It's me. Hi. I'm the problem.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

In Taylor Swift's hit Anti-Hero, she sings:

I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser
Midnights become my afternoons
When my depression works the graveyard shift
All of the people I've ghosted stand there in the room ...
It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me
At tea time, everybody agrees

Honestly, I've never felt more seen. (Except in my case, it's not the people I've ghosted, but rather the people who've ghosted me.)

Recently, an older woman that I'm friendly with told me that she doesn't understand why I air all my dirty laundry "on the internets" where anyone can see them. Back in her day, if she wanted to bitch about something, she called her best friend.

And that's when it hit me -- I don't have a best friend to bitch to. I don't have any friends that I feel like I can pick up the phone and call for a good old fashioned bitch session. And then it hit me further -- I don't really have friends. Period.

Is it because I'm annoying? Do people not like me? Seriously. What is wrong with me that people don't want to be my friend? 

I've tried making friends, honestly. I've reached out to people and we've hung out once or twice, and then they ghost me. Or they don't ghost me entirely (they'll still be my friend online and they'll definitely hit me up when their kids are selling something), but they make it clear that in their hierarchy of friends, I don't rate, and I certainly don't get their time. Once upon a time, I thought I'd made friends with co-workers, only to learn when I left the job they were talking shit about me. Then there was the time I coordinated a fun night out with a bunch of couples and realized halfway through that the husband of the woman I knew best was perpetually scowling and she avoided any direct interaction with me. That was in 2019; I've never seen them since. Or what about when I invited a handful of people to spend a glorious summer day with us and they said they were busy but then I saw pictures of them online -- together. Or when someone told us all about their annual holiday party and said we should come, but then I never received any details about the party and only learned it had happened because I saw pictures online.

Seriously. It has to be me.

It's me. Hi. I'm the problem. It's me.

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Putting our life in Dublin to rest

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I wasn't exactly keen on moving back to the U.S. in 2018.  For me personally, our time in Dublin was one of the best periods of my life: my mysterious health issues almost immediately disappeared; I found new hobbies that brought me a great deal of joy (and developed friendships with people through those hobbies that were my friends first and foremost, as opposed to the friends I've acquired through my relationship with Alan); we ventured to places in Europe I'd only ever read about in books and never thought I'd see in person; I was removed from the unhappiness associated with the constant reminder of what I disappointment I was to my in-laws for choosing not to have kids; and my career as a romance author was going well. I loved the books I was writing, and readers seemed to as well. 

I probably could have gotten over my melancholy at leaving Dublin if things hadn't turned out to be so damn hard once we were back here in the U.S.  Eventually, all I could think about was how much I wanted my old life back. I wanted to feel like the best version of me. I missed the adventures Alan and I took together. 

Each day, as new issues arose, I grew increasingly bitter and resentful.

When the house I wanted turned out to be a money pit that has cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and renovations, I longed for our old house on Leinster Road while simultaneously hating myself for pushing us into this house. As my health began to deteriorate and doctors told me they weren't sure what the issue was, I longed for my days of relatively good health. As I watched friends through the filter of Instagram and Facebook enjoy the city and hobbies I loved, I cried buckets in a town where I felt like an outsider, one where I had zero friends despite trying to make them. It wasn't until I launched a bi-weekly board game night at a local brewery that I managed to recapture even a small bit of the spark that I felt dying inside of me. And my writing? Let's just say I don't write all that much anymore, and when I do manage to put out a book, the sales are so tragically poor that I often wonder why I bothered at all. 

Honestly, I've felt like a failure almost every damn day of these last four years -- and that's not even taking into account how Covid has taken a toll on my mental health. It's everything outside of the pandemic that has had me wishing and hoping for a life that was no longer mine.

All this to say, you can imagine how completely ecstatic I was to book flights back to Dublin for this past week. It was going to be a short trip, but I couldn't wait for us to get there -- to walk the streets we'd grown to know so well ... to revisit the places that had shaped such a happy time in our life together.

Now that we're back home, I can safely say we had an absolutely splendid time. So much fun! 

But ... it wasn't the sunshine and roses I expected either. 

