Heads Carolina, Tails California

When the humidity breaks and the rain starts falling, I sleep with the window open. In the middle of Summer it'll stay hot enough to justify the air conditioner even then, but right now I prefer the mixture of warm air and coolish breeze and occasional mist that makes it through the screen. I like the wind and the thunder and the lightning. The weather takes me to places or times that aren't here - India, Thailand, Mexico, Manhattan twenty years ago. I took a Greyhound out of the city last Saturday. It's such a different thing to say you're taking the Greyhound than to take an airplane or a train or even its newer cousins like BoltBus or MegaBus. The Greyhound is for adventure, for escape, for hiding out and getting the hell out of dodge. It's one step above hitch hiking.

I'll let you in on a little secret: Greyhound has wi-fi now and outlets, the tickets are significantly cheaper online than from the ticketbooth at Port Authority and at least one of the buses had seats more comfortable than my overstuffed couch. Don't worry though, it still seems to have an insanely inefficient boarding process, runs a few hours late and is filled with characters that will give you cause to practice your crazy eyes lest you end up with them as a seatmate.

It was my first time out of the boroughs in about a year and my last trip out of New York was only to Montclair, New Jersey. I had my usual leaving the city anxiety, I still think when I leave New York I won't get to come back to it, I still have to reassure myself I live here now. The farther out I got, the more my anxiety went by the wayside. I put away my book and watched as endless trees flew by and felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I had three days where I wasn't going to have to fight with New York to keep living in it. Three days where the only things I had to do was hang out with friends, eat, drink and participate in the marriage of two of my favorite people. Even though the windows were tinted, I put on my sunglasses because we weren't in New York anymore where I would just be another twenty something crying on the train, here I would be that crazy girl crying on the Greyhound to Northampton.

"She was just sitting there reading Infinite Jest and then suddenly she started crying, you just can't tell these days, can you?"

Relaxing to me is always more overwhelming than not relaxing. I can work a ten-hour day fine as long as I don't sit down. Savasana is always the most painful pose as I feel the knots in my back letting go and my shoulders and ribs returning to their correct places. I can operate on five hours of sleep a night until one day I get eight and suddenly realize how tired I've been. I am the queen of soldiering through, of keeping calm and carrying the fuck on.

When I came back my boss asked me if I felt like I had gotten enough time out of the city.

"No," I almost started crying again, "I think it just made me really feel like I need a vacation, I feel really silly saying that because I've had lots of time not working this year but I was just so stressed during all of it."

"Just give me a month or so notice, and will get somebody in and figure it out"

It's both that simple and not. Vacations require money and that is a thing I'm still sorely lacking. Right now I have at least one event in every pay period for the next month and a half and I will not say "no" to hours. For now, I will squirrel away that feeling of relief and I'll keep on keeping on, building back up to the normalcy I'm fighting daily to once again create and hope that come fall I can take an effing vacation.

Writing About Writing

I've never wanted to be a Writer. I feel strange saying that. So many people have that novel on the back burner or those short stories they want to some day publish and I often feel like I'm supposed to want that too because I like writing. It's not because I don't think I'm good enough or, at least, won't at some point be good enough or that I don't think I have stories worth telling. I don't know what it is. Mostly, I think it's that I have myself convinced that I'm only a good writer because I've read a lot. It has nothing to do with me or my stories, just my innate ability to synthesize and reproduce the voices of other writers. I have never had a knack for fiction. I just can tell you about my own life through other people's voices and that seems like cheating. I've had a few people tell me my writing seems melancholy lately and I suppose that is true. I don't know how much has to do with me being melancholy and how much it has to do with reading memoirs and journals of melancholy authors. I don't know where my voice ends and Sylvia Plath's begins. I don't know if all truly great writers have a unique voice that came from nothing or from the way they've absorbed and blended Hemingway and Bukowski. I don't know if it really matters.

Lately though, because I've been reading all these books that make it seem lovely to be poor and spending days in front of a typewriter, I've been thinking about whether or not I'm wrong. I've been thinking about writing more. I've been thinking about writing with discipline. Not here, necessarily. And I don't know what, for sure, I want to focus on. I probably still won't write fiction. But I think somewhere in these years of digital pages, there might be things to be expanded and other things to cut loose and maybe something could come of it, even if all it is is becoming a better writer.

