the pretending is over, now

Friday, August 29, 2014

 

If someone were to come up to me and say, you have to do this year again, I’d side-eye them, back away as slowly and carefully as possible, and then take off running in the opposite direction.

 

I wouldn’t do it. No way.

 

And this is of note because there are like three whole years of my life that I can’t even remember–that’s how bad they were.

 

It’s also of note because there are, in fact, specific moments from this last year, that given the opportunity, I’d absolutely do differently–and like to, at that. I’d give a yes instead of a no. More easily extend invitations. Stay a month longer. Refuse to be seduced by the low rent. Use those damn vacation days.

 

But I think, that as awful as this year has been (because I do in fact feel like a lightning rod of unfortunate events), it had to happen just as it did.

 

I had to leave Brooklyn. Had to land in the apartment from hell. Had to leave one job I really loved to begin another–had to take that risk. Had to have that knock-down-drag-out-fight. Had to stand there with a glass of water in my hand and very rationally talk myself out of throwing it. Had to say the terrible words and feel what it was to say them–to be the person who says them, and who is okay with saying them. Had to witness as a very many people sidestepped the truth because it was both inconvenient and uncomfortable. Had to see cruelty up close.

 

This year has been steep learning curve after steep learning curve.

 

But it had to happen just as it did.

 

So I could learn to trust myself more, protect myself more, defend myself more.

 

So I could speak what was true with a bit less fear and bit more volume.

 

I may not understand the logic of the universe, but I’m starting to give over to it. Or in to it.

 

Because in the face of a very many bad things, there are good things too. And the good things are sweeter. And clearer.

 

And small kindesses do make a difference.

 

I’ve been emailing back and forth with Laura these last few months. Revealing secrets and hopes–a sort of pillow-talk between friends who’ve never actually met, but hold true the same values. Namely, honesty and the pursuit of pleasure.

 

And in our last exchange, in explaining a particular sort of heartache–and the particular moment of breaking–she described how immediately after, her very dearest friend leant down to her and said, the pretending is over, now.

 

Such brutal words, said with so much love, which makes them–I think–breathtaking.

 

The pretending is over now. The pretending is over now.

 

This year has been brutal. Miserable. Awful. But the pretending is over, now. And that has been the point.

 

Because the thing about breaking, being broken, breaking open–well, it’s not such a bad thing. It feels like hell (God, does it feel like hell), but it reveals us. Distills us. Makes us more ourselves. But in order for that to happen, we have to turn and face ourselves, experience the full weight of who we are, and that–well that, is not an easy thing to do.

 

But that’s our job. Because empathy is our human charge. But empathy without understanding of one’s self is like a tree without roots–in the face of strong winds, incredibly dangerous.

 

And so, the pretending is over, now.

 

It has to be.


And let us give thanks for that. If nothing else, let us give thanks for that.

the next nine months

Saturday, August 16, 2014

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am a woman possessed by the notion of home.

 

I think of it so often. Crave it so desperately. Like a person without food who dreams of little else, I think in paint chips and thick rugs and hanging frames. Toilet paper dispensers and dishwashers and a front yard. But more than that,  I think of roots. And of how I feel rootless.

 

How I am a woman without a home. Desperate to dig my hands into the soil and plant a flag. And how, much as I want it to, my life will not yield to this desire.

 

In fact, the more I want it, the more elusive it becomes.

 

Leaving Brooklyn felt like a really bad breakup. The sort where you’re still in love with the person, but that love is no longer viable or feasible or even good. And so you must go.

 

So into the city I moved. Into a particular tangle of streets that I find overwhelming and oppressive and in many ways untenable. But the apartment is quiet and there is some solace in that.

 

Sometimes I think of how I’ll describe this moment in my life, when I am fortunate enough to look back.

 

I’ll say that in some ways I was scared of my own shadow. That the city was suddenly dirty in a way it had never before been for me.

 

I’ll say that men in fine linens ferried bottles of wine between a windowless restaurant and an unmarked apartment. And how, for me, their quiet parade was the very best thing about living on that particular street, in that particular apartment, in that particular neighborhood, at that particular moment.

 

And I’ll say that low rents and a central location made a very many things bearable.

