Monday, July 1, 2013

Ham & Cheese

I am now on week three of forced alone time and I have started to snap.

Not, like, Westside Story dance snapping. I mean like "going crazy" snapping. Maybe I didn't need to clarify that. But this whole story turns out much differently if you think I started snapping my fingers and dancing my emotions at the end.

For the first week of Daniel's, ok I'm just going to say it, SELFISH trip to the United States of America, things were generally fine. After dropping him off at the airport I got back to the apartment, now 1:00 in the morning, sat in a chair in the corner of the room, and had a full-blown conversation with myself where I decided that I was capable of living alone.

Then over the next several days I was surprised to see how ok things actually were. And honestly (don't tell Daniel) some things were a LOT more convenient without him here. No more coordinating schedules with anyone. No more being late to stuff. No more wondering whether Daniel is hiding in the apartment waiting to jump out and act like a murderer every time I come home. No more hearing someone complain all the time about me wearing their clothes. Etc.

By the time week two began, however, I was starting to get over the alone time, and I was a little worried about having to experience it for TWO more weeks. The days wore on and by the time I hit Thursday evening, I was starting to panic a bit.

Guys. Eli was not meant to be alone. Or to speak in third person.

On Saturday morning I wandered down to the beach where I planned to camp out for most of the day. I was craving human interaction and I began texting all four people that I know, looking for company. Nobody was available. So around 2:00 I decided to head into town to have some lunch and read a book at the coffee shop. THE WORST PLACE ON PLANET EARTH.

You remember this coffee shop from my very unfortunate "cookie" eating experience a few months ago.

I walked into the place and ordered a sandwich.

Guy: We don't have that kind.

Eli: Ok . . . how about . . . the tuna.

Guy: We don't have tuna.

Eli: Ok . . . how about . . . the turkey.

Guy: We don't have turkey.

Eli: Ok. So what do you have?

Guy: We just have ham and cheese. But we don't have any ham.

Eli: So then you just have cheese.

Guy: It's ham and cheese without the ham.

Eli: So that's just Wonder Bread and spray can cheese?

Guy: Yup.

Eli: Ok. I'll just take this Vitamin Water.

The coffee shop has a bunch of Vitamin Waters sitting out on some shelves in front of the store.

Guy: No.

Eli: No what?

Guy: Sorry sir.

Eli: What are you sorry about? What is happening?

Guy: We don't sell Vitamin Water.

Eli: Well then what's all this?

Guy: That's just for decoration.

Eli: You're kidding, right?

They weren't kidding.

It reminded me of all the times in Eastern Europe when my attempt to buy something was rejected because "it's the last one."

I left, bewildered, and decided I would walk down the street to the other coffee shop to see what they didn't have to offer. I got there and there was a chain wrapped around the door and the windows were boarded up like Typhoon Bopha was on its way again.

The pizza place next to the coffee shop was also closed.

So I walked to the one grocery store that was open and decided I would buy an apple, or something. I dug through the produce and could not find a single piece of food that did not have mold on it somewhere. And that's when I snapped. Again, not the Westside Story snapping. Although if I had some good choreography put together, I might have done that too. I've said it once and I'll say it again: dancing is the only way to fully express your emotions.

I walked outside into the tropical death-heat and started that panicked breathing thing and the words "what am I doing here" rapidly ran through my mind on repeat. Eventually I made it home where I scrubbed my apartment for the next three hours while listening to anger music from the '90s.

I went out with friends that night and have done a better job keeping my nerve over the last few days.

Before Daniel left he told me he thought this alone time would be good for me. And I was like, "THANKS ANDRE THE GIANT, BUT I'LL DECIDE WHAT'S GOOD FOR ME!"

Now, a few weeks later, I have to admit that I think he was at least partially right. Because I've learned, or been reminded of, some stuff during this sort of lonely time.

Human interaction is good for the soul. Connecting with others is the way we transform into whatever it is we want to become. Because we change by learning, and we learn by confronting the unknown. And nothing is more unknown and beautiful than the strangers around us, even the strangers we know well. Because as long as a person is still able to surprise us, a piece of them is still a stranger to us.

