Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PSA: On Being An Introvert

It's no secret that I'm an introvert.

What has been surprising to myself and my boyfriend is how social I often am.  I have a larger group of friends than ever before, am fairly involved in the St. Louis pole dance and burlesque scene, and participate as often as possible in the various parties and gatherings that take place on a regular basis.  I'm a member of Ladybrunch, a book club, and have a standing arrangement of weekend nachos and brunch with Alexis, when my schedule permits.  Plus, I'm usually wrangling party goers at the craziness that is wedding receptions on weekends.

Just writing about it kindof exhausts me.

And that is precisely how I know that, in spite of my busy social calendar, I'm still most definitely an introvert.

I love my friends.  I love that they want me to be included in plans and parties.  I love going out to eat with them, going shopping with them, and hanging out with them, even if this chart accurately depicts the way I feel about most parties.

I still love you all.  Really.
And it's not that I don't enjoy parties.  Or hanging out with people.  Or going out even though I could easily stay home with my dog and read a book.  Or knit.  Or cross-stitch.  (Because I'm an old lady, obviously.)

It just tires me out.  And afterwards, I need to recharge.

And lately?  I don't have a lot of recharging time.  It's busy season at Fish Eye Fun, and I won't be slowing down until mid-November.  And working weddings (and other events) takes a lot out of me.  I have to be "on" and fun and friendly and excited and social.  And that's not quite my usual setting, so it's sometimes exhausting.  And then I try to keep up with my regular social life, and my family, as well as spending most weeknights with my boyfriend (who, being fairly introverted himself, understands and shares my occasional burnout).  It adds up.

But maintaining my friendships obviously means a lot to me, because I keep making plans and showing up at parties and going on trips, even when the thought of going somewhere (particularly when there are a lot of people or I'm out of my comfort zone) can make me a little anxious.

So this is certainly not to say that I don't want you all to invite me or include me or ask if I want to go to dinner or drinks.  Because I do want to.

But if I do turn down your invitation, or ghost out of a party early, or just need to be alone for a little bit on a trip, know that it's not you.  I'm probably just introverting, and will return to regularly scheduled hanging out as soon as I can.

In unrelated news, it's apparently National Dog Day.  So here's a picture of Thunder, who has gotten much better at being a dog lately.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Catharsis and Cupcakes

Catharsis (noun): the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art.

I don't think anyone can say that I haven't had a really great time being divorced.  I wouldn't go so far as to say every day is fantastic, because, well, life happens, and life isn't always fantastic.  Things don't work out the way you planned.  Fights happen.  Keys break off in doors when you're running late to work.

But, overall?  Life is seriously pretty amazing.  (I know I keep saying that and keep saying that, but sometimes I'm still in awe of the difference of before and after.)  The setbacks and arguments and emotional meltdowns don't last forever.  And anymore, it seems like the negative things that happen only end up working out for the positive.  (Usually.)

Plus, I sometimes have really great ideas for getting rid of a wedding dress I don't want to see hanging in my closet anymore.

So after I discovered that I somehow miraculously fit in my wedding dress 8 years later (see my previous post), I got to thinking.  And talking to my friends.  And to one of my favorite photographers, Carrie Meyer at Insomniac Studios.

And I thought: let's destroy it.

And everyone involved whole-heartedly agreed.

There was only the question of when, where, and how.  The when was almost perfect: a week after what would have been my anniversary.

Best anniversary ever.
As far as the where, Carrie arranged for us to do the shoot at the Crack Fox.

And how?  That was the problem.  We all discussed various options of destruction: paint, scissors, the usual things we'd seen other people do.  (Alexis wanted to take a flamethrower to it, but I nixed that fairly quickly, seeing as I would still be wearing the dress.)

Then it came to me: cupcakes.

Why this didn't occur to anyone sooner is beyond me.

So we began to prepare.  And by prepare, I mean go shopping.  And shopping.  And shopping.  Between me, Sandi, and Alexis, we visited nearly every Goodwill and resale shop in the St. Louis metro area.

But it paid off.  We found as close to matching dresses as it was humanely possible to find, and my divorce-maids looked incredible (with a little help for some from my hairdresser, Tina).

My gorgeous divorce-maids, from left to right: Katie, Sandi, Alexis, and Jessica.

I may or may not have had an emotional meltdown the day before and considered calling it all off.  But, I already had cupcakes made.  Dresses had been bought.  Hair and makeup had been arranged. Divorce-maids were excited. So I tried to be excited too.  And, once I got there and we got started, it was all perfect.

The photos turned out better than I even hoped for.  Carrie kept us just-enough under control and yet still captured the complete madness that was this photoshoot.

