On Wildfires

The D-Train #46

My “self-care” (ha ha ha, I’m a single mom with a toddler), usually consists of watching crappy reality shows, drinking one-too-many glasses of wine, and flipping through a dumb celebrity magazine while wearing ill-fitting sweatpants and cat socks for, like, a grand total of six minutes before falling asleep. 

Which is to say, I haven’t necessarily been taking great care. (Although those socks are totally hot, no?).

Dudes, I needed to get away. Things have been tumultuous with the divorce (ho hum), and I needed some space to think, so I packed up my tent and headed upstate for a few days. I had my phone with me, so I wasn’t completely unplugged, but for the most part it was quiet. For three days, I sipped warm glasses of whiskey beside a crackling campfire, and climbed down a steep ridge to sink my toes into the cool Esopus Creek, and lay on my back for hours to consider the slowly circling hawks and the arching trees and the limitless sky, so autumn-crisp and clear. 

And you know what? It helped everything. Within a very short amount of time of being there, I began to feel an undeniable shift in my thinking taking over. Amazing how that happens.

When you spend a few days camping, you bring very little with you. A tent, a sleeping bag, a wool sweater, a change of underwear, a toothbrush, a fork and a knife, a notebook, a lighter, the smallest imaginable pillow that rolls up into a stuff-bag, yet still somehow provides just enough comfort to sleep. After a few days in the woods you can’t help but find yourself thinking, what the fuck else do I really need? Seriously. 

I gave a lot of thought to how I can settle this divorce, and what the future looks like, and how I can move forward in power when I feel like so much has been stolen from me. And in the midst of all these thoughts, I kept coming back to a distant memory of a different autumn day. I found myself remembering that when I was very young, before my parents divorced, my father blew up a car in our driveway. He was always working on cars. He would buy old clunkers in barely-working condition, and he would try to fix them up with not much more than junkyard parts and duct tape. He thought that this was a way to make money – to buy them cheap, repair them, and resell them for a profit. Except he broke more than he fixed, and he never made much of anything from those rolling buckets of tin. The result was that there was an endless stream of shitcans in various states of disrepair parked around our driveway, the classic front yard auto graveyard of poor people everywhere. And we still counted our blessings that the electricity hadn’t been cut off.

When my dad blew up the car, I was riding my bike next door in my grandparents’ driveway. My mom had just gotten home from work, and she was standing outside in her starched white nurse’s uniform talking to my grandmother (an image I can picture so clearly, it’s like no time has passed at all). The explosion was not loud in my memory, but it was followed by sky high flames that seared the oak tree at the end of the driveway. My mother and grandmother jumped into action. There was a garden beside the driveway, and they quickly began shoveling dirt from around the tomatoes and cucumbers onto the blazing car with their hands. The fire department came, but the garden was ruined. My mother’s fury was palpable. The oak tree lived, but the black char marks never went away. And I understood, early on, some men blow up cars in the driveway, and the women throw dirt upon the fire. 

When I came home from camping I accepted a settlement agreement. And then my ex threw a tantrum and blew up the deal that our lawyers had agreed upon. Then I accepted another agreement, and he blew it up a second time. I have accepted a third time under the strictest of conditions from him. Everyone, all of the lawyers, are just trying to keep him from losing it again. This agreement -- it’s nothing that I want, and I am swallowing a ton of pain to make it happen. He hasn’t officially agreed to anything yet, but third time’s the charm? In the meantime, I will keep shoveling dirt on the flames until it’s done. It doesn’t make it ok, but it’s women’s work, and it’s a way out. 

Sometimes you have to do what you know.

Love,

Amy Blair

Ps. A lot happened after I came back from the woods. This song is a bit of a dirge, but it’s also hopeful and celebratory and beautiful. A reminder that everything can be gone in the blink of an eye, and how strange it is to be…anything at all. (For A.K. of A.P.K., with love).

And listen to The D-Train, The Playlist, a soundtrack for a shit show.

New to this letter and want to catch up? Read the whole D-Train story here:

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

The D-Train #45

I have a friend who is, objectively speaking, in a very bad relationship. He cheats, he refuses to commit, he takes her for granted, he isn’t supportive or loving, he’s not engaged with her family or friends, he takes advantage of her kindness and availability, and he gaslights the shit out of her if she speaks up for herself. It’s a shitty situation, but what can I, or any of her other friends, do, if she isn’t ready to change it? 

