My Sister’s Wedding

My little sister got married last weekend. She married a great guy. They dated a long time and have a nice life together. It was a joyous occasion that went off without a hitch. And thinking back on it, I want to claw my own skin off.

I wanted her to marry him. I even helped him secure the ring. I was so excited. But once the proposal happened, I found myself whaling alone in bed one night. Even as I sobbed uncontrollably, I could feel some incarnation of myself stepping away and peering at me in disbelief. “What is wrong with you?? Why on earth are you crying??”. 

I reasoned that it was misplaced grief- my aunt had just died and clearly, I was overwrought and confusing life events. But eventually I realized it was something else.

 My sister had moved away five years earlier and I had felt abandoned when she did. It was a good move for her but it meant that our relationship changed drastically, and her marriage meant that it would never change back.  However melodramatic, I felt that I would never have walked away from the bond that we had as sisters and yet, she did.

 Is this normal? Do normal people feel this way about normal life events?

 All through the wedding-planning season, I stressed. And as I stressed, I bitched. My girlfriend and I threw an engagement party and I stressed. After the engagement party, I stressed about the bachelorette party. What should we do? How much will it cost? How can I possibly make something cool enough? How can I possibly make it fun?? How much will it cost???

It was fun. Perhaps not the epic bachelorette tour de force that one would hope, but it was fun. And when my sister left town again, I cried.

 Is this normal? Do normal people feel this way about normal life events?

 Then it was the real deal- time to plan for the wedding. My search for a dress in the color my sister had assigned me kept me up at night and gave me the shakes. I threw verbal grenades at the poor guy I was dating, who made kind (albeit patently ridiculous) suggestions as to where I might look. When that was settled, I chased down relatives for family photos and spent an entire holiday weekend scoring and editing a slideshow and then proceeded to get hysterical over how the thing would get transported and played.

I agonized over travel plans, photo booths, wedding toasts, appropriate jewelry, accommodations and anything else I could possibly throw in there.

 Is this normal? Do normal people feel this way about normal life events?

 More than anything, I stressed about the family. My family is too weird for this. They won’t get it. They won’t let it happen. They’re too weird. Ever since I first fell in love, I was aware that I could never have a wedding. My parents got married in blue jeans in their living room with a few friends present and my grandmother, horrified, had run out for a cheese platter. They have never seen the point in pomp and circumstance. And this was no exception.

 When my sister announced her engagement, my mother said “But you’re already engaged”. After much confusion, it turned out that the fact that my sister and her beau were clearly going to stick was sufficient to have them engaged. When corrected as to the tradition, her only remark was “Oh. They didn’t do that in my day”.  And so went the catch phrase for every wedding tradition of which she claimed obtuse and blissful ignorance; of every custom that predated her own birth “They didn’t do that in my day”. And so it was my fault when my parents had to reschedule the midnight arrival the night before the wedding for an earlier flight because, how were they to know there would be a rehearsal? “They didn’t do that in my day”.

 How were these people, these people who buck tradition like electrocuted cattle, who moved across a continent to escape their families and spent the entire year and a half leading up to the wedding lamenting the obligation to see those people, how were they going to let a wedding happen??

 Is this normal? Do normal people feel this way about normal life events?

 But they did. My sister very calmly held their hands through the whole process and they gave her away, and they toasted and they danced. And what more had been required of them anyway? What more would I have expected had it been my wedding? I guessed it was the complaining and opining leading up to the event that I couldn’t take, but my sister had missed it all, as she was the bride and lived far away.

 And when the day came, I did as my parents did- executed my duty with grace and sincerity and wondered at how it was all unfolding- even for us, even in my family.

 Is this normal? Do normal people feel this way about normal life events?

 I smiled and spoke and toasted and danced and laughed, and even carted off a much younger groomsman (you mean those weren’t the wedding favors?). But in the end I realized that I had been no more than a wedding guest, a non-essential.

 And that’s where all the stress and agony had come from. I wanted so much to be a part of it, so much to be important to it, to her. But our relationship had changed and it was never changing back.

 Is this normal? Do normal people feel this way about normal life events?




The How and Why of Nursing

I am a helper.


I was raised by freaky hippies who sent me to preschool wearing a blue ribbon pinned to my shirt in protest of nuclear energy; who carted me off pro-choice demonstrations (I had an FBI file by the time I was 12); who cultivated awareness of my community, both global and local, and nurtured the belief that I could and should make a difference.


Or I’m just warped and codependent like my mother, who is married to a man (my father) who can’t buy his own skivvies.


