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The beauty of fresh pain is that it’s almost, well, painless. Certainly there’s this initial punch and the air is knocked out of you, the world is knocked away from under you…but then it’s OK.  You don’t feel anything, not in your heart nor your limbs. Vision stays blurry and hearing stays muffled. Everything tastes bland.

And the world keeps spinning on its axis while you remain suspended in place.

My dad died of a sudden heart attack one week after our 2010  Christmas. The last time I saw my dad was on Christmas Day; we went to Lin’s Grand Buffet and I served him his food while he waited at the booth.

After he died, I existed for months in this cocoon of shock. I would wake up for a few hours at a time, maybe even a whole day. Then I would just retreat back into my dark place. The few times that I woke up from this fugue it wasn’t worth it.

I remember waking up for an entire week about two months after my dad died. This was in March.  I was reconnecting with my best friend, who was worried about me and how I was dealing with my dad’s death and my mom’s banishment of me from our family.

I saw her on a Monday. She died later that very same week. Aspirated on her own vomit after taking too many Sudafed, drinking too much codeine cough syrup from the doc, and washing it down with Vodka. I’m glad I saw her that week. I’m sorry I didn’t answer her drunken texts the night she died. I will always live with that pain. I retreated again. Even further.

I slept through Easter and woke up in time for my birthday. My Dirty Thirty Plus One got me out of the house; I realized that in the five months that I had been sleeping and breathing (and nothing more, I assure you of that) that things had changed around me. I had changed. And that first day I remember waking up and thinking, “So this is the beginning to recovery, to feeling better, to dealing with this pain. I can do this.”

I suppose my mom was right, at least concerning my thoughts for that day. I was, plainly and simply, delusional. For of course that was not the train of events to take place. No, no…that, friends and neighbors, was just the beginning of the true pain.

When you’re asleep, when you’re walking around in a fugue, when you stay intoxicated and inebriated, you can deal with the pain because you can’t feel the pain. It’s like having an epidural or any other anesthetic. You’re here, but you’re not present.

I woke up in early summer and regretted it. Because once the shock of the grief wears away, once the mind begins to stir and the heart begins to beat again, that’s when the real pain hits.

Imagine being hit by a car; the initial impact is nothing. It’s when you wake up in the hospital, it’s when you begin to recover, than you realize how hurt you really are.

I woke up in June and I’m still trying to figure out what happened to me, to my life as I knew it.

The pain gets sharper. The ache in the heart doesn’t fade…it becomes stronger. Everyday is a reminder that thousands more days of grief and loneliness stretch before me…a long one way road to nothingness.

So today I just do what I can do. I count down the hours to dusk and at dawn I will do it again. Just counting down the days, but to what end…I really don’t know.

And I don’t know that I care to find out.

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A Broken Cookie Jar

In less than a week, it will be eleven months since the only man who loved me died. During that period I quit writing. I quit eating. I quit listening to music with any type of meaning (I literally filled 22 days’ worth of music on ITunes that consisted of Lil Wayne, Waka Flocka Flame, and Twista). I quit caring.

Quite simply, I quit living.

This is the first time I’ve sat down and tried to deal with some of my thoughts since the day he died. It’s already a painful journey and it’s hasn’t even really begun, considering I’ve been living in a limbo, an alternate universe of sorts, for months.

It is absolutely true that I totally and completely dropped my basket. 2011. The year that not a single fuck was given. Through friends and once estranged family, I picked up the pieces I could, and the best that I could.

I picked up the pieces that weren’t pulverized; the pieces that weren’t slivers of pain in my hand, in my heart. There weren’t many left.

Sometimes I think I’m stronger, when I look back at where I was and where I am now. But most of the time I just feel broken.  Like damaged goods.

I had this cookie jar when I was a little girl; I wasn’t really allowed to use it because from the time I could remember, the jar was old and delicate and…special. It was a Raggedy Andy cookie jar, porcelain, with the paint rubbed off in many places. The porcelain had a shiny glaze; the green and white striped hat and the red braids were my favorite parts. And about a month after my dad died, just a few weeks before my mom cut me out, I went to my parents’ house to pick up some childhood items I’d left behind, and my mom gave me the cookie jar.

