You cannot change what you refuse to confront.
Unknown (via modernhepburn)
letters I write to Jenny in my mind on the subway

dear jenny, 

it’s been an interesting week. over the weekend i married a friend and her now husband. legally. i stood in front of more than 100 people and told them what the three essential elements to marriage are (friendship, forgiveness and love, if you were curious), i accidentally made a sexual innuendo, and i held back tears. marriage, when it’s right, it beautiful. love, oh LOVE, love i’m not sure describing does it justice. i’ve made a hobby out of describing things that seem indescribable, but perhaps that’s the thing, i’ve never experienced “in love” love, only seen others live it out. i’m a love fraud, incapable of writing a metaphor that doesn’t sound like a teenage acoustic songwriting exercise.   

then i returned to life. filled with work emails to answer, bills to pay, dirty laundry under my bed, 8 pounds too many on my ass, shriveling onions in my kitchen and caffeine headaches. 

monday afternoon i got in the elevator at my work with my quickly picked up and not so great lunch in hand, and a tall asian man said thank you for holding the door. then he said he knew me, from church, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. winston. he is an ivy league educated and quite possibly one of only 22 tall chinese men alive. his hair was a little too long and a little too curly for asian hair, but somehow kinda sexy. he was nice. he knew who i was and i’d never met him, so i assume i’d made some visual impression, what kind i can only guess. i mentioned it casually to my friend and it turns out he actually makes quite a lot of money and is some big investor. i found myself wondering if i could force attraction to asian men and if i was willing or able to go from dating penniless men to men who could fully support me and a lifestyle of afternoon yoga and morning coffees so i could toil away at my not-going-anywhere writing. before i could decide how i felt about this man and the imaginary infatuation i decided he has with me, i starting typing on my computer and leading client meetings. one cannot thing of fake love and relationships and work well at the same time. 

the next evening i had my bi-weekly writing group. there’s this man jenny, this early-40s MAN. he has that balding super short haircut that somehow, rare as it may be, manages to make certain men MORE attractive. he has a voice that curls around your back and puts it’s hand on your hip in just the right place and whispers in your ear. it’s just…well…simultaneously comforting and god damn sexy. our writing group consists or me, him, and a bunch of old woman. our token bitter divorced man was out rebuilding a relationship with his daughter. this man spent the entire time across the room from me, and while i felt like a 2-year-old in my black dress with the ruffled neckline i wanted him to walk over and fuck.me.hard. 

this gets worse. the leader is a jewish 60something female author who hosts the group in her UWS apartment that is stuck in the 70s in a glorious time warp. there is no A/C so she had fans set up. she mentioned to the group that the three of us on the other side of the room were looking hot and needed a fan on us. seth, that’s his name, got up and turned it on us. he said quietly, not a whisper but somehow still muttered and sultry that they did look hot. i was startled. was he talking to me? he seemed to be. surely not the two other women. but maybe? did he actually think we looked warm? but he said it so sensually? but maybe it’s just that fucking melted chocolate voice he has. 

later in the group it was his turn and he proceeded to read out loud his pages. oh jenny, his pages. they contained the most incredible sex scene i’ve ever read and i’m not kidding. hot. passionate. sad. beautiful. timestoppingly wonderful. a little dirty. a little lovely. sex. in fact, i was quite hot in the warm apartment, and his pages split my down the middle and left me melted on the ground. wanting. 

as we were all leaving later he asked me in the elevator what i did for a living and i was evasive. mostly because i want this stupid non-existent chemistry i’m sure i’ve imagined between us to stay unlocked. at a distance. imaginary. he is my ex-boyfriend 10 years later - literally, so it should be no surprise why i find him utterly fuckable. why i picture us having cocktails, him scotch, me a g&t, in the corner of a bar on high stools with the lights dim and our knees touching. and his hand…occasionally resting a little too high on my thigh. 

this is the world in my mind of a girl who just married a couple in love. of a girl who wants something amazing but isn’t sure she wants any of the bad parts. of a girl who isn’t sure she’ll ever experience love. of a girl who hasn’t felt like pushing someone against a wall and letting him know everything she’s thinking without saying a word. 

this is either pathetic, or just fucking life. late 20s, romcom raised, not dating, not kissing, not fucking, not sure of anything life. 

and i got off the subway that night after my weekend of love, my monday of asian convincing, my tuesday of raw sex appeal, and then the heaviness that was sitting in the air since my plane landed sunday night opened up and it rained. i almost laughed. it was as if God was saying cool down that heat inside you and just sit under your umbrella for a while. it’s not time to prance through the fields, or swim in the sunshine, just get out your umbrella and try not to get wet.

via
creative spaces

I’m not happy with XYZ. I wish I was XYZ. I wish I knew XYZ. I wish I had the time for XYZ. 

