[be] bright, daring, joyful

Sometimes I forget that I’m brave, that I’ve done brave things in my life and will do them again. That there’s no quota on the number of times I can jump without a net, or rewrite my own rules. I forget because my life on a day-to-day basis has been quite small, and safe, and even a little boring. This is fine! More people would be happy if they understood a little boring is fine. If there's one secret to survival in this world, I think this is it.

I moved to Chicago alone in 1996, without knowing anybody. A few years later I left a good job to freelance full time, and I hired and managed my own team. I had no idea what I was doing and it was the scariest thing I've ever done but I did that myself, and I was successful. I moved to New York alone, I spent a month in Paris alone, I made my own money and paid my own bills and I did okay. I made all of that happen. I took a temp job that turned into a permanent job and I’ve worked there for over six years. It's been a good job. I've been incredibly lucky, but I also worked hard, and I was successful. I made that happen.

It hasn't been easy: I talk a good game but let's not kid ourselves. Near the end of Casablanca, Ilsa says to Rick, "You decide! You think for both of us." I don't have that. Nobody can decide for me, or be brave for me, or catch me if I fall. Other people forget that sometimes, but I never do. I can't afford to. But I promised myself a long time ago that I would never let fear make a decision for me. I have no Rick, but I'm no Ilsa, either. I also don't have Nazis on my tail, but that's another story.

I told my boss today that I was leaving. We've talked about this before so it wasn't a total surprise to her, but it was a hard thing for me to say out loud. I like this job, the company, my boss, and I'm not leaving because of them. I’m leaving because my priorities have shifted, and I want different things now than I did when I first came here, once upon a time. I have no job yet and no apartment, but I’m ready to move on to something new that is, finally, also familiar—I'm ready for a softer landing.

What I've learned in the past few years—what I know for sure—is that you can't cling to old dreams, or live on old memories. I know the Chicago I'm moving back to is not the one I left. It moved on without me, too. Some friends are gone and some friendships have ended. "Life is made up of meetings and partings," Kermit tells his frog/pig family in The Muppet Christmas Carol: "That is the way of it." Lord knows I don't believe in God, or frogs breeding with pigs, but to this I say amen.

p.s. clarere audere gaudere

Do what you are doing*

I waited patiently for the end of January to set my 2018 goal, which is to be more patient. I set a delayed timer on it in order to test myself and have thus far—obviously, because I'm writing about it—exceeded all expectations.

It has not escaped my notice that "patience" can also equal "laziness," which is a state of being I long ago absorbed into my body, like a tapeworm. One may therefore assert that the two always run hand in hand, but one would be wrong. While I am indeed very lazy I also have zero patience and a tragically short fuse. So when my wi-fi started acting up in November, I lazily neglected to seek professional help while throwing an enormous tantrum every time the signal dropped out, which happened, on average, three or four times a day. How I didn't have an aneurysm, I'll never know. But through sheer laziness I gave the problem plenty of time to sort itself out, which naturally it failed to do, since a cable company was involved.

Anyway, this story is making no sense to me even as I type it, but the TL;DR is that I finally got off my can, scheduled an appointment, waited two weeks for that fucking appointment, and now I have a brand new modem. Glory be! Praise the [fill in the blank]! Buy American! (Just kidding: it's made in China.) So far it seems much slower, load-time-wise, than the faulty equipment it's replacing, which is where I truly start learning the patience, unless of course I kill somebody.

& etc.

 Bearing the above stated goal of "patience" in mind, I appreciated this piece by Firoozeh Dumas in the NYT this morning, about having surgery in Germany:

The anesthesiologist explained that during surgery and recovery I would be given strong painkillers, but once I got home the pain would not require narcotics. To paraphrase him, he said: “Pain is a part of life. We cannot eliminate it nor do we want to. The pain will guide you. You will know when to rest more; you will know when you are healing. If I give you Vicodin, you will no longer feel the pain, yes, but you will no longer know what your body is telling you. You might overexert yourself because you are no longer feeling the pain signals. All you need is rest. And please be careful with ibuprofen. It’s not good for your kidneys. Only take it if you must. Your body will heal itself with rest.”

Personally I would have been tempted to slug this man, but it's a nice lesson from a German to think about, if you're into that sort of thing.

* I recently found this List of Latin phrases (full), which I shall henceforth use for stupid blog post titles. Sometimes lazy just = smart.

