Saturday, June 14, 2014

Where to find me

I won't be updating this site anymore, but all the posts will stay right here where they live. You can find me at these days. I still live in Ohio, on purpose.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Staying in motion

This is it.

It's happening. When I was younger, I bided my time bitterly, waiting for life to happen to me, hoping that the tsunami that was going to sweep me away into wonderfulness would go ahead and strike soon.

My friend's father died suddenly last fall. Someone had carefully collected photographs and collaged them onto posterboard, set up on easels for the mourners to see at the funeral home. He posed with fish, he held his babies, he went to ballgames, he kissed on his wife as she beamed. His life was, of course, too short. But there was so much life in it, I thought. I wanted to remember that.

Nothing has been happening, except for, like, life, and it has been fine. Work has been busy but I really like it. Nick chugs along toward the PhD. How many more years? people still ask. Who cares? is what I want to say. Why would I wish our years away? Who knows how many we'll get.

I am looking forward to a friend wedding in June and a trip to Mexico with Nick. At some point I'll probably run a half-marathon. Mostly, I have been trying to have full days and not live my life 
expecting. Sometimes I realize at 11 p.m. that I'm still wearing my work clothes, a good sign I've been keeping my little fretful mind occupied.

Nick surprised me with tickets to see a comedian we both like on a "school night" last week. Oh, did you not know we are wild? It was a great show, I liked feeling warm and packed in and laughing even though I've spent the last four months sealed into indoor spaces. I threw my head back cackling so forcefully that my neck was telling me about it the next morning. And I managed to drop my ponytail into the pint glass of beer of the man standing behind me. 

The show energized Nick but depleted me. So it was like we had just had sex, but opposite! Ha. 
He wanted to go to a bar or go on a night bike ride and I wanted to take my heels off, watch "Bob's Burgers", and slip into sleep right as the BBC World Service trumpets start their midnight fanfare on my bedside radio.

I conceded a neighborhood walk, but Nick is always bargaining. "With ice cream?" Oh my god, fine, with ice cream. We bought waffle cones at the store near our house and filled them up with cookies 'n cream ice cream. I don't remember ice cream ever tasting like this. It was just from a regular store-brand carton but it was like cake batter yet otherworldly smooth. Then there are the cookie bits. Dairy is hard on my stomach and I usually avoid it, but the discomfort never came that night. God wanted me to enjoy that ice cream, I would probably deduce, were I deranged.

We walked in the middle of the residential streets, holding hands and slurping at our cones like a pair of sibling runaways. When headlight beams touched us, we scattered to the sidewalk like mice. I was still in bed by the time the trumpets played. I always overestimate how much time I will "need" to sit around anticipating bedtime, refreshing my feeds, half-watching television... 

Friday, January 17, 2014

On writing

I am a writer the way you call a bookworm a "reader" and an unfussy toddler a good "eater". In the parlance of my friend Charlie in the early '00s, I write all the fuck time, you guys. Instead of using a proper word processor, I use my Gmail drafts folder, where (I just checked!) currently dwell 295 drafts of God-knows-what. I just found a thing titled "How to forgive the dumb animal of yourself" and "How not to refer to your friend's newborn baby"? If someone wanted to bloodlessly kill me they need only hack into my Gmail, publish all my drafts, and watch as I gasped and choked and eventually expired from the lethal injection of shame.

I have been for many years out of the practice of writing things down on paper. In my early adulthood there are two occasions that ever move me to do this: 1. I'm on vacation and I don't have my computer and I am documenting my trip and processing the thoughts I allow to materialize once freed from the blinders of my routine and cultural reality and 2. I am having an existential crisis and feel certain that I will feel as leaden and worthless forever as I feel at the moment that I reach for some scratch paper and a pen as an analgesic.

In the purple pre-dawn hours on New Year's Day, I had an experience that was cinematic yet mundane yet completely private and I started writing about it in my head on my run later that day.

What I did instead of trying to dunk the whole thing in prose, was boil it down to three bare sentences in my journal, in the service of preserving it quickly and to jog the memory of my future self. Every few days since then, I've been scratching down a note or two.

I have had trouble getting to sleep since childhood. When I was young, my dad would have me write down the things I was worried about on a piece of paper right before bed and set the list on my nightstand. I'd forgotten how much better it made me feel, that small little nightly exorcism.

