Thursday, June 21, 2012

goodbye: plain

When I was in fifth grade, a friend asked a friend who asked a friend who asked a boy I was crushin' on if he liked me. By the time his answer got back to my innocent ears, the message was broken down to its most basic, sans bullshit: No. Why? Because he thinks you're plain.

The fact that he didn't like me was not as alarming to me as his reasoning: my apparent plainness. What did that mean exactly? My imagination went wild. Was it my hairdo? My large, round glasses which - in my defense - were what all kids in the early 90s were sporting? Did I walk funny, or laugh funny, or talk funny, so that he found my overall person to be plain? What made me, this interesting, unique, quirky, chatty, freckled, lively (in my mind) fifth grader, plain??

That assessment of my personhood has undoubtedly haunted me on and off for years. And it's resurfaced at the most random of times, usually when I'm doing something I consider rather bold and NOT plain. I've laughed with glee while repelling off a cliff in Maine: haha, plain, take that! While hitch-hiking in Hawaii in a multicolored dress I've giggled at how opposite of plain this must seem. I've picked outfits, and friendships, and life paths often times to reject the notion that I am, or could ever be, plain. It's taken on a life of its own, a persona, this part of me that could be - but desperately doesn't want to be - plain.

But, like many people who live in the world full of other humans who can choose to judge you or applaud you, I can't help but worry at times about what people really think of me. When I am seen on the street, do people grimace or smile?

So despite my personal rebellion against plainness, I've edited or modified things that I'd really like to do, in order to not stand out too much or risk being mocked for something I did. It's a shame I can't embrace the rebellion more fully, it's a shame I worry and wonder how people see me. But alas, I am human. And a sensitive one at that.

But I've been bored lately. And I have a blog/life project to work on.

So yesterday I went to the hairdresser and said: Do something different. My hairdresser was giddy. She's been wanting me to go beyond the definition of myself I've chosen for the two years I've gone to her and gotten basically the same haircut.

So she gave me a severe bob, and some trendy, severe, "baby bangs." At first I worried I looked like someone from Star Trek or that one stooge. I just looked in the mirror and laughed and laughed and laughed. So much so that others in the salon began to look my way, concerned. I couldn't believe the face I saw in front of me. It was me, but a little more quirky and fun. A little more full of humor and glee. I felt I looked crazy dorky, and I liked it. Honestly, I was somewhere between my four-year-old self, and the grown woman I strive to be. Which is about right.

Then I realized she basically gave me the haircut I've wondered about for years, but been too worried or insecure to try. She made me (more or less) Amelie

It's a choice to be the person we want to be. The only way we risk becoming the person we fear, the person we are scared people think we are, is if we resign ourselves to that fate. I'm only as plain as I choose to be. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

mid-june inspirations

People who don't listen when others say "you can't."

The philosophy contained in this quirky video. This honestly feels like a spiritual text to me; a way to live our lives well.

The new Metric album and this fantastic studio session I got to witness.

The death of a childhood hero inspiring a new summer reading list. First up: Dandelion Wine. (RIP childhood hero.)

Kale season and associated recipes!

Monday, June 11, 2012

hello: I'm kind of a big deal

What a strange and wonderful day this was!

Perhaps it's been clear from the blog - or perhaps some of my readers (3 and counting...) are good at reading between the lines, but yes, I've been feeling a bit blue lately.

But maybe it's more accurate to say: I've been feeling very alone. Alone in that ultimate way - like even if I'm surrounded by people, when it comes down to it I'm really, deeply, utterly alone. Born alone, die alone. That sort of debbie downer thinking. It's been coursing through my body lately, impacting every step I take. I just haven't been able to shake the feeling. Even after good days and moments of connection, I still have been coming home to wallow in my solitude. As often happens when I feel this way, I have been pushing away those I love rather than asking for their support. Trying to prove my loneliness is justified or some nonsense like that...

And then - poof! The universe, as it's been known to do, gave me the greatest shake of all.

It actually began a few months ago when a colleague of mine, I'll call him Bob cause that's his name, and I were chatting. Bob, if I'm to be honest, is one of my favorite people at work. He is a reporter, has a blog on our organization website, and I read it religiously. I start my morning with his first column of the day and usually cry at my desk reading some story he has covered. I like that he's a pretend-curmudgeon that deep down wants to believe the world, and the people in it, are good. I relate to his jaded hope...

But anyway, he and I were talking this one day a few months back. Actually, it was in the midst of my little storm cloud hoovering over me, and instead of saying "I'm well" when he asked "How are you doing?" I said: "Pretty shitty." He seemed to like my no bullshit attitude, and asked me to sit down.

We got to talking about life, mental health, work stresses...and then I happened to mention a time in my life I had actually gone on adventures, a time I had been a farmer/farmed. And he perked right up and said, "Now that's a story I'd like to hear!" And then he told me - without knowing if I can write or not - to write the story, cause he'd sure like to read it.

That was two months ago. About a day after the conversation the last line of the story came to me, which has never happened to me before, and I scribbled it down on a scrap of paper. And then I proceeded to stare at that line for two months.

