Tag Archives: what doesn’t kill me

in which I dig in the dirt with a spoon

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself crouched beneath my neighbor’s window, using a kitchen spoon to frantically scoop dirt from their garden into a ceramic mug, all the while poised to bolt if the door opened.

And I thought to myself, “Self, how did we come to be crouched beneath our neighbor’s window, using a kitchen spoon to frantically scoop dirt from their garden into a ceramic mug, all the while poised to bolt?”

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, one of my roommates moved out, and my friend Marx, who you may remember from some of our previous shenanigans1 moved in—huzzah! However, when the first roommate moved out, I discovered that everything that was useful in this apartment was hers, and everything that was a Cat in the Hat pennant and three copies of 500 Days of Summer on DVD was mine. So me, Marx, and our third roommate, who is making her blog debut so I will call Galactica2 have been left to refurnish what a few weeks ago was a completely furnished apartment.

Now something I relearn about myself every time I move is that I don’t like living in a state of flux. There is no gradually buying the things I need, no slow acquirement of necessities and then luxuries, no operating out of boxes until I find the time to unpack. I need a decorated apartment and I need it NOW.

So over the past few weeks, we have furnished our apartment in what can only be called a frenzied manner. The most notable acquisitions include a hundred year old steamer trunk purchased from Craigslist3, a flaming red foot locker, a free TV because Galactica has great friends, a World War II propaganda poster, a slightly incorrectly sized frame for said poster, a blue lantern in the style of Paul Revere, and some sunny yellow paint to cover what was once ghastly pea soup-colored benches.

Also some plants. Those were my idea.

You may remember that last summer I played mother to two lovely office plants, Sherlock and Mycroft. Being back in an office for the first time since then has made me yet again pine for greenery, so I made a snap decision to invest in two hanging baskets, some fern-ish things, and a flowery bush for our back deck. Then I ate a lot of food in jars with the thought I would repot the fern-ish things into these jars and be super Antorhopologie-esque5.

Except it turns out to repot something, you need dirt. Which I failed to consider.

You also, it turns out, need nerves of steel to nick this dirt from a garden that might not technically be yours but is on your property, except it’s technically not your property because you just rent the second floor, and the garden on what might or might not actually be your property is mostly cultivated by a downstairs neighbor who for no apparent reason dislikes you. Also the dirt in question just happens to be located directly underneath his office window6.

And that, kids, is the story of my now furnished apartment, my repotted plants, and my crouched spoon digging in the dirt.

 

  1. Such as the Ikea trip from Hell and our iFrankenstein opening night escapade.
  2. Because of our shared affinity for most things nerdy and awesome
  3. And a failed acquisition of a hundred year old piano, because apparently I wasn’t a “serious buyer.” Whatever that means4.
  4. Though I admit, my entire plan of how to get this piano back to our apartment was a set of bungee cords and the roof of Marx’s petite Mazda.
  5. It should be noted that I sincerely meant to take pictures of all these things to accompany this post, because a picture is worth a thousand words, or so I’ve been told, but somehow I forgot to set my alarm this morning, so blog pictures sort of slipped down the priorities list.
  6. And by the way, he has this fantastically cool pop up model of St. Basil’s Cathedral on his desk. Neighbor, you and I would probably be friends if you did not insist on hating me.
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in which my violin is fixed by a russian master and his dog

As you may or may not know, a few months ago I bought a violin. It should be noted that I am not an accomplished violinist by any stretch of the imagination. The word “novice” seems a bit generous to describe my skill. So my goal in purchasing said violin was to find something cheap but functional. I ended up buying one off Craigslist1. And for someone who knows nothing about violins and just wants to be able to play Greensleeves marginally well, it worked fine.

Until it didn’t. As the seasons changed, the pegs that hold the strings in place inexplicably refused to do their job. It didn’t seem like a big problem, but also not something I could fix on my own.

So a few weeks ago, I Gogglged violin repair. The first place that came up had both a high Yelp rating and was located near my school. Great, I thought, I have to pick up my diploma anyways. So I strapped my violin case to my back and set off.

sheeer

What I failed to notice was that the shop was located next to the symphony hall. And if I had noticed this, I might have realized that this probably meant they were accustomed to a certain caliber of clientele. Namely, not wannabe Craigstlist-trolling slightly-less-than-beginner violinists.

