Archives for posts with tag: thinking

(Oh, isn’t that wishful thinking.)

I was clicking back through my posts sort of mindlessly checking whether I use categories or tags when I had that moment that Snoopy has, where he’s wandered into the tall grass and he tries to play it cool, so cool, but he really wants to turn tail and run like a squawking chicken back to safety. I had stumbled upon my own grief.

And damn my blood for knowing how to write it, too, because I remember the way the sentences translated into the real world. I remember hating Fridays. I remember eating clementines. I remember how easily I remembered so many details from Dad’s last few weeks, remembered them like they were needlepointed to the insides of my eyelids.

It’s weird how the last ten months have changed me. I’ve been slowly but perceptively recovering in the ways you can recover (I don’t hate Fridays anymore) and also learning to recognize the swathes that are just permanently altered. I’ve been in therapy, which is just great – people, it’s great, you should try it – but it’s always surprising to me that it’s not always about my dad. It’s always surprising that the rest of my personality has withstood the gale force winds that blew.

But I’m also still so easily shocked into earlier states. I have this little problem where I wince when I meet the eyes of the very old or infirm. I feel like a grade A asshole but it hurts somehow, somewhere that isn’t all that healed actually, to see rheumy eyes and papery skin or watch a hand tremble on the subway. I want to fling myself against a window like a heart-thumping little bird to get out, away, out. It’s jarring how completely sub-conscious this reaction is. Sorry, old people. I’m usually not this weird.

Also I hate the sight of those auto-hand-sanitizers.

Grief is weird.

The thing I’m left with is so much more universal than what I had before. What I had before (amongst many other blessings) was this brilliantly unique relationship with this utterly brilliant human being that just happened to be my father, and happened to like me a lot, with whom I happened to have a ton of personality in common. What I have now is grief, plain and simple, dressing on the side. It’s not even wild grief with unresolved crunchy bits and fugue states. It’s manageable, but it has robbed me of something. I am a girl who has lost her father. Look around – there are a ton of us! You might even be one! Do you know what was better? Having a father.

So that’s where I am. Simultaneously marveling at the efficiency of my psychic organs, which always seem to know what I need when I need it (now: stay busy! now: pamper yourself! now: sad movie for release valve! I am a well-oiled machine!) and frustrated with my loss, with the misplacement of this unique and brilliant relationship. Like it was my fault!

We are these mighty creatures, I guess, if we don’t spend too much time staring at the little holes in the fabric of our superhero capes.



My splendid friend Anna Pickard (and her dashing beloved, Bobbie) set off on a train journey around these United States a few weeks ago, and not content to just do something that’s on all of our life lists, she also turned it into a delightful Web 2.0 + epistolary adventure of Olde mashup with her Snailr Project. I love it when my friends do amazing things that I can brag about, don’t you? So of course I signed up to get own little mail-tweet goodness.


(Click over to Flickr to see the text transcribed)

What’s amazing to me about this postcard is how it stretches across a particular narrative divide in Anna and Bobbie’s trip, that is, the Train Crash. They were rumbling along through Louisiana when their Amtrak train struck a passing eighteen-wheeler, shearing it right in half. They were fine, most of the passengers were mostly fine, the driver of the truck was miraculously fine. But the character, A, that Anna so good-naturedly lacerates about his vegetable consumption, was taking photos and uploading them to twitter, and both Anna and Bobbie linked him and his accounts of the crash through their Twitter feeds. By the time I received the postcard, I was able to immediately identify who she was talking about because of this web/text mashup world.

I’m not sure Anna had any intention that A would be so included in her narrative after this card, but there you have it – narratives have a way of bringing back characters all on their own. And although the tweets about the crash reached me first, the card is on my fridge and is an altogether more interesting piece of ephemera. Two sides of a story.

I was thinking about Anna’s project as I watched all the photos trickle through from the Mighty Summit held last weekend in California. I won’t go into a whole long diplomatic summary of what Mighty Summit means or represents or who it affects, because you probably know and if you don’t, well, a tempest viewed from far enough away from the teacup just looks like a mirage.  I personally thought Broad Summit was fascinating, and I think Mighty Summit is, too.

