On Being Blessed, Gratefully

I’ve been posting ad nauseam about the phenomenon that is the quarter-life crisis.

Perhaps it’s because I’m watching a sudden shift in not only my own perception of my world, but also because there’s been distinct movement among my social groups and the geographical locations of my closest friends of late. It’s not necessarily disconcerting so much as it is a call for reflection. (That’s a lie; it’s terrifying in the same way that Vitamin C song Graduation Day is bittersweet and veiled under the falsehood that you’ll be “friends forever.”)

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not so much a “crisis” (although at times it most definitely is) as it is the natural ebb and flow of things, which are supposed to change as we age and hit specific developmental milestones. Somewhere (on a browser, obviously, but which one? and which computer? and which folder? and when?), I have a bookmark that will lead me to an article about different life stages. That’s a less than thrilling description of it, of course, but I remember being quite fascinated by it.

Lately, I’ve been reminded how people come into your life, and leave it or stay. It’s the same ebb and flow, the constant strengthening and weakening of bonds . I have looked around at the people who I care about the most and I am filled with awe at the immensity of the webs of my life that have been woven while I was busy elsewhere, otherwise occupied.

Obviously I have my family, who have endured my presence (I’m joking; they absolutely love me) since my birth, who have loved me from my adorable infancy through my gangling nerd years through the goth phases all the way to now. (My little cousin, who’s 11, was asking me about my red hair in high school. “Your hair was so weird,” she told me. I don’t necessarily disagree, but it’s harsh to have to answer to the embarrassing photographic evidence of your adolescence.)

And then there are my friends. The people who come into your life and who shape you in more ways than you will ever know. They are the people who know you better than you know yourself, the people who love you, support you, and stick by you even when things get weird. (And things are going to get weird.)

I’ve had many moments where I’ve been able to look at my friends and think about how amazing each and every one of them is. But sometimes, it’s that collective larger vision that comes from removed inspection that impacts you the most. It hit me a few weekends ago, in the middle of an indoor improvised dance floor. I had that flash of pure bliss, the one that overfills your heart and spills into your body and eventually, reaches up into your soul.

It’s the collective that we create, that we participate in, and the narratives that stem from those creations that form the most bountiful parts of our lives. They are the main artery in our life stories, the paths we so often stumble down. I am so lucky to have a group of friends to share the journey with. These relationships, each its own particular bond, form the basis of our identities and provide reprieve from and insight into our world.

Sometimes, it’s worth a reminder that we are each individually loved by a multitude of people, that our own strengths allow us to contribute to something larger than ourselves and that our weaknesses can be overcome by surrounding ourselves with the kinds of people that we admire, respect, and most importantly, enjoy.

Stepping back to look at the people who comprise our lives can be nice reminder of how what we put out into the world (all of the good things: compassion, support, positivity, humor, love, goodwill) can bring back untold benefits and joy. Or as my brother would say, “You’re too blessed to be stressed.”

On Resetting

He used a metaphor of outstretched palms trying to hold an ever-increasing load of books. Every single book is a source of stress in your life. At some point, you can no longer hold onto the books, and the lot of them will come tumbling down to land at your feet. That’s what this last weekend was for me. Desperately trying to maintain some semblance of normal in the face of being overwhelmed, I overdid it, and the result was disastrous.

It’s now Thursday; I am sicker than I’ve been in a while, and thoroughly worn out. But on the plus side, the worst of it all seems to have passed and my mood seems to have brightened as my energy has returned.

I was worried about how silly I looked this weekend (exhaustion, emotional panic, and whiskey are a potent combination), but my mom was quick to reassure me that this is all uncharacteristic and that the people who know and love me know that. “How are you supposed to explain everything to someone who has no idea?” she asked. “You can’t. And you can’t be expected to.” I felt better.

You can never make certain things go away, but you can change them. You can turn them into something positive, if you try hard enough. You can work to move past them so instead of them ruling you, you rule them.

Now that the worst of it has passed, I am still not sure how I’m going to stop working 60 hours a week. I am still not sure what I’m going to do next. But I do know that these past few days have been the reprieve that I needed to reset myself and find my balance.

I always tease my friend Britt about Marines being such babies, because whenever he gets sick, he needs me to take care of him. I once asked him why he never takes care of me when I’m sick, and he responded that I never get sick. He’s right. I have the immune system of a horse (not sure that’s an applicable metaphor or not, but going with it), but when I get sick, I’m laid out. He came over with soup and a cupcake, both of which were delicious, and then held me while we caught up on Game of Thrones episodes that we’d missed.

Carlos is going to be very grumpy when I have to go back to work tomorrow; he’s been spoiled with eighteen hours of snuggling per day and I know that my absence will annoy him.

I love his beast face.

And above all, I am so grateful for Tobias.

