Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Read Harder Challenge #s 2 and 12

I have decided to participate in Book Riot's "Read Harder" challenge this year, information about which can be found at this link. But in case you don't want to click on that link, lazy person, here's a copy of the list of reading tasks for the year.

  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel.
  3. Read a book about books.
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir.
  9. Read a book you’ve read before.
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war.
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older, author of Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and YA novel Shadowshaper)
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay, bestselling author of Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, Marvel’s World of Wakanda, and the forthcoming Hunger and Difficult Women)
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng, author Everything I Never Told You and the forthcoming Little Fires Everywhere)
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, including The Unquiet Dead, The Language of Secrets, and the forthcoming Among the Ruins)
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension)

I have already finished numbers 2 and 12 and am going to write a little blurb about each of those books here. I also usually review the books I read on Goodreads and have a little list to the right of the entries on my blog with the titles that I'm "currently" reading. I'm usually in the middle of about five books at a time because I'm almost going to die in like 45 years and I don't have time for luxury over a book for extended periods of time. Aaaaanyway, here's my take on #s 2 and 12.

Read a debut novel.

This challenge doesn't specify when the debut was released so I chose, in as timely a manner as you can get, Carrie Fisher's debut novel Postcards From the Edge, which was published in 1987, when Fisher was 31. I borrowed the hardcover, first edition from my library and it was covered in stains. I mean, I have no idea when the library bought this copy but if it is a first edition, I'll assume it was in 1987 and at some point in the ensuing 30 years, someone took it a beef stew party and spilled a bit of stuff on it. I digress. Grossly.

Carrie Fisher died two weeks ago and the press that followed rightfully discussed her career as an actress and a memoirist. I knew her best not from her iconic Star Wars role but from her witty quips in the film When Harry Met Sally, which I saw when I was about 15 years old. About 20 years ago I picked up a book by her called Surrender the Pink but can't remember a damn thing about it so I consider my reading of Postcards my debut into Fisher as a novelist.

What I remember most clearly about her character in When Harry Met Sally is her sardonic wit and she was also my first exposure to actually liking a woman who lived her life as someone's mistress. I didn't realize how vulnerable a "mistress" could be and I never really thought beyond the black and white of what I understood as adult relationships, but Fisher as Marie in the film made me actually like her, despite of her supremely stupid life choices. I wasn't yet complex enough to understand that moral absolutism is not a thing (or that men and women could actually be friends and never have sex with each other...thanks again, Nora Ephron.) And so, as often happens when you first learn about something or someone during your formative years, I've always ascribed a certain personality to Carrie Fisher.

Postcards from the Edge is described as a semi-autobiographical novel and, knowing from the press and her own memoirs, the heroine (no pun intended) of the story, Suzanne, is Fisher's alter ego. I liked her immediately. Suzanne is self deprecating and really smart about it. She's described by other characters as a funny and intelligent and it becomes evident pretty quickly that she grapples with deeply rooted self esteem issues. These are all things I identify with on a deep level.

She's a Hollywood actress approaching what Hollywood considers "old" ...her 30s and she is pretty addicted to drugs of all kinds and to men who are all severely damaged and bad for her. Normally, characters who suffer this kind of self destruction annoy me. I've never really been a fan of the damaged persona. But the way Fisher writes Suzanne, with her self aware observations and introspective insights, makes me feel a kinship with her. The best writers can do that. I have zero in common with someone like Suzanne: I don't have an addictive personality, am a fairly good judge of character, have less than zero desire for people to look at or pay attention to me and don't really understand the world of Hollywood in the 1980s or now or at any point. But she became someone I wanted to understand and even befriend. There is a whole section in the beginning of the novel that is dedicated to a man named Alex, a man Suzanne encounters in rehab, that is especially striking for its voice. Alex is a tried and true drug addict and reading the scenes of him during his drug binges and highs left me feeling manic. Fisher really had an ear for her characters, probably because she was an actress.

Debut novels can often read very much like debuts...uncertain of their voice, scattered and insecure. Fisher wrote a confident, beautiful and engaging novel and she is funny as hell while doing it.



Read a fantasy novel.

