The Art of Public Humiliation

We’ve all seen them. The people holding the signs somewhere in public. “I stole from J.C. Penney. This is my punishment.” Things like that. There are cat memes and dog memes along this same line, but the controversy only comes when dealing with people.

Louis D. Brandeis said, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” He also said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”

Thanks to social media, the private citizen is far less private. The private citizen has become a ray of sunshine, sometimes unwelcome, into the shadowy world of clandestine behavior. I’m not even talking about the Wikileaks level of sunshine. I’m talking about a single citizen with a cell phone. Once a video or a picture goes viral, there is no stopping it. Businesses can be forced to change policy or close doors. Charges can be filed. Sometimes, the picture doesn’t tell the whole story. Many times, it says more than enough.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” (a quick Google search attributes that one to an NYC mayor and Ben Parker from Spiderman) Regardless of who said it, the quote is true. We have a lot of power as citizens that we don’t always use. And sometimes, when we do use it, we don’t use it responsibly. But speaking for myself, public humiliation is a great power.

Typically, there are two schools of thought when it comes to the power of public humiliation. I find that people are all for it unless it happens to them or someone they like. Ah, the old double standard. There are arguments that say the kid or adult who wears the sign confessing to theft will only get better at concealing his or her crimes in the future. I chuckle a bit when a punishment for wrongdoing gets blamed for more wrongdoing.

I grew up in a small town where there were no secrets. Everything was public. Even people who weren’t trying to get me in trouble, inadvertently did so by striking up an innocent conversation with my mother. “Hey, I saw Susan the other day riding in so-and-so’s car.” This would have been no issue except for the fact that I was not allowed to ride in cars that belonged to people outside of my family. I thought my mom had spies set up all over town. Nope. Just people trying to make conversation. And that was long before smart phones and viral videos.

Today, I saw a post on social media about a teen who was texting and driving. (allegedly, right?) The picture shows a girl in the driver’s seat of a car holding her phone. She is stopped for the moment. The poster claims this teen driver was texting and speeding and nearly ran the poster’s family off the road. That’s where the allegedly part comes in, I suppose. However, the controversy came, not from the wording, but from the poster putting this picture up on social media. Something widely called “putting someone on blast.” Pretty early into the comments under the picture, a female starts complaining about the fact that her friend was put on blast by “two old women.” Eventually, the female admitted she was only sixteen and the girl in the picture is a friend. Instead of being concerned for her friend’s unsafe behavior, she was concerned that her friend was being embarrassed on social media. We have laws named for people who have been killed by inattentative drivers, but the concern was for the public humiliation rather than safety.

I’m all for public humiliation. And if someone is doing something unsafe, perhaps a little embarrassment will keep them from suffering a worse fate. You know, like being imprisoned or embalmed. And if one of my kids was out there doing something unsafe, I would want to know about it so I could address it. Luckily, this story didn’t include pictures of the teen in a ditch somewhere after crashing out from inattentative driving. She was still in one piece. I hope she stays that way. But I also hope that pride and that sense of entitlement displayed by her friend on social media isn’t something that gets in the way of a lesson learned.

And just so we’re clear here. I’ve been in this girl’s position. I learned about public humiliation when I was twelve. We had just moved to a new town and some girls at my new church were saying someone was saying bad things about me. Now…it didn’t occur to my twelve-year-old brain that this someone wouldn’t have had anything to say since she didn’t know me. Instead, I went all pathos over the deal and called her up. I ranted over the phone line at her (this was long before cordless versions) until her mother came to the phone. As soon as I heard her mother’s voice, I hung up. Her mom called right back. I’d been stupid enough to leave my full name. Naturally, her mother and my mother had a conversation. The end result? I was taken to this girl’s house and made to apologize to her and her parents. That, my friends, is how my mom rolls. She is all about personal responsibility and ownership of one’s mistakes. And frankly, I’m a better person because of it.

