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Do Unto Yourself

23 Oct

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Anne Lamott, in her yearly essay urging us all to stop dieting, says something I think about often.

One of the ways she talks about food is to encourage people to prepare every meal like their pastor is coming to dinner.

You wouldn’t say, “Here Pastor–let’s eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of Pringles is ALL for you.” And then stand there gobbling from your own tubular container.

No, you’d get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before your pastor at the table, filled with happiness, love, pride and connection. That’s what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now. Wow!

Prepare every meal like it’s for someone you love and admire.

The phrase do unto others as you would have done to you is a good one, especially if you’re an out-of-control narcissit who needs help treating others like human beings.  But I think the reverse is equally powerful.

Do unto yourself as you would have others do to you

Or even

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others

Hilary came to stay last week. It was a week full of chili cheese fries and laughter, nostalgia and moving forward. It was a good week.

Before she came, I cleaned my apartment top to bottom. I organized my pantry. I swept and mopped the floors. I washed every single item that could possibly need to be washed. I filled my life with fresh flowers and fresh cookies.

The night she arrived I made big bowls of steaming pasta topped with arugula. We sat on my barstools and ate on y placemats.

Two days after she left I ate expired mac and cheese and a box of Fruit by the Foot on my bed.

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Maybe when a friend shows up at my house and does my dishes and feeds my plant and generally looks after my well-being she is doing to me what she would like done to her and I am doing to Hilary what I would like done to me and we teach other. Through our actions and examples we show each other how we should treat ourselves.

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others

That’s what we’ve longed for our whole lives, and get to create now.

 

Wow.

Living Alone

29 Sep

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I cooked dinner tonight on a plug-in stovetop.

Cous cous with spinach and tomatoes, grilled zucchini and toasted pine nuts. The type of meal the recipe called “simple” but I had to buy every product for.

I listened to Joni Mitchell Blue while I prepared, my internet and phone service not working. I had spicy cheese and crackers for dessert. Cinnamon tea bfore bed.

I live alone now.

In a glorious, glorious twist of fate I am finally in my own space.

I had a bit of glee today remembering my college days and how I lived in a place where the landlords would regularly inspect the state of our apartment. “Cleaning checks” they were called.

I’ve since learned this was unique to my school.

I always barely passed cleaning checks, usually with a character reference from a housemate. “Her room is usually much worse,” they said, about my tiny box shared with another person.

How I had a life in there I do not know. How two people had lives in there I certainly do not know.

In many ways I think this blog is the story of my growing up. I started it at 25, the year my pre frontal cortex fully developed. I was very sad. I was starting on career number two. I was spending most of my energy on a boy who gave me half-hearted nothing attempts at anything.

Rob was my friend, always listening to me and helping me set up tables from Ikea. It would take me two years for him to work up the courage to ask me out and two years for me to work up the sense to say yes.

In other ways I think this blog is a love story to Rob. It is the story of us, he’s there through the words. Always in the background. Friend. Secret Boyfriend. Open Boyfriend. Year four on the Cape.

It’s a chronicle of our love story, one that is currently evolving and growing and changing and settling into something really nice. I don’t write about it as much, but it’s settling into something nice and comfortable.

I ate my couscous salad with homemade dressing and did my dishes, placing the wet bowls in a tray beneath my Princess Diana portrait.

I crawled into my bed, my mountain of pillows with a mountain of books.

I drank a big glass of water.

 

 

I’m settling into something nice and comfortable.

A Tour Of My New Apartment

28 Sep

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I walk into my apartment and am greeted by Princess Diana herself. She sits behind my sink, smiling demurely beneath heavy lashes.

Hello Di, I say.

(Not really.)

There are flowers on my windowsill, a little ledge just big enough for vases. I‘ve filled them with daises and sunflowers and the $4 purple things from the farmers market.

My bedroom boasts a multicolored rug from the Wellfleet flea market. There’s my girly bed I never want to give up, and the tapestry from Santa Barbara I bought with Rob the other day. It hangs behind my headboard and floats with the fan waves, knocking into plastic flower lights.

I use 11 separate pillows and I use them well.

Enid is next to my bed, a saucy little thing who likes to touch you without warning and whom I’ve already forgotten to feed twice.

I’ve had her for two weeks.

Sorry Enid, I say.

(Yes, really.)

I have two gold bookshelves, once the bane of my existence, now my proudest accomplishments. I turned them from boring Ikea bookshelves into sparkly Jillian bookshelves and filled them with Joni Mitchell and Nick Hornby, a rainbow of books and artists I love.

