“She looks sad. She looks angry. She looks different from everyone else I know—she cannot put on that happy face others wear when they know they are being watched. She doesn’t put on a face for me, which makes me trust her somehow.”
– Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook (via larmoyante)
“And perhaps I don’t have to decide between mental health and creativity. It seems that, whether mad or not, people are driven to create in order to understand something about themselves, the world, or their experiences and perceptions.”
– Gila Lyons, Creativity and Madness (via aspacewanderer)
Day one. Necessary.
Together, we’re better.
A person’s Golden or Grand Birthday, also referred to as their “Lucky Birthday”, “Champagne Birthday”, or “Star Birthday”, occurs when they turn the age of their birth day (e.g., when someone born on the 25th of the month turns 25 or when someone born on the ninth turns nine).
I had never heard of the concept of a golden birthday before my mother brought it up. She sent beer and barbecue sauce to a friend’s office so I’d have tastes of home at my surprise golden birthday party; sent me a Christmas ornament with the dates engraved on the back. I got a little sucked up in the excitement of it all, to be honest. I like landmarks. I like assigning value to things that seem commonplace. (28 is a thing that happens between the Cheap Car Insurance birthday and the First Anniversary Of Your 29th Birthday birthday. Who gives a shit about 28?)
I rang in the year with cocktails at a favorite bar and beers across the street with folks who mean everything to me. I was duped into a surprise party with friends and foie and brisket and cocktails and beers and wine. We were days from a vacation with snow and breweries and no computers and no alarms. Everyone was happy and healthy and it was starting to feel like this really was the year it turned around.
And then there was the wreck. And then Dad called to tell me about the cancer, except that he left out the part where it was stage four and I was running out of minutes before my eyes. Then the phone call came from the hospital; within hours I was across the country, in the arms of siblings I haven’t seen in the better part of a decade, in the arms of everyone. I was standing in front of hundreds of people telling the story of that time Dad ate a piece of fruit pie that he hated because he was too damn polite to just walk out of the restaurant. I was back in San Francisco telling everyone how okay I was. And since then it’s just been eight months of pretending every setback isn’t devastating in a new way.
And in my better moments, I remember my gratitude. I remember how good my world is and how embarrassingly lucky I am to live in it. I am surrounded by love, by people who make me want to be better, people who jump on airplanes to surprise me and text to make sure I’m okay and pick up the phone to check in and jump across town within minutes if I say that I need a hand. There is so much to be grateful for and I know that. But the fact remains: 28 is not the year it was supposed to be. The story I tried to live isn’t the one I ended up living.
So I’m re-writing the story.
28 is not a year of loss and fear. 28 is the year I bought too many plane tickets and saw everyone I loved. 28 is hugs and kisses and taking people out for beers. And so before my 29th birthday, I am going to do everything I can to see every single one of you.
I’m leaving San Francisco on March 4th and will return the afternoon of March 22nd. I’m coming to Kansas City, to Cincinnati, to Dayton, to Tampa, to Port St. Lucie, to New York, to Hoboken, and to a host of surrounding places that thankfully don’t require extra plane tickets. I am coming to see you and hug you and buy you a beer. Let’s get dinner. Let’s get a cup of coffee. Take me to the best bourbon bar in your town. Take me to that place down the street that’s kind of mediocre but you go there twice a week because you love it. Let’s live life together for a few minutes, okay?
I’ll only be in every town for a day or two, which probably means I’m going to have to do a couple rounds of that really irritating thing where I invite everyone I know to a bar last-second and hope you can make it. If you’re tied up with work, if life is too busy, it’s okay and we’ll get it on the next round. But I would love to see you - you, all of you, yes. The schedule’s both weirdly structured and completely unstructured because a lot of the tickets are standby and who knows how things will go during spring break season. I’m going to have to ask a lot of people to be patient with me and I’ve been researching whether or not there’s some, like, airport bar membership because I’m about to spend a lot of time in them.
I am so excited. I am just out-of-my-skin excited. And if you can be a little flexible with me, you have no idea how happy it will make me to buy you a beer, even if you can just stop by the bar for 20 minutes on your way home from a terrible day at work. I just want to hug you and tell you I love you and maybe take 30 stupid seconds to tell you the memory of you that floats back to me all the time.