Playing the victim is not just a role for battered women or depressed men. We can allow ourselves to play the victim in even the smallest area of our personal lives. I’ve been playing the victim for a while now, remaining stuck in a profession I do not like, and recently I’ve grown sick and tired of myself. 

I realized shortly after graduating college that I approached the professional world similar to my vacations - excitement and anticipation during the planning and then total letdown during the actual trip. Post-college working girl life has been a total letdown. I’ve become desperate to completely change a career I’ve spent years building; to make a drastic and irrational change for the sake of risk and newness. However, I don’t feel passionate enough about any of these risky opportunities to, well, risk it! 

Additionally, I spent three years in counseling shedding the weight of anxiety, and in the midst of that somewhat selfish time of healing and restoration I went on a hunt to rediscover my passions. 

My passions: words, relationships, food, creativity, music, good design, deep conversations, being inquisitive, watching positive change, God

This list was confusing to me. I wanted it to read - law, medicine, graphic design, editor, digital specialist, teacher, etc. I wanted to feel passionate about making a major change to a new profession and I wanted the certainty that extreme passion brings. 

I recently read a wonderful quote that puts a myth to this “just follow your dreams!” talk. 

"I am hesitant to say, ‘Follow your passion,’ because I don’t believe in that. It has to be something that you are also good at and that the world finds valuable." - Jeffery Veers

What am I good at, that I enjoy, and that the world finds valuable? This is yet to be determined. 

I decided a while ago that instead of making drastic changes, I would start by making small changes. I enrolled in a writing class that turned into a bi-weekly writing group that forces me to sit down, shut up and put something on the page. I need structure and discipline in general, and especially living in a city where survival is not the minimum expectation but a definition for success, as they say, “if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” 

I also decided that instead of changing my career, I would try and return to an in-house position for a company/organization that I believed in that would more than pay the bills but also allow me to have less professional stress and more work-life balance. 

In the meantime, I’ve made a commitment to creative spaces. To carving out time each week to step away from my computer, phone and TV and work with my hands. Sometimes all we need to hear answers is a bit of silence in our bombarded lives. 

And in a city that seems to push me into unhealthy extremes, I’m taking a page from Jeffery Veers:

"I try to find a balance between going fast and going slow." - Jeffery Veers

I recently picked up Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water, a book about being a Christian artist. I hesitate to call myself an artist because that feels pretentious and untrue. I do not like to take pictures, or paint canvases or design websites. But I do like to create. I like to write. I like to experience. I like to sing. In the book she talks about creating space in your life to listen. To be still. To be. 

Even if we are comfortable with who we are, I’ve found that often we are still afraid to be. Being means confrontation and discomfort. It means listening to things we are uncertain we want to hear. But extreme busyness is selfishness. Busyness cuts out a pathway to God and increases self-reliance and structure to the point of suffocation. 

For the first time in weeks as I was reading L’Engle’s book I felt an urge to pray. I prayed that God would place in me a desire so strong that it would feel like going against him to ignore it. That this art would be born out of me and that I could give life to it, and that it’s life would touch others. That I would choose stillness and listening, receive the art and then choose obedience. 

I felt a great sense of relief that I was not relying on myself to produce or discover this artistic need, but only placing a burden to create space in my life for listening, openness and creativity. 

So this is my next step, creative spaces. 

Hope slips through your fingers before you can touch it. You imagine it tastes crisp, like ice cold water, light like citrus, but somehow also deliciously heavy like vanilla cream. You trust that hope is there for the taking because what else can you do? Live in despair? That is no way to live. That’s a way to die. So to live, you choose to continue to grasp for the ghost that is hope, floating before a hello and lingering after a goodbye, somehow intertwined with love, its elusive twin.
Don’t think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. Overtell it in the matter of detail—cutting comes later. The form will develop in the telling. Don’t make the telling follow the form.
John Steinbeck (via andrewryanshepherd)
New Year

I thought it would stop, the wondering and thinking. The loss of a boyfriend is so commonplace that the empathy extended to an unlucky recipient ends after a week, but the heart still feels off kilter. It’s been more than a year and I still think about him daily – I’m embarrassed to say. I thought it would stop since I don’t want us to get back together; since our issues were larger than the future we could have taken on as a pair.