“I’m serious,” he said. “I’ve met tens of thousands of people in my life. You are one of the most positive people I know. Your energy is infectious.”

“You’re one of those rare lights in the universe,” he told me. “I only wish you could see how bright your light is.”

I smiled.

“I’ll keep repeating it until you believe it,” he said. I finally laughed.

On Taking Time, Thoughtfully

I woke up Friday morning crying. I sobbed the whole way into work. It was ridiculously uncharacteristic, and it was in that moment that I knew something was wrong. On Saturday, I saw my therapist for an equally uncharacteristic Saturday session. As it turns out, there is a perfectly rational explanation for what happened: One of the blog posts I read last week upset me and triggered an emotional storm. I had no idea that was even possible. Obviously, I’ve read a lot about triggers through the course of my studies, but I’d never experienced it firsthand.

He explained that the first few times this happens, you have no idea what is going to set you off, but something brings all of those emotions back to the surface. He reassured me that this is all normal, and that eventually, I’ll be able to recognize triggers before they sneak up on me.

It’s a wake-up call in a few different ways, but mostly it’s a reminder for me that I need to make time in my life for relaxation and recovery. I’ve been pushing myself so hard for so long, and something has to give. I have too many jobs, I work too many hours, and I don’t have enough time to reset. Instead, I find myself wound up, pushed to the limits, and exhausted.

Someone told me that I’m high-strung on Friday night, and to a certain extent, they’re right. But I do think that my inability to find time to relax is contributing to a higher level of high-strung Katie. My phrase for 2013 is “do less.” I”m trying to find a better sense of balance between work and relaxation, and  my hope is that I can find a happy medium soon that includes less work and more life.

I am lucky enough to have some of the most lovely and supportive friends on this planet. My gratitude for them is unending and impossible to quantify. I may be high-strung, but I have moments of calm, I swear, and I feel that with their support, the past few months have been far easier than they would have been otherwise. I am looking forward to a bright summer full of days playing frisbee in parks, eating cheese and drinking wine sitting on a picnic blanket. It will be wonderful.

I told work that I was going to take a few days off to relax. People asked me what I was going to do. I wasn’t sure. I giggled today, suddenly shy about an entire unplanned day, and said that I might lay on the couch and watch some Real Housewives. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Today, I woke up, I had brunch, I ran errands with a friend, I saw a movie, I had soup. It was very magical.

This weekend was an adventure, and today, I woke up sick. Of course. I take time off of work to reset and I end up sick. I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning, so I’ll be up early braving the snow. After, I’m going to get coffee, come home, and lounge.

On the Weekend, Happily

I truly believe that sometimes life hands you exactly what you need when you least expect it. I believe that radiant joy can be found in the strangest of places, like a crowded bar or during an impromptu adventure sometime during the darkest hours of the night.

Last week, my horoscope said that my personal winter was over. As I read it, I sighed in relief. (I don’t care if you don’t put stock in horoscopes, I believe that even the slightest suggestion of positivity can work wonders, and thus, I allow them into my heart, hoping that they’ll plant the seeds of sustainable hope.)

The past few months have been quite the journey, testing me in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to withstand. Whenever I feel like quitting, I laugh and think of my brother quoting Wedding Crashers, “Rule number 76,” he’ll yell, “no excuses. Play like a champion.” As soon as I posted that rather melancholy blog post last week about how down I felt at work and with life, I imagined what Mike would say. He’d have told me to stop focusing on the negative and to count my blessings, to cultivate the positive in my thoughts and in my life.

And I did.  The universe responded in kind, rewarding me with a weekend so full of joy and adventure that even through the exhaustion, there was no possibility but to be happy. So here we are. Spring. New beginnings. Renewed strength. Hope. Joy.

Exhausted from my third fifteen-hour work day last week, I went home Friday night and collapsed into bed. I’m so disappointed – I finished the three seasons of The League that Netflix has to offer and now I’m not sure what to work through. I could finish Breaking Bad, or Mad Men, or ….the possibilities are endless, and overwhelming. 

Saturday brought babysitting. I had two of the three girls. We painted, and did some stretching (we call it yoga, but it’s not yoga at all), and read some stories. I painted Carlos and a birthday card for Jacob.

I went home, got my nails done with Gina (oh yes, the simple joy of a pedicure and gel fill is like best kind of joy), went to my cousin’s birthday with my family – Happy 32nd, Brian! – and then went to meet up with Jacob for his birthday.

I usually have a “no drinking in heels” rule, but I just got some wedges that are so adorable that the rule had to be amended to “no shots in heels.” I danced, quite happily, and then managed to clumsily drop both a glass of ice and a cup half-full of gin and tonic. If you’re looking for a graceful woman, I am in no way your girl.

In all fairness, I was so nervous. For the first time in a long time, I have a crush on a boy developing and I’m panicking. “Be cool” is not a phrase that exists in my life dictionary. Also curiously missing is “Remember to breathe.”