Whatever the reason, I believed gleefully and somewhat naively in my own power and importance and in the idea that one’s productivity should leave the world a better place.


Originally I wanted to be a lawyer. But by the time I was 12, my overworked, disillusioned and embittered godfather, an attorney, advised against it.


Then I wanted to be a journalist. The political muckraking kind that traveled the world exposing injustices and making sure things changed. Picture me with a superhero cape and a steno pad. Not one to commit to just ONE option, I think I remember telling an adult once that I wanted to be a journalist with a law degree. He was duly impressed. Yep, I was going places.


As a prep school graduate, I was sure of my own omnipotence. But I got a dose of my own “them’s the breaks, kid” when it became clear to the Registrar’s office that I couldn’t afford the bohemian college I was attending. Eventually enrolling in another university and another after that, I was halfway through a degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish when I realized that not only did I not want to be a lawyer or a journalist, I didn’t want to be a politician either. Or a Spanish teacher. I graduated anyway.


I wanted to help people. I wanted to do hands-on, adventurous, life-changing work. I should go into the Peace Corps. Or I should do that some day. Like maybe when I don’t have a boyfriend. So into a life of nonprofit social services I went, only to discover that you can lead a horse to water… or a homeless crack addict to housing, mental health services and a job, but you just can’t make him join the homeowners association, or win employee of the month.


What to do…can’t pay the bills… can’t change people…can’t fix the world. Should have married an oil mogul with a heart condition… How to do work I feel good about…how to earn a living wage before turning tricks seems like a viable source of income… my mom’s a nurse. I SHOULD BE A NURSE!


I had never considered nursing. It was just what my mom did, and that hardly inspired. “But,” I reasoned, my mother’s coworkers seemed so dumb and I of course, was so worldly and intelligent. “This will be SO EASY and I will help people and I will make lots of money and I will be the boss in a flash! Yeah!


So back to school I went, only to discover that this shit was not easy. I was not as smart as I thought, or as cute as I thought, or as rich as I thought. And I worked my ass of doing really disgusting things like empty bedpans and change dressings and really hard things like explain the krebs cycle and read EKGs and evaluate hemodynamics and then I’d go to my job and try to stay awake so I could earn a paycheck to do it again the next day. But what I didn’t do was cringe or say “omfg I’m totally gonna go work in a private hospital” when I took care of the homeless, or the mentally ill, or the jail patients at the County facility that was home to my nursing program. I knew that was where I belonged and who I wanted to work with. And I didn’t have to make them change, or meet their milestones, I just had to provide excellent, diligent, intelligent care and show some compassion.


So once again with the can-do moxie of a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, nursing school graduate with honors did I go bounding into the world the save the whole thing from itself. And once again did cruel reality stick it’s foot out from under the table to trip me and send me careening headlong into a world of utterly hateable, harpy shrews and the patients who jade them.


My first month on the job found me dutifully caring for my stroke patient, who had lost the use of his right side, by holding his penis for him as he peed into his bedside urinal, only to find him an hour later handily wielding a fork in his right hand to eat his grey and mushy hospital food. Then there was the guy with the draining testicular abscess who would wander out of the hospital in his gown every morning at 6:30 am to greet me as I arrived for work and ask me out to dinner (yeah, a lot of my more impressive nursing stories involve penises).


The truly unparalleled joy however, is the support that you get from other nurses.

Like the ones who say “No, I won’t help you turn your patient” or “Why didn’t you give this medicine that’s due at 10:00 tonight, even though your shift ends at 7?” and “If you don’t understand how to use this thing you’ve never been trained to use, then you shouldn’t be a nurse”.  Management is even better, with their “You don’t actually NEED needles to draw blood, so we’re not going to stock them” and “You may work 13 hour days on your feet managing some of the worst aspects of the human experience, but you don’t NEED a mental health day. Request denied”.


And all while earning roughly the same wage as people who don’t have to tie down alcoholics, get punched by their clients or clean up poop.


Nursing is hard. It is demanding mentally and physically. It is both time consuming and fast paced. It drains you sometimes even before you start the day. And even the most menial task sometimes seems like it will crush you under its weight.


But the hardest part of nursing, for me at least, is to remember that at the end of the day, I have achieved my goal. In the raw moments, when someone is critically ill, at their most vulnerable and most impotent, perhaps beyond all hope, to hold a hand and remind them that amid all the machines, treatments and calculating physicians, someone has remembered that they are a person, that they are present, and to look into their eyes and accept their humanity is to look directly into the eyes of God. Truly, it is often too bright and blinding to hold the gaze. But it is a strong and fast reminder of the blessing and the privilege it is to witness those moments and to participate in them. And for only a split second I feel like maybe I am helping someone. And maybe I am making just a tiny piece of the world a better place. And even though I can’t see it, maybe I do have a cape.

