout. So....
  • I bought a Kelty backpack and took it to Europe along with a Euro-Rail pass, and some various sundries. I got wasted in a pub crawl in Berlin, cried alone in a hotel room in Switzerland while I ate an entire jar of Nutella with my fingers, saw the last installment of the Star Wars prequels at an English theater in Austria, ate Gelato twice a day in Italy, cried alone in a “cabin” at a family campground outside of Rome while a German family played some sort of talkative sport outside my window, nursed a hangover on the isle of Capris, and wandered the streets of Pompeii on my own. I stayed in a Best Western for one night in Paris and took a bath (it was awesome), fell down in a conga line in a cozy little pub in Brugge and later offered to have a threesome with a couple after we smoked a joint under a bridge in some misty night scene from a movie, but in the end, I just went back to my hostel and farted in the echo-y bathroom with another girl until we hurt from laughing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nancy Caroline: A Timeline 1979-1998

Here it is, either my ultimate narcissistic gesture, or something I had to do to be able to see what others see in me. I started writing my timeline on the eve of my birthday, last Tuesday. Birthdays always offer an opportunity to reflect. Funny how that is. How, before, it was a celebration of milestones, and now, it's a time to look back and let go, to remember and look forward. Great time to do mushrooms or something, so if anyone's selling, I'm looking to buy.

Once I started, and the years began to reveal themselves to me, I realized how much fun it was, to look back over my life and condense it to fit a timeline of events. Each bullet point could fill an entire chapter of a book, and each time period, a volume, and that is the gift I have been receiving since I wished for it years ago, to own my life.

We begin with the beginning, my formative years, as a little girl in the world, connected to the ground through roots that grew out of my velcro tennis shoes, sent shoots out from my fingertips, and bloomed at my lips.

  • Birth, Hickory, NC to James Anthony Allen and Martha Lois Nevills. Cesarean section. Explains how ravishing I am.
  • Moved to Memphis, TN in a really cool 70s car so that my dad could go to school for Theology. I ate ice cream for the first time, I hear.
  • I make countless cassette tapes of myself hosting some sort of talk show. I never listened to the tapes because I always always always hated the sound of my own voice.
  • I have vague memories of dirty knees, spider webs, Christmas lights, and kittens. Also countless hours digging holes in the back yard or on the playground and searching patches of clover for one with four leaves.

  • I sprained my ankle on my tenth birthday when I jumped off this Hamburgler on a playground at McDonald’s that you climbed up into like a hamburger jail mouth thing. My parents regaled me with stories of the day I was born to help keep my mind off how bad my ankle hurt that night.
  • Mom and Dad used to wake me on Saturday mornings by “sneaking” into my room on their hands and knees, but I always heard them coming because they couldn’t stop giggling.
  • I kissed a boy for the first time in the back yard of a house in Memphis after we jumped on a trampoline and drank orange-tangerine Mystic Waters until we almost threw up. It felt rushed and close. I said, “Orange-Tangerine,” when it was over. That was pretty much it.
  • I took piano lessons, sculpting classes, art classes, and drama classes because my parents were pretty intent on making me into a complete and interesting human being.
  • I got my period!
  • I played the flute, and I loved it. You might say, she was my first great love. In those moments I spent alone in a soundproof practice room, I learned how to be honest and open, how to think and how to feel, how to sit with myself. Then, I got scared that I would stop impressing people, and the more frightened I got, the less I wanted to play my flute, until I stopped altogether (but only after more than ten years).
    Prom '98
  • I discovered the Theater, my second love. I’m not 100% sure who, my mother or father, gave me my keen distaste for dishonesty, but the only real gift you need to be able to enjoy theatre is the ability to look life in the face and not back down from what you see. We back down from life in a lot of ways, take the easy way out, wonder what that ache is, even though we know. I felt like I could be myself in the theatre crowd. And then, for some reason, probably anxiety, I felt like an outsider, but that was much later.
  • I graduated from High School.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Sold My Car

Today marks the first day of my vacation. I'm taking a vacation. Some old buddies from my days in the Atlanta improv scene threw together a reunion show. We've all since moved to different states, kept in contact, but not all been together since Matthew and Carol's Wedding, and not everyone made it to that. Of course, not everyone is making it to this either, but it's as good as any reason to head to the Atl.

Chicago is moving ever closer to winter, and as it does, so too does my soul. My dark, deep, troubled soul. I'm better, but I'm trepidatious. I'm keeping my head up, though. I've been biking the past few days...days merely, after about a month long break, and I've been feeling this intense level of uplift in everything. Despite a brief moment of loss of control right around the worst days of my lady cycle, the days leading up to the last have been easier than ever. And A LOT has happened. 

