On “The Journey,” Triumphantly

It’s timely, because here we are again, exploring another rape, another assault, another gray area – this story about a CNN anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, who read the majority of the letter from victim of sexual assault during the sentencing of her attacker, filled me with hope – not because of the rape, of course, but because of the content of the letter itself.

This woman, this victim, this beautifully articulate human being, writes so purely and so beautifully – it was exactly the feeling that I felt, and exactly the feeling that I feel, continuously, onwardly, to this very day. This woman’s brave statement, and the willingness of the anchor who read that statement out loud to the public – and the network, which isn’t always known for their dedication to true journalism, is a testament to the ongoing negative effects of sexual assault, a testament to the fact that lives are changed, to the fact that sleep is lost, to the fact that everything is upsetting, to the fact that life is never the same. It is a testament to the fact that forgiveness does not come easily, to the fact that the hurt cuts deep, to the fact that the actions of another can shape your future in ways that you never imagined.

I never got the chance to write that letter, and yet, I am so grateful to this woman for writing the letter that she wrote. For me, it is much of what I never got to say, and it is a beautiful rendering of pain, reflection, and request for justice, which she will not get. But….I hope so much that people hear her words and are moved. This is beautiful. This hurts, but in the best way. It feels like solidarity. It feels like understanding. It feels like progress, even if it’s only progress because she was heard.

***

We are what we are; we are what we have experienced. We are what we choose to be. Lately, I’ve been floating on a cloud of bliss brought on by the beautiful lightness of letting go. I am choosing to be free.

A few weeks ago, boyfriend and I went to a meditative healing seminar called, “The Journey.” When he first told me about it, I was skeptical, as one is. I agreed to go, not because I thought I’d find healing, but because I was curious, or at least because certain circumstances had led me to believe that there might be something there. I had thought of situations that I knew of that were similar to the one described by the author of the book, “The Journey,” and the ever-skeptical part of me, or perhaps the ever-hopeful part, was swayed. It wasn’t until I ended up in the ER with the ovarian cyst that I thought, ah, maybe, and consented to the weekend seminar.

Even as we approached it, I thought to myself, this is ridiculous; what am I getting myself into? And I knew, because I had read the book, that there was healing and self-introspection involved, and so I had created fake issues that might need to be discovered, just on the off chance that I found myself needing to have resolved some issues, because I didn’t want to be put on the spot, panicked and nervous because I didn’t have the right answer.

Alas, it was nothing like that. Nothing like that at all. It was the best thing ever.

Despite some early resistance – which occurred even in spite of my somewhat resigned determination to be open-minded – I ended up being open-minded and enjoying the hell out of myself. I felt the feelings fully, I met new people, I even made friends. So it wasn’t so bad.

The first morning, I was nervous, shaking hands with people I didn’t know and putting on the name tag and feeling silly for having begged boyfriend to bring me paper so that I could take notes, if necessary.

We jumped into it, and I felt awkward and alone. And yet, the curious part of me who loves to learn was intrigued, and so I allowed myself to open up into it, and found myself feeling layers of feelings. I had thought about New York (my past sexual assault and work situation), but had brushed it aside thinking it wasn’t the time or place…and yet…here I was, 10:30 on the first morning of a three-day seminar, feeling layers of feelings about it.

I was ready, almost.

I felt the hurt, the anguish, the shame, and then I dropped below that and I felt a rage I didn’t know was there. I felt it deeply in my core, my lower abdomen burning with anger. I hadn’t realized that under everything, I was angry. I knew that I had accepted what had happened; I knew that I had allowed myself to feel all of the general hurt and upset, but prior to that Saturday morning, I hadn’t realized how much rage was below. And so I felt the rage. I felt it through me. I felt it rising up inside of me and throughout me, and I let it be. I accepted it. And then we broke for lunch.

After lunch, we did our first Journey process, and by that point, I had nothing. I could not, for the life of me, feel what I had felt earlier. I wanted to feel that rage, to address it, but I couldn’t. I was out, empty. I limped along, not able to conjure up the feelings that I had felt earlier, feeling like a total fraud. I guided another woman through her own process, watching tears of realization come to her face, feeling jealous that I couldn’t feel that.

I went home that night, slightly annoyed, but now more curious than ever. Not that I had been expecting an outcome, but because I had honestly felt truly deep feelings that I hadn’t been able to explore. I was determined, as I get, and the next day dawned beautifully with boyfriend and I teaching acrobatic yoga to a couple that we’d met at the seminar the day before (and whom we’d absolutely loved).

And so we did more Journey work, and in that, I went through a process known as the Physical Journey – I opened myself, and let my mind wander and my body tell me what it knew. I went to my fingertips. There, I felt them hot and swollen, dirty. I remembered the first time I had felt that way, in middle school, when I started picking at my skin, my scalp, searching for imperfections and nervously grounding myself with contact. They felt that way when I didn’t have time to wash them after recess and returned to class. I felt that time, snapshots of childhood coming up and playing out. I went back there, and my process was amazing. I felt my younger self, I loved her, I communicated with her. I forgave her for not being perfect. It was a last-minute revisiting, and in that, I found a wisdom I’d never felt, something I’d never even seen. I forgave my younger self for not being perfect; for not keeping everything together (despite her best efforts); for falling apart with no one watching closely and for not crying out for help.

