On Deciding

“Indecision is a decision.”

I can’t think.

I can’t stop thinking.

“Maybe you should stop thinking and just feel for a while.”

I can’t stop thinking.

I could never be a judge. The evidence is there for both sides. And it’s devastatingly beautiful (or vice versa). The “Here” vs. the “There”. Both claim to be the better and they are tugging at me… Harder and harder. Until I wake up. I check my phone.

“When I look at your pictures, I understand why you want to stay.”

There was never a doubt about the “wanting”… it’s the “what’s a smart thing to do here” kind of situation.

I can’t feel because I can’t stop thinking.

And it’s my fault. Because I have people who love me dearly and who want only the best for me and to help me.

I think until I feel in extremes – extreme happiness or devastation and sadness. Extreme gratitude or helpless. I used to have anxiety attacks. The numbness that follows them is an incredible relief. I’m hoping for the numbness to set in soon.

Every new big decision is the toughest you’ll ever make. And I can’t make this one. I’m afraid. I’m so goddamn afraid.

“The world is your oyster.”

I wake up on Day 1 feeling calm and happy – finally, there’s an end to this thinking and list-making and pros and cons and friends and family and jobs and weather and memories and songs and opportunity and newness and change. I’m calm on my way to work, enjoy my favorite Pandora station and go about my day. Then all the things I would miss start seeping through. My conscience attempts to shut up my feelings “This is nonsense. It’s just you. And it’s not a decision for the rest of your life”. But it might be. Maybe not.

I have lunch, and finish the second half of my work day. I drive “home” to my friend’s house where I’m staying. I’ve cleaned out most of the things I own by now… reducing the total of boxes to 3. And a suitcase. This can easily be shipped within a week. I get anxious again.

“You need to regroup.”

I am terrified of making a wrong decision.

I long for my family. I long for a change and a move forward in my life.

But my heart. My heart aches at the thought of standing at the door with my suitcase, turning around one last time and leaving for good… for now. I try to finish the thought… To go to the airport in my head, check in, board the plane and cry my eyes out. Because now it’s too late. There is no turning back. Les jeux sont faits. Rien ne va plus. And then I have another 10 hours to cry and accept my leap and get out of my own head. This, I imagine to be the most difficult of it all. And then the liberating numbness sets in again. I hope. Once I’m on that plane and the plane is in the air, and everyone is asleep, I can be alright.

“We can’t wait to have you here.”

But I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough.

I have a job (not career) opportunity, nice weather and a life… sort of… pulling one arm… and the love of my family, old friends and my home country with new opportunities (and possibly a career) pulling the other one. Both are incredibly strong. I know I will definitely lose an arm. I either let each side keep pulling until… until what? I am already at the point where I am restless, sleepless, incapable of deciding… Or I decide which arm I want to lose… because it will be one or the other.

“Nothing beats a pool party in October.”

All decisions are for me to make. I am incredibly blessed to have a job, parents and friends who LET me decide. That alone should make it easier. What if it doesn’t? What if it makes it harder?

“One day, you will find your Mr. Darcy.”

I can’t read. I bought three new books that I can’t wait to get started on. But I can’t concentrate.

I watch a TV show. One episode in and I lost track. My mind is wandering. Checking emails and social media. I started on a movie.. One that I’ve seen a hundred times and that’s supposed to make me feel better. And it does. For a split second. I laugh.

“Wait a tic, that means I’m single again- Oh, behave.”

I went on a hike. I went to a party. I socialized. I ran. I wrote this.

I go to bed.

Day 2 starts out like Day 1. And then I go to work… It’s like Groundhog’s Day… Or what I imagine the movie “Happy Death Day” to be like (in theaters everywhere October 13th): A girl wakes up every day to her birthday and is killed by the end of the day. She keeps reliving the same day and is caught in this cycle until she finds out who her killer is. Is the only way to break out of this vicious circle to find who my killer is? Or is it a Catch-22? Even if I find out, it’s not going to put an end to the story?

