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"I'll give you a grown-up…"

So, friends.This particular blog — vie-vernelle.blogspot.com — is about to be no more.

Over the weekend, I decided to make my blog a grown-up and purchase WORDPRESS HOSTING. So I'm in the process of "migrating" my "content" to the new site, as the grown-ups say. Please update your bookmarks, if I may be so bold as to assume you have made those, to www.paigeworthy.com, and bear with me as I learn how to use this new system.

I'm lucky my head didn't explode in the process of purchasing said hosting, and I'm also lucky my little computer survived the weekend. Saturday morning, I made a heroic recovery from my weepy mess of a Friday night and decided to make muffins. These muffins, in fact. The recipe was on my computer because I'm too cheap to buy new cartridges for my printer, which works only sporadically even when it does have ink in it.

Making muffins: Great idea. Saving paper not printing recipe: Great idea. Mixing sloppy moist ingredients with a lazy, sleepy arm, with a really expensive laptop within said lazy arm's reach: Really, really stupid idea. I knew this.

Still, I watched in horrified slow motion as a gloppy mixture of milk, canola oil, white sugar and egg sloshed out of my stainless steel mixing bowl and on to the top half of my keyboard. It was far too early to break out the vocabulary that escaped my lips just then, but it couldn't be helped. The neighbor's bird upstairs squawked. I cleaned up the wet, egg-y mess as best I could, jotted down the last of the instructions on paper and turned on Car Talk in lieu of the music I'd been playing from the laptop.

Hours later, after I'd eaten my Muffins of Disaster — which were delicious, despite the peril they inspired — I returned to the scene of the crime to find…scrambled eggs. All up in my keyboard. Uh. Disgusting. The power source had gotten so warm that it actually cooked the eggs.

I spent much of the next day plucking the keys off the buttons of the keyboard, soaking them in hot water, flicking the crust from around the connections and replacing the keys when they were clean. That made for a fun Sunday afternoon. Not.

Anyway. Update your bookmarks. Please don't stop reading. There is much to be done here, but I won't stop writing.

Delete forever.

There's no creative way to begin this. I canceled my plans for tonight. It's been a long week. A long, drunken week. So I biked home, orange juice and baking supplies in hand. Took a long shower. Tidied up the apartment. Stared down the dirty dishes in the sink, walked away.

Tonight started as the sort of Friday I used to embrace. I'm more at peace with this breakup and my single life than ever. To complete this sweet new life: I have Internet access in my apartment, finally, after an epic struggle to get connected. I was prepared to settle in with my laptop on the sofa for the night.

But I operate on a system of delayed gratification: You can do _____________ if you finish _____________ first.

So I told myself, "You can be lame and play on the Internet all Friday night if you do something productive to help kickstart your new professional life." Which meant clearing up some free space in my Gmail account. Sure.

And I knew just where to start.

When John and I were dating, especially when we were just starting out, he'd send me songs. An MP3 courtship, if you will. There was more than a gigabyte — old soul, R&B, country, funk, Lucinda Williams, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan — stored in my account. The songs are all on my hard drive now, safely unchecked in iTunes so there are no ugly iPod surprises during my long commute. I don't need those messages. So I methodically clicked through every message he'd ever sent me. Hundreds of them. Looking for the little paperclip that told me he'd attached a little piece of his heart. And I deleted them.

Said goodbye to Irma Thomas and Aretha Franklin and Al Green and Millie Jackson. There are riffs — hell, notes — in songs that will always remind me of him. A musical flip of the hair at the beginning of "Hurts So Good" that seemed to make its way stylistically into every song he played on his Gibson acoustic in my sweet, sunny one-bedroom, before everything got so complicated. Before he stopped playing.

Said goodbye to Lucinda. All four messages, each with three or four songs attached. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Essence, Sweet Old World. He had so many stories about her music, about seeing her at a tiny bar in New York City just off Washington Square Park. So many stories about everything. My guitar class played a horrifying rendition of "Essence" before I'd even heard the real version. The way you move is right in time with me. When we walked into Park West last year for her concert, she was in the middle of that song.

Said goodbye to Led Zeppelin. "The Ocean." My reply: a proud proclamation that I'd loved that song since my senior year of college — long before I knew him — I first heard it in History of Rock 'n' Roll class. He was hooked. I can't be sad listening to Zeppelin, and I could write volumes on what their music means to me. I probably should. I went to my iPod today, in fact, looking for "Custard Pie" because I needed to strut. I needed to feel like a woman. Zeppelin is my musical sex; I'm starved for it.

