Friday, October 29, 2010

bottoms up

Last night, over a scotch in a West side Irish pub, my dear friend's boyfriend cautioned me, in no uncertain terms, to pull my head out of my ass.

I release you, he said, from the idea that you don't deserve to be loved.

Understand by 'loved,' he means decently, seriously and reciprocally. Not the way I am accustomed to begging for scraps. His counsel boiled down to this: I settle for less than I deserve.

And, while I seem constantly to forgive and forget the parade of clowns (both sad and sinister), he remains mystified. You're a good looking girl. You're smart. And you are attracting only douchebags.

He is absolutely right. My heart is a dilapidated movie theatre, selling discount tickets to card-carrying emotional retards. I might as well hang a sign in the box office window that reads: Functioning Adults Need Not Apply.

Back in the city with my life around my ankles, this becomes all too clear. Not only do I obsessively cater to the needs of these Crassanovas, it seems to be what I do best.

I quit adulthood. I piled all my possessions together, the lovingly appointed apartment, the big-girl 9-to-5, the Weekender subscription, and turned my back, flipping a match over my shoulder on the way out of town.

Since the Plague of Locusts, I made the Big Decision, hopped the graveyard freighter to somewhere else, hid out in the tropics pondering my navel, and came back to New York the way I came the first time: with a suitcase and a prayer.

But everyone's first question was, "What happened with Gatsby?"

This is my fault. The hope of him was all my world. And then it wasn't.

I've come to care less. I've cultivated a quiet corner for myself in midtown Manhattan. My life got boring. I work, I dance, I practice yoga and I write. I make bulleted to-do lists and cross things out. I spend time with friends, but I eat a lot of pre-tango sandwiches on the sofa by myself.

I'm getting more and more comfortable sitting in the bathtub of me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

the bathers think islands are separate like them

I've been trying to tune out the noise. To stretch my arms above my yoga mat, to connect my feet into the floor, to be fully present in close embrace, to walk slowly and with purpose, to breathe. New York is a different place now for me, less full of traps and ambushes, more full of friends and fountains and ethnic food. The drama is gone. And I am my own island, connected underground by years of glacial earth to other islands, tethered to my friends and to my loves. The lava cooled and I got strong.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programing of self-growth and survival skills. I have friends to see and brunches to eat, muscles to stretch and tango to practice. I have hours to spend starting at an empty page. The dance card of my day is full.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

on drifting

I gave a dollar to the man on the subway singing "Yo Soy Feliz." It was just him and a guitar. He wasn't even loud, just walking up and down the car, singing in a mournful way.

Then I danced. For the eighth night in nine nights.

Hail Bohemia.


It is autumn, and I am sad.

But it is a softening sadness, a sinking into the crust of the earth before the snow sort of sadness. It is a sadness I need, a cycle I understand. I walk through city streets and feel the world shutting down for the winter, the air closing in with chill, the sky going grey, the trees letting go. I shove my hands in my pockets and listen to the same three songs, every year. I walk with wisdom, the summer languor setting bones, my steps slower, more even, my softening gaze.

I think maybe I live backwards. Ever since high school, in perfect Pioneer Valley New England farmland, I have come to love this time of year. Because it brought sweaters and scarves and hot steaming coffee, hours spent in drafty classrooms or overheated libraries, surrounded by books, searching for transcendence—eating the pomegranate, accepting the escort to the Underworld, and finding the fire within to light up the night.

It gets cold, too cold. Things get hard. It hurts more when you fall. More knees are skinned, and tights are scraped by bloody knees. The night is longer, lonelier. The stars pierce the firmament. The moon hangs heavy and far away.

I need this and I don't know why. I feel a pheonix-like affinity for the dying and the coming back. I imagine I will sprout from the frozen cobblestones come Spring, a newly reincarnate something green.

The cold is calming. I fight my quiet battles with a little added peace. And so, some pieces fall into place without event, a path emerges through the Ramble in the park. A place to live, a thing to do, a plan.

Some days are better than others. Some friends show up in ways I never knew. I am grateful, even as I flounder. I achieve the seemingly impossible: in certain moments, things aren't all wrong.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

on growing up

Ten years ago my family landed in Vernon, VT, armpit of New England, ending a four year streak on the road. I had never been in one place much longer than a school year or two, and being nerdy, fat and pathologically uncool, I hadn't held on to many friendships along the way.

In this tiny town, I suffered a particularly cruel and unusual eighth grade year before moving on to the hallowed halls of academe for four blessedly continuous years of prep school. This settled stint in the foothills of the Green Mountains marked the longest consecutive stretch that I (and my three man nuclear family) found myself in one place. It wasn't perfect—I would never choose it now that age and taste have intervened—but it was close enough to home, simply by virtue of the fact that we never had to leave it.