She placed it in a Walmart sack, and then set it on top of an open box I was in the process of moving. She didn’t tell me she had placed the sack there. I had no idea there was a breakable item in that bag. I carelessly slung the box across the floor and the sack fell down;  that cookie jar smashed into pieces, some loud and some muffled by the plastic. I remember screaming  hysterically, I’m sure much too overdramatically.  But I honestly felt my heart smashing along with that damn cookie jar. It represented so much to me, so much about my childhood and that time of my life when I was happy and stable and…hopeful.

The symbolic parallels need not be mentioned. It’s obvious.

I remember picking up the pieces that I could and placing them back into the sack, while my mom mumbled a half-assed apology and then chided me for not opening the sack and looking in it before I started slinging shit around to be packed into the car.

That was ten months ago; I still have that sack of broken cookie jar pieces.

Like my spirit, like my soul, there’s no point in trying to glue that cookie jar back together.  It won’t work right anymore. It will never work the same way again; it will never be the same jar. Pieces are missing. There are holes. Air gets through the holes and makes the inside stale.

A broken cookie jar with stale ass crumbs inside is pretty much all I have to offer.

And no one wants to put their hand inside a broken cookie jar and pull out what they know will be stale crumbs.

Return from Hiatus

People asked where I went for a good year. Well, my dad died of a heart attack. I don’t know what else to say…time passed while I stood still. I feel ready to try and move again, so here we go. I can’t guarantee I’m going to get far. I don’t even know that I’m moving forward. But, I’m picking up my feet. That’s all I know…for now.

The current economic situation today is shit. Let’s be honest here. Most people, no matter what their education or skills may be, are getting reamed.

About a month ago a friend of mine was fired from her job as a server at a local restaurant because management felt that “she didn’t look very happy.” Um, yeah. She had just worked four doubles, four days in a row, for crap pay and no tips. And did they fire her at the beginning of her fourth day of double hell? Nope. They waited until she had put in 10+ hours and fired her after the restaurant closed for the night.

Another friend, who has had pretty steady work for some time, has been cut down to nine hours. Over a three day period. And inevitably will be cut down to zero hours. She’s already looking for another job. But they’re not easy to find. We don’t live in a big city. In Bomb City, we have a small sector of professionals (that is everything from lawyers to doctors to educators…the city isn’t that big, and people who get those jobs in Bomb City keep them for generations), a larger sector of skilled workers, and a largest sector of service industry workers. Beyond that, prostitution and drug dealing are about your own only hope.

So having a job that pays your bills is a blessing. It is truly something to be thankful for, every morning. And to have a job that leaves some cash at the end of the week (or month) for a pack of cigarettes, a Roasters latte, a bottle of wine, or a bar of chocolate…something for that guilty pleasure hole that must be filled…well, a job like that is pretty much golden in the Black Hole of AMA.

I myself get a lot of questions about my career. As a college professor, not a writer, that is. And most of the questions have to do with the topic most Americans consider top priority when discussing careers: money. I think there are a few misconceptions about salary, benefits, and its relationship to having a career as a university (and community college) English professor; allow me to clear those up, for any aspiring individual who wants to join the noble yet humble field of professing for a living.

(Let me begin with a disclaimer that I will repeat as I conclude this editorial: I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else; I get paid to do what I love and no job at any other salary in the world could bring that same type of satisfaction and pure joy. There is something to be said about being one of the lucky small percentage of people who get to spend their lives doing what they are passionate about and getting paid for it. It’s priceless. I encourage you all to chase that same dream).

A typical workweek at a typical job consists of 40 hours. Generally 8-9 hour days with a 1 hour lunch break. The time frames vary: maybe 8 – 5, maybe 3-11. Some people do a 7-7 and take more than two days off that week. But, generally speaking, it’s a 40 hour work week. You work 52 weeks a year, and get a week off, paid vacation.

