Thursday, May 27, 2010

Options, Options

The way I see it, I only have a few options as to what I'm going to do come July 31st (the last day of the lease with the boyfriend).

1) Stay in the same apartment, but get a roommate.  This way, I will be paying about the same amount I am right now.  The obvious downsides include the price of gas for motoring into the DC metro area and I would have to deal with another person in my personal space, one with whom I don't know so well.

2) Move into the one apartment complex I got the best vibe from on Wednesday.  It is much closer to a few of the places I work than where I live right now, thereby cutting down on my gas bill.  However, it is not so close that I could bike to said places.  Plus, I would be going it alone, so my rent would be $1100.  And the only 1BR they have available for my move in time is on the fourth floor, no elevator.

3) Move into the complex closest to a few of the places I work.  The rent would be comparable to #2, $1055.  However, I could bike to work quite often, along with convient acess to the metro system.  The downsides include less space in the actual apartment (though that is true of all the places near work) and its possible sketchy nature.  Now this is only going off of Google reputation.  I will be rolling through the area tomorrow night to get a better idea of the neighbors. 

Another upside: this is probably where the ex will be living.  It is close enough that he can walk to work and have access to multiple public transportation options so he can easily go to visit family.  I like the idea of having someone in the neighborhood, so to speak, that I could call if I had any problems.  But this also leads to the situation of letting go and having lives separate from one another.  I think the differing apartments would do that just fine, but am I being too optimistic again?

So those are the options as I see them.  I will tell you right now I am leaning towards number three, if for no other reason than the cost savings in gas and the exercise potential.


A Healthy Dose of Duh

I don't know if it's irony or poetic justice that my ex has nixed the idea of us roommating again.  I brought up where I wanted to live and he mentioned how his bus ride would be over 1 1/2hrs.  (I did not bring up how I drive that amount for him now.)  He also used the one tool that would grab my attention: his mother.

She is still having financial troubles.  She hasn't gotten another job yet.  She's hoping unemployment will help brunt the pain.  His mother is roughly the same age as mine, but for some reason she seems to be elderly.  She's only 59, but she walks like she's 69.  Unfortunately, she won't qualify for Social Security for another six years.  Bridging the gap between now and then will require assistance, most likely from my ex.

His mother doesn't want to move out of Washington, DC.  She gets health care through the government there and fears she will loose coverage if she moves.  My ex refuses to live in the district again.  I do not want to be caught up in that mess again.

My roommate agreement idea does not cover all the drama that is bound to fall upon my ex's life in the next six years.  I can see myself still being a good friend to him, and most likely a neighbor, but I can't be caught up in that mess.  And he knows that, which is why we can't live together.

So now I'm faced with high rent in a slightly seedy place, but at least it'll be close to work.  I'll save on gas, be able to ride my bike (i.e. more exercise), and hopefully be okay with just being me, alone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


To rush everyone up to speed:

1- On Sunday I had "the talk" with the boyfriend.  Parts were okay.  Parts were bad.  It ended so-so.

2- That same day a mutual friend stopped by and helped to break the tension in the room.  Since then, we have been friendly.

3- I decided to move closer to work because my gas bill each month is horrendous and my car has accumulated more miles than one should each year. 

4- The ex suggested, playfully, we should get another apartment together.  I was apprehensive by his even mentioning this, but have been considering it.

Now, my thoughts.

I went apartment shopping today.  And, frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do.  Though the price range is roughly the same, all of the apartments closer to work are MUCH smaller than where we currently live, even the two bedrooms.  I only got a good vibe from one of the complexes.  Two of them I'd only consider because of their proximity to work and the fact that there are bombs to kill roaches.

My Dilemma: even though I was apprehensive at first, I am seriously considering moving into another two bedroom apartment with the ex just for the cost savings.  If I get a 1BR, it's $1100 (not including gas & electric).  If we share a 2BR, it's $1320 (the same we are currently paying).  We each would have our own bathroom, including shower (though the master would not have a tub).  There would be so much more room and, because it is closer to our jobs, I wouldn't have to drive him anywhere anymore.  We would have two separate lives, only interacting when we chose to.  We would set up a roommate agreement beforehand, governing our actions in possibly uncomfortable situations.  Best of all, we could still be friends and still be a part of each others' lives, but with our so drastically different schedules, only see each other rarely.

