On Emergence, Nostalgically

You know those songs that always bring you back to a particularly poignant memory or moment?

Of course you do. The flashes of triumph you feel when you imagine the songs that accompanied your most brilliant moments, the song that nursed away your first heartbreak, pushing back the crushing sadness. There’s that perfect song for jogging, the perfect song for dancing in your kitchen.

For me, there will always be the Garden State soundtrack. I used to retreat to the bathtub and read and listen to it. It’s soothing. It’s not a moment for me, but a time period. Junior year of high school. The final set of struggle before the emergence of a more confident young woman.

It was an interesting time. I was testing the limits in many ways, pushing back against the very things I’d always taken at face value. I was plagued by the unknowns, the philosophical crises that stem from the inability to guess at what the future might hold. I believe that it was the looming promise of college and freedom that may have set off all of that thinking, but looking back on it, I feel as though it was more about the solidification of myself as a person than it was about anything else. I was settling into the next phase of life and of course, being actively engaged in that transformation, I had no idea.

I found this, a disjointed post I’d written quickly. I find it curious:

We’ve lost ourselves in a deconstructed fictional world. We’ve become the very things we were afraid of, that we wrote about in stories that were supposed to be far too far-fetched to ever become any sort of actual reality.

And yet here we are, thrust into a confrontation with our pasts and our fictional futures and instead of looking inward, we push blame, we make tender excuses, we tiptoe around the subject until we’ve lost sight of the original goal.

Gone are the days we thought the future held – in the third grade, I wanted to be a judge, the first woman president, both, all of it. And in the third grade, it was all just out of reach, attainable with hard work and dedication, the things that take you places. Of course, I reached.

And I found myself the very antithesis of everything I’d ever hoped for. You could say I was a serious child, but that would be an understatement. I realize now that every emotion I felt was tinged with a sense of nervousness, an eager anxiety that nibbled at me constantly. I became so self-aware that growth was impossible and instead, I reached for the only anchor I could find: peer acceptance. It had never mattered to me before.

The false idea that peer acceptance could make me happy changed my life. It was a startling realization. And of course, I panicked, handled it as well as, well, an awkward teenage girl, and then survived those awkward phases to grow into the young woman I am today.

(I hate the word “survivor.” My dad said it once, on Hampden, so I must have been in high school. He said to us, “Kids, we’re survivors.” And I scoffed, and I scoff to this day. I hated that. I hated that admission, that pretentious assumption of camaraderie, that weakness. We were not survivors.)

I left my old self behind in my search of light-heartedness, spontaneity, all of the things that they promise you’ll have in commercials. I wanted that.

I worked for it, I pushed it, I pulled it into place. Once it had settled over me, I was happy. For a long time. And then something shifted, there was a change in everything atmospheric and I was fraught with the same doubts that had preceded that first adult transition. I can’t help but wonder if now is one of those times, the current state merely a chrysalis in which I’ll grow and change and from which be reborn?

That idea of the bright light and the newness is what drives most humans, I get that. But maybe this time (like all the times so declared before it) will be different? This may be the second great emergence of my life. Or third. Whichever way you categorize it, this might be a big one.

My god. They sure do sneak up on you.

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On Big News, Relievedly

The words were gone again, the constant bubbling up of ideas temporarily ceased. I started typing draft after draft, but each one was pushed aside in disgust as I stared at the pathetic words on the screen.

Tomorrow, I kept whispering. I’ll try again tomorrow. Before I knew it, many tomorrows had turned into weeks. My apologies for the extended absence.

I have spent the past few weeks dreaming the most vividly intense dreams I’ve ever dreamt. The images are surreal, telling signs of the subconscious dwelling deep within, stirring, demanding attention. The questions seem as though they will remain unanswered for some time, if they are ever answered at all.

There is only muddled clarity, which I imagine is the worst kind, other than total obfuscation. However, it is with the utmost certainty that I can say that I am about to start on a new path, one that I hope will take me swiftly away from the things I wish to leave behind. It may not be clear, but it is (“is” as a state of being and existence) because it must be.

I handed in my three weeks’ notice today. I told them that my last day will be July 31st.

I have not yet found another job. I will continue to work at my other part-time jobs while applying for new jobs in the marketing field, and I will hopefully be able to cover my expenses without draining too much of my precious, carefully hoarded savings. (Seriously, I’m like Gollum when it comes to my savings. You can re-read that sentence and hiss “precious” if you like. I just did.)

I am terrified, of course. This is my first time really embracing the job hunt. I hope to be able to find something that pays me enough that I will only have to work one job. I hope to do more writing. I hope for many things, but mostly I hope for new opportunities. I’m excited to expand my skill sets and to embrace the challenges that come with new employment.