I don’t judge her. I, more than anyone, understand completely how these things happen. When you have been with someone for a long time, even when that person is a human-shaped garbage can, you tend to get complacent. You get financially entangled. You share friends. You live close to work. Your stuff is all combined. The relationship isn’t ALL bad, so you can convince yourself that you can live with the not-so-good parts, because ending things would be so…complicated.

You have no place else to go.

You’re a grown-ass adult, and what are you supposed to do? Leave and move back in with your parents? Sleep on a friend’s couch?

If there are children involved, it gets even harder. Can you afford a lawyer? What if there’s a legal battle, and you lose? 

You can’t imagine how you would ever find another relationship. Dating seems like a nightmare, and who would want you anyway? You’re old, and maybe you have kids, and you’re sort of set in your ways. And who is even available in the dating pool? No one, you tell yourself. Losers and assholes, all of them. 

Sometimes it’s not easy to leave a dickhead.

But here’s something you should know. My divorce has devastated me in so many ways. I’m broke AF right now. I’ve been a constant panicky nervous wreck for more than a year and a half. I have lost precious time with my kids that I will never get back. I have spent a bazillion dollars on legal fees. I’m paranoid, and anxious, and overspent, and tired, and broken. But there’s more to the story than just that.

I’m also so, so, so incredibly happy that I am out of my terrible relationship. And I can’t say that I know a single person who has gotten divorced, or broken up with a real shithead, who regrets it. In innumerable ways, life is better on the other side. I regret the process. I regret the path I’m on to get there. But I do not regret for even one minute that I am away from someone who did not appreciate me. Who did not love me, or care for me, or treat me with kindness. Who did not recognize my worth.

The thing I want to tell this friend is that there are only two versions of the future when you are in a relationship with someone who, for whatever reason, is not treating you the way you deserve to be treated. I can’t force her to see herself the way that I see her – as an amazing person, worthy of love and respect and care. She will have to see that for herself, someday, I hope. But what I want to say is this. There are really only two paths when you’re in a shitty relationship. In both versions, you have a complacent present, where your needs are not being met, you are angry all the time, you wish you were happier, but you are resigned to the idea that it is what it is. And then, after all of those wasted years , it inevitably ends in one of two ways. Either you break up at some unknown time in the future, or you continue on this way for a lifetime.

Now which inevitable outcome sounds worse?

I can see this, of course,  because I am standing somewhere over on the other side now.

Listen, I know another woman, the mother of an old friend, who has been with her shitty husband for over fifty years. She’s almost eighty, and this bad relationship has been her entire life. Over the years, he has cheated on her. He yells at her in front of friends and family. He disrespects her, gaslights her, and treats her like she is a piece of the furniture. I have known them for almost twenty years, and not once have i thought they were happy. It’s depressing, really.

What I’m trying to say is, I understand. Ending a relationship, even under the most amicable of circumstances, is devastating and difficult. No matter how you cut it, there will be loss. There are many things at stake, some of which you are definitely going to forfeit: income, a stable place to live, time with your children, some friends, your belongings, work, a lifestyle that worked for you on some level, a sense of security. But many of those things can be replaced, and where they cannot, there is healing. 

And what’s the alternative?

My choice was made for me, but if I could go back in time, I would have left my husband a thousand years ago and a thousand times over. I’m thinking these thoughts for my friend, but I’m whispering these words in my own ear, of course. And all I want to say is this. You can do this. You deserve better. 

Love,

Amy Blair

p.s. When someone tells you in a million different ways, sometimes quite literally, that they are trying to break your heart, believe them.

Also, listen to The D-Train, The Playlist, a soundtrack for a shit show. 