You might get paid wages. You might get paid salary. If you get paid wages and work less than 40 hours a week, you’re probably considered part time and get no benefits. No health insurance. No retirement plan. If you are lucky enough to get the 40+ hours a week, you probably get some form of insurance, some perks (including the paid vacation mentioned above), and maybe if you’re lucky (unlucky?) to be on wages instead of salary, even overtime when you put in those hours beyond 40. Overtime in Texas is generally time and a half; if you earn $8.00 an hour regular, your overtime hours pay out at $12.00 an hour. Not a bad deal, all in all.

That is the typical, give or take, package of the average full time job in America.

The typical package of the full time college professor is a bit different, but it is uniform in that all full time university/college profs (in Texas, at lower tiered schools, that is) follow the schedule, just like most average full time working Joes and Janes in America follow the above schedule.

Professors teach five classes per semester. They work two semesters a year, so they teach a total of ten classes per academic year. That is roughly nine months. From that nine months and ten classes, they earn their yearly salary. This salary is paid over a period of twelve months; hence that awesome summer paycheck that is earned while sitting at home doing nothing. They also get full benefits, such as medical and dental insurance, 401k retirement plans, etc.

Sometimes a professor teaches six classes per semester. Never more than six, but possibly six. Each class caps at 25 students (22 at the university level), so five-six classes is roughly 120-150 students per semester. This is a pretty full schedule; it’s a thirty hour a week job, easy. Yes, yes, I hear you, forty hour people. I’m not rubbing it in. I’m not complaining. I’m stating the facts.

(For the record, I am convinced that English profs put in more hours simply because logistically, our work load is harder…grading 120-150 four page essays every three weeks takes time…you can’t deny that. It’s not like a scantron quiz that I can load into a machine. But I digress).

This sixth class is called an overload, and profs get overtime pay for it. It’s basically on the same scale of time and a half. So, it’s a pretty sweet deal; like regular overtime, many profs happily take that sixth class for that nice pay bump for four months.

Then, if a prof decides or is lucky enough to be asked, he or she might teach a summer class or two. This is also considered overloads because summer teaching isn’t a part of the nine month contract. So even if a prof only teaches one class that summer, that one class is considered an overload. So that summer pay period of four months is even more bountiful.

All in all, being a full time professor is pretty dandy, don’t you think? I certainly enjoy the gig whenever I can score it.

But what’s it like to be a part time professor? Is the pay ratio or benefits ratio fair and equitable? Meaning, if one works half the time, does one really earn half the salary of the full time professor? Not even close. Part time professing, or what they call adjunct, is one of the hardest careers from which to earn a living.

I know teachers always complain they get paid a pittance. And I think that secondary teachers have every right to complain. I would not deal with the problems they deal with, the red tape, the state, the parents, the TEKS tests, the gazillion hour work weeks, the required training work days in your summer, and probably an entire host of other things I blissfully am ignorant of. They do get paid a pittance for their hard work, and it’s a damn travesty.

But I don’t think adjunct professors are getting a much better deal. Granted, we don’t have to deal with the bullshit, but the work is still present and the pay is still poor. Oftentimes people ask, “Why don’t the institutions where you work hire two or three full time people to cover the 20-30 classes per year that need to be covered instead of hiring 12 part time people to cover the same 20-30 classes?”

Because it’s cheaper. Plain and simple. See my fancy shmancy chart below.

Full Time Professor: earns a salary of $42,000 per year. Full time salary is five classes a semester; ten classes a year. $42,000 / 12 months = $3,500 month before taxes. Insurance, benefits, gym access, an office to work in, and a 401k.

An adjunct professor earns wages of about $1500 per class; this is an average as some pay less. As part time, the most you can teach is four classes, so in a perfect part time situation, four classes at $1500 per class = $12,000 per year. And $12,000 / 12 months = $1000 a month before taxes. No insurance. No benefits. No gym. No office. No nada.

That’s a huge hit. For teaching one class less per semester, I lose $2500 a month in income and all of my insurance and benefits. Try going to the doctor and paying full price on that income.

Naturally, teaching at more than one institution is necessary. I don’t know many grown adults that can live on roughly $875.00 a month after taxes. So inevitably I have to work at other colleges and universities. But surely you can see that making up the difference of what I’m losing cannot be made up in picking up the one extra class that I’m actually not teaching that semester.

