Rip it Off

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I have a million things to say to you, internet. I want to tell you about my studio I share with my boyfriend fiance and how we turned it from a glorified dorm room into a poster for micro living. I want to tell you about how I've pretty much been living here since September and we haven't killed each other yet. I want to tell you that it is the midst of winter and inside me there is definitely not an invincible Summer, no matter how much fake gummy sunshine I chew each night and if you also feel like getting the mountain of lead that is your body out of bed each day is the only resolution you can make then make that one with me. I want to tell you how weird engagement rings are. Not from the feminist perspective nor the perspective that the value of diamonds is all contrived nonsense but from the perspective that it's really bizarre to go pick up the laundry wearing the single most expensive thing you own. I want to tell you that I just spent a weekend in Cleveland and in a few weeks I'm going home to California for the first time in two years and my anxiety levels are approximately ten times higher than my excitement levels.

But before I can tell you about those things, I have to tell you something. Maybe I've seen you lately and seemed odd. Maybe I've paused when you've asked how life is or given vaguely generic answers. Maybe I've been distant. Maybe we don't know each other in real life at all but I still feel like I've been lying to you because I strive to be open and honest on social media and in this place.

So if you haven't guessed it from the picture above:

I'm moving to Seoul.

I know, the Eastern Europe book thrown in there is a bit confusing. Also maybe the elephant holding a SparkleRock. So let's be a bit more transparent:

I'm getting married next month at City Hall.

I will be honeymooning in Eastern Europe and Turkey for the month of July.

Starting in early August, Dan and I will be living in Seoul for TWO YEARS.

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Which, obviously, will be an entire post on its own.

PS My SparkleRock is not that big, I just have tiny child hands.

PPS There are two reasons this post is password protected: I don't want to get fired (yes, technically illegal but also it's really slow so my boss could just say he's laying me off) AND uh, I haven't told my family (also an entire post?) so I'd appreciate if you kept this all on the DL on social media but feel free to comment/email/text/etc.

It always end up making you blue as hell

I feel like a failure most of the time these days. Not the kind of failure where you joke and make self-deprecating comments about how you'll just be buying new underwear tomorrow because ooops you're drunk and the laundromat is closed, but the kind of failure where you don't tell anyone and how bad it is and find yourself on the verge of panic attacks at least weekly, if not daily. It's easy to look at my employment situation for the last couple of years and logically know that I keep choosing to work for small businesses that operate on a slim to none profit margin and the economy is still really shitty. To a certain extent I can justify being poor, because I love what I do because I do something that makes me happy that I'm good at. I know I'm a good chef, I don't feel like I'm a failure at chefing.

I feel like I'm a failure at being the person I want to be. I feel like I'm failing at some very basic goals I set for myself a long time ago. I know how little money you have to make to qualify for food stamps. I know I made just enough not to last month. I know I'm terrified. I'm terrified all the god damn time. I know this situation makes me feel like I've gone back to my early childhood and I have no control. No control. It is the worst thing. It is the thing I promised myself I would never ever ever feel again. I broke a promise to myself and that's the worst kind of promise to break.

It's the kind of thing I can't really explain to anyone because it is so completely illogical but so completely my truth right now.

I'm looking for a second job or another job. I have people who would help me if I asked for help (hahahahaha, like I'll ever learn to do that one). Despite strong temptation to just say fuck it and spiral down down down into bad decisions, I've been spending more time reading and writing and strolling in the park. I'm dating a guy I really like with whom things are easy so far instead of dialing up one that would immolate me. I show up for my kids every Tuesday and I smile and we cook things.

I also know I've been self isolating like a pro. I know I just can't explain getting semi laid off again but then also that I'm about to work 8 days straight. I can't handle anymore people offering to help me find my dead goldfish. I don't know how to talk to my really close friends or family about it because it's painful. And embarrassing. And I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed about the state of my life right now. And I don't know how to talk to anybody about anything else because it's the only thing I think about. So instead I just don't talk to most people. I mean, I have a kitten, so it's fine.

I'm 50% doing all the things I should be doing and 50% deep in hiding.

But I guess 50% hiding is better than 100%. Right?

If you don't understand him, an' he don't die young, He'll prob'ly just ride away.

When my mother left, when my mother came back. Going to live with my grandparents. My father being arrested in front of me. Visits to rehabs. My father's death. Turning points in my life have mostly been things where I feel no control. Turning me from a quiet controlled girl into a contained, obsessively controlled woman. ***

When I kissed him when I shouldn't have because I was committed to kissing somebody else. The kiss that would turn into months of arguments. Of late night phone calls. Of screaming and threatened suicide if I didn't come RIGHT NOW. Of two hour drives and me leaving the peninsula at 6am to get to high school in Santa Rosa on time. Of spiraling down, down, down. Poor grades in eagerly signed up for AP classes and lies to my therapist. Or at least, not truths. Breaking the trust of the somebody else for, maybe, ever. The first proof that for the next six years I'd always find a way to be leaving.

Until that day when I left.

"I don't want you to move in with us"

"Is that all?"

"And I don't think I can do this anymore"

"I was afraid that's what you were going to say"

And so I drove away in tears from the boy I thought I would marry, who put up with panic attacks and days spent crying and that early mistake of kissing somebody else who would only make things worse. Allowing us both to grow up and apart.

Maybe this was my moment of being cruel to be kind.