I came out of that Journey feeling a quiet in my hands that I haven’t felt in ages. I felt this quiet all through my core. My body was calm. My body is never calm. Boyfriend noticed immediately. “What did you do?” he asked me. “You feel different.”

I did feel different. I felt light. I felt solid. I felt still. Still. To feel still is such a fantastic feeling. My fingers didn’t find my skin to pinch at it for the rest of the day, or for several days after that. (Actually, they haven’t been as curious as they usually are since then….my face has improved immensely, as has the rest of me. I am not tearing at myself with the same fervor as before, and I am thrilled, grateful, and peaceful.)

The next day, I called in sick to work to stay for the intensive part of the course. I’m so glad that I did.

We did several more processes, and I found myself connecting as a giver – I was able to feel and read people to whom I was “giving” the process, and in doing so, I felt so rewarded. One man exclaimed, “Holy shit you’re good!” in a very crowded, very quiet room. I was secretly thrilled.

So of course, when the afternoon came, and we were to try all of our new skills, I thought to myself, let’s do this! Let’s give up New York! And so I tried.

Oh man, did I try. I brought my old boss to this campfire of forgiveness, where you examine and converse and ultimately, forgive. And I was blocked. I couldn’t do it. I tried, and I tried, and I made it so that there was forgiveness, but it wasn’t right. I told boyfriend after (because he knew what I was up to, he’d seen the gleam in my eye), that I’d let my old boss off on a technicality. He knew I was unsettled; he was right.

On the way home, I shut down. I curled up into a tight ball and became unresponsive. Boyfriend was kind and gentle, but he knew I wasn’t all right; I knew it, too. We got home, and I took his house key and ran into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed and screamed into the pillows as though that might abate the pain that was swirling inside of me.

Boyfriend offered to do another Journey with me. Actually, he said that he knew I wasn’t done, and we both knew (“knew,” but on a deeper level of knowing) that I was ready and not done and ready — I wanted it so bad; I wanted to let go. I didn’t want to carry New York with me anymore.

And so we did. We leapt – our Journey process was nothing like the script they’d given us – it was three hours long (although for me, there was no time. It felt like a half an hour, maybe). Boyfriend held me while he guided me through a meditation that I led – he later told me that it’s a good thing he lives in a separate house and not a condo, because of my screaming and wailing, the police absolutely would have been called.

I let out my pain. I screamed; I shut down; I brought the emotion back; I held onto it. I imagined, and I re-lived, and I did the most amazing things. I cloned myself; I brought someone I had not expected to my campfire – my body knew, the wiser parts of me knew exactly what it was that I was holding onto – I ranted, raved, hated, threatened, felt, understood, cloned, felt, acknowledged, and finally, I let go, just a little bit. I burned everything. I cleansed myself in a healing firefall (which is exactly what it sounds like, a waterfall of fire – it was the water/firefall from the dream I had in February, and when I blissed through the peaceful layers to my hammock of water, it was that same water, but all water this time and no fire).

I ate a sandwich, in the middle of it, in the middle of my meditation I visited the cafe in my old office building and the woman there and her son made me a BLT (not a real sandwich, perhaps this one was just some soul food). My village – everyone who loves me, plus the cat – was there to hold me and be with me and help guide me.

Boyfriend held me through the whole thing. That, my friends, is love. That shit was not fun, nor was it easy. Might I remind you that I’m a hideous crier, so this wasn’t even slightly adorable. It was like Macbeth and Hamlet slammed together with an audio book of the Boondocks Saints – a lot of crazy shit happened, and a lot of rage. My body shook, my eyes welled and overflowed a hundred times; I screamed, I cried, I whispered, I whimpered; I begged, I conversed, I understood. And ultimately, I forgave, just a little bit. A teensy, tiny bit. 1%. Per day. For 100 days. Stupid, but doable, because I am a stubborn woman and I was not budging on the forgiveness part of it. But then I remembered I’m not a horrible person, and that I have a beautiful life, and as I let the gratitude parts of me overwhelm the desire to keep harboring the hate, the kindness won.

In the end, I was calm. In the end, I was secure. In the end, I felt peace. A thousand times peace. Safety. Warmth. Comfort. Security. Rocked gently in my dream water, my safe green space, warm and buoyant. Reassured. Cared for. Understood. Loved. Held.

I woke up the next day, and that feeling was still there. Grounded and still. I had realized what I had been holding on to, which wasn’t actually who I thought it was, and I let it go, a little bit.