In the morning the list seemed so inscrutable and far away.

social studies teeth eczema dying, etc.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tabula rasa

The new year is arbitrary, ultimately, but we do get a bit emotional about quiet death of a year that was never ours to begin with. Me, I was sad to see 2013 go, though most of my friends were keen to douse it in lighter fluid and hatefully toss the lit match.

Last year I resolved to read a book every month which I most certainly did not accomplish. Still, the specter of "read more" was the friendly ghost that haunted me the whole year. I wrote down titles recommended to me, added books to online shopping carts, and my friends leant me their favorites. I finally read Lolita. The stack of books on my nightstand grew and the sight of them comforted me even if I often was undermotivated to crack a spine before bed. My nighttime ritual of choice remains this: holding my bright phone very close to my face and refreshing Twitter and Instagram and e-mail one last time before bed. Then I close my eyes and see pulses of light for five minutes as my brain tries to recover from the stimuli.

Fitting then that this year, I resolve to be less tethered to my phone. I told Nick this and he laughed in my face, rightfully. I think of myself as having respectable phone etiquette in public but still, when I am in a waiting room, I am fiddling with my phone. At red lights (I know) I am fiddling with my phone. When Nick and I are trying to enjoy a TV show together, I am fiddling with my phone and then asking for clarification on plot points I've missed. While I am being honest about my bad/sad? behavior, sometimes in the middle of a run, I will check my pace with my running app....and then see if anyone has fav-ed a tweet that I thought was good.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

My motivation, I will sheepishly admit, is that at some point I hope to be a parent and I want my phone to be a useful tool, but not a cyborg palm implant. I don't want any small people including my phone when drawing a picture of me. While it seems premature, if I've learned anything through changing my diet and developing a fitness regimen in the last few years, it's this: good habits are hard to build, bad habits are slow to break.

Yesterday, I was superstitious about "starting as I mean to go on"  in 2014. I ran sprints in the park, ate plenty and well, washed the bed linens, and wrote in my log (what 27-year-olds call diaries, I've decided), started my first batch of kombucha. I set my alarm on my phone, but went to sleep without refreshing that last burst of information. This morning I made Nick and I a simple but substantial breakfast with whole grains and protein (egg-in-a-hole or in my household "egg in a toast") and walked to work through the 3 inches of fresh powder that fell overnight.

Sure, the cleansing blanket of white was a little on-the-nose for January 2nd, but I'll take it. I believe in omens when they're good.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The most wonderful time of the year | part 2

Follow-up interview to my declaration that I'd opt out of holiday shopping:

Man, so did you make all that pesto?

Did you buy a bunch of stuff and sort of get a sick thrill out of it, like all the carefully selected books for your friends and the BABY MOCCASINS for your nephew?
You know it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Private lessons

For nearly five years, I took weekly private euphonium lessons. (A euphonium is like a small tuba, roughly the height of my torso and head from base to bell) It was not uncommon in the affluent suburb I grew up in for kids to take private lessons on their instrument in addition to normal band curriculum in school. Both my older siblings took lessons on their respective instruments in addition to the piano lessons we all had been taking since age 6. This was all very normal to me, such was my secure childhood. Mom gave me checks every month to give my instructors, and I folded them in half without looking at them. How middle class is that? I didn't want to know how much was being forked over for the lessons that I hated but could not conceive of quitting.

There is no "punk" way to carry an enormous euphonium case around, by the way. God forbid someone know I participated in "activities". I kept my instrument locked up in the band locker at school, never venturing outside the far west wing of the building where the band and choir facilities were. I was able to record my tapes for class in the practice rooms there, and it is also where I met my instructor for lessons. I was good enough to get away with never practicing for my lessons, which to me seemed like an okay tradeoff for never having to tell my parents I wanted to quit, such was my secure childhood. I was waiting in terror, and have been waiting my whole life, to be called out for not trying. But everyone else is just covering their own ass. I assume that private lesson teachers in the self-esteem age don't stay in business by reaming out their underachieving teenaged pupils.

My euphonium teacher was a short, polite guy who was like a jazzy accountant. Or like the most relaxed guy in an engineering honors society. In my limited experience, professional orchestral musicians are like these sort of bluesy geeks. They wear black turtlenecks and their hair is probably ten years out of date, bless them. I wish I could tell you his name because it is perfect. It is the only name you can have as a low brass professional. Anyhow, I mean none of these descriptors disparagingly and he would likely agree with them.