***

I sat in the waiting room with my grandmother. I hadn't slept for days weeks and so I was here. Therapy, round 2. I guess that first round, when I was a small child, didn't take. The truth was, I needed it more before my father died. Now I had reason to be sad and reason to not sleep, though both those things had been true beforehand. I filled out the forms with my grandmother sitting next to me and though I was fairly certain she wasn't looking, I lied. I lied about the amount of sad, the crying, the thoughts about death and suicide. I didn't lie about sleep habits because that's why I was there after all. Grief and sleeplessness and dropping enough pounds that my pediatrician asked if I had been trying to lose weight. I lied. And I would mostly keep lying. And after a year I would be pronounced fine.

The therapist couldn't have known then that she was the one doing the lying.

***

That time I locked my heart up when my mother told me it was no fun if I didn't cry. That night child me walked herself home in the darkness of the West Oakland night. That first morning I got myself ready for school and attempted to wake up my mother to get her to take me. The habits of self-sufficiency cemented early and forever unshakeable.

***

When I boarded a plane for India. When I boarded a plan for Turkey. When I chose culinary school over college.

When I left my dream job, relationship and apartment to move into a cabin in the woods.

When I was still unhappy two years later and boarded a plane to New York.

***

I don't know that there are event horizons I haven't written about or beaten like a dead horse. I don't know the moments where I truly changed all. I think sometimes I have been the same forever. The happier version or the sadder version or the more honest version. But my core seems the same. The only difference is how closely I have lived in line with it.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. One of today's prompts was What have been the event horizons of your life - the moments from which there is no turning back?

Drive all night just to feel like you're ok

Music prompts are my favorite prompts and also the hardest. Californians love driving like they love a brother. We bitch and moan about traffic like it's our job, but in the end, don't even know how to function without an engine and an open road. I'm from the part of California people come to just to drive. Dark, forested, windy back roads that suddenly open up on top of rolling hills and vast expanses of vineyards. Lush and green in the spring and waves of fire in the fall.  Round the right corner and suddenly your car is hugging a cliff and you're blinded by the sun reflecting off the Pacific.

When I'm stressed my urge is to jump behind the wheel of a car, or when I'm angry, when I'm depressed, when the sun is shining and everything seems right with the world. All emotions lead to California One. Sometimes this is the hardest part of New York, this long separation between me and a steering wheel.

You can't really belt it out and feel your FEEEEEELINGS on the subway.

"Excuse me? Could you round this corner just on the verge of too fast and maybe blast some Ryan Adams over the loudspeaker? It's just, I broke my own heart tonight. Don't try tell me everyone else on this train isn't also sick to death of love and sick to death of trying, we all know what dating in New York is like"

What? You don't feel all your feelings through alt country of the 90s?

Is it because, like me, you have a not so secret love for feeling all your feelings through angry female mainstream country? At least, you do when you're back living at home, in the country and that cowboy Casanova has told another one of his lies and suddenly you're identifying with T Swift? (I'm still bitter I was never allowed to drive that damn truck)

But it always comes back to my favorite song. I've listened to it over and over and over, driving everywhere. I made a tape of the album, back before there were iPods, because my sweet '96 Corolla only had a tape deck. I've mentioned before that it was the anthem of my junior and senior years of high school. The years right after my dad died. The years when I was truly truly a mess.

I didn't sleep much. Sometimes, when I couldn't sleep, I'd layer up and leave my house. I didn't really get in trouble and I didn't have a curfew and my grandparents were usually in bed before me, so I honestly don't know if they even noticed. I'd get in Delilah and pull out of our driveway, turning left towards the road that would lead me to the coast.

Put your hands on the wheel, let the golden age begin.

If it was too cold (which it almost always is in coastal Northern California at night), I'd turn the heater as I obeyed the next lines.

The window down, feel the moonlight on your skin

Desert wind cool your aching head

The weight of the world drift away instead

I'd relax into the seat. Tears pricking the corner of my eyes, quickly navigating the turns so familiar I could still follow them blind folded, turning the heater higher and higher as I got closer to the coast. This was a thing my father and I did, driving. And at once I'd feel closer to him and forever far away.

These days I barely get by

By the time I'd get to Hwy 1, I'd have to rewind the tape to listen to this song over again. Finally, pulled over, I'd chokingly sob along, the crash of the waves slowly calming me.

I don't even try

I don't even try

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. Today's prompt was to talk about singing alone in the car.

How To: Big Sistering

  1. Be an only child for eight years. Preferably, also be an only grandchild for at least seven.
  2. Acquire a younger brother. Alternate between resentment and eagerly helping take care of him.
  3. Suffer through a year in which he thinks biting is the most effective way to get what he wants thanks to a kid at daycare. You will have bruises. The tooth marks on the tender skin on the inside of your upper arm will be the ones that make you come closest to instinctively smacking his toddler face. Don't smack it.
  4. He will soon move on to kicking you. Love him anyways.
  5. Get dragged to his second PeeWee soccer practice. He would only watch at his first and your grandma thinks he'll be encouraged if you're there*
  6. Watch him watch the other kids do their "practice drills" (we are still talking 4 to 5 year olds). Feel bad.
  7. Get a ball and take him to the other side of the field. Start lightly kicking it to him like you've done at home.
  8. Watch him smile and enjoy himself. Feel good.
  9. Move closer to the other kids. Get yourself and him in line for the drill.
  10. Go through the drill a few times with him before running back to the sidelines and watching him participate fine on his own.
  11. Repeat for as many practices as necessary.
  12. Go back to resenting him.
  13. Love him anyways.