We ended up chasing the dawn, a small party filled with music and couches and warm PBR. (I owe someone beer. Remind me to check on that. I hate drinking beer without giving back; it makes me feel terrible inside.) At some point, I grew bold and reached for his hand, and as our fingers came together, it was simultaneously terrifying yet familiar.

I danced. I talked to new people. I drove home and accidentally let the cat out and spent five minutes chasing him around the yard as dawn broke around me. The chirping of the birds sounded like mockery and I groaned as I finally secured the black beast and held him tight against my chest, pressing my face into his furry head with relief at his safe capture.

I woke up, threw on hipster shorts, and went to brunch with Jacob and Ben. We wandered down Colfax, bringing coconut water to a friend who’d joined us for the evening and who had to work early. We went to Cheeseman Park, pulling some sheets from my trunk to lay on. Just as we’d settled into the grass, the sky grew dark, the air suddenly biting with cold wind. Desperate for summer, we stripped down to our shorts, but frozen in the wind, we huddled under the sheets. It was miserable, and as we headed back to the car, it started to sleet/hail – small soft balls of ice shattering against my windshield.

I went home, napped, and then went to work. By the time I got there, I was wrung out, ready for a respite from consciousness, and thoroughly not prepared to be fully present. I told Evan that if I stopped, I’d most likely fall asleep, and we settled into a frantic rhythm as we helped the customer after customer who came in never-ending waves. I was laughing, though, delighted by my life and in the hilarity of the present moment, and the night passed easily.

I teased Evan about being a professional just as I nearly overflowed the strawberry container, and we had a discussion about his favorite physicist as we wiped down the store. At one point, I turned to Evan and muttered something about “….the inevitable existential crises” that result from our (under)employment at Dairy Queen. He laughed and nodded. I imagine that I won’t work there much longer after he goes; he’s my partner in crime, the other half of the A-Team. The lighthearted and yet mindful banter we engage in both enriches my life and keeps me entertained.

***

Totally off-topic, but then again, when am I ever fully on-topic?

Recently, my favorite pair of jeans resurfaced from the depths of the house, the same place all the socks must go. They are the first “nice” pair of jeans I ever owned, purchased when I was 21. They have traveled with me to countless cities, and they’ve been worn down to the soft point where they’re like pajamas. (The back pockets are also ripping, so it’s a “wear at your own risk or with big underwear” situation.) I put them on today, reveling in their nostalgic magic. But then I got to work and I remember why I won’t wear them anymore: as you wear them, they start to expand, as tired pants are wont to do. By noon, they’re now like two sizes bigger than they were when I put them on this morning. So you know, that’s less than thrilling. Perhaps they’ll have to become house-bound lounge pants from now on.

On Easter Weekend, Catholic Guiltily

Those of you who know me know that I’m not big on holidays. I enjoy them, certainly, but they bring such a source of stress for me that I usually pretend they’re not happening until I’m obligated to attend some holiday-related event.

Easter is not terribly stressful. You might go to church, you might go on a Easter egg hunt, you’ll most likely eat ham. (Last night, as she was helping me cook dinner, my friend Emily declared, “I’m pretty sure no one actually likes ham. You just eat it out of habit.” I think she’s onto something.) For the lapsed Catholics like myself, Easter is a good holiday to hang out with family and a great reminder that it’s time to start welcoming spring.

Easter throwback – 2007. Chicago, Illinois. Too bad I didn’t have this outfit this weekend; it would have been perfect!

We hosted another party this past weekend. After all of the fallout from the last party, we decided to call it “Ashes to Ashes: The Resurrection.” So naturally, it was Easter-themed. I panicked, because last time, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear.

This time, I found myself lacking not only direction, but conviction as well. Apparently, Catholic guilt is a seriously real thing: I didn’t want to go too far down the road to hell with my heresy, but I also wanted to have fun.

I found myself at Goodwill with two of my friends the afternoon of the party. At that point, I was still considering some sort of Eve-inspired outfit, or something Easter-egg-esque. Then we came to the undergarment rack. It’s actually great – I got a white slip for $2! Ben suggested that I buy a blue nightgown and I found a white robe to go over it. I also purchased some pink pajama pants and a pink silk shirt, thinking that I could wear those with my Easter bunny ears and be some sort of Easter bunny. (In the end, the pink was horrible. As we were checking out, I asked Jacob if you could return things to Goodwill. “You always re-donate them,” he said. That is exactly what I will be doing.)

The best thing about having a house is having a washer and dryer for when you buy undergarments at Goodwill and need to wash them before you wear them out in public but you only have two hours to get ready.

As I was getting ready, tossing nearly every article of clothing I own around my room, I imagined myself much like Lucille Bluth home alone. In the end, I donned the blue nightgown and the white robe and was quite content with my “Virgin Realness” ensemble. It was soft, which is my number one requirement for clothing, it fit, and it was sort of pretty. (Katie would later tell me that I looked like something out of The Great Gatsby, which I took as a high compliment.)

