Avocados (Or, Finding Unexpected Parallels)

(CW: minor knife injury, blood)

My favorite way to eat an avocado is simple. Select an avocado that you think will be edible inside based on its outer color and degree of firmness. Take a sharp knife and cut around the outside to create two roughly equally sized halves. Twist and pull to separate them. Set the half holding the pit on the counter and carefully, carefully use the tip of your knife to remove the pit. Sprinkle salt over the avocado’s flesh, preferably over the sink to minimize mess. Consume immediately, using the avocado as its own bowl.

Picking an avocado at the store is tricky, though. Every time I buy one, I review the array of choices before me, trying to do my best to make a suitable choice, even though I know I can never be fully sure I’ve gotten it right because often even the ones I thought would be good can turn out awful once I open them up, like my local supermarket’s knack for selling avocados that seem perfectly fine, but then ripen unevenly, going overly mushy on one side while still being rock hard and inedible on the other. Sometimes I think the avocado I’ve chosen has reached its ideal ripeness, only to open it up and find out I’m only half correct — part of the flesh is just fine, but the rest is far gone to rot. I have consumed so many partially rotten avocados (carefully eating around the awful bits) just because I didn’t want to waste the good parts.

Lately I’ve been thinking that trying to eat an avocado is very much like my dating experiences. The parallels are almost comical — picking someone I think I’ll be compatible with, nurturing them until the time seems right and hoping they’ll be sweet and tender at the core, the disappointment when I realize that something is rotten between us, trying to salvage what I can for far longer than I should. If you don’t handle avocados carefully, you will get hurt. If you don’t handle your heart carefully, you will get hurt.

For instance, in 2017 I went through a breakup with a guy who to me was like finding that lucky avocado. He treated me better than anyone I’d dated before and while he wasn’t perfect and I did have a couple of misgivings, I thought we were a good match. I wasn’t naive enough to think he might be The One, but after five months I was in love and thought that perhaps he was someone I would be with for a long haul. Until I was faced with the idea that I maybe didn’t understand him as well as I thought I did. He abruptly broke up with me immediately after I spent a weekend in Boston gushing to my friends about how great things were, which honestly made me feel really embarrassed on top of my breakup misery. How could I have misjudged the feel of him so badly?

I’d already been struggling with my mental health because my job was in a particularly insufferable phase at that time and my search for a new one wasn’t panning out. So losing him so suddenly on top of my existing shitty feelings sent me into the tempest and on some strange journeys, like leaving work “sick” to drive down the shore in the rain and stare at the foggy, thrashing sea. Like hopping back into online dating way before I was ready and winding up going another round with a certain Ghost. Like standing in my kitchen on a day I’d called out of work, clutching an avocado in a hand shaking from hunger because I’d chosen the unfeeling void of sleep over nourishing the body that held my struggling mind.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been trusted with a knife, but there was no one home to stop me. My mom didn’t often buy avocados, but there were some on the counter so I went to work opening one because I didn’t have the energy for high effort foods. If I’d been eating under more clearheaded circumstances I would have taken better care with my grip on the avocado and the knife, but instead I held the avocado in my hand as I went in with the knife tip to try to excise the pit. The knife slipped against the surface of the pit and the very tip of it lodged itself in my left palm. “Oh,” I thought dimly, feeling a hollow sort of surprise, but no pain. I inspected the cut, which was small and barely bleeding. I awkwardly managed to keep the wound covered until it healed, which seemed to take a very long time, probably due to its hypermobile location. Over time it stopped being a story of depression gone dangerous and became merely a humorous cautionary tale, although even in the immediate aftermath I was putting a self-deprecating, minimizing spin on it, which I know because I tweeted about it.

The puncture was so small and so clean, as just the tip of the knife had entered. Somehow I stopped the momentum of my arm short of where the serrated part of the blade began. I can’t even tell you now exactly where it was, because it aligned nearly perfectly with one of the lines in the center of my palm. Any scar that may have existed has been long absorbed by the neighboring crease. I’m sure a palm reader would tell me there was some sort of symbolism in cutting whatever line I did, in overwriting it with something new. And besides, the lines in our hands can shift and change over time, so in a way these aren’t even the same hands that were injured five years ago. I am not the same girl who was hurt five years ago.

I’ve learned since then that I got incredibly lucky, that some people seriously damage tendons in their hand due to careless avocado handling. It hurt to have my heart broken, but I know now that I was lucky. Not because of anything about that relationship that has come to light since then, but because there is a certain kindness in cutting someone off when you know it isn’t going to work, as opposed to the torment of drawing out an unwanted situation.

That doesn’t mean I don’t turn it all over in my mind from time to time, hoping that I’ve properly learned how to tell when more subtle signs of rot are setting into a relationship so I’m not so blindsided next time. But admittedly I’ve never properly gotten the hang of choosing an avocado or knowing just the right moment to open it up and get at that green goodness.

I am a woman who looks for meaning in everything. But sometimes an avocado is just an avocado. Sometimes a man is just a man. And sometimes neither one will work out the way I want it to.

The Dog Days of Late Winter

The glittery, distant urban sprawl, taken at an overlook spot in my area.