For my fantasy novel, I chose a book from a series called Warriors by Erin Hunter which is a series about clans of warrior cats. The notion of cats as warriors makes me feel warm inside so I decided to read the series. I read book one years ago and so when I picked up book two, titled Fire and Ice I had pretty much forgotten all the main events in the first book. However, and I remembered this about book one, the author (in this case authorS...Erin Hunter is a group of different authors, apparently) has built a pretty vivid world. The clans of cats that live outside the realm of "Twolegs" (humans) and proudly consider themselves as distinct as possible from "kittypets", have their own systems of codes and honor, territory and battle. I'm amazed at the world building of these books because it is cleverly constructed and so easily imaginable when you consider the nature of cats as we know them. I think back to when I was the age group for which these books are written and I would have likely burned right through them all. Instead I was busy with Piers Anthony's Xanth series which I remember being weird and not really something I found gripping. I think I read about ten of those and not really enjoying them all that much, which may have in turn put me off fantasy books altogether. But back to Fire and Ice, it was definitely full of adventure and utterly devoid of humor. That would be my one criticism of the book...I feel in my hear that cats, even clans of warior cats, would have senses of humor.


Now that I'm thinking about them, if I was decrepit and ancient, and didn't have three or four jobs at a time, I'd consider rereading one of those Xanth books to jog my memory. But I am and I do so I won't. 

Anyway, I'm not doing this list in any order whatsoever and I'm also reading books outside of this challenge so i don't really know what my next one will be or when. HOW EXCITING!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Brain is a Studio Apartment

I've let a lot of my creative pursuits fall by the wayside and am only now wanting to wake back up to them. It was a hard year. So hard that I still feel it sitting there in my brain and stomach, like a fading hangover. But, like an actual hangover, the only true cure is a deep, uninterrupted sleep and the only way to do THAT is to allow for time to pass and room to rest and breathe.

And I've had that. I've had weeks and weeks of that. I've excused and exempted and isolated myself from as much as possible for an extended period of time. (I'm not counting social media because, in news that will shock too many people, social media is not life or connection). I passed the point of finding myself way too comfortable here. And it has to stop.

As someone who usually spends more time inside my head than I do firmly in reality (I'm not exaggerating... I usually have one foot in a daydream at any given time), I have found that it serves creativity well. But it only works if you retreat inside to gather strength or idea or energy from it. If you are only escaping the outside, it won't work. You'll (and by that, I mean ME) only find that it feels good to escape everything and then you'll (I'll) start to question why on earth I would go back out again. Why would I leave the straightforward routine of leaving my house to go to work and come home again, travelling the in between hours in anxious anticipation of returning back to my pajama wearing, distraction seeking state as soon as humanly possible? Why would anyone? That's dangerous thinking right there but it feels comforting to even type it. And that's why I have to put a stop to it.

I can confidently say that my recent, involuntary foray into total reality during those last few months of the year left me...changed. Changed is the most diplomatic way to say "cracked in half down the middle". And so I can't say I recommend a complete return to reality at any given time. Immersion in the fiction of your choice is recommended, in doses. By me. And luckily (for me) the world is spilling over with fictions in which to lose oneself. And I'd encourage everyone to do the same. Don't be totally consumed by alternate forms of reality; this isn't a very special episode about the dangers of Virtual Reality or Dropping Acid. Just make lots and lots of room for escape. Build an extension on your house for escape because, as we learned in 2016, life turns on a dime and you might need the extra energy to cope and you'd best store up for a rainy day. Just don't live there. That's your afternoon nap place. That's your reading room. That's not the kitchen. Eventually you are going to have to find food.

So, where do I start? I'm still thinking about goals to set but I find myself stuck when I think of putting a number on anything. For the first time in forever, losing weight is not on a list of my goals. As I age, I need my psychic energy for pursuits other than counting calories. I don't have room for that anymore. I don't want to measure my life in numbers (or coffee spoons) and, here's a scientific fact(oid): your brain shrinks as you age. Mine is now a studio apartment. A lifelong apartment dweller, I have the skill set for this type of living. I mean, I can cram the hell out of a space. Still, I am usually looking around my space thinking "I should get rid of some stuff." So that's what I just now decided to do this year. I'm getting rid of unnecessary things. Literally, psychically, emotionally, and in all other ways-ly. Maybe I just answered my own question. How very zen of me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Good, the Good, and the Good

