Tag: reflection

Hello, San Francisco, Goodbye: Part 5

 

This story is much too much to be one blog post, so it’s broken into parts. Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I’m going to stop apologizing for how long it has taken me to get here. Each of these parts has been painstaking. It’s a lot of untangling, trying to separate the threads of hurt from my actual experience and then from the place I am now, hindsight. There is so much floating around in my head that I need to un-puzzle, to understand, to get out of my fucking body. You know?

Have you ever had company coming, and without time to clean, you just shove everything into the nearest closet? It’s a temporary solution. I mean, some of us are really good at forgetting about the mess behind the door. It’s easier to keep the door shut. But the longer you wait to confront the closet chaos, the scarier it gets, the harder it is to deal with the mess.

So here I am, opening the door to the monster that’s been living in my closet for the last year plus.

***

 

People show you who they are.

Whether it’s through their actions, inactions or reactions, people will always present themselves… eventually. The problem is that we don’t want to see them. We want people to be who want them to be, who we need them to be. It sounds gross, but it’s actually a very human thing that we do. Why wouldn’t we? In this world, we find ways to cope. We are survivors.

And maybe this is too much of an aside, but it’s something I need to say for others just as much as myself. If this is too much for you, just skip to the next section (the bolded date)—like a choose your own adventure. haha. I just couldn’t find a way to not say this.

For those of us raised by people who didn’t/couldn’t give us what we needed emotionally, we are especially good at shaping those around us into what is lacking. It’s all so confusing growing up this way. Everyone disappoints you or leaves you or “turns into” someone else. If this sounds like you too, don’t be hard on yourself. You made it! You are here. Your brain did what it needed to do to get by. And we all do this to cope to varying degrees.

Anyway, the good news is that once we become aware of it, we can better avoid The Big Hurts. For most of us, our 30s are when we hopefully get good at sniffing out the people and things we want in our lives. We only have so much energy and time, so we have to ration it out carefully. (Oregon Trail, anyone?) This isn’t to say that The Big Hurts won’t come knocking ever again. I guess that is my lesson here. I really thought no one would get by my bullshit sniffer ever again. Who do I think I am? 

No one is invincible. See, it’s tricky. Sometimes you find people whose actions do not align with their words. They are good at knowing what you want to hear, but not so good with the follow-through. This makes people sound malicious, but I don’t think they are 95% of the time… just careless. Most of us genuinely want to be good, to do right by others—right? I’m sure they want to live up to this potential, but just fall short. Malicious or not, it still hurts. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we let them hurt us again and again. Even if they “didn’t mean to.” Even if they apologize (but especially if they don’t.)

What you go through with careless people is pretty much always the same bullshit. You find someone you connect with. The beginning is good. But then, the tension arrives. They ditch plans, offend you, forget your birthday—whatever it is. And before long, you find yourself questioning everything and putting up with crap you’d never dream of swallowing before. But then, at some point, something they do (or don’t do) knocks the rosy glasses off of our faces and it’s like we are seeing them for the first time.

That feeling is the worst.

But is that person really to blame? Who are you even mad at? Sad at? It’s a confusing twist cone of emotions that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Friday, July 29th —9:00 a.m. PST

When K told me she had COVID, my first reaction was relief.

It seems so silly now, but I thought that maybe I could just file the whole unfortunate event in that thick, ever-growing folder labeled “COVID: Collateral Damage.” If only I could just forget the last 24 hours or so of weird and disappointing communications with her. If only I could just erase her carelessness and avoidance and tell myself that we didn’t connect this trip because she got COVID. It would be so much easier to blame the virus.

But I wasn’t giving up yet. This was my second reaction. Hey, I came all this way and if it meant I might catch COVID (after avoiding it for 2 years), it was worth it—wasn’t it? It would ruin my writing workshop days and I might not be able to get back on a plane to go home, but fuck it.

Me:  Damn, dude. Well, I will go outside and masked with ya anywhere. So.

Me:  How’d ya get it?!

Me:  Hope you don’t feel too bad… ugh. What a nightmare.

She got it from an event, she said.

K:  And I feel super icky but thought it was just in my head.

K:  I’m so annoyed.

Annoyed?

First, she was “bummed” and then “annoyed.” I, on the other hand, was devastated.

The tears ran from my eyes, some soaking into the black fabric of my n95 mask, while others cascaded around the top of the mask and down each side spilling onto my cheeks. I sat there, alone and unmoving, a sad-face fountain at a six-top table surrounded by plates of cold, uneaten breakfast foods. My phone was laid in front of me like a sword. The blue-bubbled text conversation stalled out.

K never responded to my proposition of meeting outdoors. In fact, she never said another word to me that day—oh, except when I accidentally texted her instead of Abbie. I was at Trader Joe’s (less than a mile from her house). It was benign, something about the color of Crocs, because believe it or not, I still didn’t tell Abbie what was happening. I mean, what if this was all some big misunderstanding and I’d unjustly ruin Abbie’s opinion of her? I didn’t want her to worry about me either. Besides all that, I was so so embarrassed.

Why am I including this accidental text in the story? Because. Even though I didn’t plan on it, the text let K know I was there at Trader Joe’s, a 5-minute walk to her house. Her response was another painful dose of avoidance, which should’ve been predictable at that point.

K:  I love Trader Joe’s!

What?

I drove to TJ’s after the sad hotel brunch, because I had planned to pick up some sick people stuff for K (crackers, soup, ginger ale, etc.), and then plop it on her doorstep. But in my twist cone of mad and sad, I talked myself out of it. I already felt stupid for coming this far, giving this much. I mean, she hadn’t even asked me if I was okay or if I found something to do or to eat or whatever. I stopped myself from doing more. Giving her another ounce of vulnerability just wasn’t an option.