Other People’s Children


It appears that I am in that stage of life where people start having children.

A good two thirds of my friends now have children. I have committed no such offense.

I always thought I was a lover of children. They’re cute, full of wonder, brimming with potential- in short, kids are magic. Right?

When my friends started getting pregnant, particularly my oldest and dearest friend, I practically boiled over with enthusiasm “OMGTHISISSOEXCITINGI’MSOHAPPYFORYOU!!!!” and I became very involved. I’ve thrown more freakin’ baby showers than a First Wife in Utah. But I underneath it all, I thought “Does this mean we’re not going out for drinks tonight?”, and felt vaguely hostile to whatever partner had been a party to this action.

Being the single friend of a herd of mommies is, to say the least, a little boring. Or at least temperate. But that’s ok, right? I mean I get all the joys concomitant with being an Auntie!

So I threw the baby showers and I sat for hours with my hand on somebody’s belly pretending to find joy, rather than mild horror in the fact that their abdomen was actively morphing before my eyes like a lava lamp.  And then the babies were born and that was very exciting and I oohed and aahed and listened to birth stories, all the while thinking “Wow, that’s so neat that you managed to shoot something the size of my cat out of your goods and only TORE a ‘little bit’!”

The other day when I visited the aforementioned “Oldest and Dearest” and her offspring, I finally had to admit- This is some BULLSHIT!

Her ten month old son, my “nephew”, is now fully mobile, trucking around the house forward and backward like a Kenyan marathoner leaving a trail of destruction and paranoia in his wake. Their furniture has been rearranged to more closely resemble a bullring than a living room, and the floor was a veritable sea of baby-friendly trinkets and doo-dads. Our conversation consisted of nothing more profound than “Omg, don’t let him crack his head on the table!” and “Uh, please make sure he doesn’t eat that” and “Isn’t it wonderful that he’s walking at 10 months?! He’s ahead of the curve!” It was complete and utter chaos. To top it off, the darling joy has had a cold for nearly a month and was exuding rivers of green snot as he careened around the bullring. His parents looked absolutely destroyed.

Then my girlfriend’s mother, a fine English woman who was always a second mother to me, arrived and disintegrated into a cooing, babbling lunatic reminiscent of that strange lady on the bus bench that no one talks to. I had to wonder if these weren’t the early signs of dementia.

Meanwhile, Speedy McSnotface was all smiles as he attempted to fill my mouth with bits of pre-chewed wrapping paper from the Christmas gifts I had brought along.

I couldn’t form a coherent thought. All I could think was Oh. My. God. Why do people do this voluntarily?!

But then it was decided we’d all go out to lunch! “Great,” I said “I’m starving”, little knowing that it would be nearly breakfast the next day before we got out the door. I think all told, there was a stroller and two large duffel bags consisting of a million diapers, 25 blankets, 30 bibs, 45 baby snacks, a couple of those two handled sippy cups so Speedy McSnotface could practice double fisting his beverages, and 263 baby toys.

When we got to the restaurant, there was a lot of awkward standing around the table waiting for something to happen while husband and wife quietly bickered over “Well did you ask for a highchair?!” “Yes, he’s bringing the highchair” “Who?! Who did you ask for the highchair?!” “THAT GUY COMING TOWARD US WITH THE HIGHCHAIR”.  Then we sat down and promptly there was strawberry lemonade all over table and baby, as the glass flew out of Speedy’s hand across the restaurant, and it was off to the Lady’s Room to keep Speedy from getting sticky.

As my blood sugar dropped, and every deeply ingrained aspiration of motherhood drained from my soul, leaving a void that only liquor could fill, I scanned the room for the nearest emergency exit and realized that EVERY WOMAN OF CHILD BEARING AGE was watching us and looking wistfully at Speedy. “REALLY?!?!” I thought “Every woman (and some men) wants a piece of this?!”

My girlfriend used to be so cool. She did wilder things than I, went to swankier places and wore shorter skirts. Now she’s a sleep-deprived mass of duffel bags and bulb syringes, and licks spoons full of half gummed baby food.