I cannot explain to you the lightness that I felt, that I continue to feel. I can’t tell you how hard it was, or how wonderful, or the immense gratitude that swirls through me now. I want to, and I want to bring this gift to everyone who needs it. I want people to have the moments that I had, so that they can feel the letting go and the healing. I want people to fall asleep full, rather than full of rage. I want to share in that relief, that ecstasy, that peace. There is nothing that I want for the world than to feel that swell of hope and joy. I want to be able to give that to others, because I finally feel free of that horrible burden I’ve been carrying for so long, and I am at peace.

It feels fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Now I can direct my energy elsewhere, and I am finally, finally, gratefully, powerfully, blissfully free.

So I’m going to start practicing – if you’re curious, or you’d like to help me practice doing these Journey processes, send me an email, a text, a call, a fb message, carrier pigeon, whatever. I’d so love to share my excitement and see if I can help with this peace-bringing business. It’s totally not as insane as mine was – you can do 30 minutes and forgive that guy for cutting you off in traffic yesterday or understand why you’re so jealous of Becky with the good hair, or whatever. I just like to go big or go home, and in this case, I managed to do both.

 

 

 

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On the Weekend, Always Belatedly

Ah, the weekends. The 9-5 grind is exactly that, a grind, and by the end of the day, I’m generally exhausted. But the weekend provides me with roughly 55 hours of usable free time – 5pm Friday to midnight Sunday – and I try to make it a point to use as much of that time as possible.

Last weekend was no exception.

My mom had asked me if I’d like to bring the guy that I’m seeing to family dinner on Friday night – my favorite meal of the year, corned beef and cabbage – and I’d immediately declined the invitation. But then I thought about it, after telling him that I’d declined his invitation without even asking him. I realized that it probably wouldn’t be too bad if he met my people, so I re-invited him, nervously.

I’m known for bringing guys home to meet the family very early on – maybe it’s the sadist in me that likes to see them sweat, or maybe it’s that I want to see how they can manage themselves. My family is quite lovely, so it’s not like it’s difficult, but I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he interacts with your family in that sort of environment. Is he polite? Does he speak up? Is he patient? I’m impatient, usually polite, and always talking, so I need someone who can be patient, polite, and match my level of enthusiasm for the conversation. I love my family, and I want them to know the people I spend my time with, and for those people to know my family. Also, free food. Plus, my grandmothers are pretty fantastic people.

To my surprise, he said yes in the very best way. A long text message string of rap lyrics. I laughed out loud when I read it, and then immediately sent a few panicky emails to my grandmother, mom, and aunt, so that there’d be another place at the table and to make sure there was enough food. (I promised to eat less, if need be.)

And so that happened. I picked him up, ten minutes late (surprise, surprise), and we made our way the four blocks to my grandmother’s house (convenient). The evening was wonderful. He talked – he may have talked more than I did! (Ehhh, probably not.) He deftly handled the faux-argument we have over the men’s side of the table (they always mess up the passing order to make sure that their buddies get the best food first – and the women always tease them about it), falling in line with the “rules” of the passing and the back-passing. He definitely got in on the good end of the back-passing – he had meat, potatoes, and cabbage before I’d even gotten the bread.

We lingered for four hours. He got to see the reenactment of the guys and my mom dropping me off at college – my uncle’s impression of me sobbing and begging them to take me back to Denver includes, “I’ll go to DU, I swear!” and is fantastically hilarious – as well as my mom’s excellent impression of the “purse carrier,” which is exactly what I’m not allowed to marry. It was a really wonderful dinner, and I felt so happy to be surrounded by such lovely people, and to come from such a loving and kind family.

On Saturday, I went to see an old co-worker, who’s now my mentor/friend. She has the most adorable two-year old son, so I was happy to play with him while we caught up. It’s so easy to lose touch with people once you don’t see them every day, so I’ve been trying to make an effort to stay in contact and not lose people just because they’ve slid out of the periphery. Also, she’s very good about getting in touch with me, so that definitely helps. I always laugh and thank her for being a part of my village (village people, I think that’s what I’m going to call my wonderful network of humans), because I’ve been to her kid’s birthday parties, her family events, and I was the first person to ever babysit for her son.

Babies are the sweetest things. He’s talking up a storm now, and he has the biggest eyes and the happiest smile. I chased him and tickled him, and his peals of laughter brought me so much joy. I love how determined they get, or how frustrated, or how giggly. There is so much pure energy and pure emotion, and as I left, he stood by the door and waved to me, over-ready for his nap. My friend texted me after I left and told me that he was out 60 seconds after she put him down.

For some reason, I was in cleaning mode on Saturday. I have been struggling to get my house under control for a while now (again, no surprise here), and I wanted to go home and do some good work. And so I did. I got my room rearranged, opened up the box that contained my new mattress and got it unfurled, foam puffing up immediately. I got more things folded and hung up and stuffed into drawers (I mean, folded, definitely neatly). I threw away trash and cleaned out the fridge. I scrubbed the sink and unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. It was nice progress, and it felt good. My friend Gina will help me with the rest of it tonight.

Saturday night, we went to my old favorite Thai place. I’ve only ever ordered one thing there (five years is a long time to not stray on a menu, and I intend to keep up the streak) – pineapple curry, medium. Sometimes with shrimp, sometimes just extra pineapple, sometimes veggies. Always delicious. That is the food I crave on Sundays (when they’re closed), when I’m sad, or sick, or happy, or ….any time.