Confused? I know, it sounds crazy. But look at the numbers. And if you want to take a look at my tax returns, just ask. For the past five years, I have been teaching approximately 9-10 classes per semester.

Allow me to repeat: 9-10 classes per semester. 18-10 classes per nine months.

That is 180-200 students every four months. 180-200 assignments to grade every four weeks. Not counting the piddly shit in between.

That is double what the normal full time professor works. Do I make double? Am I making approximately $84,000 a year by essentially working two full time teaching jobs spread across three schools?

Um, no. I have worked this schedule for the past five years, and my income has been about $26,500 before taxes.

That’s right; working double time to make less than what I make full time. It boggles my mind. It makes no sense whatsoever. And that’s because I’m still in graduate school, working on a second M.A. in medieval history.

Because obviously being educated is such a huge payoff.

I know I’d be a damn better professor if I could have a single, full time teaching gig at one school. Five classes per semester. A mother does a better job of parenting the fewer children she has, and the same is true of teaching.

So why do I do what I do? Well, I’ll write about that in the next installment. But let this be a gentle lesson to either future teachers or naysayers who think I live an easy, glorious life. Teaching is hard. Writing is harder. Both require me to put my most vulnerable self, my full self out there. No holds barred. Total honesty. Both require me to connect to my audience, to make an impact. And both, at the end of the day, pay next to nothing.

But you know what? Both careers also contain that precarious tension between being an utter failure and an absolute success. Both careers fulfill me and allow me to touch others. But not like a creepy pervert.

On second thought, I’d probably make more money if I had chosen that profession…

My first memory of going to look for my dad at 3:00 a.m. (or thereabouts) dates back to 1984; I was four. I’m sure these late night / early morning adventures took place long before then; after all, my mom and dad had been married for three years before I was even born, so this behavior I’m sure was nothing new. But my first clear memory of looking for my dad dates back to about then.

Have you seen the movie Christine? When the character Dennis Guilder drives away from Arnie’s house at night, troubled and and a bit angry, that song, “As I walk along, / I wonder what went wrong, / With our love, a love that was so strong / ….”. I don’t know who sings it; the Misfits maybe? It seemed like a throaty girl voice, like Carly Simon or Janis Joplin before the cigarettes and whiskey (with an e because I’m thinking she didn’t waste her time or money on proper Scotch). Anyways, that sound is playing in the background as Dennis drives away and the streetlights make these weird shadows, these shadows shaped like the rearview mirrors that bend and melt and drape over the over his face and the interior as the car maneuvers down the streets.

My first memory of looking for my dad was exactly like that, except my mom was driving the car, not Dennis, and she looked a lot more than troubled and a bit angry. She was also crying a lot. I was laying down in the backseat, being quiet, probably still half-asleep from being drug of bed for this early morning rendezvous. My mom smoked, and sang, and cried, and occasionally cussed. She asked me if I was ok, and not to worry, just go back to sleep.

I don’t remember if we found my dad that night. But many nights were like that. And, at the end of the day (or early the next morning, I guess) he always found us. He always found his way back home. I thought that was a good thing; I didn’t particularly want to know where my dad had been. I knew he had been bad places. I knew he had been drinking. That was a constant in my life; I never knew my dad any other way. Later I would learn that drugging and whoring was a big part of the drinking lifestyle, as well, or at least his.

But as a little girl, I just wanted my dad to come home and my mom to quit crying. And when he came home in the mornings, admittedly she would cry and yell even louder and more intensely than before, but it would normally get better. My dad would always hang his head in shame and mumble something about how sorry he was and how he would never let it happen again. Normally he would want me sitting in his lap while he apologized and sucked up to my mom; I was some sort of shield, I guess, from her wrath and fury. Within 24 hours, all would be well.

And then three days later, he’d be gone again. Rinse, lather, repeat cycle above.

She would punish him sometimes, of course. I remember once we actually found him at some scuzzy, fat, white lady’s house over off of Buchanan and the Boulevard, across the street from Horace Mann school. She brought his clothes over in a black plastic garbage sack and threw them in her yard. And he came back a few days later.