Jacob and I:

These photos were taken by the very talented Paul – I am eternally grateful that he cut the shoes I was wearing out of each shot. You have no idea how hard it is to find shoes that match undergarment outfits. I considered some shoes that I bought when I was 17 and still haven’t worn in public – they’re lovely, over-the-top sparkling heels with camel colored bows on the toes, but my feet slip out of them. I did a test run around the kitchen, realized they wasn’t going to fly, and ended up selecting some very gorgeous but not-quite-right heels. By the end of the night, I was back in flats.

Jacob and I had to run across the street to buy some batteries for a light-up headdress, and the cashier asked us if we were in a play. We mumbled something incomprehensible and slipped out, trying to contain our laughter.

It was so good to see everyone. I loved the energy of the crowd, the positive vibes and genuine happiness radiating out of everyone led to a very successful evening. It was over all too soon, and I was dragging myself home for sleep before the family packed Easter Sunday.

We went to see my dad’s family and had brunch with them. I’d worked from 8:30 in the morning until 11:30 on Friday night and then turned around and opened Dairy Queen on Saturday, so I was exhausted. By the time we’d finished our afternoon Easter dinner at my mom’s house, I was ready for a nap. I crawled up to her bed and slept for an hour.

My little neighbor was so cute – she had gotten a little stuffed bunny for Easter and so I held her and she rested the bunny on my shoulder. Pretty soon, she’ll be too big for me to carry, unless I magically develop more muscles, so I want to make sure I take full advantage of the time I have left.

My little cousins got hair chalk – apparently that’s a thing. We covered our clothes in towels and got down to the hair chalking business. It’s fun! I ended up covered in pink and green, but I had Medusa-like green chalk curls briefly. The little one, who’s six, ended up with bright pink hair. She was so excited about it.

On Sunday night, I tried to introduce my brother to Game of Thrones. We’ve still got free HBO for another month, so I intend to take full advantage of it. He sat with me while we watched the third season premiere. It’s really hard to explain everything. I finally got to the point where I’d just say, “good guy,” “bad guy” to help him differentiate between the characters. Hopefully he’ll start it from the beginning and fall in love with it like I have. (I’ve been terrible and haven’t read the books yet….it’s on my list, I swear!)

I hope your Easter was lovely!

On Hate, Sadly but Love, Optimistically (Legitimately)

no8, marriage equality, gay rights, human rights, love,

A glimpse of the “Mermaid’s Tears” nails to start your day. But more importantly, let’s chat about the gays. (I’ve scribbled a symbol for marriage equality across my ring finger.)

Emily came over for our girls night last night – since GIRLS is over, we ended up making mac and cheese and then funfetti cupcakes. Delicious. We had to chase the cat-beast because he got out and hid under the stairs. (Scary. I don’t want him to escape because if he does, he might get eaten by a wild animal. And my heart…..oh my heart would break into thousands of pieces. I’d be inconsolable.)

We were talking about friendship. We’ve been friends since high school – she was afraid of me until we went on the forensic science trip to Ireland/London, where we absolutely bonded.

We were talking about unconditional love and acceptance – the kind that goes with friendship. We talked about how valuable it is to have a strong support system, the kind where you can be your true self, the kind where you can share your fears and your heartbreaks and your successes.

Why the long lead-in? (What? You don’t care about my cat or what I ate for dinner last night?!)

For me, knowing that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Hollingsworth v Perry
– 
the gay marriage debate has reached the Supreme Court! – is such progress, such a monumental advancement, such a terrifying time. This ruling, although it most likely won’t be handed down for some time, is such an important map of the future of our country and the future of civil rights as we know them.

What does this have to do with friendship, with solidarity?

As it turns out, I sometimes worry that I don’t have a diverse enough friend group. And by that, I mean that I sometimes worry that I need more straight friends. (Kidding, mostly. Mike and I were talking about our friend groups after the adoption panel a few weeks ago – he’s got a very racially diverse friend group and I’ve got a diverse friend group that includes a wide range of people in all professions, age groups, walks of life, and sexual orientations.)

One thing that I’m grateful for is that I exist in such a welcoming, open space. My friends are people who love and respect and genuinely welcome diversity. I often find myself the lone straight girl in a group, and instead of allowing that to remove me from it, I embrace it. Honestly, I don’t even notice it anymore. The people I hang out with are my friends first, gays and straights and whatever else second….a far second.

Marriage is something that I want some day. It’s something that I want for myself and for each of my friends (each of them who wants to be married, of course). My hope, a hope that springs from a place of love, from a place of peace, and from a place of community, is to someday attend the weddings of the people who I care the most about; it is to know that should something happen, both partners have the full protections that legal marriage can offer them; it is to know that love has overcome hate and that we have known the peace that can come after hard work and struggle to promote change.