Flying Solo – The Cafe for Singles

The other day, I was using Open Table to make a reservation for a group. I thought about making a reservation for myself, but I realized that the point system set up by Open Table requires two people minimum. In other words, if I want to fly solo, I don’t qualify for points.

Then I noticed the descriptions of the restaurants. There are tips to let would-be diners know if the place is good for business meetings, romance, or families. None of them even mention the possibility of dining alone. It’s like that whole flying solo concept is not something these places even want to deal with. The seating alone would indicate that a solo diner is not expected. Loser, party of one, you’re table is now available. 

So I thought…why not open a cafe that caters to single people? Not the whole “singles’ bar” scene where everyone is there trying to stop being solo. I’m talking about a nice, quiet cafe with quality food that only has tables for one. One chair for each table. The only empty chairs would be accompanied by an empty – and open – table. The stigma of being there alone would be erased because you’d have to be by yourself to eat there anyway.

No one would ask “how many are in your party” because a party of one is the only option. There would be no moving of chairs to cozy up to another table. Or sliding tables together to make room for a larger group. Solo dining would be the thing. No hook ups. No wifi. This isn’t the place for you to connect to others. This is a place for solo diners to enjoy their own company and some good food. Maybe even a book. Books are allowed. Pens and paper. Those are allowed, too.

Maybe the food venue could change up. Food trucks might work. Maybe books could be sold or checked out. Regardless, I like the idea of a place that caters to solo diners. Just seems like it’s only fair to have a place of our own. Solo friendly!

 

The Abortion Game

I was born before Roe v. Wade came into being. Abortions were illegal, but not nonexistent. There were always doctors willing to perform those procedures. Some were actually licensed. If a woman couldn’t find a doctor, there were always the DIY methods, though those often worked by killing the mother-to-be. All of these were considerations, of course, when the decision was made to carry me to term.

My biological parents were not married. My biological father was one of those guys who would say anything to get what he wanted from people. When my biological mother told him she was pregnant, his words were, “Not my problem.” And it wasn’t. As simply as that, he was allowed to walk away and remove himself from the situation. It was my biological mother who had to make the decisions about how to proceed. She was young. She was alone. And she was faced with something life-changing that she had help creating, but no help enduring.

Perhaps if abortion had been legal and safe, I wouldn’t be here today. But my argument has nothing to do with whether or not abortion should be legal. I was put up for adoption because having a child out of wedlock was an abomination in those days. The irony is that I was given up so no one would make fun of me for not having a father. Instead, the school I ended up in was full of people who could find other things to make fun of me for. Another irony is that her religion didn’t believe in abortion, but it did believe in giving up family members to avoid being shamed by others. I was, after all, a sin.

Marriage was also a religious belief for my biological parents when children were in the picture, yet my biological father didn’t step up to the plate to legitimize my existence. In hindsight, knowing what I know about him, my biological mother and I were better off without him. However, he was allowed to dodge his responsibilities as a participant in the creation of human life. And had this happened today, our legislators would still allow that to be the case.

Every year, a bunch of men in suits get together to figure out how they can end abortion. They don’t consider any education on the front end. That would be preventative, and they can’t seem to grasp that concept. These bills get stricter and stricter. And, to be fair, are often supported by female legislators and constituents as well. The latest craze (short for crazy idea) is to charge the mother and the medical staff with crimes. Murder. You’ll note that one key participant is missing from that group of criminals. The father.

Without the father, there would be no baby. Without the father bailing on the situation, there would be no reason to think the child couldn’t be supported and brought up in a loving home. Yet, these bills always target the mother. Make the mother wait several days to get an abortion. Make the mother listen to the heartbeat. Make the mother read brochures and watch videos on other options. What. About. The. FATHER???? Where does he fall into this? Why does he get a pass when no one else does?

