January 27, 2013

ask me

some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. ask me whether
what I have done is my life. others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
you and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. we know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
what the river says, that is what I say.

-- william stafford

five years

last year I began keeping a five year journal. with the exception of a lost period in december, I have kept it up. (and that blank, lost period in december speaks of my life in a different way). so for these past 26 days, I have been running against the ghost of my last year self. it's novel, fascinating, and oftentimes sad. on this day last year, I worked from home (presumably on galileo) and then spent the evening at the barn, 'lazily lungeing cookie.' I was nursing a possibly-broken nose from my terrifying ride. I was carrying around a heart-shaped rock in my pocket, a gift from g. I used to sleep with it in my hand, a talisman of hope; I used to zip it into my vest pocket when I got on my horse, for luck. sometimes I still slip it into my coat pocket; it fits so perfectly in my hand. it's hard to run parallel to my last-year self, and illuminating, and comforting, and strange. I just keep marking down the days, a small act of faith that things will get better, that there is good in what's to come.

January 23, 2013

books 2013

1. lauren groff: the monsters of templeton
2. margaret atwood: the year of the flood
3. lars kepler: the hypnotist
4. patrick rothfuss: the name of the wind
5. kathryn stockett: the help
6. julian barnes: the sense of an ending
7. jeanne duprau: the city of ember
8. paula mclain: the paris wife
9. laura hillenbrand: unbroken: a world war II story of survival, resilience, and redemption
10. jeanne duprau: the people of sparks
11. r.j. palacio: wonder
12. mary ann shaffer & annie barrows: the guernsey literary and potato peel society
13. sara gruen: water for elephants
14. gretchen rubin: the happiness project
15. oliver sacks: the mind's eye
16. c.s. lewis: the horse and his boy
17. emma donoghue: room
18. karen joy fowler: we are all completely beside ourselves


nature's air freshener

I have a christmas tree in the passenger seat of my car. I put it in there to drive it to the boy scouts or whoever takes old trees when you live in the city, only then I couldn't find where their collection place was and there was this tree in my car, and it was all dried up but it smelled good and there was nothing to do with it anyway but let it stay there. every time I'm walking to my car I start hysterically laughing at the idea that I have a christmas tree in the passenger seat. I kind of like it. the other day one of my coworkers and I went to happy hour and he had to sit in the back like we were driving miss daisy. when he asked for an explanation -- I think what he actually said is what is wrong with you????!!! -- I said, "well, I put the tree in the car a week and a half ago--" and then I couldn't finish the sentence because I suddenly realized the absurdity of it and I got laughing so hard I couldn't talk. I guess I'll have to pitch it into the woods behind the barn.

things that are good

• on new years day I'm running down the sidewalk, a few blocks from my house, and ahead a white suburban has its reverse lights on. I slow down to see if the driver sees me and he does, and waves me on. I turbo past and he calls "happy new year!" out the window. "you too!" I reply. it's simple, but good.

• at the barn, I finally meet the new barn manager, who moved in sometime in early december, bringing with him his seven beautiful horses -- rocky mountain horses mostly, plus a tennessee walker and a kentucky mountain horse. all of them are in good weight, mannerly when fed, well-groomed. the barn manager's name is jim; he's probably in his mid-sixties, and has the easy air of a person who's spent his whole life with horses. we shake hands and he asks me which horse is mine, and then he admires my rubber boots, which are plaid cowboy-style boots I'm wearing only because the soles of my normal ones have totally worn through. "hold my shoulder so I can see the bottom," he says, and then he picks up my foot just like you'd pick up a horse hoof and checks out my shoes. "hardly been worn," he declares, as he backs up a step. he appraises me. "look at you! you look good. those boots, and you've got a wrangler butt."

I have never heard the term 'wrangler butt' but I know instantly what he means, and I will take it.

• we have a quick & dirty lady date sunday, because I can't get out of orchestra rehearsal until just before 10 PM. j & I watch downton and polish off a bottle of white wine, which we drink ostensibly for its germ-killing qualities.

• tonight at the barn, I hang out with a one-day-old colt, who's the spitting image of his mama. after initial shyness, he comes and sniffs my hand, but runs away when I try to rub his neck.