After that, we stopped into the PS Lounge – if you haven’t done that, you need to. Your life will get so much better. We had a few drinks there, and sat talking, oblivious to the bar around us. (Not entirely, but it makes it sound so much more romantic if I put it that way, doesn’t it?) Regardless, the conversations are so fantastic. I really like that I’ve met someone who knows stuff about stuff I don’t know. And who’s willing to tolerate the things that I love. He told me the other night that he loves that I always have something to add – actually add, a different perspective or input – to conversations. I laughed, what else am I going to do? We haven’t really disagreed about anything yet, and I keep trying to find something where we have drastically differing viewpoints…thus far, no luck.

My friend Jacob was playing at a bar down the road, so tipsy adventure me decided that we needed to at least pop in. So we did, briefly. I danced a little less than I would have liked, nervous energy coursing through my body. Bringing someone into your comfort zone is so hard. I like people. But it’s funny, because as much as I am uneasy in new places or doing new things, I’m equally uncomfortable when I’m bringing someone into my spaces, my people, my things.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went for a bike ride. He was so sweet a few weeks ago and put my bike back together for me (to be fair, he’s the one who took it apart in the first place….but I had a tangled chain somehow?), so I’ve been able to ride around with him. I’m terrified of city biking – too many people in Chicago get smashed by buses on bikes – but I’m getting better! We did 20 miles on Sunday, looping through the park on our way downtown, made a pit stop for ice cream, and then to REI (obviously), and then back around to the water treatment plant, and then back. By the end, I’d lost all of my energy, and the last few miles were me playing the mental fortitude game in my head. But I made it! There’s an uphill part right at the end, which is miserable. It’s the last big push before relaxation, and when I made it, I was overjoyed and that feeling of accomplishment (or at least, not failure) washed over me.  And on the way I ran into a couple of friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, which was wonderful!

Ha, to make things way sexier, I wore bike shorts. And since I left my car at the Thai restaurant the night before, I had no shoes to wear other than my cheap little black flats. So between the bright orange bike shirt and short combo and the completely not bike shoes, I made a very official-looking exerciser. You know, I make fun of the bike shorts/shirt people (and will continue to do so…), but, there’s something to it. My sit bones were not even sore as a result of the padding in the shorts.

Then I went to Verizon and got a new phone. I’ve had my mom’s old iPhone for over a year now, and she had it for two years before that, and the thing was just starting to lose everything. No battery life, no storage, the whole deal. It was time. Verizon can definitely thank Lil’ Wayne for pushing me over the edge; I’d been vacillating between the iPhone 6s (or trying to wait until the 7 came out?) and an Android, and Samsung came out with the Galaxy S7, which is water-resistant (seriously, you could put it in a fish tank and it would still work – I’m so curious but not $700 worth of curious, so I’ll leave that to the professionals and try to keep my phone on dry land), and that’s what did it. I’m a bath-taker and also incredibly accident-prone, so this seems like the right choice. Also, I had an S4 once, and I loved it. Apparently, the S6 was a miserable piece of equipment, and they’ve corrected that (righted their wrongs and put things back) in the newest version, so I’m in.

We shall see. It’s been a funny adjustment, because I had forgotten everything. But alas, it’s like riding a bike. Your fingers and brain relearn the moves, and it’s been not even 48 hours and I’m back in the groove.

Then I had dinner with my mom. First dinner, to be more accurate. We ate salad and caught up for an hour or so. It was so nice. I really love my mom. Then I had second dinner with my friend Emily. Man, I really love sushi and sake. I also love having friends that you’ve known forever. It’s so wonderful to love someone who really knows you. Emily has known me since high school, and I am really happy that we haven’t let our friendship slip. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and all of the things I love. We had a nice time, except for the fact that my dark circles threatened to swallow me whole. I had that blank, empty stare of exhaustion by the time we were done.

Finally, finally, came the sleep. My exhausted body was so pleased to find bed and pillows and blankets, and I was gone, weekend concluded. Not too bad for 55 hours, right? Errands, accomplishments, exercise, family, friends, dancing, date night, alcohol, ice cream, adventure, new technology, and babies! All of the best things. Nailed it.

On Wedding Weekend, Spiritedly

I forgot how much I love to travel.

Love. The other morning, I had the urge to just throw things into the back of my car (including the cat – who doesn’t hate the car as much as you’d think), and run far away. I wanted to drive until there was no more road, until I’d come upon the glorious nirvana that is endless waterfalls and starry nights that never get too cold.

I love grabbing my “mountain backpack” (that’s what I call it, I bet it has a proper mountain term) from the closet and filling it to the brim with whatever I’m going to need for the next three to five days. I love the travel-sized toiletries. I love the bits of brightly colored fabric straps that have been tied to the zipper pulls for the past four years. I love the way I feel when I wear it.