Downside: we would still be exes.  There are the obvious issues of 1) false hope from one party about the possibility of getting back together (him), 2) when one or both of us moves on, having to deal with seeing the ex with another, not to mention the whole coitus noise issue, and 3) it would be very easy to slip back into bad habits and not allow ourselves the freedom to be all that we can be without the other.

Having said all that, I think knowing up front the problems we would face, setting down in a roommate agreement the plan of action for issues, being honest with each other about feelings (while also being aware of why we can't go back there), and allowing the other to lead a life separate from the friend would be good for us.  I think having a roommate who pays on time & in full, and doesn't inspire responses from the cops, would be a boon to both of us, not to mention the cost savings involved ($440!  That's a CAR PAYMENT!).

I know I am naive to even be considering this, but after inspecting my possible new dwellings, I have to at least think about it.  It is the choice of paying A LOT in rent or rolling the dice on a sketchy place vs. dealing with the ex, a person who I view as a friend.  After Sunday, things have been okay between us.  No more harsh words, just truths from both of us.  I explained, even if I wanted to, how I couldn't reconcile with him because he is not the man I want to be my life partner for the most basic reasons (marriage, finances, children, family).  And a major part of the roommate agreement would govern his actions should his mother come upon dire straights again (one week limit of her stay, cannot stay more than twice in a year).  I've thought this through, analyzed the possibilities, and am willing to live with any unsavory consequences for the cost savings.

Now, of course, I am assuming the ex will even want to do this.  After explaining my reasoning behind never wanting to reconcile, he seemed quite dejected.  And if he doesn't I will just have to bite the bullet and pay the $1100/month.  But if he is okay with it, if he can live with it, so can I.  And, if nothing else, it will make great fodder for a rom/com television script.

PS. And did I mention the 1BR is on the 4th floor, but the 2BR is on the 1st!?!  Images of me lugging my bike up three flights of stairs is not appealing, though still a possibility.

PPS. I know your comments are coming.  I know you will be honest, but please try not to be harsh.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It Would Be So Easy

It would be so easy to just let it go.  I could pretend I was okay with the situation, that I believed everything would be fine, that our lives would be back to normal in less than six months.

It would be so easy to forgive and try to forget, just ignore the glaring mistake made, and focus on the things "that matter."

It would be so easy to just pussy out, not say what I'm really feeling, what I really want to do.  Just go with the flow, like a leaf on a branch, ignoring the disease eating away at the roots.

I've done it before, twice in fact, once in love and once at work.  Both situations ended, not of my doing, but by the intervention of others.  Yes, I was happy for the ultimate resolutions, but heart broken in the aftermath.

I always seem to take the easy way, letting my life glide along, instead of taking control of the reigns.

It would be so easy to stay.  It will be so hard to go.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Drama On My Couch

I am currently living in a situation no one hopes to find themselves: my boyfriend's mother is staying in our apartment & I am none too happy about it.

One might ask: How could this happen?  I'll tell you.

Lately my boyfriend had, here and there, spoken off handily about the stress in his life, more specifically the troubles his mother had been facing.  A few weeks ago, she was reprimanded by her job, according to her "out of nowhere," and made to transfer, which was doubly impactful because her job doubled as her residence.  He scrambled to move her, but shortly there after, she was fired. 

To be perfectly honest, beyond the impact it had on my boyfriend, I didn't care.  I didn't know this woman, beyond seeing her a handful of times and not saying more than a few sentences to her in the process.  Our initial encounter occurred one afternoon when my boyfriend dropped by to give her a pack of cigarettes, a few sodas, and the twenty dollars she asked to borrow.  That first impression of her needing money never sat right with me. 