One of the funnier things I saw my mom do was pack him a special lunch before he went to work one morning following his typical late night shenanigans. I knew what was in that pail, but he didn’t. I’m sure his workmates had a damn good laugh when he opened his lunch pail at noon to discover a pile of bologna, still with the rinds, thrown into his pail with a few slices of cheese, still in the wrappers, a bag of chips, crushed to powder, and some moldy bread. Oh yeah, and a water bottle of hot ugly AMA tap water. Hee hee, take that cheater!

This went on for 20 years or so, at least that I am aware of. My dad always found his way home. And mom always let him back through the front door. The locks were never changed. But, she changed.

He changed, too. Out of necessity more than anything else. My dad is 63 now. His health is failing, both mentally and physically. He’s too old to drink and drug and whore. Now he drinks two beers and he’s tanked. Falls asleep on the couch. A shot of whiskey for his toothache, perhaps. Quiet, family man. It’s nice. I wish I could have had that before my brother and I had grown up, but it is what it is. I’m glad he’s better, although that’s really a relative term.

My mom…I cannot say she has changed for the better. Something died inside, a long time ago. I was either to selfish to see it or in denial. But there’s no looking the other way now. She’s broken. Damaged. Hollow.

I suppose in some ways I’m more like my mom than she realizes. I have her flaw of being a doormat to people I love and to people I think love me, even if it’s in the smallest possible way. Maybe that’s why she gets so angry with me.

My mom didn’t have a choice. She had a kid to raise, no education, and no skills. She suffered through that marriage for me, and later, for my brother. Now we’re grown up. She’s still suffering. She looks at me and says, you have a choice; you have everything I didn’t; I sacrificed everything, so you, my daughter, wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes as me, as my mom, your granny. You can take care of yourself. You still have a chance at happiness, even though you’re thirty. Don’t make the same fucking mistakes I did.

Change the locks.

Don’t let him keep finding his way back home.

When I was a wee bit of a girl, about ye high as the old timers would say, (I’m actually still ye high, to be perfectly frank), I spent a lot of my time with my grandaddy in Dumas. My granny would wake me up early in the morning…we’re talking, like 5:00 a.m. She would cook me Aunt Jemima buttermilk pancakes in her microwave. She still has that same microwave, actually; at my granny’s house, appliances and other home furnishings seem to last for years. She would turn the microwave on for about 50 seconds and heat a stack of two pancakes. Then she would pull them out, rub them down with Land o’ Lakes whipped butter, and douse them in Caro syrup. I will never be able to walk down a grocery store aisle of of cooking oils and syrups and see Caro syrup without thinking of those early morning Dumas breakfasts. Most people in AMA don’t even know what Caro is; I will never forget it.

I always shared a room with my grandaddy; he had twin beds, and my granny had her own room, with a double bed that she slept in alone. I had never seen it any different, and I never thought to question it. I would pad down the hallway from the east end of the house and make my way to the stool at the bar in the kitchen. My granny would bring me my pancakes with a glass of Tang. Never orange juice; always Tang. After my breakfast, I would wash up and come back to the living room to join my grandaddy.

Around 5:30 a.m. he would walk to the garage door, right behind my little breakfast bar stool, and open the garage. Then he would reach down and pick up the brown shoes sitting beside the door. That was the spot for his shoes. They rested on a piece of newspaper. My granny didn’t like people walking around in her house with shoes on, so…(that’s probably why her carpet lasted so long, as well). I don’t know what brand they were; it would probably make this story more realistic. But they were brown, and had brown laces, and in my head the brand will always be Granddaddy Footwear.

After lacing up his shoes, it was time to hit the door and hit the road in his four-door Buick Le Sabre. We would drive down Dallam street, take a right at the stop sign, and head north to the Allsups. I loved morning coffee with the old timers at Allsups. They would always fawn over me and tell me silly jokes and congratulate my granddaddy on “makin’ such a good lookin’ kiddo.” He would chuckle and guffaw and pat me on the head, acting modest but lapping it up. He was proud of me and I idolized him; it was a nice symbiotic relationship. After the morning formalities, the fellas would gather around a common table at Allsups and read the paper and talk shit about God knows what while I would drink juice after juice and read comic after comic, with my granddaddy footing the tab the entire time. My favorite was Archie. I loved to read what new antics Archie would be up to, bouncing back and forth between the two women in his life, good girl Betty and sexy rebel Veronica.