I can’t stop thinking. I’m restless and exhausted.

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“Sometimes You Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

Where were we?

Right… No matter how many times I’ve tried to write and rewrite what has happened, I keep deleting and adding information, rewording, over-editing and in the end, it’s not what happened at all. It is quite a lot and I will try to summarize… Without giving away too much information, but just enough for me to process and for you to hopefully enjoy the read. Without hurting or glamorizing anyone, which may be impossible and I might scream, but it’s a written scream, so you should be alright.

What happened to me happens to a lot of people. Every day. Somewhere in the world. Or let’s just say, I’m not the first person that this has happened to and I won’t be the last. So in no way do I want to make myself sound (more) special (than I am) here ;), but it was something that pulled the rug out from under me. Completely. I was on autopilot for weeks; survival mode for a month; and I merely functioned. I did not really enjoy anything I was doing. I was going through the motions.

It took an army of friends and family to get me to where I am now. I am currently rooming with a guy friend (let’s call him Frank for name change’s sake). Frank has a dog. A hand-me-down from his ex-wife. It’s pocket-sized, pretty old, has diabetes, is half-blind and incontinent. So for one, it’s a miracle that the creature is still alive. But back to the dog at a later time… Frank offered to put me up in his one-bedroom in West Hollywood while I go back to my 7-3.30 job to save up dinero until I can afford my own place again. At least that was the plan.

Frank has his own limo service (driving celebrities to and from the airport, movie premieres, after parties, parties in general) and some great stories to tell. Half of them are probably made up or embellished, but listening to him, I’m learning that my situation is not nearly as bad as what some others are going through. Every day. On different levels. But everyone has their own set of problems. I knew that before, but recognizing other people’s coping mechanisms just makes it more palpable and real. Frank, for example, has very irregular hours because when celebrity X drunk-dials him on a random Thursday at 3 AM, he jumps up off the couch, slides into his driver uniform and tumbles out the door right behind the wheel. So he doesn’t have regular working hours and sleeps on the couch, despite having a bedroom.

He has been doing this for decades. The room I’m staying in now has been named the “room of lost souls”. Boxes propped against the wall (some are mine, most are not), and the hood of my SMART car next to the bed (long story). Dog pee pads, toilet paper and paper towels on the other side of the wall, and a fan right in the door, blowing in the other direction. Several friends of his have been here over time, always for a few months until they got back on their feet, like me right now.

I’d like to circle around to the coping mechanisms again. When I come home from work, Frank is usually there and does his invoices while watching TV. There are four fans in the small living room (because no A/C and this is Los Angeles), creating a wind tunnel and my eyes are always completely dried up whenever I watch TV. Not to mention I’m frickin’ freezing and the blind, diabetic, peeing dog is lying on his little pillow island, ears blowing in the wind, having the time of his life. But Frank is not supposed to have a dog, and the dog barks because it’s blind and incontinent and it’s a dog, so the owners aren’t supposed to know and thus, Frank turns on the fans (for the wind and the noise), all radios in the apartment and the TV. Full range. All channels. I cannot hear myself think… and that’s a good thing.

But that’s not how he copes… Or at least not all of it. When I come home from work, he usually sits there and we watch some shows that he DVR’ed. He always listens to the intro of “Cheers”, and then switches back to the news. He sings along, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.” [piano outro] And I smile. Everybody has their happy place. The place where you are safe and nobody and nothing can hurt you. For Frank, it’s Cheers.

He DVR’ed a couple of ALF episodes for me (because I saw an episode on MeTV one day and mentioned that I grew up with that show). We now watch ALF re-runs every day (I’ve seen all of them multiple times and used to tape them in the 80’s, had all the audio tapes…), and we dissect each episode and google what has become of the actors. Maybe ALF is my happy place for now… Until I figure out my next move. But the next step is becoming more and more concrete. And that’s a very good feeling. It’s good to feel again. Something. Anything.