And while people and human relationships can sometimes be infuriating and inconvenient and inconsiderate and disappointing, they can also be comforting and motivating and beautiful and fun. And it is so worth the risk of paying the price to receive the benefits. I hope I never get to a point in my life where I stop believing that that's true. I think the way I can do that is by focusing on the comfort and motivation and beauty and fun and not so much on that other stuff.

Daniel will be back in one week. In the meantime, I'm going to go make a ham and cheese sandwich. But hold the ham.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. You need a wife.

  2. I really did hope you were talking about snapping your fingers! The other kind of snapping isn't nearly as fun. I completely understand about the forced alone time though! I hate to be alone! I start losing it, and singing Celine Dion..."Alllllll by myyyyseelllfff! Don't wanna BEEE ALLLLLL BY MYSELLLLLFFF ANYYYMOREEEE!!!" And yes. I sound amazing.

    Keep your chin up, Eli! If anyone can get through this, it's you!

  3. My grandfather's preferred sandwich was always ham and cheese and peanut butter. LOTS of peanut butter.

    "Sticks to the ribs!"

    Cue gleeful chewing. He loved grossing the grandkids out.


    1. I'm never eating again.

    2. My mom had a roommate years ago who ate peanut butter, jelly, and tuna together in a sandwich. I wonder if there's some kind of club for people who like weird sandwiches?

    3. Almond butter (or peanut butter) and cheese is good. Never tried it with ham (or tuna/jelly).

    4. My brother makes toast, puts peanut buyer on the toast, then cinnamon and sugar, then EGGS (as in the scrambled kind) then MORE cinnamon and sugar. It's actually quite good! peanut butter and cinnamon sugar just as a sandwich is really good! :)

    5. Peanut butter and mayo sandwiches are good!

    6. peanut butter and miracle whip ( not mayo!) is what I grew up eating, but it's been a long time and the thought kind of grosses me out now.

    7. Yes! Peanut butter, miracle whip, and bananas is my favorite sandwich. I'm so glad to have found someone who at least likes peanut butter and mayo together.

  4. I was going to write a long comment but I'll just do single, random sentences instead.
    1. Your hair, oh my goodness, it looks stunning today.
    2. Every time you use it's/its incorrectly, I get tachycardia.
    3. I didn't hear Daniel complain when you left Palau for two weeks.
    4. A wife would do you much good. Just saying...
    5. Thank goodness being alone doesn't really work in the long run. God made us so amazingly awesome that we can and are expected to reach out to others, change lives and let others do the same with us.
    6. Twice up the barrel, once down the side.

    1. Ugh. IT'S fixed. I need someone to start proof-reading this crap.

    2. Maybe that's where a wife would come in handy...and making sandwiches, as well! haha

  5. I am imagining your angry 90s music as the following:

    1. I was wondering about that too. I couldn't even imangine. LOL.

    2. Imagined it a bit differently I guess. George Michael, Freedom and you lighting something on fire while Leotrix watches through the window.

  6. One year I happened to return home from college right after my parents had left to go pick up my sister as she finished her mission. This meant that I had a week alone. I'd been looking forward to it, quite frankly, but it turned out to be horrible. I learned that-- from a gospel perspective-- life is fairly meaningless without other people around to serve and interact with.

    Good luck-- I feel for you!

    On a happier note, I heard that you went to law school with my wonderful cousin, Corey Hansen, so that makes us almost family or friends or something!

    1. Hey! Corey Hansen is my best friend! I actually meant to type in this very post that one thing that has gotten me through these two weeks has been frequent Skyping with her. But then I got too lazy.

    2. Yeah, that totally makes us friends! Now please excuse me while I go and tell everyone I know who reads this blog that we're tight!

  7. I personally think you should build an awesome sand castle as a surprise for Daniel when he comes home. If it's a really good one, it could fill your time for a week and at the same time let him know you didn't just sit around snapping your fingers or twiddling your thumbs whilst he was absent... omagosh I just cracked myself up at the vision....

