Hello Next Big Thing

25 Feb

 

bette-davis-now-voyager-wispy-evening-gown-cape1

There comes a point when you are getting over someone, when you are at the lowest depths of loneliness and self-pity that a sudden burst of energy comes on, a result of finally having exhausted all you have left to mourn for someone.

You might call this closure.

I am finding that in order to reach closure, I have to grieve; it’s inevitable. It’s the only route through this mess of feelings to true liberation.

It feels silly to say that: grief. No one died. Other people have been through far, far worse than getting dumped by their fiancé. It makes me feel insensitive to people who really have lost someone.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am not one of those people who embraces this process – I am much better at avoidance and distraction. Going through this whole transformation of self-awareness to become a more ideal woman has effectively helped me avoid grief. The idea of “grieving” a man I wish I hadn’t loved makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I even threw myself destructively into a two-day romance I wasn’t ready for in the hopes of moving on. Besides, superheroes don’t cry. They suck it up and forget about it.

But then I got that coat in the mail. Without warning, the physical presence of that damn coat brought me face-to-face with Mr. Poison and the feelings I buried when I left Boston. I thought I could outsmart the questions about what I did wrong, the memories of the best times we had, the mental rehashing of all our fights, and all our makeups.

Listen here: grief does not discriminate. It affects everyone, for every kind of loss. You can’t avoid it, no matter how far or fast or hard you run.

Having realized this, when I got home the other night after giving that coat away, I let myself cry hard and long, to deeply feel the pain of the loss.

I’ve never cried like that before, but maybe that’s what’s been missing in my ability to move on from things. It forced me into emotionally dark spaces I wished I didn’t have to visit, but the end result is true catharsis that has given me a freedom I have never felt before.

It’s the freedom to finally say: goodbye Mr. Poison (for real this time).

Someone recently told me that when you grieve a relationship, you are really grieving the part of yourself that was inherently tied to that person. Whether you like it or not, you become someone a little bit different when you’re in a relationship, perhaps a better version of yourself, perhaps a worse version of yourself. Either way, you somehow can’t be that person around anyone else, so without his presence to influence you, that part of you dies.

And so this new grieving process also allows me to say: goodbye girl I used to be.

Hello next big life thing. I’m ready.

-Jennifer

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Songs for Running

21 Feb

Playist

I wanted to say something really profound about why I’m sharing this playlist with you. Maybe I’d explore the philosophy of running or try to develop some metaphor about being chased.

But when it came down to it, I just wanted to share these songs because I like to run to them, and maybe you will too once you experience their energy like I did.

You can’t read into everything (and boy, did I learn that lesson last week), and it can get emotionally and intellectually exhausting trying to do so. Even when you’re trying to process new information, like learning that your ex-fiancé is newly engaged, you can reach a point where you just need a visceral experience that needs no analyzing.

More than ever, running has become my physical release that allows me to shut off my analytical mind. The songs I’ve included here are my favorites for running – they’re the ones that inspire me to pretend like I’m running from a villain in my own movie montage. (Don’t tell me you’ve never imagined that before.)

In the comments, please leave suggestions of new songs for running. Do you run? Why? (Also, keep in mind that I chose these because of their baseline or melody, not necessarily for their meaning.)

-Jennifer

Songs for Running:

“Sayit” by Royksapp & Robyn

“Ramalama Bang Bang” by Roisin Murphy

“Here I Come” by the Roots

“Punkture” by Motor

“Release the Pressure” by Logistics

“Daftendirect” by Daft Punk

“We Are Rockstars” by Does it Offend You, Yeah?

“The Love Within” by Bloc Party

“Sheathed Wings” by Dan Deacon

“Time to Dance” by The Shoes

“Jubel” by Klingande

“WTF (Where They From)” by Missy Elliott

Mission: Be Benevolent

18 Feb

Benevolent

Sometimes you choose the mission, but as I’m sure many an action hero can attest, sometimes the mission chooses you.

I hadn’t planned on undertaking any new endeavors this Valentine’s Day. It seemed as good a day as any to work on being incognito. And by incognito, I mean laying at home watching cheesy romantic comedies (even the International Woman of Mystery has guilty pleasures) and eating popcorn for dinner. Don’t get me wrong – I did treat myself to a nice bottle of wine and some chocolates. I’m not a complete barbarian. If anything, I’m the best date I’ve had for Valentine’s Day in quite some time.

However. As if sensing my intrinsic happiness from afar, it seems Mr. Poison was not to be outdone.