I admit that I've spent a fair amount of the  31,536,000 seconds I was gifted this year, deeply submerged in the muck. In fairness to me (and anyone else who made it through this year with the luxury of feeling bad and then being able to dwell on that feeling) this year has been a cesspool of nonstop horrible shit happening. But, and I find I have to un-suction my rubber boot heels from the mud drenched floor of my state of mind to admit this, it wasn't 100% bad. I mean it WAS all bad if you empathize with the world at large. But I'd be remiss to not acknowledge the pinpricks of starlight in the black sky. In the spirit of not losing the memories I have from 2016 that DON'T make me wish I was in a coma achieved by eating too much ice cream, I've decided to share a list of some here. This post and the list within it will be my vial of antidote serum when life (and Facebook) sprinkles dirt in my fries. Mind altering, laced with cyanide dirt. So here are some moments worth remembering, in no particular order, from 2016:

Getting two of my poems published in June

I don't ever expect anyone to like my writing, ever. It is always a pleasant surprise when someone does and I was thrilled that two of my pieces were published. I truly appreciated that.

Seeing Hamilton in November
There was a moment, during the song "One Last Time" when Chris Jackson as George Washington was ripping his heart out through his lungs and handing it to us all in the audience, when I felt like own heart would burst and I must have reacted physically because Javier Munoz, playing Hamilton, caught my eye and smiled. It was a remarkable, subtle and quick moment that I will always remember. Also, seeing Brandon Victor Dixon stretching in the wings just before the start of the show... it just made me feel with the show. Like we were all snugly protected inside a snowglobe with a beautiful, musical tableau.

Seeing Ireland in September

A hundred and twelve things stand out about this trip: the memories with friends, the flavors, the sounds, the images. The beer, and orange spiced marmalade. The Dublin writer's artifacts preserved in glass cases, the hundred bookstores. But two things stand out above them all.

Since childhood, I have had one recurring dream: that I am inside a house that has neverending rooms, hallways, doors within rooms that lead to other rooms. Invariably in the house, I am charmed and longing to belong there forever. Yet the house, though it is always different, always belongs to someone else, either a friend or someone I just met in the dream. (I had this dream a few weeks ago and the house belonged to my uncle.) Anyway, in Kilkenny there is a restaurant called Langton's. We stopped in there for dinner and quickly realized that one front room/bar was the entrance to a series of long hallways with rooms branching off them, each one either elegantly small and intimate or ornate and ballroom-like. There seemed to be no end to the rooms within and walking through it was walking through my dream. That's a cool thing that will likely never happen to me again. But I was lucky it did, even once.

The second memory is this: Standing on the lunar landscape of the Irish coast in between destinations on a chilly September afternoon, belly full of the most delicious seafood soup I have ever eaten in a lifetime of eating soup, is a visual, aural, and sensory fingerprint on my brain. I envision the future me, maybe having lost my mind to age or sorrow or some other thing that happens to us all and closing my eyes and feeling all of it all over again. That happened this year.

Radiohead Concert at MSG in July

From the moment I first heard Radiohead in the wee hours of a lonely dorm room night in the winter of 1995, I was hooked. For life. And though I've seen Radiohead many, many times I don't think I needed to until this year. I needed that switch turned on. And the opening bars of "Let Down", the first time I've heard that song played live, did it. I was high fiving strangers and crying and it was beautiful.

Harry Potter World in June

Nancy and I sat in the shade on a bench in between rides and drank frozen Butterbeer and laughed. Is there a more fun sentence?

Maine in November

I took a girls' weekend to Camden, Maine this November and the road trip was so fun that I was able to think about everything but my sad, broken heart. There is nothing better than friends (and booze) to help you and don't let anyone tell you differently.

All year long

I am surrounded by love and support, by friendship and comfort and I would never have made it without you, you know who you all are. I get the same feeling around you as I do when I'm tucked underneath my electric blanket.

So there is always that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Contracts

For the last week or so I've been grieving. One of my best friends left the world and took with her a cookie cuttered section of my heart. My cat Thelma died unexpectedly of kidney disease, something I had no idea she had until the last day of her life. She lived her entire life, health problem free with only one kidney. In true cat fashion, she hid any and all discomfort she ever had from me and every vet she ever saw. Feline, thy name is stoic. It has been exactly a week since I had to say goodbye and I still await her ashes to be delivered to me to punctuate the sentence. Thelma is gone

 I have taken this loss right to the center of my soul, my days unspooling and me, undone and completely bereft by nighttime. I've walked around with boulders at the bottom of my stomach and until today, dreaded any social interaction with anyone because it takes too much energy to glue my psyche together long enough to behave like I'm not made of limp, creased, damp cardboard. I knew when I brought that little cat home almost seven years ago that I was signing up for losing her. We start our lives in contract with death as a fine print agreement. And every interaction we choose from the moment we are able is checking the box over and over again: In consideration of the mutual covenants set forth herein, both parties agree to lose one another to death. I simply, humanly thought I'd have time to prepare my goodbyes. I have not one basis for this assumption and I won't make that mistake again.