Instead of that, I sat directionless in the hot black car with the windows up taking part in some seriously obnoxious sobbing. You know the kind that sounds like you’re coming up for air after touching the bottom of the deep end? Like that.

This was a me I didn’t recognize.

Friday, July 29th — the rest of the day

Sooo… I didn’t stop crying.

I don’t know what to tell you. I wish my story was different, about how I sucked it up and made the most of it in the Bay. But I didn’t. I did find one stationery store in Berkeley, because I always try to find postcards and things to send when I am away. It just made me sadder, though, wondering if this was the stationery store that K told me about in her letters. She loves Berkeley. As I read her words, I always imagined that some day I’d be there to experience all the things with her in person. She would show me around. And then, she would come here and I could show her my spots and all the places I find beautiful in my dirty little city of Pittsburgh. Saying this now, I feel like  an idiot. After 10 years without a proper visit, maybe I should’ve taken the hint? Maybe this was just another red flag that I missed.

Stationery Store -Berkeley, CA

The rest of the day, I drove around aimlessly, crying, talking to myself, frantically trying to piece together how I got where I was.

What was I doing? 

I wanted so badly to be with someone who cared about me. I was a new level of alone. Like, the kind you can’t just trick your brain out of. So I drove around, found a pensive spot by the water and watched the sun drop. It was the most exquisite pity party ever.

 

That night, I ate a Lunchable in bed and watched TV. I wrote out postcards to my friends back home, pretending things weren’t this bad. In the small rectangle of postcard space, I joked about corny hotel decor, the surprising chill of July in San Fransisco, the long masked plane ride here. What was I going to write about? How I came all this way to cry in parking lots, to chase geese around the lagoon behind the hotel, to eat a Ham & Swiss Lunchable alone in my hotel room?

If someone could see me now, I thought, as I dusted the cracker crumbs from my chest onto the pristine white sheets.

 

Friday, July 30th —morning and afternoon

Still, nothing.

Checking my phone became a ritual that I resented. I watched K switch on and off the “Silence Notifications” setting on her iPhone. (Yes, you can see this in the chat conversation.)

It was the day before my birthday, I reminded myself. Get your shit together. I got to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror: puffy eyes punched into a splotchy red face. The salty tears had burnt the skin around my eyes and it hurt to touch them.

Today would be different.

I made plans to meet up with Christine for brunch. Who is Christine? Our orbits bumped years ago on Instagram, where we ended up chatting in DMs, until eventually, snail mail. Abbie and I met her IRL in 2017, when we were in SF. I know people say this corny shit all the time, but it was like we had known her for forever, like family.

When I planned this trip, I had messaged Christine to tell her that I was coming to the area and that I hoped we could meet up, even if it was just to squeeze in a coffee. Honestly, it felt tentative. I didn’t have hour-by-hour plans with K, but I assumed we’d be spending most of my time there together. After over a decade of knowing her, I was dedicating this portion of my trip to our friendship, you know? That’s what it felt like.

I wasn’t sure how to talk about Christine in this story or if I should at all. She wasn’t part of the nightmare. Instead, she was the reality check I needed, a flash of brightness in this dark weird drain I had been circling for days. But I did (and still do) feel guilty about it somehow. I hope she didn’t feel like some runner-up to K. I also didn’t want her to feel like I was her problem or that she had to pick up the pieces to my shattered hopes and ego.

Christine and I met for brunch. It was chilly, almost winter-like, and the fog was thick in the distance. She greeted me on the sidewalk in front of her place, open arms. I remember her hugging me and how fucking amazing it felt. The tears formed a baseball in my throat (and even now as I recall this.)

“Oh, am I the first person to give you a hug? …or even touch you since you’ve been here?”

I don’t think I’d ever needed to be seen so badly. She didn’t treat me like I was being dramatic or foolish, but she got it totally. I just have no words for how much that meant to me, still means. I got to tell someone what was going on, to tell the story (finally) and to someone who I knew would give it to me straight. What was going on? What was I missing?

But even after telling the story, we never came to any great realization about what was going on. It was kind of a relief to know that Christine was just as confused.

“What can you do?” Christine asked. 

It was a rhetorical question, but I answered it anyway.

“I don’t plan on ever speaking to her again,” I said.

I don’t know if that makes me cold or crazy or a bad person, but I had come to this realization before meeting up with Christine, on the drive down. First, how can you make this up to someone? Some things you just can’t make right—especially with 5,000 miles in between. But the big reason for feeling completely donezo with K is kind of simple: she is not the type of person I want or need in my life.

If you’ve read up to here, I’m sure you don’t need me to clarify but…  it’s not that she got COVID. This shit happened to so many people during the pandemic. It’s how she handled it. It’s how she did not show a lick of concern for me and refused to take any type of ownership. Instead, she played dumb and bypassed all of my hurt. Fuck, she didn’t even call me. She texted me (barely)… and I flew across the country to be 5 minutes from her house. Instead of asking if I was ok, she silenced her phone at 7 p.m., hours after I arrived, alone.

Pssst: The insecure and forever-unlovable kid part of me still feels somewhat guilty for having expectations of a friend like that. Am I being too demanding? Do I deserve it?

 

After brunch, Christine let me hang a bit with her and her kiddo. The little one’s first day of school was approaching and she needed a haircut and a trip to the library. It was sweet and I could’ve followed them around all day, really.

This is about when I first spotted a footless pigeon. What you need to know is that I love pigeons. A lot. And so when I found it sitting like a little clump of bird on some steps, I got closer. Why wasn’t it running away?

Oh no, did you find an injured animal even on vacation? I could hear Abbie say.

I’m really good at this. I get myself into some real situations because I can’t just leave something hurt like that, you know? But as I moved closer, the scared bird stood up on two stunted legs and quickly wobbled a few feet away, where it fell again into a frightened clump. When I asked Christine if she saw it, she hardly seemed phased. Apparently this is a thing. Feetless pigeons. Later, I would cry about this too.

