The worst day ever begot the best day in response.
So I made notes. To remember this.
August 8th, 2019.
The worst day ever begot the best day in response.
So I made notes. To remember this.
August 8th, 2019.
Summer 2019 brings with it frozen margaritas and Taylor Swift on repeat — I keep joking that I’m discovering my best basic white girl self.
There’s something about the fro margs at Guajillo in Rosslyn that’s totally and utterly captured my heart, ever since that impromptu dinner date at Pho 75 with the Baldwin. (It’s probably the frozen part and also the margarita part.) We didn’t mean to meet there, didn’t mean to hop next next next door for post-dinner margaritas, didn’t meet to linger so long, telling each other stories we thought we’d shared but really hadn’t. But the impact is real and it’s lasting.
Ever since that evening just two weeks ago, I’ve been back for those frozen margaritas two (three…?) additional times, each time citing Guajillo as my new fave happy hour location even though technically they don’t have a happy hour and technically I’ve never gotten any happy hour dealios there and technically technically I don’t even like Mexican food. Life. It’s a beautiful mystery!
And then this Taylor Swift resurgence. I’ve traced it back to our Seattle trip, when David and I were jamming out to tswift hardcore on our drive up to Vancouver. It must have awakened a little earworm in my noggin, and the lil guy is yelling, compelling me to listen to more, more, more TS. Yes. I know that’s not actually how an earworm works, but isn’t the image kinda cute?
As I find myself in music chamber situations (read: driving in cars) with people who aren’t as resurgence-y about TS, I find myself explaining — nay, defending — why I’m liking her so much these days. That her songs are fierce and fun and even just…kinda fun to make fun of, too (cue: Trouble Goat Remix.) But most of all, that she’s a good storyteller who writes simple, compelling lines put to melodies that are so. effin. catchy and tells her stories in an authentic voice that’s decidedly hers. She’s this girl and that, described by lovers and haters as this other girl and yet again that — but she takes it all and writes songs that are honest about what she thinks and who she is. She contains multitudes, eh hem, if I may borrow the timely phrase.
Frozen margaritas in a swirl of TaySwift. Maybe this is just one of those English major-y things where you’re reading several books for different classes during the same semester and your brain starts to make connections that aren’t there, but joking about being “my best basic white girl self” and defending Taylor Swift’s singer-songwriter honor feels oddly appropriate in light of my most recent life-nugget acquisition, when in a swirl of an emotional meltdown I had to actively decide to believe one set of possible explanations over what the evil voice in my head was yelling, in a situation that was making me want to believe and think the worst about myself.
I realized that a lot of those anxiety-ridden moments that make me question myself — because they happen in a vacuum of actual information — push me toward and over the cliff of self-doubt. “Wait, why would she have done that” too quickly tumbles me down into a pit of “She hates me because I’m untrustworthy and I probably shouldn’t even be here.”
The weird thing is, when other people come to me with stories of “Wait, why did x to y in z situation, do you think?” my reaction is never as dire and cliff-y as it is for the possible explanations I provide myself. There is zero grace for me. All grace and best-intention scenarios for everyone else. Why? That’s so silly. (And a whole nuther blog post, I’m sure.)
As difficult and counterintuitive as it was, I had to tell myself to give myself the same kind of advice that I would give someone else — to assume the best intent on this person’s part, that it might have been a mistake, that she most definitely does not hate you. Me. I had to shut down the evil voice of ~all those h8rs~ inside my own brain and embrace my fro marg-lovin, tswift-blastin self for all those multitudes contained inside.
The frozen margaritas and the Taylor Swift had nothing to do with this mysterious situation that caused such internal turmoil, by the way. But if it’s not the job of an English major to weave disparate threads into one colorful blog post, I dunno what is.
That “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”?? I never understood it until perhaps this moment, as I sit here with my glass of wine and feeling numb-faced as I often do when I drink after a run.
Is he equating the feeling of being in the presence of a beloved (or your lady of the moment…or whoever) with alcoholic intoxication? Is this a completely obvious connection I’ve just never made because of my lack of experience with said intoxication? Is it referencing a totally different mood-altering substance I’m too straightlaced to get?
These are the thoughts of a contented ladison at the end of a long weekend with family when we’ve driven up and down the usual I-95 madness and spent some quality time eating and drinking and movie-watching andddd video game-watching with some beloved people. And have come home to a sweet, wild kitty who has taken to rage-chewing things in our absence as if he were a pup. And have spent the past hour soaking in someone else’s sadness over losing a baby at 20-something weeks. Back in 2017.