So join me for the conclusion to my 28th year. Let me smother you with kisses. (Don’t do the same thing to me; that’s gross. Kisses are my thing.) Let’s be the people we were five or ten years ago in the bodies and lives we have now. I am so, so excited to see you.
“And you tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake… You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that. And if he wants to leave, then let him leave. You are terrifying, and strange, and beautiful. Something not everyone knows how to love.”
– Warsan Shire, For Women Who Are Difficult To Love (via hello-lolo)
Vittorio Emanuele II
1 part Fernet Branca
1 part Campari
1 part Cynar
1 dash sea salt
Combine liquids and salt in a mixing glass with ice and stir until salt is dissolved. Strain and serve in a Gibraltar glass. Expose the oil of a grapefruit rind over the drink and discard. You may use a dash of orange bitters in absence of fresh citrus.
Rome, 1925. Today marks the completion of Altare della Patria. After 40 arduous years of construction, its only rival is the actual task it commemorates: King Victor Emmanuel II’s unification of Italy some 50 years prior. Like a colossal monument of Italian unity, the spirits in your glass flow harmoniously through your palate, alternating between an elegant waltz and a brutish boxing match.
Well, welcome to literally the perfect cocktail for me.
I am an honest-to-goddamned idiot.
“I thought there might be a silver fucking lining somewhere, some deep life lesson that would make me a better person like in the movies - but instead I’m less than I was, more anxious and fearful and lonely. I grasp too hard at the things I’m afraid of losing now that I see they can be truly lost. I’ve seen that I’m not infallible and that all those things that I believed happened only to other people - sometimes they happen to you too.”
– When Grief Doesn’t End (via irish-mexi)
One Minute In Mexico. The Perennial Plate is stepping up the food video game.
Just one more bullet point on the list of ways to make me want a taco.
But for real, this is great. I’d watch every single video in a travel series like this.
I’m glad I got my 2013 recap out of the way a month ago. Because I’m sad, today, for reasons that I hope will feel distant and ridiculous a year from now when I wonder what I said at the end of the year. I don’t much feel like being sad anymore. Sadness, I hope, gets largely left behind in 2013.
This year. This fucking year. It just never let up, you know? It was one step forward and eight steps back the entire time. The best I can hope for 2014 is that it turns into a recovery year, because I am just not walking into it feeling okay. Everything is a little off; nothing is going right.
So 2014 is the year where I rebuild and I let myself feel okay about it. If I get around to celebrating the end of my twenties, great. If I stay home and play video games and cook great food and let myself be a little calm for awhile, maybe even better. My best hope is that I take the positive things from 2013 - big or small as they may be - and continue to demonstrate my commitment to them in 2014.
You made your point, 2013, and I hear you. 2014, hello. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Let’s meet in the middle, shall we?
On TV, they said the storms wouldn’t last
but their answers didn’t correlate to the questions we’d asked
they said, “A spark that’s gone is not a spark to mourn
You can’t resuscitate a person who was never born”
So I climbed to the tallest building in town
to see the rain rushing in; to feel my heart breaking down
and as a blue scene drew nearer
I saw a window to another world
strange fish I’d never seen, and in that moment, realized:
Didn’t want a wave, but a wave was coming
We didn’t want to swim, but the cities were sinking.
I guess we’ll just have to adjust.
It’s simple to say that you love too quickly, that you open your heart too fast. It’s easy to look at your own pain, your sadness, your personal heartbreak and internalize blame. Because we have to, right? If we fall in love with someone or something and it hurts, we have to believe that we shouldn’t have done that in the first place. When you touch the stove and get burned, you pull your hand back and vow to never do that again. Somewhere along the line we started believing that we could apply that lesson to everything. Just because it burns doesn’t mean it’s fire.
I hate that we’re raised to believe something is always at fault. It sometimes feels like I’m trying to turn every day into a lifelong study that things maybe aren’t always meant to work out. I just don’t want to be reactionary. I want to learn from the things that did work instead of prioritizing the things that didn’t. I’m so sick of learning from my mistakes. I have never once felt better believing that someone was at fault. It’s hard to do anything with your hands when you’re using them to point fingers.
While we’re at it, let’s give a little less respect to time and place. There is nothing productive in thinking about what would have happened if we would have had more time, if these random circumstances had lined up instead of those random circumstances, if I would have said that one thing instead of that other thing. I have cried myself to sleep over whether I told someone I loved them too early or too late, overlooking the most important part. (That you are loved, and that at the end of the day that is all I want for you.)