 

Friday, July 30th — 4:30 p.m.

I began my drive back up 101 to San Rafael, back to my strange hotel room. Just days before, I was flying up this same route, sleepy and mesmerized, with a dumb heart so full it could’ve split. It was just moments ago or else years. Thoughts like these burned now. Remembering that excitement, that overzealous fool that I was. It made me so angry with K. How could she? Why would she? Who was she?

Did I really plan to never say another word to her? Even if she texted me? …like I told Christine?

This time, as the inevitable tears plopped onto my cheeks, I sucked in the sadness and blew it out of the open window like a goodbye kiss. It was my last night in the Bay, in San Rafael. The next day, my birthday, I would leave for the writing workshop in Pebble Beach. Despite the grief, the homesickness and the plight of my pigeon friends, I felt a little lighter after my visit with Christine, a little less unlovable. Maybe I could actually do something tonight—you know, other than eating a Lunchable in a hotel bed while crying intermittently during the commercial breaks of a Forensic Files marathon.

Just as I had the thought, it was interrupted by the sharp ding of my phone: a text message. I waited a few minutes before checking the screen—partly out of defiance and partly out of self-preservation. I wanted to sit in that moment of ambiguity for as long as I could. I held my breath as I picked up the phone to read the screen. It was K. 

K:  Hey, I hope you’re enjoying your time today in SF with your friend…

How did she know where I was? Who I was with?

K:  …I wanted to acknowledge our conversation yesterday because it didn’t really sit well with me for a couple of reasons.

There was a large block of text glaring up at me. I only looked briefly since I was driving, but it didn’t take much skimming to realize the slippery tone of her message. As I looked for the next exit to pull over, the heat rose from my chest to my cheeks.

Would this be the stuff her silence was saying, her explanation? Coming through the night before I was leaving? In my mind, there was nothing left to salvage. I was done holding back. I pulled into a random plaza parking lot, unbuckled my seatbelt and conjured as much courage as I could. I knew it was going to hurt. I pulled out my pocket bandana and laid it on my thigh, anticipating the tears that I could feel inside of my chest filling buckets.

Hello, San Francisco, Goodbye: Part 3

It was the moment I'd been waiting for, for months. Between the excitement and the exhaustion, I felt like I was either dreaming or a high-functioning zombie. It was in this sleep-deprived surreality that I got my luggage, signed for my over-priced rental car and stepped out into the ...cold?

Read more

Hello, San Francisco, Goodbye: Part 2

“If I love you, I’ll love you forever, you know?”

Once, I said that to someone as a warning. By that point, it was probably too late, but I do believe love is a choice. Even if we aren’t aware that we are making a decision in the moment, there is a moment. We can choose to jump from that cliff. Or not. Unfortunately, for some of us, loving someone isn’t an action that can be undone.

This is part of what makes this story so hard to share. But there is more to it.

For one, the story isn’t just mine. Part of me feels guilty for throwing it out in the world, but this is what I do. I am a writer and probably for this very reason: to figure shit out, to process, to share with others, to connect, to heal (hopefully). So yeah, I want to be as respectful as possible. I know that my intentions are good, and I want to make sure my writing reflects that. But because of this, it feels like I’m writing in Pig Latin or something. If anything here seems cryptic or too elusive, please know it’s only because I’m trying to be… kind-ish?

Secondly, a move like this definitely has some Mortal Kombat “Finish Him” vibes. Whether my blog is read by the person or not, putting this out there gives a certain finality to our relationship. I’m pretty sure those coffin nails have been hammered in, but like I said above, when I love, I love. There is no “off” switch, so maybe I’m stalling, wading/waiting?

Lastly, it’s just downright embarrassing. Who flies across the country and invests so much time, energy and money into a person (and for all those years, really) when it must’ve been clear all along that the two of us were not on the same page? Who could be so foolish (?), naïve (?), unlovable (?) …if not those things, then what? I honestly do not know.

So. Here we are.

I am relentless in my need to figure out everything and anything. This is no different. While I risk being too reductive ( and annoying tf out of anyone who is actually trying to follow this), the story truly relies on logistics.  So I’m sorry for all of the prefacing, but this is the last of it.

Here is some scene setting in the form of pre-trip communications, Exhibits A through C. Ha! It sort of feels like that, evidence. Bear with me and the next part will be the full story. I’ve been stuck trying to figure out a way to explain this without just blatantly sharing the full texts of text messages. And I think maybe that’s just too invasive and unkind, right?

EXHIBIT A

In Part 1 of this tale, I describe planning the trip and the hotel while discussing it with K through texts. I would consider this Exhibit A. This direct quote from the conversation seems necessary to later revelations. K said this in response to my excited nervousness for traveling solo:

“While you’re here, if anything goes sideways, I’m here to help! You’ll be travelling alone with bowling alley bumpers.”

 

EXHIBIT B

About two weeks before the trip, COVID was running wild again—this time, it was the emergence of the Omicron subvariant, BA.5. This made me incredibly nervous, and so I texted K:

“Let’s not get COVID right now. I’m so nervous about getting it before I go. And the only reason I’m going for those extra days is for you! (alien emoji)”

I got no response, so the next day, I was sweatin’ it. I hate bugging people, but this seemed timely.

“You there?” I asked.

She answered. Whew. K explained she had some life stuff going on and the day before, when I texted, she was very “distracted.” I can understand that, of course. The conversation that followed, though, was about job transitions and the rampant BA.5. While my excitement was peaking for the upcoming visit, she didn’t mention it at all. Is that weird? Am I reading into something?

This is where I began to feel some sort of distancing. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like the focus of our conversation kept sliding into everything but the trip. These were texts, though. So maybe I was imagining it.