And the living is easy

I know this weather is only for today. That tomorrow it's supposed to thunder and then it will cool back down into more appropriate Spring time temperatures, but for tonight I will revel in it. I'll take a moment to ignore how odd it is for me to have bare legs while the trees still have bare branches and instead enjoy our wide open windows and the daffodils I sneakily picked in Prospect Park on Sunday that have turned from yellow and white to a uniform a cream. I'll drink this white wine while Otis Redding plays and smile and dream of Summer. Since, I am, as always, a creature of extremes, I like snow and I like sun and this long winter of mostly neither has not been my favorite. I am eager to read in the park and lay out on the beach and go months without wearing pants except in the kitchen.

I want warm nights and walks along the Highline at sunset and a hand to hold. I want wooden picnic tables and pitchers of beer and shared laughter and fried things. I want short skirts and high heels and dancing. I want to fill our balcony with pots, to dig my hands into soil, to watch green tendrils crawl their way out. Lettuce, sugar snaps, tomatoes. I want food truck rallies and farmer's market abundance.

In Winter the world closes in and in Summer it opens again. Each is necessary but I'm ready for adventure, for being out in the world, for saying "yes".

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.

Stillness and Snow

It snowed a few days ago. It snowed and now it's in the mid to high 40s and still light at 7. Such is March. The light at 7pm thing is lovely I'm sure for 9-5ers, but since I've recently joined the ranks of 6-2ers, it just means that for me it is dark dark dark when I wake up and my body thinks the light means we should stay up later. So I find it less than lovely. The snow, though, the snow I find lovely. Always. The snow softens and muffles. The world becomes quieter and slower. I am quiet by nature but I am not slow. Slow is the antithesis of my nature. And any slowness that may have been native has been scrubbed out by the ever important sense of urgency necessary in my profession. I am not frantic or hectic in my speediness. It is generally an efficient, neat quickness. A quickness that colors right inside the lines.

When it snows lines blur.

And when the outside world become soft and blurry, it's easier to stay soft and blurry inside. I need some blurring. Blurring and stillness. I find myself craving stillness. I want to live in the same place and work at the same job. I want to sit at the same table with the same tap tap tap of laptop keys. I want to know what it's like for my brain to just quietly fall asleep each night. It is hard to remain still when I don't even know how to be slow.

It is hard to be slow when I hold myself to exacting, precise standards. Not perfectionism, just lines and boxes to stay within. Boxes I would never demand hold somebody else. But boxes I think should hold me. I feel made up of sharp angles and hard lines and hard lines must be maintained.

The same hard lines I maintain to keep myself contained, to keep from falling apart or risking too much  have become exhausting themselves. An impossible game of pickup sticks.

So. Slowness. A continued forced reorder.

Thou mayest. Thou mayest not.

Piles of Good Things

I mention my living room window a lot. I constantly take pictures of it. It's a large window facing out to the street with a ledge big enough to be a secret writing place before we filled it with things. It's too cold to sit on the ledge next to it and read or write right now but when the Spring comes our rusty lanterns and candles and bottles will have to move. Currently it's set up for Winter, for coziness. In the evening one of us usually plugs in the twinkle lights and lights the candles. In that part of the living room we have a floor lamp that provides a warmer glow than the overhead lights. Sometimes even when all the other lights are out, the twinkle lights get left on for the last roommate home. You can see it coming from down the block and I don't know if I've ever had something so visually comforting to come home to. It's a little thing. The kind of little thing I've been trying to pay more attention to. I worry sometimes about the things I won't remember. I think because I take less pictures these days. I don't keep a journal, just this blog. Journals are for the little things. The minutiae of the day to day that actually make up a life. The books I've been reading this year make me think it's time for a journal again.

I wonder which things are important and which things aren't. Sometimes I worry because I haven't been in a serious relationship for so long that I don't know how to do it any more, that all these little ones shouldn't have happened. That they were useless. When you can look back and say "here is six years I dated this person, here is the year I spent arguing with another man and there's that year where I moved in with somebody too quickly" those seem like real solid things. Solid things that aren't just fleeting moments like a head leaning against yours or a car covered in snow.