The above photo perfectly captures my reaction to being attacked by four girls armed with baked goods.  Let's just say there was actual intend behind those cupcakes. I had cake and icing absolutely everywhere.

Please notice the cupcake destruction at my feet.
But hey, so did they.

I don't know why all weddings don't end like this.  Well, at least all divorces.

I, for one, highly recommend it.

Before I close this post, let's go back to the definition of catharsis that I posted at the beginning.  The unexpected thing about all this was that I actually think that the act of destroying the dress I got married in was cathartic.  I mainly did it for fun and because I didn't want to look at the dress anymore.  I've done a fairly thorough job of getting rid of most of the things I had while married, so this was more or less next in line.

But, in the end, it was strangely satisfying.  It was fun and joyous and messy and beautiful and a true group effort.  And I feel like it was a real step forward in letting go of the resentments and anxiety that were still associated with that poor dress.  I hadn't gotten there, in spite of everything.  I still wanted some kind of validation or vindication or some unreachable thing like that.  But I'm not getting it.

And now, more than ever before, I'm okay with that.  Since the shoot, I haven't felt the same urges to pick at my emotional scars like I have before.

But I do feel the urge to look at all these beautiful pictures again and again.

You can see the whole gallery Carrie posted here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not-Quite-Newlyweds: A Photoshoot

Sometimes, Jake gets the idea to do a promotional shoot for upcoming wedding shows. And sometimes, I say, "Hey. I might still fit in my wedding dress."

And, as it turns out, I do. 

And then, since it's me and Jake, things get... interesting. 

Because Jake, of course, also has a wedding dress. 

It also happens that not only do I fit in my wedding dress, I also fit in Jake's clothes. Which makes us basically unstoppable. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

July Book List

In my ongoing quest to read all the books, here are my latest accomplishments for July.

1.  Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson

If you haven't read a Bill Bryson book, you probably should do something about that.  Notes is the humorous recounting of Bryson's semi-farewell trip to Great Britain.  As much as I did enjoy it, I wouldn't recommend it as a first encounter with Bryson.  True, it has its startling laugh-out-loud moments (notably his story about the notoriously dry, self-deprecating humor of Brits), but I felt it somewhat lacked the heart and hilarious soul of some of his other works.  It is certainly more the work of someone coming to terms with the fact that he is leaving what has become his home, for better or for worse.

Personally, I adored The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (though I could be biased, given my affinity for all things 50s and 60s), and was fascinated and highly entertained by At Home: A Short History of Private Life.  Both had me laughing out loud through their entirety, in spite of the fact that the latter is nothing but a long, glorified history of how houses came to be as we know them today.  Sounds dull.  Isn't.

I gave it three stars.  If Goodreads did half stars, it would have gotten three and a half.

2. How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby

How to Be Good tells the story of a not-so-good wife who suddenly finds her husband has undergone a spiritual conversion and must now "be good."  At first, I thought I would enjoy this book a lot.  As tends to be the case with me and the books I choose to read, it seemed to have often-creepy correlations with my own life.  But, as it spiraled further into the frustrating-though-understandable territory of should-I-stay-or-should-I-go, I kindof... stopped caring.  None of the characters were very likable.  Most were astoundingly stupid.  I know that's a modern fiction trope, but I usually don't care much for it.

While I entirely related to the main character's crisis and indecision and waffling, there was something missing that allowed me to stop caring what happened to any of them.  Possibly I just disliked the fact that she stayed in her unhappy marriage because of guilt and for lack of any better option.  And the general stupidity of most of the characters.

I gave it three stars, due to the fact that I liked the fist portion a lot more than the end.

3. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies, by Laura Esquivel

This tells the story of several sisters and their triumphs and failures in love and food.  The central story is a entirely frustrating love triangle (which turns in to a love square? love rectangle? love parallelogram?)

And?  It's magical realism.

God, I really hate magical realism.  I'm sorry, but I generally find it completely distracting.  A perfectly good story is being told, completely with delicious-sounding recipes, and then suddenly BAM! a character is so consumed by unexpressed desire that she sets the shower on fire, and runs out naked, only to have a soldier (who ran off in the middle of a skirmish because he could sense this red-hot desire), scoop her up on horseback and carry her off into the sunset while making love mid-gallop.

What? What?  No.

To be fair, I don't mind a bit of magical realism.  I don't mind when a character's grief while preparing a meal cause everyone who eats it to cry.  That I can handle.  But I really couldn't handle most of the magical elements of this book, particularly the end.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I have three words: death by orgasm.

Again.  What?

 Obviously, it all went way beyond my suspension of disbelief capabilities.

Which is sad, because I really enjoyed other aspects of it.  I loved how the recipes were incorporated into the story.  I loved the monthly installment aspect.  I hated who Tita chose to be with, in the end. As in, so mad I almost threw the book down.

