Monday, January 20, 2014


So I'm taking this fiction writing workshop class thing online held by the brilliant Alice Bradley, and her recommended reading for the week was a couple of short stories. Being not in possession of a New Yorker subscription (that shiz is expensive!), I wandered to Amazon, and sat there staring at my screen. "I don't REALLY want to spend any more money, especially not to buy two books just to read one story from each... but I really want to read the stories she suggested...." and then it hit me like a giant, idiotic bolt of lightning. HEY, SELF. YOU HAVE A LIBRARY CARD. MAYBE USE IT ONCE IN A WHILE.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Story of Furnaces and Stubbornness

It is a long-held belief that how you start your new year will set the tone for the rest of the year. I know this because I read it in an article on the Internet which I think was trying to explain why we make such a big deal out of NYE or why we are culturally obsessed with having someone to kiss at midnight. I don’t really remember. Just go with me on this one.

I happen to know that this is largely a load of superstitious bullshit. I know this because I have spent more NYEs than I care to count alone in my sweatpants, patiently waiting for the clock to strike twelve so that I could go to sleep. Most of those years turned out fine. A year is a long time and a lot can happen and very little of it predicates upon what you were up to on a particular day at the end of December.

However, if this particular nugget does happen to be true, I’m probably in for a not-so-great 2014.

My New Year’s Eve plans fluctuate from year to year, they’re usually low key, they’re occasionally disappointing, and a lot of time they are based on my mood, which generally sways toward less-than-cheerful as the dark and dreary winter nights wear on and I get beat over the head with seasonal depression. This year was one of those off years, where on top of being generally down for no reason, I’ve been dealing with a diagnosed-but-still-untreated sleep disorder (a story for another day) on top of recurring bouts of insomnia, so I was feeling particularly ragged. I had a small handful of options for plans for that night; but by the time I got off work, the thought of showering and prettying up was too much. I was exhausted. I’d been exhausted for months. And that exhaustion generally leads to being pretty anti-social.

So I traded in my sequins for a pair of sweatpants and bummed around my apartment, drinking wine and watching TV on my laptop from the comfort of my bed. I congratulated myself on staying up so late on purpose, did an invisible air-toast, and fell asleep. I proceeded to then sleep through most of New Year’s Day, getting up only when absolutely necessary and returning to the bed-cave as soon as possible. It was nice and toasty in my bedroom, which is traditionally the warmest room in my house. Probably because I always keep the door shut to keep my cat out. I think I ended up in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, it was so warm. Nothing out of the ordinary. My apartment is part of a big house which is technically a triplex but I call it a duplex because most people would be like “triplex, what?” and because while I share an entryway with my downstairs neighbors, the third apartment is around back and I rarely see the girl who lives there. If she even lives there anymore. Maybe she moved out. I have no idea. She was living there for two months before I even realized that the landlord had finished renovating it and rented it out again. This is relevant because (a) the heating and cooling controls are based in the downstairs apartment, so I am at the mercy of my neighbors, though there’s only been once or twice in the almost five years that I’ve lived there that the temperature has been outside my comfort level, and (b) those neighbors were out of town for the holidays, so even though it was a wee bit hot, there was really not much I could do about it anyway.

Thursday morning I woke up and I was still feeling pretty awful. Whatever formula of exhaustion, fatigue, and depression had kept me in bed for the entirety of January 1 seemed determined to keep me there on January 2, as well. Super great start to the new year. I can’t wait until I get all my random health issues sorted out and I get to use my PTO for actual vacation days instead of sick days. At any rate, I remained curled up in my bed, drifting in and out of consciousness as 2014 pointed and laughed at me.

At some point, I noticed that it was no longer toasty-hot in my bedroom; in fact, it was actually kind of chilly. After a few hours of this, I traded the shorts for some sweatpants and added a few more blankets to my bed. I proceeded to sleep through the rest of the afternoon and woke up around 5 or 6 to a text message from my downstairs neighbor asking me how long the heat had been off.

Guys, I was so out of it, I didn’t even notice. My brain was with it just enough to be cognizant of a temperature change that necessitated pants, but did not register that, hey, maybe there’s an actual problem with the heat.

Fortunately, she had the wherewithal to call the landlord to investigate the situation, which turned out to be a case of THE FURNACE HAD DIED.

At this point, I was feeling awake and alive enough to be self-conscious of my messy apartment and my not-showered-ness as the heating company brought in space heaters to keep our pipes from freezing until they could fix the heater in the morning. My neighbors gathered their kidlets and took off to find a warm refuge for the night. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a heating pad. Because, dear friends, I am stubborn. My landlord sounding somewhat pleased that I was sticking around (because, you know, while the space heaters are supposed to be safe… it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on them) helped solidify my decision. Who knows that my cat would do when left alone with these strange black boxes? Probably nothing, and they were supposed to automatically shut off if they fell over, but even so. Mostly, I was lazy. I didn’t want to have to think ahead to what I wanted to wear tomorrow so that I could pack some stuff to relocate for the evening.

And thus it became that my bedroom became the coldest room in the house, and the kitchen and bathroom boosted their rankings. However, I had a lot of blankets and a lot of handy layers, and it was fine. My bedroom in my old house growing up was terribly drafty. It was an old house and it didn’t heat (or cool) very well. In the summer, my sister and I would sleep downstairs in the living room where the window AC unit was. In the winter, well. We just kind of had to deal with it. So, really, it didn’t feel much different than it did in that room, the memory of which is still rather vivid given that I tended to stay there when visiting for the holidays.

I also think that there is something about toughing out a situation like this, that requires a certain degree of genetically-inherited stubbornness. I blame my dad, 100%. I remember, distinctly and rather fondly, one chilly November when I came home from college for Thanksgiving break. I walked in to find my dad in his usual recliner, under about five blankets, with his coveralls and a coat on, complete with a stocking cap, watching football. He gleefully announced that he had made it this long without turning the heat on. He paused and told me that I could turn the heat on if I wanted… to which I think I rolled my eyes and walked straight to the thermostat. My point, though: it was a point of personal pride to tough it out and not cave to such wimpy amenities such as heat.

I suppose this probably explains a lot of things about the way I am (“this is nothing!”) though it’s always kind of unpredictable what situations I will tough out and what I will require an immediate amendment to. Ah, we’re such complicated, fickle creatures, aren’t we? No? Maybe I’m just weird. I can live with that, too.