*WARNING: Because of this story, your grandma will always think this is true and this is how MANY years later you'll find yourself at 23, awake at 2am, filled with many cups of coffee wondering how ethical it would be to just write a damn Sophomore English paper yourself as you drag sentence after sentence out of him and repeatedly yell that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. You will do this more than once. I'm sorry.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of story telling. Today's prompt was to tell a story in the form of an instructional manual.

I Still Need to go to Al Anon

Here is a painfully honest real thing: When I see things like this, I feel tremendously guilty.

I know that I have worked WORKED for this to not be my life, that my fear of becoming my parents (or the people my parents used to be) motivated everything my younger self did, that I have not come out unscathed.

But my heart breaks and I cannot stop crying because I do not know how to not empathize and I feel horribly guilty about the privilege that allowed me to not have that life. And I feel horribly guilty that I only spend an hour each week volunteering when there is so much to be done in the world. I mean, deep, in my soul, think I'm a fundamentally bad person, guilt.

(I am not writing this in hopes of reassurance or back pats. It is just a Real Thing that I struggle with that I'm guessing other people with similar backgrounds struggle with too)

If this isn't nice

I am awful and cranky most days. Truly awful. I want to remember the little things more. I don't mean to notice them and think that pleasure I get from noticing them will make everything better. I just want to know that when I look back the thing I'll remember isn't getting laid off or sifting through endless descriptions of jobs I don't want, it'll be things like Trouble and the snow.

Except that was last year and this is this year and this year it's a string of red lights against red velvet curtains. Trusting a man to lead me somewhere small and out of the way and perfect. Sitting down just in time for 16 Tons and happy memories of folk music and my childhood. Feeling my annoyance at my job, my life, the evening's hectic planning melt away as I smiled involuntarily, loving it like he said I would. It's the proprietary way he drinks my beer without asking and his head leaning against mine when the train gets stuck between stations long enough for me to believe we have actually found our way into one of the circles of Hell. Not knowing where things are going and learning to relinquish control.

This month it's the children circling around me each yelling the same question.

What are we making?

What are we making?

What are we making?

The confidence that comes from waiting for them to settle down, clearly explaining and watching and checking in with each student, knowing I'm in my element. Showing the children the bright mix of roasted vegetables they've created. Their eagerness to try a bowl.

This week it's the stark contrast of leafless trees against the bright blue sky. The thing I have wanted tattooed on my body for longest and most.

Valentine's with my roommate. Creamy burrata and a jar of tiramisu. Later, all three of us on the couch. Moonstruck and a bottle of wine. Cozy.

The promise of more snow, of seasons soon to be changing and something new right around the corner.

To My One True Love

photo-8 Two years ago I moved to New York.

I quit my job. I broke up with my boyfriend. I dropped my classes. I packed my bags.

There are things that are the same and things that are different.

The streets were piled high with snow when I arrived, like they are now. 2011 was a normal New York Winter. One where people didn't freak out about it snowing eight inches for just one day because that's just what happens in Winter. I remember it snowed well into March when Ruby came to visit for Spring break. Or was that April? It was a long winter but I got to spend a lot of time walking through Central Park in the snow. Time reminding me of the magic of my city love.

When I moved I had spent eight years in relationships. Eight years. Now I've spent the last two years more or less single. I didn't know how to create a life that wasn't built on somebody else's, that wasn't always slightly compromised. Now I don't know if I remember how to fit somebody into the life I've made. I have moments when I don't know if I even really want to and moments when I know with absolute certainty that I do. 87% of the time I do.

I was job searching then and I'm job searching now. I had taken a break from the culinary world and was terrified to get back into it. I couldn't afford to be too choosy about where I worked. I didn't have any idea what I wanted. Now I'm mostly happy to be back in the kitchen. My ideas about what I want my career to look like are in flux but I know my strengths and I know my worth. I know I don't have to take the first job that comes along even though from my preliminary interview that first job looks pretty great.

I lived in Queens then. I live in Brooklyn now. My hair was long and I was planning on chopping it off. Now my hair has been short for long enough that I'm fairly certain I'm growing it out. I miss my curly mane.

I've lived in two different houses and three different rooms. I've worked at three different jobs, gotten one promotion and been laid off twice. I've made it to the third date a number of times but rarely past that. I've lost my monthly unlimited card twice, each time with only a week left. I know it's not that hard to jump a turnstile. I've had one phone stolen. I know that rotating beds creak when they spin and can actually be pretty distracting. I no longer know how many times I've gotten drunk from free wine after hours at the American Museum of Natural History. I no longer know how many people I've met here that have moved back home or out of town. I don't know how many people I know now that won't be in the city next year. I've made many friends and I've lost a few.

I've worked every hour of the day.  I worked 80 hours a week for two weeks straight. There might be days where I got paid more for crying in the walk in than for mixing dough. I've gone straight from a bar to the kitchen and baked in my slip. I know what a 50 lb block of butter looks like.

I've made out in cabs and cried on the subway and thrown up over the edge of the train platform. The number of miles I've walked is easily in the hundreds, if not at least a thousand.

I've sung along to "This Land is Your Land" with a crowd of people during an encore that involved three bands and an 80 degree Summer night in the middle of Central Park. I've had a nightclub sing me "Happy Birthday".

When I moved I came down with a massive case of "wherever you go there you are" because when I moved I had mostly been unhappy and it turns out that doesn't change overnight.

Real change takes time.

But the space away from expectations and shoulds, the space to focus on myself, the decision to be in the place I've always wanted to be has helped that change take place.

So here's to you, New York, on our two year anniversary - may there be many more to come.