I know that this is not the usual order of things, but I believe this is the best choice. Which is why I made it.

On Uncertainty, Sadly

“Not to be forgotten, but still unforgiven.”

Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes the words you wish you could say are the very words you cannot say – sometimes the truth can’t save you, can’t ease your pain, can’t grant you freedom or success or even hope.

There is only that singular small glimmer of hope for a better future, for something greater. The world is full of injustice, unfairness, betrayal, anger, and I firmly believe that karma, in the end, will be the great equalizer. Everyone will get what is coming to them, whether it comes now or later. It will not come from me, but it will come, when it must, when it can, when the time is right.

It’s like Mike would say, stolen from Wedding Crashers, “Rule Number 72: no excuses, play like a champion.”

And so I will.

Professionalism in the face of obstacles that I never could have foreseen, grace in the face of turmoil, strength in the face of the unknown, courage in the face of opposition.

“Never let your fear decide your fate.”

There is only the solid belief in myself, in my potential, in my future. There is so much that’s left to do, too much to be undone. The things that were set in motion months ago have come to fruition (hah, that’s a horrible word) and it is time to let it go, to release it, and move on. Move forward.

“Whatever it is kid, don’t let it beat you.”

(And yes, I’m terribly embarrassed that I opened this post with a Linkin Park quote. Forgive me.)

On Quotes, Motivationally – and a Little Bit Lamely

I used to think all of those motivational quotes on posters (and now, all over the internet) were stupid. That was before I needed them.

(All quotes pictured in this post come from the same site – a. I like it and b. I was too lazy to find more. Don’t judge me.)

I was browsing Reddit one day and I came upon a thread discussing the one piece of advice that stuck with you when you needed it most. (Obviously, I’m being terrible at paraphrasing the thread topic, but that’s not really the point.)

I read a comment that’s been with me ever since. Someone posted that they were on a bus, and things at that time were terrible for them, and someone said to them, “Whatever it is, kid, don’t let it beat you.” Funny, how a comment about lifesaving advice would become lifesaving advice for me.

During the moments where I’ve felt like I can’t possibly win – not even winning so much as keep going – I’ve repeated that to myself and it’s spurred me on. “Don’t let it beat you.” I refuse to let someone take everything from me and walk away. I’m Katie Barry. I do not give up; I’m stubborn, but more than that, I’m tenacious. And powerful.

When I was fifteen, I did what most emotional adolescents do – I used to find “meaningful” quotes and write them on scraps of paper and hang them on my wall. I had a book filled with quotations. They were appropriately angst-ridden and brought me the comfort that my young self needed.

Looking back, I cringe a little bit at the pride I had over these quotations, the sense of ownership, as though the quotes had been constructed solely for me, for my benefit. But of course, to each their own, and what works has to be what you do, embarrassment or no.

Here I am, a decade later, relying on these little tidbits of wisdom, grasping onto them as though they can rescue me, shepherd me through the storm, and guide me safely to the other side, if only I cling to them desperately enough. And they can. Because they have to. There is no other option but to keep moving forward.

There is always laughter and light in this world and I want to be where it is.

 

On De-Stressing, Gradually

I’ve been working on the concept of “me time.”

Since it appears that the 60-hour work weeks aren’t going anywhere, at least for a while, and the decisions that have yet to be made hang heavy over my head, just out of my reach for now, I have been focusing on making small changes in the hopes that they will have that marvelous ripple effect over all areas of my life. Stress mitigation is difficult, because when you’re this deep, it’s often hard to identify which stressors are the root cause of ever-expanding panic.

Last weekend, I was wound tightly, anxious and tense. I thought about my schedule for the coming days and realized that I would have no time — literally no free time during my waking hours that wasn’t allocated for work — for the next three days. That’s the kind of realization that settles heavily over your heart, because there is no choice but to keep going, to keep moving forward, to hope that nothing goes wrong to derail the carefully laid plans or you’ll throw everything off-balance.

Then it hit me. The thing I was most nervous about wasn’t the work, but the fact that instead of cleaning my house from top to bottom during my one free night last week, I’d read. I’d curled up on my front porch with a glass of wine and tucked my bare feet under me and I’d read. It had been worth it, when I thought I’d have Friday night free to clean. But then a co-worker burned herself at her other job, and I had to cover her Friday night shift, effectively removing my cleaning plan from my schedule.

Inconvenient? Yes. Necessary? Of course. When someone needs help, you help them. I had to work at Dairy Queen on Saturday and then go babysit after that, and immediately after that, we were scheduled to host a party at my house (thus necessitating at least a cleaning once-over).

