Friday, December 28, 2007

Something about Anna.

I was going to leave this blog entry for the 31st, but it seems more than one person I know has had a shitty end-of-the-year, so I hope this will inspire someone...

I got my December paycheck from the bookstore's accountant today. She's a tiny lady, curly hair, what I always thought of as a Peppermint Patty type. Very talkative if you just bothered to listen. I never exchanged more than a few words with her. She had talked to me a bunch at random times when we crossed paths. About her daughter, mostly. She only works part-time so you don't see her much.

Today, she was in the bookstore to deal with all of the end-of-the-year accounting while the bookstore was closed. She had told me I could stop by and get paid. So I showed up at around 11:30 am. An hour later, in between numbers and cash, she had told me half of her life story. And I saw a little bit of the sad me projected into the future.

She was a chain link of bad adventures. Her story began when her mother passed away, 6 years ago. It was a big blow for her. Then her husband left her a year and change after that, after 20-odd years of marriage. No good reason according to her story. He got lucky and the judge ruled against any alimony. He refused to speak to either her or his daughter ever again.

Her daughter, 17 at the time, went into some sort of nervous breakdown. Then the rest of her recent past was a string of unlucky events. The mortgage, on a variable percentage rate, skyrocketed to almost double its value. Her phone line had been jacked and charged her tons of money she hadn't spent but had to fight against for over a year. Her daughter's car co-sign had a check that bounced just 'cause her employee was 3 days late paying her daughter. So now she's in a credit bind that doesn't allow her to refinance or do anything with Italian banks. She keeps getting hit financially.

Then there's her social life. Just about nil. She lost her married couples friends after her separation. Her Xmas and new year's story was sadder than mine. Her daughter has friends, goes out often. While she sits home alone. She's incapable of latching with her coworkers. She told me how she sees the other coworkers hang out after work, and they never call on her... And she is *convinced* it's 'cause of her "bad mood". She's so shy, she has a hard time going food shopping alone. She cries often. You wouldn't see that from just seeing her buzz about the bookstore. She looks determined and strong. But she has no family to call upon. Her one sister doesn't talk to her. Her dad isn't close to her. She hits a brick wall when she's in need.

She reminded of my dad a lot. Growing up a daughter alone, with an anger towards people and the world and an inability to latch onto any significant relationship... I can see how she is trying to do all she can for her daughter, but her being miserable is just making her daughter miserable by default.

...and then I think of the similar complaints I go through. I say many similar things to what she says. But even though I might be alone most of the time, I have people that support every emotional and financial need I have. I am *incredibly* lucky. I can bitch and moan, but I *will* have someone to listen. I will need money for rent, and I *will* have someone to cover it. I really should learn to relax more. I don't have it so hard.

I gave her some "no-nonsense advice". I told her that her miserable life is definitely affecting her daughter. She should try to make friends. She stared blankly at me and said that was impossible. If it was up to her, if she was told she had to die tomorrow, she'd be relieved. Her life was only a survival instinct. I told her she could look into things she likes to do. Join a book-reading group at her local bookstore. She said it was only teenagers that went there. I suggested some other activity. She had another negative reply. And she reminded of myself. And many other people I know. A friend of mine said I did the same thing. I kept having a negative answer to anything she suggested.

It's hard to be hit in the face with your own truth. And see it from another point of view. I'm glad I can see it while I'm still young enough to make a difference, and it's not hitting me when I'm over 50...

So that is my new year's resolution. Stop bitching and start thanking. And start doing. I've always wanted to get voice training. I'm going to look into that. And more art training. And more fun things to do... Money is *not* going to be an obstacle anymore. I spend enough on rent and food. I can spend a little more on things that will make me feel better.

So, thanks to all those of ya that feel they can believe in me and spur me to go on. You make an incredible difference in this person's life. And more people should be so lucky.

Here's to a healthier 2008! I wish you all a wonderful new year, and I hope it will bring us all a more peaceful life. Or, rather than ask for the impossible, a more peaceful outlook towards it :) Big hugs!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

more life ponderings

On a tram, on my way to work, one cloudy, cold morning in Milan. A conversation between two persons sitting next to me made me stop, put my videogame down, and listen.

An elderly gentleman, very nicely dressed, a bit ailing from the looks of him, was chatting to a not-much-younger-but-better-off lady next to him. From a quick glance and after a few sentences, I gathered that they didn't know each other. She had just helped him on the tram or something. He was the kind of person that just exudes confidence, wiseness, wealth, and an overall refined style. What you could think of as a well-bred person.

Their exchange made me take my notebook out and write down their words. I have to point out that I have this terrible memory that stops me from remembering details the moment they pass from the present, so I didn't manage to to them justice, but the gist of it was this:

Elderly man: "When I need help, I just ask someone next to me. And I found out that in this world there are many good people. I've never had any difficulty. Like with you."

Lady: "But the people that make more of an impact are the mean ones."