DipticDiptic-1

You Can't Run Away, Bunny

To this day, my mother still calls me Bunny, sometimes Bunny Rabbit. My father used to call me Rabbit. He probably still would. It's strange to me, this pet name used by both my parents. Anything shared by my parents is strange. I forget that at some point they actually had a life together, that this is something they must've come up with together, like grilled cream cheese sandwiches. Those are the only things I really associate with both of them- my lapinesque nickname and grilled cream cheese sandwiches.

My mother recorded bed time stories for me when I was a child. By the time she got clean and was back in my life, I was too old for The Runaway Bunny or The Velveteen Rabbit and had stopped listening to them. I doubt I ever told her how much they meant to me. How many times I listed to them. We're not much for talking about feelings in this family, anyways. But I've been thinking about my nickname. About those stories. I think about the cadence of her reading voice. The slight break in it as she read the Skin Horse's wise words. The words that still make me wonder if I'm less velveteen and more something with sharp edges that breaks too easily. I think about how similar my reading voice is to her's. The cadence I hear in my head as I'm writing.

A friend of mine mentioned grocery shopping late at night a while ago and I found myself instantly transported to early childhood. To walking with my father through aisles crowded with flats mid restocking. To the flourescents that seemed so bright in contrast to the midnight outside. I can hear myself insisting on Honey Nut Cheerios and making him promise to make me mac'n'cheese. The real kind, not from a box. How happy I was to be with him, even at a time I should've been exhausted, even at a grocery store. And that mac'n'cheese memory flashes me forward to being a teenager, to me making him teach me how to make it, not knowing I only had two more years of getting him to make it for me.

It's December, and grief, it abides you know.

I was told to go where the wind would blow

I made a decision recently. I pretty big one. A secret one. Well, not really a secret, not an intentional secret, just a decision nobody knows I made. Nobody really knew was being made. It's made me happy and sad. And in a strange way feel like I'm grieving.

I decided not to go home in January.

For as long as I can remember, I came to New York for the holidays. And when I couldn't come for the holidays, I came in January, often around my birthday. New York in the winter is my favorite. New York in the winter makes me so happy I could cry. The warm weather we're having makes me want to cry in the opposite way. Last January I reversed the migration. I went home to California for a little over a week in January. I flew to Vegas for 48 hours 10 days later for my mom's wedding. In May I went to BiSC, went home to California for TWENTY FOUR hours to see my best friend because her father was dieing and then again, ten days later flew to California for 48 hours to see my little brother graduate high school (THANK EFFING GOD, IT WAS A CLOSE CALL THERE FOR A WHILE). So by June I had made 4 round trips across the country. That's kind of a lot.

Most of the practical reasons I'm not going home in January are financial. BiSC registration happens in January. I don't have paid time off, so going home right after the holidays is a little rough. One of my close friends is getting married in Massachusetts in the Summer but the bachelorette party is probably going to be in Vegas or California. I can't afford more than two cross country tickets in one year. And I can't afford more vacations. Either BiSC or the bachelorette party will probably be combined into a longer California home visit but there's no reason for me to go home in January.

I always came to New York in January because I hated missing the holidays here. Because I missed Central Park covered in snow more than anything. Because I love to ice skate and that's hard to explain to people that've only ever done it indoors. I went home to California last January because there was no way I was missing my little brother's 18th birthday. This year he turns 19, I turn 27. Who the fuck cares about that? (ok, I care about the 27 more than I thought I would care about officially entering my late 20s, but whatevs) I don't need to go home for the rain when I can stay here for the snow.

I can go to Sonoma County in the spring. When the weather is perfect and the hills are still green and I can see more stars in the sky than a New Yorker could ever imagine.

But the real reason I'm not going home in January is because I live here now. I don't really know how to explain it. It's just a step. A step in growing up. A step in changing and letting go. I live here now. This is my life. I migrated cross country every winter so I could have a brief moment in the place my soul felt still. My soul is still. I'm settled. Or at least as settled as one can be at this age. I don't need to reverse it.

I'll go home at some point. I'll go home when my heart can't stand to spend another moment away from the roar of the Pacific. When I miss the streak of the Milky Way the way I miss my father. When whiskey at 4am on the lower east side doesn't taste as good as whiskey at 4am in a barn. Or by a fire. I'll go home when I can't stand another moment without being behind the wheel of a car.

I'll go home and my baby cousins will be taller than me. My little brother won't live there. My best friends dad won't ever talk to me about cooking or travel again. The old tiny black Moxie cat I left with Lara held on, snuggling by Lara's father's side and now she's gone with him. The big black dog that was always excited to see me at my aunt and uncle's because he knew I'd take him for a walk won't be there either. I'll have a step dad I don't even really know. There will be a tiny person at the home of my friends whose wedding cake it seems I just made yesterday.

Other things will be the same. The Peet's coffee in my grandparents' house. The charred edges of toasted pain au levain. The milky way and highway 1. The fog rolling into the valley.

I'll go home. And I'll visit. And I'll realize it really isn't home anymore.

America, Fuck Yeah! Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Major Party Candidate

Kerry/Bush was the first presidential election during which I was old enough to vote. The California gubernatorial recall had happened a few months before my 18th birthday in late 2007 and not being able to participate in the election that resulted in the governator (no, I would not have voted for him) was a sad moment for me, but knowing that I would turn 18 in a presidential election year made up for it. I registered green and knowing my home state's massive number of electoral votes were all going democrat, and honestly believing the democratic party to be too conservative to reflect my values, I happily (absentee) voted for Ralph Nader. It's a lovely luxury to have only lived in states where I know I can honestly vote for whomever I want instead of having to vote strategically.

