Category Archives: oohhhh. I get it now.

Friday for Franny Glass

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I sat at the computer for half an hour trying to write this.  There are so many words in my head that I can’t seem to force out of my lips or my fingers – a problem which I almost never have as I’m sure you know.  Sometimes I’m too busy to write or sometimes I can’t quite put a name on an emotion, but I can usually at least paint some metaphorical picture of being overcome or I can fumble my way into a revelation.  But tonight, and lately in my real-life conversations, I just can’t seem to pull it out of myself.  If you’ve talked to me in the last month, you know.  You know how I’ve been doing as much talking as normal but I’ve been saying half as much.  So for this entry we’re going to try one of my favorite writer’s block games.  I’ll start with a story.  For you long term followers I’ll note how familiar – and unfamiliar – of a story it is …

It was the perfect summer Friday.  Four hours at work somehow went from quietly paging through a Barefoot Contessa cookbook while I waited for various reports to load to an explosion! and I spent some quality time having an internal conniption.  Fortunately, things got calmer when a hand was laid on my back, I was handed a train ticket and was promised a pre-packed picnic when we arrived at the beach.  It’s amazing, Long Beach is maybe half-an-hour from Manhattan and yet it’s a million miles away. The rest of the day was spent splashing, poking washed-up sea creatures, and soaking up the late-afternoon sun.  By the end we were laying, listening and watching the tide coming into the shore, and we were quiet.  He asked about the Crazy.  The Crazy, that a wise friend of mine advises a person let on on slowly in these situations, was there and he could tell.  I have no idea how he could – it must be what he does when he does all the not talking that he’s so good at – or maybe I mentioned it in all the over-talking that I’m so good at doing these days (who am I kidding? Everyday).  Either way it got me started, uselessly, at trying to explain what’s going on in my head and my heart and my life.  I talked in circles, the Jesus prayer, staring out at the water, comforted by its constance and repeating pattern.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m in a period of tremendous change and personal growth.  I recently moved to a new and (cliche to say but unbelievably true) very different place, I started a new job (my first real adult one), I’m in the process of settling into a new apartment (also my first real adult one), and I’m creating an entirely new social network (again, as a big girl).  Granted, I was at least familiar with the city before and I do have a few old acquaintances here, but for the most part I’m blazing a new trail all on my own.  I’m blazing a lot of trails actually – more than I even realized I had to blaze – and of course it’s all happening at once.  And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done this.  College most recently was a time of constant and intensive growth, and high school and other times before that were as well I’m sure.   College is fresh in my mind and I remember the chaos, the late nights and wine and confusion and tears and extacies and driving and burning and epiphanies, and I remember bracing myself for the intensive swings and riding them out – the sophomore-slump, the seven-days-grace post East Coast adventures, the lake baptisms, and everything else.   College was, in a word I used obsessively, epic.

But what about now?  There’s as much going on now in my life as there was in college and perhaps more.  And while I know it’s there, I can feel it inside me and I’m trying desperately to articulate it, and all of you who I am talking to are generously listening and allowing me to work through, it doesn’t feel like it used to.  I realized that for the first time in my life I’m both cognatively mature and aware enough to recognize that I am in a time of great change and… and something else.  I couldn’t get to what it was though.

You’re in control.  He said. 

Well, no I’m not really, I mean you can’t ever really be totally in control of something like that – of  life and everything that’s happening around you and what you encounter – it’s just not really possible, I mean I do like to think I can control things and I am older and maybe calmer but I’m not sure, but it’s not like you can really … I defended, donning my new relaxed and go-with-the-flow self…

No, he interjected with polite force, But you’re guiding it.  You’re deciding what you like and what you don’t,  what you want and what you don’t, and you’re making decisions. 

And that’s it.  I didn’t get it, even when he said it I don’t think I did, but that’s it.  For the first time I feel like I’m both cognizant and in control.  It isn’t me against me and everything else.  I don’t have to label my life a Homeric epic in order to justify things beyond my control.  It’s not like I’m the one responsible for Earth’s gravity, but I am in control of my own.  I am aware what’s happening, and I’m the one who’s doing it.