I laughed at the love triangle back then. I didn’t laugh about similar situations later.

So this morning, we had our typical routine described above. When we got to Allsups, there were some new visitors, some lady friends of the old guys. That’s cool. They were cute. They pinched my cheeks and stroked my hair and oohed and aahed. My grandaddy made sure to introduce to all of them. I don’t remember one from the other; hell, I’m not trying to be rude, but to a four year old (and, to be honest, to a thirty year old), most old people pretty much look the same unless you are personally related to one, and even then it can be iffy in a crowded, smoky room (thank goodness I don’t run into my grandparents at the bar; I might not recognize them).

I can’t tell you what the woman looked like, is what I’m saying. But she’s an important player, so take note.

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully; the old guys had coffee with the old biddies and around 9 a.m. grandaddy and I went home. I don’t remember how the rest of my week went. I suppose uneventfully. My mom came to pick me up later that week and on the way home, I regaled her with Dumas stories of the grandparents. I don’t remember, but obviously one consisted of the morning Allsups time with the ladies. And I guess, 26 years ago, I remembered that lady’s name because I told my mom about my “grandaddy’s lady friend so and so…”.

And that’s when the shit hit the proverbial fan.

We went home and my mom called my granddaddy, her daddy. She was crying and she cussed him up one side and down the other. This post seems to reflect amnesia, but honestly, I don’t remember all of it. I just know that my mom said if he ever had me around that bitch again, she would kill them both.

Many years later I discovered that I had met the Other Woman. Isn’t that funny, that a man I considered to be devoid of all sexuality (seeing as how he didn’t even share a room with my granny) could have a girlfriend on the side, a sancha? Not funny, haha. Just…funny.

That was, I think, my first knowing brush with infidelity in my family. Later, it would hit come much closer to home. And I don’t mean L-Hole. That was simply the coup de grâce
for me. But this is where it began.

I wish I had something more profound to say. But this is it.

It is what it is.

I woke up this morning and promptly fell apart.

It all began (don’t you loathe stories that begin with that odious phrase?) with my morning cleaning routine. Yes, you read correctly. Cleaning routine. I actually have a list (imagine that) taped on the fridge with each day of the week and what should be cleaned that day. Kind of like a McDonald’s checklist hanging on the bathroom doors, with a list of duties that are timestamped and initialed by the unlucky worker who had to perform those tasks (toilet and tub have been scrubbed, baseboards wiped down, cosmetics table reorganized, mirrors polished, rugs washed and dried at 8:47 a.m. by A.O.).

So I was working on my kitchen and an hour later, after scrubbing the stove, wiping down the cabinets, washing dishes, hand scrubbing the floor, and starting a pot of coffee, I thought I’d end my kitchen routine with a load of laundry. Mainly rugs from the kitchen and bathroom floors, a few pillowcases perhaps. I popped the dirty rugs into my Speed Queen washer and walked away to the living room, to plan a new cleaning schedule with some additions to the existing tasks and a reorganization of days to clean. (Yes, I’m anal, but not in the way that guys like, so that means I’m just single and really, really tidy…).

As I began my list of additions (clean ceiling fans weekly, scrub baseboards around the house weekly, move washer and dryer and fridge from their normal homes to dust and mop underneath the appliances bi-weekly, etc.) I also began to get a bit panicky. I really don’t know how people have a clean home and a full time job. Seriously. Do they all have maids? I basically have two full time jobs, plus my writing which I don’t get paid for, that takes up most of my time. As I looked at my schedule and wondered how in the hell I was going to pull this off when the fall semester started and I went back to work, I heard the sound of running water. Well, more like pouring water. Like rapids of water. In the kitchen.

I knew immediately what had happened.