The Patron Saint of The Blues

The D-Train # 44

Two weeks ago I was playing in the front yard with my kids when my dog, perpetually digging holes in the ground like an idiot, dug something up that I initially mistook for a bone. Upon closer inspection, however, it wasn’t a bone at all. It was a palm-sized religious figurine who I mistakenly thought was Jesus. (Jesus, some random saintly guy, who knows?). 

jesus deal with it GIF

My two-year old immediately wanted to play with it, but my nine-year old protested. “Jack, that’s Jesus!” But Jack was not giving it up. “Jesus CUTE,” he declared. I laughed, and let him have it, although secretly in the back of my mind I felt a slight sense of dread about it. Who the heck buried Jesus in my front yard? I’m not going to lie, I worried that it was some kind of, um, curse. 

nervous kikis delivery service GIF by Maudit

(I dunno, it’s COVID. The mind…wanders).

When we came inside, my two-year old brought the figurine in with us. I had to make dinner, and so I promptly forgot about its existence, because that’s the kind of lazar sharp focus at which I excel.

Hmm.

We have a ritual these days, which we started at the beginning of quarantine. Now, every night we FaceTime with Grandma while my two-year old takes his bath. A couple days ago we called her, and my two-year old held up the little Jesus figure from his bath to show her his new toy. I explained to her how we found him in the yard, and how I thought it was Jesus, and how he’s apparently now Jack’s new action figure and bath toy. My mom laughed but said that’s not Jesus, that’s Saint Joseph. You bury him in your yard when you’re trying to sell your house.

Huh, I thought.

I bought my house more than six years ago. Has Saint Joseph been out there working overtime all these years?

My mom recognized it because when she was selling her house many years ago, my grandmother gave her a St. Joseph statue to bury in the front yard. She said it was meant to help sell the house, and a quick google search confirmed it – St. Joseph is the patron saint of home sellers, and burying his statue upside down near your for-sale sign will apparently bring luck. My grandmother was extremely superstitious, so this all made a ton of sense.

I try not to write about my divorce in too much detail, but my house is a bit of a sticking point in the negotiations. Six years ago, while married, I bought this house by myself. I took out a loan from my retirement account to make the down payment, I applied for a mortgage alone, and I paid for all the inspections and surveys and legal fees. I paid the movers. I bought the furniture. I picked out the paint and ordered new light fixtures and spent countless hours browsing craigslist ads and estate auctions for rugs and lamps and everything else we needed. When my ex moved out, he actually took almost nothing with him. Nothing was his to take. 

I don’t want to say too much, but this week I had to defend my house. You can ask the court to sell off assets if you need money, or as a tool of coercion, or for any number of reasons. I’m not saying what the circumstances were here, but I will say that it was an unsuccessful bid (for now) and my children and I are not being forced out of our home.

Anyway, you can see how weird it was that Saint Joseph decided to come inside right at this exact moment. He seemed to say, this house is not for sale. 

I did a little bit of research, and it turns out that Saint Joseph is also the patron saint of carpenters and builders. I’m telling myself this little guy wants to focus on the next task at hand – building on to this house to give us everything we need. It might take another six years, but maybe we’ll build that second floor addition that I have been dreaming about for so long. 

I think I’m going to keep this weird little Saint Joseph statue around for awhile. He was essentially Jesus’ stepdad – Mary conceived through immaculate conception (sure), so Joseph stepped up and raised this kid who wasn’t his. I’m thinking, he was a pretty cool guy, and I’m going to need all the help I can get raising these two little boys of mine. 

I did not intend to make this into a theology lesson because lord knows, I am a BAD CATHOLIC. But I wound up putting the little statue on my kitchen windowsill, and the other night my mom noticed him there during our FaceTime chat. She’s the daughter of my superstitious grandmother, and, well, we all have a little bit in common. She saw Saint Joseph on the windowsill and she said, after all these years he decided to come up? I don’t know, Amy. I think it’s an omen.

That sounded sinister (thanks mom), so I double checked the meaning, and omens can be both good and bad. This week I’m choosing to believe that this little guy moved in for good.

Cross your fingers, rub your rabbit’s foot, sweep dirt from your front door, knock on wood, hang a horseshoe, break a wishbone, pick up a penny, and make a wish on your birthday candle for me. I need all the good omens right now I can get.

Love,

Amy Blair

p.s. Obvious song choice for this week, but do I really give a shit? Nope, I do not. Smoke a joint and enjoy.

And don’t forget to listen to The D-Train, The Playlist, a soundtrack for a shit show. 