What is all this randomness but the condition of living with a soaky, drippy human heart that attaches itself to a lot of different other humans and their feelings, far away and long ago. At the end of a long (normal) weekend, tired but in a good way.
Good night; *crescent moon emoji*
It’s been a whirlwind of a LOT of nothing-doing and yet a lot of productivity around here the past week and a half. I’ve run the whole gamut of slight excitement at getting to miss work to angst at missing social functions to full-on cabin fever (I may or may now have yelled at Mark to allow me some wine despite my illness [it didn’t work]) to a lot of sitting still and contemplating about how grateful I am for…just life. Yeah yeah, CHEEZBALLS. Oh yeah, all in the course of a cold that turned into a flu and then gave a cookie to BRONCHITIS. 27 and still livin new life experiences a-plenty.
Yeah it’s been a lot of Netflix over book-reading and ungodly numbers of hours spent on 2048, but I’ve also caught up on all my back issues of the Economist and spent some quality fetch time with the kitten and journaled a bunch…and hey, first blog post since November! That’s certainly something. I’m just about one day away from reaching unnecessary-baking levels of boredom-induced productivity.
Through it all, Mark’s been here to make emergency grocery runs at an average rate of one a day, fetch me important things from the kitchen like cough drops and slices of no-reason cake, and mostly just sit at his desk working from home while I sit a-couch, coughing my heart (and lungs) out and losing my voice. The one day he abandoned me for work, I felt a true loss and slept most of it away.
Despite the illness and the unfortunate grocery/doctor’s visit bills I’ve been racking up, I’m pleased to report that the overall sentiment as this blue period comes to a close is one of gratitude. Gratitude for work that allows me (paid!) time off and waits securely for me to return, gratitude for a mom and a dad who call every day just to check in on the rapidity of my coughs, gratitude for friends who text to ask if they can drop in with anything (and with updates from the outside world…where the people walk and dance and stay in the sunnnn), gratitude for our beautiful lil one-bedroom where I can lounge on many different surfaces and look out its big big windows, gratitude for a lovely, loving cohabitant who deserves so many more back hugs — not just for the recent sacrificial care-taking but in general. It’s been really interesting and really nice spending so much non-quality, just side-by-side time with him. There’s a lot you miss during the day, while you’re both at your respective works:
So before I run headlong back into productive society (and the commute…) and forget: thank you for the occasional sick days and the reminders they bring of a bunch of my favorite things.
Much like its better known cousin, the Moral Compass (MC), there is a Subconscious Wisdom (SW) inside us humans that helps to pull us back on course when we’ve derailed ourselves, or to tug at our attention with mystery tears to mourn the consequences of a *wrong* decision.
Easy to confuse, these two, but they operate in totally different frameworks. The MC is employed in the simpler plane of This World — splicing the rights and the wrongs that most everyone can agree on. To lie or not to lie. To hurt or to protect. The SW, however, moves in the gray spaces between two realms — originating from a world that has broken, Fallen, but still, deeply rooted in us — poking out in green tendrils in its effort to crack through the layered cement peripheries. Creating rubble in its wake, when it breaks.
You see the SW at work when you’re a Christian who can’t quite get behind either political option regarding the hot topic issues of the day — how do we legislate an issue like gay marriage or abortion? When the Bible says a life is a life is a life but society doesn’t provide a viable option for carrying that life to term and being a productive, fully equipped single mom. When the evangelical church points to the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah but you know about love and it doesn’t seem like a decision you should be making on behalf of anyone else, to deny or to allow.
You see the SW at work when a child of divorce spends years self-explaining, justifying, his absentee father’s absenteeism — “This is normal. This is what having a dad is like. This is my dad.” — but inexplicably cries at his elementary school presentation on family. When there’s an innate awareness of brokenness, no matter how you’ve sliced it, diced it, logicked and justified it.
This SW was a tool placed at the core of us, meant to be applied to the workings of an unbroken world. In that original place, we would have been able to listen to its wisdom to make the truly *right* choices — no unintended casualties along the way. But displaced from the garden and forced to operate in this new, bleaker place, this guiding light refracts all funny, too. Broken shafts of light in a broken cathedral.
It’s easy to manipulate this idea: at any twinge of discomfort with a decision, to blame it on the broken world and the impossibility of avoiding casualties with the choices you make. Setting up vigilant systems of logic so you don’t actually have to make any hard choices, but just apply a problem to your problem-solving algorithm — lowest-common-denominator solutions. Least-casualty output. Or, paralyzed by fear, to run away from decisions of any kind (which, of course, isn’t actually an option).