My great grandpa has a place on my wall.

My Sylvia Plath has a place above my sink.

It’s all so me. Everything about it is carefully curated and hung. I drew pictures and made plans and wanted to create something that was out of a whimsical magazine.

Something flawless and minimal, joyful and colorful. Cluttered and white and every contradiction.

I ended up creating something messy and imperfect out of messy, imperfect, contradictory me.

 

 

I love it.

Internet Drama, Through My Personal Journal Notes

23 Sep

I wrote this a few weeks ago, back when the most important part of my life was that I didn’t have internet. I’m glad that is no longer the most important thing.

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I’ve had a really off day and I want to write it out. I want my anxiety and stress and sadness to drip off my fingers and into the fake ink of a fake word document on my real computer.

I want to feel right again.

Today I spent the majority of my day waiting for an internet technician who never ended up coming. It was the expectation that got me. I expected to have internet tonight. All day I made a list of things that I would do when I had internet.

I don’t have cell pone service at my new place, and I couldn’t leave to do things like submit homework assignments or respond to emails like a normal person. Instead I had a list. I list that grew.

I waited.
And waited.

At 9:00PM I ended up in Starbucks with a hazelnut hot chocolate and 30 minutes to accomplish everything on that list. My heart was pounding. My fingers tripped over each other.

I did it all. Did I sound ok? Did those emails make sense? Who knows who cares who what?

I wasn’t very kind about the internet fiasco. For the first three hours I was. I was longsuffering and demure. I ate bags of popcorn and read graphic novels telling myself that soon, soon! I would have internet and could be a productive human. Soon, soon! I would turn the day around.

Soonday never comes.

That was a really bad play on Brandi Carlile. Remember her?

The Story?

Oh woman, sometimes I miss that level of angst.

Maybe I found it tonight.

I feel bad about that.

On top of everything I feel bad that I wasn’t kinder to the person who was hours and hours and hours late and didn’t give me internet service or warning and then blamed me for it.

I want to be the kind of person who is a kind kind of person.

I want to talk to people who frustrate me in longer sentences than one word.

Today Anne Lamott posted a prayer that she says every day with her best friend after they hike their praying place. They go there to “lift up those who are struggling, including, sometimes, our tiny princess selves.”

Her prayer says:

We pray, Mother Father Creator Source, we need Your help! And we give you Thanks in advance for your tender mercies. We pray the praise of wow, our minds blown by this Beauty, and the greatest gift of close friends.

Prayers are like deep breaths. The exhale of so many anxieties and fears, the release of something you can’t do anything about.

Help.

Thanks.

Wow.

Remembering moments of grace even on this impossible day—finding a surprise gift card, locating every screw to put my bed back together, a Scholastic podcast on my way to do something I love with books.

Grace and breaths and exhales of wishes and concerns.

 

Even for me and my tiny princess self.

Back In The Arena

12 Sep

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Today I had a big writing rejection.

All writing rejections are big, I guess, but this one hurt particularly. I found out as I was walking out of yoga, checking back in with the real world.

I regret that the volume of submissions we receive makes it impractical for me to offer editorial feedback.

Add it to the list.

I stopped at the store for some rice and chicken. Three bright lemons and a drink to warm my insides.

I put my farmers market veggies on a tray topped with olive oil and red pepper flakes.

I finished a book.

A perfect book with not a word to change.

I made a basil sauce.

I watched Tiny House Hunters and realized I’m living in Tiny House Hunters, complete with hot plate and portable oven.

I absently wondered how many square feet my apartment is.

This rejection hurts. It sucks, and all those non-writerly words. I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish it had gone my way.

But I’m not floored.

I’m not crying or losing it all.

Politics aside, one of my favorite things about the exceptionally complicated woman we know as Hillary Clinton is that she is a fighter.

For over 20 years she has been brutally attacked for every single part of her, in the most vicious ways possible. She has faced sexism and glass ceilings, betrayal and the worst of the worst of the internet worst people.

And yet, she always comes back swinging.

In 2008, she gracefully bowed out for Barack Obama. She then served as Secretary of State.

She’s back now, facing the daunting arena again.

She is knocked down. She is wildly imperfect, as we all are. She comes back to the fight.

I wonder why I handled this one better.

Is it a year of therapy? Growing up?

Is it that I didn’t place every expectation on this one piece of work? That I only let my mind half wander down how great it could be?

I think it’s because I know I’m coming back.