A Stranger At The Gate

The D-Train #43

I have no idea what it is about me, but I must exude some kind of energy that makes people think I care, because random strangers frequently seem to tell me the most intimate details about their lives. It’s probably because I’m generally friendly and talkative, or because I’m an over-sharer myself, but it never ceases to amaze me how much people I don’t know tend to tell me about their lives. 

I had some plumbing work done this week in my basement. After the plumber arrived, we chatted for a few minutes, he showed me how a couple of things work with my hot water heater, and then I left him alone to go upstairs to get some work of my own done. When he finished the job, he called me downstairs to show me the results. Within a couple of minutes, the plumber was telling me about how his wife had done IVF twice. After that, he told me the birth stories of his two sons, and said how much respect he has for women after watching his wife go through IVF and birthing two children. He said that he always tells his friends whose partners are pregnant to watch as the baby comes out because you will never disrespect your wife after that. Apparently they had one embryo left afterward, which they destroyed – two kids was plenty for them.

I literally have no idea why he told me all this.

His kids are nine and seven years old, so it’s not like it was something he recently went through and needed someone to talk to about it. 

I can’t even think of what started him on this topic – but this kind of thing happens to me all the time. One minute I’m discussing the thermocouple on my hot water heater with the plumber, and the next minute he’s teary-eyed and describing to me in detail the moment in which his son’s head burst forth from his wife’s vagina. 

I realize that it’s not totally normal to share these kinds of intimate conversations with total strangers, but it seems to just happen to me all the time. One minute I’m strolling through the grocery store, trying to pick between two different varieties of flax seeds, and the next minute some grocery store clerk is telling me about his hemorrhoids and how his wife left him for his cousin. 

no idea idk GIF

I have no idea why this happens to me, but the truth is, I like it. I like people. I like hearing about all their crazy crap. It makes me feel, I don’t know, sort of connected to the world.

This week I got hit with even more shit from my ex-husband. He’s positively relentless in his quest to make my life a living hell. I have begged my attorney to just settle on whatever terms he wants so that he will just leave me the fuck alone, but he’s not in this for a settlement or a solution. It’s pretty fucking horrible. 

When I received the latest news from my lawyer, I momentarily flipped my shit. I walked into my bedroom and I screamed a bunch of obscenities and pounded my fist on top of my dresser. Then I walked outside to try to “cool off,” (because that’s something that totally works), and on my way outside I hip checked the slightly ajar dishwasher, breaking a glass within. After spending a minute in the yard muttering and crying to myself, clearly without cooling off at all, I marched back into the house and grabbed a wedding dress that I had recently found in a box on the top shelf of my closet. It wasn’t the dress that I wore when I got married, but it was a dress that I almost wore. 

I really can’t remember the exact circumstances of how I came to own this wedding dress, but it definitely came from some random stranger on the internet. It was a long time ago, but I think that maybe I was chatting on some message board about wedding dresses with strangers (because that’s, ahem, something that normal people do), and maybe I mentioned that I was struggling to deal with dress shopping, and then someone mailed me one. That’s the kind of thing that happens in my life. 

You see, I desperately did not want to wear a wedding dress. I really didn’t even want to have a wedding. I nixed the idea of a wedding party, and wedding toasts, among other things. In my heart, I really did not want a wedding at all, so I dropped as many of the traditional elements that I could, while still hosting a wedding because…my ex wanted it. 

Over the course of wedding planning, I came to terms with the idea of a party, but I did NOT want to wear a wedding gown, and I did not want to walk down an aisle. And so, I put off buying a dress until it had reached a point that it was almost too late to do so. And that’s when some random stranger from the internet sent me a wedding gown. 

I tried it on, and miraculously it basically fit. I thought, fuck it, I’ll just suck it up and wear this stupid thing. But I hated it, and it gave me a sort of panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach to imagine being The Bride in some dumb dress that felt entirely antithetical to my whole being.

Or who knows, maybe I realized even then I shouldn’t have been going through with the thing. Maybe if I was marrying a different person I wouldn’t have been so hung up on not wanting to be a bride.