The friends I made in that stupid town are some of the best I've ever made. As satellite students, local yokels, we were left stranded in the cow pastures when the rest of the students went home to their glamorous lives in Seoul, Sydney and Durham, NH. We spent our summers driving through corn fields and scaring each other in the dark. We played board games with my parents, we loitered in movie theatre parking lots. We did wholesome things in the name of adolescence and stealthy things in the name of adulthood. They indulged in a few illegal substances and I baked pie. We were good kids and we still are.

Saturday, the first of us got married. And so it was that the guy who once passed out under my Twister mat said "I do."

Of the four of us, I will be the last to go. I was stuck without a plus one at a table of the affianced. The wizened New Yorker drifting through bad boyfriends and irrelevant career moves and her better, more practical friends. Who—I like to think—love me in spite of my incurable self-sabotage.

We may not keep in touch as well as we should. We may not see each other more than once a year. But these guys know me (perhaps better than I know myself). They have inspired me and will inspire me for years. Someday, if I have sons, I will want to raise them to be just like them—the kind of men at a wedding who ask their spinster cat hag high school friend to dance.

Friday, October 8, 2010

no small victory

How it feels to get through today:

Wake up in a sweat. Take a couple pills. Clean house. Cry into yogurt.
Type aimlessly. Stare at blank screen. Shower.
Dress for therapy. One foot at a time. Talk too much.
Well tears. Wipe tears. Confess and be absolved.
Sit in Starbucks. Eat salad out of Tupperware. Stir sugar into coffee.
Type aimlessly. Stare at blank screen. Spy.
Wander. Purchase paperback. Go home with groceries.
Email furiously. Talk to best friend. Attend lecture.
Attempt to stay awake. Attempt not to text. Attempt to pay attention.
Read on the subway. Grilled cheese sandwich. Glass of wine.
Television, television, television.
Stay up too late. Wear socks to bed.

Dr. H offered to see me for a while gratis. He said, given the month I've had, I'm doing extraordinarily well. Whatever happens happens. And he said he's proud.

Survival mode is a force to be reckoned with, propelling me into the world even when all I manage out there is to drool onto my laptop and people watch, poke through vegetable stands and window shop.

I get up and scribble lists onto legal pads just so I can cross things off. Set achievable goals and hack them one by one. Mail things. Make outlines. Cheat. Do what I know I should.

With the exception of a few texts and a few rounds of Is he?/Will he?, today was for me. I spent it with a roll of emotional duct tape, sealing the window cracks and making great big exes over doors. There are candles in my basement, unlit, and batteries in the fridge. My bathtub is leaking full with water. These are things I know to do—the lecture, the therapy, the afternoon out.

Only difference is this time, I've lost my conviction. I do all this in spite of the feeling (to fight the feeling) of wanting to hurl myself off a skyscraper, just to feel the freedom of the fall. You know, without the telltale splat at the end.

I am either much too weak or far too strong.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

honesty alert

The moment you realize someone is not the man you thought he was is like seeing your parents fallible for the first time. The Christmas tree crashes onto the coffee table, everyone is miserable, and no one can fix it.

Maybe it is time to admit I fell for the dream of him, the rest of him rosed over by the glow of a dying summer. The collapse of a lucky streak. The end of a long string of let downs and bad romance. The beginning of something to believe in. This had all the earmarks of a fairy tale, ergo I ought not be surprised to watch it devolve nightmarishly into typical every day tragedy, one heart bullet-grazed, the other smeared against the kitchen wall.

I thought I found a grown-up. What I found was another Batman, a boy who still thinks he can control everything in his Universe and does not appreciate biological proof to the contrary. I thought I found someone to share the burden, and yet here I am alone in left field again, mustering strength from the reserve tank to take care of myself and move on.

This is not to say he won't turn things around, show up again with chivalry and platitudes. Pitch the woo. Sweep me off my overlarge feet. But if he comes a'callin,' he will have lost a little of his charming veneer. I'll be accepting a little less than I deserve. Demanding a little more in reparations.

Maybe the lesson here is people are imperfect creatures–and dating just one long minefield of discovery. Perhaps we ought to assume the worst in people, to mollify our inevitable disappointment. Start disappointed, end up pleasantly surprised?

But I have bigger fish to fry. And miles to go before I sleep. I wake up every day in panic. I belong here, I don't belong here. I can make it, then I can't. Things make sense for only moments at a time. I have to find a way to breathe easier. Be solid on my own axis. Find neutral. Because the highs never last and the lows are starting to wear me out.

I was wrong to think I could live out of a suitcase. Wrong to think I could beat the system. And wrong to think I could borrow the feeling of someone else's family home. Without four walls to oneself and a sleeping pallet, one is always asking favors, growing debts. Feeling like a bad barnacle on someone else's hull.

And all this drifting just fills you with empty.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

house of ill humors

Fasten your seat belts, folks. We're in for some turbulence.

