Morning Rituals

Heat the water.

Grind the beans.

Wait.

Plunge.

Listen to the hushed whisper of breath meeting the top of the cup, moving the dark liquid into sweet circles away from you.

Sip.

It’s time for another day.  Time for the gears in your mind to start working again, pushing forward through clouds of thick foggy sleep into the bright relentless daylight.  It’s time to move through the day, make your decisions, important and benign.  Time to chat with coworkers about your weekend plans, sit at your desk, do your work.  Go home, see your loved ones, maybe eat some dinner, do some work from home before your head hits the pillow and you groggily pull yourself out of your warm and beautiful bed tomorrow morning.

Wake up and know that this is it.  We have arrived.  This is life and it’s here every morning for the taking.  Grind those beans with purpose.  Know that it’s all for something, even if we can’t completely define that something.

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Ideals Break Away

The world fell apart in layers for me. The facade was peeled away like an onion with it’s outer layers appearing like something out of a technicolor Disney movie gradually darkening and solidifying into a potent center that resembles a Kafka novel. It’s partially due to my American upbringing and the generation I’m a part of. Everything is possible when you’re born into the white middle class of the United States.

I’m seeing it second hand in my middle sister. She’s sixteen. The first few layers of sugar coated bliss are peeling away. She’s becoming cynical and it’s breaking my heart. I hear so much of myself in her voice. The raw hurt, the disconnect as she tries to retreat into herself and protect her heart. Defensive and skeptical, she moves through the world squinting her eyes, trying to decipher between good and bad, hurtful and helpful.

I almost feel lucky that my view of the world started morphing from a very early age. It gave me time to adjust, step by step, and it helped me come into the world knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy. I would have to fight for everything I love. My parents divorced when I was two. My mom married an asshole when I was four. My grandfather, who was the most father like figure in my life committed suicide when I was 13. I went to Japan and saw the world when I was 16. I moved to Seattle and lived on my own, paying my own bills, making my own decisions at 18.

Imagine you start training a dog to fetch a ball from the time he’s a few weeks old. You have him fetch it a few times a week, every week, all his life. You throw him curve balls, throw them long, throw them short, keep it varied. That dog is going to be really good at fetching balls. I’m thankful the world taught me to fetch from an early age. Each heart break left me picking up the pieces, putting it all back together and learning to do that at a time when I was young, agile, flexible and fluid made me strong and quick. I’m not scared of much because I know I can make it through most things thrown my way. I have so far.

But what about my sweet, sweet sister? Will she learn to fetch?

I hold her in extra high regard because I have another sister who is far less mature, far less adjusted and I can’t relate to her at all. But my sweet sister, she’s a replica of me. Granted, she’s smarter than I am and in my opinion much kinder (although she argues she’s not a nice person at all.) She’s my half sister, born to my dad and stepmom. She doesn’t care for boys or make up. She’s in honors classes and plays the violin. She’s always been an avid reader, revealing her intelligence at an extremely early age. She grew up with both of her parents, a sweet dad that takes her to and from school every day, talks to teachers about her performance and is at every soccer game and a mom who probably cares too much and is overprotective in the right ways. She grew up with two brothers who love and adore her and me, her big sister from afar. They didn’t have a lot of money, but she never went without. Her first heart break has been with her friends and realizing how much hard work goes into school. She’s planning for the SAT and college and it’s all really stressful. Her heart is broken because life isn’t what she expected it to be.

It seems benign or obvious. Of course life isn’t what we imagine it will be when we are four years old and of course we toughen up and learn to confront life with a certain gruffness to get us through, but those first few years of realizing we don’t live in Utopia are difficult to cope with. I often think that it would be easier to live in a constant state of denial and false hope. Maybe if I still believed in God and the idea that Jesus would save us all I would be happier. That used to be such a comfort to me. Unfortunately once you shed the light of logic on it all, it becomes far less magical like learning the logistics of the magician’s trickery.

Perhaps the world shatters in the same way for everyone. Maybe we all have our struggles and they are all equal between us. The moment our perception of the world fails us, we plummet from our carefree lives with our heads in the clouds, down to the cold hard concrete and we see what life is really about: the struggle to maintain some semblance of happiness in spite of the rules of the world, the push and pull, the friction. It’s easy to spot the people that avoid it- the ones that live in their happy bubbles of candy coated denial- they’re the ones standing to the side, staring at the wall with their backs to the world, pink bubblegum smiles plastered to plastic faces, eyes glazed over.

