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A Person Without Skin

5 Mar

I have been thinking about this quote from Less for months now.

The book itself was just fine for me, but this quote has stayed with me, swirling in my head, naming something I’ve only ever felt.

You’re like a person without skin.

Everything hurts.

Once, in his twenties, a poet he had been talking with extinguished her cigarette in a potted plant and said, “You’re like a person without skin.” A poet had said this. One who made her living flaying herself alive in public had said that he, tall and young and hopeful Arthur Less, was without skin. But it was true. “You need to get an edge,” his old rival Carlos constantly told him in the old days, but Less had not known what that meant. To be mean? No, it meant to be protected, armored against the world, but can one “get” an edge any more than one can “get” a sense of humor? Or do you fake it, the way a humorless businessman memorizes jokes and is considered “a riot,” leaving parties before he runs out of material?

Whatever it is—Less never learned it. By his forties, all he has managed to grow is a gentle sense of himself, akin to the transparent carapace of a soft-shelled crab.

PS: A few other quotes from the book that I loved:

And we realize that we thought we were the only changing thing, the only variable, in the world; that the objects and people in our lives are there for our pleasure, like the playing pieces of a game, and cannot move of their own accord; that they are held in place by our need for them, by our love. How stupid.

We think we know the ones we love.

Our husbands, our wives. We know them – we are them, sometimes; when separated at a party we find ourselves voicing their opinions, their taste in food or books, telling an anecdote that never happened to us but happened to them. We watch their tics of conversation, of driving and dressing, how they touch a sugar cube to their coffee and stare as it turns white to brown, then drop it, satisfied, into the cup. I watched my own husband do that every morning; I was a vigilant wife.

We think we know them. We think we love them. But what we love turns out to be a poor translation, a translation we ourselves have made, from a language we barely know. We try to get past it to the original, but we never can. We have seen it all. But what have we really understood?

One morning we awaken. Beside us, that familiar sleeping body in the bed: a new kind of stranger. For me, it came in 1953. That was when I stood in my house and saw a creature merely bewitched with my husband’s face.

Perhaps you cannot see a marriage. Like those giant heavenly bodies invisible to the human eye, it can only be charted by its gravity, its pull on everything around it. That is how I think of it. That I must look at everything around it, all the hidden stories, the unseen parts, so that somewhere in the middle – turning like a dark star – it will reveal itself at last.

Here We Are In 2019

10 Jan

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In 2019 I want to get into making salads. The big, hearty kind full of nutrients and wild rice, sunflower seeds and nuts.

I want to draw more.

I want to speak up and ask for what I need.

I want to record what makes me happy.

I want to record what makes me unhappy.

This feels like a life-changer?

This feels like why haven’t I always been doing it?

In 2019 I want to start a morning routine, one that does not begin and end with social media.

I want to use social media intentionally, in general.

I want to live intentionally, in general.

In 2019 I want to finish writing my book.

That one. The one I’ve been playing with for three years, the one I gave a real go at last year before realizing, oh those are some big problems.

In 2019 what I’d really, really like to do most is finish writing my book.

A Memory. Click, Click, Click.

2 Dec

A couple of weeks ago Robert and I bought an internet booster thing.

There’s a real name for this item, and we had real reason to believe it would work, but that stuff is irrelevant to the story.

We had an internet booster thing.

We procrastinated setting it up, and by the time we realized, no, in fact, this was not going to work, it was 8:45pm on the night we needed to return it.

Staples has a strict 14 day return policy.

We had fifteen minutes to return this internet booster thing within the policy window!

!

Rob tossed me the cord while he ran to put on his shoes.

I left the house in weird camera pajamas and Birkenstocks and soon we were sprinting up the road, laughing into the darkness.

“I’m going to throw up!” I yelled.

“I can’t breathe!”

We huffed and puffed and regretted our poutine from dinner.

We huffed and puffed and regretted that we hadn’t taken care of this earlier.

We laughed and huffed and laughed and puffed and when we arrived at the store three blocks later, they said, um this is a receipt for scrapbook paper?

It all worked out with six minutes to spare.

On the way home, Rob took my hand and we walked leisurely, letting our heart rates return to normal.

As it was happening, the sprinting, the camera pajamas, the yells into the void, I had the distinct thought,

This is a memory.

This moment

right now

a memory.

So here I am, writing it down to save it for later.

Click click click.

What Makes Someone A Good Person?

16 Jan

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A few months ago, my friends and I had a conversation about what makes a person “good.” I’m still thinking about it.

The discussion began with a question, do we know any truly good people?

And if we do, what makes them good?

One friend commented she considers herself good, but is it more just an absence of being bad?

Does she need to be actively working at a homeless shelter (fill-in-the-blank) to be good?

Or is it more about the daily stuff? Being kind to a cashier. Being aware of ways to help those around you.

Another friend brought up a goodness scale. From 1-100 where do we each fall?

Are we just about average? How can we be better?

None of the answers were clear-cut, but it made me consider my definition of good. The people in my life who are kind and thoughtful and give grace.

How I can become more like that. Like them.

And as I considered all this, I wanted to open up the discussion to you smart people. What’s your definition of a “good” person?

Any thoughts on the matter?

Scents That Bring Me Joy

11 Jul

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Fuzzy ocean air

Lavender

My mother’s bread rising in my parents’ home

My mother’s bread rising in any home

A crockpot meal walking in the door after work, like YEAH BABY I DID THAT

Babies

Strawberries from the side of the road

Vanilla

Almond

Dove soap

Library books

All books

Even waterlogged books

Vintage stores

Churros!

Cinnamon of any kind, really

Fresh laundry (Tide)

Fresh laundry (Downy)

Muggy laundry rooms

LASAGNA

Rain-soaked lawns

Rob’s deodorant

Rob

 

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

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.

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)

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.

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.