I hope that future generations understand the full weight of this upcoming decision and that they understand the amount of work that so many people have put in to make this a national discussion. I also hope they sit back and shake their heads with disgust as they think about the people who tried so hard to prevent this. I hope that my children think that gay marriage is common sense; that being gay is natural; that it’s okay to be who you are. I hope they don’t have to fear for their lives or defend themselves against attacks based on who they are, what they look like, who they love.

Because at the end of the day, it comes down to love and community. There’s nothing I want more than a community based on love and support, the kind that comes from strong friendships and shared goals.

It’s love. It’s more than religion or politics. It’s love. Love is the stuff that makes the world go ’round. Love is the life force that drives us, that moves us, that picks us up and leaves us breathless. What kind of monster would you have to be to deny love? (As soon as I typed that, I started thinking of certain kinds of weird love that we should deny. But my point stands: between consenting adults, love – the kind of love that makes them want to commit to each other in the eyes of the law – is a beautiful, natural thing that should be revered, celebrated, shouted out, and respected.)

 

Edit: [Typing with long, reptile claw nails is ridiculously difficult. I’ve been making serious errors everywhere. If you were to somehow calculate correct usage of the English language and keep a chart of it, you’d see a sudden drop-off in exactness, or even near-ness. I feel like I’m just banging on the keyboard and hoping that words come out. Ugh. First world problems, I know. But seriously. Try it some time. Example – last night, I tried to unwrap a fresh cupcake. Could I do it? No. Weak. It was the ultimate in shame.]

On Spring, Expectantly

What is it about the first hints of spring that incite a need for motion? I feel as though the minute the scent of the forthcoming growth stings the nostrils I have the urge for adventure, for chasing the dawn, for stars and night frisbee. (Night frisbee is my weakness. It gets me every time.)

This weekend brought warmth and the promise of summer heat – that first day that makes you shed your shoes and run outside, only to find that the ground is still cold and damp. Those are the days when you don’t care, you let the mud seep up between your toes and you relish it, knowing that soon enough, you won’t be cold.

Last night, as I left the restaurant where I was having second dinner with a couple of friends, I smelled summer. In my mind, I was no longer walking down a dark street in early March. I was suddenly walking down a dark street in June. It’s that smell that transports you, that reminds you of soft streetlights and sangria shared with friends. It’s the smell that calls you to the park, to sit on blankets, to listen to jazz. Oh, it’s the best.

When I was little, there was always that first really warm day before spring. I’d open all of my bedroom windows and run out to the backyard, where I’d begin to dig around in the still-frozen garden. My toes would be freezing because I was (still am) always barefoot and too stubborn to put on real shoes.

I had a dream last night about that garden, and about the wild green onions that used to grow there, and how I’d pull them, and chop them, and put them into pretend stews that I’d create using mud and sticks. My hands would reek of onion for days, but it was always so worth it. In my dream, they were there, growing sooner than ever, their green tops sticking out of the earth. They were wonderful. I smelled the spring and I woke content.

***

Speaking of things from the earth (what? totally legitimate seque, I swear), Katie and I juiced yesterday. She’s into making juices and I am into drinking juices, so this was bound to happen eventually. We ended up at the grocery store, loading up on fruits and veggies, before heading back to her house and breaking out the juicer. It’s quite the ordeal, with all the cutting and washing and juicer setup taken into account.

I had so much fun and I only cut myself once – great success. We made two different kinds – one green, one beet/orange. (I have such a thing for beet juice, but have never tried to do it myself since I’m intimidated by fresh beets. – That’s not weird at all, either.)  I think it’s something I may have to look into getting into. It could be fun. Or alternately, a piece of kitchen equipment that hangs out in my cabinets, collecting dust.

On Joy, Happily

The shameless hipster that lives in me felt the need to post this quote today. The impulsive emoter (psssh, it’s a word now) that shares the space agrees. Deal with it.

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

– Jack Kerouac

After spending the better part of the last month fighting a strange bout of utterly consuming melancholy, I seem to have emerged radiating joy. I can feel good energy flowing around me, and I’ve noticed that the world seems to be noticing that as well. I’ve been having the best conversations with friends and strangers; I’ve been smiling and laughing; I’ve been hooked by the promise of what is still to come.

I heard someone talking about what they’ve learned about grief and pain – they said that someone once told them that instead of fighting it, you should just let the waves of emotion wash over you. I did exactly that. Instead of struggling, I let the seemingly infinite sadness surround me.

Apparently, my life force was too much for the sadness, and I’ve been returned to my usual state of good humor. Oh, how I had missed it. This weekend was my first full-on return to joyous revelry.