I approached the shop door and found myself greeted by a sign that announced in large, firm-looking letters NO WHISTLING. That’s weird, I thought. Maybe it’s a joke and these lovely violin-fixing people have a great sense of humor.

As soon as I opened the door, I realized immediately that this was not the case.

Inside, I found a room with fancy red carpet and walls lined with framed newspaper clippings and magazine covers, fancy art2, and only a few violins. As someone who used to get a lot of enjoyment out of walking into fancy stores in Europe and pretending I was rich, I know that the emptiest stores are always the most expensive ones. This shop was very clearly very expensive. The only furniture was a table so shiny you could see your reflection in it, surrounded by three straight-backed green leather chairs, and a desk at the opposite end of room with a tiny man and a tinier woman bent over it, neither of whom looked up when I entered. And stretched on the floor in the center of it all was a massive blonde dog. My parents have a St. Bernard, so I know a thing or two about big dogs, and this dog was BIG.

I hovered in the doorway, debating whether or not I should bolt. The giant blonde dog seemed to be the only one who noticed me, and he trotted up and sat down at my feet. I scratched him behind the ears.

sherly

After a few uncomfortable minutes, the man behind the desk acknowledged my presence by calling, “Yes, what is it you need?” He had a very thick accent that I can only describe as Bond villain-esque.

Tentatively, I edged across the room towards them, and began with a confident, “Um, hi. I have a violin and it has a problem, and I didn’t buy it from you guys3, but I was hoping you could maybe fix it for me.”

“Where did you buy it?” the man asked without looking up.

“Uh, Craigslist,” I said.

Slowly and simultaneously, they both raised their faces from the desk and gave me what can only be described as “the look.”

“Craigslist?” he repeated. I lost a few inches of height under his glare and nodded. I half expected him to raise one long, bony finger and use it to point me firmly to the door. Instead, he pursed his lips, removed his spectacles4 and said, “You may place your violin case on the table and wait for me.”

Oh really? May I? I thought.

But I was too intimidated to be a smart ass. So as instructed, I wordlessly placed my violin case on the table and sat down in one of the very straight chairs. The massive blonde dog wandered over and put his head on my lap. I opened my case and waited.

After a minute, the violin man came over and peered inside. And he cringed. Actually cringed as though I had opened my case to reveal a clump of festering human organs rather than my slightly battered violin. “My God,” he muttered, then removed my violin and began a doctor’s examination of it. I watched. The massive blonde dog drooled gently on my lap.

sherlcok

After a moment, the violin man put down my violin and gave me “the look” again. I wilted. “Come here,” he commanded. The dog and I both stood and came to his side. “Hold out your hand,” he commanded. I disentangled my fingers from the dog’s fur and showed him. “You are a pianist,” he said. I was a little freaked out by whatever voodoo powers had granted him this knowledge I had definitely not volunteered, but I nodded. Then he said, “You are not a violinist.”

I began to babble senselessly about how that was definitely true, hence the crappy violin, because I didn’t really need anything nice and I couldn’t afford anything better, I just wanted to learn because I’d always wanted to learn and sometimes you have to follow your weird dreams—

Thankfully, he cut me off. “I can fix it for $10.”

“Great,” I said. “Great, great, awesome, great, thank you.”

The massive blonde dog and I sat down again and waited while the violin man took my violin into the back. I tried and failed to regain my cool. The blonde dog sat as straight as the chairs. I scratched him.

After about ten minutes, the violin man brought me my violin back and started showing me how I should be tuning it, and why the way I had been tuning it had apparently compromised its internal structure. At one point, he made what I thought was a joke about what a mess my violin was. I smiled and said something like, “Ha ha, yeah, I know it’s a terrible violin,” and thought to myself, maybe this man has a sense of humor after all.

He did the slow look up again, and I realized immediately that he didn’t. “That is not a joke,” he said. “You should not laugh, you should be crying.”

I shut my mouth.