  8. Have you never had a JAM SANDWICH? That's where you take two pieces of bread and JAM them together! LOL Yikes!

    On another note... my brother served his mission in Russia. He and his companion would go to Taco Bell in Moscow once a week and buy 12 bean burritos. Often they would REUSE to make them. Why? "Because no one NEEDS 12 burritos." That's why. They used to hang them in a bag outside their window in the wintertime and the burritos would freeze.... FROZEN BURRITOS ALL WEEK!

    Good luck down there! Oh... and any good PTA Groups down there?

  9. My wife's cousin is a cute choir teacher in Orem. I think she can dance.

  10. Telling someone to get a wife is kinda disrespectful, guys. Just sayin'.

    1. Not it's not. No one told him to "get a wife"

    2. You're right. They only said he needs one, that it would do him good, and that it would come in handy when he needs sandwiches. The last one was a joke, of course, but anyway... yeah. He'll be ok, no matter what, I'm sure. It's just not very nice to say that he should solve loneliness with marriage, you know? There are so many better reasons to get married, and so many good reasons to find completion in yourself first, like Lee said below :)

    3. Of course he'll be ok. That's just common sense. No one said he would solve loneliness by getting married. I haven't read anywhere where someone told him that that would be a good reason to get married but if he happens to fall in love and choose to marry someone, it would really bring into his life a type of company that he hasn't experienced yet. He will get married if and whenever the crap he wants to. You choose to interpret things however you want. I wholeheartedly agree with Lee as well but one thing doesn't discredit the other. Common sense!

    4. I can't tell if you're trolling on purpose or being unintentionally hilarious, person-who-possibly-suggested-a-wife-and-is-now-offended. Either way, kudos for making me laugh.

  11. Eli, sometimes we need to learn how to be alone. It is part of the journey through life. Sometimes you need to find happiness by being alone before you can find true happiness in being with others.

    Try some deep breathing meditation and focus on your breath. Look inward and ask yourself what you are truly afraid of. You will find that being alone is not as bad as you think and can often be an enlightening experience.

  12. I had a similar experience here at a local pizzeria (do they still call it that, I’m not sure). On the menu they offered a cheese slice with pepperoni so I ordered exactly that. The lady behind the counter seemed to take offense to me ordering exactly what was on the menu, "You don't have to order a cheese with pepperoni, you could just ask for pepperoni." Her response wasn’t a kind correction but that I have insulted your life decision to work here and cursed her family lineage. My response was "oh, I just ordered it like it says on your menu." After going back and forth a few times I gave in and said that I would take a pepperoni. What was ironic about this whole conversation was there was a sign hanging above her that said “Be nice or go home.” I guess that doesn’t include being argumentative.

  13. I like solitude, but not so much when it's forced. And, also, not so much when it's for an extended period of time. I'm sure the weekends are the worst... although? "You're never alone when you have a book!" (I heard that quote on Modern Family a few days ago, and it's true unto my nerdy, book-loving soul.)

    Keep your chin up. And way to grow from this experience of forced solitude! Atta boy!

  14. I know how you feel. In fact I came across your blog because I was desperately searching the internet for anything to entertain me. I broke my leg last week, and as such I can't drive or do much at all except sit here on my couch and GO CRAZY. I can't even clean very well, although I could listen to some good 90's music... Third Eye Blind brings back memories from middle school. (But do I want those memories??) In any case, this blog has entertained me for a good few hours now and provided a nice break from TV court shows! Thanks Eli!

  15. As an introvert, what you're describing sounds like the most beautiful vacation on the face of the earth. Give me my books and maybe a few episodes of Doctor Who and I would be happy.
    BUT, I wouldn't have anyone to make grocery trips for me, and that would be the downside.
    Also, Linkin Park is some pretty good angry 90's music.

  16. Eli, I know exactly how you feel. I am living alone for the first time in my entire life, not by choice. My husband went in for open heart surgery on May 30 & was supposed to be in the hospital for about a week. It has now been a month. Arrhythmias, emergency GI surgery & a fever that will not go away have kept him from me. My house feels so very empty. I thought I could handle it just like when he was away on a business trip. Eat what I want, watch what I want on TV, no problem. But now I just feel the void that follows me around the house. Hanging with friends and getting into a somewhat normal schedule has helped me get back on track. At least I know that he misses me as much as I miss him. We both commuted to college while living with our parents & moved in together after we got married. We are also both only children so we were each other’s first roommates. Sufficed to say it feels weird that he probably won't come home for at least another month. But I am taking it day by day and trying to do things that make me feel like myself. Treat yourself to one of those massages and spend some time taking more of those gorgeous sunset photos.