If you want to end abortion, you can’t just charge one person with the responsibility that took two to create. We charge people with first degree murder in this state if they are tagging along during the commission of a felony and someone gets killed. It doesn’t matter if that person didn’t do the killing. It doesn’t even matter if that person was sitting outside in the getaway car and had no idea someone died. They get automatically charged because they were involved in the other crime. They can say, “but no one was supposed to get killed,” or “but I didn’t do the killing.” And they do say that. The law doesn’t care about their intentions where the death is concerned. All it cares about is that they were there.

In another example, we charge people who serve too much alcohol to someone who goes out and injures or kills someone else due to the level of intoxication. We hold bartenders responsible for recognizing someone has had too much alcohol. We hold parents and adults responsible allowing underage kids to drink on their property. We hold a lot of people responsible for things like this, but not once do we include a father in the penalties for abortions.

Yes, I know. There are those clever female legislators who suggest fining men for masturbating. I say clever with sarcasm because it’s a waste of my tax dollars. If they were really clever, they would be adding an amendment to every abortion bill that includes the father. What’s good for the goose, as they say. Instead, these female legislators try to be funny with something that isn’t remotely related. I never find humor in my money being wasted.

The likely reason we don’t see the fathers added to these bills is, dare I suggest it, some of these male legislators would find themselves on the other side of the law. Right now, fathers who don’t want to be responsible fathers get to be completely free and clear of any abortion decisions. They can even provide the money to pay for the abortion, but no one even glances in their direction when it comes to penalties. Yet, if someone buys liquor for someone who later drives drunk and kills someone…

Until we start holding men accountable for their actions, this issue with unwanted children will continue. We can blame religion and we can blame politics, but the simple truth is, we need to blame the father. We are so focused on the mother that it never occurs to anyone she didn’t get that way on her own. Abortion bills should be equitable. They should also be constitutional, but that’s a whole different blog post. So write your legislators and tell them to add “baby daddy” to the list of offenders on these one-sided bills. If they truly want to end abortion, they should thank you for that suggestion and fix their oversight. If they don’t…then we will know it really has nothing to do with pro-life at all. (as if we didn’t already)

Write Your Own Narrative

When I start writing a story, I have a character or two in mind. In theory, I decide what they look like and how they act. I decide their childhood details – even if many of those never make it to the story. I decide how they are received by the other characters. Are they popular or pretty? That’s up to me. Except when it’s not.

There have been many times where my characters have taken over after a bit and written their own narratives. I still have to hold the pen, but they are quite adamant about their feelings on certain attributes I have given them. It’s like I hear them saying I would never do that! I could ignore them. I hold the pen, after all. But I’ve learned that the character is usually right. If they don’t ring true, no one will care about them or their story.

It’s one thing for me to have them do something out of character, but I need the reader to know that it’s out of character. Those things have to serve a purpose. Growth, change, a signal to another character that something is wrong, that sort of thing. No matter what it is, it has to make sense. It has to be real.

When I think about myself as a character in my own story, I realize there are people out there who have tried to write my narrative. They tell others my story, but they put their own spin on it. They believe they hold the pen. They do not. And rewriting my story is simply a distraction away from them editing their own. It serves no purpose other than that. The tricky part is making sure they never have access to my pen.

When we let others define us, we give them the pen to write our story. We allow their perceptions of us – real or imagined – to become our reality. We act accordingly because we believe they are in control. That they know our story better than we do. But the pen is ours. The story is ours. Even if you can’t physically take it back, wait until it runs out of ink and get your own pen. But don’t let anyone else write your narrative.

Years ago, I was out on a date at a now-closed, once-popular Italian restaurant. The restaurant had a trolley car in the center of the dining area that was on a different level from the tables around it. My date looked up from our table and noticed an elderly man dining alone in the trolley car. My date immediately wrote that man’s narrative as being sad and lonely. To my date, this man was a widower and eating alone because he had no one else in his life. My date saw his grandfather in this man and immediately established feelings of pity and sadness. In fact, he wanted to go interrupt the man’s dinner to ask him to come sit with us.