I ended up in Boulder on Friday night at a show that my friends were excited about. They told me that some guy named Dave Au Jus would be playing…and all I could imagine was a man holding a French dip sandwich. As it turns out, there were no sandwiches nor a man who spells his last name Au Jus (très disappointing on both counts). The man, Dave Aju, was more amazing than a sandwich. I had a blast. I forget how much I like to dance. As much as I gently ridicule my friends for their love of “techno parties,” I’ve never had a bad time at one and I always end up having some sort of excellent adventure.

An excellent adventure it was. I ended up on a porch at an after-party trying to find Orion in the sky – I was extremely disappointed to find that the night had progressed so far that he had slipped away, but the people around me were kind enough to provide me with their sky maps so that I could search. (Note to self: find more constellations to love. I can find Jupiter, sometimes, or Cassiopeia, but other than that, I’ve got nothing. Not even the Big Dipper.) I slipped back into my house at 6 am, an hour I’ve not seen from the side of night in ages, desperate to find sleep before the sun started to creep into the sky.

***

Saturday brought a lingering breakfast of coffee and bagels, then babysitting. I didn’t see the girls last week, and it’s funny how much I missed them. From there, it was off to get ready for the drag ball and Emily’s birthday celebration.

This is the lovely birthday girl!

My costume and a direwolf – he made that himself and the hood was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I would very much like to own one.

More of us, but with my wig:

Since it was a drag ball, there were categories that people would walk in to win trophies and glory. I ended up judging at the last minute because one of the judges didn’t show. It was part terrifying, part really fun.

Jacob and Gina are beautiful people – Jacob won the (S)Executive Realness category for his stunning outfit and walking ability. (You should have seen the suit jacket he wore.)

Sunday brought brunch – if you ever need to lure me out of bed, just say “brunch” and I’m there. You might also want to say “bacon,” “gravy,” or “mimosas.”  Then I’ll hurry.

After the drag ball, there was quite a flurry of internet activity, mostly comments about the party the night before. The original “Denver is Burning” drag ball was held last year in a DIY space. The party was a smashing success. It wasn’t repeated due to space issues – it’s really hard to find a good place to hold a sweet party sometimes.

[Odd side note – that silver cuff that I wear was gifted to me by an artist who was painting in the same building that night. I wandered in and apologized for bothering him, but I was fascinated by his work. He gave me the cuff and a necklace. It’s become one of my most treasured possessions, and I think of that man fondly every time I wear it.]

The chief dissenting comments discussed voguing, ball culture in general, and racial issues related to all of it. It is frustrating to see such good intentions be torn apart by misunderstanding. It also reminds me that Denver’s racial demographics aren’t conducive to creating the underground ball scene that Harlem saw in times past. Denver just isn’t that diverse.

Granted, some of the categories were a bit weird. Game of Thrones? Totally shouldn’t have been a category (even though I loved it). But it was awesome. I wish you could have been there – there was music and dancing, and I ran into friends that I haven’t seen in ages. Everyone looked amazing, and free, and happy. Isn’t that what life is all about? (Minus the looking amazing part. Just the free and happy part.)

Some people were frustrated about what they perceived to be the over-involvement of white people. As a white person who spends a ton of time in the gay/queer scene, I find it frustrating that people are so quick to jump on race like that. I was born white and straight. I can’t help that. But it doesn’t mean that I should be excluded from activities because of my biological sex, my gender, my race, my sexual orientation, etc. (Isn’t all that inclusion what we’re all working for?! We’re working backwards if we can’t start to love people of all colors, genders, body types, hair colors, whatever. Also include my obligatory “understanding of white privilege” statement, but I’m not going any further into it because it doesn’t apply here.)

Plenty of appropriate thought was put into it – plenty of links about the origination of ball culture and voguing were shared in the lead up to the party. Plenty of respect is held by everyone for the original ball culture, the original intent of ball culture, and the struggles that people have faced while trying to achieve the equality, respect, and recognition that they deserve.

Ball culture will never be what it once was – it’s impossible, not because of people’s refusal to embrace tradition, but because of the fact that situations have changed drastically. The world is a different place now in some ways, and exactly the same in others. The people who threw this party wanted to be respectful of the past, but also embrace something new. It’s how things will work, communities will grow, and people can become more educated.

I think that it did open up a very important dialogue, but it was hard to watch the pain that my friends felt – they worked so hard, and with such pure intentions, to create something magical. I hope that this doesn’t stop more like this from happening in the future – Denver could use more of it, and needs people to remain involved and motivated to create beautiful things.

***

I returned home from brunch to be lazy and do nothing. It was lovely. I killed some bugs on the side of the house. (That’s a lie – I made my brother do it.) Then I did some googling about said bugs. They’re harmless but annoying, and I imagine that the Barrys vs bugs battle that will undoubtedly take place this coming spring and summer will be nothing short of frustrating. (I can be a very determined woman – those bugs haven’t seen anything yet.)