Maybe I've changed. Maybe we've changed. Or maybe Dublin has changed. Maybe it's all this and more.

I realize a lot of this could be chalked up to the fact that we were staying in a hotel instead of our own cozy home -- in fact, that's probably A LOT of what's driving my feelings. There were certainly moments that felt exactly like old times, among them sitting in the stands at the Aviva cheering Leinster on and then walking home like we used to do every weekend. It felt so much like no time at all had passed. 

But, to my surprise, being in Dublin felt foreign. I felt foreign -- which, in Ireland, I am. But I'd never felt that way before. From the moment we touched down in September 2018, I'd felt embraced. Welcomed. Now I worried that people thought I was just another damn American invading their space. The other thing that dawned on me? There were no middle-aged Irish people in city center. It felt completely taken over by students from everywhere but Dublin. 

I didn't remember the crowds being quite so large, or there being so many rude people. I didn't remember having to shout in a pub over the noise to the point of losing your voice just to have a conversation with your friends. I didn't remember being allergic to all the damn smokers and perfume wearers. Walking the streets regardless of the time of the day was a complete assault on my poor allergies. For four days, I had a sore throat and itchy, red, stinging eyes from it all. Showering was the only time I felt any relief from the onslaught whatsoever. And the food? Well, I got sick from all the grease in every meal. I used to be able to enjoy a "full Irish" breakfast like it was my job; the two times I tried to eat them this weekend, the grease was just too much. I don't remember that being the case before. 

As we made our way to the airport, I thought to myself, "I can't wait to get home." It was honestly a shock. 

As it turns out, while I've been mourning my old life, we've gone and built a pretty fantastic one here. 

Our house is still a money pit, but it's a gorgeous money pit. We have two cats that bring me limitless joy. The area we've settled is absolutely gorgeous. We have friends we see nearly every Friday and Saturday night. Heck, we even go on vacation with a few of them! Battling Cthulhu every Friday night is a lot different than cheering on my favorite rugby team at the RDS, but it's great fun, too. And I'll continue to miss a trad music session at a beautiful pub, but our local craft breweries are pretty darn special too.

For the first time in a long while, I don't feel unhappy about being here, and maybe now that I'm not spending so much time looking back, I can start to finally look forward and embrace this life.

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Miami and Key West, here we come!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Back in December as we were considering what we wanted to do for our 20th anniversary, I was almost paralyzed with indecision. So many of our friends are traveling, but we haven't been on a plane since we flew home from our Mardi Gras / Norwegian cruise through the Western Caribbean on February 23, 2020. Vaxxed & boosted, we felt it was time. Still, the idea of international travel made me kind of twitchy. I've had a few friends find themselves stranded abroad due to canceled flights and/or new lockdown regulations, and I didn't want to risk it with Omicron running amok across the globe. There were just too many unknowns. 

Not that we didn't seriously consider it, mind you. Back in 2010, we visited Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and had a gloriously wonderful time. We've always meant to go back. I follow them on Instagram so I know they're taking their Covid protocols seriously, and with on-site return flight testing, I felt better about going there than somewhere else in the Caribbbean. Still ... twitchy. A return trip to Puerto Rico was another option we considered, but in the end we couldn't decide between venturing out to Vieques or staying in Candado or Old Town, so we decided to table that trip until a later date as well.

As the month wore on and February loomed closer, I knew we had to make a decision soon because we were not celebrating another wedding anniversary with takeout at the same dining room table we've eaten approximately 700 pandemic dinners at. If you've known me for any amount of time, you know how seriously I take our travels - especially our anniversary trips. Having been married in Maui all those years ago, being able to get away together at this time of year is something we look forward to. 

It wasn't until we were watching the Christmas in Miami episode of TASTE THE NATION on Hulu that the lightbulb went off. A combo Miami / Key West vacation would be perfect! We've talked about visiting both cities over the years but have never really prioritized either. I ended up booking four nights in Miami and three in Key West, and we leave in a few days. To say we're giddy about the prospect of getting down into the sun and warmth is an understatement. Keep your fingers crossed that the forecast for Miami improves between now and then.

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