I love shouldering the always too-full pack (always. I’m going to be the worst backpacker ever) and heading into the airport. In those moments, before the back aches set in and my feet start to hurt, I am filled with the possibility of adventure, with excitement, with a tingling in my fingertips as I hand over my boarding pass to the TSA agent.

I always try to make the exact awkward face I’m making in my driver’s license or even worse (better?), the face from my passport. I don’t know if they find that as hilarious as I do, but it’s worth it.

Chicago, gold coast, streelights,

The view from my friend’s apartment downtown. Oh Chicago, your cold spring winds caught me off-guard and were terrible. But the magic of the city is palpable. Its energy flows around you. It’s sublime.

This is where Katie and Eric got married. Between those two trees. I started tearing up when I saw her start walking down the aisle. I teared up again when her dad gave a speech, but it was her mom’s that put me over the edge. It was beautiful.

White wine. Photo booth. I kept calling it a “king hat.” It’s very obviously a crown. I’ve always been good with synonyms. Dancing. It was so wonderful to see my friends. I have missed them.

On Sunday, my friend Anne drove out to the burbs to pick me up and then we went back to her place and watched new episodes of Arrested Development and got frozen yogurt. I went with her to a birthday party before heading back to Denver.

I’ve been telling Evan that I want to go camping with him (athleticism and adventurous spirits are so sexy, but I’m nervous that I don’t have enough of that – maybe enthusiasm can make up for it?). My goal is to go to Conundrum Hot Springs, which is a very lovely 8.5 mile hike each way. While I was in Chicago, with my “mountain backpack,” I took the stairs as much as possible at the train stations to practice hiking. (Obviously this is a very flawed approach, but you have to work with what you’ve got.)

Sunday was great – I woke up early and went to REI with Evan. I’m really not having great luck with not losing Nalgene water bottles (I left yet another one in Spokane), so I thought I’d try yet again.  (80th time’s the charm, right?) We’re two days in and I’ve not lost them yet.

[Hah, I just have to insert a thought here that has nothing to do with anything, except losing stuff. My freshman year of college, while being young and dumb, I lost my camera at a bar. Shortly after, my mom sent me a care package with a package of cards with a note attached that said, “Maybe these will entertain you on those Friday nights when you don’t want to go out and lose something.” I love my mom.]

After REI, we went to brunch and then, faced with the prospect of an entire day off, I went to see Jacob. There was coffee, cleaning (I owed him – he’s helped me clean so many times), and then we met up with my brother and his friends for some grilling in the park.

Delicious.

Evan was at work, so I brought him dinner – tucked into an empty 6-pack was a cornucopia (ha, mostly) of delicious picnic foods: a brat with grilled onions and German mustard, chips, grapes, and cookies.  He loved it. (Relief. I was a bit nervous that it was going to be the worst thing.)

Summer is coming and I’m in full adventure mode. I want nothing more than to take road trips and to see things I’ve never seen before. Also, I’d love to actually get around to planting my garden (too late, but whatever), and doing yard work, and relaxing in my hammock. I’m filled with the same excited anticipation that I get waiting to get on the plane. It’s endless possibility and experience and it’s all in front of me. This is going to be the best thing.

On Growth as a Human, Gradually

Last night, I was in the bathtub, reading Good Housekeeping and drinking wine (because apparently I’m making the leap from my 20s straight to middle age), when I had one of those moments of sudden clarity. I realize that this is a conclusion that everyone eventually comes to, or in fact may be sheer common sense, but it hit me like a ton of bricks:

If you do something for long enough, you will eventually start to take on characteristics of that activity. 

I realized last night that I’d over-subscribed to magazines. This is much like my habit of signing up for Cousera.org classes thinking I can find the ten hours a week I’ll need for the class. “Of all the people I know, you’re the person with the least time. You should not be signing up for classes,” someone told me, laughing when I tried to rationalize my class-taking habit. “But I just want to learn!” I countered. “Even if I only do half the readings, or a third of them, I may learn something valuable.”

As a kid, I absorbed everything I could get my hands on. Now, with less time to spend absorbing knowledge, I’ve had to make conscientious efforts to maximize my exposure to valuable information. To be a fully conversational adult – and if you want to go even further and become a master of trivial knowledge – you need to be well-versed in most topics: money, politics, fashion, pop culture, business, science, etc.

Since I rather enjoy being right – one of my favorite aphorisms is “I’m not wrong” – I would prefer to be knowledgeable about a subject going into a conversation about it. It helps me to form arguments (not in the sense of altercations, but for debates), but more than that, if I’m unsure, it helps me ask good questions that will help me learn or clarify any confusion I may have about the subject.

But mostly, I just want to know everything about everything and be really good at everything. Right now. But holy shit, that’s harder than it looks. (That’s also a lesson I should have learned many times during the course of my childhood: climbing ropes, doing pull-ups, overhand serves at volleyball, piano playing, running….)

A few months ago, I was thinking about all of the changes I wanted to make, and instead of leaping directly into them, I wanted to slowly expose myself over time, hoping that certain things would rub off on me. Then, seemingly fortuitously, there was a magazine sale. $5 for each subscription? Sign me up! (My bank account cringed and rolled its eyes when it saw $30 in silly purchases.)