There’s something dreadful about the way the latter part of winter drags on. The weeks are filled with seemingly interminable strings of grey days, even when it doesn’t actually rain or snow. The trees are still bare, allowing the skyline to shimmer temptingly in ways it can’t when covered up with foliage. The light in the backyard behind mine is able to make its way through the woods separating the properties and into my room like a dim distant spotlight into my mind, exposing me to myself in a way I don’t like.

Invariably, this time of year fills me with restlessness and I find myself browsing apartment rental websites. I’m not even seeking someplace sunnier or warmer, just contemplating making a new life closer to the shore or to my distantly flung friends (despite feeling guilt about the idea of leaving my local loved ones). But such a change feels impossible to make when I can’t even afford to rent alone in the area where I currently live on my slightly better than average salary, and when I know the housing situations elsewhere are just as dire.

I’ve read so many times about how in decades past people would just decide to move someplace new with nothing but a little money and a few possessions, but I don’t know that such a thing is possible most of the time anymore. Life has too many prerequisites. People need jobs to get experience, but can’t get hired because they don’t have experience. Landlords want proof that you’re employed, but local candidates who can start immediately are often more desirable than the person who has to delay their start date to relocate.

A friend once told me that if I want a new job I just need to make a list of places where I want to work and call and ask if they’re hiring. That isn’t advice that particularly works for my field, but I wish I had that kind of courage, that kind of audacity, the chutzpah that this same friend has told me I have. I wish I knew how to just go for the things I want without talking myself out of them by telling myself the reasons they won’t work. I want my life to change, but feel so overwhelmed by not knowing how to place my first step that I just stand still. Meanwhile the world keeps rushing by, leaving me feeling left behind, and stagnant, and choking on the recycled air in the little bubble I’ve created for myself. Caution served me relatively well in my 20s, but now that I’m in my 30s it feels like just another bad habit to break, if only I were any good at doing that kind of thing.

I don’t know where to go from here, only that I want to. I don’t know how to change from here, only that I need to.

Alone in the Storm

“Does anyone else have something they bought recently that they really like?” asked my friend B while we were on a group video call that was theoretically supposed to be a session of D&D, but which had devolved, as it so often did, into extended chit chat — in this case a game of show and tell. I had recently received a small print that I’d bought from one of my favorite artists. It took several months to reach me, traveling from Finland by the slowest untrackable mail. Even knowing from the outset that it would take a long time to reach my hands, I had to have it. I was drawn in by the oceanic imagery, because nautical stuff is one of my things, but also I looked at the girl alone in a tempest, on a narrow perch in a storm tossed sea, and saw myself. Melodramatic, but true. But when I showed it to my friends and explained that, B joked, “You’re not alone, you have us! You have to send it back.”

But somehow I do often feel quite alone. I’m a bit of the odd duck of my family, the only daughter, bookish and introverted. I also sometimes feel like a tangential person in my friend groups. Yes, I do think I am well liked and appreciated. I consider my close friendships to be solid, and I am grateful for that. But sometimes I do feel like everyone else’s connections with each other are stronger than they are with me. I get the sensation of being on the outside looking in.

I know that I do it to myself, though. When I can’t see friends in person I tend not to reach out as much. This is partly because if I’m not hearing from a friend I always just assume they’re busy living their lives and I don’t want to be a bother, but it is partly out of sheer shitty forgetfulness. I have literally lost close friendships due to these bad habits (although for the record, those people I drifted away from in silence didn’t try speaking to me either — it takes two people to make a friendship work, and I would have responded had I heard from them). However, equally harmful is my habit of withdrawing when my mental health is tanking. I would rather call out sick from work and run away from home for a day than tell my friends I feel shitty and need a pick me up, which is because I am worried about being a burden (despite repeated reassurances that I am not).

I live as the girl on the stony spire, silent as the rock erodes beneath my feet and I am swept into the stormy sea that I have wrought for myself. Sometimes at this point I’ll send out a text message expressing some of my misery, a rope flung out in a panicked prayer that someone will catch it and pull me to shore. I am lucky because someone always does. However, more often than not I allow myself to slip under the waves and be dashed on the sharp fragments of the stone that had been holding me up, preferring to tread water until I drown instead of risking worrying the people around me, because I know I am ultimately the one responsible for maintaining my own well being (although my loved ones are not stupid and can often see me slipping under anyway).

So far I have always managed to outlast my riptide, redevelop my sea legs, paddle back to shore, and start over again. The storm always passes and I find a new outcropping to stand on. As the clouds roll away I convince myself that continuing in this fashion is just fine because, after all, I survived, didn’t I?

(And here, please allow me to read your mind: yes, I know I probably need a therapist, but who can afford it? Blogging is cheaper.)

I fill my nights with my friends so I don’t have to live with the silence that often brings the storm. Two different D&D campaign groups. Watching friends’ streams. Thursday game night and the conversations with the late night crew that often follow. My closest friends just a text message away and more than willing to schedule time to hang out over voice chat. But everyone currently being only faces and voices inside of screens sometimes feels worse than I think it would be to be totally isolated and not have any of that at all.

Their voices fill the space until one by one they log off and disappear, leaving me with only the sound of my own breathing and the wind roaring in the trees behind my house, sounding something like the raging loneliness of a stormy sea. Somehow it feels too silent, too empty, too alone.