Has anyone else read The Castle by Kafka? It was an unfinished novel, which, if you've read it,  you know how ironic and true the incompleteness is in itself.  There was no way to end that book.  That was the whole point, the endless frustration of modern life and bureaucracy, the meaninglessness of ambition which will never be fulfilled. . . how the pointless striving can steal the life that you already have.  Because, if all you care about is your frustrated and ultimately meaningless goal, wanting what you don't have, then you lose the joy you could have today with the gifts you do have.  Existentialism in it's naked brutality.  And truth. 

I am very frustrated today with the maze of complications in life. I'm having problems with HR at my new college, so, I have not been paid and will not get paid for some time. It's a comedy of errors. I told my department chair what was happening and he said it was Kafka-esque. I agree.

HR needs proof of my degree to officially hire me. I never got my Masters diploma because they mailed it to the wrong address. I have tried several times over the years to get my diploma, but they insist I pay for it because it's a duplicate. Out of principle and poverty I refuse to pay for a piece of paper I already paid for with thousands of dollars of tuition. I tried again to get a copy, but they will not send it unless I pay them.

Alternatively, I can show my transcripts to HR, but they must be original. I had an original sitting on my desk for 7 months.  Some time this summer I put it away.  Which means, it is gone forever.  I looked in every place it should be and it's not there.  Now I have to pay for another original.  Again, because of  poverty and the fact that I should already have a copy in my possession, I refused to pay for it. Instead, I would keep looking for the one that should be here. Meanwhile, 2 weeks later, I am not getting paid.

Realizing I can not pay my rent on time again this month, I gave in. I made several phone calls and finally talked someone into sending me a transcript for free. I told him I wasn't getting paid until I got my transcripts and I couldn't pay for my transcripts because I wasn't getting paid and he said he'd send me a free one. It arrived today. Sigh, that's one hurdle.

I called my department to see if they got my timesheets because they are due on Mondays. Turns out, I filled them out incorrectly and need to go to the office to do them again. Since I also have to take HR my transcripts, I called them to make sure they'd be there too. (They don't do paperwork on Fridays, which I found out the hard way.) Until I take care of HR, I won't get paid anyway. The commute costs $10 so I don't want to make 2 trips, it can also take an hour each way.  Good thing I called, the paperwork lady wasn't there today. So there was no point in going in today. Sigh.

I am extremely grateful to have my job. I don't mind the change in status. But the fact is, I don't even have shared office space or a key to the department office or a mailbox. I am on the bottom of the seniority pile when I used to be on the top.  And, as of yet, I don't have an email account and can't log in to the computer equipment.

So a student complained to the chair that he couldn't get in touch with me. Because I don't have a school email account and have not been able to get into the Blackboard website, because of my HR problems. I explained myself, but I'm already starting off badly.  I swore I wouldn't do that this time.

I am frustrated.

It is a maze of corridors and offices and paperwork similar to Kafka's luckless hero as he suffered to get into the castle. I am impressed by the stupidity of it all. I am impressed with my incapacity to adapt myself to the stupidity. I am trying to detach myself so I don't go into a screaming fit and pound my head against the wall.  Because none of this really matters.  Until it does.  Like, if I got evicted for paying my rent late again, or when I got fired for turning in my grades late, etc.

I walk in this maze. Amazed.

Maybe I should take up drinking. As long as you didn't get drunk, you could continue walking in the maze regardless of the the frustrations and maybe get somewhere. Or maybe not. There really isn't a 'somewhere' to get to, is there? Because there is always another hallway. And the Word of Wisdom.5

That was Kafka's --and the existentialists'--conclusion, if you could get them to admit there is a conclusion. Life is the maze. There is no arrival. There is no end save death. None of this silliness matters. The trick is to embrace the maze without giving up on your life. Enjoy the struggle but don't take it too seriously. 

Or, you can turn to drink or religion.

. . . to be continued


sand & sea

About a month ago, during a massive mood swing up out of my June-July depression, I decided I should get out of my head.  First, I probably should get out of my house. Why?  Because. 

Today, I had an interview for one  of the volunteer jobs I wanted.  I applied in August with resume, references, and a cover letter.  (This is NYC, nothing is easy.)  It's near the ocean, working with animals. The animals were awesome to behold. The job, not so much. It's mostly preparing food and cleaning up, in 8 hour shifts. It also requires self-purchased equipment. (I'm probably going to volunteer at my second choice elsewhere.) Still, watching the animals play, smelling the organic ocean stink (that I like), feeling the blazing sun on my skin, the breeze tickling the fine hairs on my limbs-- feeling alive-- were good things. I'm glad I went. I almost canceled because it was such a trek.