Until this past week when I was talking to my college BFF Adam on the phone and bemoaning my writer's block of late and he simply said, "What writer's block? It's gone. I banish it." We hung up and I spent an hour writing my story. I finished it the next morning on the bus in to work. I wrote and wrote and ended up at the last line I had written two months prior. It still felt like the right way to end the story, which seemed like a miracle in itself.

And then I shared the draft with - of all people - my middle school English teacher. She's great. She gave me good feedback which simultaneously brought me back to 8th grade and brought me forward in my adult writing.

And then I sent the story to Bob last night with a disclaimer and a thanks. Thanks, I said, for asking me to tell my story, for just asking. Thanks, I said, for letting me be honest. This, I said, is one story of many, but I hope it gets at the essence of my experience. Thanks, I told him, for helping me find the words to capture the essential part of this time in my life.

And he wrote back and said: "I'm posting this on my blog tomorrow."

Immediately I had a little flurry of butterflies in my stomach. I also thought, "Shit, I kind of overshared in that piece."

But then I held my breath and waited for it to hit the world-wide-web. On my favorite blog nonetheless! Holy shit!

And when it did, wow, did I ever get the surprise of my life. The feedback came pouring in - texts, emails, calls, facebook accolades. And then, it was mentioned on the radio by one of my favorite hosts. (To be fair, I work at a radio station and it wasn't so out of the blue, but still.) I didn't hear it myself, but plenty of friends did, and they made sure to tell me.

So here's the lesson: I am not alone. In the midst of my deepest self-pity and self-loathing, I decided to be honest about some part of my life story, to be completely vulnerable and real, and people from all over - some I know and some I don't - responded.

And no matter what it is they said specifically, what I was hearing generally is: you are not alone. 

My daily meditation for today is called "Be honest with yourself." And it says: "The way to joy, the way to the heart is tender, soft, gentle, and honest."

How true that is. Being vulnerable and honest opens us up not only to ourselves, but to all the people out there who love and applaud and cherish us, and who we love and applaud and cherish as well. 

I need to send Bob a thank you note. On it I will write very simply: The world can feel noisy and isolating. Thank you for helping me feel heard. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Lately I have rediscovered some wonderful things:

The joy of sitting on a picnic blanket with a group of dear friends, talking about what makes the world go round.

The pleasure of writing with a good pen in a new notebook.

The freedom of traveling by bike.

The summer's first sunburn: unpleasant but not unexpected.

Listening to the little voice inside that urges you to take care of yourself when everyone else is screaming at you to be careless.

Sometimes being reckless, to remember what that feels like.

That it's okay to be in a funk, but it's also okay to wake up and decide to live today as the person you want to be even if it feels fake. Sometimes you just have to live it until it feels real.

The feeling the day it starts to seem real.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

homeownership by numbers

It's been harder and harder to sit my butt down and make updates in this here blog when summer is in full swing. I tend to find myself completely preoccupied with working in my garden, walking around my garden, sitting in a patch of grass and looking around my garden, and generally thinking about my garden. Yes, obsessive.

I definitely laugh at myself a lot though, especially when I just find myself sitting on my back steps staring out at the "great abyss" simply thinking. That's when I feel truly ridiculous. I could certainly be doing something better than thinking about the work I have to do on the yard, right?

Probably during one of those garden sessions I suddenly realized, my three-year anniversary of living in old blue had come and gone!

Wow, what a trip it's been.

I'm not so sure that certain things I consider "milestones" in my life as a homeowner would be considered such by others, but as I sat back and let myself reflect on the three years, I realized there has been a lot of significance in what has gone down these past three years.

Here's one way of looking at it:

Three roommates.
One dead mouse in a shoe.
Two times tilling up the entire back yard.
Four grape plants, two raspberry bushes, three blueberry bushes, one hazelnut - all of which were given to me as gifts by friends or neighbors. 
Thirty irises from my mother's garden in Missouri transplanted here.
Over a dozen pieces of art made by friends or local artists hanging on my walls.
Five coats of blue-green paint in the guest room. 
One Halloween party attended by a troupe of six super-hero vegetables (including me as Super Beet).
Two occurrences of potential-but-not-quite-boyfriends breaking up with me in the middle of the night and walking their sorry asses home as I looked from my front door, sadly. (Yuck, going through this once was bad enough...but twice?? Cruel.)
One summer of yelling at rabbits as they happily ate my vegetable garden (current).
One blizzard followed by five hours of shoveling followed by one new snow-blower.
Countless potlucks and parties and gatherings.
One lover turn loved turned heartbreak turning to past love.
Also one dead squirrel under the back porch that involved emergency removal and dramatic screaming.
Hundreds of seeds and bulbs planted, followed by hundreds of terrible cell phone photos on the way to catch and/or miss the bus.
What feels like a hundred hours of indecision and questions and worries, and at least double that of joy and comfort and certainty over making this place home, putting down the cash to put down roots, and putting in the time to make it where I want to spend my days.

Oh, and one really awesome song, written by my first roommate who loves this place as much as I do: