Why I Read

10 Jul

Inspired by this Instagram series

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I read to escape from the reality of the world

I read to gain empathy and understanding towards certain unfathomable parts of the reality of the world

I read for the romance

I read for the hope

I read for the laughter

I read to see females doing the things I’ve never personally seen females do but know, 100%, they can

I read for the company, for the new loves and best friends

For the Mark Darcys and Bridget Joneses

For the Anne Shirleys and the Weasley twins and Esther Greenwoods and the Jo Marches

I read for the antidote to hate

I read for an expanded mind

I read for “In vain I have struggled!” and “WHAT? A PRINCESS?? ME???”

I read for the love of it,

always simply for the love of the game

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Our First Apartment

5 Jul

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A few nights ago I called my mom in a panic.

There’s a lot of change happening right now, all at once. A wedding to plan. A move. A new city. A new job. A new apartment.

Apartment hunting in LA.

(My hands tremble just typing that.)

We had just found out that the apartment we wanted had gone to another person, Hunger Games style. I was so disappointed. I’m talking tears came to my eyes disappointed, anger in my soul disappointed.

I LOVED the area this apartment was in. It was two blocks from the beach. Bright. Across the street from yoga and ramen and the farmer’s market and the historic library and the church and the best breakfast place and.

You get it.

I had already compiled a list of dinner party guests we would invite over once we had settled into the place. After a pasta dinner and light, refreshing dessert we would take our guests on a walk to the beach.

I can’t believe you’re this close! they would say.

We’re so lucky, I would say.

I had the furniture picked out. I knew which yoga classes I was going to.

I was in. My whole heart was in.

The disappointment was overwhelming.

We’ll never live that close to the beach again, I told my mom. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the only apartment in the area we could even remotely afford, and it’s gone.

My mother, all credit to her, did not laugh at my dramatics. She simply said, Jill, it’s a long life. You don’t know where you’ll live in the future. You just need a place to start out.  

The place you start out isn’t supposed to be ideal. It’s supposed to be the stuff of family folklore. The weird first apartment. Not the rest of your life.

My parents’ first place infamously required them to fill the toilet bowl by hand after each use.

I don’t know what this means, exactly, but I do know that it sounds awful.

Another one of their early places was small enough that my mom could vacuum the entire home from one outlet.

Another was in a neighborhood where they woke up to find their turnips had been tagged with graffiti.

Or so the family folklore goes.

Later in the week, Rob and I signed on our first apartment together.

It has no overhead lighting (read: dark). It’s significantly further from the beach and the yoga and the ramen and the farmer’s market and the historic library and the church and the best breakfast place and.

You get it.

I do not love the neighborhood, for I am not one who values convenience over charm, practicality over theatricality.

There will be no post dinner party beach walks.

And yet, I remind myself the words of my mother

Jill, it’s a long life. You don’t know where you’ll live in the future.

You just need a place to start out.  

 

Here we are, starting out.

Bring on the family folklore.

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LA Is The Worst

29 Jun

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LA is the worst because in order to make an event downtown at 7:30 I left my house at 1:45 pm. The last time I decided to delay a drive downtown, I spent four hours in the car and screamed, “I could have driven to Utah today!”

I wasn’t emotionally prepared to repeat that.

LA is the worst because in my four hours to kill I decided to see Wonder Woman and when I left the theater, after paying $14 for a matinee, I was greeted with a parking bill of $27.

Yes. $27.

Yes. $14.

LA is the worst because the first weekend I ever spent here I discovered it cost $10 every 15 minutes in the Target parking lot and my heart shattered to dust.

LA is the worst because in order to make my event, I had to park in another parking garage and pay another price.

The price of my soul.

LA is the worst because apartment hunting is a reality television sport. “We have approved multiple people, the first to hand us a check with the deposit gets the apartment!” they say, ominously. “Let the Hunger Games begin!”

LA is the worst because to even apply for an apartment, you need 12 references as just the beginning.

I can’t even tell you the end. It’s too painful.

LA is the worst because a friend said, “Yes. I’ve lived in my apartment for over a decade for this reason. Who has the energy to move?”

Who, indeed.

LA is the worst because in two days I’ve listened to two full audiobooks in the car. I’ve dealt with property managers who are nitpicky about the dimensions of your signature and your emergency contact’s home address.

“In an emergency, phone is the communication method of choice!” Rob yells.

If only that were the biggest problem.

LA is the worst because by the time I got to my event, I saw that another favorite author of mine was coming in the future and I determined I didn’t have it in me.