***

When I was 18, I dated a guy who always used to tell me he was going to make me a bunch of rocks that said “Katie” on them. So they’d be Katie rocks. (Get it? I rock!) This weekend, my phone dinged and told me I had a message – there, out of the blue, was a picture of a rock with my name on it. A Katie rock. The caption? “I know it’s been years, but you still rock.” My heart cracked into a million pieces and a huge smile spread across my face. It absolutely made my day.

***

And so now it’s back to work, back to reality, back to responsibility, but with a renewed energy. I’m back to being my radiant weird self and I’m beyond thrilled about it.

On Rape and Rising, Hopefully

[There are potential triggers in this post re: rape. Please do not proceed if this may make you uncomfortable.]

“Rape” is a four-letter word.

I’ve written before about my journey to the realization about the devastation of rape (I knew, but I didn’t know, you know?). Now that I’m fully aware of not only the physical effects but the emotional and psychological devastation caused by rape, I’m burning with rage about it.

My friends and I have spent a lot of time discussing the gray areas surrounding the concept of sexual assault and rape. It’s a harrowing topic, because the more it’s discussed, the more it doesn’t make sense anymore. There’s the “maybe” and the “I don’t know” and the “intent,” but at the end of the day, regardless of where any act stands on the spectrum, it’s a harmful, traumatic experience, period.

It was one of my friends, during a recent discussion about rape amazed me with his passion, who reminded me why it’s not a fruitless endeavor to fight for change. His anger, his emphasis, the sincerity in his voice – it brought me out of the removed apathy that so many of us don when we’re hesitant. It brought me into the present; it ignited a part of my soul.

They say that rape is about power, and I guess that to a certain extent it is. But it’s more than that, too. It’s about having your power taken from you. Rape, gray area rape or legitimate rape or date rape or sexual assault or whatever else you can think to call it, takes away your power. It makes you feel weak inside. It makes you skittish and scared; it makes you hurt all over; it makes you burn with shame, even though you know that it’s not your fault.

It’s under-reported. I can empathize with those women (or men) who for any number of reasons, cannot report it, and suffer in silence. I think of the Kobe Bryant trial. I don’t care whether or not it was rape – look at what happened to the victim. She was shamed, called horrible names, doubted, had her life spread before the eyes of the world and then slowly dismantled to be examined. So often, it comes down to “he said, she said” and nothing can be proven.

(I should note here that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people assume that women are “crying rape” for attention. I don’t think anyone should ever misreport anything, and it’s disgraceful to do it – but at the same time, every time someone reports something, people are so quick to make critical judgments and I think that says a ridiculous amount of negative things about humanity.)

The statistic that 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped within her lifetime is terrifying. One billion women. One billion. (I’m imaging Mike Meyers as Dr. Evil saying “one million dollars” right now….)

Think about that number. Really think about that. What does that say? What does that say about men? What does that say about our tolerance for violence? What does that say about our inclination to make women bear the brunt of the responsibility for actions committed against them?

The world is not a safe place. It never has been. But that’s not an excuse for us to stop working toward something better. I hate the idea that women are weak. I hate it. But I understand it.

During college, I took a Transgender English class – liberal arts, I know – and we read a story about a college professor who transitioned from male to female. I hated the book at the time – she wrote about embracing femininity in a way I found to be so shallow, materialistic, and stereotypical. She wrote about the vulnerability that she felt when she felt the wind between her thighs when she was wearing a skirt.

I disregarded the notion entirely. But I have gained new insight. I do understand the vulnerability. I am glad that I never realized my own vulnerability while I was living in Chicago or staying in Cape Town. I’m glad that I was bull-headed and street-smart enough to be safe.

No amount of “right decisions” can protect you. No amount of preparedness can keep you from harm. There is no such thing as safety. It’s all merely an illusion. That’s what we’ve come to as a society. Our gated communities and fancy security guards are nothing. Trust is irrelevant, an outdated idea shirked in favor of deceit and false self-truths.

Enough is enough. Listen to Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues!) say some powerful stuff about the movement called “One Billion Rising.” People are breaking their silence. They’re letting go of the discomfort that they feel when discussing something as taboo as rape and sexually motivated violence. They’re realizing that something needs to change. People need to be held accountable for their actions. People need to fundamentally respect other people.

Rape is a preventable crime. It’s not preventable in the ways that have been suggested in the past, such as “dress more conservatively.” I forget who originally made the counter-point to this, but it’s so incredibly valid: what does that say about men? That they’re little more than wild beasts who will be unable to control themselves at the sight of flesh? That argument in itself is disgraceful to men and to women.

What I wear or do not wear cannot be construed as an invitation for rape or violence. What I do or say or act like cannot be construed as an invitation for rape of violence. There is no valid excuse. None at all.