Three in One or “A Whole Lot Of Nothing”

I finally had my keyboard fixed. So now I get all excited that I don’t have to copy-paste the “-“ or the “6” or one of the other 10 keys that had decided to go on strike. Highlight of my day.

These are the last days of my cross-country travel adventure and it’s raining cats and dogs. I left the Amarillo hotel before sunrise to avoid the rush hour traffic, but the lack of sunlight and increase in liquid downpour didn’t make this leg any more relaxing than the last one.

The motto for the remaining days shall be “a whole lot of nothing”.

Whole lotta rain

My next stop would be a small town outside of Dallas where I checked into my hotel before meeting up with a friend whom I went to High School with. It was fun seeing each other again after 17 years… 17 years!!

Can you tell I was exhausted? :D

I didn’t leave as early as planned on the next day, but as usual managed to check the car, get a spot of breakfast and mentally prepare for the road to Mississippi. As with the leg before, this one turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. I took my friend’s advice and filled up the gas tank right before leaving Texas. Everyone had advised me not to stop on the way at all if possible. So I limited my own liquid intake and drove the speed limit.

“Sweet home Alabama”

The biggest mistake I made was booking a Red Roof Inn in Mississippi. Apparently everyone knew not to pick this one… I didn’t pay attention. It was a god forsaken motel in a god forsaken town surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. The lady who checked me in handed me the key to a room that was furthest away from the main building… Not what I had been looking for at all.

As I inspected the room which reeked of cigarette smoke and mold, a car (the only other car anywhere near this establishment) drove by and the young male passenger eyed little ol’ me standing by my car… I already pictured myself hacked to pieces in that little shed next to the motel.

Chair of doom

I requested another room and received one closer to the main building, but the night was as restless as the first one. There were other people staying at this motel, but it was creepy beyond all get-out. And that’s exactly what I did, earlier than expected.

This also resulted in my earlier arrival in Orlando, which was a relief. I was fresh out of energy, adventurous zing and will to drive. I was greeted by the typical Florida hanging moss trees and incredible humidity (even in December) and I loved it. That night’s sleep was deep and I unpacked the next day. Strange to think of all these details shortly before packing everything up again. Such is life… What a trip!

Lots of cranes around here

 

Road Trip Part V

The Way to Amarillo…

… Was a challenge. The morning in Albuquerque was similar to the one in Flagstaff, minus the snow and nose bleeds. Breakfast was meh coffee and I was not up for another cup of instant oats, so… Starbucks.

I only had one stop scheduled on the way to Amarillo and that was Cadillac Ranch. Like the day before, the rental had other plans. This time, the maintenance sign alerted me to the fact that the oil had not been changed in a while. Thanks again, Hertz. Not like I didn’t emphasize enough that I’m a woman travelling alone across the country and need my freakin’ rental car checked so that it doesn’t break down in the middle of nowhere. Plus, what am I going to tell my mother?!

The still photo is from a video I recorded and my last sentence was literally “I wish I could’ve enjoyed this nothingness a little more”. Hilarious – I hadn’t seen it since the journey and I was visibly pissed.

After several phone calls on the way to the next big city (which in fact was Amarillo… there is not much else between the two cities), a Hertz service guy told me to visit their service center in Amarillo and they will change the oil for me. The other option was to exchange the entire car at the nearest airport. Right… And losing at least another two hours in which I would’ve had to move my stuff from one car to another… Not happening.

Clouds and a whole lot of nothing

Needles to say, my mood had gone from adventurously determined to sour and impatient. Although the Hertz center in Amarillo was very accommodating. It only took them an hour to change the oil with the line of people that was already there.

The clouds over Cadillac Ranch added to the overall gloomy mood I was in. It is literally ten Cadillacs stuck in the ground and spray painted. On another day, I would’ve appreciated this art installation more, but I’d just had it.