About a week ago, my boyfriend asked me a question.  "Worst case scenario, would you be okay with my mother living with us."  About a split second after he asked, I said no.  Then I apologized for my snap to judgment.  In my head, I started justifying why I should be okay with the scenario, i.e. the Christian values pounded into my mind since birth wouldn't let me be honest.  I then said I would be okay with it, but only if we sat down beforehand and created guidelines, and only if we set a definite amount of time for her stay.  Maybe a few weeks.  And then I said a few months.  Then I said up to six months, but again noting we would have to talk about her getting a job and finding a way to get around without my car or fitting into our schedule.  I think it was pretty obvious I was freaking out, because he stopped me during my train of thought to say, "Remember how I started the question, worst case scenario."  Well she was sitting on my couch when I came in from work earlier, so I think my freak out was spot on.

Sunday, I had a gig, so I let him borrow the car.  I called him when I finished for the day.  He said he was on his way and oh, by the way, he needed to go see his mother.  I didn't think much of this.  He drove us there, and I sat in the car and waited, not knowing what was about to happen.  His brother came up to the car and said hi.  His mother sat on the front step of a house and yelled an apology "for all the drama."  I told her no problem, thinking my being there in the car was the only inconvenience of which she spoke.

Then my boyfriend opened the trunk of my car and put a few things in.  Then he ushered her to my car.  I gave up my front seat for her to sit, trying to be polite, thinking we were dropping her off somewhere, possibly where his brother was staying.  The brother then left, catching a ride with a friend.  It was just the three of us in the car and I had a sinking feeling of what was to come.

My boyfriend started driving, stopping momentarily at a 7-11 to pick up a drink.  It then dawned on me what was going on.  I got very angry, but I put in my ear buds and listened to the radio to calm down.  My eyes began to water, so I bit the inside of my lip.  Once he pulled up to the front of our building, I told him to not park.  I needed to "run an errand."  I ran inside, grabbing all the cash I had stashed away and the one check I had yet to deposit.  I moved some of my important papers out of public view.  Meanwhile, he helped her out of the car.  I ran back out and jumped into the driver's seat.  He took her things from out of the trunk.  They walked inside.  I started heaving, trying to find air.  I managed to drive a few blocks away and parked.  I was having a panic attack.

I tried calling my mother; she didn't answer.  I tried calling my best friend; she didn't answer.  I tried my mother again; no answer.  I called my best friend's mother, a woman who has known me since high school and who I leaned on during a tumultuous time after college.  She answered.

I told her I tried calling my mother and her daughter, but neither picked up, so she was third on my list.  She informed me her daughter was with her.  She got my best friend on the phone.  I broke down.  I explained the situation to her through sobs and tears.  I told her how I was feeling, how angry I was.  And she agreed.  By not telling me what was going on, by assuming I would just be fine with it, by not having the conversation I wanted and needed before this happened, he had broken all the trust we had built up in the 3 1/2 years of our relationship.  I felt violated, used, taken advantage of.  It all felt wrong.

My best friend could see no resolution to the problem.  She saw no way we could get passed this without some harsh words first.  I knew this, but felt even more may be necessary for my calm to be restored.

I turned around.  I called him.  He came out to talk.  I told him I was uncomfortable with what he did.  I told him how I felt.  I got emotional.  He got defensive.  He said he kept hearing I's and me's.  I told him I wasn't being selfish; it was my apartment, too.  I asked when he knew she no longer had a place to stay.  He said a few minutes before I called.  Then I yelled how he should have told me what was going on when I called, or when he arrived to pick me up, or in the car ride to her place.  He should have told me, not assume I would be okay it.  I wanted the conversation he never gave.

I asked what would happen if she didn't have him as a son.  He said she would probably be homeless.  I asked how long she was staying.  He threw my own words back at me.  "Less than six months."  I said I was no longer comfortable with that time period.  I said she could stay the night.  And then he walked away, like he always does.  I shouted after, but he didn't turn back.  I'm glad no neighbors called the cops.