Afterward, I went to the beach. I was ready, my bathing suit on under my clothes, towel and sunscreen in tow.  I only stayed an hour because I only had so many quarters.  The weather was perfect today, mid 70s and sunny.  I walked barefoot on the dirty sand, taking care to avoid the broken glass. . .  I waded in the cool water, waves lapping my calves, toes sinking into the wet mucky sand, watched the barnacles open and close with the tide.  Then stretched out on a towel in the sunlight. . .  AND, drum roll..... I actually read texts for my graduate work!  

It's the perfect setting for dull reading. The smell of salt air, the lumpy waves of sand, the sound of crashing waves. . . it was lovely. (A strong antidote for panic attacks that tend to attend my research.)  I'm thinking of making the beach research-reading a weekly routine.

The drives there and back, though long, --and not without my lost detours that I can not avoid-- were glorious.  Bridges and rivers and ocean.  The tolls cost $27 because I took the most direct routes.  (You read $27 correctly, this is NYC.)   I drove down Manhattan along the Hudson, Jersey palisades on my right, the groovy grime and architecture of the city on my left.  I watched river traffic with barges and sailboats and a helicopter--it was lunchtime traffic, stop and go.  I went through Staten Island with views of the narrows (where ocean meets river),.  Drove along parkways following the Atlantic shoreline.  Seabirds, the small rock islands in the Port of NY, moving reflecting waters, boat horns lowing.  Breathtaking at times.  Windows down, smoggy salt air blowing through the car, listening to Bloc Party, tanning through car windows. --Does life get any better than this?

I need to remember.  This is living.  This is why.

Remember the joy of physicality.  The sensory pleasures making us alive.  

But we forget.  I forget.
We make ourselves sick with our tucked away comfortable places, separate from the world, separate from each other.  So much so we can separate from our own bodies, in a bad way.  Those  with solitary celibate lives are at even greater risk of losing touch with our flesh.  Sometimes we force separation to deal with the celibacy.  It's not good.  Spirituality is important, but physicality is also important, essential.  One without the other is sickness.  We are equal parts body and soul.

Sex is clearly an important part of that equation.  So those who live without, need to be especially careful not to get lost inside.  We have to work harder to feel the joy of our bodies.  To remember we are flesh and blood and revel in it, to celebrate our sensuality.  It's not easy.  I'm lost in my head 98% of the time, and  I'm sick with it.

Nothing in my life has really changed since I wrote the last post --other than being $27 poorer.  But what a difference!  I will try to hold on to this for as long as I can.  The curative powers of sand and sea, flesh and body.  Remember.



Sunday, I was too sad to go to church. The very thought of going made me cry. But, my friend needed me to watch her infant while she worked in the nursery. So I went. The sacrament hymn was something dour and awful about the angels weeping for the savior's pain. I started crying and couldn't stop. I made it through sacrament and the first short talk by keeping my head down and sucking on tissue.  I can't hide the crying because my face gets so blotchy.  I went home after 30 minutes, I knew it wouldn't stop.  I was ashamed for letting down my friend, but I couldn't stand to sit there.  At home,  I curled up on the couch with my snuggly cat, wrapped up in a blanket and watched TV.  I cried off and on for the rest of the day.

I'm tired.  I'm scared.

I did get a part-time job which was a gift from God.  Seriously, I had a blessing that Sunday, he said I'd find the positions I needed to provide for myself.  The department chair called me the day before class started and said they needed me. Good news.  That combined with my part-time unemployment should cover my expenses.

Except, as I now realize, because I am so many months behind on my bills, the new income will not be enough.  And the college won't pay me until I produce  proof of my degree.  Which I have to order from my university and pay for with money I do not have. Because I'm not getting paid . . . So there won't be enough for my rent next week.  I was in this exact position 8 years ago.  It seems like I haven't made any progress,  I'm only treading water. 