To continue the trend, I gave this book three stars as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On This Date in History: a Digression

First of all, there are a few reasons why I'm behind in blogging.

1.  Work.
2.  More work.
3.  Not nearly enough sleep, due to continued and still-inexplicable sleeping issues (and to things loudly crashing to the ground at 1:30 in the morning).
4.  A renewed obsession with reading.
5.  Making sure that in spite of it all, I still have some fun.

Who wears short shorts? Bellars does.
(Photo credit: Insomniac Studios)
Things I will be blogging about, eventually:

1.  July's reading list and reviews.
2.  Why I both love and hate wedding shows.
3.  Alexis' and my new and ongoing quest for the perfect nacho location.
4.  This epic photo shoot:

For now, though, I'm going to talk about something more personal and relevant to today's date (and, in a way, to the above photo).  

It's August 4th, which means that eight years ago, I got married.  

Seeing as this is officially my first year not being married on my anniversary, it obviously worked out great.  (And yes, I'm sometimes sarcastic and bitter about it.  It's one of my ways of dealing with the experience.)

I'm not going to talk here about the things that happened.  If you want to talk with me about it privately, I do honestly welcome it.  

I'm not even going to talk about how much happier I am post-divorce.  I've talked about it before.  I talk about it with my friends, my boyfriend, and my family, ad nauseum.  We get it.  Move on, Ashley.

Well, I'm trying.

But I'm a person who dwells.  Particularly when significant dates come around.  I may have trouble remembering others' birthdays, but I remember when most big events happened in my life.  I often even remember what I was wearing.  This may make me incredibly self-centered, but so be it.

And getting married, regardless of the outcome, is a big event.  (And I obviously remember what I was wearing.  Easy one there.  See: above)

The question is: do I regret it?

There's not a simple or easy answer.

In many ways, yes.  I regret being too scared to back out at the last minute.  I regret not trusting my gut instinct.  I regret being naive and stubborn.  I regret not listening to my parents and those of my friends who tried to warn me.  I regret not going to grad school instead.  I regret the years spent being unhappy, the time spent drinking too much, the time spent being generally unaware of what was going on.

But. (Isn't there always a 'but'?)

If I hadn't gotten married, I don't know where I would be.  Or who I would be.  Granted, I could be rich and successful, married to a charmingly bookish English professor, and spend my time on tour for my best-selling novel when we're not spending summers at our country house in jolly old England.  This is highly unlikely, I know, and very probably not one of the results of not getting married eight years ago.

The unknown is a scary thing.  You can put all your hopes and dreams on it, or all your worst nightmares.  To reference the book I'm currently reading, you can be Jay Gatsby, reaching blindly for that shining green light, only to be disappointed by all-too-human realities and frailties.  Or you can imagine the worst-case-scenario, and live life in fear of failure.  I don't want to do either.

If I hadn't gotten married, I almost certainly wouldn't be where I am today.  I've had this discussion many times with various people.  And, as I've stated many times, I love where I am today.  It's not ideal, of course.  I'm divorced, in debt to my parents for bailing me out, and nowhere near where I thought I would be at thirty.  (Hell, my former dog unfriended me on Facebook.  How many people does that happen to?)  

But it works, in its own weird, unexpected way.  Getting married and being married for seven years 
for better and for worse made me the person I am.  I wouldn't say I'm a completely different person than I was eight years ago, but I am, I think, much improved from that all-too-young girl.  I've become more comfortable with who I am, more self-confident, less afraid of what other people think.  I've changed my hair color (countless times), my style, and my name (twice).  I've become an adult, or at least something approximating one.  I'm happy more often than not.  And I have better friends than I could ever have asked for, a wonderful boyfriend, a crazy dog, and a job I love.  I don't regret where I'm at or who I am or who my loved ones are.  Ever.

So.  Is Fitzgerald right in saying that, in spite of our struggles, we are "borne back ceaselessly into the past"?  Well, yes, in a way.  After all, we can't escape the past, or fix its so-called mistakes.  We can't entirely forget the past either.  I can't change where past decisions have brought me.  Saying "I shouldn't have" doesn't change the past eight years.  And very possibly, I shouldn't want to change them.  But I also can't be Nick Carraway, obsessed with telling and re-telling the same long-finished story.  Much like re-reading The Great Gatsby: though I may find something different each time, the ending isn't going to change.

Am I there yet?  Obviously not, or you wouldn't be reading this, if you're even reading this.  All I can say is that I'm working on it.  I'm working on not wondering what might have been.  I'm working on not regretting.  I'm working on not dwelling.  I think, though, that doing a little dwelling today is understandable.  I hope you agree.

"So we beat on, boats against the current," and all that jazz.