Friday, February 13, 2009

the end of the beginning

The Vantasy: When did it begin? As a bright-red-Clairol-box-dyed seventeen year old working as a pool attendant at the local RV resort, my awkward boyfriend brought me McDonald's Chicken McNugget(TM?) meals while I dipped tiny strips of paper into the water to see what color they'd turn and made sure kids didn't drown on my clock. I was a "pool attendant," certified in nothing, pining for the respect given to actual Lifeguards, but knew that I could barely swim and would not have the slightest idea how to give CPR should a situation arise.

Back then I used to pray. I believed in God. I wanted to marry my cat, Hershey. I ate meat. My favorite singer was Alanis Morrisette. I wanted to be famous. I attended a pool for a living, and I thought it was the coolest job ever because I got to talk to boys and get a tan and get paid.

Me with Chicken McNugget Boyfriend before my junior prom

I met a woman there, while working at the pool, who had two matching little girls with white-blonde, waist-length, pin-straight hair. After spending day after day, week after week, marinating in chlorine, their white-blonde hair began to take on a greenish tint. The mom trusted my advice, being the chlorine and hair color expert that I was, and we became friends after I spent an hour's worth of my wages on a bottle of shampoo that I guaranteed would restore the towheads to their natural Swedish-looking state. A gift, from the fake lifeguard to the perfect little flaxen beauties.

Turned out that this family was my first intimate encounter with full-time RVers, and I remember being blown away by the fact that a family could live in an RV resort in Hartland, Michigan for a couple of mosquito-laden summer months, then follow the warm weather south whenever they had the notion. A house on wheels! The ability to see the country on their own time! Until that point, I'd always thought that RVs were for weekend trips. It never occured to me that you could live in one indefinitely.

The Vantasy was born, in a sense, that summer, though it looked very different in my naive imagination. You see, this was back in the mid 1990s, when people could get jobs that paid living wages AND included things like health insurance and retirement funds. In its first incarnations, the Vantasy was to happen in my retirement years, and I would sell my house in order to buy my RV. And then I would visit my grandkids all over the country and stuff.

Ha! I thought I would own a house! And have grandkids! I was so cute back then.

Clairol #459 Medium Auburn Red. Full of promise and hope. Bill Clinton was the President. c. 1995

And it didn't occur to me until twelve years later, when I woke up alone in my bed with bags under my eyes and pillow marks on my face... after months of feeling sorry for myself about the end of my marriage... that this dream didn't have to wait until some ambiguous point in the future. "What are you going to do, Eva?" I asked myself on that day. I shifted my perspective, made a decision, plucked an event out of my future, and demanded that it happen now.

I've since taken a monumental emotional and physical journey. I made a giant circle around the country while living in a van with a dog. People ask me, "Now that the Vantasy is over, will you still write?" And all I can respond is, "Is it over?"

I'm back in Portland, I've returned to work and have showers whenever I want them. I've spent the last month dealing with reverse culture shock and the difficulty of reentry. I don't live in a van anymore, but the Vantasy hasn't really ended. And I don't think it ever will. Leaving Portland last August placed my life on a new path, a path on which I'm still traveling. I grew and changed in my Vanta C cocoon, and this journey of growth will continue into my future indefinitely.

I plan to continue writing, processing, and perhaps publishing small pieces based on my trip, but today I officially retire There Will Be Breakdowns. I will be starting another blog, but it will be written anonymously, probably based on my career in the nightclub industry. Maybe you'll stumble upon me out there in blogland one day and not even know it!

And I'll keep this blog open for a little while for updates.

Speaking of: My head is feeling better after two weeks. I was still slurring and stumbly a couple of days ago, but am feeling almost back to normal, mentally, since yesterday. My memory isn't great yet, and I rely heavily on my iPhone alerts to keep my life in order from day to day. But I notice improvement every day, and think I'm almost out of the woods. I have quite a bit of neck and shoulder pain still, and headaches, but I'm working on those with yoga and massage. My doc told me that I'm not allowed to ride a bike again until she gives the okay, which I expect will happen during my next visit, this Wednesday.