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Guest Post: Required Reading

15 Feb

Books

Hello Readers,
I have a treat to share today, in the form of my very first guest post! See, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reader, Margaret, who found my card. Margaret, as it turns out (and as she’ll explain below) is a bit of a literature expert and enthusiast. When she wrote into me with some book suggestions for the IWOM Book Club, I was so impressed by her due diligence I asked her if I could share it here and she agreed. I’m so glad to have made Margaret’s acquaintance and hope we can meet for tea someday and to poke around old book stores. I also hope you enjoy her book reviews as much as I did.

Ciao,

Jenny G.


 

Hey Jenny,

I hope you don’t mind me butting in about your blog, but I found your calling card a few weeks ago downtown. My name’s Margaret, and I love books. I love books so much that I hope it will be okay for me to submit for your consideration a reading list, since I agree with you that an International Woman of Mystery should always be well read.

It’s not too long or pedantic (I hope!) It’s a few titles written by or featuring really bad ass women, women of mystery, women of strength, women who are working to find their place in the world. Not to say that this is the end all, be all, because while I think literature can challenge you and change you, sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s pleasurable. I don’t think books need to be difficult or obscure to be of value.

That said, let’s start with a challenge. I’m sure it’s the English major in me coming out, but to me, one of the original strong women is Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. If you’re up for an adventure and want to spend some time looking up words in the dictionary, you can read it in the original Middle English, or you can find a translation and start there. The Wife is on a pilgrimage with an incredibly diverse group of characters in the 1400s, at a time when women were the property of their father or their husband, and they were little seen and certainly not heard. And yet, she’s on her pilgrimage, not as a nun, but as a bawdy, funny, spirited individual, talking openly about her marriages and her desire for another husband (or two, maybe!) What is always amazing to me is the familiarity in the Wife and in her tale, though she and I are separated by hundreds of years of time and many, MANY radical shifts in culture and conduct. I think hers is a worthy story, and the act of reading about her is an interesting history lesson.

From challenge to “chick lit.” I love Jennifer Weiner’s novels (I particularly love her break up book Good in Bed) and I also love her as an author and an advocate. Her books are about the lives of women – they’re real and they’re accessible and they make me feel like I’m talking to a great friend who also happens to be able to say the things I can’t say in words in exactly the right way. I also love that Weiner has been very public in her defense of so called “chick lit” and the art of reading for pure pleasure and entertainment. She’s gone toe to toe with The New York Times and challenged the boys club nature of who they choose to review in their book section, and uses her platform as a successful author to advocate for more equality in publishing.

Also an amazing person in addition to author is Margaret Atwood, and I’m not just mentioning her because we share a name. Her writing is bad ass and she IS a bad ass. She writes about dystopias (if you liked any Hunger Games, you’ll love The Handmaid’s Tale) and wild science fiction just as well as she writes about the lives and friendships of women. My favorite of hers is The Blind Assassin, which is a love story, a mystery story and the story of the relationship between two sisters – a Woman of Mystery could definitely learn from the way the main character Iris uncoils the details of the story slowly and slyly.

And if you’re looking for something different, she has short stories, poetry collections and works of nonfiction. She’s so prodigious that she’s the first author in the Future Library Project, having submitted a book in 2015 that won’t be read by anyone until 2114. It makes me jealous of my grandchildren, that they’ll get to enjoy Atwood’ dark humor and beautiful writing and the surprise of a novel that’s been just waiting a hundred years to be discovered.

I know that you have felt a lot of upheaval in leaving Boston for Denver, and so I think you’d like reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pultizer Prize winning story collection The Interpreter of Maladies, because she focuses on the immigrant experience and the way we assimilate and assume new identities when we change our location and our culture. Her writing is so simple and her stories are incredibly moving.

Lastly, I’m recommending this book because it’s my all time favorite novel. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende tells the story of three generations of uniquely powerful women while also telling the history of Chile’s political upheavals in the 20th century. It’s magical realism, Allende’s beautiful writing, and a story that’s both unbelievable and true at the same time.

So again, forgive the intrusion and the influx of opinions, but I hope this gives you a little something to add to your reading queue- does an International Woman of Mystery carry a library card?

Sincerely, Margaret

New Construction

13 Feb

Resourcefulness

I got home from a run the other day to find six large, cardboard boxes outside my apartment door. I studied the information on them, mystified at who would possibly have sent me so much stuff.

In fact, my mom had sent me all my books from home. What a lovely surprise!

As a child and teenager, I was an avid reader (still am) and books were the only things I ever wanted for birthdays and Christmases. Accordingly, I acquired a large collection of books: first edition Harry Potters, Hemingway in hard cover, vintage children’s storybooks, French philosophy books sent from Paris, feminist fiction from Aunt Petra, classics that looked like they belonged in a dark library, and all the Shakespeare plays in leather-bound covers.