Writing and I, we made a vow a few years ago. And as soon as I accepted that vow, as soon as I said no matter how many times I’m knocked down I will come back swinging– things got easier.

I know, in times like this, that I am headed back to the arena.

That makes a difference.

 

Also, I’m proud of what I wrote.

It’s been less than two hours since the rejection. The sun has set on this mild day and I’m full of good food and good words.

I have work to do all night, like the work I did all day.

My friend texted me “I think that’s what makes people successful. Ability to take failure.”

I thanked her and got back to writing.

It Won’t Matter In A Year

29 Aug

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It started with the nightmares.

I dreamt of violence and pain, of an ex-boyfriend showing up and ruining the good parts of my life.

My mother says it takes time for her dreams to catch up to her reality. When she moved to Kentucky it wasn’t until three years in that she actually dreamt in the Bluegrass State.

By this standard that ex-boyfriend should be long gone.

I’m learning, though, that there are certain hurts that we work through to the best of our abilities. We seek help, we find healthy relationships and keep going, but those wounds are there, under the surface.

I do not know for how long.

Some time in the tumultuous night I turned off my alarm. When I woke up I had five minutes to get ready for an important meeting an hour and a half away.

I threw on my dress from the day before, smeared sunblock on my face, and squashed a banana in my purse.  As I locked the door behind me I had a sinking feeling.

I had left my keys inside.

No, no, no, no.

Fifteen “there are no available Ubers in your area right now” later I gave an apologetic call to my meeting and I walked to the closest bus stop.

Urine.  It smelled like I was sitting on a pile of urine.

I probably was.

I took the bus and then an Uber. I got my extra key from Rob’s work, a nice place in Century City, oh about a lifetime away from me.

I treated myself to an iced tea that really sucked.  I tried to eat a now-black banana and gave up almost immediately.

And then another Uber home, this time with my phone dead in my hands.

I read once that you shouldn’t get caught up in things that won’t matter a year from now. Life is full of little petty annoyances, three hours and a missed meeting out of your day, $48.03 you would have rather put towards chili cheese fries or at least your credit card bill.

I know people who are suffering from life-altering physical pain. I know people who are getting divorced, who are aching and changing and bleeding in the biggest ways.

My stupid three hours for my stupid mistake was stupid.

I got home and put my nightgown back on.  I poured my tiny princess self a glass of cold water and watched Drake’s VMA speech again.

I prayed that Rihanna would accept him, perhaps in a few years when she’s more mature. That she’ll realize that all you really want in life is a man who will put on a tux and embarrass himself in front of the whole world for you.

I got choked up when Drake did.

She’s someone…she’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old. 

Who can blame either of them?

This stupid morning won’t matter in a year from now and I know that. And so I type it out, letting the stupid poison bleed into my stupid keyboard instead of my stupid heart.

I stop calling myself stupid.

I wish I had meditated last night. I wish I hadn’t dated an asshole who treated my heart like a Jell-O trampoline for his steel-toed boots. I wish I had grabbed my keys on the way out the door.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

 

It won’t matter in a year.

I remind myself it won’t matter in a year.

At that Moment Everything Was Truth

17 Jul

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There’s an episode of Girls this season where Marnie runs into her ex, Charlie.  Once upon a time Marnie and Charlie were in love, they were together, they were family.  Now Charlie is sitting by the side of the street and Marnie is wearing her sweatpants and it takes them a moment to recognize each other.

What follows is a beautiful sequence in truth and love and the things we let ourselves believe.

Marnie and Charlie spend the night in suspended reality.  Marnie at one point tells Charlie that she wrote half her album about him.  The tension is thick.  They have history.  They love each other.

They love each other?

They get back to Charlie’s apartment.  He has a trash bag over his window, a tattoo on his chest that says something about being “humble” and a false accent as part of his gig as a drug dealer.  Charlie is not what Marnie wants.

Marnie is married.

They talk.  “What am I going to do about you?” Marnie asks.  Charlie suggests they run away the next day.  That they move somewhere and start a general store, somewhere that has a general store.  Marnie smiles, Charlie smiles.  “You were my family,” she says.  He remembers her uncles names, the particulars of her life.

It’s intoxicating.

In the morning Charlie lies to Marnie about his drug use.  It’s the wake up call from the fugue state they’ve been in.  That night wasn’t real.  Well it was real, and the things they were saying were coming from deep places of hurt and loss and sadness and loneliness.  But it also wasn’t real.

It reminds me of a Brothers Karamazov quote a friend sent me years ago.  She’s the type of friend who signs her emails, “light” like I’ve just started signing mine “best.”