But here I am, wide awake at a quarter to two in the morning on the second day of this new year and I’m thinking about how handsome I thought he was, how I was able to tell him the deepest darkest parts of my heart and how much I loved his kisses.

Women play this game of looking for wedding rings on new gentlemen’s left hands when we meet or imagining the dog we might get together with our alliterated named husband during our first year of marriage, but we sometimes forget about the gap that happens in our heart if it ends. You cannot take back the talks long into the night, the times he held you when you cried or the tender and passionate moments between the sheets.

Where does one go from here? The first few dates with new men are a letdown because they haven’t known you for a year and a half and cannot pick out a restaurant you’d love or order your favorite cocktail while you run to the restroom. All the “theys” out there say old flames fade with time and especially with the entrance of a new man on the scene, but time is just causing me to increasingly wonder if that broken, fractured and dysfunctional thing I called “love” is the last “love” I’ll ever find.

Thus, the miracle of discovering a life partner continues to both amaze and frighten me. 2.10 million people were married in 2010, and while many of them will end in divorce, logic tells me there will be another, a better another, a less dysfunctional another and hopefully a “forever” another. But I still ask – what happens with the other anothers? Does your heart forget?

My mother talking about her high school boyfriend and the breakup that followed 40 years after the fact tells me that a heart never forgets it’s gaps from a love that ended. I think my heart is not made to withstand lots of loves ending. C.S. Lewis says heartbreak is not worth closing off your heart, even if it never wants to experience the maceration of itself again. The light of day accompanied by the feeling of possibility tells me old Lewis is, predictably, correct.

It’s now 2 a.m. and I feel I have no choice but to spend this newest of years restraining bitterness, pursuing peace and forging hopefulness for new love.

heathen

image

For 10 solid years I clung to God out of some mix of anger, desperation, confusion, need and borderline psychosis. When that ended, I didn’t need to cling and I found myself busy with tasks - my melancholy, neurotic thoughts an arms length away. I discovered I don’t know how to relate to God in the mundane. Our long-term manic relationship was replaced with one so ordinary that the daily desperation of “will I make it to work on time” or “does she want to be my friend” were not strong enough to facilitate the erratic push and pull I was used to fueling my connection.

With these missing ques followed a life of minimal prayer and absent of biblical reading. Eyes open at church, I listen to the prayers but do not participate. I sing half the words of the worship songs, but my voice sounds hollow. Need is always present, but if it’s not landed me in a hospital or crying on my bedroom floor I don’t seem to notice it. I seem capable of caring for myself somewhat adequately apart from others, and I forget I have needs at all. 

But sometimes in writing or listening to music I connect with this deeper me. Not the one who sips on a gin gimlet and touches strangers’ shoulders at bars- someone different. Someone who feels deeply. Who loves thoroughly. Who gives freely. 

I’d like to find her again, and therefore find God again. Hopefully I’ve grown out of our dishes throwing, arms flailing, finger pointing relationship and into one worthy of an adult woman. 

(photo via Ignite Light

"You’re going to have a beautiful scar"

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My physical therapist looked down at my knee, her fingers ardently placed on my leg just below my knee. “You’re going to have a beautiful scar,” she said. I smiled.

I remembered the girl in the waiting room of my doctor’s office a few weeks earlier, she’d had a “troublesome recovery” and her scar was oddly purple and sunken in along the line where her skin had been cut. She told me that when our doctor went to move her kneecap post surgery she reflexively hit her. Years of pain from dislocations made her protective of her knee, and the surgery did not suddenly shift her learned fears. But she seemed bubbly about her recovery, “8 months out” she told me proudly. No sign of dislocations, but she did not have a beautiful scar. 

It wasn’t until a week later as I was walking along the sidewalk headed to catch the subway home late from work that I started saying the phrase over and over again in my head, “You’re going to have a beautiful scar, you’re going to have a beautiful scar, you’re going to have a beautiful scar.” Ashamed at my own emotions, I felt myself tearing up on the sidewalk, umbrella in hand, bags from work methodically hitting my side. Perhaps I’m too literary, too emotional, too deep. I told myself it was silly to cry, remembering what others had recited to me about being overly dramatic, being able to “feel everything.” But the power of that statement cut through me, right there on the sidewalk, whether I wanted privacy with my thoughts or not.

It is immature to think we’ll go through life without scars, but damn, I hope they are all beautiful.

photo via Flickr | Uncommonmuse

Divorce - Billy Collins

Divorce
by Billy Collins 

Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.