this got darker than i expected

i feel like i am losing my mind. i feel like i have been reading the new yorker stories by ann beattie non-stop for my entire life. i feel like i have never read any other book & that i never will read any other book. this, in case it’s not obvious, is not a ringing endorsement. this book is so fucking long. it’s over 500 pages of stories in which every character has the same boring name (everyone is named sam or marcia or richard or susan), everyone loves dogs & secretly shoots at cats with water guns, & the stories end before anything truly interesting really coalesces. i guess they are well-written, & sometimes the dialogue is really clever, but…let’s face facts. i’m ciara xyerra. every single day of my life is packed with scintillating dialogue. that is the one quality i actually do not need from the fiction i read.

though dialogue is a bit thin on the ground with jared off in philadelphia, helping to shape the future of quaker publishing or something. he has left charlotte & i to hold down the homestead here in kansas, where every day is too warm for a hat. the warmth pleases me. jared being away does not.

i came down with a cold about 28 hours after ringing in the new year. i woke up at 4am feeling all feverish & congested & icky. at first, i was irritated & sad about all my big new year’s plans being thrown off course by unscheduled illness. but then i thought, “look on the bright side…i never want to smoke when i am sick, & i made a new year’s resolution to quit smoking, so this is really quite fortunate.” now i am almost 100% better & i haven’t smoked in a week. & with the weather so nice, & jared out of town, this would be the perfect time to sneak an extra pack of smokes. i am not going to pretend that i have never smoked behind his back before & then brushed my teeth before he got home, hoping he wouldn’t figure it out. i will also not pretend that this isn’t the entire extent of any lying i have ever done to him, & i was overwhelmed with guilt the entire time, & my clothes probably smelled like cigarettes anyway, so i wasn’t even being that slick. i don’t think i’d ever be able to have an affair. i’d surely bungle it in some manner that would seem pretty comical about ten years later. anyway, my point is that i think i quit smoking.

another one of my new year’s resolutions is to whine & complain less. when i told jared this, he just silently raised his eyebrows & didn’t really look at me. i was like, “what, you don’t think i can do it?” & he said, “i just don’t know if you’ll still be ciara.” in boston for the holiday, i attended quaker meeting with jared’s family on xmas eve–which, incidentally, was my first time ever inside any kind of religious establishment, let alone sitting through a religious service. i’m not going to become a quaker any time soon, but it did open my eyes to jared’s ability to just sit or stand around silently for really long periods of time. it used to drive me crazy when we first started dating. i had (still have, actually) a burning need to fill every moment with witty banter & repartee, & when i’m trying to converse with someone silent, it doesn’t take long to devolve into a litany of whining & complaining about whatever crosses my mind. this is because my default setting is usually “things that annoy me”, in part because i am far more easily annoyed than pleased, but also because i take a kind of weird pleasure in being annoyed. few things annoy me that don’t also amuse me. there’s no way to really take the state of being annoyed 100% seriously.

so this has become kind of a running joke between jared & i. a few months ago, i noticed that i constantly whined about things that not only could no one change, but they were also things that were probably annoying everyone around me equally…for example, being cold on a cold day. so instead of just saying, “i’m cold,” i started saying, “i’m cold. let’s camp here. can we just eat the dogs?” this became our all-purpose shorthand for all announcements of short-term discomfort.

but i still think i could stand to keep more of that shit to myself. i was writing in my journal today about our trip to san francisco last month, & it suddenly occurred to me that i spent weeks before the trip absolutely dreading it, & i spent the entire time i was in san francisco distracted by silly things that had nothing to do with actually being in the city. & for reasons i won’t go into, that trip cost me about 75% less than it should have. now i am kind of mad at myself for not making more of an effort to be present & enjoy it.

i am finally getting to that age or point in my life where i am starting to feel very nostalgic for things i used to do, places i used to live, habits i used to enjoy, friends i used to have, etc. up until a few months ago, i was always focused on what was next–the next book i would read, the next friend i’d hang out with, the next song i’d sing at karaoke, like my life was a neverending series of next-times. i never thought about the past much, or at least, i never missed the past. now i miss it a little. not that all the money in the world would entice me into being, say, 24 again…but i’m coming to terms with the fact that there are some things i am never going to do again, & my life is evolving so that certain life choices will be forever unavailable. it’s weird to contend with that reality.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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