“You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.  Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect.  The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act…

as if all of what little or much wisdom there is in the world were suddenly hers…she seemed to know just what to do next too…[she] drew back the cotton bedspread from the bed she had been sitting on, took off her slippers, and got into the bed.  For some minutes, before she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling. ” -J.D. Salinger

yours.Rachel

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I Know, I Know

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I dashed into the apartment, trying to stay out of the way, and b-lined it straight for the kitchen.  I’m standing there with my purse over my arm, keys protruding from one pocket and an mp3 player from the other with headphones attached, large houndstooth skull candy speakers around my neck, still playing, opening the refrigerator and grabbing the jelly.  Unwrapping the twist-tie on the bread while twisting towards the door of the cupboard for the peanut butter, not wanting to bother with anything more complicated for myself, and I’m grabbing a knife and spreading the peanut butter with the bread on my palm – too busy for a plate – and I slap the pieces together and head to my room.  I set the sandwich down next to the computer which I have just turned on and I turn to the dresser, grabbing the contact case and reaching for the solution which is across the room (because why would it be where I needed it?) and the cord of my headphones is catching on the dresser.  One contact comes out easy, the other sticks, and I am unzipping my pants to change into boxers because the heat is melting mascara into the both my eyes, one with a contact and without.  I’m tugging on the cord to pull the fan down from my loft and reaching to plug it in near the floor, and to plug in my phone which is across the room, and I catch the cord on a corner – of the desk this time – as I’m entering in my password, and I finally squeeze the other contact out and am holding in and wriggling out of my pants and stepping on fabric at the ankles, alternating, to pull them down and I’m famished so I grab for the sandwich and keep tugging on the fan but it’s stuck and there’s no way I can reach both the fan and the power-strip at the same time and suddenly I notice there are clothes (blurry because I’m not wearing my contacts but haven’t yet reached for my glasses) and they are all over the floor and the fan just isn’t coming down and I think it’s such a mess in here and I can’t see a thing and I’m hot and starving and tired but can’t sleep and I’m never going to get this fan down! 

Earlier we were sitting on his porch – his new one in a house that looks like it’s from Detroit – and the air is heavy with summer and I’m asking for his advice. It’s not advice I want to need, but it’s advice I need to want, and the it’s the kind of advice he knows too well.  [Ironically, experiencing everything hard and fast and all at once is the thing we’ve come out of all of this having in common.  Not what you’d have predicted when I was pinning a corsage to the lapel of his prom tuxedo]  He tells me to relax.  He suggests tea, rituals, habits.  I cringe, I hate habits.  He tells me to take my time.  He tells me to do one thing at a time.

Not to stand starving, blind and half-naked in my bedroom and decide it’s unbearably messy all while trying to pull the fan down from the loft above.

In my room I stop, let go of the chord, put down the sandwich and slide the final contact off my knuckle. I laugh at how ridiculous this all is.  I put on my glasses. I take a bite of the sandwich.  I grab a pair of boxers and slide into them, noticing the clothes on the floor (which with my glasses I can see is just a couple things) but deciding not to bother with them just yet.  Really, I remind myself, you can manage to move a 6 inch fan from one place to another.  Just not when you’re doing it all at once. One thing at a time.

Take your time.   It’s only been a month, remember?

If This Is Growing Up

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…I’m in.

I survived my first week of work, and can I tell you a secret? I loved it.  The people are spectacular and the work is fascinating. Admittedly, I’m in the honeymoon phase, and I expect that within a few months, the copy editing and spreadsheets I maintain will feel much less novel, but the fact is that the industry is quickly evolving and I’m in an environment where I get to be a part of very interesting work, and perhaps most importantly, by contributions are welcomed and useful. A week on the job and I can already point to instances where my copy was used, my design idea was heeded, and where my insights were considered by decision makers. This comes in stark contrast to my previous job where I felt no less than useless.

And then there’s the part where I get weekends.   Summer Fridays are a perk of this job, meaning my weekend starts at 1pm on Friday.  I kicked this week off shopping with a friend then happy hour in the financial district where we met up with her new beau and a slew of good looking (but not unreasonably so) gentlemen.  (Win)  Saturday was flea markets and enjoying the small town feel of Brooklyn – the independent coffee shops and the extended conversations with the guys at the shipping store.  Then in the evening I headed to a yet another free concert in Riverside Park with some Kappa Delta alumni – great music, a stunning sunset over the river, and when we weren’t listening we we in stitches laughing.   Then Sunday began with brunch in Harlem – at Society with a friend and a roommate, and with red velvet waffles.  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes they did change my life.  Finishing it all off was a little time in the sun, just me, Dave Eggers, and most of Brooklyn in the somehow-still-not-overcrowded Prospect Park.  I could get used to this whole being an adult thing…

image Sisters, picnics, music, sunset.  Also, adorable children and dogs. What else could a person need?

 

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image  Good company, french press coffee, eggs, and mascarpone cheese on top of the red velvet waffles.  Heaven on Earth!