While in the process of showing me all the ways I was slowly murdering my already corpse of a violin, a young man walked in. The violin man stopped his diagnosis of my dying violin and gave the young man the same critical eye he had given me. “Excuse me,” the young man said in a thick accent. “I am in the States for sixteen days and while I am here I wish to purchase a violin from you.”

“What’s your budget?” asked the violin man.

“No more than five thousand dollars,” the young man replied.

I snorted before I could stop myself. They both looked at me, and I chose not to explain that I had paid one hundred dollars in cash to a man out of the trunk of his car for mine. I should not even be there.

The violin man told the young man he could wait in one of the straight backed chairs5, and commenced his free lesson on how to make my crappy violin less crappy.

sherls

Turns out, the violin man was not humorless. When I handed him my credit card, he asked me how I survived with a last name like mine6. We had a good laugh over that. Or rather he laughed and I nervous giggled. Then he looked me very seriously in the eyes and said, “You can still take good care of it.”

I told him I was going to. And then I skedaddled out of there without asking why patrons were so vehemently prohibited from whistling.

 

  1. Literally bought it out of the trunk of a man’s car down a dark alley. I am a Dateline special waiting to happen.
  2. And three more “no whistling” signs
  3. You guys! Surely no one had ever referred to these very upright people as you guys.
  4. Nope, not glasses. Spectacles. The word spectacles was invented to describe this variety of eyewear.
  5. The blonde dog abandoned me for him at that point, since his lap was more available.
  6. It should be noted my last name is not Lee. It is in actuality a Dutch monstrosity that consists of fifteen letters, six syllables, two capitalizations, two words, and a space.

 

 

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in which I hold my mistake up

Something I’ve talked a little bit about on this blog is that I, like many people, sometimes struggle with bad anxiety. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is by my brain wandering during a mundane task1 and filling itself with a fast-motion replay of everything stupid I have ever done or said, or every awkward interaction I have ever caused. Then, after playing these memories back to me in quick succession and excruciating detail, my brain reminds me that the reason all these horrific moments exist is because of me and my inability to function as a normal human being.

Then it laughs maniacally and walks away, leaving me wilting into a puddle of anxious self-loathing.

When this happens, the only thing I can do is stand there, helpless and immobile, and say things like, “Brain….brain, wut r u doing? Brain, SHTAP.”

As you can imagine, this is not very effective.

Another thing I have talked about a little bit here on the blog is my passionate obsession with the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Recently, a friend shared with me an amazing blog called Terrible Yellow Eyes, an art project dedicated to collecting artistic interpretations of WTWTA. Naturally, I spent a few hours looking at and drooling over all of them, and then proceeded to pin most of them to my Pinterest board2.

There was one in particular I fell in love with, this sketch of a defiant Max by artist Dustin Nguyen. I liked it a lot the first time I came across it in my casual scrolling through the blog. Then I read the title, and fell in love with it.

The sketch is called “Hold Your Mistake Up.”

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Image Credit: Dustin Nguyen and Terrible Yellow Eyes

If you haven’t read WTWTA since you were a kid, you might have missed that at its core, it’s a book about getting angry, doing something thoughtless, wallowing for a while, then letting it go and asking for forgiveness. Pretty lovely and relatable stuff. But one of the key parts of this journey is the messing up, the saying or doing something dumb or mean or just plain stupid. Not necessarily because you’re angry or upset. Sometimes just because we all say and do dumb things.

So what do we do after we, like Max, have returned from our wild rumpus of stupidity or awkwardness or thoughtlessness? After forgiveness, then what?

Well then you have to forgive yourself, and part of that includes holding that mistake up and acknowledging you made it. We don’t have to hide it or let ourselves be shamed by it. We thrust it up and say, “Once I did this thing, and it was dumb or wrong, but now I’ve learned from it and will try not to do it again.” Will we do it again? Probably. But the point is that you’re trying not to. You learn from it. You get better.

I love this idea of holding up things in our life that made us who we are, good and bad, and this picture, with Max with that defiant look on his face thrusting up his staff, the memory of his wild rumpus, captures it perfectly for me. So next time my brain is a jerk and starts nudging me with its elbow while whispering, “Hey…hey, remember that time you made a complete idiot of yourself?” I shall fling my metaphorical staff into the air and say, “Yeah, Brain, I do. What about it?” Let’s see if that shuts the old brain up4.