He was chatty and seemed to like me, though maybe he was like that with all of his students. He would catch me up about performances and travel and weird dates he had been on, but not in an inappropriate way. So that would take up a solid 7-8 minutes of the 30 minute lesson, bearing in mind I'm consistently 2-4 minutes late to these things. Then with the remaining time, he would lapse into these private embouchure-developing fugue states where he closed his eyes and sort of burbled brightly back and forth between notes. I would just sit there awkwardly clearing my spit valve as though he had taken a phone call during a lunch date, and eventually he would return to Earth all flustered like he'd been woken from a nap. Then I would walk the plank and sightread the piece he had assigned me to practice at the previous lesson.

He was given to dispensing jazzy-accountant wisdom to me. Once he told me, with stoner gravitas, "once you make toast, it can never go back to being bread". Um, ok, guy. Wouldn't you know that I've spent years trying to pick that phrase off of me, like spidersilk that clings to your jeans, then your sleeve, then your fingertips themselves. Shortly after he spoke it, I decided not to date a friend who had expressed interest in me, and to whom I was not attracted. I was entertaining dating him because I was flattered and because he did interesting drugs and had the sort of encyclopedic knowledge of movies and music that I thought might make me better by association. Ultimately, I didn't have feelings for him and likely would have let that arrangement go on indefinitely, faking my way through it for years like the lessons my parents bought me. I'm so glad that I kept that friendship "bread". I think of his words still whenever I'm rushing my life along impatiently. Let it be bread, dude.

Another notable thing he told me was that I needed to allow other people to catch up to me. This both stroked my ego and terrified me, because adults who weren't my parents had been projecting precocious social maturity onto me since I was very young, and because I knew this purported maturity was a house of cards. Lurking beneath my aloof and over-it approach to everything was the fraught unnecessary self-obsession that leads a person to hide their band instrument, date strategically, and avoid honest conversations with their parents. In other words, I was an ordinary teenager behaving in ordinary ways. I just knew to pretend like everything was fine.

I haven't thought about that last bit of received wisdom much lately, and my current aloofness is bottled at the source of not giving a fuck. If anything, my 20s have been about others allowing me to catch up to them and granting forgiveness for my occasional horribleness. When I was in high school, I thought I knew everything. As an adult, I don't think I know anything and am 500% happier for it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year*

Christmas 2012. My bangs are 30% grayer now.

I don't love Christmas.  I have depression and it depresses me. There you go. 

I walked through an arcade downtown today en route to a meeting and there was a tall, conical Christmas tree installed centrally. As I passed it, I politely said "no" as though it were going to ask me to sign a petition for something. 

This was supposed to be the year that we finally achieved my dream of going away for Christmas, just the two of us. Watching the sun rise on Christmas morning from our tent on the beach. Better yet, trusting that the sun will do its thing and waking up Christmas afternoon. Even Nick, who was not initially sold on the idea, announced shortly after we arrived home from all our Christmas driving last year that the next year, we were taking off, we were gonna do it. 

Now that there's a baby in the family, of whom I quite fond, we both couldn't imagine missing his first Christmas. Even though he can't comprehend "hands" let alone the wonder of an omniscient trespassing elf who brings presents. Gotta smush on his face. Gotta do it.

I get very tangled up in the perceived expectations of others with regards to how we spend our time during the week of Christmas. We have three sets of parents between us who are all within a few hours' drive of each other. Every year we change up how we make Christmas happen logistically and every year we feel like we are doing it poorly and unpopularly but in a fresh, new 
way. Often the happiest time of the season is driving 4 hours from northeastern Ohio to southwestern Ohio or vice versa, alone with Nick on the quiet highway.

I also have a hang-up about gifts. I was blaming others' expectations at first but it is my ego.  I feel "legitimate" when I can give a family member a thoughtful, "nice" gift. Each year, Nick and I push for a reduced emphasis on gifts within his family and it never happens. This year, we are just going to start giving small edible gifts and owning it. Like, literally a jar of homemade pesto with a ribbon around it. It seems obvious, but sometimes these things get snagged on cultural weirdness and status quo on their way to execution. Say it with me now, the gifts aren't the point, the gifts aren't the point, the gifts aren't the point.

Perhaps someday faraway-Christmas will happen, but for all I know my blue mood would follow me to paradise regardless.

Life is stupidly short and we owe it to ourselves to love on our families while honoring our own little hearts. Cheers**.

*for some values of "wonderful"
**Oh, I finally found a holiday beer that doesn't taste like spiced garbage! Shiner Cheer.