But always, the little things are the things that matter. I remember leaning up against Jacob at a bowling alley, months before we dated, I remember painting pottery and the sound of the rain during our first kiss. I remember a moment watching "Adaptation" being the first time he learned I would always flinch and close my eyes during a car crash, holding back a panic attack. Those are the early things, the things that happened ten years ago and I remember them.  The relationship wasn't made of this block of six years, or graduating high school, or changing jobs or the things that seemed like everything at the time. Those affected it, but the relationship was made of the tiny moments, good and bad.

I can tell you how I felt the first time Che and I walked around his property and he showed me his favorite view. Or when Matt left me a secret note on the inside flap of my alka seltzer box when I had a kidney infection.

The lumberjack faded away on me and I oddly felt nothing. I was sick and dealing with looming unemployment and maybe I just didn't have enough emotional energy. Maybe I always thought our lives were too different for it to work anyways. Or maybe I've just come to accept that even if I really like somebody, it's ok if they're not the one. It doesn't mean I'm not still looking for my penguin but I can take the way he said my name or put his arm around me whenever we crossed streets against the light to hurry me to safety and add them to the pile of good things and move on.

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.

Trouble (reprise)

Friday I got a text from Trouble. It was surprising since I hadn't heard from him at all since the last time I saw him nine months ago. I was starting to feel like the nature of our relationship was changing and if I had to put money on it, I'd guess he felt similarly and feral catted his way out of there. It was an innocuous enough text in the middle of the afternoon, so once I got over the initial surprise and finished my confused staring at his name (surely my phone was wrong and somebody else had sent me a 'long time no see' message) I responded with a standard innocuous response asking about life. He told me he'd had a cancelled flight and had to ride out the blizzard in Astoria instead of Florida, that storm made him think of the time he came over to my place and it snowed over night.

I had forgotten that it snowed on my birthday last year. That when he found me at the back of the bar he told me I looked pretty, like myself because the last time he had seen me I was vintage and mink and red velvet heels. I remembered the snowflakes were fat and lazy. The quietness of snow blanketed Astoria at 3am. We made out in his car and when we came up for the air the car was coated in snow, hiding us from the outside world. I remembered how vulnerable I felt letting him come to my house for once but how oddly happy I was to feel that vulnerability. And I remembered that he knew it. Because I told him. That he was exceptionally sweet about it. That in the morning he did that thing that makes it so I can only ever describe his grin as boyish (though I hate myself for the cliché), kissed me and thanked me for letting him stay the night.

I smiled to myself because everything about that night was lovely and good.

But I remembered more and I didn't write back.

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

Falling in Love

I'm sitting with the intention of writing. It's a struggle lately. Every word feels like I'm pulling it kicking and screaming out of my brain, but I know, I know the only way to write is to write. So I'm sitting here, listening to First Aid Kit on repeat and writing. I'm not writing. I'm wondering if a lumberjack has texted me again. He hasn't. I know, but I check my phone anyway, maybe I didn't hear it vibrate. I hate this part of dating. The way my brain works. We're writing right now, brain. We've been on three dates. Maybe he'll never text again. We're always going to write, we know our relationship to it, we're committed. Not monogamous, because there's always baking, but committed. Let's put our focus there. I'm falling in love with neighborhood again. I'm constantly falling in and out of love with it. The tree lined blocks are perfect covered in snow. I bought a cup of grits with pesto, jalapeno sauce, a soft boiled egg and thick bacon from a window this afternoon. I'm falling in love with food again. I've been too in love with alcohol and too isolated at work to remember how much I value food. Rich Momofuku ramen. Brisket breakfast tacos. Fully loaded grits.