I spent my fall semester in India that year. I read the transcript of the first presidential debate in a small internet cafe in McLeod Ganj, home of the Tibetan government in exile. I did the same for the following debates. On election night, my group and I were isolated working improving the Summer home for an orphanage with which we had been volunteering. We had a tiny radio and we tried our damnedest to find a station in English reporting on the election with no luck. Somebody came back from town and told us the next day. I didn't want to believe. I'm not sure I really did until I got back to an internet cafe and could read the news myself.

The idea that had been offered at the Democratic National Convention earlier that year that "There is not a liberal america and a conservative america, there is the United States of America" seemed nice but awfully hard to believe.

And on my 19th birthday, George W. Bush started his second presidential term.

2003 rolled around and boy was it exciting. In the same year, we had both an African American man and a woman in the primary as serious contenders. I had spent years thinking that I was an anachronism, that I was made for when the times they were a changin. That the way my family had raised me to believe in the power of protests, writing your representatives and passionately participating in democracy was pointless because so much of my generation was too cool to care. But then there was this man, this great Progressive hope that other people my age were getting excited about and I felt like maybe things were going to change.

I still wasn't a registered Democrat, I was registered independent. In California, independents can vote in the primary of their choosing. I still believed the democratic party to be overall too conservative for me but I was excited to vote for Barack Obama.

Election night, Lara and I listened to the coverage on NPR. A bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge waiting to be opened to celebrate the election and hopefully the defeat of prop 8. The presidential election was called early in the evening but we waited hours for the news on prop 8, eventually going to bed because it was too close to call that night.

In 24 hours we had elected our first African American president and California had amended its constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Sometimes in the world of you win some, you lose some, you really win and you really really lose.

I wrote my first real personal post on this blog January 19th, 2009, the day before my 23rd birthday and Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. I briefly mentioned the jubilation in Berkeley in a post a few days later.

It's strange to think how much my life has changed in the course of a presidency. Or that I've been writing that long.

At times Obama has gone from being the great Progressive hope to being the great Progressive disappointment. I'm not going to pretend to that my politics have mellowed enough to believe any differently. But I've kept faith that if he had a second term his more liberal ideals would come out. That maybe we could get real single payer health care. That we could legalize gay marriage nationally.

I'm a registered Democrat these days, mostly because when I reregistered I knew nothing about New York's parties or primary laws. I don't know how long it will last. I know that the inclusion of gay marriage in the Democratic platform makes me feel better about it. I also know that I voted for both Obama and Gillibrand as the "Working Families" candidate (see, I'm finally letting go of California's politics and learning about New York).

As much as 2008 felt like things were shifting, its got nothing on 2012. More states chose to legalize gay marriage. More states legalized marijuana (which is honestly something I care very little about but I still think points to a more progressive future). Thank goodness, Ted Kennedy's seat is once again held by a democrat and Massachusetts's first female senator. New Hampshire is ALL ABOUT the ladies. We can now all breath a giant sigh of relief that Akin and his disgusting views on rape were defeated.

I know we have a long way to go towards justice and equality in this country but when I look at the things that have changed in the last four years, when I look at the things that have changed in my lifetime already, that I used to think wouldn't have actually happened by now, I do genuinely feel hope again for the next four.

Don't let me down, Mr. President.

Over and over and over again

"I have to have something caffeinated or I'm just going to not function"

"You hit a wall?'

"Well I think I hit the wall like three days ago and now I'm like a roomba trying to get around a corner but instead of going around I just keep backing up at the wrong angle and running into it over and over again"

I've been in the hole. And instead of taking a moment and being kind to myself and saying "hey, slow down," I've just kept going. I've just kept myself all the way on all the time.

To a certain extent, this is how it works, right? This is adulthood. You do the shit you have to do. You keep trying to be the person you want to be. Sometimes you fuck up your priorities and doing the things you "have to do" makes you unable to be the person you want to be and then you find yourself unable to sleep at 2am figuring out the barista schedule for no reason other than your inability to just turn off and let be.

Or instead of walking away 10 times out of 10, it turns into 9 out of 10 and at 3am that 10th person gets all the wrath that should've been doled out evenly. But that 10th person was an asshole and so you're not entirely sure you feel bad and then you feel worse because you want to be the type of person that does feel bad. Because most of the time you are.

I've added 4 to 5 hours of volunteer work to my life each week. It's teaching kids in after school programs/weekend programs in the Bronx, Harlem and Long Island City how to cook. I love it. It's what I wish I could get paid to do.

That's the person I want to be. I want to be the person that prioritizes giving back. The problem is I didn't really think about the commute to those places. I didn't think about 3 hours in the Bronx really eating 5 or so hours of my Saturday. Or another hour getting taken away on Tuesdays to get myself from work to Harlem or LIC.

So I need to sit down, right? I need to sit down and figure out what needs to give for me to be able to prioritize volunteering without going insane. Because this is actually why I went to culinary school, so I could always have a practical skill and do all the volunteer things that I can't turn into a career. That was always the plan. It wasn't that I wanted to be a chef. It's that I couldn't major in the things I wanted to major in and ever be gainfully employed. So I need to make this work. I figure out what gets sacrificed. I figure out what needs to make it in. I stop holding myself to standards that are impossibly higher than I would ever set for others.

I slow down for a minute.

I try this new thing called "sleep".

But my grandparents get into town tomorrow.

So i'm probably not going to try any of that until next week.

Bits & Pieces (the fourth)

August isn't my favorite time of year. It's well documented. I haven't been writing about it, because there isn't anything to say that I haven't said before.