I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in their pages once again. I dragged the boxes into my apartment, and spent the better half of an afternoon joyfully opening them, rediscovering the books I hadn’t seen in such a long time.

Because many of them had been gifts, their covers were high quality, just begging for a prominent display. After studying my mostly blank walls, I decided that a full wall of books would be the most dramatic and elegant way to shelve them. Thus, I needed to build some shelves.

For a moment I considered hiring someone to install them for me, but then I realized how expensive that would be, especially after I bought all the shelving. I also considered buying bookcases, but I would have to buy too many of them to display all my books, and I just didn’t have the money for that, nor the space. I then sensed an opportunity to cross another item off my list. I would be resourceful.

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Casino: Take Two

9 Feb

Blackhawk2

I’m sitting at a buffet table wearing a chic cocktail gown, engrossed in a mound of crab legs, laughing like a madwoman in a room full of senior citizens wearing Hawaiian shirts, or fleece vests. (Dear reader, a few of them are even wearing Hawaiian shirts with fleece vests.) At some point in my travels I made a gross miscalculation.

Now it’s up to me to remedy it.

After washing my hands of greasy butter, and chocolate sauce from the frozen yogurt machine, I’m also ready to wash my hands of this entire mishap and just go home. But an International Woman of Mystery would never be so easily deterred. It’s a Saturday night. I’ve braved weekend traffic on 1-70 to get here. I’ve still got $25 and I’m wearing a fabulous dress. Ocean’s Eleven, it is not, but something good must come of this.

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Casino: Take One

8 Feb

Blackhawk1.jpg

The other day when I was dress shopping and the salesgirl, Lu, recommended I go to the casino town of Blackhawk, it reminded me of something I hadn’t thought of in a long time.

Back in high school, my friend Nikki (the one I saw at Christmas) would sneak into the casino on the Native American reservation, all by herself, and play poker all night. She got pretty good, and I think she paid for a European trip from her winnings.

At the time, I didn’t think much about it, except that I was little jealous she got to go to Europe. It was just one of those odd little things Nikki did by herself and didn’t really talk about. With the hindsight of several years, I am now in awe of Nikki. Gambling— and winning! – as a 17-year-old female in our small town was pretty bad ass.

I wish I had let Nikki influence me more as a teenager, when I was impressionable and more likely to emulate her confidence and healthy risk-taking. Now, with a clearer view of things, maybe I could glean some inspiration from her adventures.

Thanks to Lu, the suggestion of going to a nearby casino was percolating in my mind. What better way to channel my inner Nikki than try my hand at a poker table?

I’ve never been to Vegas, or even a casino, but that doesn’t mean I’m so naive to believe that I can just walk into a casino and win my first hand of poker – or win at any game for that matter. Going to Blackhawk wouldn’t be about gambling my way to an international trip as Nikki had done; it would be about challenging myself to dabble in the world of gaming while maintaining an air of confidence, and maybe even a little mystique. It would be about modeling the behavior of a really cool woman.

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Mission: Be Stylish

4 Feb

Style

I’m sprawled out on the floor of the Mystery Abode living room, surrounded by piles of gathered intelligence. I stare at the pages scattered on my floor with a furrowed brow. I know the answer lies in here somewhere. I just have to find it.

In a small black notebook, I scribble notes for myself. Observations to take with me, into the field. A jumbled report on seasonal colors, hemline lengths and silhouettes. Accessories and fabrics. I’m on a hunt. A mission, if you will. Jenny G: International Woman of Mystery is going dress shopping.

A funny thing has happened since moving to Denver. Despite the International Woman of Mystery’s innate desire to exude personal style, it seems a bit of the opposite has happened. I’ve fallen into the attire trap that is Midwestern casual. I’ve assimilated to the ways of jeans and t-shirts and mismatched layers of warmth. It’s an easy mode to default to, by virtue of cold winter days and a local culture that accepts it as the norm. However, if I want to persist in my transformation to worldly ingénue, I’ll need to up my fashion game.

So here I am, armed with old back issues of my favorite fashion magazines and a couple of Pinterest boards. Determined that I will find some new adornment to set the tone. My means are somewhat modest. Most of my extra income these days is being socked away in the travel fund. Exotic adventures on the distant horizon, I thought I might try to find some local inspiration instead. The IWOM’s arsenal is a multifaceted one, but by my estimation, it should include one truly great dress. I’ll choose the outfit and then surely adventure will follow.

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Mission: Be Fearless

1 Feb

Shooting.jpg

Bang!

The noise shatters the air.

The sound of a gunshot is unmistakable. In real life, it’s much louder than in the movies.

I’m at a shooting range in an unfamiliar part of town. A client of my marketing firm learned I was in Denver and invited me to a “Ladies Shooting Event.” One part networking, one part gun safety and target practice.