Still angry, I got a phone call.  It was my mother.  I told her the situation.  She tried to console me.  But, in true my-mother fashion, she played devil's advocate for him.  His siblings aren't helping.  If not for him, she would be homeless.  It's only temporary.  Don't let this break you up.  As if foreshadowing the end, she said this exact same thing when I mentioned the conversation to her the week before, just a day or two after he'd asked.  Then she offered for me to stay with her that night or for however long I needed.

Calmed down, I walked inside.  He was still angry, seemingly folding and throwing clothes at the same time.  I tried to explain I was accepting the fact she was staying.  He went into a low tirade about how he only has a few people he cares about and he walks away because he doesn't want to say or do anything he will regret.  He said I chose what I wanted to hear.  He said he could only deal with one issue at a time. 

I said I understood that, but he still should have told me what was going on before we picked her up, before she was in my home.  We paused.  I said I really did need to run an errand and might possibly go see my mother.  I said I would be back in time to drop them off in the morning.

I got in my car and called my friend again.  I explained what had happened.  She completely disagreed with my mother.  I was too tired to fight him anymore, though.  I did know, however, that this could break us up.  And now, less than two days out, the possibility looms.

After our talk, I drove to the ATM and deposited all the money.  Then I swung by the liquor store and bought a six pack.  If I was going to be able to sleep, or just get through the rest of the night without crying, I knew I needed to not be sober.

I got back, opened a beer, and sat on the couch.  His mother was getting ready for bed.  He said he needed to speak with me.  We walked out onto the patio.

He apologized if he wasn't as communicative as he could have been.  He apologized for the situation.  It made me feel slightly better, and for a moment I thought I might be able to find a way back to him, but only for that moment.  I asked him what I should call her.  He said we should have a house meeting.  I grabbed another beer.

He called her out.  He told her my question.  She said her name was Marilyn but most of my boyfriends' friends just called her Mom.  That was when I stopped wanting to be nice.  I got angry.  I wanted to tell her, 'I have a Mom.  She owns her home, has had the same job since before my birth, and just recently bought a new car.  So no, I wouldn't be calling her Mom.'  I wanted to slap her.  But I didn't.  I stood and fidgeted. 

We settled on her first name and she went back into his room.  I sat on the couch and started watching Sunday night cartoons.  Later he bought some McDonald's and we all sat and ate together.  I went to bed.

Monday I dropped them off at a bus stop near his job and went off to work.  When I picked them up that afternoon, I'm not ashamed to say I was disappointed when she was still with him.  They slept in the car as I drove home. 

I dropped them off at our building and ran another errand: picked up some yarn.  I sat in the parking lot and talked with my best friend for twenty minutes.  I told her what had happened and the inevitable: I was thinking about ending it.  She understood and thought it was justified.  I caveat-ed, saying I didn't know if I would feel the same way in a week.  I talked about the obvious way to do it: our lease ends July 31st.  I could not re-sign with him, and that would be that.  She said, no matter what, she would stand by me.  And then we talked about her daughter.  That made me smile for the first time in what seemed like ages.

So now it's Tuesday.  I stopped by the leasing office to get a few questions answered.  I'm keeping my options open, but my boyfriend wants to talk tonight.  I'm trying to not say anything that will end us.  I'm trying to fly under the radar for a little bit.  I'm trying just to be. 

But, when you can't look your boyfriend in the eye, and you don't want him to touch you, and you've almost broke down crying at work two days in a row, there is a problem.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blowing Into The Wind

At times, I feel like a little old lady.  I DVR & watch CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes, wanting to stay informed, but also realizing there are so many people in my generation who either don't have a DVR to record and watch these two shows or who just don't care.  But I do it anyway as one of the multitude of ways I gather information for my general knowledge.

And I'm glad I do because often I'm surprised by just how much I can learn on any given show.  In fact, only fifteen minutes ago, I barely knew anything about "the Narrative," but 60 Minutes is an awfully good show. 

Since I barely knew anything, I'm guessing others may be in the same boat, or I may be the last one among my circle of internet influence to come into this knowledge.  Either way, I'm going to talk about it a little.