I've also decided that enough is enough with the reentry breakdowns. While I deserved to whine for a little while, I think that allowance has expired and I've adopted a new old policy of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I'm in pain, have a big ol' medical bill, am in conflict with my former employer, and am stressed about paying rent. But when people ask how I am, no matter how worried or sad I am, I force a smile and say, "I love being back. I have been loving taking a million showers! I stand in there until I'm a prune, then I do it again a few hours later." And then we have a laugh, and my problems all seem to shrink down just a little bit.

Just like waking up last year and plucking my Vantasy out of the future, I choose today to pluck happiness from my future and experience it NOW. I've shifted my perspective, once again, and it's working. We are going to be fine, Ralgh and I. And as long as there's sunshine and grass, family and friends, and 31st birthdays to celebrate (tomorrow!), there's something to be happy about.

Thank you, friends, for joining me on this journey.

With love, sunshine, rainbows, and kittens,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Emotional Casserollercoaster

Tater Tot Casserole, Corn Casserole, Chocolate Casserole, Black Bean Enchilada Casserole,
carrots (not a casserole), pan full of ice and PBR

"A casserole, from the French for "saucepan," is a large, deep pot or dish used both in the oven and as a serving dish. The word casserole is also used for the food cooked and served in such a dish."


1. food cooked and served in a casserole"

My comfort foods are anything baked. Pizza, cookies, cakes, fake chicken patties, tater tots, and casseroles. Given the above definitions of casseroles from respected sources (isn't everything on the internet TRUE?), I would say that this all-encompassing dish was created by Jesus just for me. You don't need to know what you're doing to make a casserole. According to the, all you really need is the right dish, which I have TWO of.

Growing up in the midwest, I ate my fair share of casseroles. Tuna casseroles, hamburger casseroles, green bean casseroles, scalloped potato casseroles... Up until this point I was operating under the false assumption that a casserole MUST contain one of the following ingredients: 1. cream of mushroom soup, 2. copious amounts of eggs, 3. absurd amounts of butter or Crisco, 4. peas, 5. Durkee french fried onions, 6. ungodly amounts of cheese. Turns out none of these things are required! All a woman really needs is the trusty Pyrex dish with lid and an oven.

Which has led me to a new and disturbing level of comfort food consumption. Rachel Ray would turn over in her grave (if she was dead, which many people I know wish was true) if she saw the kind of things I was doing with my Pyrex. I make casserole brownies, casserole lasagna, chocolate casserole, apple crisp casserole, pizza casserole... My head could potentially explode with the sheer infinity of casserole possibilities.

Your choice: Either stick your head in, or a Pyrex

And life has been hard these days. All I want are baked goods. As the pieces of my life fall back into place, or don't, I retreat to my kitchen and bake a casserole. And then I eat it, while watching the last four seasons of LOST in their entirety. A fabulous gal can pack on the pounds this way if she's not careful, so I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and focused on getting out of the house.

So I've been seeing friends, working out, riding my bike, eating salads. It was all coming together.

Until I crashed.

On Thursday, I lost control of my sexy new bike and crashed at an intersection, landing on my head and neck, smashing my helmet and painting the left side of my body in burnt sienna road rash. When I woke up laying in the street, my first thought was, "my neck should not be bent this way." I must have looked really cute when I crashed, though, because suddenly everyone wanted to be my friend. One kind woman asked, "What are you going to do now?" and I said, "Walk home." The only problem was that I didn't know where I lived, where I was, where I had been coming from, and I couldn't read. Then I saw my helmet, all crunched up, and started to cry. I was scared. My brain was hurt. That nice lady drove me right to the emergency room.

Hospital. Forms that I couldn't read. CAT scans. Valium. Vicodin. A weekend erased from my memory.

And then I broke up with my boyfriend. Nope, it didn't work out.

Bags, tears

And now I'm home alone with a head injury, splitting my time evenly between sleeping, crying, and forgetting what I said five minutes ago. I have been independent, traveling the country for months, but this woman needs someone to take care of her now. I need help. Someone to bake me casseroles, walk Ralgh, do my laundry, and just plain old BE HERE while I cry and sleep.

I've said it before (I think, but I'm not sure because I can't remember anything these days), but reentry is the hardest part of my Vantasy. Worth it? I'll let you know after I bake and eat an entire casserole of brownie casserole.