I’m sad because I miss people and I know that’s always going to be the case. It doesn’t make me less grateful for what’s in front of me; it might be just the opposite. I am lucky to have figured out how to build this life, even if it occasionally leads to these moments. I wonder sometimes if I’m supposed to be different, if it’s worth it. This is what I wanted years ago when I asked myself to try and open my heart more, to let everything in and handle the consequences. Some days are harder than others. This is just one of those.
It’s hope; the endurance of faith.
One of my favorite traditions every year is sitting down during the week of Thanksgiving and writing down everything I’m grateful for. I try to write an end-of-year post, too, but ever since the first one, my heart has really belonged to Thanksgiving. (And then, and again.) Re-reading the posts from 2011, in particular, and 2012, reminds me of all the things I wasn’t saying in them. I never figured out how to vocalize how hard it was to be unemployed, to feel so useless but still somehow so taxed by my day-to-day life. I have never done justice to the moments where I literally had to be picked up off the floor or rushed to the hospital where I cried and screamed while the people who love me twisted their fingers up into mine and kissed my hair and told me it would be okay. (They meant it; it was.)
As I came home from work yesterday, I tried to figure out what I was going to say about this year. “This fucking year”, I’m prone to call it. Because honestly, as much as 2011 hurt, I figured out how to deal with unemployment. 2012 was the one where I learned, and the next one was going to be mine.
I cried on New Year’s Eve because it was the last one we would ever all celebrate together; the end of an era. I cried through January and into February over losing people I loved to warmer temperatures and better beaches down south. I called my mother from the back of an ambulance and stumbled through all the words I could find that didn’t sound like “I am in an ambulance, but instead I’m supposed to be dead.” I flew to Los Angeles for what, in retrospect, was me setting the stage for a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t conjure the strength to ride in a car anymore because I’d blink and the truck would be coming; I’d feel us start to spin and I’d wake up in a world of glass and blood and silence.
My father died of stage four lung cancer ten weeks after calling me to tell me that they found a spot on his lungs and that they were going to subject him to radiation just as a precaution. Four days after I broke down into tears and admitted that I needed to go to Kansas City and bury the hatchet so we could enjoy the rest of our years together loving each other. I laid on the hospital bed of a man who apparently never stopped believing in me and clutched his cold arms and begged the universe to give him consciousness so he would know I was there. I have long reserved riding my bicycle as time for clearing my head and working through my feelings, and so I missed my entire race season because I couldn’t get on a bike without losing it. I started to be afraid of everything. I stopped telling people how I feel and I stopped writing because everything I had to say was too devastating. Because the world is hard and negative enough and I can’t make things worse.
And so forgive me if I’m not counting my blessings while I stroll leisurely along the high road, but this year has been an asshole. If this year was attempting to teach me a lesson, consider it learned.
I recently found a note written in my handwriting from September 1st, 2010, saying “If the first year was our challenge, the second year was our reward.” And it was. In 2010, I was grateful for the experience of falling in love with San Francisco. For the world I built for myself out of nothing; for the love this city returned to me after I finally started putting some into it.
In 2013 I learned that no matter what, I will keep moving forward. It will forever be the year I learned that when I run out of strength, someone will step in just in time to hand me as much of theirs as I need and twice as much as I feel I deserve. I learned that when I am incapable of taking one single step forward, I will find myself in someone else’s arms being carried even further than I needed to go. As much as I have never wanted to fall, this is the year I learned I would be caught.
I am grateful that love and comfort and home are not confined to these 49 square miles, but follow us everywhere we go and multiply when we’re all together. I am grateful for every answered phone call and I am more grateful for the ones that came unsolicited when I needed them the most. I am grateful for every positive response I’ve ever received after asking if you have five minutes for me, and I am more grateful that the response has never, ever been no.
I am grateful for every phone call from Kansas City, but I am more grateful for the one the day before. For best friends who show up half an hour after I call, always. For bourbon and wi-fi on airplanes. For brothers who respond to text messages even though it’s been seven years. For the luxury of being across the country within hours. For a family that was willing to forget everything we’ve ever been through as long as I was, too. For the opportunity to stand in the room with my father’s body as I told the woman he loved more than anyone that his children were grateful; for the opportunity to express my gratitude after twenty-three years of not knowing how to do that.
