On knowing better 8

Indian sugar, aka jaggery

I missed Sugar/Cheryl Strayed‘s coming out party, due to a misfortune of geography, but thanks to Facebook, I feel like I was there. Plus, Wendy MacNaughton illustrated the evening. And my dear friends Pocket Full of Rye performed (Tucson represent!). Sugar answered my letter a few months back, and I made the mistake of reading the comments, some of which did not look upon me favorably (to their credit, I do come off as kind of an asshole). After I read the mean comments, I asked Cheryl to Sugar me a second time, which she did because she’s that awesome.

“Oh honey bun, you know better!” she wrote in an email, which is a wise refrain that I consistently ignore in my own life, even though I give a lot of advice to the contrary. It’s true though. I should know better. People being mean on the Internet is like the understatement of the decade. For every nice comment written, there’ll be 9 trolls, or petty remonstrations, or, occasionally, Ron Paul supporters telling you you should just jump off a cliff already. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written about the most innocuous thing on the planet. Staplers. Capri pants. The color taupe. The asshole comments will come. Usually, The Rumpus is pretty good about deleting them. They have a Thumper-from-Bambi approach to comments, as Isaac once said. But this time, they didn’t. Or maybe they have since, but I’m too scared to check (still) because the letter I wrote to Sugar made me feel especially vulnerable (so much so that I’m reluctant even to post it here).

“You are such a good person,” Sugar said at the end of her email, and I cried and cried. As I did so, I thought of one of her previous columns, Tiny Beautiful Things, where she wrote:

One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.

This week’s AfterEllen column includes the gayest sentence I’ve ever written, which is something of a feat for me.

E. and I were talking about desire, and I told her I didn’t think there was ever a time in my life when I didn’t have a crush on someone. She said I should try to have a crush on yoga instead.

I’ve spent a lot of time here on the padded plank masquerading as a bed, watching the ceiling fan make its lopsided roundabouts, and looking at too many pictures on Facebook. These memories are not mine, not ours, but maybe a little now that you’ve shared them with me. I try to decipher if the people posing have slept together, what kind of intimacy their postures betray. I am most likely wrong. All intimacy looks like sex to me, which is why I sleep with too many of my friends, which is why some people don’t trust me anymore.

No shirt, no shoes, service

I said to another friend, “There’s this really amazing straight girl who lives across the country…” and she said, “Don’t finish that sentence.”

I should know better. Yet here I am, marveling, marveling.

During my past life healing session, I said I was an Aztec. I said I was upset that I wasn’t born a boy. My healer walked me through all these doors and I told her what was on the other side of them. My “life” was pretty tame. I had a husband and a daughter. I lived to middle age. My hardships were the color purple. It was relaxing at the time, but I don’t know how much of it was just me telling a story.

Why it’s ok to date two people at the same time.

It’s hard for me to sleep here. Partially, it’s the noise, which comes at you from all sides, like you’re sleeping in a treehouse in the middle of an LA freeway. I hear monkeys screeching, but I never see them. The white from the passing headlights lingers on E.’s shoulder while she sleeps, and each time I see it, I think of how back home the light from my phone would wake me whenever I got a late-night text from someone, usually D. I always told myself to turn my phone off, but sometimes it was all I had to feel connected to someone. So I kept it on, all the time. I don’t have a phone here, but still I can’t sleep. When I lay my head down, my body starts swimming. It wants to bathe the days past, the days ahead. I’m both terribly excited to go home and not at all. I’m afraid to start my life again. I’m afraid I can’t keep the promises I’ve made to the soles of my feet as I try and fail to scrub the day’s dirt from them. I’m afraid that I’ll get home and still be me, the one who knows better, but doesn’t try very hard to change the circumstances that warrant the knowing.

When I was giving advice to this man last week, I kept thinking about my own struggles with drinking. It was hard not to throw myself into that column (I still did, somewhat) because once it’s written, then it’s real. Or at least it feels that way. Once it’s written down, it’s much harder to take back. So I don’t really write about drinking, except to make fun of myself. But I’ve been in Mysore a month now and I haven’t had a drop of alcohol and I don’t miss it because it’s not part of the Ashtangi culture. Here we eat smoothies. We go to lunch and talk about doshas and third world enemas and everything seems radical because it’s so ordinary. And I miss my friends back in San Francisco, but not really because we’re still so connected. I know what they’re doing, and I know when I tell them I drink too much, they’ll scoff good-naturedly and say it’s not true. But everything I’ve regretted in the morning, aside from falling for straight girls who live across the country, is due to alcohol. I think about that a lot these days.

But mostly I think about yoga. What are you thinking about?

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8 thoughts on “On knowing better

  • Alex

    Lovely. Keep it up, Anna. Every day you’re becoming more that person you don’t think you can be.

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  • Joe

    What a wonderful journey you’re on. Just remember, it’s not where you end up, it’s the going that makes it worth while. Now, what am I thinking about? About approaching 50, at once terrified and liberated by the idea that more of my life is behind me than ahead, and still feeling like I have nothing but choices and open road in front of me.
    Reading about your adventures makes me hopeful. So thanks.

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  • anna Post author

    Your life seems like a great adventure, Joe, if Facebook is any indication 🙂 Look forward to reading and hearing more good/weird things. And we have to go to that shooting range the next time I’m in Chi.

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  • Theresa

    Good one! I think sometimes we need to change radically to see who we really are and want to be. I have always admired you for your bravery, even though it can be uncomfortable at times. I’ll love you forever.

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  • Cyn

    Hmm, I’m thinking that it’s human to fall into patterns of behavior. I know I certainly have from time to time and I constantly struggle with being overly critical of myself. I have – – from time to time – – been quite guilty of being my own worst critic. I tell myself that I am a work in progress.
    I’m also thinking that I posted earlier a little piece on tumblr that kinda applies. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/chicagochick606
    Best of luck always remember you can do this. 🙂

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