    -Liz from Minnesota

  17. I bet you're *this* close to getting a cat.

    Also, I loved this:

    "Human interaction is good for the soul. Connecting with others is the way we transform into whatever it is we want to become. Because we change by learning, and we learn by confronting the unknown. And nothing is more unknown and beautiful than the strangers around us, even the strangers we know well. Because as long as a person is still able to surprise us, a piece of them is still a stranger to us."

  18. Being the uninterested middle child (what? middle children are supposed to be people-pleasers who are VERY interested???)--um, Being the alien, uninterested, "middle" child I am, my family leaves me alone for a week in the summer (and at least two weekends in the winter) for church events. So, I can sorta relate? I don't exactly get lonely. In fact, I throw a part for myself and am like, "WOW THEY REALLY LEFT ME HOME ALONE! I'LL JUST BURN DOWN THE HOUSE! :D" But then when the high school stuck me in the blacksmithing class, they became a lot more comfortable with me at home because I now "understand" that fire has a good time and place.

    Riiiiggghhhhtttt, parents. *wink wink*

    Moral of the story? Set something on fire. Daniel will be too scared to leave you again. That, or enroll you in blacksmithing. :D

  19. Oh I totally know how you feel, Eli. My parents once left for almost six days... yes I know that's know where close to three weeks but I'm a very social person. And actually I was only alone for three because I was going on a conference from Friday to Sunday (which is why I was left). The first day I was fine. The second day I was letting my giant dogs into the house so they could "help" with chores and provide stimulating conversation. By the third day I was going nuts and desperately trying to find a ride to the high school so my teacher could take me and another student. No one was home, I didn't have a license, and I was beginning to panic. My mind was screaming, "I CAN'T HANDLE IT IF I HAVE TO SPEND THREE MORE DAYS ALONE!!!" and so I finally had to resort to asking the nice lady down the street, who has four youngsters. She thought I was running away at first because my parents had taken a rental car, so both of their cars were up front still. And I was kind of panicky and close to tears. I tried to explain to her and eventually she agreed and I was so relieved I actually did start crying, which made her think again that I was running away. Anyway, the moral of the story is, don't worry, you're not the worst. You have to last three weeks, I couldn't even last three days trapped inside my house. Chin up, Eli :)

  20. oh my gosh! i had totally forgotten about "it's the last one" i served in russia and it happened all the time. oh, russia.

  21. The only way to work out your feelings is to dance it out. No matter where you are. That's how you make new friends.

    If you need some great angry dance choreography you can take a cue from Billy Elliot, Kevin Bacon in Footloose or the new guy in new Footloose.

    "Wannabe" is always a great angry dance song. Or "Viva Forever"

  22. Sending invisible internet friend support. If there is such a thing. And if there were, I'm not sure it would make ANY difference, but what do you expect from me?!

    I'm really sorry about that "coffee shop." Since I've only ever been American and IN America, I'm pretty shocked to learn that any place like that exists. "We don't really sell anything, have a good day." Hopefully all of these comments give you something to do!

  23. Oh, that SOooooo reminds me of Ukraine and ordering at the hotel!

    We'd like some Borsch.
    We don't have that today.
    You have to special order it ahead of time.

    No, you don't want that.
    No, you can't have that.

    What the freak can I have then? (all through a translator), well you can have this pizza that we think is great but is a gross representation of pizza and comes complete with a dead fly or three on it.

  24. if you were Baptist I know of seriously seven girls who would date you...and probably marry you...but not all seven at one time. we...I mean they...aren't really into that. :D

  25. It seems like the "stranger" you still need to get to know if yourself. At times I find that it's hardest being alone because I'm forced to face myself, and that can make me more uncomfortable than just about anything else.

    And, before I forget, I love the new hair cut. It makes you look great. And the color of your shirt it perfect. It makes your eye color pop.