I had a nasty Summer cold earlier this month, the worst deathaversary sick I've had in a couple of years. I wasn't prepared for it to happen so early. After literally spending 48 hours in bed over the weekend, I was still sick enough on Monday that I would've called in sick if my assistant were actually a baker, not a grad student who knows how to work the ice cream machine. I never call in sick, it's just not done in the kitchen, but I would've called in sick.

I over schedule myself to the point where I even thought I was over scheduled. Over scheduling is my thing. I love it. But this month I looked at the calender and thought "Seriously, Alana Margaret? Are you trying to kill yourself?". Nope, just keeping busy.

Busy busy busy.

My brain is on overdrive. I think I've probably written ten blog posts in my head but never let myself sit down to write them. I got in a rut at work and then suddenly thought of all the new recipes I wanted to make at once. That's how it goes. The recipes leave and come back. It's overwhelming sometimes, I never know how to explain it. Once I'm in that mode, I'll literally stop a conversation to work out a flavor combination out loud. I haven't shut down for a while. Quieting my mind during yoga this week was an extra challenge.

My life, it seems so full of possibility right now. My lease is up at the end of November and I'm constantly thinking about what next. It's crazy that I'll have lived in the same apartment for a year and ten months when I leave, I tend to pack up and move, to run onto the next thing more often than that usually. Do I stay in Astoria? Can I somehow afford Manhattan? Do I give in and move to Brooklyn to be with my hipster people? Do I leave New York? (I'm not leaving New York, I'm too happy with my life right now, but the point is, I could. I'd come back, but I could leave for a while).

I love my job and I really believe in the product, but once again I'm not sure what the next step is careerwise. I think the next step is to do what I've been doing and create a life outside of work while I have a job that allows me to do that. Maybe the next step is just sticking around for a while.

Politics are making me rage-y right now. Just a rage bubbling up inside me that I haven't felt for a while. I told somebody the other day that I had such a hard time taking Mitt Romney seriously as a candidate that I keep forgetting it's an election year. WHEN I WAS IN INDIA I READ ENTIRE DEBATE TRANSCRIPTS ON THE INTERNET and this year I've been like "wait, we still actually need to vote on this bullshit?". At least that's how I was until Republicans started saying really REALLY stupid things about rape and then I mean, RAGE. Just, rage.

I guess I feel like I'm finding myself again with the yoga and the volunteering and the rage. I don't know when I lost myself. Or if that's the right phrase. I feel like I'm turning into the version of myself I want to be. I wasn't lost. I just knew I could do more. There still much more to do, there's always more. But I'm growing again. Growing and stable at the same time.

Happy and sad at the same time.

Lara called to tell me Moxie Crimefighter died today. It finally made me pause long enough to feel the sadness that's been lingering around the edges this month. Sadness for her dad's passing, sadness for my own's and now sadness for the loss of a tiny black cat named after pub trivia had a celebrity baby names round. While Lara's dad was sick, Moxie slept curled next to him every day. You were the best, Moxiecat. The best.

I'm currently simultaneously annoyed with myself for being irresponsible and going out and drinking for EIGHT HOURS last Wednesday and had such a good, crazy time, that I can't be. It was just one of those nights that I think can only happen in New York where one minute it's 5pm happy hour in the UWS and then it's 11 and somehow you've ended up in Brooklyn, developing a small surprise crush on somebody that wasn't even really eligible in your mind before. The crush has stuck with me sober. Have I mentioned how much I hate crushes? It's basically like when somebody tells me they have a surprise for me. Either just surprise me or tell me what it is. I don't do well with anticipation and not knowing. Seriously, I hate this feeling. Will it develope into more of a crush? How does he feel about me? Why am I even thinking about this that much? What's my next move? Do I make a next move? Why did I hide in the kitchen when he came into work the other day? What if he has no interest in moves? WHY CAN'T WE JUST HAVE ARRANGED MARRIAGES STILL?

I'm going to lie in a dark room and just listen to the Good Old Wars and The Avett Brothers endlessly now. Also, the Lumineers, still. And the Milk Carton Kids. I'm back on an alt country kick and a buying all the music kick. I'm still so happy to have gotten back this part of myself. I miss my records, though. I want those when I move.

I think maybe my brain will be quiet for a second now because how can anything be left after that outpouring of gibberish?

Struggling

It was Sunday afternoon (East Coast time) when Lara called me.

It was about half a second before I thought about just going to the airport and seeing if I could get on a plane and a few hours until I forced myself to admit that I couldn't really do that.

Five minutes until the break in her voice "how do you deal with father's day?"

45 minutes until I called my grandma

3 more days until the ball of anxiety that's been living in my chest for weeks now finally went away because it was still 3 days until I finally broke down and sobbed. Oh I wanted to before then. I wanted to in the middle of the kitchen at work. I wanted to on the train. But I knew once I started it would be a while before I stopped. So it took three days.

My mental health has backslid ten years at times this week. I guess that's how these things work.

Life seems easier right now with a little something to take the edge off. Or rather, life seems bearable that way.

And I guess that's how you end up lying on your yoga mat on a Saturday afternoon drinking a sauv blanc that was possibly made from grapes grown on your ex's ranch listening to country music (THE MUSIC OF PAIN) wondering what the fuck is wrong with you that you prefer to live where the grapes aren't grown and highway 1 isn't a 7 minute drive away and you actually can't be there for your friends.

This is probably the point where I should turn this post around and give you the shiny side or the learning and growing side. But there's no shiny side today. Because I'm just so sad.