I always thought I’d eventually want kids. I assumed that there would be this moment when I knew “I MUST do this!!” But there hasn’t been. And I’d love to say that if I fell madly in love with a gentleman who was educated and employed, my body would ache to issue a Snotface of my very own. But my dog and two cats all poop outside. I put some kibble in their bowls and scratch them behind their ears and they’re good. They don’t want college money. They don’t care if I bring home a gentleman caller. They don’t object one bit if I kill a bottle of wine and fall asleep on the couch. They’ve never gotten anybody pregnant and they will never grow taller than me and say “Fuck you, Mom!”

Maybe the ASPCA should take up a new marketing campaign…

35 and Single

I met my first boyfriend at 15 and stayed with him for five and a half years. 

I met my second boyfriend at 21 and stayed with him for five and a half years.

at 26, I left him for my next boyfriend and stayed with him for four and a half years.

And then I finally cracked. It wasn’t a clean break. I was having an affair with a classmate in nursing school and the whole thing blew up in my face. I finally realized at that point that, cliched though it may be, I was suffocating. I felt crowded and controlled and had for a long time and hadn’t taken the time to recognize those feelings. It was like it hadn’t occurred to me that I had feelings at all. I had rationalized the whole thing such that I could make myself happy by doing whatever I wanted behind the scenes, while maintaining the status quo on the main stage. 

So at 31, I found myself single for basically the first time. Ever. 

It didn’t have to be that way. I could have reconciled the whole thing with my boyfriend at the time. But mercifully, I knew I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I needed some quiet time. Some ME time. Needed to regroup. I always saw myself as strong and independent, as someone who didn’t need anyone. But I had no idea how much work I had to do.

I thought it would be super easy. That I’d spend some time puttering around the house without anyone to bother me and then I’d meet somebody and THAT would be the one. I’d be all fixed and have the perfect relationship that time.

Of course, it hasn’t worked out that way. Boys don’t just fall out of the sky and knock on my door the way they did when I was 18. Maybe I’m not as cute as I was. Maybe I’m not as flirtatious. But I discovered very quickly that at our age, everyone is already married, or at least paired off. 

Besides that, I have issues. It’s recently come to my attention that I’m petrified of some guy showing up and pushing my boundaries. I was taught by example to appease and to ignore your partner to whatever extent possible. And my relationships have featured me smiling and nodding when someone told me what decor was acceptable and which behaviors were appropriate (hence the “doing whatever I wanted behind the scenes”). Funny because everyone who knows me would characterize me as a strong, opinionated, stubborn woman. But I guess somethings are just too insidious to pinpoint. 

So what if a guy showed up tomorrow and wanted to share my space? Too scary. I’ve had two boyfriends crowd me out of my space before. What if someone showed up and wanted to share my time? Too scary. I’ve had boyfriends monopolize my time before. What if I wake up six months in and realize that I don’t like some particular aspect of the relationship? Too scary, at that point, habits will be set and it’s too hard to fight over it. 

Somehow I just can’t see my way to speaking my piece calmly and confidently and having a partner who respects that. 

So I find myself, at 35, single. People think that’s great. Or that it’s not a big deal. And it is great. And it’s not a big deal. Except that it’s different from being single at 25. People my age are married. Some of them have children. All of them (hopefully) are working. Everyone is responsible and (somewhat) tired. We’re not roving around town in big packs anymore looking for something cool to do and new people to meet. So not only is it harder to meet new people, but it’s hard to find a buddy to pal around with. There’s very little “Hey, let’s go get a drink” or “Have you tried that new place…” without “I dunno, let me see what my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner wants to do”. 

It sounds like whining. I’m not whining. I actually socialize a fair amount. I also like my own company and I’m not disinclined to do things on my own (usually). The truth is I don’t need anyone. I make my own money, I carry my own groceries, fix my own leaky faucets, kill my own trespassing vermin. I take pride in my independence. But being single at 35 is different than at 25.

I didn’t think it would be this hard. 

Awakening Kate

This blog is a grand experiment. It was born of a friend saying “You have something to say about everything!  Say it!!”

The title was inspired by Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. By the idea of a woman strong enough to buck tradition and social convention, however painful. Specifically, the following passage:

“The bird that would soar above the level plane of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.”

Kate is also my name. Though I’ve never been called it and someone would have to dig deep into my birth certificate to find it.

It is a blog about living by one’s own road map, about seeking bliss, even when purgatory lies in between.

It is the outlet for my thoughts on living as a single woman, dating (or not), work (nursing) and more creative pursuits such as cooking, yoga, traveling, having too many pets and bitching about the inordinate quantity of morons in my daily life.

It is my hope that this blog will be therapeutic for me and both relatable and entertaining for others.

But first, I have to go eat a burrito…

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