I didn’t have another day in downtown LA to give.

LA is the worst.

Did you hear?

LA is the best because after all of that I got to see Roxane Gay.

I got to see her live in an auditorium full of likeminded feminists. I got to laugh and scream and seriously debate asking her her favorite Beyoncé song.

LA is the best because just two days before I got to attend the Sound of Music Sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl. I got to sit amongst dressed up nuns who work at Disneyland and share their Portos and have a moment. A moment with the city, with the music, with a friend.

LA is the best because our strawberries come straight from Oxnard. Because California air soothes the lungs. Because of Malibu.

LA is the best.

Did you hear?

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Things I love about my life right now

28 Jun

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My life is shifting in remarkable ways right now. The tectonic plates are in action and everything is moving, loudly and quickly.

And so, before it all slips away, before I enter this new stage fully, I wanted to record some things I love about the current one:

Monday date days

Thursday yin yoga with Lisa

Married at First Sight

Friday afternoon post-work naps

Carnitas wet burritos for every celebration

Walking to Point Dume

Walking to Zuma

Lasagna soup from Vintage

Drives through the canyon

Hot tub nights

Hiking days

Coming home to a completely mine apartment

Trips to Santa Barbara for my favorite meal

Trips to Santa Barbara for any reason

Walking the Pepperdine track late at night

Checking Malibu Yogurt for its latest flavors

Freedom

Freedom

Freedom

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The thing about expressing real feelings online

25 Jun

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The thing about expressing real feelings online is that it makes other people uncomfortable. We’re not used to honesty when it comes to the dark parts of life or ourselves and so when others reveal it we either rejoice that someone is speaking truth or we wonder what’s wrong with them.

The thing about expressing real feelings online is that you will get concerned people reaching out to you. Some of them will wonder what you have to be sad or anxious or worked up about. Others will say they’re sorry.

It’s OK. You’ll say. That’s how I was feeling at that moment, not anymore.

The thing about expressing real feelings online is that you’re expressing one moment of a much larger, more complicated life. This is how I feel right now. Most likely it is not how I’ll feel in a day, or an hour, or even ten minutes, but writing it out, finding the truth in it is helpful to some of us. And so we do it.

The thing about expressing real feelings online is some people won’t get it. They’ll overreact to you saying, “This is how I feel” by saying “Oh no! I’m so sorry you’re so unstable and (INSERT UNQUALIFIED MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS) and here’s some unsolicited advice!” There’s nothing you can say to those people.

The thing about expressing real feelings online is that our gut instinct tells us to tie it up in a pretty bow. To write about a problem and neatly resolve it at the end of 500 words so other people feel better. But this is not a movie, this is not a story. This is life.

The thing about expressing real feelings online is it will draw others to you. Some people will relate to what you’re saying and they’ll reach out and you’ll connect over your shared humanity. They’ll express their real feelings and you’ll express yours and you’ll remember why it is, again, that you do all this expressing in the first place.

The thing about expressing real feelings online is that you’re expressing real feelings online.

The world is a much more complicated place.

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Summer To-Do List

21 Jun

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Eat so much watermelon my fingers are forever sticky and my stomach always feels slightly sloshy

Go to outdoor movies and don’t complain about the traffic to get there

Walk on the beach

Rollerblade

Eat peaches and cherries until I can’t eat peaches and cherries anymore

Never say anything bad about my body in a swimsuit

Only read the books I truly, genuinely want to read

Homemade Caesar salad once a week, twice!

Farmer’s market meals on Sunday night

Outdoor yoga

Fourth of July with my parents

Jam making

Popsicle making

More sunsets

No makeup

No bra

Cheap sunscreen as perfume

Ice cream cones again and again

A summer wedding on the beach in Cape Cod, five years after our first trip there together. A personal, fun, dream event with the people I love the most in this universe.

Repeat

(Except for that last one)

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Everything happens, we make the reasons

19 Jun

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When I was 17 years old I started work on what would be my first adult novel. It was an idea my friends and I came up with and worked on together, in between AP tests and end-of-the-year festivities. It was so much fun, writing and creating with no pressure whatsoever, just for the joy of it.

Over the next 8 (!!) years, that seed of an idea became an actual book. I worked on it through several degrees, a move to a different country, some friends dropping out, and one staying on. In the bitter end it was me and that friend, having gone through our early 20s and the heartbreaks and changes and stresses it caused, this book our ever-constant companion.