 

Free Week in NYC

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My publishing debut is set for June 13th, meaning I have one week left of “funemployment” as a friend called it. What are you going to do? He asked. Hit the town! Party it up!  Friday I was contented just being – doing nothing more than sunbathing and existing.  Today however, I am existing as a lobster/Coppertone girl and being, typically me, bored.  There’s a problem – I mean beyond the fact that I’m constantly restless and less constantly but no less importantly at present the color of a tomato  – the lack of cash. Funny, there’s no way to fit the word fun into the word broke. (Broke is an overstatement perhaps, but I’m certainly not in a position to be ordering bottles of Belve at the hottest new club anytime soon) For a moment I was distressed and frustrated, until I remembered – you live in NEW YORK CITY! It’s the summer! There’s tons of fun free things to do, right?! So I challenged myself: for the next week, I plan to do at least one fantastically free (or outrageously cheap) thing each day. Then, I’ll share my findings with you, for the benefit of those in the New York area but also to keep myself accountable.

Well here we are today off to a good start! I stopped by the Housing Works bookstore/cafe in SoHo for their annual street fair!  This meant super-cheap books and vintage finds, even an everything-you-fit-in-this-bag-for-$20 fashion bin (take heed my Brooklyn brethren!). I skipped the clothing but stocked up on reading materials – six books for 5 bucks! One off the reading list, one swell anthology, and four more that could be fascinating (or if all else fails will be very aesthetically pleasing on my bookshelf).  Day one is a success!

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And All I Need is Something Real

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I’ve got a friend who always talks about her people.  Honestly, it was something I never really felt like I understood, and it was one of the great mysteries that divided us.  She has her roots, her people, and all these things that tie her to a place.  A place that she recently left, for another place where she has similar roots.   How painful does that sound? Choosing to rip yourself from the place and people you love, choosing to leave in part because it makes sense and in part because you’re soothing the wounds that were open when you lived in the first place because you weren’t in the second.  Ouch.  (and sorry to twist the knife.)  Being the clever, quick thinking business woman that I am, I came up with a solution to her problem.  Don’t have roots.

Perhaps I should have started this with an apology to my friends reading this.  It’s not that I don’t care about you – I really, really do, and I hope you know that.  But I’ve been developing this idea about far away friends, and it’s something I’ve come to accept as a reality – I know too many people destined for too many diverse and great things to expect one town to hold them all.  And it’s a kind of glamorous idea – having friends all over who you can call when you just happen to be across the country, knowing you will always have a hug and great conversation wherever you go.  The time you spend together becomes quality, not quantity, and you cherish the evenings and weekends and maybe rare weeks when you get to see the people you truly love.

The other thing about this framework is it leaves you free.  I’ve been fond of saying for some time now that the kind of commitment I’m ready for is a cactus.  Drop an ice cube in there every few weeks to keep it nourished, and tuck it easily into a carry-on bag to take it on a plane – you’re good to go! That’s what I want.

I spent high school so incredibly rooted – in a relationship, in a church community, in the school community, in a tight-knit and cancer-tastic family – that by the time I left all I wanted to do was be free.  Cutting ties wasn’t quite as easy as that, but time and a lot of temporary relocation finally cut those roots or at least stretched them to a sufficiently light and freeing distance.  I threw a few darts, broke a few hearts, and dragged a few people through the mud with me, but for the most part I was free.  I went wherever I pleased.   New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Rome, Spain, Morocco.  Granted, I did still have financial roots, but those where flexible enough that they allowed me to fly – literally.

When the economy crashed my flight path did as well, but I bunkered down, telling myself this was just an ellipsis until when I would be in the air again, and then I would fly free as a bird to a place where I knew no one.   Then California landed in my lap, and I jumped at the chance to fly again.

But when I got here, I was alone.  Not surprising in itself, but what surprised me was how much that bothered me.  I was always the introvert – the girl who went to the museum by herself.  The girl who wanted no more commitment than a cactus.  What did I need anyone else for?

In Northern California I never really made friends – the office people weren’t really my people and the suburbanites definitely weren’t either.  I got used to it, did fine, consciously avoided alcoholism and watched a lot of Netflicks.  But then when I got to San Diego, something happened.  I met people. Mostly single serving friends – the kind who I met at a bar and spent the evening with or who took me out to dinner after work, but I like them and if I were here longer I would love to go see their favorite unknown band at a hole-in-the-wall place or play with their children.   And because I’ve met these people, I feel alive.  I’m sure the weather and the view from my balcony help, but the real reason I feel alive and on fire here is because I’m connecting with other human beings. Listening to their stories, sharing mine, and talking about life.  Laughing.  Wondering.  Growing.

It’s not that I’ve decided when I get back to Michigan I’m staying – I’m still leaving, and almost nothing anyone could do would make me stay.  But what I know now, without a doubt, is when I arrive wherever I will be, I need to find people.  I will need people, every day, who I care about and who care about me.  I will need to get involved, take the ropes and tie myself down, and begin to love and be loved.   And this love, these roots, will let me fly.