As a result, in addition to my regularly scheduled Economist, Esquire, and Elle, I now receive: Popular Mechanics, Town & Country, Redbook, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan (just to be clear, I’m well aware that this is nothing more than a good mental break), Good Housekeeping, and Elle Home. It might be Elle Design, Elle Decor, whatever, I don’t know. But it’s not important.

Obviously you can see that I intend to do: get better at knowing how to differentiate between whiskeys and how to wear a men’s suit, housekeeping and maintenance, decorating, science, cars, world affairs and politics, and girl stuff: fashion, accessorizing, food, makeup, etc.

The girl world is far more terrifying to me than politics. I will always choose to talk Benghazi before Burberry. But….there are moments when you can see that movement has occurred, that you are further down the path that you set yourself on. On Tuesday night, I had a dinner thing. I had found a dress that I liked at the Nord Rack (seriously, their selection of $20 – $25 dresses is unmatched) so I knew I wanted to wear that. I accessorized it without even thinking. I added a belt, something I never would have done in the past. I wore different colored accessories. Mindful of the fact that it might rain, I wore my blue trench coat. I looked fabulous.

Not my best picture, and I wish you could see the whole thing — my point is sort of moot without a full picture, I guess — but here’s me and my partner in crime for sushi devouring. We’re adorable:

It’s happening. Without realizing it, I’m starting to take on the characteristics of the media I’m taking in (for both better and worse). I consciously hoped that exposure would start to produce results, and it has. Granted, I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, but these baby steps are the steps that move us forward without us even realizing how far we have come.

Study something (like the news) for ten minutes a day, every day, and after a year, you’ve ended up studying it for about 61 hours (if my math is correct). 61 hours! Imagine how much time you spend doing negative things or engaging in bad habits. Granted, this is an overly simplistic and optimistic view of productivity – but after reading about a dude who spends just 15 minutes per day cleaning, I was inspired to spend 15 minutes a day thinking about spending 15 minutes a day cleaning, which may eventually translate into actual cleaning.

The other night, I spent two hours cleaning. Not rushed, hurried, “they’ll be here in ten minutes for the party!” cleaning, but slow, careful cleaning. It was magic. It was amazing how much better I felt and how much I wanted to continue – just for the sake of continuing the progress. Baby steps.

Baby steps for everything. This weekend, I’m baby-stepping into gardening. Keep your fingers crossed. This will be a disaster, but hopefully the kind that comes with the “I’ll do better next year” conclusions.

Now I realize that it seems simple. And it is. “You are what you eat.” “Kindness is as kindness does.” It’s all exposure – who and what you are exposed to shapes you.

But it’s interesting, because I argue that that’s not always entirely the case. My grandfather always says that you are who you associate with (which mostly likely means I’m a gay hipster), and to a certain extent, he’s not wrong. It’s like people who start to look alike after years together, or people who start to look like their pets. 

I hung out with a certain group of people in high school. I took on certain characteristics and behaviors, but I was never fully absorbed. I think I do the same things now, even though my groups of friends are vastly different, I fit in with them due my ability to adapt to them or perhaps it’s how my characteristics fit into different groups.

My friends now are super into electronic music. I like it; I’ll dance to it; it’s not my life. I still prefer hip hop. It’s funny how that works as we grow into adulthood – we don’t know everything about our friends anymore. But that’s cool, because what they’re into exposes us to such different experiences and we get to have adventures that we’d never otherwise have.

I always joke that when I got diagnosed with ADHD, I imagined that the medication would turn me into Monica from Friends – she’s obsessive about neatness and order. (That’s actually not a joke. I was crushed when I realized that wasn’t how it worked.) Apparently, organization did not come pre-programmed with my particular model. Damn. Even when I make conscious choices to be neater, I can’t. So perhaps I’ll have to spend some time around super neat people in an attempt to gain neatness through osmosis. Either that, or I’ll have to spend 15 minutes a day cleaning until it’s just part of my routine.

Do we get to make conscious choices about the habits that we pick up? Or is it luck of the draw? Are our proclivities merely the products of our cumulative experiences or are they more than that, innate but dormant until we happen upon them circumstantially? Do the attributes that we grow into stem from our intentions?

I’m still left with questions, and a stack of magazines I need to read. But at the end of the day, I’m confident that all of this exploration will lead me in the right direction – and eventually, gradually, I’ll be the person I set out to become. Not that the person I am now is all that bad, of course. It’s just that she can’t manage to hang her clothes up or remember to pick up all the lip gloss  — but on the plus side, her brother now knows the difference between lipstick and lip gloss, a very important distinction. See, he’s learning new things, too! Just think – some day I’ll be in my backyard, reading magazines in my hammock, drinking a mojito made with mint that I grew. Ah, life will be just as beautiful then as it is now.

