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 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.
This guy. This guy knows.
“Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other. We were always seeing a lot of art and music and plays and shows, and I watched as he loved and appreciated other artists and musicians. He was always so generous. He knew how hard it was to do.”
Laurie Anderson’s Farewell to Lou Reed | Music News | Rolling Stone
I hope we are all this lucky.
There has been reason, today, to question the way I live my life. I want everything and I ask for it. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I have to work a little harder. I do not check for a safety net before I jump. I don’t assume it’ll be there, I just know that I am willing to work through whatever happens if it isn’t.
I guess you can’t really explain that to people who live the other way. You can’t tell people who have safety that you don’t know how to look at those things as a guarantee. I have lived through periods of time where I made the safe choices, and look where they got me.
I can’t imagine how infuriating it has to be to watch me fail. To do everything you can to protect me and realize I won’t listen in the end. To watch me do it again the next time, anyway. I do this with clients all the time - I see the mistakes they’re making and my role is to pull them back from those moments, to guide them in the right direction because I know what I’m talking about. As much as I care about my work, those people are vastly different from those I love. I see the way I am a disaster.
I can’t make a case that I have ever known what I am doing. The only thing I can say is that I don’t regret the mistakes I’ve made. And my god, the mistakes I have made. This wrong turn, that hurt feeling - over and over in a pattern that I only see years later.
"So I’m sorry, baby, for the times I’ve hurt you - sorry, friends, for the times I desert you - most days it feels like I don’t deserve you, and I wonder that you’re all still around."
Passion takes me to places I don’t understand and all I know is that I’m making the choices that feel right at the time. It isn’t an apology and it isn’t an excuse. It’s the only thing I’ve got.
I am ready to get out of this town for five days. I am ready for everything that the other side of the country holds. I am ready to close my eyes and feel sunshine for a minute or two. Ready, ready, ready.
"Why does it feel like you’re keeping yourself from me?"
"Because there isn’t a thing about me that I don’t want you to know, but I need you to learn it at your pace."
God, I miss you.
The Heat Wave at Trick Dog
Contax 645 | 80mm f/2 | Portra 400NC
Sonya, forever making me lust after cocktails at 10:28 in the morning. Stunning.
At a distance that I didn’t want to see
This morning on the way to the coffee shop, a woman in yoga pants with a double stroller walked around a corner and appeared right in front of me. I moved around her at first, assuming I’d be faster, and then she passed me half a block later.
Among the things I was surprised to learn in New York is that my little feet still know how to carry me very quickly. I always thought of myself as a fast walker. After a few years of being friends with tall men in San Francisco, I felt like I had lost all of that, or maybe I was never all that fast to begin with. It took less than a day for my body to remember how to move, how to spot people functioning as temporary barriers and diverting myself into spaces that look too tight at first glance. Flying across midtown carrying everything I own, I realized that it’s still a part of me, I just rarely need it.
But this morning, I wasn’t in a hurry. My pace, alone, no one to follow or be followed by. I passed the woman again when she had to stop to adjust something about the stroller. She passed me half a block later, laughing and apologizing. “I guess we’re leap-frogging. I feel like if I move this quickly, I’ll actually get there faster.”
Girl. Tell it.
The thing I’ll keep with me is what the city looked like the day after. Because the truth is that I didn’t look at the city until then. It was a canvas I was painting on, and that might sound romantic but it sure didn’t feel like it. I closed my eyes in the cab on the way into Manhattan for a lot of reasons. My cab dropped me at 40th and 6th and I went to see the venue before I even bothered looking at my hotel. Bodies working nonstop and tirelessly to assemble a structure out of nothing in the middle of this city that already has so many, juxtaposed with bodies rushing past, ignoring journeys in favor of destination.
There was a coffee shop two blocks away; I went there at least once a day and maybe it was actually twice. It was the start of the day, it was a midday excuse to see what the weather was doing. Experiencing the weather solely through fear, wondering if this rain was going to mean that tornado was real, if everything that these hundreds of people had come together to create was going to get taken down because nature is the one thing we haven’t learned to write a contract with yet.
Every day, to the coffee shop, to the venue, to make a phone call, to stare. To wonder what it was going to look like, to be surprised that it was all so much bigger than myself. To feel so small in a moment where I was permitted to feel so very big. I took photos every day, everywhere, and shot endless minutes of footage to hopefully cut into a video that would tell the experience. But I forgot that it wouldn’t work: I didn’t take time away from the things that I wanted to experience in person to try and record them. There isn’t a single piece of footage that tells the right story.