Elderly man: "Yeah, they are the minority, but they make more noise."

The way it was conveyed was very important, as well. They spoke candidly. With wisdom. Their words had the weight of experience.

I got off that tram with such an uplifted spirit, I thought it'd last forever. I was ready to see the world under this shining light. It could be done. My life had so many strong points and amazing feats, I was a good person, too.

I walked into the bookstore. Bitching and moaning about co-workers, lack of money, bad economical period. A new kid who barged in on what I thought of as my job is actually better at it than me. I resent him and just move out of the way, brooding, upset and feeling unrespected. No one tells him to make me space, since I was there first. He's got one of those hyper personalities, talks and jokes and gets along. And the only way I can think of reacting is to yell at him and tell him to get out of the way, but I know that's wrong so I just shut up and move off and find something else to do, completely miserable and rethinking about my horrible life. I know I could find a clever way of dealing with it. They always do that in books. But it just doesn't come out.

Xmas talk. Everyone talks about the time they'll spend with the family. Rich people come in and spend as much money in one shot as it'd take me to earn in a week. Their holidays will be spent in their mountain home, organizing dinners for the friends and family. After a few hours of this, I say my goodbyes and go to my other job.

Evening working teaching English. While waiting for the next students to show up, I strike up a conversation with a coworker, a lady in her 40s or 50s. The topic, of course, is the holidays. So, where are you going to go? She was the first person to have my same plan: taking xmas as a day off. She's going to be home, doing nothing. I didn't ask, but I'm guessing she has no family or anyone either. She asked me if I had anything special in mind to do with myself. All I could think of was waste time, feeling depressed, alone, the usual crap. Kill the brain with some videogames and other escapisms. Since I wasn't going to actually say any of that, I just came out with a "Oh, nothing much. Just rest. What about you?" Then her face lit up and she started saying that she planned to put some nice music on, do some writing she had in mind... That's when the students showed up and we had to get back "on stage". But the thought started in my head: why didn't I think of seeing it as a chance to do something cool? Why did I have to concentrate on the negative aspects?

Xmas party. Alcohol flowing. A first hesitation turns into a lot of chatting with random staff, colleagues, students. A colleague who's been patiently trying to get on a date with me, being very nice and talking about being there for me, meets me there and thinks we're hanging out after. I end up the night getting drunk, kissing another random colleague I never talked to before, and just making such a mess that not only did I make a fool of myself, but I also carelessy walked all over the first guy, treating him in a very insensitive way. The kind of thing I'd bitch about other people doing to me. Now of course I've lost the respect of two people, plus that of anyone watching. For some strange reason I can't manage to feel too sorry for myself. I deserved that one. I can't quite wish I hadn't done it. But I do wish that I could think of it as "omfg that was crazy!" and laugh about it.

After wondering how the hell all of this can co-exist in the same world, and in such a short span of time, I try to move on and process it all.

It's now 3:30am, I have to get up and be at work at 8:30am, for a full 11 hours of work between the two jobs. My brain knows I should just sleep and be rested. I've been trying to shut my eyes since 12am. But I finished watching a movie about some famous model in the 80s who was such a fuckhead and a druggie, but got her life to be on film, and tons of people to talk about her... and I'm thinking "maybe if I was a bit more fucked up I could be famous, too."

Someone is yelling the italian version of "fuck!" outside. Every person is a world in itself.

My head is filled with too many things. And as a part of me is fully aware that I just have to accept it, as that is just life, another part is childishly wanting to be whisked away and be able to do all that I want without consequences.

In theory, the key to it all is just to be able to seize every moment you go through, make it yours, and enjoy it. In practice, the people that get somewhere in life do that. Usually unconsciously. They're just wired that way. Most of the others just move on from one moment to the next, wondering how to seize it, and never end up doing much. The older I get, and the more past I have to look back upon and ponder what I've done, the more I think I am not one of those people that manages to seize the moments. When I try to and think I'm finally doing it, I quickly rationalize it as me just being stupid, or it's already been done, or I didn't actually do anything much.

So here is to 3 hours of sleep and let's see what tomorrow brings...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

life update

I thought I had a blog entry after the august one... but I can't find it anymore. Odd. But here goes an update of everything i've been up to this fall...

I'm currently working as an English teacher, earning twice as much per hour as the average Italian, and for Nov and Dec I also work at a bookstore, which pays minimum wage. Both places are particular, they cater to the rich of Milan... So technically I'm being paid minimum wage to rub elbows with the millionaires of this city, while being a broke ass myself.

I should change my nick to "condradictionsgirl"...

Unfortunately the current job situation is unstable, the hours are random and never guaranteed. The schedule is prepared every day for 3 days after, depending on who booked lessons, so I have to check hours every day and I can't plan my week. And it's usually 3-4 hours a day tops. But on average it should pay the bills. I borrowed so much money this year for living expenses that I feel I'll never be out of debt, but I should be able to finally pay rent on my own next month, so I take that as a positive point.