 

“That’s why I loved you, for your magnanimous heart!” escaped suddenly from Katya.  “and you do not need my forgiveness, nor I yours; it’s all the same whether you forgive or not, all my life you will remain a wound in my soul, and I in yours – that’s how it should be…,” she stopped to catch her breath. 

“Why have I come?” she began again, frenziedly and hastily.  “To embrace your feet, to squeeze your hands, like this, till it hurts – remember how I used to squeeze your hands, like this, till it hurts – remember how I used to squeeze them in Moscow? – to say to you that you are my God, my joy, to tell you that I love you madly.”  She nearly groaned from suffering, and suddenly, greedily pressed her lips to his hand.  Tears streamed from her eyes. 

Alyosha stood speechless and embarrassed; he had never expected to see what he was seeing.

“Love is gone Mitya!” Katya began again, “but what is gone is painfully dear to me.  Know that, for all eternity.  But now, for one minute, let it be as it might have been, “ she prattled with a twisted smile, again looking joyfully into his eyes.  “ you now love another, I love another, but still I shall love you eternally, and you me, did you know that?  Love me, do you hear, love me all your life!” she exclaimed with some sort of almost threatening tremor in her voice. 

“I shall love you, and you know, Katya,” Mitya also began to speak catching his breath at each word, “five days ago, that evening, you know, I loved you…when you collapsed, and they carried you out…all my life! It will be so, eternally so…”

Thus they prattled to each other, and their talk was frantic, almost senseless, and perhaps also not even truthful, but at that moment everything was truth, and they both utterly believed what they were saying. 

 

Yes.

Their talk was frantic, almost senseless, and perhaps also not even truthful, but at that moment everything was truth, and they both utterly believed what they were saying.

 

I’ve had a night like this, once, in my own upon a time.  The type of night that sticks with you because it was surreal and yet boundlessly important.  Because you made big decisions without thought and went back on them in the morning. Because it was truth and it was not truth.

 

Lena Dunham doesn’t always get it, but when she does, she’s freaking Dostoyevsky.

107 Roommates You’ll Have In Your Twenties – Part 2

6 Jul

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Parts 1, 3, and 4 

This was also written with Hilary.  She and I have both been many of these roommates, just so we’re clear.

 

26. The roommate who is like, “You know what would be fun?  Keying my ex’s car.”

27. The roommate starting her own beauty business who pressures you to invest

28. The one upper roommate

29. The roommate with the wild stinky feet

30. The roommate with the wild stinky stink

31. The roommate you never want to speak to

32. The roommate who uses a lot of toilet paper

33. The never-tells-you-your-crack -is-showing -but- will-bring-it-up-a-year-later-in-front -of-all-your-friends roommate

34. The roommate you plan your life around so you aren’t in the kitchen at the same time

34b. The roommate who never leaves the kitchen so you’re forced to eat the whole pint of ice cream now to avoid an awkward run in

35. The roommate who buys a lock for their door

36.  The roommate who marks the milk to see who is drinking it

37. The “let’s sit down and have a roommate meeting about who is buying paper towels” roommate

38. The “I have a spreadsheet of expenses and you should buy more paper towels” roommate

39. The paints an “om” symbol on her door roommate

40. The roommate who makes you pay for everything, but will “get you next time”

41. The homesick roommate

42. The heartsick roommate

43. The long-distance relationship who Skypes in the common area roommate

44. The roommate who doesn’t leave her pajamas

45. The constantly compliments your skin as further efforts to get you to invest in her beauty business roommate

46. The roommate who complains loudly about society’s standards for her body

47. The naked roommate

48. The strong perfume roommate

49.  The roommate obsessed with a show you’ll never watch but refuses to stop talking to you about it. (Years later you’ll watch Lost, but you will not tell her out of spite.)

50. The socially awkward roommate who wants to go on field trips to the grocery store together

The Holiness In Peeling Potatoes

28 Jun

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I volunteer at the library several times a month.

It’s one of my favorite parts of my week, something I look forward to along with Thursday yin yoga and Monday date days.

There’s something in the routine, in the things you can count on to bring you joy.

Last week my regular supervisor was out of town and so I was given the task of shelf reading.  Shelf reading, for those of you who don’t know, is going through the books and making sure everything is in alphabetical order.  Certain sections, like the children’s section, tend to get out of place and so periodically someone goes in and organizes them.

Shelf reading.

The woman who assigned me the task told me that she can only shelf read for about a half hour before she needs a break.