I've been weeping and gnashing my teeth over my recent gumption to move into sales at my current job. I'm good at working with people and getting people to trust me (like a fox), and since I actually genuinely try to be an actual trustworthy person, it's kind of easy for me. The hardest part is getting the hell off my own back and ass. 

I've been trying to figure out what this damn demon creature at my heels has been, this anvil tied to my ankle and dragging me down into darker waters. I've been fighting it, like a warrior princess. 

And just like every warrior princess, I've had to solve a problem....not like Maria.....like Caroline. If you've never seen Spirited Away, change the status of that. Put it on your list. It's a great example of the maze of trials I've been tripping along these past months since December, when I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted to die. 

The story is universal, like a fairy tale...but the kind that hasn't been altered by religion, by dogma. The kind that empowers because it forces the hero to solve a problem, to meet with the hag, and to obey her commands without complaint. To do the work. 

When the problem is solved, the hero has succeeded and receives that for which she has been fighting. In the case of Spirited Away, the hero's parents have been turned into swine, and she must complete the tasks to solve the problem and to return her parents to their human forms. 

People want to help, and people do what they can, but she has to turn the levers, choose which doors to open. 

I think somewhere along the line, whether it be white male supremacy or capitalism.....or is white male supremacy just a small bi-product of the inherent nature of capitalism (I'm more inclined towards this)....we stopped appreciating having agency over our own lives. We stopped being taught what that meant, and I'm talking about all of us.  


I always imagined I'd send my old 1999 Honda Civic off into the sunset with a final road trip, but the girl wasn't having it. The clutch needed to be replaced. 

I called Triple A, and to send me back to Chicago, they sent the guy that took me to the mechanic I had to visit in Indiana, where my girl gave up the fight. He was a big man with a long white beard. He had a step-daughter with him that told me about her boyfriend's recent arrest within the first minute of meeting me, and we all piled into his old tow truck. 

I finally hit that wall of "how much money do I want to keep putting into this car," namely because my dad hit that wall a while ago. I spent the better part of my day in a tow truck, with this unique family who loved Linus, of course, and discussed the basic realities of living life with me, which is a lot to ask for from a day, and I didn't ask for any of it. 

At one point my chariot driver turned up an old country song on the radio and started singing to Linus as we chugged our way into the belly of the beast of Chicago rush hour. Every time someone honked at us for running red lights, the man and his daughter would yell at them as loudly as they could...from Indiana, but speaking that Chicago road rage language that you really can't appreciate until you realize how many assholes own cars in this damn town. 

She regaled me with stories of her "old man" and how his ex has been making their live's a living hell since he started dating her. Which reminds me. I want to challenge all women...and all men with this: no one can steal your boyfriend or girlfriend. Everyone has free will and the ability to make choices. Don't ruin both of your lives by trying to get someone that didn't choose you back into your life. Choose your life over that nonsense. 

I said this, or some version of this out loud in the truck, and my driver, in between drags from his cigarette, leaned forward and pointed at me to affirm my musings. We also smoked a joint in the truck, once we were in Illinois, and it wasn't a crime; he didn't because he was working and driving, but his daughter and I partook and he told us about driving a tractor trailer coast to coast for years. "It gets in your blood." 

He drives a tow truck. He also drives a limo, wears a suit or a tux, depending on the event, but if he can drive his beat up tow truck, he'd rather do that, meet people, buy old cars and work with his neighbor to fix em up and resell them or sell them for parts. It made me think: don't do what you do because you need a job. Do what you do because you HAVE to do it....even if it's driving a truck....do it because it's in your blood. I mean...do what you have to do to get to that point, but don't ever stop trying to get there. Success has many faces, and contentment is not always what you expect.  

I had respect for this man, and I think he shared the same for me as he helped me swing myself from the cab onto the flatbed to grab something out of my trunk. So I sold him a monument to my past, parts of which I continue to leave further and further behind each day that I wake up believing I have inside of my little frame everything I need to take care of myself, and if I don't know how to do it yet, I'm open and excited to learn because if I never stop learning, I never stop living. (and you're welcome for that sentence)

I do a lot of things that make me nervous, that make my heart race. Sometimes getting out of bed is that thing, and sometimes counter offering a price $50 higher than my potential buyer's initial offer makes me feel like I'm going to throw up. I did it anyway, and he said yes. So I got my stuff, and I said goodbye to my girl. May she live in our hearts forever. 

 And I keep looking forward. I have a whole vacation to enjoy. 