I've been putting up a pretty good front these past two months and I'm falling in love with not putting on a front. Little things. On my first date with the aforementioned lumberjack I almost didn't wear perfume because he seemed like the kind of man who wouldn't be into that. But I'm the kind of woman who wears make up and perfume when she wants to. Take it or leave it. I'm invisible on gchat a lot of the time because I don't want to talk all the time. Or I don't want to talk to everybody all the time. I've spent a lot of time internet absent because it felt like an obligation, a thing with which I needed to keep up. I took a sick day instead of powering through. You don't always have to power through, Alana Margaret. Sometimes you'll get further by taking a second, a minute, a day to power down. There is value in powering down. You are not the kind of person that can always be on without the toll being heavy.

I'm falling out of love with alcohol. Drinking seems unappealing. Being hungover doesn't even seem remotely worth it. Drinking makes it easier to power through but I'm taking a break from powering through.

Breathing. I want to breath. I can't catch my breath lately. Literally. The more exhausted I become, the worse my asthma. My body is good at this. It says stop when my brain refuses to. It knows when I am mentally unwell and turns it into something physical. It forces me to pay attention.

I am twenty-seven and I am still always relearning the difference between standing right out on the edge and pushing myself over it.

A good friend once told me that I shouldn't even have a job because even unemployed I managed to overschedule myself. It was probably three and a half years ago. I still think about it. About how hard I push and how well he knew and tolerated that about me. The way he's one of the few people I always forgave for being late, something I'd never forgive in myself and generally cannot abide in others. The way I'd nudge him into being more focused and the way he'd convince me to relax. We had only been back in each other's lives for maybe 6 months after four years absent at the time but our dynamic was immediately the same as it had been third grade through high school.

Nobody encourages me to calm down here. Nobody values it. It's a double-edged sword, the thing that makes me feel so at home in New York but a thing that makes me lose my health and my sanity if I don't monitor myself.

I think I am falling in love with monitoring myself.

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.

And I'm a little bit broken

I've been teetering on the edge for a while. Looking down into the hole and pretending not to notice that I've already started to fall. It's hard, I'm coming off the high of a busy, well spent Summer. A sad Summer but also a good Summer. Life is always tricky like that.

I'm not ready for the Fall. I said I was ready to slow down this month, but I'm not. I'm not ready for indoors and being bundled and real life. It's funny how Summer makes me feel so free even though I don't remember the last true Summer vacation I had.

Today I received my first "Dear John" text, from a guy I let myself like more than I knew I should have. Nothing in it was surprising and at the same time I wanted to vomit and cry and jump on a plane home. I wanted the stars and the dark. I wanted my headlights on a windy country road. I wanted to drink whiskey and shoot at the bottle. I wanted the endessness of the ocean. I wanted to be any and all places other than here.

I'm not sure how much of it even really had to do with that guy as much as just an overflow of frustration with dating (or rather that it's always not actually dating) in this city.

For a moment, everything seemed to be coming together, work, friends, crush, moving into an apartment to call my own. There was a solid twenty hours where I felt like maybe I had backed away from the edge but then the city just went ahead and pushed me all the way over.

So, hello, hole.

Hello, bell jar.

Tomorrow I will put out my two new flavors (Rose sweet cinnamon ice cream with cardamom dough! Honey ice cream with salted rosemary dough!) and work on the third. I will pack up my one room here. Over the weekend I'll move and create a new space and maybe dye my hair and call my mother.

And I'll hope that my bell jar stays behind.

My Own Personal Fillory (Part Two)

In my own personal Fillory,

Bartenders stop taking your money but give you booze for free.

Sugar snap peas grow year round in massive piles everywhere.

It's always pool day in Vegas.

It always smells like the California coast and redwood trees.

Teleportation is real.

In my own personal Fillory,

I'm never nervous about talking on the phone.

Either eating an entire avocado (or three) or an entire pineapple as a meal would be a nutritionally valid choice.

Concerts would always be scheduled around when I had time and would never ever be sold out.

If it became clear during the course of a date that either party wasn't interested you'd just be magically teleported out.

Flour and sugar bins would always refill themselves and everyone would always use real butter.

In my own personal Fillory,

Time could be suspended for the purposes of finishing a book. Or to be able to spend enough time snuggling in bed.

Also, I'd have somebody with whom to snuggle in bed on the regular.

You would never have to wait more than a month between seasons for tv shows.

