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Tea and Sympathy

by Crystal Torres on August 2, 2016

In today’s adventures of Crystal the Wonderklutz, I made myself a cup of tea. I made myself a cup of tea because I was woken up this morning to the sound of a ceramic bowl crashing off of my mantle into more pieces than I care to count. I’m borrowing a couple of cats right now, partly because I have a mouse problem in my new place and partly because I have a friend who is in the process of relocating to a new city and hasn’t yet found a place for her and her kitties. It’s a whole lot of win-win, but this morning, a little less so. Skittish Kitty, broke a lovely ceramic piece that another friend had made and that is among my few nice things. Today, Skittish Kitty, is why I can’t have nice things.

I didn’t want to deal with it, but ain’t nobody else gonna. At the end of the day, all responsibilities are my responsibilities. I decided to give myself a little tea and sympathy before tackling the mess and then getting on with my day. Tea is one of those few indulgences that isn’t fattening, beyond my budget, or dependent on the cooperation of someone else. I try to take comfort where I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it fails epically. Today was an epic fail kinda day.

Shortly after pouring the hot water into my mug I burned my forearm on the hot metal kettle. This made me flinch, knocking over the mug, pouring steaming hot, not yet fully steeped, tea over my belly button. This made me cry, not because first degree burns are so awful. I have a respectably high pain tolerance. It’s just that right then, with a mess of ceramic, that used to be one of my favorite things, scattered over the living room and a mess of, just steeped enough to be more messy than water, tea poured over the counter and myself, dripping from both onto the kitchen floor, I really hated being alone.

The loneliness of being alone can strike me at the oddest moments. Still, it’s an easier pain to bear than the loneliness of being in the wrong relationship. Yeah, I have to clean it up all by myself, but at least I don’t have to argue with anyone about that, or endure lectures about where I should have placed the bowl, or the kettle, or the cup, etc. This is a simple, honest, lonely. 

Most of the time, it’s not even that lonely. I have kids. I have friends. I even have pets. I’m not lonely for a conversation, or a diversion. I’m lonely for touch. Right then, when I started crying, what I wanted more than anything was a chest to bury my face in and arms that could wrap around me. I needed a hug from somebody who could make me believe that it was all going to be okay, and maybe a kiss on the forehead. Some days, I really need a kiss on the forehead. That’s not the life I’m living though.

I want to be loved well, more than I want to be loved soon. My life is progressing by means of hard work and determination, and a whole lotta help from my friends. I don’t particularly want to be distracted from that. Except for when I do, when the cat breaks the ceramics and I spill the tea and it’s nobody’s problem but my own and suddenly it hits me that, for as far as I can see into the future, nobody owes me anything. I have to do for myself, even when I’m tired and cranky and having a bad day. It’s all on me now, and for the foreseeable future.

At least I have sangria, a gift from the cats’ rightful owner. Tonight is going to be a good night for sangria. That is, as soon as I’m done taking care of ALL the things, like I do.



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This is the House That Love Built

by Crystal Torres on July 31, 2016

I am okay. Today, I am okay in that there’s nothing particularly wrong. Some days, I am okay, in that the things that are wrong will not destroy me. Other days, I am okay, because I have to be, because to admit to anything else would loosen my grip on the shore and let the undertow drag me away. Lately though, most of my days, I am this honestly less than perfect, better than enough, okay.

I still haven’t learned how to ask for help gracefully. So that last week when my son, with kidney problems, was sent by urgent care to the ER with a really bad urinary tract infection, and I was freaking out inside, I couldn’t tell anyone that I was falling apart. I sent a text to one friend begging for distraction, “Amuse me. Please.” I texted another, “Can you come over? I’m having a bad day.” I wouldn’t tell either of them what was wrong, not until the one friend came over with a treat for each of my kids and I had to explain why I only had one kid at that moment. Still, I did at least ask them to come over. I’m getting better.

I highly recommend, especially if you’re about to turn your life upside down, reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking before you do, or if you procrastinate like me, then read it while you’re upending everything. I really needed to be told to take the flower, to take the donuts, to let people help me. My divorce required borrowing lawyer money from one friend, room and board from another. When I got my own place, I didn’t own much, but I was confident that one paycheck at a time, one thrift store visit at a time, I would get the things I needed. It was going to be okay, probably all of the aforementioned versions of okay, but okay enough.

Friends wanted to help. Here I am trying to prove that I can do it, stand on my own two feet, and everybody’s trying to offer me a hand. Some people sent me words of encouragement, some people sent me gifts. One woman arranged a veritable barn-raising worth of hand-me-downs and miscellaneous odds and ends. She pooled a group of mostly mutual friends together and I penned a wishlist and these amazing people gave me what they could, a whole SUV load of what they could. It was overwhelming.

Have you ever had your gratitude dialed up so high it almost begins to burn? Every time the mail carrier had left another package at my door, or there was another notification to the online group of people trying to get their contributions coordinated, I wanted to cry. It was just so much love and support and affirmation. I mean, I like the stuff. I use the stuff. I had no idea how much I needed the stuff. It was so much more than the stuff though.

