your place

I’ve stopped bundling up against the cold this winter. Well, at least on moderate days when I know there won’t be snow or ice. I’ll wear short sleeves and leave my jacket unbuttoned. I’ll hang my scarf at home and walk out the door. I just want to feel the cold biting at my skin.

I have hated New York for making me so uncomfortable these past two and a half years. The cold gives me a water faucet nose that’s impossible to shut off, and a blue blue heart that makes me ache down to my toes. Even when summer, so familiar to me, would arrive, I would sweat on the subway and smell it on everyone else’s skin and it didn’t seem like I would ever escape. Maybe its an anxiety thing? I can’t be sure.

Like I said, it’s been two years. Two winters and, so soon, three summers of my little life spent alternately sweating and shivering on subway cars and cracked sidewalks, on beaches and in parks, in beds and showers. Primal functions of my body on display. My body on display.

Last summer was when things began to shift. I would feel a drop of sweat start to crawl down my spine and I would hold onto it like a secret. I would think of how functional my body was, how she was taking care of my beating heart and brain, keeping us cool inside her thin skin. I would climb subway stairs with the anticipation of sun on my cheeks again. And in December, when I ached for sunshine in my usual way, I also began to ache for those sweaty bodies and their human scents, bare skin all over the place, shoulders and knees finally freed, the flesh of everyone’s thighs so exposed, kind of vulnerable.

Yoga is all about practicing discomfort. Or that’s what my teacher tells me anyway. I don’t think I know anything about it really. Every pang in my body still sends me into a hypochondriacal panic. But something really has shifted and I’m comfortable at the feet of this city, this earth, this slowing exploding pile of stardust, in a way I’ve never been before.

Recently, on my walk home from yoga class, I found myself repeating a mantra of sorts: your place in the family of things. I whispered it again and again to myself to the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement. It’s a phrase from a poem that you should know if you don’t. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever felt in my entire short life. But I’m starting to feel it now, I think, as I walk shivering through the cold and sweating through the heat happy to feel any of it at all.

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i fill pages with the little bits of you i find dear

it’s actually all i write about…what do you think that means?

i’m sure it’s fostering some kind of obsession.

it’s like i’m casting a spell on myself, and it’s working (i think) because it is the feeling of your hair between my fingers and the heat of your skin in the morning that occupies my every other thought.

2015

I spent a lot of 2015 feeling really sad. It’s how I started the year and it’s probably how I’ll end it because New Year’s Eve always gets me down.

I spent 2015 learning that my sadness has roots. They’re gnarly and ugly and not totally my fault. It’s depression and I’m talking to someone about it thanks for asking.

I spent 2015 listening to a lot of pop music because of Carly Rae Jepsen and Selena Gomez.

I spent 2015 walking all over New York and sometimes I would be overcome that I was walking and knew which way to go for once.

I spent 2015 having sleepovers like I was 13. I can tell you they’re even better now when you can order sushi and drink wine and do it on a school night without getting in trouble.

I spent 2015 kind of sick because my body couldn’t take how sad or anxious I was anymore.

I had foot surgery. I got a promotion. I went on dates. I visited Boston. I went to the doctor so many times, definitely more than 20. I found a therapist. I didn’t write enough. I didn’t exercise enough. I didn’t listen enough.

Depression is kind of like your shadow and the sun. At dawn it might loom really tall and dark and crush you beneath its weight. But at high noon on a blistering hot day it might disappear completely leaving you to feel nothing but sun on your skin.

I spent 2015 getting flashes of that sun-on-skin feeling and in 2016 all I want is more.

three years

My grandmother died three years ago while I was on my way to Georgia. I was on a spring break trip to Savannah with my best friend. Gammy was sick and had been for some time. It was the kind of sick that ends with death but I still thought that we’d all get a cinematic last moment together. Surely she wouldn’t die while I was so far away.

What had been a close relationship with my grandmother grew distant when I left for college. I started to view phone calls as a chore. That was also when her health really started to decline. I loved to see her in person, but on the phone she sounded less and less like my Gammy.

The time around her death is a haze. The Georgia trip has a smoky cloud of grief over it. Savannah had this heavy air and it felt like work to move through it. I often think she would’ve loved Savannah and maybe that made it ok to be away when she died. But every year I still feel like complete shit for not being there.

I try not to remember the last time I saw her. It makes me physically shudder. She was so sick from the cancer and so tired of fighting. I know she had been fighting one thing or another for her entire life, a lot of it disappointment with herself that took on varying shapes.

Instead I try to remember her in glittering tops with her glittering eyes to match. I have no interest in remembering her blue eyes without their sparkle. I have no interest in remembering her in a bed when that was her least favorite place to be.

I was back from Georgia for her funeral. It was beautiful. All of her favorite hymns were played and I decided then that they were my favorite too. It seemed easier to grieve publicly at her funeral because grandmothers die. A lifestyle of smoking and drinking and a mistrust for the doctor catches up and in your 80s no one is really surprised. But I am surprised every time that I realize all of our time together is in the past.