I could control the weather. It would mostly be 85 with no humidity. Or snowing. Except when I'm falling asleep and want to listen to the rain.

There are 2am yoga classes.

In my own personal Fillory,

Contentment is enough, life isn't hard and every risk taken is only met with reward.

(Also, kittens. Lots of kittens. Everywhere. Nobody is allergic. Puppies too. AND WE COULD ALL HAVE BABY POLAR BEARS AND BABY PENGUINS AND THEY'D BE FRIENDS. OH MY GOD GET ME TO FILLORY NOW)

Good Girls Don't Wear Sequins

BiSCswagOk, now that we've gotten all that talk about FEEEELINGS out of the way, let's have some Real Talk about the awesome shit that comes with being a BiSC attendee. This (maybe not so) flattering picture of me was taken by my roommate/favorite person Dominique in our fancy Flamingo Go Room which had a MOTHEREFFING tv in our bathroom mirror. Guys, I don't have cable (YEAH, I SAID IT. LOOK, I WAS RAISED WITHOUT TV SO YOU CAN GO SIT IN THE CORNER AND JUDGE MY PRETENSION WHILE I JUDGE YOU WATCHING DANCE MOMS AND WE CAN ALL BE HAPPY WITH OUR JUDGE-Y LIFE DECISIONS). I don't even know what to do with a tv in the bathroom mirror, we turned it on once while we were doing our makeup, it was confusing. See also: comfiest beds ever and multi nozel shower.

WARNING: The Go Rooms and the regular hotel rooms at the Flamingo are really not the same. I stayed in one of the regular ones in January and it was actually kind of more like Motel 6 quality. So don't go booking hotel rooms at the Flamingo and come bitching at me because you got the cheap option.

IMG_1234At the bottom of the bed is my giant pile of SWAG. Missing from the giant pile of swag: the free drink by the pool coupon sponsored by GelaSkins. It's missing because that wristband means I just came back from the crazy Flamingo Go Pool. Which is the adult pool. (No, not THAT KIND of adult pool) As in the pool where the booze is. And the fancy VIP day beds. And the waterfall to swim under and then end up in a nifty grotto. Also, where we played never have I ever for toys from Babeland. Are you wondering how things could get more ridiculawesome? So was I at this point. Pool day already seemed like the best day of my life but then IT GOT BETTER.

One word: ZUMANITY. Sexy Cirque du Soleil. Hilarious and amazing and naked. Also incredibly disturbing. Well, only the crazy contortionist that kept popping things out of sockets and shit was disturbing. I actually had to cover my eyes. Then dancing, dancing, dancing. Happiest when dancing in sequins and 4 inch heels. Until I'm tired of the heels and have to switch to sandals. Whatever. Happiest when dancing in sequins.

527798_512844919445_193400044_30188068_163346545_nWait, did I say happiest when dancing in sequins? I might've meant happiest when wearing sequins and eating waffle fry pulled pork nacho... I don't even know how to describe these, but Sara and I managed to start a trend that apparently had like 40 people eating these piles of amazingness the next night. Seriously, what is happening here? Why did we each order our own plate? This is insanity. Also, this is 3am.

HI, now it's time for sleeping.

In case you are unaware, breakfast is my favorite meal. by which I mean, breakfast foods are my favorite because I almost never eat breakfast. So buffet time on Saturday where I got to eat bacon, sausage, french toast, waffles and potatoes was pretty much my idea of heaven. I may've also made it boozy thanks to mini bottles of Skyy. IMG_1242The only thing better than regular brunch is boozy brunch.

The next epic adventure was to the roller coaster on top of New York New York that Alberto insisted did not exist (SPOILER: it exists) but for some reason agreed to join Dominique, Kelly and me in walking to the other end of the strip to go on it. Or to prove us wrong. I 67% think he was hoping to prove us wrong. I really love roller coasters, but also am unable to keep my eyes open on roller coasters which probably defeats the purpose of going on a roller coaster on top of a hotel. BUT WHATEVER, I went on a roller coaster on top of a hotel because that's the kind of shit you do in Vegas right before you play Pac-Man battle royale and the world's biggest version of fruit ninja. Clearly I chose the right group for the afternoon. For those of you playing along at home, at this point I have gone multiple hours without booze in Vegas, a situation I find mildly intolerable because apparently I'm really easily over stimulated which doesn't mix with Vegas without alcohol. BUT DON'T WORRY.