It comes down to whether or not you’re willing to look life in the eye and accept it for all of its glory and sunrises as well as its dark cavernous pitfalls. There’s only as much room for joy as you’ve carved out with sorrow. The spectrum of life, the magnificent variation and never ending opportunities for bliss and mourning create the friction and the conflict necessary to keep our world spinning. This is where we find true joy and purpose. As much as it pains me to see my sister go through these troubling times, I’m proud of her for saying yes to the journey. It will get easier. She will see the benefits of walking through dark times, the lessons and the perspective it will bring her.

To my sweet one, keep going. Don’t get discouraged. I know it’s a harsh wake up call, but I promise it’s worth it. I promise that feeling it all is better than walking through the world numb and glossy eyed. You are alive. You have the privilege and honor of fighting alongside those of us that have chosen the same fight. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

A Letter To Myself In This Moment

A Letter to Myself In This Moment-

So you’re coming out on the other end of a quarter life crisis. How’s it going? How are you? Is it as bad as you thought it would be?

Let me take a moment to remind you, it’s all going to work out. Remember that time when you were fifteen and you were absolutely certain that you were going to die before you turned eighteen? And now look at you! You’ve made it to twenty three! You’re here! Take a moment and be thankful.

I’d like to also take a moment to congratulate you on becoming who you are today. You’re doing pretty good. You’ve realized some important boundaries. I know you struggle with thinking you can still fix things with your parents, but as much as your heart aches and you try to rationalize that you can fix it, you have to remember that 1. You’ve tried that for roughly twenty years and 2. It takes two to tango and they would have to be willing to have a conversation with you, hear your words, have some sense of self awareness and introspection, and then be willing to change or explain themselves in a mature way. You’re not at fault for ceasing to hold your breath. You can only do so much as one person.

Maybe start trying to wrap your head around the fact that you’ve found the love of your life. I know you’ve got a lot going on trying to figure out career stuff and money stuff, and living day to day, but you recently met the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Don’t let these other circumstances distract you from the joys you’ve found in the amazing woman you’re planning your future with. Also, can you believe how lucky you are?

How exciting is it that kids are finally on the horizon???!!! We’re talking three years?! That’s so soon! That’s literally been your only hope and dream for so long, and it’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. You’re going to have babies SO SOON. You’re going to be a mom, SO SOON. I’m proud of you, and that’s really fucking exciting. You’re going to be an amazing mom. You’re going to finally feel the joy you’ve imagined in holding a little one in your own arms and never having to return them to their parents.

Keep going. Don’t stress too much. It’s all going to fall into place if you keep working hard, digging deep and giving it everything you’ve got. You will find your place in the world. Don’t get frustrated that it’s not all in place yet. It’s okay that you’re not Lena Dunham or even that kid from high school that went to UCLA and started his own business and now just travels for shits and giggles. You’re okay. You’re normal. Normal is not bad.

Take care of yourself. Remember how important you are and your place in the world is. Make a difference some way some how, be open and receptive to what the world places in front of you.

Be Well.

Lists and Thoughts

Writing can be like working out. You have to work out every day to get stronger. Some days you’re going to kill it and you’re going to kick some serious ass and feel awesome about it. Other days, you’re going to show up to the gym and feel completely lost and feel totally weak. But you know what? You showed up. So BRAVO. Today I’m going to do some light stretching and maybe return to these thoughts for some serious writing at a later date.

1. We should be consciously curating our lives.
2.We are going to die. Relatively soon. So every moment should count.
3.Eat the things that make your body happy and make you happy (for me it’s fresh yogurt and fresh baked sourdough right now. I cannot get enough.)
4.Do what makes you happy, literally do something every day that makes you feel awesome. I’m working on my headstands right now and I love seeing my progress.
5.Spend time with people who actually add things to your life. We’re only given so many minutes in our lives. It’s not infinite. Spend them wisely.
6.If you’re going to watch movies all afternoon, pick movies that are going to add something to your life! Be intentional! Be conscious!
7.Don’t let your eyes glaze over when you’re scanning through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t fill your life with junk and fillers. Be INTENTIONAL.
8. I’ve been dwelling on some rough shit right now, namely the relationship I have with my parents. What will happen when they die? It’s pretty far off, but still worries me. I don’t see us ever mending our relationship, so I can’t imagine what will happen when they get sick and old.
9. I had a dream that all of my extended family showed up one day and my grandfather sat me down and was asking me what I was doing with my life. I tried to explain that I was working on figuring that out. He handed me $200 and said, invest it, make something out of yourself. I have no idea what this means or how to invest money.
10.This whole Lena Dunham being a sexual predator thing has me worked up. If there’s anyone that’s going to shed light on the fucked up things we do as innocent kids, and laugh at their own creepiness, it’s Lena Dunham. So maybe everyone should calm the fuck down.
11.I’m baking bread for the first time in a long time today. I’m hoping it gives me back some passion and love for baking bread. I will also be pickling beets. And daydreaming about the amazing fresh yogurt I got from the West Seattle Farmer’s Market yesterday.