Goodbye to the Rolling Stones. I always hated the music. But they were him. More than Led Zeppelin, more than the real soul singers and black musicians that John so idolized. These were cocky white men who distilled all the vibrant, filthy joy out of that black music and turned it into trashy British rock. I never ran across the e-mail that contained "Angie." Maybe I deleted it once I'd downloaded the MP3, knowing there'd be a time when I could hardly bear to see the filename. I don't know if I'll ever listen to that song again. He used to play it himself for me when I couldn't fall asleep.

And goodbye, Bob Dylan. "If You See Her, Say Hello." One of the first songs he ever sent. One of those songs I'd listen to and think, "I'll never make him feel this way. I'll never give him a reason to write songs like this. This time is different." I woke up last Sunday morning, head spinning from my hangover du jour, to it playing on the radio. I switched it off and begged for more sleep. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling.

Going through those messages, I also ran across the old chat transcripts from those work days when I got nothing done between song swaps and tiny text boxes; his frequent missives riddled with unnecessary commas and em dashes, which I always teased him about. I remember every single message. Remember phrases and how I reacted to them. Remember being terrified that he was falling so hard and telling me so honestly. Remember just closing my eyes and feeling my feelings, and…dammit. How wrong that probably was.

The e-mails, the music, the commas and em dashes, stopped suddenly in June. I stopped them.

I made John a mix CD when we broke up for the last time. I sealed it in an envelope with a card, as he helped me move the last of my things out of our shared apartment and into this single-girl haven, this shelter from the breakup fallout.

The songs were all in order. I thought they brought forth all the feelings I couldn't articulate when he demanded more explanation, more reasoning. The CD closed, of course, with "Angie." Because of course I still loved him. But all the dreams we held so close seemed to all go up in smoke. So there was that.

Angie, you can't say we never tried. / But ain't it time we said goodbye?

I thought he'd appreciate it: Music was our story. But he didn't. He told me he'd never listen to it. Ever. Then he returned the CD to me a few days later, back into the envelope it came in. Snapped in half. This is my story now.

Remembering things like that make this all easier. If I weren't such a pack rat, I'd just have deleted everything he'd ever sent me. But a nagging feeling tells me I'll want to read through those messages some day. Someday, I keep hoping, it'll hurt so good. Instead of just plain hurting. The Stones tell me I'm a fool to cry, but here I am anyway: I went into the Trash folder, clicked "Delete Forever" and let the tears fall.

Joy.

Change overpowers me lately. My life has consisted of two major components in the past couple of weeks: networking and drinking.Or, more often, a combination of the two. I’m not proud that drinking has again become a favorite pastime, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do: Get drunk. (Right?)

Sleep has not been a priority. Nor has eating healthy meals. Or eating much at all, really, except when I binge on party food. Like the soggy sushi and subpar Chicago-style pizza I inhaled last night, desperate for familiar flavors and a little satisfaction of the culinary sort. As for exercise…well, I don’t even know what that is anymore. How I managed to do all my drinking and networking a couple of years ago and still kept in shape is beyond me. Absolutely beyond.

I keep telling myself that once this transition is over, I’ll continue in pursuit of those healthy habits, sleeping and eating and exercising. Things my therapist calls “self care.” I’ll be that work-from-home badass who gets it all done and makes it look goooooooooooooood. Yep. A girl can dream.

In truth, these things are never as easy to accomplish as it seems. Becoming a badass of the sane assortment will take more dedication and presence of mind than I’m capable of now.

But there’s one sanity I have left, one I’m unwilling to let go of in my haste to hurtle myself into this new professional realm of self-employment. And that is joy. Joy in the smallest increments, in moments so tiny they’re imperceptible to anyone but me.

Alone in my little apartment with NPR in the morning; familiar voices as I step into the shower. The first of the day’s business news at 6:50 a.m. as I finish breakfast, switch off the A/C, slip into my shoes and lock up the apartment. Knowing that won’t be the case for much longer.

Peering over the shoulder of a fellow Metra rider, conservatively clad in a blue polo and khaki pants, and noticing that he’s on his laptop updating his Adult Friend Finder profile. I wanted so badly to ask him about it. But he was jumpy, nearly got off at the wrong stop. Your secret’s safe with me. Kind of.