 

EXHIBIT C

About a week before the trip, K texted me. She asked what dates/times I’d be there specifically, so she could make sure our time together was “completely blocked off.” I was working, but I was so excited that I stopped to log into my flight schedule so I could double check and relay the dates and times correctly. She mentioned the crazy life things going on, but she seemed genuinely excited to make the time for us.

By this point, I was practically on the ceiling. Stupidly. Childishly. Like I was 11 again in the backseat surrounded by blankets and pillows and a brand of feverish anticipation that you can barely remember as an adult. The kind of excitement that makes you step out of your body and ask yourself:

Should I let myself be this excited? How bad will it hurt?

Hello, San Francisco, Goodbye: Part 1

San Francisco Bay Bridge in Fog 2022
Bay Bridge Fog, Meghan Tutolo (2022).

This isn’t the happy story I thought it would be.

I wrote and re-wrote this blog entry over the last month. It kept turning out as more of a chapter than a story—a brain mosaic of narrative tangled with memories and past traumas. Who do I think I am? Ha.

See, the San Francisco trip turned out to be more of a melodrama and less of a vacation, definitely not the event I’d been looking forward to for the last 4 months. The story feels important to tell, but it needs a little prefacing to make sense. So… buckle up? Or not. Boogie on out now, if you want. I totally get it.

Can we start with the song? I’ve had this song in my head since I landed at SFO on the 28th of July.

Hello, San Francisco, baby, I don’t ever want to die…

It was February when I planned the trip. In the middle of yet another Pandemic Winter, I was looking for a reason to keep going, you know? When you live in Pittsburgh—pandemic or no pandemic—February is pretty bleak. Groundhog Phil’s grim forecast didn’t help. So when the callout came up on my Facebook feed that poet Dorianne Laux would be workshopping at a four-day writing conference in California (on my birthday!), I perked up a bit. It definitely had those “meant to be” kind of vibes.

I love birthdays. Not just my birthday, but everyone’s. I love any excuse to celebrate the people I love in the cheesiest, gushiest, most ridiculous way. Still, July hits a little different these days. It was years ago now that Denise died 10 days before my birthday. If you don’t know, Denise was my soul sister—”my favorite person in the world,” I would tell her. So yeah, you could say there is some earned Birthday Abandonment™ trauma connected to this time of year. July rolls in hot and sunshiny, but with a weird ache. I feel it before I know it’s here.

Funny how it was her voice in my head as I was daydreaming about this solo trip across the country:

“C’mahhn. You have to live a little.”

There was more than one reason to visit the Bay Area: K lives there. K and I are what you might call penpals. We’d been posting each other (letters, postcards and packages) for over 10 years now, but she’s known me since I was just a silly, self-deprecating 14 year old posting on Tori Amos message boards online.  (In case you were wondering what kind of adolescent I was… haha. It’s a pretty good tell.)

I referred to K as “probably my best friend, though we’ve never met.”

In 2017, we did meet. And, you know, everything clicked. Though I was nervous as all get out, that same energy and connection were there from our letters. What a relief! It was a short first visit and I was looking for any reason to get out to see her again. This writing conference seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was the two things that convinced me to look into it further, seeing K and the conference. High-tailing it to the Left Coast for just a one activity seemed a little more than frivolous, money- and time-wise. So, two birds, as they say.

I texted K and a couple of my SF friends to see what they thought. To my excitement, K was super into the idea of getting more time together. And boy, not to be too dramatic, but I really needed it. The pandemic era has made mashed potatoes of my sanity and so much has felt overwhelming: health stuff, roof, chimney, a lawsuit?, the thousand small cuts of homeownership, etc. And just like any small business owner, I’d been working overtime to make the money to take care of this shit. The point: there was an excitement there that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I mean, I don’t really allow myself that kind of anticipation anymore. (I swear it’s more practical than pessimistic.) But I wasn’t on my game. I was on E—physically, emotionally—and so very willing to push myself harder for this opportunity.

So BOOM. Just like that, the plans were made: I would fly in, rent a car, book a hotel for 3 days in the Northern Bay Area to spend time with her, and then, drive down to Pebble Beach for the conference. Once it was over, I’d drive back up to the airport and fly home.

Let’s throw our bones away, get happy, babe. ‘Cause I’m seeing blue again… 

I’m not sure how to tell the story from here. You can probably guess that things didn’t go quite like that, right?

Spoiler alert: I still don’t know what the hell happened, really, and neither does anyone I’ve tried to hash it out with. But I’ll explain more in the next part.

Until then, go listen to that Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s song.

mt

My Top 9 NEW Obsessions brought to you by Pandemic Life

 

Furby Face by Meghan Tutolo

While my last post (eons ago, really) went into one of my many obsessions, aka Gillovny, this post is a silly little list-style tribute to my newer pandemic-born obsessions. I wanted to share these, because hey, maybe you need something to consume your days and torment your soul too. Or maybe you just need to know you’re not alone. Either way, let’s do this…

 

9. Morbid shit.

Morbid: A True Crime Podcast

Ok, I know it’s trendy to be obsessed with true crime shows, podcasts, documentaries, etc., but this shit has been my jam since, like, Windows 98. (Does anyone remember Rotten.com? Ugh.) It just so happens that now, due to the hype, there is a serious cache of all things murder and mystery. When you’re like me and you think you’ve watched/read/listened to just about every crime and unsolved case to ever happen in the good ol’ U.S.A., it might be time for podcasts. I scarcely listen to music anymore, but what am I rocking out to when I’m in the basement workshop making stained glass things?

Morbid, The Podcast
Hold onto your butts. These ladies bring the funny and make it feel like you’re just gabbing about murders with your bffs.