I worked on it on many birthdays. She texted me when she found out she was pregnant since we would be writing together day-in and day-out. It was this looming thing, this thing I Had To Finish, and we were both sure when we finally did, the book would Be Something.

I just know in my gut when we finally finish it will be picked up

If I were to die, I would want you to finish it in my stead

There is a particular sort of mental break that occurs when you write a book. I’ve seen it in my life and my friends’ lives. The world has become so small, just those pages and you, and you’ve poured your soul and sacrificed your life.

I’ve had others ask me to finish their books if they were to die.

We are never joking.

 

When we finally finished our book, years and years later, we were not the same girls we used to be. It was a relief to end that time of our lives, to rid ourselves of a relationship that was past done.

We sent it out with a lot of hope and mania and 2,920 days of dreams and wishes.

 

It was rejected.

 

We all knew the end of that story.

I don’t have a published book, this was years ago. And it was rejected.

 

Every time my writing is rejected it hurts, but this was a special sort of pain. Eight years of my life…for what? Eight years of my life and I wasn’t good enough, this wasn’t good enough.

It seemed a parallel to so many other things happening to me at that time. It seemed like why did we do this?

 

Years later, with the benefit of perspective and time, I’ve come up with a few reasons why.

Why we did this. Why it was important in my life. Why it happened.

I should clarify though, I’m not an everything happens for a reason person. I believe that a lot of things are simply choices or accidents. That the meaning behind them, the reasons things happen are reasons we create for ourselves. Lessons we learn through these events, if we so choose.

I’ve chosen the following reasons for why I needed to write my first book even though it didn’t bring me fame, fortune and a new life. Even though no one picked it up. I’ve chosen these, but there are others I could have chosen. Other narratives that I could have created.

Instead, this is what I know:

The book bonded me and my friend in a way nothing else will ever bond us. It kept us close through some tumultuous years.

The book kept me writing through my early 20s, a time when I wasn’t officially pursuing writing in the way I am now. It kept me hungry to create.

The book taught me things as a writer. I can see what I would do differently now. How that book was flawed, how it could have been better.

This week I saw a new book that’s being released that has a lot of parallels to my first book. It stung a little, someone else writing the story I wanted to and seeing it published, seeing it receive acclaim.

It stung a little, in a sort of vague way, the way things in your heart ache from years ago.

It stung a little, but not as much as it used to.

 

You see, everything happens for a reason.

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The Key To Life

18 Jun

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It’s a busy time right now. There are apartments to see and new jobs to start and 700 million wedding things I think of at all hours of the day.

You know before Lorelai opens the inn where she calls and leaves herself messages in the middle of the night so she doesn’t forget anything?

That’s the stage I’m at.

So

Today, when I realized I had no plans whatsoever, today when I looked at the next week which includes errands and doctors’ appointments and The Sound of Music Sing-along and a Broadway show and Roxane Gay with one of my favorite feminists and dinner plans with friends and normal living and wedding planning and apartment hunting and and and

I took a deep breath and said, OK then. Today is just for me.

Today I take care of me.

Taking care of myself looks like this:

 

Cleaning

Eating three solid meals full of vegetables and real food

Going on a long walk

Reading

 

That’s it.

That’s the secret of life.

Anne Lamott says, “It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do.’ And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

When I was a kid, I too imagined that the keys to happiness! Peace! Stability! Success! Love! were something other than the obvious things.

 

Cleaning

Moving my body

Eating nourishing foods

Reading

 

And then, as I discovered that these were the keys, I realized just how hard they really are. How most of us don’t live in a world set up for these things, we have to carve out that time. We have to fight for it. It’s harder to eat vegetables than it is to eat McDonald’s. It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard and yet it’s the only thing worth it.

I love the above illustration by Mari Andrew:

What do you do in your life?

Oh well I do yoga and I write in my journal and I make myself a fabulous dinner every night.

 

That’s the key right there.

The key to it all.

Kids, listen up. You won’t get it, but bookmark it and return when you’re a little older.

I’m sorry it’s so easy and so hard.

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I Can Do Hard Things

14 Jun

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I got off work at 3:00 and made the journey to Koreatown. Without traffic this was supposed to take a half hour. With traffic…

(Scary music)

NO ONE KNOWS.

(Banshee scream)

It took an hour and a half. I listened to a podcast featuring Speidi, which later sent me into a spiral looking into their current lives. They live rent-free in my dream town and Snapchat and housewife all day.

I shall work my whole life and never afford this town.

Life isn’t always fair.