That was a lot of topics and a lot of venting. I didn’t think this blog would be for these kinds of writings. I’m allowing myself to be surprised by my own turn of events. More cohesive and constructive thoughts as soon as I find my brain.

A Dark Corner

Nearly every time I pass under an overpass on a freeway, I imagine someone has hurled their body over the bridge and will land on my windshield. Their terrified face only separated from mine by my windshield. Head cracked, blood beginning to pour, instantly pulled down and under my vehicle, a crumpled body in my rear view mirror, hit again by the person behind me.

I know it happens. I know there are people out there that have had this experience. I’ve heard about the first responders. My step dad was one of them. Several calls he made were of this very incident. Or a homeless person, mentally unstable, wandering into the middle of the freeway only to get pummeled by car after car. And the cars never stop. Unsure of what has just happened, they press forward. Surely it’s their imagination, there’s no way that could have been real.

But the day it happens to me, I will know exactly what has happened because I have been expecting it to happen for so long.

Maybe it’s because suicide is extremely real to me. My grandfather hung himself in his garage when I was thirteen. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve been told such gruesome tales since I was a pretty small kid. It was just part of my parents jobs. My mom was an ER nurse. My step dad was a fireman. My obsessive tendencies couldn’t have helped either. Nightmares as a kid included a lot of juxtaposed scenarios. The re-occuring dream that haunted me for years took place in a big play room for kids, made of pink cotton candy. We’re all jumping and laughing, in slow motion, children’s laughter echoing throughout. And suddenly, one piercing gun shot comes from out of sight. It’s over for all of us.

I lived in Seattle for five years. The Aurora Bridge is the second most common bridge for people to commit suicide from. I stumbled upon this article a few years ago and became obsessed. I drove over this bridge every day. I lived only a few hundred feet from it. I was most likely home when that girl jumped. The thing I still hold onto is that the people working at the office building facing the bridge had to close their blinds because they couldn’t stand to see people jumping anymore. Several times I found myself talking to police officers patroling the shores because someone had jumped within hours before.

Perhaps because of these images being so real to me, and maybe because I get fixated on the horror of them, Halloween does not strike me as something fun to celebrate. It’s stressful and only adds to the library of horrific incidents that play over and over in my mind. But somehow the general public really enjoys being scared and being involved in terrifying each other.

Beyond the Void

I come from the land of the Void. The land of no substance. There were once orange groves and people loved it for its proximity to the mountains, the desert and the beach. Now it is a dust bowl of empty thoughts and empty souls. I escaped early. I knew I had to. There was a vacuum there and if you stayed too long, you inevitably got sucked into it.

The drinking, the partying, the escaping. It will consume you, though there are few that somehow find their way into a remote corner where nothing can touch them. Staring at the wall with their backs to the world, this is where they find Jesus. This is where they find their ability to speak in tongues and their spiritual gift of healing through prayer. Like dust bunnies, they flock to this one untouchable corner and hold each other to their corner’s rule book- no sex, no drugs, no alcohol, no thinking, no questioning: Here is your spouse, God chose them for you. Get married. Have children. Teach those children to mind their corner, face the wall, soak in the rules you’ve set for them.

I escaped the vacuum and the corner, to a world that was bigger and fuller than I could take in. I’d heard glimpses of this world in the music I submerged myself into as a kid. The desperation, the frustration in the Shins, the quirkiness of being fascinated by neighbors without curtains in Ben Kweller, the suicidal depression that took Elliot Smith. I had seen these glimpses in books like Lord of the Flies or Death of a Salesman. I knew there were others like me- feeling the world in a raw and unfiltered way.

When I arrived at the doorstep of a huge city at 18, I felt it. Somehow it felt like integrity. It gave me friction and conflict to work through and resolve, stepping stones to understanding how much of the world I didn’t understand. The city’s grit made me realize I didn’t have to gloss over everything. I didn’t have to numb myself. I was allowed to grieve with the city’s homeless, contemplate the height of the buildings and the grime of the ground. I could take in the beauty of the changing leaves and breathe the exhaust of the city buses. Outside my bedroom window the bus ran with wire cables, half electric and half gas. When these wires got wet, they sparked as the bus went by. I would lie awake in the attic room of a huge house I shared with 10 other people, listening to the hum of the bus and the inevitable sparking sound and the bolt of lightening flashing through my dark and silent room.