IMG_1243Thankfully Minus 5 ice bar had us covered for the afternoon. Sadly we weren't allowed to take any electronics in or I'd have fifty million pictures and have tweeted so many clever things. Or just talked a lot about how one of the rooms made me feel like I was in Narnia because of the trees etched into the ice. Did I mention that everything was made of ice? And have I ever mentioned my lifelong goal of staying in an ice hotel? This did not lessen my desire to stay in an ice hotel. We had our picture taken in a giant ice throne so that we could yell "King in the North!" but it turns out most people sit in the giant ice throne to get a picture with the Vegas sign because when we came out the woman was all "oh, you have the picture in front of the Vegas sign" and we were like "what are you talking about, lady?" because we thought we took our picture on the ice throne and are possibly too nerdy AWESOME to notice Vegas signs . Oh well.

(Side note: I'm kneeling in a really short skirt in an ice room because I was sitting the same way as Alberto and Kelly and the photographer said "You need to sit in a more flattering position, can you kneel?". And I wanted to say "Whoa dude, just how badly do you think I want this photo?" but I hadn't finished my second margarita so I wasn't feeling quite that sassy yet.

Post side note: the drinks, which were served in ice cups, rocked my socks)

More buffet. More eating all the Le Bon Garçon caramels in my gift bag. Then slowly getting ready for the Mad Men party. IMG_1245Where, you know, NBD, we just skipped a giant line to get into Chateau, the club on the roof of the Paris hotel from which you can see the Bellagio fountains go off. It was only so awesome that we all had to take a minute to tweet/facebook/foursquare/etc about it. That's all.

IMG_1249I mean, how adorable is everyone in their 60s duds, on their phones? It's pretty great. Anachronism win. Cue more dancing. Have I mentioned that I like dancing? No, really, I really like dancing. I need to go dancing more (at all) in New York now that I work normal people hours. Who wants to be my dancing buddy? Let's just go ahead and assume this girl does. IMG_1247
Yes, this is kind of an awful picture because it was dark and we were using the front facing camera, but I don't even care. And now we've reached the point where this post is just going to devolve into pictures. You're welcome.

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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

I don't even try

I don't know what I'm passionate about right now. I feel hollow all the time. I'm never hungry but also never full. In February I decided to stop fighting everything all the time but I guess in my case that just makes me apathetic. Or numb. I can't even tell which.

I've been trying to learn to sit with my feelings more. Or rather, just to actually feel them. To be able to say to myself things like "I am sad that this boy doesn't like me even though it's not logical to be this sad about it" or "even though I completely understand and agree with the reason I'm losing my job it's reasonable to be sad and scared and anxious". Maybe this is the way you feel feelings all the time. This is not the way I feel feelings. Look, there's a reason Spock has always been my favorite. However, you'll be shocked to know I am not a Vulcan, even though I sometimes often act like one. The problem is that by the time I actually let myself feel things I'm feeling this huge reservoir of feeling and I can't identify where each one is coming from.

So I can tell you right now that I am sad and bitter and disillusioned; that I just suspended my OkC account for the eleventybillionth time though in truth I've been on an online dating hiatus for a month now already anyways; that none of the job listings I've read make me want to send in my resume; that I made out with a boy I had no intention of ever making out with again and I honestly don't know how I feel about it, I want to say I feel nothing about it but I don't think you can actually make out and cuddle with somebody that you like and not have feelings about it and I think it's actually that the feelings are too complicated and too many things and so I'm not sitting with those ones yet* and that I'm well aware there is some major grammatical craziness going on in this post but I just don't give a fuck.

But I can also tell you I've had moments of peace and serenity lately. That walking around in Central Park with the sun on your skin and new friend is happiness. That nighttime rambles with a flask size bottle of whiskey and friend you haven't seen in a while are kind of great even if they unexpectedly kiss you later. That I do have one single job interview lined up and it looks perfect for me. That I spent yesterday at my pastry cook's friend's home out in Fresh Meadows and got to hang out with her siblings and large friend group and remember what it feels like to be part of something stable and solid. That I have a week packed full of social activities with other BiSC goers who are fast becoming my close friends.