We need to teach our young men that “no means no.” We need to teach them that power can be gained through other avenues that are more rewarding than acts of violence aimed at belittling and degrading other people. We need to emphasize respect – actions have consequences. Even if you can’t see the harm that’s been done, it’s there. We need to dispel the myth that sex is something to be taken, something to be claimed.

We need to remind all women that their voices and experiences matter. We as a global society need to value our women, rather than marginalizing them and quieting their voices. We need to remind women to be strong – we need to assure them that we’ll support them, heal them, and lift them up.

No one can be an island. We’re not in this fight alone. Globalization necessitates cooperation and conviction. We must work together to stop this perpetuation of violence, of hatred, of fear. Sexual violence against women (and men, too) has long been used as the ultimate bargaining tool, a source of shame and ultimate destruction. We must stop it. We must make it so that our people are free from the terror of vulnerability.

The world is willing to work for change – it’s time for us to realize that the capacity for human compassion and love is ever-present. This is a beautiful thing. Love is the essence of humanity – it keeps us strong and humble. Love is something we need to work on teaching our children. With a strong foundation, they will be less likely to take from others what they cannot find in themselves.

On the Weekend Recap, Productively

This weekend passed far too quickly, but it was wonderful.

On Friday night, I met my friends Jacob and Gina for dinner at my favorite Thai place. It used to be two blocks from my apartment, but now that I live across town, I don’t get there nearly often enough. (Order is always the same: an order of crab-cheese wontons with extra house sauce, pineapple curry, medium. Jacob and I usually share a bottle of their house red wine, too.)

Then I went to a friend’s soccer game. Well, sort of. His roommate and I ended up waiting forever for food, so we missed everything but the last two minutes of the game. (Oops.) I spent all of Saturday doing nothing on the couch – it was amazing. I never get days to do nothing, so doing nothing felt so good.

We always joke that I would make a terrible housewife since I’m not well-versed in the art of cooking. Or cleaning. My friends had a joint birthday party on Saturday night, and it was a snack potluck. In the middle of panicking about what to bring, I decided on bacon-wrapped, cream cheese-stuffed jalapenos, because everyone loves those. I went to the store, bought a bunch, made a bunch – it took forever – and then brought them to the snack potluck. They were a huge hit, which pleased me greatly.

Here’s a semi-gross picture of the final product:

Bacon wrapped cream cheese stuffed jalapenos

The party was awesome – there was so much food. Gina made the most delicious carrot cake I’ve ever tasted, then we made cream cheese frosting for it. We ended up with two cakes – one that said “Happy Birthday” and then another that said “Erica and Justin.”

My Dairy Queen cake-writing skills transferred nicely to the house party setting. I wasn’t so terribly thrilled with my handwriting, but it was suitable and made them happy, so I’m not complaining.

On Sunday, I worked. I feel like we’re staffed by a seriously high percentage of over-qualified people, and I’m grateful for it. A lot of us have been there forever, too, so we’ve known each other for years. It makes work interesting and reminds me how important it is to have a cohesive team. My friend Evan has graduated from college and is back at Dairy Queen awaiting word on some jobs that he wants to do – in the meantime, he’s got a bunch of qualifying tests to take, so we spent Sunday afternoon playing with words and quizzing each other.

At one point, my junior high math and social studies teacher came in. She didn’t recognize me (thank G-d). She caused me much grief during those fragile, hormone-addled years, and I hate her for it. (Seriously embarrassing but somehow hilarious story – when I was in 7th grade, I didn’t get into the “fast track” math section that would do Algebra in 8th grade. I got stuck in the “slow track” section that did two years of pre-algebra. When I found out the news, I stood at the window of the classroom, fighting back tears. A few months ago, I found myself sobbing – absolutely breaking down – on my therapist’s couch about that incident. It somehow totally changed my ability to see myself as intelligent, and I had no idea that I’d been carrying it around with me for so long. In the middle of my crying, I turned to my therapist and sobbed, “You can’t make this shit up,” to which he responded by laughing so hard his body shook – while apologizing for laughing. He wasn’t wrong. It’s funny, sad, and true, all at once.) So, of course, rather than stand by my co-worker while he rang up her purchases, I did the mature thing and went to the back – where no customers can see – and busied myself with some unnecessary task until she’d left and it was safe to go back up front.

I went to Jacob’s belated holiday party last night. It was fun. I didn’t know anyone, so I tried to muster up the energy to be social and make small talk. It was good – I was bubbly and talkative for a while, but then was saved when my friend’s roommate texted me and asked me if I would edit a paper for him. (I love to read people’s papers.)

Tonight is my weekly girls’ night with Emily – we watch the show GIRLS on HBO (she DVRs it for us); we cook dinner; we drink wine; we do our nails; we bake something. It’s a surprisingly low-key and very calming way to start the week. I’m excited. Tonight we’re making chili.