 

 

On Pictures, Belatedly

I look very serious. If I were Virginia Woolf, this is how I would pose for pictures. Jacob and I grabbed dinner with a friend of his one night last week.

Cold feet by the fire.

Jacob and Moses. That squished cat face is the cutest thing, but the striped socks are a close second.

Katie and I went out on Friday. We tried to take a picture on a rooftop with the moon and the city in the background, but that turned out to be far too challenging. I think this picture is adorable. We explored her new neighborhood and had a blast.

We ended up grabbing our last drinks at Linger, a bar/restaurant that used to be a mortuary. We got fancy cocktails, which was a mistake, because I was treated to a seriously pretentious overview of the various “herbacious” liquors the made up the drink.

I’m down for a learning experience, and do in fact welcome them, but there’s nothing worse than feeling patronized while suffering through a cocktail that tastes spicy and sour and like root vegetables simultaneously. (The bartender’s mistake was that he insulted girly drinks. I may be a gin and tonic girl, but Katie is a lover of all things girly drink. She’s unabashed about her love of them, and I respect her for it.)

I’d rather drink a “flirtini” than have to go through the rigmarole of having to hear the ingredient list to a fancy hipster cocktail, which is surprisingly parallel to the ingredient list of the flirtini. Not really, but if you add “vintage” or “rare” or “small-batch” to the ingredients in a flirtini, you might get pretty damn close.

It did get me drunk. So you win, Linger bartender. You did good. But the next time I hear a bartender say “herbacious,” I’m bolting. (I do sort of think it’s cool that the monks haven’t changed the recipe. I just wasn’t in the mood.)

Saturday morning, I went with my brother and his friend to buy my birthday present. It’s a hammock! All I’ve been talking about for months is a hammock, and so Mike surprised me by telling me what my birthday present was. Mike brought it home and set it up, hanging the hammock from the tree in our backyard. I am so ridiculously excited for this. This might be the best birthday present ever. It’s soft and comfortable and deep – you can fall into it and it will hold you.

I’m so happy.

After we got the hammock, Katie came and met us at REI. The lure of sunshine was too much, so we went to play frisbee in the park. I’m terrible a it, and everyone made fun of me because my frisbee-throwing dance is very much like a ballerina. There’s a lot of leg extension.

Then we walked around, exploring Katie’s new neighborhood, which is slowly succumbing to gentrification. It’s a beautiful old neighborhood with stunning houses, but it’s quickly being overshadowed by the new builds. I don’t know what it is, but I much prefer an older house. One of the reasons that I love the house we live in now is because of the older features, like rounded archways and built-in shelving (in the walls). That’s the kind of stuff that you don’t find in new builds. They’re sleek, but that lack that comfortable, lived-in feeling.

She has a pool! I’m a sucker for bodies of water. They draw me in.

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 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.

Odds and Ends and Saturdays

I got an email from Mama P this morning. You’ll remember Priscilla, my absolutely insanely wonderful host mother in South Africa.
Her emails are always short and to the point. They never say much, but I’m grateful for them. Today she said that the weather is turning cold, and to say hello to Mike and James Dean for her. I laughed out loud when I read the last bit; I had completely forgotten about that. So here’s how it goes:

The night that James was coming to pick me up for our first date, I realized I had no idea what his name was. I knew it was either James or Dean. So we had all just referred to him as James Dean the entire week. I realized that this was eventually going to present a problem, so I called him, and luckily, he didn’t answer his phone. Voicemail clued me in on his real name and that was that. But we still called James Dean.

It’s amazing how much I miss that place. I know it will never be the same, but it will always have a beautiful place in my heart. I want to get back there, to stand at Muizenberg Beach and feel the waves crash against my feet and fight my way onto the train and off again.

However, my life here is growing daily. While I like that I’m learning a lot at my current job, I’m not satisfied with the compensation and have taken on babysitting to make extra cash. (This supports my lifestyle, which you may be surprised to hear isn’t quite as wild as you might think.) Anyway, I’ve got four families in the rotation and the balancing act is getting a bit hectic.

This week, for example, I will be working all seven days. And twice this week I had to go straight from work to babysit. The other nights I went directly home and was in bed relatively early. It’s all fine and well, but I’m not getting any decompression time and am beginning to get a bit stressed.
Hopefully this week will provide ample opportunity for sleep as I’m not scheduled to work any week days.

Alas, today brings more babysitting, volunteering at a choir concert that one of my co-workers is singing in, and then date night. And tomorrow brings babysitting.
I really love the families that I’m sitting for this weekend – I find it much easier to babysit when I’m actually enjoying myself as well. One family has three little girls, and then, of course, there are the twins.   I find myself hoping the symphony season won’t end!

Last night, Jacob and I went to see a production of Macbeth at UCD. Jacob was personally invested – he did the music for the show. I went because I waffle back and forth on my hate/love of Shakespeare. This play was pretty well done. The costuming choices were interesting – mostly just corsets – and the cast was tiny, but the leads delivered their lines really well.
After that, we went to an art gallery where they were serving pancakes and alcohol (strange combination, but hey, whatever). After paying $5 to get in and being told that drinks were free – we ended up having to pay $4 for a small cup. Ridiculous. The gallery was cute, but it was trying too hard to replicate the scene in New York. There were topless models being spraypainted (when done properly, it’s actually really beautiful), but it just felt like an afterthought, especially as the crowd began to diminish.  After meeting up with our friend Claire and her girlfriend and wandering around looking at some art, we bailed to go dancing.