But I was thinking about inspiration, and how the worst fallout I’ve noticed from Mighty Summit means we can easily miss the best possible takeaway from its existence. I get it. It was a public-facing event that not everyone was invited to attend, and it’s hard to see the spirit of something you’re feeling left out of. No, I don’t get free massages for sitting around with my friends and inspiring each other. That’s okay, though, because the muscles can get tense again but the ideas don’t fade from my grey matter. I’m inspired by Anna’s project and I’m inspired by the can-do, roll-up-your-sleeve Rosie Riveter attitudes I saw as the best cream skimmed off the top of Mighty Summit, across the blogs of the women who attended. And isn’t that a pretty good takeaway from something (two things really) that I didn’t even do myself?

I think there’s the risk that if we focus too much on what we, as a community of bloggers, didn’t get from not attending an exclusive event like Mighty Summit, we miss the chance to notice what we could get even without attending, which is the trickle-down puffs of inspiration and positive energy. Anna inspired me to think more about letter-writing, about the value we ascribe now to our written words because of scarcity. Mighty Summit made me look harder at my list, and think, what’s the purpose of this collection of ideas if I don’t approach each day (or, realistically, each year) as a chance to scratch a satisfying line through it?

So this year, the year that I am thirty, I am going to commit to five items on the list. One is a cheat, since I’m doing this anyway:

6. Spend New Year’s Eve on a beach.

(This year, my mother and brothers and our various partners are going to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Aruba. Before you get too jealous please realize that Christmas is going to be sort of sad this year and we made the collective decision that it’s better to be sad on a beach than anywhere else.)

Here are some other life list items I’m pretty sure I can reach August 31st, 2011, with some satisfying strikethroughs:

18. Ride a tandem bike.
41. Learn how to make perfect marinara sauce from scratch.
74. Help a friend with a project or ambition of theirs’.
98. Read Henry James and William Faulkner already, sheesh.

And I’m going to add one more, since #6 was such a gimme. This goes hand-in-hand with it, anyway:

87. Make gifts from scratch one Christmas.

And there’s another takeaway from Mighty Summit – we are not in anything alone. That’s why I put #74 on there this year. It’s not something I plan to only do once, and it’s maybe the most important (and self-referential) item on the list. But I know it’s something I can do this year.

If you can think of some way to help my list along (are you a chef that can teach me knife skills? a pianist that can show me how to play a jazz standard on the piano? want to help me throw a benefit party? most importantly for # 87, do you know how to craft?) then in the spirit of Mighty Summit, I’d love your help. Until then, I’ll be here, plucking away at my little pile of awesome to-dos, and being inspired by the people around me. So the question is, what awesome thing are you going to do this year?


For my thirtieth birthday, amongst other things, Stuart had this bracelet made for me. He asked the designer to put 808.02 on there. It’s the Dewey Decimal Classification number for style manuals. Actually, 808.02 is the DDC for “authorship and editorial techniques,” and 808.027, “editorial techniques,” is where cataloguers are instructed to class style manuals, but that was getting excessively clunky (and I had to log into OCLC Connexion to find that out) so 808.02 it is.

I asked, upon opening the gift, what the DDC number was for. So sue me, I knew the 800 class is literature! That’s more than most people who aren’t librarians or sixth graders could tell you. Stuart said, “it’s for style manuals. Because you’re so stylish.” He’s just being nice – it’s also because I love rules. I love grammar. I love the way different organizations or cultures have sprung up around the correct way to create a bibliography, and why. How for different applications, there are different ways of organizing information and displaying it. There’s a good reason why I love library science. It’s because I love order.

This is one of those teachable moments, realizing how much I love order and organization. I’m thirty now! It’s okay to be obsessed with taxonomies! That’s just who I am! Another thing I am is a woman in her thirties, starting to think about family. And babies. Ohhhh, the kicking ovaries. Ladies, you tried to warn me.