 

  1. Something ordinary and harmless, like riding the subway or shelving books at work. Or occasionally something less mundane that I actually need to be paying attention to or devoting energy to, but I am then unable to pay attention or devote energy to because my brain gets in the way. Dumb brain.
  2. I’m sorry3, Pinterest followers!
  3. I’m not sorry.
  4. These are the weird musings I sometimes have about children’s books and life.  I think it’s a result of being a recovering grad student5. Alright, now go back to your knitting.
  5. More on the recovering part next week.

 

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in which people dislike me

Once upon a time in high school, I was sitting in the study room during my lunch period when a classmate walked up to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and with no prelude or explanation simply said, “I don’t like you.”

And then he walked away.

I was stunned. I just sat there for a minute. By the time I thought up a witty retort, he was gone. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but it really did. It still bothers me to the point that I could tell you exactly what I was wearing and where I was sitting when it happened–it is that burned in my memory. I’ll never forget this boy looking me straight in the eyes and saying, “I don’t like you.”

Because as far as I knew, I had never done anything to merit his dislike. This classmate and I weren’t close–I hardly knew him aside from the comments he made in class and sometimes ending up in the same room due to shared social circles. I couldn’t think of a single interaction we’d had just the two of us or a thing I’d done that would make him feel both a strong dislike for me and the need to tell me so. That, I realize now, is what bothered me the most about it. That I hadn’t done anything to him, meaning there was something about me on a fundamental level, something about just the way I was, that he did not like, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.

Recently I’ve been dealing with someone who, similar to this young man from high school, does not like me for no apparent reason. On a rational level, I understand that this is not something I can control and it should not bother me and there’s no way everyone you  meet is going to like you. But lately it’s been eating me up to think that there’s someone who I have never in my knowledge wronged, but who dislikes the things about me that make me me, the sort of things I can’t change. Maybe it’s the sound of my voice. Maybe it’s how I use my hands when I talk. Maybe it’s the combination of my voice and my hand-talking or the way I sometimes zone out in the middle of a conversation. But whatever it is, it’s not something I can change, it’s just me. And that bothers me.

Since I am a product of academia, I usually like to have some sort of clear concise conclusion to end my blog posts on, where I wrap up everything I’ve said in one sometimes cliched but usually relevant statement. Today I don’t really have that.

All I know is that sometimes people just don’t like you, and that sucks.

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in which I hike Angel’s Landing

You may remember that a few months ago I came to the end of my 101 in 1001 list. The 101 in 1001 is a list I made about three years ago of 101 things I wanted to do or accomplish in the next 1001 days. It’s a bucket list for people who fear commitment and/or buckets.

Upon finishing my 101 in 1001 list, I sat down and made another one, because the only thing I like more than self-reflection is lists. On this list, I wrote “Hike Angel’s Landing.”

What is Angel’s Landing, you may ask? Angel’s Landing is a legen1dary trail in Zions National Park that offers a startling rise in elevation, a precariously narrow trail that involves scrambling on narrow red rock fins, and what I had been told was a very worthwhile view.

I completely forgot I put this hike on my 101 in 1001 list until my family arrived in Zions National Park last week and were discussing trails we could take. It was my dad who mentioned Angel’s Landing, and I said I had always wanted to and they should do it with me. Cajoled, may be the best word. I cajoled my family into hiking it with me.

And the fools followed me blindly.

We were not prepared for Angel’s Landing.

We moseyed over to the trail head about ten in the morning and were greeted by a sign warning that since 2004, six people have died on the trail. We shrugged that off. “They must have been stupid, or hiking in a blizzard, or died from a lightning strike or a random but vicious squirrel attack,” we thought. Surely no trail would claim the lives of innocent hikers who brought proper hydration and sturdy shoes. And so we began casually climbing with no notion of what waited for us on the last mile of the trail.

This. This is what waited for us:

Image

Yes, that is a trail. A trail they let any old moron hike on.

Friends, I consider myself a pretty good hiker, but this trail was hard. And steep. And involved rock scrambling and chain holding and clinging to slick rock canyon walls like a gecko. I also consider myself pretty fearless, and while I wouldn’t say I was afraid on this trail, I was, shall we say, very aware of my own mortality as I peered over the edge at the thousand-foot fall waiting for me if I miss stepped2.