I can tell you that I've recently realized that I'm angry at myself for letting go of and being less vocal about things I care about to make myself more palatable or to fit into groups better. That I've taken my philosophy of "pick and choose your battles" a little too far. Hi, I'm Alana and I am a feminist and I probably don't think any of your sexist/homophobic/racist jokes are funny and yeah, I'm generally ludicrously PC and I'm ok with that. JUST SO WE'RE CLEAR.

So maybe it's not that there isn't anything going on. Maybe it's that there's too much going on. Too much swirling around in my head for me to sort through it and feel any of it. Today I decided I was just going to fake it until I make it. I cleaned my room, I did some yoga, I ate an entire pineapple and also quinoa, poached chicken, black beans and avocados. Fine... also an entire bag of cadbury mini eggs.

Baby steps back to caring people, baby steps.

*This is how I feel: I feel sad and a little angry because it was nice and it was comfortable and making out and a cuddle buddy were exactly what I needed this week and it wasn't expected so it was a nice ego boost but it wasn't with somebody with whom I am actually ok with casually making out and cuddling. So, I'm sad that it's not something I get to do in a non-casual way and a little angry with both of us for doing it. And maybe a little angry at myself for not being over him even though I said earlier it was ok to be sad. God I hate feelings. THEY DON'T EVEN MAKE SENSE A LITTLE BIT, CAN I PLEASE BE A VULCAN NOW?

It's a treacherous road with a desolated view

 Tumbalalaika is my grandmother singing me to sleep and Where Have all the Flowers Gone is her playing the piano in the sunlit living room of my great grandparents' house in the Berkeley hills.

A musical snowglobe with a basket of roses played the song played at my mother's (unsuccesful) rehab graduation and kept me company in the years she was gone.

"You're going to really like this," my father says as he puts the bright orange CD into the stereo and skips to I'm Just a Girl. Sunny summer Sunday mornings with the top down, driving me home on highway 1.

Mayonaise for the boy I spent three weeks kissing in Ireland when I was 14.

Years of late night singalongs in the Mendocino Woodlands and the smell of campfire lingering in my clothes for days are comprised of Obla Di Obla Da and Down by the Riverside.

Staying up all night next to the fire in the dining hall in the same Woodlands, with friends so close I still think of them as my family, is yelling along to Buddy Holly which is also: my first concert, Paris with Corina (another Weezer concert) endless car singalongs and dinner parties in my Berkeley apartment.

Lara and Corina are I Will Survive and the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Stuck in traffic before the Rainbow Tunnel headed towards a Unitarian Universalist youth conference on a rare warm sunny day in San Francisco. Late night cookie bakes. Planning Sunday service.

Golden Age is rain on the roof of Jacob's room junior year of high school. It's panic attacks and aching and loss and grief and comfort and safety all wrapped in one. It's my favorite song and I rarely listen to it because it hurts. It hurts like you couldn't even imagine. Sometimes I don't even know how I got through that first year after my father died.

India when I was eighteen is obviously Redemption Song. The Garden State soundtrack is my return and the next semester in Turkey.

Our tiny, damp and cold (but cheap) apartment in San Francisco was Not a Pretty Girl, while I rocked out to Twin Cinema in the culinary classroom and walked towards the streetcar in the fog humming To Be Young is to Be Sad.

The truth is, I could keep doing this all night, almost every post on this blog for the last three years has been titled with song lyrics, each one awakening a very specific feeling. I'm one of those people. You know the ones, the ones that can't possibly get by on only the 16 gigs their iPhone allows, the ones that listen to albums with the shades drawn and the lights off, whole albums always, songs are meant to be listenened to in album order or on a playlist but never an album on shuffle (shudder), the ones who sometimes replay a song if a conversation interrupted really listening to it, the ones who devour new albums like they've never heard music before... One memory and one song? Impossible. I could more easily give you the soundtrack to my entire life.

But if you really must know, Summertime will always make me cry.

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