I’ve been stymied as to why a woman already aware of her desire to start a family would suddenly FLIP A SWITCH just because of a birthday. And it’s not, to clarify, that we’re going to have a baby tomorrow. The dog and the graduate degree are enough for me right now. But what’s the difference between spending all of my twenties happily, calmly aware that I was going to have children someday, and turning thirty, where I can’t even look at pictures of my friends’ babies without getting all broody and making funny faces at Stuart? (Although, have you met Esme? You’d want one too.) Seriously, the other day, I found myself cuddling Nano in a distinctly …. swaddling … manner. What! The! Eff!

But today, I was talking to my therapist and I hit on it. In my twenties, starting a family with Stuart was something I was going to do in my thirties. In a very rigid, time-centered way, it was Tomorrow. I wasn’t in my thirties! Oh, guess what. Now I am in my thirties, which means that clock is suddenly labeled Today. And while nothing else, empirically, has changed, everything has changed. This is the decade we’re going to do this … and here we are, in that decade. Someone get me a to-do list! (Don’t worry, that to-do list starts with: Finish Degree.)

Which goes back to my first point, stepping slowly away from all this Heavy Stuff (although feel free to empathize and extemporize on your own clock systems if you have them). I am 808.02! I am your friendly neighborhood organizer. But Stuart also pointed out, I could easily be Greek myths and legends, which would be 398.20938. What would you be, if you were a DDC number? You don’t have to be a library nerd to play along – give me a general category you think would work and I’ll see if I can’t tease out the right number for you. My nerdy expertise could be your new charm bracelet!

There’s too much space in this apartment when Stuart’s not here. The poor guy has been working non-stop for two weeks, dragging himself in every day for twelve hours and then on the weekends. It’s madness. My mother asks me about it in shock, like, there should be a law! I agree.

Nano has spent the weekend wandering around the apartment aimlessly and then flumphing in random spots. Sometimes I catch him waking up with an idea in his flimsy little brain, like, I’ll check the bedroom, I’ll bet that’s where he is, and then off he trots, full of confidence, to the bedroom. I hear him execute his patented jump onto the bed (three times taller than he) and then sort of slink back into the living room, like he’s hoping I won’t notice he got fooled again. He’s like a goldfish*.

I’m sort of like Nano, with less blonde moments and more gadgets. I watch stupid movies and weird television, like that Sarah Jessica Parker atrocity (I know, WHICH ONE) and The L Word. I read too many blogs. This weekend I spent half my time online catching up on Antonia‘s archives (sorry if that’s weird, A.) I don’t want to do anything social, because I like being social with Stuart, or at least, I like knowing he’s doing something fun if I’m being social without him. I do the dishes more when he’s working late, because if there’s anything sadder than spending too much time alone in your apartment, it’s doing it with a sinkful of dirty dishes.

And last weekend, I even ran away to Miami! Well, not really, I hated going without him, but I wanted to visit Mom in her new apartment before she comes up here for two months in Rhode Island, Dealing With The House, which is very caps-lock, since it’s really a little depressing to be in that beautiful old pile without my dad around. You can hear it in her voice. Miami is better, with its salty air and Latin vibes and double-wide doors to her apartment, with the French conversation classes and the dinners with my brother who is right down the road.

Miami is good for me, too, because it’s such a delicious sin compared to New York. I love the unrepentant enjoyment that town has with itself, like it just looks at itself in the mirror and goes “que rica!” and saunters out the door. It’s the way it flips up the floppy brim of its hat, from its perch on the beach, Mai Tai in hand and stares up at you (New York, with your grump and your garbage smell and your chaos) and sort of blinks, shrugs, and invites you to its yacht party. Miami! Mi-yaaammmi! You are so good to me, even if I affect a terrible Latin accent that’s a cross between Hank Azaria in Birdcage, and Al Pacino in Scarface, anytime I land on your shiny beaches.

So between last weekend away in Miami, and this weekend at home on my saggy couch, I’m pretty boring, right? Wait until school starts again and I start yammering on about metadata. I’ll just show myself out.

*I realize this is a myth. It’s too awesome not to be true. Leave me alone over here with my fantasies of cosmic silliness.