And so we danced. The night drew to a close, and I was grateful, because the tired had begun creeping through my bones. I went home, said hello to Carlos and Mike, and was asleep nearly immediately. I woke up tired – I didn’t get nearly enough sleep. I’m hoping for a nap while I do my laundry.

Tonight, once my obligations are over, I’ve got a wild night planned (as usual). The guy that I guess I’m dating (I don’t know – we eat dinner together sometimes. He made me waffles. I think that counts as sort of edging toward dating?) is going to come down from Boulder (and maybe bring his adorable dog!) and we’re going to go see Claire’s band play and then (depending on how tired I am or how bored he is) head to a weird art gallery/warehouse for a space party ordeal.

Jacob is super into the electronic scene, which means I find myself at a lot of events. I joking called it a “space cult” based on the theme of the first party he invited me to. Now, we call them space parties. They’re not really – just a bunch of people in a room listening to really good (or really bad, depending) music and maybe drinking.

And yes, we may have to relocate Carlos for the evening. Jacob is more than happy to babysit and Carlos has been itching to get out and explore.

spring break

It was the best spring break ever. We went snowboarding, played soccer, climbed trees, drank tea, drove around, watched movies, made like eight runs to Target, held hands and fell in love again.
There is nothing worse than losing someone you love, even if they haven’t gne far.

Act Two, Scene Saturday

The lights go down, the audience hushes singularly, as though their murmurs were a group effort and not individual conversation. Soft music pipes from somewhere behind, some sort of jazz, fast paced yet slow enough to keep the moment. The lucky patrons in the front row can smell the faintest hint of cigarette smoke floating behind the curtain. It opens, then, when no one is expecting it, flung back with a great flourish. The light comes from somewhere above the stage, no shadows, only the four players gathered around the little coffee table and on it, the board.

One of them rolls, haphazardly, her eyes twinkling mischievious as she stares in his direction. The hotels are upset by her dice, flying everywhere, causing the blond one to yell in frustration. It’s girls against boys, and the tension in the room is obvious. Back and forth, the money changes hands, back and forth. They roll, move their little pieces down the allotted number of spaces, letting fate choose for them. He’s unlucky, they’ve decided, every roll of his brings the impending disaster of financial ruin closer and closer to their team. Blue eyes find his brown, and she giggles, knowing he knows there’s no way out. She shifts, the floor suddenly too uncomfortable for her, sliding her foot under his leg and letting it rest there, as if she doesn’t feel his weight on it. She waits, taking a sip of her poison while the brunette rolls. His hand finds her ankle, then slides up, silent acknowledgement of her move. There is more than one game going on at this little table, and they are lucky players, testing strategy versus fate. This continues for some time, the rolling, the yells, the agony, the joy as the girls finally begin to take the upper hand. Their properties are all bedecked with hotels, while the unlucky boys have been forced to mortgage most of theirs. When they concede, the girls high five and hug, pulling their piled money closer to them to take the final count. There is no uneasy silence, only the soft moans of defeat and the ecstatic squealing of girls who came back to take it. She’s lucky, and she knows it, sitting there, slididng her foot up his leg.

The fan is on, the windows open, so the three of them, two pretty girls and the unlucky man, find themselves sitting out in the perfect city night. There are no stars, obviously, city living takes the wonderful away, but the sounds of distant sirens and cars bring another feeling to the situation. They are comfortable, surrounded by darkness on their well-lit porch. They wait, and then throw the remains as far over the fence as they can, hoping they’ll land in the street and be forgotten until morning. The brunette with the brown eyes makes her excuses, blaming the need for sleep, and goes inside. The two of them, both dark haired, somewhere between black and brown, sit there a minute longer, lingering over nothing.

She takes her spot, perching on the couch under piles of blankets and stacks of pillows. He joins her, unexpectedly, but to her delight and hopefully his. They put in the movie they fell asleep to the night before, and wait as the blond one checks his email and goes to sleep. They lay there, on the couch, under the blankets, and let their hands find each other. He puts his hand on her shoulder, rubbing gently, as she puts hers on his stomach, unmoving but comfortable. And when he is finally gone, and they hear the door down the hall close, he leans in toward her face and kisses her. Her eyes close, and for the next few minutes, or hours, they make the soft advances they are allowed. Just kissing, only eyes and ears and lips and necks, hands find backs and shoulders and arms and finally other hands, and she opens her eyes and stares into his. They laugh, there’s something funny now, a giggle here, a whispered word in his ear.

And they fall asleep content.
As his slow snore fills the little liviing room, the jazz music that had faded after the Monopoly game slowly starts to overtake their breathing, and the curtain drops.