Beauty and Darkness coexist. There is a line between what we can hold on our shoulders and what we have to forget to stay happy and feel like we are okay to keep living. To say it’s all beauty is ignorant. To say it’s all darkness is the fastest way to death.

The Four AM Drop

Nighthawk This short story is in response to this daily prompt.

“I have five minutes. I told him I was going out for cigarettes.”

“I haven’t told her.”

“But- you said- I don’t understand.”

“There hasn’t been a good time. She’s wrapped up in the details of the funeral.”

“I can’t- you can’t- this is outrageous! We’re supposed to leave in the morning! You gave me your word.”

“Catherine, it’s her father for Chrissakes. The poor thing just lost her father. Can you have a little bit of empathy?

Empathy?! Empathy?! How about you have a little empathy for me for once?!”

The server looked up and made eye contact with her. She knew she was being louder than what was acceptable, especially at this time of night, and she wondered how this might look in his eyes. It was nearly dawn. Her husband almost hadn’t noticed she had left in the middle of the night. He was a large, dense man and had a brain to match- as if he was made of wood with skin stretched over him, feeling nothing and obtaining no sense of intuition.The moment between she and the server dissipated as she rearranged herself, consciously taking the tension out of her neck, placing her elbows on the counter, trying to remain as casual as possible.

She and Duke had been seeing each other over the past three years. Her husband stiffly going to work, making passionless love to her on a predictable schedule, eating dry toast and never looking her directly in they eye- disinterested in what might be beyond her surface, or maybe content with the facade presented. Duke’s wife was beautiful, especially for her age, but she’d become distant and Catherine often wondered if she would become more beautiful with time as Duke’s wife had.

She knew Duke might be trading in the first wife for an updated, younger version, and it might someday happen to her, but taking that chance was better than staying in this stagnant life. The truth was, she didn’t know who’s baby it might have been. She’d convinced herself it must belong to Duke. How could a human life be formed out of the dust of such a loveless bed? And when she told Duke, there had been a brief flicker of light in his eyes before it turned to dread. She thought through it- if only his wife wasn’t in the picture. If only the roles were reversed and she was the man who had impregnated her precious young and slender lover, she would take her mistress by the waist and take her to a new city, maybe Chicago, and they would start their lives together, no questions asked. But she had told him six weeks ago and he had remained frozen.

The lines in his sleepless face were not a good sign, she thought. Nothing good happens in the middle of the night. They should have waited until dawn to reunite, waited for the dark monsters of anxiety and self reflection to crawl back into their tiny closets, waiting for darkness to fall again. Maybe then he would be ready to get on the train, like they planned, and get out of the city that had condemned them. They would run to the vast and colorful northern suburbs, leaving New York behind like a stain on hotel sheets. They’d find a small home and once she was comfortable and settled and there wasn’t any backing out of the mess they had made, she would fake the miscarriage that happened two weeks ago and show her allegiance to him, and he to her, by staying.

He opened his mouth and she felt the world crumbling around her.

“I can’t go through with this. I thought I could leave her. I thought we could move forward. I was wrong. I’ll give you the money you’ll need to…”

This was the end. Her chance to leave and start anew was slipping away as quickly as it had slipped in. A montage of memories ran through her head. The gala where he pressed her against a locked bathroom door, instantly running his hand up to her backside, pulling down her garter. The weekend they had managed to get away from their dreadful spouses and flee to the Hamptons, talking about their future and their plans for children, a house outside this city flogged with memories of who they used to be. Maybe they could go to Paris for their honeymoon. Duke had been fortunate throughout this bought of extreme recession and his family’s inheritance remained protected. He would take her away from her mediocre life with her mediocre husband. She recalled the moment she realized she was pregnant, she knew she had hooked him and secured this life for herself. And the moment she lost the baby, fearing it would all unravel if he found out.

She felt herself accepting a check. She took the shakily written note from Duke, it read “Dr. Janson, 45 W Turner St. New Jersey” and heard something from his mouth about Dr. Janson being a trusted doctor who took care of these matters and had long been a family friend. He got up briskly, knowing that her stunned face, frozen in this casual pose, staring at her fingertips, was not going to emit any more sound. He walked away without a touch, without a kiss.

She held onto the check for a week, wrapped up and neatly tucked into her compact. She took it out once in the morning and once in the evening and held it to her nose, searching for any trace of lingering cologne. Finally, when the check only smelled like her powder, she cashed it. She went to Gimbel’s and bought Duke’s cologne. She wrapped it neatly in brown paper and tied it with twine. When she came home that evening, she made dinner for her completely ignorant husband and gave him the sweet, thoughtful gift.