In two weeks, we will board a plane to Santa Fe for five days of vacation. We’ll do what we do best on vacation – I will obsessively read the travel guide and poll everyone I know for the best restaurants. Stuart will effortlessly learn the orientation of the city and navigate the transit options, and he’ll know when I’m twenty minutes exactly from full-bore hangry. For as much as I love the day-to-day of our lives together, I relish the chance to travel somewhere new with Stuart. Our best complementary attributes engage.

But I’m burying the lede. The day we travel westward is my thirtieth birthday. On August 31st, I’ll pass from my twenties into my thirties. Let’s take a moment here, shall we? Let’s eulogize this properly now.

My twenties were the least wild of all possible twenties. I remember a few truly debauched and distraught moments: having to stop for French fries at a diner on my way home from the Russian Samovar because I was too drunk to find the subway. A few ill-advised romantic choices, usually thanks to the Internet. Being sad but dry-eyed in the Port Authority watching a particularly fragile piece of my heart leave town.

But I remember some miracles, too. My first apartment, full of lazy brunches with the wittiest, most uproarious friends you can imagine. The feeling of looking out over the city from my 42nd story office window at 22 tender years of age, fearless and gutsy and happy. Knowing I hadn’t figured it out yet, but knowing I’d found the place and the people that would get me there in style.

And the best: finding Stuart.

And the worst: losing Dad.

I’m not particularly worried about neck cream and creaking bones and the loss of the excuse to shake my ass in clubs. I didn’t spend much of my earliest adulthood doing that anyway; I was too busy talking to these fascinating people I know and learning New York City like the back of my hand.

I will miss nothing about the last ten years except the person who made it so much better. But I gave him a 4.0 average in grad school and the sight of me happy, married, and his daughter through and through.

My thirties will bring me new facets of family – first, with Mom finding herself new paths in the world, and then, hopefully, new layers of family between Stuart and me and some unnamed zygotes (one day).

My thirties will bring a new career, one that I could not be more excited about. I am surprised it took me so long to realize that although writing is my first love, my great tool, that it is not my best-suited career. I am bloody thrilled to be joining the ranks of the world’s organizers, disseminators, knowledge finders and suppliers. Librarianship suits me like bespoke. I hope some day (perhaps I will be saying this as I go into my forties) to pass on the skills I’m learning and will learn, to get my PhD, and to do research and educate future librarians. Let’s get squee-ish for a second here: HOW COOL IS THAT?

My thirties will bring me more clarity about friendships and relationships. The lessons learned by fire for the past decade – be honest, be kind, don’t apologize too much, work hard for the people you love, be loyal, forgive – are already solidifying into canon. This feels good.

I have learned a lot about myself through the eyes of those who love me. I have figured out many of my best and worst impulses. I’ve learned to be proud of what I’m capable of, and I’m working on being at peace with my flaws. My thirties can hopefully be a time to focus more outward.

So Santa Fe will be a celebration and a page-turning. I will keep doing what I am doing because although life is not as perfect as it was before my dad died, it’s still pretty damn good and that’s okay.

I would love to hear you, blog friends, tell me about turning thirty. I’ll take it all to heart; there’s nothing I love more than research. Best thing? Worst thing? Most unexpected change? Thing you miss most from your twenties? Let’s hear it.

ain't she a beaut

<Beth, Philadelphia, July 2010.>

We went to Philadelphia a few weeks ago for Josh’s show at the Grape Room in Manyanuck. We wandered around Philly the next day, mostly stopping at landmarks and deciding the lines were too long, or the entrance fee was too high, or who cares about history anyhow. Lunch was finely enjoyed at Eulogy, a Belgian pub in Old City. We laughed at the people on the steps of the Art Museum doing Rocky Arms. We drove back in the fading afternoon light, so exhausted and elated from being Somewhere Else. Driving in cars with friends is still one of my favorite things, even when we take the wrong highway and I crush my knuckles against the steering wheel trying to Be Cool about it, when we all know I am Not Cool about getting lost. I love traveling with friends, particularly the best ones, particularly the best ones who like having booze with lunch.