So today I will listen to a song she once said was her favorite (she had many). I’ll remember us dancing cheek-to-cheek in the living room and ache for home. And I’ll try to get anyone who will listen to remember her too.

 

 

in defense of feelings

Sometimes I feel so much it comes pouring out of me. It pours out of my eyes and out of my mouth. Even physical pain wraps around my entire body like ivy climbing an old house. Last night I had cramps that radiated red-hot pain to my fingertips and toenails.

Today I read this poem by Pushkin:

I loved you, and I probably still do,
And for a while the feeling may remain…
But let my love no longer trouble you,
I do not wish to cause you any pain.
I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew,
The jealousy, the shyness- though in vain-
Made up a love so tender and so true
As may God grant you to be loved again.

Immediately I felt this poem all over my body, with all of my senses. I could smell this poem like hot wax and hear it and feel its warmth in my fingertips and toenails.

People tell me sort of frequently not to be so sensitive. People I care about tell me and I nod my head in agreement willing the tears back into my eyes and the redness out of my cheeks. They must be right because they care for me. Surely a thicker skin would protect me from so many uncomfortable feelings.

Amphibians breathe through their skin. It’s so delicate that gases can be exchanged through their slimy outermost layer, which is how they can hibernate under water for so long. I don’t want a thicker skin. I want to swim in deep pools of everything beautiful and sad and just breathe it in through thin, sensitive skin.

I want to keep being oh-so sensitive so that when I read a little love poem I’m buzzing all over. I’ll feel whispered words through the skin behind my ears. I’ll feel your hand on my back like a thousand degrees and I am melting beneath it.

Learning to Afford New York

I left a place that people are moving to at rapid rates because the property is cheap, taxes are minimal, and jobs keep appearing. I left this place for New York City. I was used to well drinks that cost $2.75 and tacos that were even cheaper. I am just learning what New York City will cost me.

I spent $279.60 on a one-way ticket to a smelly city I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live in. I told some people with hiring powers that I lived here. I had to come quickly and pretend I knew my favorite restaurants or the neighborhood I “lived” in. I had to hope they would offer me a job because my other option was my parents’ couch and the heavy kind of darkness that tends to make me immobile and monosyllabic.

I spent 4 weeks of good physical health to stay here for a job. Beds became couches and futons and dinner was tortilla chips and peanut butter straight from the jar. My right hip is really aching, my skin is greasy, and my hair has just recently stopped falling out. The nomadic lifestyle is highly romanticized and overrated.

I spent all the comfort of familiar drives and strolls through the neighborhood to be lost on every avenue and street. (I can count the number of times I have gone the right direction on one hand.) Even when lazing in my parents’ sunny pool still felt like drowning, at least I knew it would stay exactly the same.

I am lucky to be here. That is mostly what I feel when I walk down the street to my paying job. I feel like I was ready to be here. But I can’t force something to be a dream that I never had. I can’t stop missing home.

I can, however, realize that three beautiful friends opened up their homes and their beds to me so I could stay comfortably during my transition. They cooked me big piles of fresh vegetables and enchiladas after my first day of work. They drank wine with me and told me how to negotiate a contract.

I spent a lot of what I saved to come here: confidence, money, sanity, health. It is because I knew I had the ability, and the love, to build myself back up that I was brave enough to do it.

How you know it is going to be ok

LeslieKnope

You go with your gut feeling that you need to vomit probably very soon but definitely after that everything will BE OK.

You get that warm fuzzy feeling when you touch your legs because you haven’t shaved recently.

Your mom just says, “It is going to be ok.”

While using the restroom at a bar you can just make out an inspirational statement underneath some other, more vulgar bathroom graffiti involving a celery stick.

You *just* miss a pile of dog poo on the sidewalk and decide it is a sign from the universe that everything is ok in your tiny small world.

A stranger makes knowing eye contact with you and gives you the strength to keep it together on whatever form of public transportation you are on at the moment (the subway).

You are overcome by a feeling of peace because you are, in fact, asleep and not conscious enough to be anything but ok.

Liz Gilbert posts something really relevant to your life on her Facebook page with the most inspiring, enlightened message and you can’t help but feel the good vibes. (You are also Liz’s number one fan).

Your dad says he would tell you if he thought you were no good at your one true life’s dream.

You think your hair has probably stopped falling out at an alarming rate, so that’s a good sign for your physical health anyway!

The weather turns beautiful and maybe THIS IS A METAPHOR FOR YOUR WHOLE LIFE!! ABOUT TO TURN BREEZY AND 75!!

You wake up to find that your favorite college professor LinkedIn endorsed you for three skills!!!!

While walking, you fully acknowledge that you are incredibly privileged and lucky and you have beautiful, supportive friends and family and how could things not be ok? Stop worrying you crazy fool.