I’d only ever been shooting once, with my father and Alek, in a secluded field. Our father showed us how to hold a rifle and shoot at old bottles and cans on a fence. It was fun, I guess, but I hadn’t held a gun since then. And I was afraid, because, well, to me, guns = death.

But. As an International Woman of Mystery, I felt hard-pressed to turn down this invitation to learn a new skill. Shouldn’t every aspiring action hero at least know their way around a weapon?

I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if I was cut out to be an Olivia Benson, G.I. Jane or Sarah Connor, chasing down serial rapists in dark alleys or nabbing the villain with a single, swift shot. Or maybe I’d be like Agent 99, toting a pistol in my stylish trench and looking fabulous in a beret. I listened to rap music. After all, who among us hasn’t ever secretly wished they could advise someone: tell it to my nine.

I thought about Constance Kopp. In Girl Waits With Gun, Constance never actually desires to fire a gun at someone. But by learning to shoot, she acquires a sense of security, which then translates into a new sort of confidence. She doesn’t have to shoot to kill, to feel powerful. She simply knows that she is. I thought maybe my shooting experience would go something like that.

And yet, I still felt afraid.

Sometimes, when something scares you, the only way through your fear is to face it. Sometimes the only way to defeat an enemy is to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand them better. For this reason, I decided I would go shooting.

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This Is Unacceptable

28 Jan

sad-writer

My Boston friends have caught onto this blog.

Apparently Katie, that girl that I skied with in Vail, told them about it (I had told her about it in a moment of drunken vulnerability that I now regret), and a few of them were curious, so they looked it up.

I received exactly three emails in the last week from three of those close female friends who read the blog.

One email was generally encouraging – thank you, friend, for that.

The other two emails had a critical edge – subtle, but damaging. There was nothing directly punishing or aggressive in them, but the implications behind their loaded comments hurt when I first read them. It was clear they didn’t agree with the way I handled the breakup, and they didn’t seem to like my Jenny G. persona. I let them know that, to little acknowledgment in return.

It’s possible they’re reading this now, so I won’t republish their comments here. But I will say that their questions and passive criticisms made me feel like they were judging not what I’m doing, but who I am. It felt like they think that the person driving my actions is not someone they particularly care for. It felt like they were saying, “Why can’t you fit the version of who I wish you were?”

It was a familiar feeling. When I was with Mr. Poison, he was often disappointed or irritated by my reactions. He used my faults for ransom. Change your faults or I will leave you was the constant, unspoken ultimatum. I criticized myself based on what we fought about. I put myself down in the hope that it would motivate me to change. If I could be perfect the way Mr. Poison wanted, then he would love me perfectly.

It makes you feel like you are unworthy of love unless you change. If you fall for that, you will spend your entire life changing who you are to please someone else. Of course, they will never be pleased because their disapproval has more to do with themselves than with you, and you will never be happy because you’re putting your love of yourself in someone else’s hands.

This is not to say that we can’t get annoyed with each other. This isn’t to say we can’t ask someone to improve a behavior because it’s hurtful or dysfunctional or unsafe. And this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t want to be wiser, more mature, healthier people.

But my friends’ criticisms, like the ones from Mr. Poison, were not about a behavior. They were about a personality trait. They got down to the bare bones of who I am at my core, and in the moment of truth, none of them liked that so much.

After I got the emails, I re-read my blog, from beginning to end, scrutinizing every detail, every perspective, every event, through the lens of someone who actually knows me. I looked at the posts critically. I searched for points where I could have said something less cheesy, or emoted less and opined intelligently a little more. I cringed at the parts where I could feel some of my annoying tendencies coming out.

And then I thought: this is unacceptable. No one should make me feel this way.

Moving to Denver and devoting myself to this IWOM project is one of the first times I can remember developing myself into the person I wanted to be – not the person I believed I needed to be to receive love and acceptance from certain people.

Changing for yourself and for no one else simply makes you a happier person. It takes the burden off others who feel like you depend on them to make you happy. It allows you to bring so much more joy into others’ lives. It’s liberating to figure out that you alone hold the cards to make you happy just by embracing and enhancing your inherent you. And guess what? It’s been that way all along.

When I started this blog, I honestly did not think my friends in Boston would find it, read it, or judge it. I certainly wasn’t writing it for them. Back then, I think the only person I was writing for was myself. I never really thought about an audience until Jane showed up. Now, I am more aware than ever of that audience. I can’t say it makes me totally comfortable, but if I really want to inspire others through my adventures, I’d better get used to it. I’ll just have to remind myself to continue to stay true to myself.

-Jennifer