Lately, Stuart and I have been very nesty. Or I’ve been really nesty, and Stuart just likes me. We have a beautiful apartment and it gives me such stupid bougie joy to come home to it, to drop my keys on our kitchen table and let our little dog out of the office, to watch him bounce and whine with excitement, to open the fridge and know there are ingredients for an easy summer salad and maybe a quick pasta, to watch another episode of Life with dinner, to sleep deeply in a darkened cold room with my loved ones just right there. I have small bougie joys. Let me have them.

A friend (one of the best ones) said to me recently during a particularly soulful and wine-fueled heart-to-heart that I don’t have to justify having had a great childhood. It struck me with the not unpleasant sense of being very, very understood by the people I love. She’s right; I’m exceptionally hard on myself and one of my reasons (among many) is that if I don’t do something extraordinary with the blessings I’ve been given, then I’ve wasted them. This is like the exact opposite of people who still fuck their lives up because their childhoods were crummy. Neither is particularly healthy. These standards I’m carrying around don’t affect anyone but me.

Lessons here: a) it’s nice to have friends that remind you to give yourself a damn break already. b) Husbands sometimes get tired of making this point as you yet again agonize over some tiny choice and the Right Way to choose. c) It does not help to have this huge legacy from someone who was really good at ethics and taught you maybe too well. d) Things to talk about in therapy! e) all of the above.

Where were we? Oh, right. So, a motley assortment of other cool things:

Guess what I did last week? Saw David Mitchell read at BookCourt with Zan, got three whole books autographed (including a replacement copy of Black Swan Green, since I lent it to someone unworthy and never got it back). Then we went to dinner, her and Jen and Lavina and I, at Apt 138 and we drank gin things and laughed about everything. Then, the next night, Stuart and I joined Mayumi to see Mitchell read, again, this time at Greenlight, and then we went with May and her mama for a glass of wine at Stonehome, and then Stuart and I finished with dinner for two at Smoke Joint. Date nights are good, you guys.

Guess what I’m doing next week? Having brunch with Leah and Kristin at the same time. Plus, thanks to Leah, I’m going to pretend to be a decent blogger for once and go to the Friday night BlogHer party.

Guess what I’m doing next month? Turning 30 and going to Santa Fe on the same day. YEAH.

Guess what I’m doing in September? Starting my last year of coursework for my Master’s degree. And taking over the world. Watch out!

a girl and her dog

It’s been six long months since winter, since the worst and toughest days. I’d like to think – why is that in my nature, that I’d always like to think? – that there’s something I’ve learned here, that I’ve put my pencil down and finished the exam and now this is what I’ve learned.

But in truth, there’s little I’ve learned through winter into spring and now that we’ve tumbled into summer except that grief is a thing I will have to endure with as much grace as my reserves can muster. I have learned that it can be less often but not less potent. I have learned that I miss my dad no less today than I already did six months ago, the day he died. I have learned that because of our extraordinary bond, it’s okay that this part is the hardest, but that other parts are easier – the parts where I have no regrets and I know where I stood, which was in a place of real and abiding love. Where I still stand, actually.

I’ve learned who I can rely on to check on me a little more than usual, and who I have to forgive for being unable to cope with loss. I have learned that I can be tough and competent when I need to be, when Mom needs me to be, but that at home, with my tears buried into Stuart’s shoulders, I don’t need to be any kind of competent or tough, I can just be bereft if I want to be. I have learned that Stuart is my rock, well, I already knew that, but I know that without him I would have long ago needed a dive mask to get through the vale of tears.

And I learned that as the sun warmed our corner of the earth, I got through more days with more smiles, and now I’m doing better. I’m less irrational, I’m less afraid of the unknown, un-dad-approved future. I’m more vulnerable, still, I am still a delicate fucking flower compared to the Weimar tank I used to be, but I’m better. And now that it’s unbearably hot out, and I can’t remember how cold and frozen it was in December when I didn’t think the world would ever warm again, I can’t believe it’s been six months and the hardest six months, at that, and there isn’t anything to show for it. Not exactly.

through the trees

picnic, ho!