The Vanished Podcast
At the heart of my true crime obsession is disappeared/missing people cases, so it’s no wonder I have binged the entire show. There are plenty of episodes for binging and many are cases I’ve never heard of.

Radio Rental
Starring ya boy Rainn Wilson from The Office, this podcast features the wildest true stories told by the folks who lived them. I can’t stop thinking about them, to be honest. There is one in particular that has me 99.5% sure that we live in a simulation. #glitchinthematrix

Other noteworthy true crime podcasts include Unsolved Mysteries, In Your Own BackyardUnexplained Mysteries… honestly, if it’s a true crime podcast, I’ve probably listened to it.

8. Coins

Can I get anymore grandpa than this? Maybe not, but did you know that you could be carrying around, dropping, and/or Coinstar-ing coins that are worth dollars? Though I’ve always had a fascination with coins (and used to dream about finding really big ones as a kid?), finding this damn TikTok account had me on the floor dumping tins of change and paying with cash at the store. What I didn’t know is that coins that have obvious mistakes or blips in their printing are worth tons. The least you can do is make sure you don’t have a weird printed coin in your stash before you plop them down the Coinstar drain, you know?

7. HelloFresh

Puffer and HelloFresh

First, no, I’m not getting paid for this.

Here’s the deal: in my 30s, I’ve become so bored with food. Whether food boredom has to do with my age or just the pandemic, HelloFresh sort of woke up the kitchen a bit. I like that it introduces some new flavors to our routine of chicken + whole-grain carb + vegetable. For one, anything dubbed “Bulgogi” and I’m all in. WTF is that even?

Sure, Hello Fresh is easy and convenient (with no need for shopping and meal planning), but there is like ZERO food waste. My very-Italian father would be proud.

And hey, if you want to try Hello Fresh, they’re always bugging me to handout these codes for free weeks of meals to new peeps. So hit me up if you’d like to try them out. I promise it’s not a pyramid scheme. I get nothing in return.

6. Houseplant Harlot

Houseplant Love by Meghan Tutolo

If I’ve earned any new title since The COVID-19 rocked planet Earth, it would be Supposed Savior of Lost and Forgotten Houseplants. Ugh. It’s a nightmare, really. I go to Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. and find these sad-ass succulents and cacti that need love and somehow I attach feelings to them. So what? So I buy them in these near-death states—often without discount—then bring them home for A to repot and take care of. I mean, I’ve gotten better at handling my responsibilities, but I’m admittedly the worst. I just go around worried they’re all dying or not happy and point it out like a nagging and helpless housewife.

“A, I think this one is getting a fungus. Maybe you’re overwatering it? Do you think we should move it to the other window?”

If I were her, I’d axe me in my sleep. What’s crazy is that before this, I was KILLER of all houseplants. Like, I couldn’t keep a cactus alive.

My latest buy is a group of 3 carnivorous babes from an Etsy seller in Florida. I mean, I’m probably going to kill them, because I always do, but I was impressed with how well they shipped! Recommend Etsy and this seller for plants.

5. Rocks

I’ve always had a collection of gems and rocks and crystals, but I’ve definitely upped my game this past year. In trying to support small businesses—like myself—now more than ever, I’ve found some cool rock shops on Etsy. Loving Thyself Rocks has a pretty amazing selection of rocks and they are constantly adding more. But besides this, the duo behind the business has a pretty sweet story of overcoming some serious life shit.

Do crystals cure ailments? Can they alter ones mood? Will they bestow you with sixth-sense-style abilities? I don’t know the answers to these things, but I do know that everything has a certain energy to it and certain rocks promote certain vibes. No magic necessary.

4. Lottery Tickets

I can’t count on two hands the number of Friday or Saturday nights (during the pandemic) that we camped out in the living room with some soggy takeout, a true crime documentary and a couple of bingo or crossword scratch-offs. I mean, who have we become? Let me reiterate that it must be game-type scratchies. Otherwise, it’s just a quick ripoff. We prefer that slow burn apparently. Oh, and I won’t buy anything higher in price than like $5.

Helpful Tip #1:  Dimes work best for scratching, since they have little ridges along their sides. Plus, their tiny size makes them ideal for hitting those small bingo spaces.

Helpful Tip #2: The PA Lottery has an app that allows you to check the ticket’s QR code right there, so you know if you won or not right on the spot.

3. Furby?

Meghan Tutolo with Furby

Maybe the title for this category should just be Hunting For and Buying Weird Shit From My Childhood. So before COVID Times, I spent a lot of my “downtime” being a browsy browser. I love going to stores to just stroll around and look at things. It’s relaxing and inspiring to me. I don’t know why exactly, but yeah, obviously things changed and we were stuck in our houses, venturing out only for necessities. That energy had to go somewhere… and as much as I tried to limit my spending, it didn’t stop me from buying a brand-new, in-the-box Furby (1st series, 1998.)

Furby is not just an old toy. I found a cult-like following of Furby owners, Furby mods and Long Furby. Oh boy. Don’t go down that rabbit hole if you’re not prepared to see some weird shit. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that quarantine has been a one-way ticket to Strangetown for me. After all, life is too short to be boring and predictable, yeah?

2. Glass, Glass and More GLASS

Meghan Tutolo at Youghiogheny Glass

Let’s just say my collection of bandaids is beyond help.

I’ve been making glass thangs since before the COVID, but the ante has been SEVERELY upped. For the most part, I’ve been a machine. I mean, I work my day job and then hole up in the basement all night because I’m essentially a subterranean mole person at this point. The winter was the peak of this and after a while, it felt kind of garbage-y. When I finally did, I would go out into the world and blink and fumble like a gd day goblin.

But it’s not just the making that I love. I love buying glass too, so I totally leveled up in that category.

Shameless plug: If you’re interested in peeping some of my glass creations, I sell my glass only in-person and on Instagram. (Check out the FOR SALE story highlights button on my IG profile to see what’s currently available.)