Ugh. And that sentence came after reading this week's Ben Zimmer in the Times Sunday magazine.

I am back on the big loopy bus ride that is New York, and as such have developed a new and increasingly startling feeling of fellowship with manic depressives the world over. Time to climb aboard the Bipolar Express. Hold on to your hats. For every downturn, an upswing. And vice fucking versa.

For one, it's freezing. I am freezing.

For two, I currently depend on the kindness of others for shelter. Free to go anywhere, but nowhere is home. On that note, three: I spent the better part of today touring the lesser part of Bushwick with pathologically positive Realtor Adam, a five-foot-four and bearded dogma-Vegan who took me from dump to dumpier dump, finding charm wherever least appropriate: windowless bedrooms built for dwarves, yellowed toilet seats, cockroaches.

Four, money. As in: I have none. As in . . . uhoh.

Then again, it is fall. Grey, chilly, sweater-wearing fall. Almost everyone I love is here and I am dancing. That I have. I get up every day and I get something done. I clean something, cook something, stretch something. Fill in a form, send out a cover letter, make a list and cross things off. I dance at night, so I sleep now—quel relief. I get to be with Peter, who will always be my family. Yet still I cannot shake the feeling that I'm missing something; something isn't right. If only I could fix that one factor, the rest would fall into place—right? And hum to the frequency of heavenly alignment? Because being 26 going on 27 only begs the question: what if it never gets better? What if this awful feeling of mismatch and discord persists? Where to then? And how?

These are questions I must answer. Questions I have chosen to answer from the unemployment line. Problems I have chosen to make harder to solve because I just can't help it.

And if being here, lost in my own godknowswhat—my freefalling Hail Mary pass at happiness and an honest living—means I can do that, well then I must be making progress.

minor victory

I slept for ten hours.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

cabin pressure

So I remember once upon a time, my mother would invoke the teachings of Ram Dass and chide me gently to Be Here Now.

Then, tucked in the spine of a purchase at the emporium, a bookmark that read: You Are Here. A bookmark I later saw in the bat cave of the G.I.Q.

Always I have been told to take comfort in the chaos. To find stillness. Today I flew (and I hate to fly) the length of the eastern seaboard, and survived. (read: cheated death again.) It only took a Xanax, a bag of gummy worms and the prayer-like recitation of all forty-four U.S. presidents in chronological order to calm me down. We got up and stayed up. I drank my can of cranberry juice. I read my dime store crime novel in the crisp blue dome.

Then the descent—nosing through a low, flat layer of cloud cover, sprawling dunes of sugar—into grey and blustery New York. Immediately, my armor intact, the cocoon of aloneness. My anonymous shroud. Earbuds, paperback, eyes on cell.

I found my city loud and proud and indifferent. I hit the pavement, matching pace. I took my computer to the Genius Bar for a one am repair, navigating sidewalks busy still at that hour on Central Park South. I could have danced all night. But I seem to have lost my edge.

And I may have lost my nerve.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I never sleep before I fly

Two epiphanies today.

If I rotate my shins inward in downward dog (adhomukha svanasana), I can fold my chest farther into the floor, my heart closer to my thighs, and it will feel as though something secret has been unlocked.

And if I take a chisel to my own self-erected wall of bullshit, I'm ready to admit just what a sap I really am. I've been trying to tell you all and, by extension, myself, that the Universe wants me to go back to New York. That I have plans, a life, a reason for existing on or around that island of insanity. And all of that is true. My friends are there, my focus is there and there is where I dance. Perhaps I have been happiest there. Perhaps the most miserable. (Yes, I flip more waffles than a house of pancakes.) But the gods' honest is this: I am going back for one thing only. Absolution.

I am going back to have my heart rebroken.

I cried like an idiot tonight, which was not altogether inappropriate. Tomorrow at 2:19 pm, I am going to do something so incredibly stupid. Sure, there are other valid reasons, and sure, a suitcase full of money could fall on my head, but really this is the romantic in me, staging a kamikaze run at a very uncertain endgame. So I pack my big red suitcase, send off the impossibly large check to COBRA and by this time tomorrow, I'll be back in the Tour d'Ivoire with $300 to my name, two pairs of jeans and one set of ratty, sweaty dance shoes.

Everything else is in storage. Everything else is illusion. I have become a laptop and a pair of yoga pants. A notebook and a mug of coffee. A regimen of vitamins. Crippling indecision. Vertiginous awe. A killer cocktail of gratitude and pique.

New York will fold me back into her batter, or else she'll reject me like a mismatched kidney and I'll be back to the lifeboat, rowing. I wish I were not the sort of girl who said "what if." I wish I didn't take chance after second chance, hurl myself at all my lessons the hard way.

But I have a book and a bag of gummy worms for the plane. A little lunch in a paper sack. My rootless abandon intact. I'll find out soon enough.