I've gotten through the worst of it with the undying support of my sister who was with me in the room when I said goodbye and has not left my side since. I feel sorry for any and everyone who doesn't have a Lorraine in their lives. You should get one. I've also gotten by with the distraction of work and action films, with Radiohead and booze and ice cream and my remaining cat, Greta. With the reassurance of my trusted vet who listened to me cry over the phone and said that I made the only choice I could and with the long, human chain of friends and acquaintances who have been through all of this before and come out on the other side with just the parts of their beloved pets that are worth preserving...the love. It's part of the sales pitch that gets you to sign the contract to begin with and it is worth every single tear.

This morning I felt certain that Thelma the cat visited me. I felt the pressure of her paws land on the bed and skirt around the pillows and head to the windowsill at my head. I felt it and have chosen to believe that she stopped by to say hi and I feel better today, I am still sad, I can't deny it. But the boulders feel whittled down to large stones and I think of Thelma with more smiles than tears. I thought about what to share in here about her, for the knowledge of all the deeply unfortunate souls who never got to meet her. But I don't suppose it would mean much to learn that every night she would follow me into the bedroom and meow impatiently for me to lie down and wouldn't settle down until I did because she was impatient to plant her large little body on top of my stomach or my chest. Or that of all the bellies on all the kitties in the world, Thelma's was the fluffiest and if you ever got to pet her there, you passed the good egg test. She wouldn't let just anyone do it.

Those little things about my little friend mean the world to me and will for the rest of my life. But I guess what I want to get across here, for future me, for future contracts, in case of the likely possibility that my brain will age like shredded wheat is that I once had a cat named Thelma and she was my friend and I miss her a lot.



Thelma Marie (2008-10/11/2016)


Monday, September 12, 2016

New Things With Old Eyes: A Getting Old Tableau

Ever feel like you closed your eyes when you were 20 in 1996 and then you opened them in 2016 and you were feeling so very deeply all 40 of your years? Did your knees pop a clickety-clack melody as you literally creaked out of bed, thinking one really long thought about how the years have tenderized you, covered you in salt, and left you to marinate like a rare steak left out on the counter too long? Did you think about getting married for the nine hundredth time this week and do that thing where you scroll through disingenuous profile after profile of your dating app swiping away any desire to do much more than head home and eat popcorn and watch a fictionalized version of romance until you fell asleep? Did you ride the subway to work while feeling the sweat evaporate from your skin into the clogged air around you and struggle through squinted eyes to remember what it was about NYC you loved so much again? No? Anyone?

It's a Monday again here in aftersolonggirl-land. I got a lot accomplished this morning. Workwise, I've stuffed the afternoon into a large burlap sack and tied it around my ankle, dragging it behind me everywhere.

Normally I find myself out of the country during this time of year but this year I've had to push my badly needed vacation plans to the end of the month. In two weeks I'll be three or four Guinness deep, pondering different shades of green and what to call them all. I'm hoping Ireland is as it has been in my imagination ever since I first contemplated going there, when I was 15 and obsessed with the Dublin of The Commitments. (Unrelated: is it bad that I can't spell the word commitment correctly on the first try, ever? Is there something Freudian there? You tell me.) At the moment I'm contemplating what to pack and, like every chore that requires me to make choices about what to wear, I want someone else to decide perfectly what all I should bring. I'm easily distracted when a task like this is set before me and so I have been searching Instagram for #dublin to see what people are wearing in their photos. I apply very scientific methods to everything, even things that really don't need them.

I am really ready to be away though. It's been a minute since I've stretched time with a lot of distance. And for the past few months, I've wrapped my brain in the compression bandage of stress and I'm ready to release it now. I do have some residual anxiety about leaving my sickly cats home and having a catsitter tend to them, but honestly, I've made every precaution I possibly can and I have to learn to let go. I'm also ready to not spend any more mental or emotional energy on worry. I simply want to sleep late, and drink too much and see new things with my old eyes. I need the next two weeks to fly.