I, on the other hand, had a different narrative for Mr. Dining Solo. I imagined a man who had sought the solitude of this restaurant so he could dine in peace. I imagined his house overrun with grandchildren and relatives from out of town. It was close to Thanksgiving, so there was some basis to my assumption. He was sick of turkey and tears. And I talked my date out of interrupting this man’s well-deserved solitude.

Ever since that day, I have been reluctant to dine solo. I don’t want anyone worrying about my party of one. No one worries about you being alone at a coffee shop. The assumption is that you are there for coffee and the free wifi. But apparently, if you show up stag to dinner at a nice restaurant, people are whipping out their pens to write your narrative for you. Loser, party of one, your table is now available.

So if I do go, I bring a journal and write the whole time. I could write on my phone app, but that just makes it look like I’ve been stood up and am frantically texting my missing date for an answer on why he hasn’t showed up yet. If I take a journal, I find that eveyone assumes I’m a food critic and I get much better service. If people are going to rewrite my narrative, I’m going to make sure it will at least be to my benefit.

The reality is, while there may be people like my date that night, most people aren’t even remotely interested in my dining status. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. They are far too focused on their own stories to pick up a pen and start writing someone else’s narrative over an order of coconut shrimp. But even if they were attempting a rewrite, we control our pens. Mr. Dining Solo was oblivious to my date’s assumptions about him. He wasn’t sobbing into his salad. He was just enjoying his bread and pasta like everyone else. His pen was tucked safely away. His story was his own.

 

 

 

The Friend Thief

I was in the second grade when tragedy struck. My best friend of one whole year had been mercilessly stolen from me by the new girl at school. The new girl was funny and charming. She had pretty, long hair. She had a winning smile. Worst of all, she had a goofy personality that lured my best friend to the dark side.

It was the Minnie Pearl hat that did it. Equal parts funny and classic. The new girl brought it to school one day for Show-And-Tell. All the kids loved it. They laughed when she put it on, but that’s what she wanted. They were laughing with her, not at her. She loved making people laugh. Her warm personality made everyone flock to her. They adored her. There was only one hold out – me. I hated her with every fiber of my eight-year-old being. She had stolen my best friend from me. Charming or not, I had no choice but to declare war.

At first, I tried to reason with her. I tried convincing her that I had dibs on my best friend and that new girls were to respect the boundaries of the incumbent and buzz off. She did not follow my reasoning. She found it lacking in evidence. In her mind, there was enough of my best friend to go around. The new girl saw no reason why my best friend couldn’t make a new best friend. The new girl was suggesting we could all be friends. All I heard was “a new best friend.” As in, I was the “old best friend.” The former. The ex. It was clear to me that I needed to up the stakes before the new girl replaced me for good.

I had come into the possession of an entire pack of Hubba Bubba bubblegum. Grape flavored. The irony is, I probably received it as a reward for good behavior. I loved grape gum, but I was desperate. I could always get more gum, but I only had one best friend.

In addition to the attention of my best friend, the new girl had also gained popularity with a cute boy in our class. I don’t remember his name, but he was a freckled ginger with impeccable manners and a tidy haircut. As far as the new girl was concerned, this little guy was her boyfriend. Suddenly, a plan began to form in my head. A dark plan.

The freckled ginger was a kid of his word. He also had a love for Hubba Bubba grape bubblegum that rivaled his love for the new girl. I told him that he could have the entire pack of gum if he would do one simple task for me. The deal was that he had to ignore the new girl for the entire day. No matter what she said to him, he was to ignore her and pay attention only to me. He agreed.

For the entire day, he did as he had promised. I could see my devious plan working every time he ignored the new girl. To be honest, I’m surprised he never caved. She was rather persistent, but he held his ground and kept his word. The new girl was devastated. She had no idea why her boyfriend was paying attention to someone else instead of her. Not just someone. He was paying attention to the one girl who hated her.