So very very sad.

Untitled

I've been saying "life is hard" a lot lately. In the moments when life isn't hard. The moments where I have the windows down and am blasting a little Dirt Road Anthem on a perfect West Sonoma County Spring day. The moments where I've been forced to eat artichokes from the garden. Or spend the whole day eating and drinking with two amazing friends. I say it jokingly in the happy moments to mark it as a moment to remember when Life Is Hard.

Because life is pain, Princess. Except when it's not.

Why let them be happy now when they're going to be sad later?

The answer, of course, is because they're going to be sad later.

I remind myself because one moment my life might be joy and sequins and the next my heart might be breaking for my best friend as I struggle to find the words to console when I know I'm dealing with a situation for which there is no consolation.

I remind myself because in the morning I happily skip around New York with my bag of farmers' maket produce that I get paid to turn into delicious pastries and at night I might watch a tv show with a car crash and surprise myself when I need to curl into a ball and make a conscious effort to breath.

I remind myself because I get older and I realize how young I am. How dramatic everything seemed yesterday but how it hardly matters today. That often the little moments are what build or break a relationship or a life.

I remind myself because I want to recognize the sadness and the hardship but I don't want to wallow in it. Life is good and life is hard and life is unjust and sometimes that works in my favor and sometimes it doesn't. These aren't amazing new revelations, they're just truths to acknowledge every now and then.

They're truths to acknowledge when you spend a year and a half pretty fucking closed off and end up deciding to give on dating for a while altogether and then find yourself terrifyingly, unexpectedly opening up. When waking up one morning wondering why suddenly your bed feels so big with only one person in it and you roll over to find a text from the somebody that's missing.

And they're truths to acknowledge when you flinch at the sound of every late night text message or alert terrified of what it could say, what it could mean for someone you love and that there is not a thing you can do about it.

Life is hard.

In Real Life

IMG_1235When I was thirteen I went to my first Unitarian youth conference. I arrived at the UU church in Aptos with a few close friends and with no idea that I'd be meeting 80 or so people that would change my fucking life. I spent the next eight years devoted to that community- organizing, mentoring, participating and holding. It was cuddle puddles and 4am talks of spirituality, sexuality, social justice and which semi permanent hair dye was the longest lasting (Special Effects still wins, BTW) and days of sleeping as little as possible to soak up the amazingness of the people around me and the feeling of safety that came in that space. When I aged out at twenty one after deaning our week long Summer camp with my two best friends, I was ready. It wasn't my space anymore and it was time to let the youth I tried so hard to mentor as well as I remembered being mentored step up and take my place.

I was a left with a hole in my heart much larger than the one that causes my murmur. Don't get me wrong, those people are still my closest friends and I still very much identify as a Unitarian (even if my current church attendance record is about once a year), but that feeling of community, that feeling of (yes, I'm going there) intention has been missing from my life.

Last weekend I met 59 other bloggers in Las Vegas. 59 other people who also in some way expose themselves for the entire internet to judge. 59 other people who I felt like I already knew without having even met the majority of them before this past weekend IN REAL LIFE.

We use that term a lot, us bloggers, IRL, as if the internet isn't our real life. It's funny, because I think for so many of us it is. The internet is where I'm unabashedly me. Where I am all the things I keep myself from being "too" in real life. Too emotional, too excited, too passionate, too ready to break into dance at the slightest provocation while wearing a sequined dress, too, too, too. The magic of meeting internet people in the real world is that they already know the real version. I don't feel like I have to impress anybody or hide anything because, look, EVERYTHING ABOUT ME IS RIGHT HERE ON THIS BLOG, from my worst decisions to my best decisions, from my struggling with my childhood to my thankfulness for my supportive family, from the bell jar days to the days where I want to shout from the rooftop that life is wonderful, it's all here. All of it. So trying to pretend to be anyone else is just stupid.

So this weekend I got to relax into being me. I got to meet some of the most wonderful, supportive, silly people I know of existing. I spent as much time awake as possible and went to sleep Sunday morning with the sun rising and the birds chirping, only to wake up a few hours later and have to say goodbye. The kind of goodbye that was filled with happy sadness.

And as I left Las Vegas and headed for a mini visit in California, I realized I had found my people again. I realized that this blog and the community I get to be part of because of it has done for me what church conferences did for me as a teenager. It has helped me grow and gain confidence and support others even when exposing the weakest version of myself. It's helped me stay in touch with who I am while nudging me towards the person I want to be. It's given me a whole helluva lot of people to whom I would say my guest room is always open and I'm always available for talking in the midst of a crisis.

When Lara picked me up in San Francisco and asked me if I was sad the weekend was over, I said "Remember that end of con feeling? When you were sad that you had to leave everyone but ready to not be sleeping on a church floor anymore? It was like that. Except Vegas was the church floor".

To my fellow BiSC-uits, I can't wait to see you in real real life because I'm sure as hell not waiting an entire year for the church floor that is Vegas, let's plan a get together soon.

Like, maybe tomorrow.

Exhaustion

Las Vegas and California. Waiting on the plane to get home. Las Vegas was AH-MAZING. I'm still surprised at how little attachment I feel to California. It's familiar and full of things I love but it's not home. Given my constant desire to leave it, I don't know if it ever was. But the people I love are there and there is a very happy thing and a very sad thing happening right now and I could really use a teleporter.

Exhaustion

Exhaustion

Timshel

I'm finding one of the products of getting older is being able to distinguish between the different types of sad. The hurt sad. The bell jar sad. The grief sad. The grief sad and the bell jar sad used to be indistuingishable, interwoven, one always seemed to create the other if it went on for long enough.