Identifying that the most stressful thing for me was the fact that I’d have no time to prep for the party was key. I thought about how to handle it and cancelled babysitting. I had worked three 14-hour workdays in four days, plus the Saturday shift, and I was exhausted. I told the family I babysit for as much, and they were understanding. As soon as I did that, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted. I even took a nap on Saturday, pausing to rest while the world went on around me.

I didn’t clean heavily. I didn’t stress. The handle of our toilet broke and instead of panicking, we pulled out the duct tape and made it work. It ended up being a lovely evening. (The duct tape solution is still in play, and it’s rather charming in a rustic, we-DIY-ed-this-all-by-ourselves sort of way. I’m rather enchanted by the novelty of it, although it must soon be fixed – it’s not the classiest of stopgap measures.)

These are lovely people – as the party began to die down, we took a Friends-esque photo on the couch outside.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when Evan walked in, carrying a six-pack of my favorite beer. It was funny, because I’d bought him a six-pack of the hard cider he likes, so we had a trade. We snuck off at one point, holding hands, and spent the better part of an hour talking and laughing, and I felt so overwhelmingly content. I am beyond thrilled, beyond terrified, and all-over ecstatic.

The next day was a day of no work. I got bagels with a couple of friends and then laid on the giant bean bag in the basement and caught up on Game of Thrones in between brief naps. It was the best burn day ever.

Afternoon arrived, and Gina went to set up in the park for the second leg of our joint birthday party. I grumped around, bemoaning my headache and wishing for long stretches of welcome sleep. Eventually though, the guilt got to me and I got up, washed my face, and put on my Lannister dress (I’ll have to post a picture – it’s insanely amazing).

I’m glad I went to the park. We sported quite happily. (“Sport” is our newest verb. At one point, my friend Katie and I were discussing our contributions to relationships and she said, “I don’t sport.” It was so spot-on and sincere, and I’ve adopted it as an excellent verb to describe any sort of physical recreational activity.) We played frisbee, football, and a rather aggressive game of 10,000. At one point, we were tossing two frisbees, a football, and a bubble stick between the ten or so people in the park. It was wonderful to stretch and move and be.

I laid on the blanket I’d brought with me and stared up at the tree I was under. In that moment, I was calm and content. I had left all of my stress behind. There was no looming Monday, nor were there any obligations left unfulfilled. I was, for that brief period, free.

The sun set and a new week began.

Last night, after working another 14-hour workday, we played night frisbee in the parking lot. (Working with the people you love is also helpful – we work together nearly seamlessly, and the night passes quickly and productively. At one point, I commented to Evan that I adore getting paid to hang out. He agreed.) The light-up frisbee (you must purchase one, they’re the best thing) flew through the air and I was filled with the heady rush of happiness, of appreciation for the current moment and the lack of worry for the past and future.

They had established a plan for the night before I arrived – food and then Game of Thrones. Mike (Evan’s friend) and I had watched one more episode than Evan had seen and we’d agree to lie about it to Evan and pretend we’d waited for him. I failed miserably at keeping up the ruse, and so we re-watched that episode before watching the newest one (70% of which, I slept through, of course). I woke up just in time for the action – and then cried, of course.

I love where I am right now. I love the people I’m surrounded by. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them.

“Me time” may not be long bubble baths and hours spent lounging and reading, but it can be found in the places where I least expect it. Finding the calm I’m sure exists somewhere inside of me may be the biggest challenge, but it’s one I’m finally really ready to take on, even if it means tackling it in small pieces or finding joy in strange places.

Baby steps forward.

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 Breast Cancer, Bustily

Breasts have always been a source of stress for me.

When I was about fourteen, it became clear that I wasn’t going to do much more developing, and at the time, it was devastating. All the other girls had boobs and I didn’t. They used to tease me mercilessly: “If you didn’t have feet, would you wear shoes?….Then why do you wear a bra?”

After the pain that was being a flat-chested adolescent subsided, I was left with the marvelous acceptance of my body. As it turns out, the joke may be on them. I can fit into clothes. I can wear backless dresses. I can jog comfortably. (Not that I would ever jog, but if I wanted to, it would be easy.) People are forced to talk to my face after their eyes realize that the expanse of skin where my cleavage should be is just that, skin.

Who needs boobs anyway?

My birth mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago. Her mom died of breast cancer. All of her mom’s sisters have had it or died from it. My birth mother survived. She had many dark hours and a tough battle, including surgeries and struggles with health insurance. A woman at work had breast cancer last year. My stepmom had breast cancer last year. It’s just breast cancer everywhere. These struggles are so unique and so  life-changing.