Toward the end of the day, she broke down and begged me to relent. She wanted her boyfriend back. She would do anything. Anything. So I proposed a trade – a best friend for a boyfriend. Relief flooded her face.

DEAL!

The next day, my life was back to normal. The new girl had her boyfriend back, and my best friend was back by my side. My best friend didn’t seem to notice the distance the new girl put between the two of them. She never mentioned it or tried to regain the new girl’s attention.

I’m sure the freckled ginger shared the grape treasure with his girlfriend. More irony since it was the prize that kept him away from her for an entire day in the first place.

Patience, or the lack thereof, played a huge part in this. My deal had been for one whole day. Had anyone toughed it out until morning, I would have lost the battle and my gum. Instead, I had sized up my enemy quite well. To my knowledge, my master plan was never known. No one ever confronted me about it. I think the new girl was so relieved to have her boyfriend back that it never occurred to ask him why he stopped talking to her that day.

Had I been a little less insecure and jealous, I could have ended up with two best friends. Instead, I ended up with none. Despite my clever plan to get my best friend back, I eventually lost her anyway. My family and I moved to another state at the end of the school year, and I lost touch with my best friend. For all I know, she and the new girl rekindled their friendship in my absence and are besties to this day.

I gave up my favorite gum for nothing.

 

Longing for an Honest Title

We’re all familiar with the term clickbait. It’s annoying to click on an article, only to find that it really has nothing to do with the title at all. The site logs a click. That’s the goal. No one cares if you regret the decision later.

Recently, I fell for some clickbait in the form of a book title. I was not amused.

I’m a sucker for anything Paris. My decor is heavy on the French theme. If ever you hear of me being lured into a van or down a storm drain, it won’t be puppies or candy that did the trick. It will be the promise of something emblazoned with the Eiffel Tower or the word “Paris.” So, naturally, when I see a book with the title Longing for Paris and decorated with a pink Eiffel Tower and French food and art, I’m snatching that book up. And when, on page three, the author admits the book has nothing to do with Paris, naturally, I’m abandoning that book with a feeling of betrayal.

Titles are the first thing a reader sees. They can be ironic, but they shouldn’t be downright lies. One should never take the name of Paris in vain. I’ve been to Paris twice. I long to go back. But I felt completely betrayed by this book’s title. I expected it to not be clickbait. I was wrong.

So why would an author title a book in such a misleading way? If I had to guess, I’d say for the same reason clickbait makes up misleading titles. Money. Except, in the case of a book, the author is hoping you will buy the book before realizing it wasn’t even remotely going to live up to the title.

Some people really liked this book. Others held similar feelings to mine. My goal is not to talk people into hating the book. But I do believe that a title is sacred. When it is used to mislead the reader, I have no patience for it.

Had I bought this book, I would be far more scathing in this post. However, in this case, I did not waste money on a book that had nothing to do with its title. I checked it out from the local library. I consider the library my “try-before-I-buy” resource. It’s like a safety net against clickbait titles. I have purchased plenty of books after reading them for free. This is not going to be one of them. I will be happy to return it. No harm, no foul.

 

Just Add Water

I got retinol in my eye, and now it won’t stop watering. My vain attempts to stave off the signs of aging will probably just end up causing me to go blind. But hey, if I can’t see the wrinkles, I can pretend they aren’t there. There’s always a silver lining.

I have recently become quite enamored with skincare products. I subscribe to Ipsy and Birchbox, so their cute little samples have reeled me in. I’m a sucker for fancy packaging. The boxes. The tubes. The jars. When I’m out shopping now, I find myself lingering on the beauty products aisles. Those little bottles of serums and potions call out to me with their siren songs. They promise miracles in bold letters on the front, while proclaiming results may vary in the fine print on the back. And while I have found a few things that I enjoy using, no matter what the package says, there is no such thing as a miracle in a jar. Time marches on. It’s keeping step with the crow’s feet.