Happy to be stuck with you

This song was playing in our elevator lobby today when I left for lunch. It's a nice song, you should take 4:29 out of your harried schedule and listen to it. I mean really l-i-s-t-e-n to it, and then ask yourself: does anyone have a friendlier voice than Huey Lewis? Could there be a sweeter, more sensible, more grounded-in-reality sentiment on which to base both a relationship and a catchy mass-market mid-80s pop tune; i.e., sometimes success in love and life comes down to laziness? No. There couldn't. People should learn from Huey Lewis and his non-"news" News. Thanks.

News

The blogs are gone. And those who blogged the blogs are gone. (fyi: nerd check)

Why blog? Nobody knows. There is no reason. Who blogs? Nobody. Read all of this, though. A fine era is ending.

+ Magic 8 Ball says I'll come up with something blog-ish or blog-like or at least tangentially blog-adjacent sooner or later. Blog-sensitive, even, in order to maintain my highly respected blog cred. In the meantime, here are some interesting takes on recent news!

From trusted internet writer Kaitlyn Tiffany at The Verge: The Aziz Ansari story is a mess, but so are the arguments against it:

But as the Babe story has demonstrated, there’s also been an uncomfortable collision between that democratizing force and the traditional media gatekeepers who seem to resent it, or resent their inability to control it. They do a disservice to the truth when they are willing to call a woman a liar because her choice of platform seems unsavory or unserious, despite its careful vetting of the facts. And it’s problematic that they would choose not to believe she was harmed because she was able to speak of a complicated and painful experience with some candor and humor.

In a perfect world, Grace would have walked out the door. But women are so strongly socialized to put others’ comfort ahead of our own that even when we are furiously uncomfortable, it feels paralyzing to assert ourselves. This is especially true when we are young.

When feminists do try to talk about this sexual imbalance, we get written off as anti-sex prudes. This is strange, because what we actually want is a norm of good sex for everyone involved, instead of the status quo of sex as a male-led endeavor, centered on male pleasure. Women seem to have two sexual possibilities: yes or no. Note that men never have to say “no means no” or even “yes means yes”. They’re the ones posing the question, not answering it.

Men aren’t morons, and they know as well as anyone that a woman who is silent, physically stiff, or pulling away is not exactly aflame with desire. But they also know that we are collectively invested in a social script wherein men push to get sex until women acquiesce. And so they push, even when they know it’s unwelcome, because they can.

Both of these pieces helped me examine my own initial reactions to this story, and that's the end of what I can handle vis-à-vis "news" news these days. I read the news, I share the news, I support the news, but maybe—maybe?—there's too much of it. News for thought.

Instead there's this:

Take time to celebrate everything about today, because what we know now is that whatever happens it won’t be as bad as tomorrow.

And also this!

There is no God, obviously. But Dolly bless us, everyone.

48.

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1. It looks like my head compressed and expanded simultaneously, but I've come too far to go back now.

2. On Wednesday I went to the dermatologist for my annual mole patrol, and as always in the midst of all the poking and prodding she said "those are just age spots" about the age spots on my left cheekbone and we both shrugged, because we both know age spots are the best possible outcome of this exercise.

3. This random astrology site that showed up as the #1 googlet for CAPRICORN confirms the following:

  • Strengths: Responsible, disciplined, self-control, good managers
  • Weaknesses: Know-it-all, unforgiving, condescending, expecting the worst
  • Capricorn likes: Family, tradition, music, understated status, quality craftsmanship
  • Capricorn dislikes: Almost everything at some point

4. All true!

5. It also calls us "the Goat of Fear."

Hello! etc.

So, here we are. I read a tweet this week by someone responding to another tweet who was deeply offended by the tweeter of origin starting their original tweet with "So," and I tried real hard to imagine a world in which I would care about such a thing. You can see which side of the fence I finally came down on.

Then I read this bit about the em dash yesterday and thought well yes, that's me:

You can get along without it and most people do. I don’t remember being taught to use it in elementary, middle, or high school English classes; I’m not even sure I was aware of it then, and I have no clear recollection of when or why I began to rely on it, yet it has become an indispensable component of my writing.

I went back through all the business emails I sent yesterday—it was a lot of emails because I'm very important, as you can imagine—and there wasn't one that didn't include an em dash. Probably the people with whom I work feel I'm addled in some very specific yet harmless way, which is fine and maybe even accurate. I write how I write, man, and I dig punctuation! No harm/no foul. Real talk, though: how do you get along without em dashes? How do you write long sentences without wanting to take a breath? Do you stick to commas (newsflash: I also love commas, parentheses, ampersands & colons), or do you just barrel right through? I'm genuinely curious about this.