I know in my core that I will someday get breast cancer. I’m ready for it. I’m at peace with it. One of the recommendations is that you do a preemptive double mastectomy. I looked at my mom and told her that I’d worked too hard to grow the ones I have now to even consider that at this point. If I ever procreate, I will get rid of the boobs after I’m done having children. If I don’t procreate, I’ll get new ones at some point during my 30s. But regardless, I’m definitely going to go up a cup size. (When in Rome...)

Reading the news about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy made me stop and think. Breast cancer is such a serious struggle, such a profoundly widespread epidemic, but at the same time, preemptive surgery is also such a serious undertaking. I admire the courage, the willingness to subject herself to the pain and the recovery in order to mitigate future complications.

I am confident that I’ll make the right choices when the time comes. I am confident that no amount of cleavage defines me as a woman. I am confident that my vigilance and forward-thinking will keep me alive. I’m grateful for all the women who’ve come before me, who’ve shared their experiences, who’ve taught me how to handle it with grace and dignity and strength.

On Spokane, Productively

Greetings from Spokane! I’m here until Wednesday on a business trip.

Total confession: I got in late Sunday night, and the first thing I did after arriving at the hotel was put on one of the fluffy bathrobes and jump on the giant bed. It was everything Ferris Bueller would have wanted for my first night in a Four Diamond hotel. 

(This is a self-portrait.)

The rental car I got is a Toyota Prius, and I’m in love. It’s cute, the turning radius is beautiful, and it’s fun to drive, but holy cow, touchy brakes. I’m sure the people who have to drive behind me hate me. I love the constant display of battery usage vs. fuel consumption.

Last night, I took it on a drive. I didn’t go very far, but I wanted to see part of the city. I think I’ll do the same tonight, but I’ll go in a different direction. Perhaps I’ll try to see something scenic.

I got back to the hotel last night with a bag of Burger King (yeah, I know, lame. I think I’ll go for steak or something tonight) and I vegged out. I don’t veg out, ever. It was weird. I clicked aimlessly through the channels on the tv, realizing that I no longer have any idea about television programming. Doing nothing felt weird, but it felt sort of good. I think I’ll have to do it more.  (That’s my goal for 2013 – “do less.” I looked at my calendar for the rest of May, and I realized that I work or have plans nearly every single day. Doing less is difficult.)

You can buy the beds at this hotel, and I’d like to expense one – it’s like sleeping on clouds. The sheets are so soft, the pillows are even softer, and the bed is that perfect blend of support but comfort.

The cool thing about this conference is that vendors (me!) are on the balcony of the ballroom where the majority of the conference is being held. The session today is about learning how to reduce stress and avoid burnout. (I’m having one of those moments where I’m thinking about how fortuitous my presence here is….)

(My view from my vendor table)

The material in this session matches the material that I’m currently reading for my Leadership through Emotional Intelligence class. Don’t you love it when that happens? I love it when things fall neatly into place like that. I was going to get a bunch of work done today like I did yesterday, but I’m actually really interested in what they’re talking about in this session, so I’m listening to that, trying to absorb all of the information.

This whole mindfulness thing is fascinating. It’s so simple, but so easy to overlook. They’re sitting here talking about “thinking brain,” which I’m assuming is their simplification of mindfulness. They’re talking about “survival mode” – which is what I’ve been in for the past few months. It’s amazing to think about the physiology behind it and its effects on your life.

We’re looking at setting boundaries, saying no, and recognizing stress signals. I love things like this. This trip is such a nice little break – not a break, necessarily – but it’s a nice chance to remove myself from my routines and my regular stressors. I’ve been enjoying it immensely. One of my strengths is interaction and assistance – which is weird because I consider myself to be so shy – but I love being able to meet our clients and listen to them and try to offer solutions, assistance, and support.

I think I’d like to be a fixer. Can that just be a job description? (Sort of like in Breaking Bad where they’ve got that guy who does the hiding of the bodies and the other stuff…he’s the fixer. I want to be the person with the power to solve problems and the knowledge of available solutions.)

I was nervous to come out here by myself, but I read a horoscope last week (I know, I know, but I read an article about positive encouragement as a way to increase productivity and technically that counts as positive encouragement) that said that even though I’m walking on a tightrope with no safety net, I shouldn’t look down because I’m going to make it. With that in my mind, I haven’t looked down. I’ve been staring straight ahead and I’ve been taking baby steps forward.