What I have found that works best for me is water. I don’t mean splashing water on my face. I’m talking about water intake. All the problems I ever have seem to center around a lack of hydration. Adding a cream on the outside won’t make a bit of difference if I’m not hydrating the inside. The problem is, I hate to drink water. I hate those water bottles that everyone carries around to hot yoga and barre classes. I feel like an imposter since I don’t actually exercise in public. Not to mention, they aren’t exactly cheap. I have no interest in spending money on something I know won’t use. I’ve tried adding the flavoring drops, but I hate the idea of all those chemicals. And don’t even ask me to cut up a bunch of fruit as an enhancement. Too much work. I needed a better solution.

Then I noticed a girl I work with always has a glass of water at her desk. A glass. A fancy one. It occurred to me that water might taste better if I drank it from a fancy glass. It’s all about perception, after all. If the result was more water consumption, it didn’t really matter how I got there. I added “fancy glass” to my shopping list.

I found what I was looking for at TJ Maxx. The thing I love about that store is I can buy just one glass. I spent a whopping $2.49 on a fancy glass that I could take to work with me. It doesn’t sweat so I don’t have to worry about wet hands or a wet desk. It’s big enough to hold a reasonable amount of water, but not so big I feel like I’m drinking out of a trough. And the best thing of all is that it’s actually working. I’m getting my daily intake of water without complaint. My contacts aren’t drying out, my skin looks better, and I am sleeping through the night. None of these things were possible without water.

They say beauty is only skin deep. That may be true, but healthy skin comes from within. I have to trick myself to drink enough water. Some people carry around a gallon jug. Other people add fruit. Me? All I need is a fancy glass and I’m set. Want better skin? Just add water.

 

Message in a Bottle

IMG_5429If a man sends a message in a bottle, and no one ever finds it, does that mean the message never existed?

I am one of those people who sees signs. Everywhere. Long before I ever read The Secret, I always felt like the answers were out there if we looked for them. Or listened. But it seems hard to quiet our minds enough to actually do that. I get so busy and scattered that it is hard to sit still and listen. Actually, forget the listening part. It’s hard enough to sit still. We run from task to task and forget that there are messages floating around out there that need to be read.

One day, I was driving down the highway in my new car. Well, it was new to me. I asked myself, ” I wonder what I look like driving this car?” The answer wasn’t life or death, but I was curious. Within a minute or so, a girl who looked like me drove by me in the same make and model as the car I was driving. It was even the same color. I smiled and said thank you. That was a fun message.

The no-so-fun messages are the ones that involve heavy traffic and delays. Those are harder to recognize as “for your own good.” When I’m stuck in traffic, or behind slow drivers, I try to recognize that the Universe is telling me to slow down. There have been times when I’ve actually seen the reason why. Some life or death moment that I’ve avoided. Most of the time, I just have to take the Universe’s word for it. If nothing else, it teaches me patience. It’s harder to say thank you then, but I still do.

The messages aren’t reserved. It’s not a private beach where all of these bottles wash ashore, exclusive to the few with memberships. No matter what god you worship, or don’t, the messages are always there. I’ve heard people say, “God told me…” and I’ve heard bitter retorts of, “How come He only speaks to certain people?” The response is one of jealousy and hurt. Everyone wants to get messages. Everyone wants to feel special. The response is also one that is unnecessary. Whatever name you call it, the Universe speaks to everyone. There is no discrimination. There is also no limit to the amount of messages one can receive. And even if we ignore the messages being sent to us, they still exist. I’ve ignored plenty of messages. For years. The Universe is a persistent little thing.