I am grateful for the answered phone calls from that city, that week, where my voice was someone you didn’t recognize. I am grateful for the moment where you told me it was Sunday and asked me to go to bed. I am grateful for a hotel with a bed that allowed me to cry into it, alone, and throw things and drink beer and move forward at my own pace.
For hatchets that are buried under whiskey and cider. For a father who left the house at 6 a.m. and came to save me when everything had been ripped away from me. For a mother who actively refused to blink as I lit up a cigarette on a patio; for the same woman who nestled a car key into my hand and told me the bourbon was in the trunk. For the hundreds of people who laughed at my stories, for the people who told me they couldn’t believe how strongly I was composed, for the people in the congregation who knew me well enough to know that I was breaking and didn’t spill the secret to anyone else. Thank you for being there. You were all I had.
And I am grateful that you got on a plane, that you realized it was a lie when I told you that I wanted to do this alone. I will forever be grateful that you are present in every story that mattered; that no matter how desperately we cling to our individual selves, we are there in the clutch situations. You have never not shown up. You have always overwhelmed me and been perfect. I don’t know how that happens.
I am grateful for being in the room for the final transmission from my father’s call sign. It was the most beautiful and most devastating moment of my life.
I have no idea how we’re supposed to speak of these things these days, but goddamnit, I’m so grateful for social media. For everyone’s likes, comments, tweets, retweets. For every single person who reached out to tell me I was loved when I hit my breaking point in June and couldn’t do anything other than post a Facebook post saying that my father was no longer with me. I am confident in how genuine the offers of help and kindness and love were, because every single time I broke and couldn’t do it alone and asked for a hand to hold, it existed in a second. Every single person who has ever said that social media is ruining communication is wrong. I am so grateful for every single one of you - yes, you, I promise - that I will never be able to convey it properly.
I am grateful for my mother, who is going to go ahead and realize in this moment that I love her more than is reasonable and that she should stop being such a worried goddamn mess. I am grateful for a woman who taught me every single thing I know about coping with the world as it is; who taught me that we power forward no matter how much it hurts. I am grateful that I know she would be on the next flight out if I asked and I am grateful that she realizes the same thing. For being my constant, my rock, my everything. For being my best friend when I just needed to sit on a patio and have a beer (or four), for taking everything I have to give even though she wants to ask for more. For accepting the woman she brought into this world whether or not this is how she thought her life was going to go; for being ever adaptable. For making me realize I am the luckiest girl in the world every single day of my life. For absorbing all of the nonsense I force onto her with grace and always waiting for me to be the one who brings it up again.
I am grateful for eight days in New York I never asked for and never, ever wanted. For friends who flocked to wherever I was no matter how annoying my schedule. For a team who made sure we all stayed alive. For seeing my work on the largest stage of my career; for co-workers-turned-new-friends who threw their arms around me and held me while tears streamed down my face because they just now realized how much this meant to me at the end of a 46 hour day.
For the seventh day, when I realized how desperately I needed to be myself. For the second and third bars, but mostly the first. For saying yes to joining me for an adventure. (For saying yes, again, every single day since.) For listening to every story; for asking for more. For meaning every word you’ve ever said and trusting that I meant mine, too. For a digital world that makes things more real in the analog one; for texts and emails and calls and instant messages. For couches, for cocktails, for rain. For a future that is uncertain, being constructed day by day by statements that aren’t.
For four days of holding the sweetest nine-month-old in the world, who just wants to casually sit on my lap and play with a lemon. (She got that from her Aunt Jen.) For lives changing faster than we can follow, lived by people who are the same as we ever were.
I am grateful for kisses, for hugs, for cuddling, for hands that linger long enough to inspire questions and gazes that linger even longer than that. For you always being the last one to break. For hands that wrap around hips for the right reasons. For embraces that last the right amount of time. For hands that slide across the table and only let go when they have to.
I am grateful to be alive.
I am grateful that the phone calls my loved ones received that day were in my voice, in my words. For the engineers who understood tension and breaking and accidents in the snow; for the science and materials and study that meant I didn’t lose two of the men I love to a freak blizzard in April. For the police officers who pulled me out of the car and carried me into the ambulance, for the paramedics who know how to ask the right questions. I am grateful for pilots who know how to fly even in a blizzard. I am grateful to Lisey and Tucker for telling me, not suggesting, that they would be my ride home from the airport. (Which is not to mention my gratitude for the hugs and kisses and baggage claim whiskey and soda and that picture I will always see as the moment I believed we would be okay.)