Stuart and I took the ferry over from Brooklyn (three minutes!) this Sunday afternoon, to rent bikes and tool around the island like proper yuppies. It was our first visit, but I felt as though I knew the place well. Firstly, because I’ve spent countless minutes zooming around it on Google Maps, and secondly, because it felt like the dream version of one’s childhood: all cobblestone paths that you rattle down, legs stuck out at stick-figure angles from your bike, clanging your little bike bell. Curving around a sea wall and feeling the wind ripping through your hair, snatching your voice as you yell to your buddy. Dropping the bikes in rough, pleasing grass and flopping down to suck water from a plastic bottle. Riding by churches, and ice cream stalls, and big houses with wrap-around porches. Everything you think is great about the world when there are no cars and all bikes, and delicious sharp wind and a big blue sky and very few cares.

Basically what I’m saying here is, why haven’t you been to Governors Island yet? C’mon, let’s go!

trusty steeds

I’m starting to notice this pattern. Fridays are impossible. Something
about the amount of wind my sails can hold, I don’t know, only gets me
until Thursday night at 10pm. Then I wake up on Friday and I know the
only thing I have to do is go to work. Compared to the rest of my week
where it’s usually work-school, or other-work/work, or school-school
… you’d think Fridays would be a breeze. But my little sail refuses
to lift. It’s waterlogged. I wake up and all I fantasize about, roughly, with violent
intent, is staying under the covers until Monday.

So I get up late and put on clothes – usually clothes I look crappy in, because somehow by Friday I can no longer be bothered to bother – and I usually forget or can’t be bothered with breakfast. I give the dog a terrible walk, poor dog, and I go to work. And I’m usually pretty productive, if I can forget how tired and waterlogged I am. But all I can think is, it’s not really Friday. I’ve got class on Saturday morning, surely that defies the very Fridayness of a Friday. All this non-Friday is going to be the end of me.

What is there that is sunny: well, there’s been some sun this week, for one. (Look at my tattered rags of repartee, reduced to scraps of weather.) On an unexpectedly beautiful walk on Thursday morning, I curved around to the sweeping harbor views of Sunset Park to find just the mildest hint of mild on the wind, a lack perhaps of cold more than a breath of warmth. I was gulping it in, giddy with the idea that Spring is coming, and surely this great inky black spider weaving its little dirgy ditty in my chest will be banished when Spring comes.

Maybe all I need is a cookie.

This morning something occurred to me, as I fought the impulse to stay home instead of dragging my weary bag of bones to yet another Saturday class (it’s never as bad when I get here as I imagine it’s going to be) … it occurred to me that it would have been enough to proceed with work, just work, under this stupid inky umbrella of grief. Work would have been plenty. But school, well, there are moments when I just don’t feel tough enough to do any justice to school.

Who am I kidding! There are moments when I don’t feel tough enough to peel a banana. For the first time in my adult life I am a delicate fucking snowflake. I suppose if I had been someone already given to a fair amount of hand-wringing and hyperbole, all this grief would be a practiced flourish, perhaps? As it is, all I can do is look back on the happy, centered and rational person I feel quite sure I was through November 18, 2009, and miss the stuffing out of her. I particularly miss her when I find myself throwing tantrums over what kind of taco I ordered, or crying because the train is late, or snapping at Nano because he isn’t walking fast enough. Honestly! Who is this drama queen! And by drama queen, I mean me.

I have a song (I’ve become someone with a song!) that I put on my iPod when I’m really just tired of pushing past the stupid feelings I’m feeling all over the place, and just want to stand in place (last night it was in the middle of Union Square Park) and just feel the damn feelings already. It’s the Rolling Creekdippers’ cover of Gram Parson’s In my Hour of Darkness. It even has a dramatic title! But I suppose it reminds me that even though I don’t believe, I can still plead with the Universe to cut me some slack already. And by Universe, I mean me.

Then there was an old man,
kind and wise with age
he read me just like a book
and never missed a page.
Oh, I loved him like my father
and I loved him like my friend.
And I knew his time would surely come
but I did not know just when.

In my hour of darkness,
in my time of need,
O lord grant me vision,
O lord grant me speed.