I am sad and I have not been sleeping well but the world hasn't closed in yet. I have no problem going to work though I am a little spacey and easily frustrated. So far, I haven't even had the urge to cry on the train. I am sad. Grieving. But is tolerable and it will pass. That's what I can tell you ten years after my father celebrated his last birthday. Ten years, and I can finally tell you, I can finally believe, this too shall pass.

May, 3rd 2002, my father turned 38 and it's strange because now 38 is just far enough away that I can't picture it, but close enough to understand how young it really is.

My father was a good man who made bad choices. He was without pretense. He was caring and loving and compassionate. He was a drug dealer and a drug addict. He never hid his choices from me, but he never wanted my choices to be the same. I think a lot of his choices were built around making sure that my choices didn't have to be the same. He wanted the world for me. I was the world for him.

But sometimes in my heart of hearts I still think "You loved me more than anything, you loved me so much that friends of yours I'd never even met would come up to me at the memorial to tell me, to ask me about things in my life I'd barely remembered telling you but it wasn't enough, it still wasn't enough was it? Not enought to pull yourself together. Not enough to walk away from that high".

And I know, I know that's not how addiction works. And I know he died in a motorcycle accident. But I know he was driving that motorcyle too fast because of other poor decisions. And I know that he rarely did anything without the best of intentions. I know he made the choices he felt he had to make. I know he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, I know the depression, the anxiety. I know the things that have been passed from generation to generation. I empathize too much to be angry. Maybe I'll never make it through all the stages of grief. I am a sad person and I am a hurt person, but I am almost never an angry person.

I miss you, daddy. There were always other choices. I didn't need the whole world, I just needed you to be happy and safe in it.

Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest for truth its sacrament and service its prayer. To dwell together in peace; to seek knowledge in freedom; to serve humanity in fellowship, thus do we covenant together.

Faith. It's not a word I struggle with, but it's a word I feel I'm supposed to. My dad's side of the family are Jews of the non practicing sort. I was raised Unitarian Universalist in a congregation that fired a minister basically for talking about God too much. Also, his sermons were actually the most boring, rambling things I have every heard in my life. AND he wasn't very supportive of our high school youth group, we theorized it was because more people showed up when we lead service than when he did. Actual true story. So maybe just not a good fit overall.

That really here nor there, though.

I wasn't really raised in a family or a faith that is down with the G.O.D. (except for the UUs that are, we're big on the personal belief systems in Unitarian Universalism*) and for a long time I identified as agnostic. I wasn't willing to totally discount the presence of a capital "G" God, but s/he didn't really factor into my personal belief system. These days, I've changed my mind.

I am an atheist. I'm not a militant atheist. I don't believe that science has all the answers. I do believe that religion can be a marvelous force for good. I do have faith.

I have faith that people are basically good.

I have faith in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

I have faith in nonviolence. I have faith that there are things worth dieing for, but none that are worth killing for.

I have faith in compassion. Always. Always compassion, justice and equity.

I have faith that we are all connected, that tomorrow is another day, that everything will be ok. I think god is the feeling of the sun on your skin after a long winter, reading the words for something you felt to be true but could never say, the ocean, service work. I have faith in faith- that it helps people, that it heals. I have faith that when you say your faith in capital "G" God sustains you that you mean the same thing I mean when I say my faith in capital "H" Humanity sustains me. I have faith in Western medicine and neti pots and yoga. I have faith that some day my prince will come.

I have faith that I am the person in charge of my own happiness.

And I have faith you are the person in charge of yours.

 

*This post should probably include a disclaimer than in no way do my beliefs speak for all UUs. Except for the UUs they do speak for. Look, this is the only stuff we can agree on. We would like less mention of God except for those of us that would like more. Some of us would prefer we only ever mention the Goddess. We basically can only agree on the importance of coffee hour and committees. It's a great religion.

This post was written as part of The Scintilla Project. Prompts can be found here.

The parts of me I've lost.

Sidenote: I feel like this post is only grasping at what I want to say. It's not quite there yet.

Vulnerability. Oh I am vulnerable. I am oh so so so so vulnerable.

It hurts, living, it hurts constantly. Like my skin is being rubbed by sandpaper. Except for the moments it doesn't, the moments of sitting on my roof on a warm Spring day eating pineapple until my lips bleed. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.

You will never know this.

I am a feelings person. I feel everything, dramatically, immensely, personally. But I am (mostly) a quiet, contained person, a tense person, a small, apple cheeked, dimpled woman with a sharp edge.

I loathe innocence and softness in others. I don't relate. I resent it. "Don't you understand?" I want to scream at them, "Don't you understand that the world is a cold, hard and lonely place, there are beautiful people in it, but even the beautiful people leave at some point, somehow, always. I should know, I don't think I'm a beautiful person, but I know I'm always leaving, be careful of people like me. And some people, most people, they're just masquerading, don't ever EVER be the first to show your soft underbelly".

What is it like to not feel like that? What would it be like to gain my vulnerability back? I don't know. I lost it so very long ago. I think it's somewhere in West Oakland, between a fence I climbed and a bedroom I was thrown across. Don't ever ask me for memories of your father, little brother.

It's a catch 22 you see, I would trade the loneliness of this impenetrable fortress for things like snuggles on the couch at the end of a long day and nightly shared meals if you proved you were trustworthy but would you take the time to prove you are trustworthy to a woman who only ever offers vague glimpses of who she is?

This post was written as part of The Scintilla Project, prompts can be found here.