My ex was more of a stay-together-for-the-sake-of-the-kids sort. I disagreed with him. I’m more of a live-your-healthiest-and-best-life-and-have-that-to-draw-from-and-model-for-the-kids sort. We both do what we do because we believe it is best for our children, even though we almost always take different paths in doing so. As fiercely as I may have argued my position, there was still a shadow of a doubt that he could be right. Maybe I was destroying everything.

It meant so much to have people telling me they were proud of me, and also, making it possible. I was broke, but not broken. I’d spent my margin on a few extras, things I didn’t need but that definitely make life here more pleasant. Then I ended up getting an expensive emergency root canal. Then I got the hospital bill from when my daughter sprained her ankle in April. Then my son got sent to the ER and they ran tests and he was given fluids, antibiotics, anti-nausea meds and painkillers by IV and he was given prescriptions to be filled. Medical emergencies are expensive. The margin in my budget was already spent.

When I tried to turn down the gifts right after I moved in, I knew that I was financially tapped by security deposits and other one off incidentals. I believed that with each paycheck my financial footing would be more solid and that, if I was patient, I could do this alone. I can be patient. Still I had friends who wanted to help and Amanda Palmer’s voice in my head saying, “take the fucking donuts.” So I took the generosity that was above and beyond what I thought I needed. I am still, now, taking the generosity that is so above and beyond my expectations.

I can afford groceries right now in part because of all of the things that I didn’t have to buy to make this home function. I have what I need in my kitchen to cook when I can’t afford to eat out. Hard times hit sooner than I expected, but they didn’t hit nearly as hard because my friends insisted on setting me up. Every room in this house is blessed with gifts from someone, constant reminders of how amazing my friends really are. My home is still humble, but it is warm and welcoming and overflowing with love.

I have been able to have guests. I finally met Buggy and Ducky in person, when they swung by for an early leg of their journey. Buggy and I are living this strange sisterhood of parallel lives, eerily the same and then opposite, but so opposite it’s almost the same. I hope they can swing by again, the next time they’re out this way. On another occasion, we fired up the grill and had dear friends and coworkers and newly met volunteers over for a bring-your-own-everything party at the end of a particularly strenuous project at work. I can haz houseguests!

I have been able to pay it forward, just a little bit, while living the kind of life I’d always dreamed of. I didn’t do it all by myself, but I did it. My children and I have a home and we get to share it. All I ever wanted was to love and be loved. This is that. This is the house that love built.

Also, I’m continuing my efforts at visually documenting my journey. At least the DIY, home improvement, Permaculture parts.



Poem- All I Ever Wanted

June 24, 2016
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All I ever wanted was to love and be loved Until I was married, then I yearned for kindness a safe place to grow to be I fought my way free to this falling Now I’m extending like a hand that no one else is shaking aching for an embrace to bury myself six feet […]

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Head of Household

June 13, 2016
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I think it was a combination. I had been pushing against the door for so long that when it finally opened I couldn’t help but stumble into the lack of resistance. It’s not that I liked the fight, it’s just that I was used to it, freedom felt strange, and I felt lost. Also, the […]

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Poem- Hope

April 9, 2016
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I hope I get to kiss you, someday just once and I hope it’s terrible I hope our lips get pinched against our teeth clanking together as our heads angle all wrong I hope we don’t know what to do with our hands and end up just standing there pressing our mouths awkwardly into each […]

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Poem- I Give Up

April 7, 2016
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I’ve tried to give up poetry but it keeps coming back It gets into my bones like the winter cold like spring love like my thoughts of you marrow deep If you want to love me give me up take up a hobby or a sport something that leaves you exhausted Then, if everywhere you […]

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Just One Thing

January 18, 2016
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Tonight, I made one hour roast vegetables in the pan with what unexpectedly turned out to be a two hour roast chicken. I hold to my position that it’s better to serve overcooked vegetables, than undercooked chicken, so we waited impatiently as the meat thermometer made its slow ascent. It turns out, my kids are […]

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Poem- Heart in a Box

December 11, 2015
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The queen was deceived by the woodsman when he gave her a heart in a box We do not have that color green in the desert where I live the green of forests of grassy hillsides of graveyards I try to remember or alternately to forget the colors of that day Green grass Gray sky […]

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Poem- The Fall

December 4, 2015
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Wendy was the first leaf that trembled before Julie fell Maybe it really is as natural as that Gerald felt like an entire branch when he left my life His friend read Ecclesiastes 3 and I turned against the season of leaves brilliant with sunset reds and ambers against the memory of spring’s green against […]

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Poem- Word Feast

October 18, 2015
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I turn to poems when I’m hungry sometimes just a snack of pretty words turning something old at a new angle the way you distract a toddler from a tantrum on the verge Loneliness is a hunger a great motivator but starvation is deadly I don’t realize my hunger until I’m desperately scraping at the […]

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