But even in this imperfection, there’s something to be said about this wisdom of ours. Light, refracted or not, illuminates. The work that’s left to us is the peering carefully in the semi-darkness. The wading through the gray. But to listen to that twinge provided by the SW. To be still, to be quiet, when that ancient voice will have you pause and consider the decision before you (or maybe already behind you).
All this to say, there’s quite a bit to look forward to in that heaven place. For light to meet light, glorious and unfettered by brokeny cement walls.
I was so indifferent about going out to watch the requisite fireworks for Fourth of July that I slipped on my uber-chill, uber-ratty pair of Adidas slides — the pair I reserve only for walking to and from the laundry room, inside our building — to trudge out to the end of our street where the little hill overlooking 395 is, apparently, a coveted viewing location around here.
As I tsked and tsked my way through the double- and triple-parked cars all the way to the hairpin curve of our tiny street, I explained to Mark that I’m “all or nothing, you know? Like, if I really wanted to watch fireworks, I would have gone INTO DC and been there right in the thick of it. It just doesn’t seem worth it to stand here, miles away, watching through shoulders and hats.”
But boy was I pleasantly surprised by this little microcosm of a celebration at the end of our street.
Surrounded by our fellow non-DC-venturers, we had a little taste of everything on the (non)chalance spectrum, all huddled together at the top of that hill. A couple of wiseguy commentators offering their unending opinions on this and that particular sparkler, an overly enthused grandma not wanting her grandkid to miss a single burst and unable to help herself from offering her own play-by-play, the tired-and-obligatorily-there mama, and the KIDDOS… Oohing and ahhing honestly, exclaiming a lil more loudly for the more impressive lights among them, but overall just pleased as punch to be there. One kid yelling, “NO!! SLEEP!! TILL BROOKLYNNN!!” after a particularly impressive combination of sparky displays, much to the chuckles of the adults around him.
Despite my previously tsky attitude, I found myself more and more on my tippy toes as the crowd swayed and moved to the beat of the lights. Enjoying the fireworks. Enjoying that hot, hot night air. Enjoying being in the middle of that medium-ish group of stranger-neighbors who had parked so deplorably all over our street. Had brought their unwanted opinions and unnecessary commentaries to the evening’s festivities. Had hoisted their kiddos on their tired shoulders so the little ones could ooh and ahh like none of us adults could muster up the energy to do. Causing a certain Adidas slides–clad adult from down the street to suddenly feel very old and very circle-of-lifey, all at once.
Christians, Christians assert, are inherently not fully Christian unless they live in community among other believers. It is the practice of being in community that leads us to fully be (and become) who we are (and who we’re meant to be). We’re part of a single body, with varied capacities but a unified purpose. So it makes sense that you belong with other members of that body. Hands, feet, etc.
Widen the scope and it still works: Humans, too, become ever more human by the practice of being in community with other humans. A human in isolation has little hope of fully developing — we need to talk to, look at, study, love, be loved by each other to learn more of ourselves, in turn. The others are our mirrors and windows, shifting at different angles; they show us bits and shadows and sometimes, full-on reflections of who we are, who we would like to be, what we would like to avoid becoming.
And despite all the aforementioned glass metaphoring, our greatest moments of revelation lie in collisions against other humans (and the stormy circumstances of life-in-general that brew said collisions) that sometimes slice right through and reveal the pinky soft flesh of what we’re really made of, just beneath the manicured lawn of all our pretty surfaces.
And if the being among others — at work, in traffic, at home, and in the church — is an essential part of practicing the art of humanness, each day holds that much more meaning, promise. Each day is another day for practice toward becoming more and more refined as a human person. One more opportunity to collect against your 10,000 hours toward master human-ship.
I’m gonna try my best to go to work tomorrow morning with this in mind. That I’m going out into the world to practice my being among people, and to try my darnedest to do good job at this being (a good) human thing. That I won’t fear colliding into people and things but rather embrace those opportunities to learn a lil about myself, to peer into my pinky dermis and below, see what I’m made of, and grow from there. That it’s a gift to be appreciated and used well, not just squandered waiting for another Friday.
It’s often the smallest things that feel like the biggest deal in the fickle world of my emotional life.
Just as the crush of work has eased a bit, I’ve started using the whiteboard at the entrance to our team’s little cubicle block to present passersby with trivia questions with multiple choice answers. Asking about the history of the English alphabet, the short-lived other name of Uranus, the tone in which most toilets flush… etc. So, anything, really, that struck my fancy from Buzzfeed’s list of fun lil factoids.