• in the span of just a few days, I receive two care packages from two of my finest lady friends and both of them make me choke up in profound gratitude, because somehow my life is full of extraordinary people who are willing to come hold my hand and lead me out of my darkest places.

rachel's package is an utter novelty, mailed in a bottle, the stamps hand-canceled. inside there's candy and coffee and a few wonderful little trinkets, a pair of fuzzy socks, the sweetest letter. I drink the coffee a few days later, in the car on my way to mt. hood, and it makes me really, really happy.

katie's package is a sizable box that appears at my door, stuffed under my doormat by the mailman, who understands my neighborhood. in it is everything she's picked up for me in the last four years, none of which she's ever gotten around to sending. each thing is labeled with a sticky note. on the tiny "Pimp Your Pumpkin" decorating kit she writes, happy halloween 2010!. she sends a book along, saying, I read this a few years ago and loved it so much I had to send it to you immediately.
I laugh for ten minutes straight.

inside is a card that says

the sex & the city movie was on tv last night and I watched some of it. there's a scene where carrie is in bed and too depressed to get up. samantha brings her breakfast and carrie doesn't want to eat. samantha feeds carrie while she sits up a little. while I was watching it, I thought THAT is what jess and I would do for each other. I could have used it in the fall, and you could use it now. just know that in spirit, I am sitting at your bedside and feeding you breakfast. maybe even bacon.

I think maybe this is why I'm single. these people are what boys are up against. frankly, they don't stand a chance.

fucking with your chemical components

last thursday I shuffled into the east interstate kaiser permanente campus in a hooded sweatshirt and a wrinkled pair of jeans, my hair unwashed, to talk to my doctor about how sometimes I'm so sad it takes me an hour and a half to get out of bed. (also, I had to get a pap smear. neither one of these two things is something you want to do first thing in the morning before work). she was, as always, very efficient and kind and fifteen minutes later I walked out with a wellbutrin prescription, which was filled at the pharmacy counter by an alarmingly good-looking pharmacist. why is it when you don't wash your hair there is always a good-looking unmarried pharmacist, seriously.

I think most of us have this idea that our essential nature is something greater than the sum of the chemicals in our brains. we can understand logically that what for lack of a better word produces us is the firing of neurons and the mixing of chemicals and the strange mysteries of the body. I think most of us, though, in our secret heart of hearts, believe that our essential personhood is a thing that transcends all of that somehow.

taking a pill that fucks with your dopamine receptors in order to revert you back into a functional human is a reminder that your essential personhood is largely out of your hands.

the (surprising) sisterhood of the brokenhearted

although the sting of it has more or less subsided, I still think very often of last year's relationship that almost was. if the right sequence of songs come through my headphones I still shed a tear or two. the residual sadness I feel is probably a weight I will bear forever: a tiny knot made of regret, loss, and disappointment. in short, I frequently wonder after and miss my friend. I think (and accept) that maybe I always will.

but sometimes I think that what growth looks like is this: I occasionally think of his girlfriend fiancée as a kind of sister, rather than as a rival. I mean, if human beings were logical and if the world made sense, she and I would have banded together against the thing which so deeply wounded us both; we'd have stood tall, a pair of mighty ladies, and said, "well, we both got fucked," and we'd have dusted our hands off and given each other a consoling hug and gotten the hell out of dodge. sometimes in my quiet desolation I have imagined that rather than hating me, she wonders after me instead. after all, this shit happened to both of us. in slowly trudging down the path of healing, I sometimes imagine giving her a hug. I'm so sorry, I think to myself. we both got so hurt, and what for? I wonder about the two of us girls, playing tug of war over somebody who set all three of us up to be broken. and now they are to be married. it will always be a puzzle to me.

life is full of contradictions. he will always be my short-lived but nevertheless dear old friend, a kindred spirit, a person who woke me up. no matter what time passes or the hurts I have sustained, the truth is that even now, I would be a safe haven for him in a storm. that is -- dopamine receptors be damned -- my essential personhood. but sometimes I am grown up enough to wish her the best in that life they have, despite everything, chosen to have together. when I look back and wonder what it all means, the tiny part of me that's healed hopes that whatever he learned from me is something good she gets to hold on to. the sisterhood is precious to me. I wish I had never broken it.

January 14, 2013

sometimes it is late and I am a little tipsy and it's cold and rainy and nevertheless I am out on a run, but hardly running; more like tripping sloppily forward, with just enough upward momentum, just enough air in between steps, to have it be considered 'running' at all. I am lurching forward and it's slow and terrible and it feels slow and terrible and then, with sudden, staggering clarity I think, nobody said it had to be tidy. nobody said it had to be fast. nobody said it had to be good. it just has to be a mile.

nobody said it had to be graceful.
nobody said it had to be happy.
nobody said you couldn't feel sad and sorry sometimes that you aren't better than you are.

sometimes running just means having faith. having faith that you put in the time and the miles and eventually you get faster. you aren't going to know for a good long while that anything you are doing is improving you at all, so you just have to lace up your shoes and throw on an extra layer and have faith.

on this run my hair is a frizzy disaster. I have had one too many glasses of wine; it is dark and rainy; I am sad and lonely, terrified and lost. but I just run to the stoplight and round the block and return to my house. it takes twelve minutes, which is forever, but also nothing. my clothes are barely even damp. my girlfriends say I am crazy for being out here, and they are both right and wrong.

when I return, my calf is lumpy in strange places and it hurts and I am too exhausted and downtrodden to do a single thing about it. I strip off all my clothes and lie in bed the wrong way, the skin on my legs still frigid from being outside.

life is messy. nobody ever said it wouldn't be. it's lovely and challenging and good, and then it's terrible and frightening, huge and sad. nothing makes sense. nothing was ever destined to make sense. I don't know whether I'm supposed to try and be better or whether I'm supposed to accept that sometimes life is sad. messy feels real in a way that tidy doesn't. I have no answers.

nobody else is going to steer this ship.