A sentiment echoed by millions of other people before?  Absolutely.  But did that make the moment I realized it for myself any less meaningful?  Absolutely not.   Dear Tall Friend, I get it.  I know it’s a little late, but you know I’m a stubborn bitch.  Love, Short Friend.

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.” – Albert Einstein

yours.Rachel

Not Yet

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A while back I ran into an old acquaintance, a Facebook friend, on a busy national holiday at my place of former retail employment.  I knew from my newsfeed that the she was living in Chicago working at a finance company dating a man with a chiseled face, and I remembered from what I knew about her before that she was biding her time.  She was the kind of girl who everyone was in love with, or at least they wanted to screw the shit of her, and she had perfected the art of polite condescension.  I was training a cashier and too busy to notice her at first, but she called out my name in that same tone that I can still remember cooing “Francis, can you see my underwear?” in freshman year English class.  A tiny piece of me smiles every time I remember that story – I won that battle without my thong sticking out of my pants, and I suspect that’s how I gained the calculated respect of said beauty-queen.  From across the room I could see boys I would later date chuckling, boys who would later love those boys rolling their eyes, and girls who would later come to hate me for invading their side of the classroom scoffing.

Hiiiii! I smiled cheerfully, like any good sales girl, and I asked how she was and what she was doing.  She was great, and this was Kevin, she gesturing with pride to the chiseled face beside her.  “And what are you doing? Oh, well I guess you’re working here!” she chuckled in an ambiguous way.  “I’m getting my masters”, I replied, and the cashier I was training had a question.  Enjoy the holiday! I smiled, and it was her turn to be rung up. I could hear the cashier behind me chatting with her, and as her purchase went down on the counter next to that of the chiseled face the cashier asked “Are these together?” The woman I knew laughed, throwing her head back and cooing, “No, not yet.” Her shirt was fashionably long like they are today, but I could see her thong in my mind, peeking out, Barbie pink.

Not yet.  Something about those words and the way she said them turned my stomach for the rest of the day.  It wasn’t the condescension with which she met a former friend, and it wasn’t jealousy for her grown-up job in a real city just like it wasn’t jealously that struck me when she cooed to the man I knew I loved (even then).   It was awe and sadness.  She was always one of the smartest people in our Goshorn-Honors-English cohort that would continue to be bound for the next four years, and though the child of a particularly despicably-suburban mother, I had hopes that when she left home she would find herself.  She and I had a lot in common, actually, and I always felt an affinity for her when so many people I knew felt disregard or disgust.

This story certainly is not a recent one, but it came into my head again this morning as I was making breakfast.  Here I am in California, scrambling eggs with fresh vegetables listening to the blues in boyshorts and a tye-dyed tanktop.  I’m 3,000 miles from where I was born, working as a disguise but secretly searching for Zen, exceptionally single, and as strong and calm as anyone you’ve ever seen.   And though my journey has not been so much Fear and Loathing as some, I can feel that I’ve left the path that I was on. The girls like I was in high school are married now, or engaged, or not yet either, but close.  A conversation with a friend the other day made me realize that I will not be the first to be married, and in fact I may be the last. Consciously, or not, the last four year I have been choices that ensure I will not be the young bride, and that I will instead be the woman who sits in the pew, wearing the kind of gorgeous dress that only a girl without commitment can afford (and justify) buying – watching, speculating with an accomplice which of the groomsmen are single.  I’ll be the woman with stories, the woman who answers to no one, and the novelty who makes everyone I know smile and chuckle “that woman is really something.” Eight years ago, everyone I knew expected to see me shining pure and white, and as it stands now, I’m not that kind of girl.

Not yet.  The funny thing about those words is they may be true for me too.  I may, yet, be a stay at home mom with cookies in the oven of my beautiful house in the suburbs.  My husband may come home and take off his tie, and I may hand him a drink and mention that I finished the Christmas letter and that everything is ready for the holiday party this weekend.  He’ll go change and I’ll rush dinner because I have to lead the PTA meeting, Elliot has soccer practice, and Lydia still needs help with her English homework.  The difference, between me and my friend and the woman I may have been, is that my husband will laugh.  He’ll come downstairs in his tye-dye tee-shirt chucking “Look at us; Can you believe this?” And I’ll smile – knowingly, and a bit seductively, saying “I think, Darling, that we’ve got them pretty well fooled.” And in the mean time, I’ll write my stories.  I’ll see the world, and I’ll chase dreams that I may catch and chose to let go.  I’ll live for now, and not yet worry about what is not yet here.

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” – Calvin & Hobbes

yours.Rachel