Cadillac Ranch
Cadillac Ranch Close up

Thankfully, it wasn’t a long drive (barely five hours, almost seven with the oil change inconvenience). I decided to call it a day, fill up the tank (the car’s and mine) and get to my hotel. A hotel in a building with actual hallways and doors inside (as opposed to doors leading directly to the outside… you know what I mean). The Indian gentleman who checked me in asked if I was hungry and offered a yogurt from the kitchen fridge. Very kind man and reassuring end to such a day.

Three travel days to go. I’m dreading the weather. And I don’t want to drive anymore. It’s creepy and boring. And I’ve seen enough. It’s December 2nd.

Tree outside the hotel

Road Trip Part IV

What a Difference a Year Makes

This one year’s leap was an extreme… But I think that about every year.

For me it was my work life, my personal life, and my location that have changed. With a simple decision. A simple text. An inquiry. A favor. Nothing that preceded the decision or the text or the inquiry or the favor was simple, and sometimes hurtful, but necessary… apparently.

The mysterious sounds of Stranger Things are echoing through the room as I’m writing this- one of the few albums I kept listening to in a loop when I was slaving away at my 7 – 3.30 in the Valley. Whenever I wasn’t answering phones, that is. It reminds me of the time that led up to this. I planned my road trip for a good month. The change was necessary and I would never have decided against it.

I was excited for the planning process, looking forward to pretty much everything. I’m a Virgo, planning is what I do. I had my hotels booked in time, the car was reserved, accounts cancelled or changed, and whatever else you do when you move. Except I barely knew half the things I needed to cancel or change since it was my first move by myself within the US. I think I did ok.

I bought an actual road atlas. On Third Street. At Barnes and Noble. This was my first call-to-action to myself, kind of a warning shot if you will. It was the end of October. Halloween was about to end (Halloween for me is an all-­year thing, except for Christmas which is granted the remaining two months).

Two weeks later, I gave notice to the Valley office job.

My friend and Ocean soul-mate Laura had just managed to fight her way back to LA.­ It was the first time I had seen her in about a year and a half (?). She made it back. And I was leaving. A few days before I headed out, she stood in my loft living room between packed boxes and said (in a nutshell, and in German) “Well, it still looks very livable”. I wasn’t sure whether I hadn’t packed everything soon enough, if I had missed something despite my meticulous planning and cancelling and informing and booking and on-setting insanity. It was entirely possible.

But I hadn’t. Time just needed to pass.

November 29th rolled around. The day my friend Aiza came over with her few months old son and they nearly froze their butts off (I say “froze”, but it’s LA, guys… We get wimpy after a while. Still, it was chilly.) while I was loading my life into back of the rental. I couldn’t thank her enough. I must’ve made around 20 trips while she stood there, patiently, watching over my belongings.

Last evening on my living room floor

Just as quickly, the 30th of November came. I spent the night at another friend and family’s house. The same house I had stayed at the very first two weeks when I moved to Los Angeles. They had a dog that was not only adorable, but also very old, sick, and incontinent. So my friend had laid out paper towels in the bathroom for the poor doggy to go on during the night after we had our last supper (Domino’s sandwiches… because Chinese food is to celebrate, not for saying goodbye).

Last sunset walk for now

My alarm went off at 4.30 am. I tiptoed around the dog-­pee­-toweletted bathroom floor into the shower, got ready, and headed out. My phone plugged into the car, my Leaving-­LA-­Playlist ready, I didn’t even look at the cup of coffee that my friend had warmed up for me. As soon as I was headed out the driveway in the protective quiet darkness of early LA mornings…. The driveway where I first set out to on my LA adventure, to which I returned after an intense movie premiere, and where we had comfort Chinese food…. Everything came back to me in an instant and I tried to push the memories away. I couldn’t. I had to concentrate not to turn into a waterfall right then. Keep it together, please… just keep it together…

The planned route

 

Road Trip Part I