 

But that New York was dying to me. And I knew it.

 

You’ve got to learn to leave the table, when love’s no longer being served.

 

Nina Simone said that. Or sang that, really.

 

I’ve had it on repeat for days now—not the song, but the thought, circling and spinning and making a bit of a mess in the order of my thoughts.

 

You’ve got to leave the table, when love’s no longer being served.

 

I’m in my first Saturn return.

 

I offer this up because, for me, it seems to be the only reasonable explanation for the events of this last year.

 

 

It’s been a really, really crummy year. Remarkably so. And, unfortunately, I can’t figure out a way to write about it and make it okay.

 

It’s not okay.

 

It’s really not.

 

And yet it has to be.

 

Saturn return is the period during which the planet Saturn returns to the place in the sky it was at the time of your birth. It’s a rotation takes 29.4 years. And the effects, supposedly, are felt most intensely from the ages of twenty-eight to to thirty.

 

It’s a time of extreme reckoning.

 

A harsh look at the reality of one’s life.

 

A paring away of fat. A dismantling of everything that is no-longer-good-enough.

 

Going through it—the best way I can think to describe it—it’s the process by which we figure out where love is being served. And where it is not.

 

Which is to say, when to get up from the table and when to stay.

 

The irony is, the process demands a willingness to sit down.

 

Which means you have to show up. Again and again and again. And again. Despite how hard it is. Despite the difficulty of the reckoning. Despite the acute pain that very often accompanies great growth.

 

And the process, while occasionally thrilling, is mostly brutal.

 

A guy I know from work, and who often laughs at me when in the company kitchen, told me to reveal nothing of what’s happened in this last year, if ever I find myself on a date.

 

Why not, I asked?

 

Because he’ll think you’re cursed, was his swift and complete response.

 

From the reading I’ve done (yes, I’ve actually researched this  astrological event), the point of it is total honesty with one’s self. And the result of that honesty, faith.

 

Faith in one’s self. In mistakes and missteps. Faith in a larger, ordered grace—messy as it mostly is.

 

It’s not lost on me that, in the events of this last year, there has a been the common refrain, by people on the other side of a few different issues:  Is this really an issue, or are you making it up?

 

And as someone who was told, for years, by medical professionals that I was imagining my own illness, I am particularly sensitive to this line of attack.

 

But this is the point of Saturn’s return. You resolve the problems you’ve already resolved. But you resolve them differently. With more grace. And dare I say, grit. You keep your head up when everything threatens to pull you under, and you hook into faith even when when a very large part of you feels like but-what’s-the-point.

 

You age. You take things less personally. You move on.

 

And you calmly and quietly keep on.

 

Yes, years from now I’ll talk about the crummy apartment, and I’ll talk about how I felt lonely in a new way that was very often alarming,  but I’ll also say, that on a day in early August, just when it felt like everything was falling apart, a very dear friend asked me what I could do, each day, to make things a little bit better.

 

And how it was but one word that wetted my lips: write.

 

To write.

 

An active thing. A reaching thing. A reckoning.

 

And how this friend then pointed out that an apartment in which I feel displaced, and a relatively solitary existence, may actually be the very things a person needs to answer the call and write the book. To finish the book.

 

There’s a new Liz Gilbert Ted talk. It’s short. To the point. She speaks of life in the wake of enormous success. And how such success can feel very much like failure, in that it is alienating and corruptive and often overwhelming. And so, to survive, she went home. Which is to say, she wrote.

 

For her, home was—is—writing.

 

Turns out I do have some roots.. The paint chips will wait. They have to, I have a book to write.

 

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what i’m listening to | phox

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


 

I find this song endlessly interesting. (The song begins about a minute in–my suggestion is to skip the commentary before).

this is just to say. (on dressing up and first dates).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Not terribly long ago it struck me that it’s been about a year since I’ve gone on a proper date.

 

I should clarify, a proper first date.

 

There are so many reasons for this.

 

Most deeply personal—not understood by even my closest confidantes.

 

But a year goes by. And a boy kisses you. And it feels so good.

 

I mean, the thing is, I forgot how a kiss can be so simple and easy and fun. And satisfying.