The right story exists in a basement, in the same dark bar night after night, except for when I left that bar and went to better ones and started a better story. The story is one of openness and honesty and allowing myself to say everything. The story was admitting what I did or did not want and letting myself say yes. Saying “I don’t think I can do this” and doing it anyway. Choosing what I wanted and getting it and not being able to remember every second of it no matter how much I tried to memorize, second after second.
I heard the soundtrack so many times, over and over coming out of editor’s speakers as we shifted this photo or that, this piece of footage a little further, this needing to hit the beat a little harder, that color needing to be more important. And none of that, none of that second-by-second experience let me know what it was going to feel like as the same sound came flooding at thousands of people. The opening rumble I memorized days ago, suddenly a part of people who weren’t copied on all of the emails trying to make it perfect. Footage and colors that were part of too many conversations, a result of hundreds of decisions and reorganization and decades of combined experience. A whispered “it was great” from someone who isn’t obligated to tell me that, who has been doing this longer than I have and probably doesn’t know how much I needed to hear someone saying that. The sound of my feet on the pavement as I ran back to the suite to pull down footage from teams and stay up until 3:30 in the morning one more time, just one more before we all get out of here.
But I will remember the day after, when I looked at the city for the first time. Everything I needed on my back, a comically small amount of things for a person to live off of for nine days that still worked out perfectly well. This building that was a part of my history, that one, this street that I knew in a completely different way seven years ago. The first bar, the second bar, the third bar, the subtext I called out even though I think the rule is that you’re supposed to not talk about it. The awkward sentences worded incorrectly given to people who would understand them anyway. The brutality that comes along with honesty, the moments of trying to stitch back together though I was coming apart at the seams.
Now that I’m back, all I want to do is write. I want to be back in that room and I want to look out the window and I want to write in my downtime and I want to try ten different ways to put it all together. This isn’t the right picture and the other nine wouldn’t be either. I came back wanting to tell you everything, finding more by the second that I forgot to say while the chances were in front of me. I know my world constantly evolves; I haven’t forgotten that predictions are just a way to look silly in a few weeks. For the next few days, there will be writing. There will be brunch and cocktails and laughter and can-you-believe-this stories. To easing out; to easing in.
I’m a disgusting slob. I can’t have any food without getting myself and everything around me covered in whatever I’m eating. (Even, like, an apple will somehow create a mess that I’ll have to deal with for weeks.) This recipe is an attempt to try and create something good out of this chaos. (No, just kidding, it’s just a very gluttonous thing to do if you’re ever in San Francisco, hating yourself.) —Walter Green
P.S. I guess it doesn’t have to be at Taqueria Cancun, or even in San Francisco at all, but I’ve never tried it anywhere else. I take no responsibility for anything that happens if you try this somewhere besides Taqueria Cancun!!!!
I just found out Lucky Peach has a tumblr. I’m an idiot.
Oh jesus goddamn christ we’re the worst
You know, this thing.
If you wrote that, or you like that, I have some thoughts for you:
1) I’m actually more tail-end-of-Gen-X in temperament, age, and outlook.
2) Go f**k yourselves.
You have no idea about student debt, underemployment, life-long renting. “Stop feeling special” is some shitty advice. I don’t feel special or entitled, just poor. The only thing that makes me special is I have more ballooning debt than you. I’ve tempered the hell out of my expectations of work, and I’ve exceeded those expectations crazily to have one interesting, exciting damned career that’s culminated in some leadership roles for national publications. And I’m still poor and in debt and worked beyond the point where it can be managed with my health and my desire to actually see the son I’m helping to raise.
Last weekend my baby had a fever, and we contemplated taking him to the ER, and my first thought was - had to be - “Oh God, that could wipe out our savings! Maybe he can just ride it out?” Our status in this Big Financial Game had sucked my basic humanity towards my child away for a minute. If I wish for something better, is that me simply being entitled and delusional?
Younger journos see me as a success story and ask my advice, and I feel like a fraud, because I’m doing what I love, and it makes me completely miserable and exhausts me.
So take your “revise your expectations! check your ego!” Horatio Alger bullshit, and stuff it. While you’re at it, stuff this economy. Not this GDP, not this unemployment level: this economy, this financial system that establishes complete social and political control over us, that conditions us to believe that we don’t deserve basic shelter and clothing and food and education and LIFE-SUSTAINING MEDICAL CARE unless we throw our lives into vassalage and hope, pray, that the lords don’t fuck with our retirements or our coverages. (Maybe if we’re extra productive, someday they’ll do a match in the 401k again, like our ancestors used to talk about!)
Take the system that siphons off our capacities for human flourishing in hopes that we get thrown a little coin of the realm in return. Take that system and blow it up, you cowards.
Oh, and also, stop thinking that you’re special.
I will never be able to say this as well as he says this.