Howling fighter jets over Lake Michigan, the oohs and ahhs of onlookers packed like sardines along the shore. Dragonflies hovered in droves over the searingly hot flat rocks near the water; darting in and out of one another’s flight paths, they blended seamlessly with the Blue Angels as the Air & Water Show screamed to a glorious finish. Squealing with glee, not caring one bit that the show is barely disguised military propaganda. Where do I sign?

A penthouse apartment that stares out at the John Hancock building, the lake sparkling beyond it. Little white sailboats casting tiny shadows on the water as the sky turns orange, then pink, then violet and deepens to nighttime navy. The first chill in the air as fall stages a coup.

Buying vegetables for the first time in a week at a downtown grocery store, nearly colliding with a chef desperately seeking as many jars of marshmallow Fluff as he can gather. The restaurant is running low on supplies needed for Nutella crepes. Suggesting aisle 5 and hearing a breathless thank-you behind me as I bagged my broccoli crowns and he rushed toward the registers with 15 white jars. He cleaned them out.

A small crowd of strangers perched on countertops and blue plastic coolers, red cups in hand. Nick Drake on vinyl at 2 a.m. An old velvet sofa in a foreign apartment in Lincoln Square. Girlish goosebumps as hands trace lines alone my neck and shoulders, genuine affection for the first time since, well. Since then. Not knowing if I’m ready but easing out all the same.

Big, wet kisses from an oversized golden retriever puppy on a walk with his owner. Well worth the 30-second setback during my commute to stand there on the corner, stroking his soft yellow fur, feeling loved before the morning dew had even evaporated. Retributions for the previous day’s frustrations, when all I wanted was “flowers and puppy kisses.” Someone was listening.

The solid eight hours of rest, the balanced diet, the morning jogs and weekend yoga. They’re a ways off. But the joy won’t stop. It rushes at me, overwhelms me more than the stacks of business cards that litter my apartment, is more dizzying than the nights of free drinks and the next-day vertigo. Change overpowers me. But somehow, this flood of joy keeps me grounded.

Andy.

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My parents owned a company together when they were still married. They sold pet food to shops all over the Midwest, and their work took them to countless pet shows. I went to a lot of them, sat in the booth and watched the big, beautiful dogs go by. The number of breed names I have lodged in my memory is a little scary. And yet, despite being surrounded by them for much of my childhood, I've never really been a dog person.Our family used to have two miniature schnauzers, Rocky and Spooky. Spooky ran away when he was just a puppy, and Rocky died while we were on vacation for the holidays. My father wept when we got back. I remember just…not being affected.

A few years later, we got Andy, a soft-coated wheaten terrier, straight from a breeder. A neighbor up the street bought his sister, and they used to play together when they were younger. Wheatens were status dogs. Very expensive, very soft and adorable. But we were one of the first families to have them. Now, when I see one, I still think, "Awww, an Andy!" A few years later, we got another wheaten, Mina — short for Willamina, a name I gave her. (This is after my first choice of names, Ewog, was rejected. It was a combination of Ewok and Dog, which I thought was genius. At, you know, 14. She looked like a little Ewok!) So many people have these incredibly vivid memories of life with their pets. The whole "man's best friend" thing. But I was never there. I draw a blank when I try conjure up anything like it, actually.

Lately, all I can think of are the relations of the constant frustrations of pet ownership. The ones that make me never want to get one myself (my dreams of French bulldogdom mostly involve movie-like sequences of him trotting along next to me on a pretty fall day, leaves crunching under our six feet). Mina loves to find creative spots to urinate, my bedroom in particular. Andy, in his old age, just started slipping away one day. He lost control of most of his functions, started snapping at my mother and stepfather when they touched him wrong, could barely get up from his spot on the kitchen floor last time I was home.

My sister just sent me a text message to let me know our mother was on her way to put our dog to sleep. There are better ways to find this out, of course. But getting the information beforehand is actually a step in the right direction for my family. They know I'm not really a pet girl.