But the view at the top…not to wax poetic, but this was a super ultra mega awesome view.

Image

However, much like the rest of the trail, the ledge on which you soak in said view is both narrow and thousands of feet off the ground, so my dad’s parent instincts came out in full force as we walked along it. He kept a tight hold on the MT and my collars, resulting in us ending up like those leashed children at Disney World that keep scrambling for a better look only to be jerked backwards by anxious parents. The anxiety was merited. It was a long way to fall.

By the time we reached the bottom and were again by the “six people have died” sign, we had an entirely different attitude. As we walked away, my dad murmured under his breath, “Only six3?”

But Angel’s Landing has been hiked. It has been conquered. It has been crossed off the 101 and 1001 list.

  1. Wait for it.
  2. Hiking is significantly less fun when you’re pondering your own mortality the whole time.
  3. It is a remarkable low figure when you consider how many college-aged boys riding a spring break high and trying to show off for their friends hike it. Also boy scouts.
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in which I have bookseller adventures

As you may or may not know, I am currently funding my extravagant Bostonian lifestyle by working as a bookseller in the children’s room of the Harvard Coop Bookstore. The Harvard Coop is, to use a technical industry term, a big-ass bookstore. It is four floors of books. Four grand, Harvardian floors of books, complete with a sweeping spiral staircase, shelf-lined galleries, and a well-read, articulate staff.

….so we’re basically just a glorified Barnes and Noble. But still. Harvard.

Now if you have never worked in a bookstore, particularly the children’s room of a bookstore, you may think that the job involves primarily handing out books to tiny people and their accompanying adults. You may think booksellers do little more than talk about the books they love to their similarly polite and well-read customers and then read covertly behind the counter while sipping tea and waiting for the next customer to chat them up about Tolstoy or the derivative nature of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Oh contraire, my friends. Oh contraire.

Being a bookseller is hard. There is a lot of carrying books up and down those four sweeping staircases. There is a lot of fielding ridiculous questions and impossible requests1. There is a lot of talking to people who don’t know a darn thing about books (or in my case books for children), which is why they’re talking to me. There is a lot of putting things back where they belong because most patrons seem incapable of it. In the children’s room there is, on top of all that, clean up of snacks, reading at storytime2 and making really excellent crafts3 that the kids can then duplicate.

Today, the job also involved some light spelunking.

When I returned to the floor after lunch, I found the children’s room empty and the Boss behind the counter, grinning her most maniacal grin at me.

Boss: Why hello there4.
Me: …Hello?
Boss: Did you have a good lunch?
Me: I am very suspicious of this conversation.
Boss: So something happened while you were gone.
Me: Did it?
Boss: And now we have to fix it.
Me: So long as it does not involve me carrying the 160 copies of Panic by Lauren Oliver back down the stairs after already carrying them upstairs this morning5 then I am okay with just about anything.
Boss: I’m glad you said that.

So here’s what happened: while I was at lunch, the Boss made a classic rookie mistake. She gave the bathroom key to a small child and her nanny and told them to bring it back instead of walking them to the bathroom and unlocking it for them herself as she has told the rest of us time and time again we are supposed to do. It was a rather lazy and pathetic move on her part6. A few minutes later, the nanny returned rather sheepish and informed the Boss that while they were in the bathroom, the laws of physics had stopped, resulting in the key becoming nonsensically and impossibly wedged inside of the fold-out diaper changing table.

“No trouble,” thought the boss. “I got this.”

But she did not “got this.” Not even close. We discovered rather quickly that the key had fallen at such an angle that our adult-sized hands could not reach it7. It took a good half hour, a pipe cleaner, two straws, a dowel, a beehive of packing tape, and some very creative maneuvering before she and I working as a single until managed to chopstick that son of a bitch out from the interior of the diaper changing table and into our waiting palm. We both touched a fair amount of unmentionable things in the process, dug out some crayons that had also fallen victim to this strange black hole, and dropped enough McGyver references to last a lifetime.

But at last, with a small plop, the tiny silver key, now a bit tarnished and smelly, fell into the Boss’s hand. We cheered in unison. There might also have been some high fiving and victory dancing.