When I moved into this house, this lovely quaint home in an old historic neighborhood, I didn’t have a washer or dryer; I did my clothes at the laundromat. For about three months. Because it sucked. I finally went to the local Taylor’s and bought a washer and dryer, brand new. The Speed Queen, recommended because it is so powerful. So powerful that when they installed it in my home, I figured out that the spin cycle, which throws the water off, is too strong for the plumbing int his house. So every time the washer hits spin cycle, I have to go in the kitchen, keep an eye on the sink, and when the sink starts filling with water due to the backlog of water being thrown into the pipes by the washer, I have to raise the lid of the washer, stop the cycle, let all the water drain back down into the sink, and then close the lid to start the cycle again. If I do not do this, the sink overflows and gallons of water pool up on the kitchen floor. And of course, any food in the pipes from the night before gets deposited on the floor, as well.

So I walked into my kitchen and stepped in dirty washer water and old rice from the last night’s dinner. And, to top it off, my house is slightly slanted so the water all had all rushed to the opposite side of the kitchen and pooled under the fridge and stove.

What did I do? I cleaned it up, of course. And bawled the entire time.

It just doesn’t seem fair. Yeah, I know life isn’t fair. I know that everyone gets equal doses of unfairness in life. But, as the pig in Animal Farm noted, some animals are more equal than others, so I assume that some people get more equal shares of shitty hands in the game of life than others.

I cried and asked myself, and God, why oh why do I have to suffer through this? I simply can’t do this alone. What is “this,” you ask?

My fucking life.

I am spending hours a day perfecting my lawn, perfecting my home, researching to finish my second M.A. thesis, reading new pedagogy books to stay abreast of writing techniques that I can bring into my classroom, reading new fiction to stay abreast of the competitive writing market I’m trying to enter, growing fresh herbs so I can learn fancy new recipes, making fucking apricot jam to give out to family and friends, trading BPAL on the forum, doing yoga and walking and toning to perfect my body, touching up my roots and making sure I have weekly pedis and facials (all done at home, of course) to perfect my looks…I have not even begun to list everything written in my daily planner.

And all for what? Why I am so obsessed with perfection? Why am I working so hard to achieve everything and be the best at everything, even stupid shit like having a clean home and being Betty Crocker in my free time?

I am obviously laboring under the delusion that being perfect will somehow buy me love from someone. A permanent, unconditional love. That elusive feeling and state of life that we all read about, see on TV, and some of us are lucky enough to actually witness it in real life, maybe in friends or family members. Maybe, just maybe, some of you actually have it in your own life.

It is very difficult and painful to know that you are a disappointment. And I am. I am not playing the sympathy card or seeking pity; I’m simply stating the facts.

I am my mother’s greatest disappointment. I figured this out long ago, in my teens, when my personality and convictions actually began to arise and show themselves. My mom loves me, don’t get me wrong. But she doesn’t necessarily like me. If we were to simply meet on the street, she wouldn’t be friends with me.

I’m not like her. She doesn’t like that. I’m a lot like my dad. She doesn’t like that. She loves my dad, but she doesn’t really like him, you know?And she feels the same about me. She would never admit it, and she’ll probably not talk to me for quite a while when she reads this. But I only speak truth.

Like many people, I tried to find love and acceptance outside of a family who really didn’t offer it. And, I failed at that, as well. You will read more of that story in the Benzo Chronicles, but suffice it to say that I couldn’t even get an unemployed, dirty, ambitious-less, and lazy man to like me, not to mention love me. It sucks that it took fifteen years for me to figure that out, but that’s just a testament to my dogged determination…I tried really hard, as with everything in my life, to be a success with him. But I totally and utterly failed.

I can only surmise that my need to be the best at everything I can be, whether it is teaching or housekeeping or writing or whatever…I can only surmise that it is my feeble attempt to find a way to validate myself. Most people get their sense of security and meaning in life from their loved ones; they are here for a reason, you know? They are important to someone, somebody, somewhere.

I want to be important to someone, too. But until then, I’m just going to back to the kitchen and raise the lid on the washer. I can hear the water hitting the floor again.

Sigh. FML.