It was a bit of a struggle to get people to interact with the board at first — people feel weird about interacting with technically-other-people’s whiteboards, I guess. Or maybe it’s the finality of that dry erase marker — declaring yourself right or wrong, even though literally no one is keeping track of who picks which answer. In any case, because of the board-shyness, for the first couple questions, I’d catch anyone who paused at the question and implore them to PICK an answer right there!
But once it got going, the little conversations that would bubble up around that board made me the happiest little cube-dweller EVER. I’d turn right round and engage people in small talk, conjecturing togetherly about what the last letter added to the English alphabet might’ve been (it was J!!) — and how chatting about fascinating it would be if Uranus had been named LOUISE at one point (it wasn’t; GEORGE was the correct answer there). Just having an excuse to interact with the people who walk, eat, talk, work around me all the time on subjects not related to work was refreshing, even life-giving.
And the beautiful thing is that it costs zero dollars. Takes no more than a few seconds of everyone’s lives. But gives us so much intangible connectivity as coworkers and co-cube dwellers.
I’m notoriously intense as a coworker — that’s what my CFA team pointed out as my greatest strength and greatest weakness. It means I focus first and foremost on work, even at the detriment of the opportunities for connection-making with the people who make it all happen alongside me.
As I walked out of the office at the end of the day, that fateful day of the first trivia question, I realized how springy my step was, how positively whistle-while-you-work I was feeling. All cause of a trivia-l little addition to my ordinary workday. In this way, I remember how it’s in all the little moments that life is actually lived. The big, milestoney markers may be the way you tell the big-brushstroke story of your existence, but it’s all the little crumbs of daily life that make all the difference in your difference-making.
So we trivia on.
We went over to the Cases today and watched Hero.
Fell into a big conversation about whether we would have followed through with killing the emperor or not.
At first, voted No because, Unification and Peace, yawl.
But then, realized that also goes hand in hand with #dictatorship.
So changed my mind, in favor of diversity and chaos. Mark had always voted Yes, but for (typically) different reasons.
He said, cause, family. Ten years. Promises. People who are relying on you.
I said, diversity. Freedom. Even though Chaos.
Big picture vs. individual story. It prevails again and threatens to divide our kingdom!!
Was riding on a veritable cloud nine until thoughts turned dark and I wondered if I enjoyed these conversations with the Cases so much just because they are right at that level of interesting—small enough to be graspable, big enough to scratch that brain itch. Maybe it’s all just an ego trip.
Or maybe it’s just a break from the humdrum, Mark said.
Big vs. small again, indeed.
The February photodump — cam to hard drive — has unearthed a lot of moments of food and people we love. And a glance back through the blog archives reveals that the one post from Feb 2017 is something of a “food and folks” post, too.
Guess February is the month of good food and good company.
We’re in a real groove of normalcy now — there are people we meet up with, month after month. People we make plans with at the end of each meet up, everyone scrounging through our phones for another weekend that’ll work, in a few weeks’ time. We make plans, commit to see each other soon, bring/find food, and eat together for the sake of catching up together.
I’m grateful for these grooves.
I always used to pride myself a lil bit on the fact that my closest friendships were based not on the frequency — or even the overall quantity — of time spent togetherly. “Quality over quantity,” I’d say, my metaphorical nose in the air.
But these days, I’m yearning for the regularity of an oft-seen face. Or two or three or five. Now my calendar is full of people I’ve seen “just a month ago,” which sometimes still doesn’t feel like enough. I want normal-life, humdrum conversations, about work and commutes and recipes we’ve tried — sprinkled in with vast contemplations about life, too, duh.
The important thing — and the thing that makes me a more grown up person now than when I was in college, with my nose in the air — is to recognize these seasons of life as such, and appreciate each for its own reasons.
College was a time of mad dashes through classes and clubs and homework AND friends. I was bombarded by life — in the best way, as college does — and thoughts and conversations and growth and friendships were happening all naturally (and also, somehow, so magically). In the wee hours in a dorm room. At the dining hall over breakfast. During afternoon nap/study sessions in the hush of the library. And those quarterly mad catch-up sessions with the besties were enough, because that’s all my life had room for.
And that was good for then.
But now, days and evenings clock in and out with a cozy regularity that I can sometimes confuse with monotony. And life these days is filled with dinners that need cooking, plants that need watering, sleeps that need getting. I dunno what exactly it is that’s changed, but my heart, it yearns for friends who are close and near. Heart-wise and commute-wise.
How foolish of me to have turned my snooty little nose up at the beauty of relationships built over time and shared everydays.
How grateful I am now, to scroll through photos of familiar faces, month after faithful month — sharing food, sharing our time, sharing stories of the little things that have mattered to us in the past few weeks.
How grateful for these grooves.
(And, ahem, the photos.)