"The Narrative" is what Muslims, often well off and highly educated individuals, are told about the United States and, by extension, "the West", to convert them to radicalized views.  They are told we invaded Iraq because it is a country of Muslims and we attacked ourselves on 9-11 as a reason to invade Afghanistan.  (Yup, they are Truthers.)  They're told the CIA secretly setup Al Qaeda (which with Charlie Wilson's war is an easy lie to pass).   They're told the West wants to destroy the Islamic faith by attacking countries to do so, and the only way to stop the US is to attack them on all fronts possible.

As you might expect, I was taken aback by this.  I knew some of this already, the trying to destroy Islam through wars part, but I had no idea of the extent of the mania.  It reminded me of the mental manipulation cult followers or domestic terror organizations (Waco, KKK, Weathermen, etc.) use to convert their members.  And then it dawned on me: Al Qaeda is a religious and extremist cult, gone international.  It is the KKK, but more effective.  And, just like with the KKK, the best way to counter their actions is through our own actions and the truth. 

In the 60 Minutes piece, a gentleman named Maajid Nawaz was profiled.  Nawaz is British and was once a member of the Party of Liberation, a group with members from Indonesia to London that doesn't advocate terrorism, but is deeply anti-Western and committed to spreading the Narrative. 

Nawaz joined the Party of Liberation in college and recruited others to "fight against the West."  It wasn't until he was arrested in Egypt and sentenced to prison time that he was converted the assassins of Anwar Sadat and the leaders of the Muslim brotherhood.  In the twenty years since they were locked up, these men had abandoned their radical beliefs.  Nawaz thought they had sold out, and tried to bring them back into the fold.  But in trying to re-convert them, his own views and beliefs were brought into doubt.  These assassins and former leaders showed Nawaz his views were not true Islam, but closer to fascism than anything else. 

After Nawaz left prison, he set up a think tank in London and has been traveling all over the world holding talks and workshops to counteract the Narrative, and, in essence, take back all the things he'd done when he was young.  

60 Minutes showed a clip of him standing at the head of a long rectangular table talking to people around my age about the West and railing against the Narrative.  He asked them if they knew how many Muslims lived in the US, if they knew how many mosques were in the US, if they knew the President's father was Muslim.  He argued that the US went into Iraq for the wrong reasons, but those reasons had little to do with religion and more to do with money and oil.  He acknowledged the US has killed civilians with drone attacks, but asked why suicide bombers, who've killed thousands of Muslims, are just given a free pass.  To me, he was very convincing.  To the attendees, I don't know.

I mention all this as a jumping off point for my bigger questions: Why haven't we done more to counteract the Narrative?  Why aren't we out there in the Muslim world, everyday, talking to them and railing against all the lies?  Why isn't their a specific counterintelligence program just for this? 

The reporter, Leslie Stahl, likened Nawaz's efforts to "tilting at windmills" or "blowing into the wind."  Instead of his window fan, why not give Nawaz some jet engines?  The way to stop Al Qaeda and the attacks is to cut off the flow of followers, to choke their supply of suicide bombers, to shine the light of truth on their veil of lies every day, every minute, every second we are still here. 

If a campaign of influence, an anti-Narrative initiative, isn't currently being implemented, why not start now, this very day?  I'm just a passionate progressive American, but even I can think of multiple ways to push the truth out their into the ether.  I'm sure there is someone else, with higher credentials than mine, that can do more and think of more ways to push back against the lies. 

I know we all live with the knowledge now that taking a plane ride or a train ride could be the last act we ever do.  When in the area, I frequently use the DC Metro system.  I haven't been scared to use it, even though I know it would be a perfect target for terrorism.  At rush hour, thousands of people cycle in and out, often hundreds per line of train cars. 

I'm not sacred to use Metro because I refuse to live a life of fear.  It's when you change your life, or refuse to do something out of fear, that the terrorists win.  But why not stop them before they convert college students looking to fit in, to find their place, to know who they are.  If people really knew our country, with its beauties and its flaws (and oh do we have many of them), maybe we all could be a little safer and a little less scared. 
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