I can see the string of mistakes I've made throughout the last decade. At the time they seemed like the best choices.  I did my best. I never stopped trying. I have learned a lot emotionally in the struggles.  But, in terms of life skills I haven't grown at all.  Every time I turn around I make some stupid mistake that costs me money I don't have.  Like spilling water on my keyboard, breaking it for the second time in the last month, costing me $40 for 2 new keyboards.  Or putting my parking meter receipt face down and earning myself $160 in parking tickets in Queens. Or, buying the discounted 10 bus tickets, rather than the 2 tickets I needed.  Thereby overdrawing my account by $20 dollars, costing me $37 in fees, so that it not only canceled out the discount, but cost me an extra 32 bucks . . And last month wasn't even a bad month for me.  EVERY month is like that with the stupid mistakes.

I feel on the edge of breaking. Stretched to my limit.

Every single day is a struggle-- financially, emotionally, spiritually.  Why? What is all of this for? If it is true that 'men are that they may have joy'. . .  then the waiting feels long.  I've made it this far solely because of my faith, but it's wearing thin.

It's too hard to believe in a pay-off anymore. It's hard to keep hoping for better.  So, why do we bother with all of this? Why do we keep going when the past tells us life doesn't get better and doesn't get easier? Other than, we don't have a choice?  Because when we stop fighting we may as well die?

--Yet, I know that in a few days I'll wake up feeling okay and hopeful again. And then a few days later, I won't be okay.  And again and again and again.  It's exhausting.


Sweet Single LIfe (Re-run)

I wanted to lighten things up around here. This is a re-run from 2005.  I'd like to see what readers enjoy about their single lives, so leave a comment and let us know. 

These are things that give marrieds reason to envy singles.  Here's a happy list of non-sucking things in my life that I may possibly miss if I ever get married: (In no particular order)
  1.  I answer to no one. I do whatever I want whenever I want.
  2. I stay up late without bothering anyone, I wake up late because no one wakes me up.
  3. Saturday mornings, (on the rare occasions I get up early enough) are for eating Lucky Charms or Count Chocula AND chocolate covered donuts while watching cartoons. My favorite is X-Men. Yu-Gi-Oh actually grew on me though I despised it at first. I've learned to appreciate it's wonderful badness.
  4. I can travel at a moment's notice without inconveniencing anyone.
  5. Body hair is my own private business and what I do or don't do with it is no one else's concern. [A man told me that women who are looking for boyfriends don't share my attitude. I scoffed at this person since he had just been kissing me.]
  6. No stress regarding other people. I only have my own problems to worry about.
  7. No contention in my home life. [Sometimes the cats need a scolding but they rarely shout back.]
  8. My poverty is my problem. There's no guilt for making other people live on stale bagels, eggs and beans.
  9. The remote control is ALL mine, pity the man who ever tries to take it from me.
  10. I don't have to listen to bad music in my own home.
  11. If I skip church, low guilt factor, I'm not preventing other souls the inspiration or enlightenment that church should provide.
  12. I spend my money at will.  If I need new shoes more than groceries or a metrocard, then I buy new shoes.
  13. Complete unpredictability of my life. Anything can happen at anytime. I can't even say where I'll be in 6 months. I love that.
  14. I have time to devote to my friends. If one is in crisis, I can drop everything to rush to their aid because I don't have other responsibilities in the way.
  15. When I feel lazy, I can have a can of pringles for dinner instead of bothering with real food and washing dishes.
  16. There's no one to disappoint other than myself.
  17. I can leave my clean clothes out for a week, putting away one class of item per day (Today it was underwear, tomorrow maybe socks or shirts.)
  18. Total professional freedom. If I got a job in London then I can go to London.
  19. There's no man saying  "Is it that time of the month?" because he doesn't like what I'm doing or saying.
  20. I don't have to do other people's laundry. (Although I will marry the man who will do mine.)
  21.  Food experiments in tupperware that got forgotten are allowed to blossom and grow of their own volition. --when I discover it, rather than cleaning the foul thing, I throw it out tupperware and all. (this is actually why I stopped buying tupperware.)
  22. My family is the only family I have to deal with, no in laws or other such scary things.
  23. No man pee on the bathroom floor or around the seat (except when some people have guests over but that's not often enough to be a problem.)  Really men, how hard is it to aim?
  24. I don't get big callings at church, I can disappear into the walls if I so choose.
  25. I can go to sleep with my music playing.
  26. No sharing of MY closet.
  27. Never worrying that maybe I could have done better, or maybe I made the worst mistake of my life, or this other person might betray me and destroy my life.
  28. Maybe I snore and maybe I don't. But no one else is snoring in my bed.
  29. I'm the only one losing my stuff. 
  30. If I hate my life I can change everything.
  31. No sacrifices to kids/babies/mortgages/someone else's career
  32. There's no end to the drama
  33. My problems only hurt me.
  34. I don't have to watch movies I don't like.  
  35. No one complains if I spend the entire weekend in my PJs eating pizza and watching TV or playing video games.
  36. I can sing badly as loudly as I want all day long.
  37. I can dance around the house as naked as I please whenever I please. (hopefully, in a good marriage that won't change).
(For the record, I wrote this in my 20s, so I have grown out of some of these-- especially the food. I might eat an apple pie from Yaffa's for breakfast-- BEST breakfast ever--but I try to lay off the lucky charms.)