I nodded and started on the YA FICTION As.

I went through books I had read and books I wanted to read.  I pulled titles off the shelf every once in awhile to glance through the pages.  I noticed the pretty covers, the ones that seemed like me, the ones I would never read.

A half hour passed quickly.

The other task they had for me couldn’t be completed that day and so I went back to my shelf and back to alphabetizing.

The books were mainly in place, I moved probably less than 10, but I dutifully went through every author and then every author’s set of works.

FA, FE, FL

An hour hit.

I was losing steam.

I needed a break, I needed to not be squatting, pulling my dress down over my knees to reach the lower shelves.  I was fading. Fast.

I got a drink of water and remembered something Elizabeth Gilbert said in her podcast.  She talked abot the joy of peeling potatoes, the meditation in the mundane.  How when she lived in India she scrubbed floors and what that can mean for your psche.  When you get to a place where you find holiness in the scrubbing.

I’ve never before found joy in peeling the metaphorical potatoes.  Mundane tasks and jobs and lives drive me up a wall and my active mind soon climbs out of its playpen and into the dark, scary world.

But that day I decided to try it.

I was going to be alphabetizing for the next hour no matter what I did, so I could try to make it holy.  I could try to make it joyful.

Back to the shelves I went.

HA, HE, HI

The Clique series, why hadn’t I read it?

Shannon Hale. Oh gosh I met her and loved her.

She lives in my hometown, you know.

My body started to calm.  Setting those limits, knowing you have to face a task somehow makes it more manageable.  It’s the unknown, the expectation that you could finish any moment that makes it harder.

GA, GE, GR

GR – A, GR – E, GR – I

When I finished my time I marked my progress on a sheet of paper.  People commented on how much shelf reading I did, practically the entire YA section.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” I said.

And it wasn’t.

I’m reading a YA book right now that subscribes to the YA book mentality that in order to really live and seize life, one must ditch out on responsibilities, find the craziest adventures and do them this very minute, live in an unrestrained way.

And I get this, on some level.

It’s a juvenile way of thinking.  We have to have jobs.  There’s the practicality aspect.

But I get this.

One of the reasons I love Rob is that he would drop everything and drive three hours to get a really good piece of pizza with me just because.  Just because it was really good.

I tried to explain this concept to a guy I once dated, the drop everything for a pizza thing, but he wasn’t a romantic.  He didn’t understand it.  “There’s pizza here,” he said.

So I do get this.

But then I also think this mentality misses the point.  So often in life we are stuck shelf reading, peeling the potatoes, doing mundane work.  If we can make that work holy and worthwhile and joyful-

That is what it means to live life the fullest.

Sure, backyard rollercoasters and skipping AP Physics and jumping into lakes at midnight is fun.

But it’s easy to find the joy there.

It’s much harder to find the holiness in peeling potatoes.

Pity Party Central

3 Jun

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I’ve had a lot of little pity parties lately.  Well, big pity parties.  I’m not known for my small amounts of sorrow, especially when it comes to myself.  I say if you’re going celebrate your misery, you should make the party grand, you should announce it to the world, and you should send a personalized invitation to everyone you know.

Pity Party Central over here.

I’ve been sick for what seems like forever.  I still have a ringing in my ear that I fear will never really disappear at this point.  I may live my life with this ringing, according to my doctor.  Let us collectively pray this does not happen.

By the way, pity party tonight 7/8PM Central!

I’ve been working a lot.  I haven’t been able to write or exercise or do the normal things that keep my fragile balance in check.  My best friend moved across the country.  At one point in the last several weeks I joined Bumble BFF for a half hour but that’s another story for another time.

Pity Party tomorrow, 6/7PM Central!

And so this morning I decided I was done with it.  That I needed to do something for someone else and that I needed to leave the house and so I set off to Zuma Beach to look for seashells.  It was a foggy morning and the shards of polished rocks were plentiful and soon I was off to Malibu Kitchen for some Snickerdoodles.  I picked up Malibu Magazine and some fuzzy socks at the Pepperdine Bookstore and wrote a card and packaged some teas and carefully selected a book and soon I had my very own Malibu care package to send to a friend who is doing much worse than I am.  Whose problems are real and life-altering.  Not annoying and ear-ringing.

It took up my morning and soon I was eating a pulled pork sandwich and buying a book for Rob’s grandma that I can’t list here because she reads this blog, but it’s a good one.

And then it was time to head to work again, full and with a little less pity.

It worked.

At least for the morning, it worked.