Yesterday I did get out of the city, a goal to be observed whenever possible on September 11. Lambden and Lorraine and myself went to the Jersey shore to say goodbye to summertime by dipping ourselves in the ocean and frozen custard. The waves were chopping and sectioning off the lines of bronze bodies who dared go in but it was the perfect temperature. In the hour just before getting in, I was bitten by 4.5 million demon flies and submerging in the water felt like a sizzle of comfort. I stupidly lost my sunglasses to a bullying wave and I feel terrible that I've polluted the ocean in such a stupid way. I hope the tide left them behind and someone who needed them was able to find them. I also had that brief few minutes of being convinced I was going to drown when I got separated from Nancy and was dragged a bit under by a series of aggressive swells. I was simultaneously tumbled backward and forward, swallowed a pony keg's worth of salty sea water, got a leg cramp and couldn't stop laughing. It was wild ride, I tell you. We followed our lovely afternoon at the beach eating seafood and laughing, staring at the endless sky and taking full advantage of having made the journey of 15 years together, mostly intact. To understand how good it felt, you would have had to have been there 15 years ago. Some of you were, so you get it. We passed a flag at half mast yesterday and I had to be reminded why it was at half mast. Here we all are, another year further away.

So, I'm in a holding pattern for two weeks. Things have stabilized for me and I'm cranking through the motions. Or I'm creaking through them. I'm stiffening up by degrees today. I'm sure getting blendered by the sea yesterday didn't help but, as though on cue, I feel physically older. Do I look different?












Tuesday, August 2, 2016

32 (w/ a side of oven fresh perspective)

I've taken to reading old journal entries like I'm sorting through items of an estate sale. There are things that shine like new with indeterminable value and things that have seen better days and could use some polishing. I'm kicking up the dust and it is settling quietly on my brain and I'm remembering, remembering, remembering. Today's year is 32.

From my journal dated 8/5/2008:

today is my birthday. i'm 32. i can't really say i'm not doing something i thought i'd be doing by now. my life is pretty happy. and every second i'm given i'm grateful for. 32 might be a very positive year for me. i mean, the ladies here at the office brought me a hershey's chocolate fudge cake. so, that's a good sign.

A couple of things about this:

I only actually thought I was happy on that birthday. The truth is, I was in an unhappy, mentally denigrating relationship (more on that later), I had left NYC to live in a place I didn't actually feel I belonged. I actually ended up being totally right about 32 being positive in the end, but man was it a torture. I got my heart broken but I also ended up getting in the best shape of my life and I traveled pretty much everywhere that year. 32 was a huge year of growth for me and if I was outlined in pencil sketches when I was 15, traced over in permanent marker when I was 25, then I was colored in with oil paints when I was 32.

Also, I remember that cake. The women I worked with at the law school gave that cake to me and I think I may have eaten two huge pieces of it.

More from the journal entry:

last friday he took me to huntington to the cinema arts center to see "brideshead revisited" and to eat indian food. he had never had indian food before and i could tell he was impressed. he was bored out of his skull by the movie but he remained a sport about it all. which rightfully he should since i've had to sit through roughly 29 hours of baseball this year.

If I were to write a book about that relationship, I'd call it: Delusions and Denial. I remember that movie night really well, largely because it was the moment when I realized I might be with the completely wrong person for me and then I'd spent the entire evening wishing I was alone. He was not, as I said "a sport about it all"; he acted put out at every turn that evening and when we talked about each other over dinner, he didn't know pretty basic facts about me. It was that conversation that slashed through the rest of the evening and was really the beginning of the end, though I was in deep, deep, dumbass denial. A lot of people experience this type of thing when they are young and impressionable. Not I. I do everything late in life...and I mean everything. (Expect a wedding invite at some point this decade). I'm happy this happened when it did because, knowing myself at 22, I likely would have fragmented and drifted off into space. Also, he wasn't a genuine food lover. The Moroccan dinner I mention would have been way more enjoyable if he hadn't been there. I have forced my memory to snapshot that dinner with one very tall, ex-shaped hole in the middle. It's better that way, trust me.