Of course, there are still five hours left of interpersonal interaction and there’s still time to fall off. But I don’t think it will happen like that. I am comfortable, content, and capable. I’ve got this.

On Books and Chocolate-Covered Pretzels, Hopefully

Bookstores are dangerous places for me. I go in for one book, just like I did yesterday, and I’ll come out with five. When I have the time, I devour books. As a child, I had to start borrowing books from the library based on their thickness, simply because I read so fast and so much that I’d be finished with the books and desperate for more long before our next library trip. (And then of course, I’d lose them and the fines would begin to rack up. It’s much easier to locate a 750-page book than it is to find a tiny paperback.)

I found myself standing in Barnes and Noble yesterday, reminding myself why I don’t go in more often. (I had a gift card from when I graduated from college in 2010 that I found and hadn’t used. “Treat yo’self!” said my subconscious, so off I went.) I just want to buy all of the books.

My friend Evan is starting a book club. I’m thrilled. We voted on our first book, so I wanted to run to the bookstore to buy it. (I know, I know, I could have gotten it at the library. But I blame college for giving me the distinct pleasure of writing in books. There’s something so satisfying in marking quotes, starring pages, underlining, making notes in the margins. I don’t know what it is about it, but that makes it the best thing. I’m also far too impatient to order it on Amazon and then have to wait for it to come in the mail.) I got the last copy. He was not pleased when I informed him of that.

Our first meeting is at my house in a few weeks. We’ve got that amazing free space in the basement, or if the weather’s nice, the backyard. I’m imagining hors d’oeuvre, wine, and a lively discussion. I can’t wait. I’ve been wanting to use the remaining intellectual capacity that’s left over after hours of legal stuff, or computer screens and spreadsheets, or fake-smiley customer service for good and I feel like this endeavor is the perfect commingling of friendship and worthwhile debate. Besides, I’m starting to love having an excuse to make bacon-wrapped jalapenos.

I also got the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. I’m going on a business trip this weekend through the first half of next week, and I imagine I’ll have tons of time to read. I’m secretly thrilled to have nothing to do after the conference day is over. It’s going to be amazing.

I also got a romance novel (already halfway through it; can’t help it), and a book about resilience in the human spirit. Lately, I’ve been struggling and feeling weak is one of the things I hate the most. I know that time heals all wounds, but I also know that there’s enough uncertainty in my life right now to keep me edgy and upset as I wait to find what the future holds. Perhaps some baby steps toward recovering my inner strength will help put me on the right track, or at least help me feel better about the things that are out of my control.

***

Last night I worked with Evan, who is by far my favorite co-worker and one of my best friends. (I didn’t start to think about this until a few weeks ago, when we were talking about how hard it is to find fun, intelligent people. Then I was like, holy shit, there’s one right next to me.) I was trying to explain to him how much I hoped my Wednesday people would come in.

My Wednesday people are a mother and her teenage son. They’re so sweet. Do you ever just really like people even though you don’t really know them? I can’t put my finger on it, but I love this family. They come in every Wednesday night (hence my use of descriptive naming) and we always have the best conversations. They’re my favorite.

Last night they pulled up and came in carrying a cup wrapped in duct tape. My face lit up. I knew immediately what it was.

About a month ago, we were having a conversation about my serious addiction to the chocolate-covered pretzels we have for a limited time at work and I told them that we’d been cautioned not to eat all of them. (This was as I was shoveling chocolate-covered pretzels into my mouth.) I told them that I wanted to get my hands on a box of them. (They’re terrible in ice cream. Absolutely horrific. But by themselves, they’re delicious. If only they were dark chocolate. If only…..Trader Joe’s needs to hurry up and get to Colorado. I’ve got pretzels to purchase!)

“Where have you been?” they asked me. I apologized; I’ve been working Tuesdays and Thursdays instead.

The mom laughed, “I couldn’t get a whole box, but I brought you these. We thought we’d cover the cup in duct tape so they didn’t think you were stealing.” They have a Dairy Queen connection, and she asked her friend if she could have some pretzels for me. How thoughtful and sweet of them. I am overwhelmed with how happy that made me.

This is what I love about the world. These little moments. I’m not trying to get all sappy here, but if you think about how much impact a little moment can have, you start to realize how important “good” is. I was updating Evan on my life situation, and was telling him about Tobias telling me that I radiate light, and Evan agreed. “That’s such a great way to say it. You give off positive energy.” Last night, as I was handed a duct-taped covered, chocolate-pretzel filled cup, I started to believe it a little bit. No one would waste precious pretzels on someone they hated. (Unless, of course, they hated pretzels. But that’s beside the point.)

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.