1. TikTok

I know, I know, I know… I’m 92% sure I’m too old for TikTok. BUT the CAT VIDEOS. C’mon. I love making music montages of the beezes, making music-bopping parades of my glass creations and mostly just flipping through some of the most creative, insightful, inspiring and hilarious shit I’ve ever encountered. I loved Vine, but TikTok is master curator. For real. I’ve never been more seen in my life.

Plus, before TikTok, I spent my bedtime scrolling angrily through Twitter and feeling like one of those red-faced cartoon characters from the Loony Toons days… you know, the ones with the fat heads and the smoke kapow-ing out of their ears? Though goofy and often time-consuming (sleep-consuming?), TikTok has warmed my bones. Let me share my favorite TikTok peeps with you.

TikTok People to Follow:

  • HeadoftheHoochies – I’m not sure what it is about this QUEEN, but I love everything about her. I love watching her talk, scold her cats… and like, has anyone’s hair ever taken so many shapes, colors and styles in such a short period of time? She keeps it real and isn’t afraid to call out a “snow possum.” Get out of here.
  • Jimmy Darts – I am not sure if I’ve ever cried so many happy tears in my life. This sweet man goes around giving people money and doing awesome things for others. He gets suggestions from people who donate the money and he goes out and does the things. Sometimes they are silly as hell. But he’s made so many friends. Anyway, if you need your humanity restored, this is the account for you.
  • SubwayCreatures – Need I say more?
  • Keyon – I laugh so hard I cry. Might just be the funniest observational comic out there roaming these streets.
  • Bridget Chant – Well, it’s actually her bird Hamlet. Darling af. I’m not sure I can explain… you have to check him out for yourself.
  • And if you want to, you should follow me.

Okay, that’s enough of me. What are YOU up to? How are you coping? I hope you’ve found something—no, many things—that keep you grounded/contented/able to function. Hopefully they are things that aren’t too destructive? Tell me things!

mt

2019, the year of the blog

376 W - Wilkinsburg Exit Meghan Tutolo

Ok, I doubt it. Let’s be real here… I’m always saying I’ll blog more. But what if I really did?

I have this website with my name, an active calendar, a bio in need of an update… and this years-long confessional dating back to when I was still complaining about post-grad life—as if! Why wouldn’t I blog more? Hell, if you know me on social media, you know I’m about as likely to overshare as a Gushers fruit snack—let’s just say I’m an open book. Long-term, I have always wished for a way to tie my writing world into my art world more seamlessly.

I am totally at a spot where I need to decide what my next direction is. Since I love lists, let’s make a damn list about why I’m hesitant to incorporate more of my blog into my art life (or vice versa):

1. I’m not a billboard. The last thing I want to happen is for y’all to think I’m just trying to sell my shit. What if you don’t take me seriously anymore? Of course it’s a way to talk about all the creative things I’m getting into, but I don’t want to become some slick-talking car salesperson.

2. Can I still be a human? I doubt it’s in good taste to be REAL TALK in a space where I’m also linking to my sticker collection on Etsy, you know? I just don’t play phony. How can I be real and be a brand or a business? The truth is I don’t have time to be me and then be some brand. I am my brand. But somehow, I know this will only make things more difficult for me and probably halt progress on the business front. I mean, not everyone who is interested in Pittsburgh souvenirs is going to care about my seasonal depression.

3. What the hell is she, anyway? I do too many things. I’m active in the art community and the writing community. I started the REWIND Reading Series, which I’m super pumped about. I like to take photos with my old instant cameras. Scooting/motorcycling is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m trying to learn stained glass work here soon. I’m obsessed with my smooshy faced cats. And you know, I don’t like to censor my politics, brainstorming about how to do more with art as activism. A blog can either bring all these things together in one spot or confuse the f out of someone.

What do you think? Has anyone else gone through something similar? How do you move through stuck times? Pray? Flip a coin? Pull petals off a flower?

Halp!

All going but gone

Cheswick, PA (2018) - © Meghan Tutolo

There aren’t too many things in this world that last.

See: high school friendships, fashion trends (though they are bound to cycle back), ska music, your favorite cologne, all seasons of The Office available on Netflix. No matter how much you love something, no matter how tightly you squeeze to it… longevity is an illusion.

But we know this, don’t we?

In fact, transience is a truth that is smacked into us from the moment we can want, need, desire things. Days end. Snacks are eaten up. Markers run dry. Toys break. The sun sets and you must go inside. The End couldn’t be a surprise, shouldn’t be. Yet, the anticipation of an end never made it any less devastating. When we were small, we would cry and whine and stomp… and hell, those were socially acceptable things as a kid. Besides, if we were convincing enough in our pout, the tides could turn. Our parents—those minor gods—could grant us more time and more things to prolong these ends.

Still, we came back for more. It didn’t stop us from going back outside or hoping or wishing, getting excited about every last thing we could do. Hope. Possibility. I don’t know what changes, why we can’t live there forever. Was it just that we just needed to accumulate more losses? Or maybe we were more buoyant then.

I write a lot about loss. I can’t help it. It’s the truth that defines me most. The why is another post, really, but the short of it is that I can’t compute. My brain cycles over it… over and over. It’s like that mechanism in me is broken. Move on. Let go. What? And up until recently, I mostly scoffed at the tender fears of others, that empty ache to remain guarded. I couldn’t understand ones need to shut people out, to shut down the world, hide in stuffy apartments without the lights on. You could count on me for handing out the advice TicTacs:

“What are you afraid of, anyhow?”

“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re alone now.”

“Rejection? We’ve all been there.”

“You’re just jaded. I mean, how will you ever be happy if you can’t take the risk?”