Ol' Emmie, Dec. 1998 - September 2016. Photo Credit: Apryl Cox-Jackson



Monday, September 12, 2016

Connection

We are, at our core, animals. Society, in fact, is a way that we separate ourselves from the animals. Society grew from our ability to create and write down a language, and more than a few theorists believe that this, language, is what has separated us from our true and happiest selves. Once we learn language, some say, a veil is drawn over our eyes, and we no longer feel like we are a part of everything else that exists because we have created a way to differentiate ourselves, for lack of a better way to say it, in writing. I now see the difference between myself and the not myself which is represented by these symbols that are not the same as the symbols that represent me. Am I just making it worse at this point? I know I’m ALWAYS harping on this.

We are a part of everything around us, but we separate ourselves from whatever isn’t human, and we don’t stop there. It seems we are constantly on the lookout for more ways to differentiate ourselves, to feel unique, when the reality is, we ARE unique, without making any attempts.

I, in my desperate need to put my hands in the dirt, planted some tomato plants I bought from Home Depot in my backyard in mid July. As I watched everyone tout their own home grown tomatoes, I dug up my young tomato plants and moved them to an area of the yard, I felt, had more sun exposure. Maybe minutes.

So I bought a full length mirror at Lowes, and every morning I would prop it up on a bucket full of water and angle it so that the sunlight was reflecting off of it and onto my tomatoes. I have no idea if that was even useful.

I also packed the kiddos in with mushroom compost, fed them fish emulsion, and spent at least five minutes with each plant a day, chatting and pruning back the endless shoots that they send out, desperate to grow, to vine. Talking to plants totally works.

I even resigned myself, in this Zen Buddhism sort of way, to only getting a couple of pieces of fruit. The act of planting and tending was emotionally worth the time it took because it reminded me that nothing is as straightforward as life. It just keeps moving. It just keeps swimming, regardless of me, regardless of anything.

I have discovered a number of tomatoes now, each different, green, transparent, each a beautifully sculpted expression of life, and I am a part of it. Finally, again. There is no subtext, nothing to decipher. When I think about it, I know what they need, just as I know what I need, and the work that I do to maintain them is an extension of the work I do for my own maintenance.

Everything else is just signs and signified, a way to distinguish ourselves from the rest; the distinctions are obvious, but the connections are what matter the most.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Labour

Here I am. Saturday afternoon, and I’ll admit it. I lurked a couple of times on Facebook and Instagram because I love everyone’s pictures, but since I've been forcing myself to stay away from it, I have been more connected and more aware, and that has made all the difference.


It’s been nostalgic. Remember when we didn’t live like this? It wasn’t that long ago that life seemed a little simpler, but I don’t think I would give it ALL up. We live in a remarkable time and have access to so much information, it's hard to imagine not having this kind of access, but just like everything else, it requires temperance.


Here’s something that I’ve noticed: the longer I sit still, the more I want to sit still, and the longer I sit still, the darker my thoughts get. Nothing makes me feel more hopeless than multiple days sitting in front of my television, computer, or phone thinking of all the things I need to do and not doing them. Don’t misunderstand me. There are days when all I need to do is sit in front of the television, but there is never a day that I don’t need to walk my dog or feed myself, and therein lies the distinction.


Say it’s age, say it’s the drugs, but I’ve always been this way. The hardest part of my whole life is actually having to live it. Just like Buffy the Vampire Slayer said in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5 episode 22 before sacrificing her life to close the door to a hell dimension that her annoying fake sister's blood opened by doing this.

At dinner with a lifelong friend the other night, I confessed that I would never be happy if I couldn’t make myself do things after she admitted to the same foible. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, if I’m not doing anything, I’m lost.

Life is work, but you do have to be conscious of your own threshold. You have to find the balance. Even the French, with their, like, five or six weeks of government mandated vacation time (it’s not a joke, that’s real as hell), have to do laundry and wash dishes, cook for themselves to feed themselves, sweep the damn floor. Life is work.


Life is not “success.”


I’m a good salesperson. I can close. However, my assignment for this month at work is to find 20 viable leads...over the phone. I got the assignment and a book on cold calling. I’m a good salesperson, but this assignment is balls. I’m not jazzed about this part of the job, but I’ll do it because I need the money and the practice of having a work ethic.


I’m not kidding when I say I’d rather produce than market and sell. I can only take the weight of the American economy for so long. I’ll produce what you need or want, and I’ll make you feel good about buying it from me, but I’m not desperate to make you my bitch, and therein lies the distinction. That’s where the manic-whispered violence of Glengarry Glen Ross (which I fell asleep during: brass balls, always be closing, we get it) comes into play, the desperation to control people for what it pays, and trust me, it pays well.

Anyway, that's computers...phones...touch screens...healthcare...if we can't live without it, they'll always have the most money.


And that’s capitalism. Y’all.

Happy freaking labor day weekend.

There's a bouncy castle a couple of back yards away from me and a kid friendly DJ. But the weather is incredible.