When I first read it, I thought, "Well, that was a long time coming." But then the vague memories, fuzzy dots and blips of light, trickled in. Christmas morning in front of the fireplace, piles of wrapping paper and the Shawnee Mission East choir holiday CD on the stereo. Eating summer dinners of grilled bratwurst outside as a family. My father bringing over snacks and chew toys for the dogs, even long after my parents were divorced. Andy and Mina in the backyard at our old house, Mina flying off the top step into the grass with all four legs sprawling every which way. Both dogs waiting expectantly at the garage door when I walked in after a long absence. Always remembering me. Jumping up against my thighs, sniffing my hands, following me up to my room with my suitcase.

Andy has been around for a long time. I've never really been a dog person, but there it is: Andy is — was — part of our family. Tears. Goodbye, sweet dog.

The high.

I wrote my last entry — about 1,600 words — in less than an hour. Often, writing even half that takes twice the time. I have to coax the words out, from deep in my subconscious and up through my heart. Each sentence needs a long Swedish massage. After a quick pass by my brain for coherence and a long journey down my arms, they move into my fingers to the keyboard. Monday night was like being on some kind of drug.

I sat on the back patio with a glass of white wine, swatting at mosquitoes and practically feeling my hair relax into waves as the oppressive humidity set in. I was relaxed. And exhausted. But the words exploded, poured out of me.

Caution: Emits showers of sparks.

I was so excited. It just…it felt like such a long time coming. To finally be able to say, "I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm getting out." To tell the world about this leap I'm taking, even though I gave next to no details. (But is where you land really as important as the fact that you've jumped?)

When I finished writing, I threw my MacBook in my oversize handbag, unlocked my bicycle and flew the three blocks to Starbucks. Which was closed.

Which I knew. (What Starbucks closes at 9?)

But I also knew there was a warped wooden bus stop bench just outside the café, one that would certainly still pick up the wireless signal from inside the store. Which is what I needed. So I opened my computer outside, parked on the bench like a hobo, and did my thing. Click. Publish. I sat there for a few minutes before I went home, dizzy and out of breath. The combination of 90-degree weather, a frantic bike ride and the biggest news of my life left little beads of perspiration under my bangs. I watched police cars and buses and motorcycles and beat-up old sedans whiz by in the creeping darkness.

I can't believe this is happening.

And then the comments started rolling in. The buzzing high I'd felt before, alone and in front of my laptop, was nothing compared to the pulsating, raving ecstasy that came next. This is where I go all blogger: Guys. Thirty comments. This does not happen. Retweets from people with tens of thousands of followers. This does not happen. Nearly 600 page views. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN. End blogger.

And then I realized: I am living the dream. I'm not just living my dream, in fact; I'm living other people's dreams.

I don't know what happens when you come down from a high. Because I've never so much as touched an illegal substance. Okay. A friend gave me an Adderall. One. Once. When I was in college, to help me pull an all-nighter and finish a paper — I couldn't seem to coax the words out then, either. And I turned into a paranoid freak. So I haven't gone there since.

But I think I got an idea of what it's like when I woke up. I remembered the high. I wanted more. And then…goodness.

I was sleep deprived. My focus was shot: I couldn't think about anything else. And, worst of all, the cold, blinding light of reality was streaming through my brand new rose-colored glasses. Harshing my buzz, as my new partner in crime would say.

Because with this new life, this dream I'm living, comes a new set of…well, nightmares: Focus. Time management. All. The. Details. Health insurance. Finances. Isolation.

Shake it off.

The day went on, and I went in to my regular appointment with my therapist last night, dizzy and out of breath just like the night before. I told her about Monday, the notice and the news and the love and the absolute high, then I sat there drumming my fingers on the leather sofa with nothing more to say. Until the words exploded from me again.

I was overwhelmed and fearful and, seemingly, completely unprepared to embrace the new level of adulthood I'd launched myself into. Worst of all, the person whose approval I seek most of all? She doesn't approve. Again.

I can't believe this is happening to me.

But one more day past it, my eyes are adjusting to the light through those rosy spectacles, and I realize I can pinch myself out of the nightmares. Because I always do. I'll find a pattern. Find a way to get it all done. I'll get health insurance; I'll pay my bills. I might scrape, but that was always part of it. I'll see my friends, because I'd die without them. I'll just…make it work. I'll make this new life work. And I'll like it, dammit. Because one day I'll wake up to find I'm just…that the dream is reality, and then there will be something new to shoot for.

At 800 words, this entry took me two hours. But I was watching So You Think You Can Dance. Multitasking. Already.