I'm also working 7 days week cuz of the holiday season. The bookstore is open every single day through Xmas. I gave full availability cuz I need the money, so I've got a handful. Still 2 weeks to go and I'm exhausted already!

Grandma's will is still up in the air, and it's emotionally stressful. I feel powerless, clueless, and like I'm being used and not getting any real help. But I'm trying not to let go.

On a personal and social level, life sucks big time. I'm at a pretty big low right now. But I'm keeping at it and see if things will change. I curse fairy tales and the general "good things come to good people" thought that fiction is so full of nowadays. In real life, people will bite and scratch in both self-defense and for the pure natural aggressive behavior that is natural for any survival. Shy people get stomped on unless they have family or a mentor to shelter them.. and you have to learn that, and live with it.

I vote for the original Andersen tales to be read to children!! Fuck Disney!

I look around every day and all I feel is that I see people that figured out how to live their lives. Or, at least, they are filling in a role that plays within human society. Me, I feel like I'm an alien that never quite understood the rules of the game and keeps sucking at playing. Once in a blue moon I actually get it right, but it feels like it was a fluke and it's not like I learnt anything. Interfacing with fellow humans is a game of luck and so many different emotional mixes, that fiction never teaches you.

Then a couple of weeks ago I got sick. One of the joys of being a teacher is being in a closed room with all sorts of germs people might be carrying. I already got sick twice with colds. The second one was a severe cold for a week, totally clogged nose, but I still managed to work. Friday night, 5 days into the cold, I taught phonetics and ruined my voice box. I woke up Saturday morning unable to speak. I was in pain, and had no clue what to do. The doctor I go to for regular stuff isn't available on weekends. My roommates were asleep after a night out and I felt like they couldn't care less. So I ended up going to the emergency room on my own on Sunday at 5am, cuz I woke up and couldn't sleep anymore and didn't know what else to do.

I wrote on some pieces of paper what I felt, and directions for a cab to take me to the nearest emergency room. When I got there, they just looked at me funny, took their sweet time, finally asked me what the hell was I doing there taking up space from real emergencies, and had me wait 4 hours for the throat guy on call to come in. 1 minute examination and he sent me home telling me I just had a severe laryngitis and I could just do some warm inhalations for 10 days. I had to pay more money than I had saved and didn't even get any sympathy. I was crying on and off, with frustration and with pain, and no one bothered to ask me anything.

The girls at the pharmacy where I bought the mad expensive medicines were the only ones that, seeing me crying, showed some sympathy and asked what was wrong. Since I couldn't speak, and also cuz of my usual emotional walls, I couldn't explain that I was alone and scared and moneyless and I was spending in one shot money that took me days to earn and I had just been treated like shit and I wished I had someone next to me to tell me everything would be alright... so I just shook my head and they took it as me being sick of being sick... I just nodded and put on my sunglasses and walked back home so I wouldn't have to pay a cab again...

I couldn't work for a week, and since it's not a full-time job I didn't get any sick days or anything...

It's funny how you can cry, sobbing, a few feet away from someone, divided by just a wall, and know that all they think of you is that you're a stuck-up bitch that keeps to herself and isn't easy-going or any fun, and yet she expects some basic help like going grocery shopping together... while all you lack is social skills, courage to be yourself, and self-confidence, and you think no one cares.

Oh, and at the bookstore every time I'm alone with someone I have to hear them talking shit about everyone else at the store... So much anger around, and only cuz of personal frustrations... There are some that talk shit about the older lady that used to run the place and criticize her managing skills while they don't think that she's having a tough time dealing with the fact that after her husband passed away she had to deal with having her ownership being taken away from her and still work there... Or I have to hear one girl talk shit about the other just cuz they don't get along and they just lash out and tell me the worst traits of the other... Today I was told by one how the other has no friends and is a social fluke and she sucks... All I could think of is why can't she see that she could use a friend. And figured she's insecure and a drama queen herself so that's her only way to retaliate... But there is so much anger around. And I'm too sensitive to it all.

All I manage to do is get severe headaches from all the muscle tension I build up on my shoulders and neck. Cuz I don't let anything out and absorb it all. And I just wish for a massage, which ain't coming. No money to pay a professional on a regular basis, and no friends that are touchy-feely with me in the non-interested way.

Learning to expressing yourself in a way that people will get your true self is a skill that no one teaches you, not in school, not in life, not anywhere. So either you get it, or are born charismatic, or you're stuck with yourself.

So, while I still wait for the prince on a white stallion to read my mind and come rescue me, I dream of being a tough character like AEon Flux so I won't depend on anyone but myself and be ok with it, I face reality every day with neither options available. Alcohol and cigarettes and videogames and TV fill the void and numb the brain so I can get to sleep and get to the next day.

What the hell is the point of intelligent life anyways?

2007 is going down as the lowest year in my life so far.