 

Mostly because the kisses this year have been anything but.

 

Which should have been a clue.

 

But we learn how we learn.

 

So, should a first date come along, I think I might say yes.

 

I think I might want to say yes.

 

But I want to wear a dress.

 

And I want it to be fancy—almost inappropriately so. Inappropriate because no one ever dresses up for anything anymore, and how terribly disappointing that is.

 

Let the man wear a suit. A nice one. (Tie optional).

 

Let us, middle of July, dress like it’s New Years Eve. And drink like it’s a new beginning. (Or a very good end).

 

I want the restaurant to be just cold enough that he has to offer me his jacket. Has to drape it over my shoulders. And do that thing, that men do, where they stand behind you and ever-so-inexpertly rub your arms.

 

It won’t matter where we choose to eat. It could be McDonald’s. Or the Corner Bistro. (In fact, I’m partial to burgers).

 

I just want, for a single night, to feel young and foolish and exquisitely beautiful.

 

Just for a night I’d like to be the sort of couple that other people look at—wistfully, longingly, knowingly. That other people regard with a sort of fondness, remembering their own youth—remembering that time the future rolled out before them like an invitation.

 

image via. 

tuesday morning, the 22nd of July (an exercise in being just where I am)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

 

I’m feeling a little bit sad this morning.

 

But in that way that is mostly sweet.

 

Like I’m just about to turn a corner and my body already knows and it’s scary and good but ripe with loss.

 

Because once that corner is turned, it cannot be unturned.

 

Like I’m shuffling towards something really important, but don’t yet know what it is.

 

And I don’t yet know if it’ll be enough.

 

And that makes me a little sad.

 

But good sad.

 

Because I think it might be.

 

And so I lick my lips and taste my own sadness and give thanks for its peculiar flavor.

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the perfect weekend (surprisingly, unexpectedly, quietly so)

Monday, July 21, 2014

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It is always, without fail, the weekends that you have not one expectation of, that bloom the most exquisitely.

 

I came home from work on Friday bone-tired and a little worn down. Little did I know that my Friday night would end with karaoke in Koreatown at some ungodly hour–as the strangest and most exciting nights in New York City always do.

 

(Of this there are no pictures, and let us all give thanks for that).

 

Saturday was spent at the Rockaways with Sam (with whom there is never enough time– she lives too far and the occasional conversations do not suffice). We lazed on the beach, narrowly avoided seagull poop, talked as only two women in their twenties can, ate well and cheaply (as Hemingway would say), and patiently supported each other’s photography endeavors.

 

And of course, Sunday, the loneliest day of the week, wasn’t so lonely at all. It was filled with a quiet afternoon of eating and strolling and browsing. Books and candles and the first cappuccino in New York (or so the caffe claims).

 

The whole thing was the perfect balance between the ridiculous and the sublime. And I feel better and fuller and more  myself because of it.

 

As for whether or not it makes me any more ready to take on the week… well…

 

…maybe less so.

 

But let’s give it a go anyway…

 

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new york city | a love letter through the lens

Friday, July 18, 2014

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When things were harder, which is to say, I was less well and life was less full, I was so very good about carving out time and space each day to just be with myself. Doesn’t that sound so terribly…something…new-agey or pretentious…I don’t know. But I was so good about doing some things–that now as I look back–I realize those things are forms of meditation in their own rite. Because they quiet the mind and connect me to the truest, deepest part of myself (yeah, yeah, this whole thing is sounding spacey and cliche–but that doesn’t make it any less true).

 

The Canon around my neck–the weight of it in my hands, I find that tremendously grounding.

 

So two mornings ago I rose extra early, threw on an easy sundress, my best pair of sunnies. And just walked. Camera in tow. Looked at the buildings and streets I see every day through more discerning eyes. And I clicked.

 

Because while I’m not a skilled photographer by any means, the act of it brings me round to myself.

 

Holding a camera. Seeking out new music. Stillness in the morning. Baths. Lit candles. Lattes. Writing. Always writing. These are the things that engage me with my life.

 

And just because the need for these things isn’t as immediate as it once was, well it doesn’t mean the need is any less (if that makes sense). And what this really means is, I sort of have to have a radical commitment to the simple things. To both my awareness and appreciation of them.