It was less judge-y and more “I don’t understand.” Because I didn’t. (I don’t?) I’ve been wounded, waded in chaos, really, but I still willed myself into the day and into people the way a hungry cat might smash itself into your leg, purring: half-hungry, half-doting. It didn’t mean I wasn’t sad or self-loathing, but that I was unhappy with my situation (a.k.a. The Never Enoughs) and so I needed more. I needed (need) more to toss into my bottomless pit. Of course, now I realize that this isn’t how everyone processes unhappiness and grief. Likewise, this can’t go on forever, right?

Admittedly, I’ve been struggling with reconnecting. It feels almost beyond my control.

My question is, though, what if the only way to process loss effectively is to avoid it altogether? And what if this style of coping isn’t a choice, but a mechanism, physiologically speaking? What if, over the years, our body learns without us?

It makes sense that, at some point, the body would take over. It does that, the body—it acts and reacts to its own tune, at times, reminding us we are not in control. For instance, maybe you don’t think you’re nervous, but then your hands shake, your breath quickens, your heart knocks in your ears like a marching band drum line. Likewise, the body has been known to do things in its best interest, to protect itself from common stressors and provocateurs. Hello, survival. But who says it must inform its host—for lack of a better term—on a conscious level?

At some point our body is all: “F you, dude. If you can’t take care of me, I’ll take care of me.”

You know the body—that cocoon we abuse endlessly with chemicals and gluttony and sleeplessness and… need I go on?

No wonder we’re 30 with budding armor: afraid to take risks, afraid to connect, afraid to love. And maybe those protective brain juices have convinced us subconsciously that we don’t want these things, that we’re fine. Why try? You know the hurt that follows. The body doesn’t let us.

Raise your hand if you’ve been the hapless victim of some half-assed solace like this:

“The only constant in life is change itself.”

Ugh. Gross. (Besides, Heraclitus of Ephesus was kind of an asshole.)

But the point is… shit doesn’t work. We know this. We’ve known it. But it still cuts. And you can cry or stomp or sing or whiskey it away, but it’s there, loss—as big as an anvil swinging above from a clothesline.

This thought comes to me, because yesterday, as I sat in my car at a red light, my eyes tried to leak on me. Perfect. A cry triggered by some trite line in a song that I hear often—nonsense, really. But it reminded me of someone I lost, a pain I should be immune to by now. And so I realize again (and again and again) that grief might be the thing that goes on forever.

How cruel is the world when everything leaves, but the pain of what is gone.

Feeling feels in a Post-Truth World

"Sweet Submerged" by Meghan Tutolo
 
 

It’s hard to have feelings.

No, really! I’m not sure if this is new or I’m just taking notice, but why is it that everyone is always trying to shut down everyone else’s emotions (and in turn, their own)? Lately, I’ve been feeling mega-frustrated with this—almost more of a heaviness than the original emotion itself. Does anyone else feel as if they are constantly defending their feelings? And no, I don’t mean in a political way or any conspiracy-crazed way. I’m talking personal stuff: friends, family, coworkers, etc.
 
This isn’t to say I haven’t been guilty of it. Hell, we all have. It’s part of this good-intentioned consoling power we think we must have. As if one might be able to wave his or her hands hands, instill some Should Be Grateful or Bright Side or Silver Lining… all better now. You know what I’m talking about. When’s the last time you DIDN’T hear these responses:
 
“It’ll be ok.”
 
“You have nothing to worry about.”
 
“Don’t be so nervous.”
 
“Oh, here’s 19 reasons why you shouldn’t feel this way.”
 
“Calm down.”

“I think you’re overreacting.”
 
“Don’t cry.”
 
“At least, this other dumb or horrible thing isn’t the case.”
 
No wonder we, as a society, have such a hard time with expressing emotions. We are constantly told to, expected to, asked to, shamed into “getting over it” and being grateful. Maybe if we were actually just allowed to have the feelings—to feel them and express them—we could work on our shit and really truly get over it, instead of just running from it. The catch-up or rebound or whatever has been hitting hard these days. There’s no getting over.
 
You know what I’ve learned to do? Shut my mouth. And it isn’t working for me. I feel empty and disconnected… and when the time comes and the world turns a bit more slowly (I’m usually driving or riding), what has been silenced becomes a monster. It feels like an anvil to the gut.
 
When was the last time someone actually just wanted to join you? Like feel your feels with you? And that’s it? Empathy. No policing, no 14 reasons why you’re wrong to feel the way you feel and no forced gratitude. What if we could just be in it with people? No more crossing our arms and deciding when and how much someone should be feeling? Actual empathy. Actual connection.

Yeah, perhaps some people and situations call for objective reasoning, some advice, some friendly ear flicks to wake up the disillusioned… but first, just let them feel. Listen. Listen. Listen, damnit. No one is wrong for having an emotional reaction, even if you think he or she shouldn’t. You can help he or she process it, if needed. But don’t tell your friends they are wrong or lead them to that conclusion. Why? What is that doing for them or you?
 
I’m going to work on this so hard. In my own need to shut off and run, I have imposed the same on those around me. Coward, I am.
 
 
 
 

Filling up my meter

Image from simqueen.wordpress.com
If you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that for nearly every action or interaction—whether it’s talking to a family member, pulling weeds from the garden or observing a new piece of art—your Sim (depending on his/her personality) will react with plusses and minuses. Every moment is more like a transaction. 

I once conjured a super anal, flannel-wearing Virgo with a shaggy beard, OCD tendencies and a love of classical music. His favorite color was green and his name was Aiden. The dude was annoyed with just about everything. In particular, he hated when his mother-in-law baited him in conversation. Most oft, he was just trying to make some pancakes (another of his favorites), but she would block him from getting to the refrigerator, waving her hands like a madwoman as she discussed dollar signs and gossiped about the neighbors. Not only did he not enjoy small talk, but if the toilet or the sink was dirty when he tried to get ready for work, he’d throw a fit and clean, missing his carpool altogether. Not even the act of cleaning nor the resulting sparkling bowls were enough to make tiny blue plus signs appear! And then I’d have to spend more time on him, trying to up his mojo for the day so he would want to go to work the next day (and so on). Difficult dude. 
I know how crazy this all sounds. But bear with me. The point is… we all have our Aiden days.
 