I am grateful for everyone who loves me, and I won’t list names because at this point I am embarrassed by how lucky I am. If you think you have recognized yourself here, know that you have. Know I was thinking of you. Be confident in how desperately I love you. Know that no matter how embarrassed I get, I want as much of you as you are capable of giving to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have never been a burden. Every part I take from you turns into a better part of me.
I am the luckiest woman in the world, thanks to all of you, and that is what I have to be thankful for. 2013, I understand that you tried your best, but it looks like I might emerge okay.
You may not have seen this in quite some time.
Here is your reminder this exists.
Awhile back, I was discussing wrinkles with a friend who’s a couple of years younger than myself. She was quick to jump in mid-sentence and reassure me that I don’t have wrinkles. You’re beautiful! But the conversation took me aback, because I absolutely do. They’re at the corners of my eyes, and they’re certainly more prominent when I do something to squish up my face, but somewhere over the last few years they just started to settle in permanently. Deep, hard wrinkles that you can trace your fingers over, a permanent addition to a face that I thought largely went unchanged for decades.
She wanted me to know that I’m still beautiful at mine, the ripe old age of twenty-eight, that I’m too young for such things, that I shouldn’t talk about my nonexistent wrinkles like they take a single thing away from me. I’m as beautiful as I was years ago and I always will be.
I do have wrinkles pretty early. I’m not worried about them - I’m obsessive about my fair skin to a degree I can only assume will pay off for me. I carry three different types of sunscreen on my person at all times. And my mother, twenty-five years my senior, is doing just fine with hers. (I don’t have many of these moments, but when I do worry about how I’m going to age, all I have to do is look at my fifty-three year old flawless mother and breathe a massive sigh of relief. I’ll be okay.) I don’t know what causes wrinkles, but I can make some guesses as to what’s causing mine.
A lot of words have been used to describe me lately, by people who have known me for quite some time and people who have only spent a few hours with me. “Electric” was the one that stuck with me first; “infectious” came today. They both mean about the same thing - I carry an energy with me that’s near boundless, and I hand it out without restrictions. I laugh with my whole body. I have a voice that either pierces or booms depending on how kind you want to be to me and a laugh that is apparently impossible to mistake.
And I cry with my whole body, too. When I’m trying not to cry I close my eyes but try not to squint them, pulling them in toward my nose with closed eyelids in the hopes that I can just keep it to myself until I’m home later. I touch my face constantly and when I realize that I’m going to cry no matter what, I’ll push a knuckle into the corner of them and wish under my breath that it’ll stop. Sometimes I don’t care and I’ll just let them fall. If I’m home by myself I usually rest my forehead in my hands.
But the laughter. My god. I am surrounded by countless people who are so funny and so smart and I laugh at them constantly. I get very flustered at all sorts of things and my response is to laugh. I laugh when I’m uncomfortable and I laugh to stall time and I laugh to let people know I love them and to let them know that I realize I am loved, too. My face scrunches up and it takes me awhile to recover. (It sometimes leads to crying, too. More often than not.) It catches in my throat and consumes me. I am caught on camera, frequently, with my mouth open in response to whatever just happened.
I just spent four days around the most important little girl in my life, who is nine and a half months old now and will likely be double that by the next time I get to see her. Her parents have lived through the hardest years of my life with me and I am just so grateful that they made a little person to give all their love to. She loved to run her tiny fingers over those creases when I held her. (She is, incidentally, the first baby who has ever actually wanted me to hold her.) Over and over and over until it tickled and I squinted my way away from her. She was fascinated by them. Tiny fingers exploring a feature that her perfect, porcelain face does not yet have. She has not loved as deeply or been hurt as hard. (She’s making a pretty good run at the laughter, though.)
The truth of the matter is that I don’t want anyone to tell me those lines are barely noticeable. They exist and they’re only going to get deeper. They are a result of everything I’ve ever felt. They are laughter and tears and concern and love. They are as permanent to the corners of my eyes as every word I’ve ever taken from someone is on my heart. I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to make me feel loved and beautiful, but I don’t need it. Those silly little creases are 28 years of the very same thing.