/cf. why using periods in texts makes you a monster/

This week was also the first time in many moons that I've been forced to wear actual boots built for snow, rather than my sad battered workaday five-year-old Blundstones, which are fine for almost anything other than a deeply freezing clime. My tip for you: get insulated! I yanked these snow boots from the top shelf at the back of my closet and was lucky there were no spiders inside and they still fit, although my left ankle bone did not agree. Last night after work I had to pick up a 3-lb Amazon package from a locker at D'Agostino, which is five blocks from my apartment, and then an 11-lb sack of laundry from the laundry, which is two blocks away, and by the time I got home I was limping from severe ankle bone trauma. If I were a Civil War-era soldier they likely would have to amputate, due to potential gangrene, but I keep a lot of Polysporin and Band-Aids on hand for just such pedestrian emergencies. I'll live, is what I'm saying. But I will give these boots away.

2018 resolve

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This Yves Klein image is one of my favorites (even knowing it was faked), and it's a yearly reminder—this year more than ever: Go. Do. Open your arms. Open your eyes. Lift your head and jump. Also never ever read another article where skinny bloggers tell you what to eat.

So let's lift a glass to 2018: may it be the year I no longer have to wash my own socks in the bathtub. Forever & ever amen.

Welcome to New York

I came to New York City alone, to live, 11 years ago today. I knew two people here. I had a four-month sublet in an apartment I shared with two graduate students on 89th St. just off Broadway. The man who owned it lived in LA during the winter and for some reason had all the windows boarded up, so it looked like a cave inside a dungeon buried in a basement, but I loved it. It was New York City! I was living the dream!

It was about 50 degrees the day I arrived, and foggy and humid. The first thing I did was walk to the Food Emporium around the corner to buy milk and cereal. I needed to feel like I was home.

I went for a long walk on New Year's Day—this is the first picture I took, with my Canon PowerShot A710, of the reservoir in Central Park. I didn't know how familiar it would be to me one day, how many times I would circle it on a run, how many miles of sweat I would leave behind me.

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And this, on Fifth Avenue:

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And this on Sixth Avenue, which I now pass every day on my way to work:

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And this, which I work right next to:

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I've learned a lot since that day—mostly for the better, although I remain naive about many worldly things. And it's been grand, you know? It really has. But I'm ready to say goodbye.

All Shall Be Restored by Kay Ryan

The grains shall be collected
from the thousand shores
to which they found their way,
and the boulder restored,
and the boulder itself replaced
in the cliff, and likewise
the cliff shall rise
or subside until the plate of earth
is without fissure. Restoration
knows no half measure. It will
not stop when the treasured and lost
bronze horse remounts the steps.
Even this horse will founder backward
to coin, cannon, and domestic pots,
which themselves shall bubble and
drain back to green veins in stone.
And every word written shall lift off
letter by letter, the backward text
read ever briefer, ever more antic
in its effort to insist that nothing
shall be lost.

— Kay Ryan

Getting over everything

I was washing my hands in the bathroom at work today and I glanced in the mirror, which I usually avoid because the lighting is terrible and I always look tired. I never look the way I expect to, somehow. The way I used to. The way I feel. But I glanced at myself anyway and then I looked closer and then I wondered if I should wear more makeup. Or less makeup. If my hair was too short. If I looked tired (I looked tired). And then I wondered if or why any of that mattered.

Then I remembered this picture of director Guillermo del Toro speaking at an event earlier this month, which struck me as remarkable because of how comfortable he looks. This is not a man who's thinking he needs to suck in his stomach because he's sitting in front of an audience. This is just a person sitting.

And tonight I read this article on Laura Dern in New York Magazine:

Ladd and Dern separated when Laura was 2 years old, and she grew up surrounded by outspoken, independent women — her mother’s friends from her Actors Studio days in New York City: Maureen Stapleton, Jean Stapleton, Gena Rowlands, and Geraldine Page. “They never cared about being glamorous, and that was what made them so glamorous to me — and sexy! They were just like men. I didn’t see a difference. They all wanted to be in the mud.” Dern has a vivid recollection of attending the premiere of Superman in 1978, when she was 11. She and her mother were the guests of one of the stars, another Actors Studio grad, Marlon Brando. Also in attendance: the actress Shelley Winters, Dern’s godmother.

“I remember getting out of the car,” says Dern, “and the red carpet was filled with glitz and glamour, women in gowns and high heels. And there was Shelley, wearing jeans with Tretorn sneakers and a gray sweatshirt, a full-length mink coat balanced on her shoulders. No makeup, her hair kind of messy. It was so fierce. And I remember thinking, I want to be that kind of woman.”

I want to be that kind of woman. I want to be just a person sitting.

this quote I love from writer Erin McKean:

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

I would get a tattoo of that on my arm, if I had longer arms.