Dear Celibate: Divorced part 2, Staying Positive

Dear Divorced in the North,

You had a 2 part question, so I've split these up.(see part 1 here or below)

How do you avoid being negative and bitter?  It plagues singles. The dark nights. Endless disappointment and broken hearts. Hopelessness. It's enough to make one very negative.  Bitter is a good word for it.

Forgive.  Forgive yourself.  Forgive the world, fate, the church, women, and your ex.  Bitterness develops from suppressed anger, anger projected outward to others.  Don't blame everything and everyone, or anyone, for your circumstances. Accept responsibility for your life.  YOU made your bed.  There were outside factors, but you could have chosen otherwise. Then forgive yourself.  Love yourself.

When you love yourself, you know you're lovable.  Which makes you lovable. And attractive.

Accepting responsibility for our lives is empowering.  Knowing you have control means you are not a victim of the world.  That means you have power over yourself and your life.  It feels bad at first to blame ourselves, that's when you need to self-forgive.  Then, you're able to take control of your destiny.  You know you can DO SOMETHING about it.  You can get on with changing things, fixing your life and getting rid of the garbage. Taking action creates hope, it breeds confidence.  So, do something for yourself already!

Once you take control without anger, you become a more positive and attractive person.  Good things will come to you.


Dear Celibate: Divorced in the North

Dear Celibate,

I am 31, divorced and with a child that I see every other weekend and on special occasions. I am very active in the Church, there wasn't any abuse or adultery or anything like that. Simply put we married way young and I never loved her and married due to the pressure of my various influences. Anyways friends were telling me to get out of it even before we got engaged. In fact I wrote a blog about it.

My friend who is a girl read it and said I come across as negative but how do I be positive about this situation enough to attract a girl is my question. I don't want to be what girls scrape the bottom of the barrel to get but sometimes that's my thoughts.  I'm what people would settle for. Any clues? Thanks!

--Divorced in the north

Dear Divorced,

Your problem is universal to all singles, 'How do we stay positive and attractive?'  First, you are NOT the bottom of the barrel!  You actually have some advantage over never-marrieds.

Here's what makes you a catch:
  • You've gone 'all the way': Committed to marriage. It says you are capable of real commitment. Maybe you're more scared because of the divorce, but you did it once. It implies you can do it again.
  •  Maturity: Having been married with a child means you are more mature than the others.  Women REALLY dig maturity.
  • Housebroken: Your ex-wife already trained you.  You've been broken from nasty bachelor habits. No more peeing in the shower, dripping pee on the toilet and floor, hairs in the sink, moldy dirty dishes, smelly apartment, greasy pizza box piles, dirty refrigerator, ugly decorating, old furniture from the curb, etc. She already did the work so the next one won't have to.
  • Experience: Let's tell the truth. You've had sex. You have skills that never-married temple-worthy men do not (virgins).  That means you won't have an awful fumbling wedding night, and the clumsy months after that.  Women do think about it.  It's a BIG plus in your favor.
  • Less suspicion (sometimes): Single men over 30 are wondered about. People wonder what's wrong with them. The assumption being that there must be something wrong with a single man in the church. Having been married, this suggests you may be more normal.  HOWEVER, you do have to deal with divorce stigma. As a single woman, I worry more about older never marrieds for the reasons above.  But, be prepared early on to explain your divorce.  I suggest you spend more time becoming friends with women before asking them out. Show them you're a nice guy. And, this could give you an opportunity to explain the divorce beforehand.

You should hold your head up high and carry yourself with confident swagger (btw--also sexy). You have a lot to bring to the table.  Divorce doesn't mean you're leftovers. Remember that.

(See Part 2)