I’ve seen answers on bumper stickers and billboards. I’ve had random people deliver them. I’ve stumbled across memes and quotes just at the right time. It’s funny to me now. There is no loud booming voice coming down from the sky. It’s subtle. Personal. Besides, if all of the messages were delivered over the loud speaker, no one would be able to understand them. The. Messages. Are. Delivered. All. The. Time. To. Everyone.

It’s easy to dismiss the messages. We use words like coincidence. We have doctors say that our brains just create them because we need to see patterns and signs. So what? The message is still the message whether we choose to receive them or not.

 

 

Forgetting to Unpack

Around the time that Elvis made his last trip to the john, my family and I took a road trip from Kansas to Virginia. My grandfather was afraid to fly, so we packed five adults and two kids into a Mustang and a kelly green Toyota Corolla my mother had named Kiddie Car. There were snacks and blankets and pillows, so my brother and I were pretty comfortable. Eventually, however, it became necessary to stop at a motel for the night.

It was a rainy evening in Indiana.

I had brought along a new pair of wedge sandals for the trip. I didn’t want to get them wet, so I donned my ratty tennis shoes for the trek from the car to the motel lobby. When we checked into the motel, I made sure to tuck those special sandals into one of the drawers in the motel room. They might still be there.

In the morning, we got up, got ready, and left. I put on my tennis shoes and forgot all about my precious white shoes. We were about 100 miles away when I realized I had left them behind. I was out of luck. We were taking a different route on the way home, so even if the people at the motel had found them, there was no way I was getting them back. My little white sandals were lost forever.

Now, some forty years later, I realize I am still paranoid when it comes to storage spaces in hotel rooms. I never put anything in them. I live out of my suitcase. I check all of the spaces (drawers, closets, under the bed, etc…), even though I know in my head I haven’t ever used them. I have an irrational fear that somehow, in a fit of sleepwalking (which I don’t do), I will put something important into one of those drawers and leave it behind. It’s funny and quirky on the scale of a hotel room, but recently I realized that I forget to unpack regardless of where I am.

I’ve lived in my current house for over eleven years. A few months ago, I decided to list it to see if it would sell. I gave my realtor sixty days. I was testing the Universe. If the house sold in that time period, like all of the other houses in my neighborhood, I would know it was time for me to move on. If it didn’t, I know I needed to stay a little longer. My children live with their father now, so it’s just me and two cats on a regular basis. The house felt huge and empty. The space felt wasted. I started thinking about downsizing. I wanted a tiny house. Some place where nothing could be underutilized or forgotten.

To prep for the strangers who would be visiting my house, I staged it. My closets were staged with an organization that I do not naturally possess. The decor was minimal; no pictures hung on walls or graced bookshelves. I wanted to pull my personality out of the house so someone else could see their own personality here. People came and went. Showing after showing after showing. The cats were mortified and learned to hide every time someone touched the doorknob. But the house didn’t sell. We did get one offer the first week I listed it, but within a few days, those people got transferred to another country for work and had to cancel the contract.

The house is still mine. At the moment, it doesn’t want another owner. It seems to want its current owner to unpack. Even after eleven years, it wasn’t difficult to hide my personality from visitors to the house. With the exception of a pretty extensive collection of Paris-themed items in my bedroom, my personality doesn’t show itself. I’m afraid to get too comfortable. Afraid to make myself at home. What if I leave something behind? What if something I love gets lost? What if my favorite picture falls off the wall and breaks? Or the hurricane lanterns with the sand I so carefully collected from my trip to Monterey?

My whole life has been like that. Ever since the shoes. Forty years of not settling in because leaving was a given, and leaving something behind was a fear.

So…I’m going to replace the shoes. Thanks to fashion cycles, white wedge sandals are back in style after all these years.

I’m going to hang the pictures. And decorate.

I have no idea how long I will be here. They don’t exactly give us a check out date. But while I’m here, I’m going to learn how to settle in. I’m going to learn how to relax and breathe. I’m going to make myself comfortable and claim this space as my own.

And most importantly, I’m going to remember to unpack.

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