That same night:

we also made a stop at the huntington book revue which is probably the best bookstore i've ever been to. i bought a copy of the "golden notebook" to add to my ever growing collection. this time i was able to limit myself to one book though i kept picking up and putting down others.

I still love the Book Revue something fierce, though I haven't yet read that copy of the Golden Notebook. I did try a few years ago but my heart wasn't in it. I should find it and pick it up again.

The end of the journal entry:

this weekend is radiohead. i think you could say i'm pretty excited about that.

That was just after In Rainbows came out, I believe. It was at an outdoor festival, back when I used to do that kind of thing. Now that I'm older and looking back, I'm mature enough to understand that just because Radiohead usually releases a new album and tours around one's birthday, doesn't necessarily mean one's soul is inexorably linked to the band, their golden creative output, and their unrelenting genius by the sheer fact of being born. After all, just cause you feel it, doesn't mean it's there. Except that last week I saw the one of the top two concerts of my life and it just happened to be Radiohead. And it was a week before my birthday so......

To sum up:

When I was 32, my heart broke, then grew back with a light scar across the middle. I learned how deeply I enjoy being alone, particularly when compared to being with someone who should know me, but doesn't. That year, I renewed my passport, got on planes and saw a thousand pathways unfurl before me. Maybe it happened a bit later for me than most people, but just remember that I'm (almost) 40. I don't care about that.






Monday, August 1, 2016

July Goodbye (to my thirties)

Welp, this week has arrived. It took 40 years, but it is here. On Friday, I turn 40. From this point forward, I'll be older than my imagination could ever seem to conjure before now. In fact, up until a few years ago, I could only ever be bothered to envision myself in my 30s. This is likely due to the fact that when you are young, you can't wait to grow older and when you are old, you wish for time to stop. I never thought of 40 as old but apparently my subconscious does because I've been feeling the anxiety in pinpricks all over my psyche lately in light but persistent jabs. I mean sure, I could chalk it up to the garbage fire of the state of the world lately. However, if I'm ever going to have a midlife crisis, this would be the ideal time. Then again, the people in my family live well into their 90s so maybe I'm still five years off from my true midlife.

As is pretty typical for a woman reaching this milestone, I'm taking inventory; ticking off accomplishments, perceived or otherwise with chewed up pencil is a laborious process. In addition to looking forward to a time in my life when I cease to actually give more than half a fuck about what people think or say about me (releasing that ball and chain was the greatest thing I ever did), I'm looking back on the decade that was and damnit if I don't really like what I see.

I didn't pass any typical milestones in my 30s...didn't get married or have kids (are these things typical anymore?) and I didn't buy a house or become the head of anything in my career. I am less worried about any of those things (though the career stagnation/backwards current is a constant source of frustration for me lately and I'd still like to be married one day). What I did do is travel the world and collect experience after experience that I consistently have to remind myself belong to me, that I didn't read about them in someone else's memoir. I finally realized that I have no more time to lament all the bullshit I don't have but want or don't want but have. Again, a revelation that changes life as we know it..you can actually decide to be happy. Sometimes.

I'm compiling a highlight reel. And I'm going to be sharing a few bits of it all week. Here's scene one:

On my 30th birthday, my sister threw me a surprise birthday party at Botanica Bar on East Houston. It was 2006 and the biggest song that summer was Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." I drank a lot of Chimay (a new discovery of mine after being marooned too long on Whateverischeapest Island) and I have photos of myself in a green skirt and white shirt, my hair long and curly and I don't appear to be even thinking about leaping over a milestone. The photos from that night are peppered with smiles and sweaty faces (August birthdays) and old friends and new friends and boyfriends who are no longer around and husbands of friends who are around but not around us. I was working in Jamaica, Queens and living in Astoria and I was in love with every man I saw and feeling so optimistic. In a style very uncharacteristic of me, I wrote only the following in my journal that week:

i had a great birthday. so there's that. oh and there is always sushi. and dignity. always dignity.

But I remember. It was, in fact, one of the most memorable nights of my life and it augured well for my new decade. I look back at photos like this one...

Note the Chimay glass



...with two of my oldest friends and I think about how that was just yesterday only it was ten years ago. I can still feel the air in there. I can still remember what we talked about and how it felt and how lucky I was and still am. I like this memory because it is a salve to those aforementioned pin pricks. It's a massage. Or a message. A message from the dewey skinned old me: you are ok.

More tomorrow!