Suspicious On To You GIF by Originals

I resigned myself to just wear the stupid dress and suck it up, until a week before the wedding when I tried it on again and started crying and realized that I just could not bring myself to wear that stupid gown. I hated it. So I quickly jumped on my computer and ordered two white dresses that I found online with rush delivery – one from J. Crew and one from Nordstrom. Neither was a wedding dress. They arrived three days before the wedding. I decided to go with the Nordstrom dress, and sent the other one back to J. Crew. I never wore the random-stranger-from-the-internet’s gown. 

Anyway, after I received the bad news from my lawyer this week and was crying and yelling in the backyard, I ran back inside the house and grabbed the stupid fucking wedding dress. I had already hit my fist into the dresser and broken a glass inside the dishwasher. I had yelled into the wall, and I was crying uncontrollably. I’m tired, friends. I’m really, really tired.

I took the wedding gown and marched into the front yard without any shoes on and threw it over the goddamned fence. Get this fucking thing out of my house, I yelled. And just at that moment, a stranger with a kind face walked up to my driveway and asked me if I was the homeowner. Huh?, I thought. 

She was from the census, and I had failed to file my data. 

Sigh.

I dried my tears on my wrist, and apologized that I wasn’t wearing any shoes. I told her I lived at this address with my two children. I gave our names, our ethnicities, our dates of birth. Finishing up, she asked if those were the only people living at the residence – no partner, she asked, glancing at the wedding gown thrown over the fence. No, I replied. Just me and the kids. No partner. She thanked me for being so kind in responding, and said you wouldn’t believe how many people were not so nice. I told her, it was my pleasure. I understood what it’s like to just want to get something done and other people refuse to cooperate. She waved goodbye and walked down to the next neighbor’s house on her list. 

I went back into the house feeling much less terrible. As it turned out, talking to this random census worker was exactly what I needed.

I went back inside, and although I was still really upset I understood, there’s work here to be done. With or without cooperation, I have got to get it done. 

The dress is still out on the front fence. Who knows, maybe a stranger will find it who needs it. 

Love,

Amy Blair

p.s. This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and seemed like the right song for the seasick days after throwing a dress over a fence. A dress so colorless, just one shade whiter then pale.

And don’t forget to listen to The D-Train, The Playlist, a soundtrack for a shit show.

An Asshole’s Lament

The D-Train #42

Revenge.

When I was much, much younger (read: a way shittier human), a bunch of my friends were in a play together. There was this kid named Scott who was involved in the play in some capacity – was he an actor? A musician? Part of the stage crew? Who knows, I can’t remember. Actually, I can’t even remember what the play was. Or whether I was involved in the play. It’s possible that I was helping to paint sets, or was selling tickets, or had volunteered as an usher. Or maybe I was just sitting in the audience? I really can’t remember. Are you sensing a theme? The contours of my memory have all been dulled by time, and all that I know is that there was a play, and this kid named Scott was involved in some way or another. 

Anyway, Scott did something that made me and my friends very angry. Were we even angry? It’s possible that we were just really annoyed by him. I have no idea. But if I try to think really hard about it, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t commit some specific crime against us. I think he was basically just an everyday, run of the mill asshole, and we were sick of it. The end. 

So just to recap: I can’t remember what the play was. I can’t remember what I had to do with the play. I can’t remember what Scott had to do with the play. I can’t remember what Scott did to offend me and my friends. So now, after all these years, the only thing that remains in my memory is what we did to this guy. The act of revenge. 

This is what happened. After the play, my friends and I went outside together to smoke cigarettes, and maybe make out, and to decide what stupid suburban thing we were going to do for the rest of the night. As we walked past the rows of cars outside the theater, we saw Scott’s car parked beneath a streetlamp, completely unguarded in the still evening air. Not only was Scott a giant, human-shaped turd, but he was also rich. While the rest of us were borrowing our moms’ old Ford Tauruses, Scott, of course, had his own brand new car. It was an SUV, which was VERY exotic in the 90s. And it was gleaming white under the streetlamp; Scott always kept it in perfect condition. 

At that moment, as we all strolled down the street from the theater and saw his shithead SUV (which he did nothing to EARN), parked on the side of the road, we were filled with a kind of collective rage at the injustice of it all. Here’s this absolute fucker of a person, who treats everyone like shit, driving this immaculate new vehicle that none of us could ever even dream of owning. Scott would need to learn a lesson about being a dickhead, and we were obviously the ones to serve it to him.