January 11, 2013

in my perfect world I would be sitting in blankets reading little house on the prairie, which I have never read. I would have a lot less stuff, even though I constantly crave other stuff. my stuff wouldn't be all over the floor of the house, which is where it is right now. I would have a house. it would have wood floors, but maybe carpet in the bedrooms.

in my perfect world I would have a cabin like the one scott lenhardt uses as a studio in this video. I would retreat to it to write. in my perfect world, I would write a lot more, like maybe for a living. or maybe not, because that would be too much pressure, but in any case I would have a better grasp of how to write fiction, or at least of what kind of writing I would like to do. the cabin would be in the woods. obviously.

in my perfect world, my calf would miraculously stop hurting on its own.

in my perfect world I would right now be drinking a beer at a pub somewhere in the UK, alone, in the rain. someone would think of me as 'that American girl in the bright scarf.'

running at night lately, after most everything else is finished. I allow myself to wear too many warm layers, which is the only way I make it out the door at all. it's cold for a minute or two and then it's fine, and I'm out in the night air and even though I've been dreading it, the run is usually the only time of day when I feel like I'm worth something. there is the smell of someone's dinner wafting from one house. halfway down 52nd, a single whiff of pine tree. near the gas station on duke, I can smell someone's fabric softener, steaming out of a dryer vent. there is my breath in the air, and the lights of the cars that pass, and my footsteps. in the cold, the muscles in my hip contract so that it feels like something is rubbing up against my skin.

in depression, these are my safe places so far: my bed, and the road.

January 7, 2013

hi, internet.

I don't really have much to say. I don't even know how things are. things are extremely, distressingly bleak, and then, mysteriously, they are fine.

some moments -- like, I don't know, twelve hours ago -- I have to fight an oppressive urge to crawl into bed and lie there for the rest of time. I have recently stood in the center of my bedroom and stated, out loud to no one, "I don't know the meaning of my life." I have spent an alarming number of hours curled into my big chair, staring at the bare branches out my window, realizing that I sat in the exact same position in the summer and fall, watching the leaves turn from green to gold, to brown, to dust. just sitting. I suppose it could be seen as a kind of meditation but to me it just feels stuck.

conversely I have sat at my desk at home and thought idly, "I really need to go hang upside down off some monkey bars soon," which, if that's not a distilled version of myself, well, I don't know what is.

this morning I wrote to my doctor and said, "please prescribe me an antidepressant." so, that's news.

it's funny how we can be so kind to the people we love but struggle to extend ourselves the same kindnesses. even knowing this doesn't really help me. do I still get to think of myself as a badass if I have to take wellbutrin to get there? I know what the answer to this question would be if any of my best ladies asked it, but here I am asking it anyway.

sometimes it occurs to me that there are people who exist in the world who get up and make coffee and eat toast and maybe get their kids dressed and put them on the school bus, and they do it without thinking it's so hard. those people are a real mystery to me. also they are the reason one calls one's doctor and says, "please prescribe me an antidepressant."

more and more frequently I have daydreams where I just sell everything and become a park ranger. I think I'd look good in the hat.

am I selling my horse. I still don't know this. I cannot imagine life without her, except sometimes I do imagine life without her, with free weeknights and no guilt about 'I should be at the barn' and no sadness that I haven't trained her better and no board or barn drama. extra time on my hands to learn new skills. and money.

and then I think of saying the sentence "I sold my horse" out loud and I start to cry and the decision just hangs and hangs in the air.

I'm doing this diet challenge this month -- whole30, you've probably heard of it -- not so much because I was super interested in changing my diet (although I am, to a point) or because I am trying to lose weight (although all my pants are too tight) but because I thought that one way to combat depression was to prove to myself, willingly, that I was capable of doing something hard. I thought, "I'll give up bread and cheese and booze and sugar" (SUGAR YOU GUYS) "and at the end of it I will be able to say that I did something hard." except then a few nights ago I was crying in the car over the same old thing I've been crying about since august and I thought, "of course you can do something hard, you idiot, you've been doing nothing but hard for the last half a year." and then I look at this choice I'm facing with Cookie and I realized that you don't get to pick your hard thing. and maybe we're all too hard on ourselves and instead I should be proving to myself that I can let myself not do anything at all.