 

what i’m listening to | sleeping at last

Friday, July 18, 2014


 

So as I was stumbling around youtube this morning, looking for music by the band SLEEPING AT LAST, I found this gem. And because the original song is one of my absolute-all-time-favorites, I can’t even tell you my excitement at unearthing this.

Enjoy!

my manhattan | summer in the city (where the high temperatures meet rooftops and small glasses of bourbon)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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i just ned to complain for a moment (read at your own peril).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

 

The thing about getting bed bugs for a second time is that it puts your life in a rather harsh perspective.

 

Who gets bed bugs twice? my friend Joy asked, over meatballs and mac and cheese a little white wine (well, wine for me, growing baby for her).

 

The first time I got them I was living in an apartment with three other girls. They were concentrated in a room a just up the hall and off to the side. So I was mostly safe from their reach, wasn’t bit more than two or three times. But the thing about dealing with them—which is to say, attempting to eradicate them—which is to say, attempting to decimate the little blood-sucking disaster of a bug by any means possible—is whether you have a wee of case or not, you have to package everything up into plastic bags. And then you have to live out of said plastic bags for like six weeks.

 

Six weeks.

 

It’s miserable. The whole ordeal is absolutely miserable.

 

They don’t pose a huge threat to your physical health. If you google at all, that becomes clear.

 

But last go round they precipitated a nasty case of the blues (which google makes clear is quite common).

So this go round, I braced myself. Kept my eyes on the horizon and watched as the sadness approached.

 

And for about a week there, I didn’t think it would end well. Not well at all.

 

You’re meant to be able to see the things, the bugs—they are meant to leave some trace. You’re supposed to be able to find them hiding in seams, spot their tracks (which is a nice way of saying blood and feces) on your clean, white linen sheets.

 

But this go round they remained invisible to me.

 

Which made me feel crazy.

 

Because the only evidence of their nightly terror was the welts my body bore.

 

And I am, as it turns out, highly—highly—allergic (this is of interest because not everyone is).

 

Seventeen bites I awoke to one morning. After spending the night on an air mattress on the living room floor.

 

Seventeen bites.

 

As a species we’ve evolved to protect our sleep. So much of what we’ve done over the past two hundred thousand years is to figure out how to sleep more safely. Mostly because sleep—good sleep, restful sleep—is incredibly important for cognitive function, and health, and most other good things.

 

Two months into a new apartment and there are plastic bags everywhere. Some clear. Some not. (Which feels like a metaphor for my life).

 

Every morning is a so-not-fun-treasure-hunt for what I will need to get through the day.

 

The thing about bed bugs—the upside, if you will, is that you become rather ruthless about sorting through all your stuff (even more ruthless than when you move). And having just moved, I know this with a high level of certainty.

 

It is not lost on me that my new year’s resolution was to live with less stuff.

 

Ah, the irony.

 

Because here I am, knee-deep into the new year and wouldn’t you know, less stuff.

 

Suddenly the clothes that don’t fit are in a trash bag in the entry hall. The suitcase with the busted wheels is out the door. And all those fancy-glossy-pacific-northwest-isnpired-magazines that I’ve been keeping because I thought they’d sit so well in that one-day-home—gone, tossed.

 

Live with less stuff. Or live where you are. Imperfect as it is.

 

But holy shit is it imperfect.

 

And I’m really trying to be okay with it. To hook into that notion that all this mess is in service of a something else. And that wrong turns are better than right turns and on and on. But some days it’s so hard.

 

Because people can be shitty. And selfish. And unkind. And totally not great on every level. But you can’t change that. You can only change how you react to it. Which is hard, and a little unfair, but more rewarding in the end (or so I’m told—and so I’ve occasionally found to be true).

 

I’m trying to rise above, but today, well, today I don’t feel like rising.

 

Because there’s a lot of garbage bags around, and what’s worth saving and what’s worth tossing isn’t terribly clear.

 

**Also currently accepting reasons to move someplace else…like Chicago (because as my cousin said, New York is totally rejecting me–who get’s beg bugs twice, indeed?!)**