I have no idea who came up with the idea, but within a minute my guy friends had surrounded the car and were unzipping their pants. In an instant, a shower of urine was pouring down all over his car. We made sure to get the driver’s side door handle especially wet so that he would get a handful of pee when he tried to open the door. Not to be outdone by the boys, I climbed with another girlfriend up onto the roof of the SUV, dropped our jeans, and squatted down. The urine dripped down the windshield while everyone erupted with hoots of laughter. This fucker was going down.

Afterwards, we probably went to a diner and drank coffee and ate French fries. Or maybe we went back to someone’s house to watch The Princess Bride in a dark basement. If it was a good night, maybe someone managed to procure a bottle of booze, either by stealing it from a parent’s liquor cabinet, or convincing an older sibling to buy it for us. I remember being incredibly pumped from the adrenaline of what I thought was pure, unadulterated, punk rock badassery. But what came next? Who knows. I don’t think I ever even knew whether or not Scott figured out what happened.

The point is, I have no idea what this guy did. Maybe he deserved it? Probably not. The only thing that remains in my memory is that I climbed on top of this dude’s SUV and pissed down the windshield while a bunch of other people cheered me on. While Scott may have been a serious jerk, guess who’s the asshole in this memory?

Ho hum.

That’s right.

It’s me. 

***

In the past year and a half, I have admittedly thought a LOT about revenge. Every single time my ex does something terrible (and he continues to do terrible things all the time), I think about ways to get him back. When I get sad and worked up and think about how much he has destroyed in my life – all the money wasted, and the time taken from my kids, and the anxiety he has caused me – I think about ways to fuck him over. In quiet moments, driving the car or standing under the water in the shower, I dream about how to make him pay. I dream about slashing his tires, getting him fired from his job, destroying his relationships, throwing bricks through his windows, giving him COVID. You name it, I have fantasized about it.

Sometimes, I’m like a twisted up Buddhist, and I tell myself that I don’t need to do a damn thing to him because karma will be the sweetest revenge of all. I think, fucker is gonna BURN in this life and a million lives after this one. 

But there’s no peace in that thought, really. And so far, it seems, things are going pretty darn swell for that guy.

Here’s the thing I’m trying to remember. I could hurl a million bricks through his windows. I could make up elaborate stories to make him lose his job. I could slash his tires and syphon his gas and graffiti his car with a giant spray-painted “ASSHOLE” on the driver’s side door. (I fantasize about that one just a little too often). Hell, I could climb on top of his SUV and piss down the windshield.

But I have done that before. And I have learned a thing or two about revenge. 

Instead, I’m going to focus my attention on the sweetest revenge of all. Because I’m pretty sure that the best way to tell Homie to kiss my ass is simple. It’s by having the best fucking life imaginable. To let him be nothing more than a shadowy memory, its contours lost somewhere to the foggy recesses of time. And to make myself the best fucking version of me that I can possibly be.

And, well, fuck it. If I can’t do that? Well, I can always pee on top of his car. It didn’t fix anything the last time but who knows, maybe I just need to try, try again.

Love,

Amy Blair

p.s. Good kissers need no other revenge. Boo ya.

p.p.s. I took a little break from doing any additional newsletters for paid subscribers because of COVID-19 and the toll that was taking on everything. We’re still fucked. Not much has changed, and maybe things are even worse? But we’re used to it now, which is not really a bright side but at least we’re sorta getting by. Anywaaaay.

A special monthly subscriber-only newsletter is coming soon!

I used to send out a “People Tell Me What To Do” newsletter to paid subscribers, but I’m switching it up now. I don’t think I need people to tell me what to do anymore? Instead, I think I’m ready to actually tell other people what to do. Look for advice and lessons learned and how to cope and how not to commit murder while going through a divorce. More on this to come, but if you want to start receiving that bonus newsletter and also support this project and its humble proprietor (c’est moi!), please consider purchasing a subscription by pressing this little button right here. 

Last but not least, don’t forget to listen to The D-Train, The Play List, a soundtrack for a shit show. 

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