But then again, I don’t want to be Speidi.

My friend Bailey recently performed at an open mic poetry night. That is a story for another time, or perhaps those characters will just be in a book of mine. The social justice poet who cast a spell. The aspiring alien researcher wearing planet pants. Truly those in this world not trying to fit into whatever standards we have collectively decided are “normal.”

I admire that and them.

Bailey read a poem about mental health, and at one point she talked about the questions you’re asked in a mental health journey—questions by a therapist, by those who monitor such things.

“Do you feel suicidal?”

“No, but I feel hopeless.”

Hopeless is a word I know well.

It’s a word I felt yesterday, for no reason at all.

When you’re low, or sad, or anxious, or whatever your particular brand of struggle is, it’s easy to go hopeless. Your life stretches out before you and you say, well, what I’ve known is sadness/anxiety/this struggle and I’m supposed to keep doing this forever? This never ends? What’s the reward? How do I get through?

It feels hopeless.

Yesterday’s hour and a half car journey was so I could go to a live recording of my one of my favorite podcasts.

This is the time when I wholeheartedly recommend Harry Potter and the Sacred Text as something very, very special.

I told a friend who is a middle school English teacher about the podcast and she has incorporated it into her Harry Potter unit at school, listening to it, doing some of their practices.

I put it on on days when I can’t take the news, when I need something comforting and filling.

It’s like mashed potatoes and pot roast all covered in gravy with those really buttery vegetables on the side.

This podcast reads one chapter of Harry Potter each week under a specific theme. It examines the text as we would a religious document. It blesses characters, does a spiritual practice, and generally uplifts the world.

This week’s theme was Truth.

This week’s chapter was Book Three, Chapter 12.

The Patronus

After some discussion on the text, we were asked to write down a truth about our lives that we wanted to remember.

I thought about it, not very long, and wrote in large font

I can do hard things

It’s the antidote to hopelessness, I think. Not only remembering truths about ourselves and the world, but a reminder that you’ve been here before and you got out OK.

It’s what I tell myself when it’s late and hopelessness hits hardest. Tomorrow is another day. When you wake up you will feel differently.

And also

I can do hard things.

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Leave Good Reviews

9 Jun

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Rob and I took our engagement pictures in a dive bar after eating mac and cheese, buffalo wings, a burger and garlic fries. I list it all out there because it’s one of the reasons I love Rob the most. We go to a restaurant and implicitly agree, yes, all of it.

Yes, all of it, is a good approach to life, I say. Or at least it’s the approach I’ve attempted.

It works sometimes, I say.

In order to reproduce our photobooth strip, I tried out the local copy shop. The man at the counter looked at me like I was insane and then told me he could “make a copy on paper.”

No, good sir. I want these to be photos?

He had no suggestions for how I should proceed and told me I probably shouldn’t.

It was a pretty discouraging conversation, honestly. I left thinking we were dumb for taking $4 engagement photos and also that that man deserved to live in Arizona during the summer!

(Only sort of.)

(Only briefly sort of.)

Next I tried CVS.

Yes, that CVS.

A worker instantly came to my aid. He experimented with different sizes. He printed off a bunch of attempts. “We’ll get there,” he said, over and over.

He gave me a nice discount because of the number of prints we ordered and because we weren’t using a full sheet. An experience that could have been very expensive and disheartening was positive and easy.

I decided to leave a review on Google. The first that this CVS had ever received.

Five stars. “Very helpful and patient with an unusual photo order.”

I’ve never left a Google review before.

I still have inside my soul a scathing takedown of a dentist in Calabasas who felt the need to argue his frightening political beliefs before fixing my tooth, but this man is old  and clearly unhappy and do I really want to end his career?

So no, I’ve never left a Google review.

Anne Lamott says in her brilliant Ted Talk: “Food–try to do a little better. You know what I mean.”

This was greeted with thunderous laughter by the crowd. Because it’s a truth. Because we seem to think we can do more than a little better? I know I do.

I think, oh no problem, this week I’ll revolutionize my food life. My writing life. My everything life.

When the reality is, life is in small steps. We try to do a little better.

We lurch forward, as Anne would say.

Leave good reviews.

That’s my lurch this week.

Leave good reviews because we live in an age where we check Yelp before we leave the house, where new businesses and CVS businesses and all businesses benefit from kind public words.

Leave good reviews because it’s free and it’s simple and because you can brighten someone else’s day and put kind words into the universe, so why shouldn’t you?

Leave good reviews.

You know what I mean.

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