And on days like today, I think about that point system, how we are all just action and reaction… that simple (and that complex). Depending on how we were raised, our past experiences, sensitivity and mood, some of us are predisposed to get the feels, or not. Some of us are more or less affected. While some peeps are easy to rattle, others seem brick-like and unable to be touched. There are the sad and the overjoyed, the busied and the lazy. But no matter who we are, we might find ourselves in the negative… because we had a disappointing conversation with a friend, burnt our pancakes or came home to too many dishes in the sink. Or you know, maybe it’s just that all of those things happened in one day.

Shit, I know it’s me. But I keep bumping into blahs. Just one of those days whereliving feels hard and maybe even pointless, and boy, do I know how melodramatic it sounds… but like my mouse-hand, I an trying to find the things to up my meter. 7:05 p.m. And now, after collecting final papers from students, I can go home and paint, love on my cats and A… and fill up my meter. 

What do you do when you’re having a bad day? How do you make the plusses appear over your head?

Tell me things. 

mt

You have to love you

 

Moon Blur

So many are hurting right now. What’s up, planets?

This I’m realizing more and more: being aware comes with a bit of sadness. Ok, more than a bit. Sometimes noticing the bs and narrowing down motives and intentions and behaviors can feel like a whole ocean of sadness that you have to (somehow) stay on top of, ride the waves. Besides sadness, analyzing yourself and the people around you can really take the magic out of shit. I keep picturing the Wizard behind the curtain in his shiny glistening green castle.

This year I’ve come across more personality-disordered individuals than I even realized existed. I mean, this isn’t to sound better-than or unempathetic (because typically those folks are the way they are for one reason or another.) But that’s just it—too much empathy and you’re letting in unhealthy, self-serving “victims” who are great at taking you on their drama-coasters. Worse still is that some of us are prey, easy because we are sad, insecure, unfulfilled, self-deprecating, etc. Not being well—in whatever way you want to put it—makes us targets. And at this age, after 20 or more years of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors? It feels damning and unchangeable. It’s hard to break habits and even to tell them apart from personality traits and whatever hole it is you got yourself stuck in.

Up to this point, if you identify with such a sitch, you might also be the caretaker, the dominant, the “control freak,” the anxious worrier—responsible, ever-guilty, shameful and a member of the royal court of Never-Enoughs. Maybe you grew up having to emotionally care for parental figures, siblings, etc. (this along with your young self.) So then what? You end up stubbornly independent and responsible, likely hyper-critical of yourself and possibly others. But under there, in a place you don’t want to admit exists, is a deeply buried need to be “taken care of”—the way no one ever really did for you. It’s ok. That doesn’t make you weak or wrong. Of course, you’ll never want to admit to it (see: stubbornly independent) and so you’ll repress it and it’ll come out in unhealthy ways attracting all sorts of characters (narcissists, borderline folks, basically those that can see what you need but also your vulnerabilities). Ugh.

These peeps (in particular I’m seeing, borderline folks) will see your dark because they, too, are a bit broken. Whether they are malicious or unaware, this crew will suck you dry. They are vultures. They might not make sense to you. They blame you. They surprise you. They have a different reality in which THEY ARE ALWAYS THE VICTIM. That’s a huge red flag in my experience. But you know, these people will make you feel good, so the drama is worth it. And maybe they are right; maybe it IS your fault (that’s when your insecurity feeds into the game).

I’ve been noticing this trend, though, and watching good people, people I care about, become involved/consumed by these individuals and it’s a world of hurt they don’t deserve.

I’ve kept myself mostly at a distance here for the sake of sharing somewhat objective knowledge with you all. (And hey, I think I needed to get this out of me.) But this distance doesn’t mean I have been without my own experiences. I still fumble with toxic thoughts and relationships and behaviors; I still let insecurity in. The difference is now I see it—both inside myself and around me (what it can do.)

Not to be one of those “brightsiders,” but this lesson is invaluable and a necessary catalyst to venture off of your unhealthy, insecure, sabotage-y  path (and yes, you can still be humble). YOU make you better now. This sounds boring, huh? Like too grownup and not so “fun.” If so, you might not have experienced bottom yet. You have to want out, you know?

Really, at the end of the day, the problem isn’t them. It’s you. They more than likely gave you all the little clues you needed to uncover their intentions, but you weren’t paying attention. You didn’t want to. The bad felt good and you lived there; it’s a twist cone you’ve indulged in all of your life. But now it’s time to work on you, not them. Good people will come. I swear. Fill up your cracks so no one gets in there and shakes up your foundation. If you are solid, those people won’t even bother. If you are solid, you will attract other solids (or at least, those will be the only ones to stick).

Today I felt it, the longing for the caretaker, the neediness I’ve learned to acknowledge and move through. Once in a while it comes—in the form of an invitation to some pity party I don’t want to attend. Why me. I don’t have. I never got. Why can I. Boom. I refuse to indulge for too long, even that comfortable hurt.

I’m writing this because everyone deserves to be ok, to be loved, to let healthy in. Not because I’m judging or pointing fingers. Shit, I still have to remind myself of this. I just came out the other side (mostly) not too long ago and hope to stay here, better. But days are still struggles and the ocean still has the ability to throw me off track.

All I’m saying is protect your heart. Even if it means you must love it to do so. Love yourself? It might sound yucky and cheesy but I won’t tell. (:

<3

mt