And then the Boss, still riding the high of successfully conquering the bathroom changing table, threw all our now soiled tools in the trash can and reflexively threw the newly-rescued key in after them. I let her fish it out of there.

We then returned to the desk and disinfected ourselves.

Friends, today was One of those Days. The sort of day where you find yourself stretched like a gymnast across a unisex bathroom while trying to prop the door open with your foot and simultaneously root around shoulder-deep in a diaper changing station with straws clutched like chopsticks fishing helplessly to get a key out from between the hinges of a collapsible diaper changing station, all the while cursing loudly and with great relish. It was One of those Days.

Being a bookseller is not a very glamours life. We’re not all the bespectacled, cardigan wearing do gooders you see in films8. So do me a favor–go thank your bookseller today.

Or bring them chocolate. I have it on good authority that booksellers love chocolate.

  1. Example of a real question I had: “I’m looking for a book. I don’t know the title but the cover has writing on it.”
  2. And doing the librarian hold until your arm starts to cramp.
  3. An example of one of my best, but ultimately rejected, ideas:IMG_0997
  4. She may have actually swiveled around in her chair while stroking a white cat and wearing an eye patch. Details blur together.
  5. True story.
  6. I can say this, because I know she is reading and because at the end of our harrowing adventure she said, “You should put this on your blog! But I don’t want to be named.” Careful what you wish for, Boss.
  7. And we both ended up with gouged knuckles to prove it.
  8. Though it should be noted that at this moment I am both bespectacled and cardiganed
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in which I say goodbye to January

THIS MONTH.

This stupid, schoolyard bully of a month keeps kicking me while I’m down.

And I am SICK OF IT.

I’m not frustrated anymore. I’m not sad anymore. I’m just ANGRY.

So this is me being a RAGE MONSTER and leading the villagers with torches and pitchforks and pails full of rocks in an angry mob against January.

Because January SUCKED. It really, really SUCKED.

In January’s defense, I sort of deserved it. December was essentially a perfect month. Even the things that went wrong didn’t go all that wrong. I had a perfect week in Boston with my sister1. Then I had two more perfect weeks with my family home in Salt Lake City. I had a good month at work with everyone being cheerful and Christmasy and lots of hand selling books I love to customers who were willing to take my word on everything. And I know you can’t have that many good days in a row without something inevitably falling apart at some point.

But then when things fell apart, they didn’t just fall. They collapsed. They imploded. January came in, as the poet hath wrote, like a wrecking ball.

And I am SICK OF IT. I am sick of getting up at six and getting home at eleven. I am sick of scheduling my days down to the minute and still running out of time. I am sick of my computer being broken, my cabinets falling off the walls, and the child in the upstairs apartment running laps at two in the morning. I am sick of falling behind and not being able to sleep and eating terribly and just being so generally unhappy all the time.

I am done with January.

Tomorrow is February. Tomorrow I’m starting over. I’m putting January at my back and kicking out the bad. I made it through January2, and things can only get better from here.

 

  1. I cannot emphasize how perfect this week was. Perhaps this picture of the MT blissfully devouring a canoli will give you some idea: Image
  2. Which I frankly deserve some sort of medal for.
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in which a kitchen cabinet takes its own life

Last night, one of our kitchen cabinets decided it was not long for this world and threw itself to its death.

Yes that’s right. Our kitchen cabinet five feet off the ground filled with all the plates, bowls, and Tupperware three poverty-stricken young people had in the world, spontaneously decided to detach itself from the wall. Fortunately, its fall was broken by my roommate’s boyfriend1.

The plates, bowls, and a sizable Tupperware full of flour cascaded to the floor in a slow-motion waterfall of glass and ceramic. So many casualties, strewn across the kitchen floor. It looked like the after picture of a natural disaster area.

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I was not home at the time the collapse occurred. I got a confusing text from my roommate that started, “Everything’s fine.” Which usually means something is very wrong.

“Everything’s fine,” she texted me. “Except one of the cabinets fell out of the wall and into my boyfriend.”

It was the icing on the cake of an already stressful evening.

A repairman2 came by today and fixed it, so the cabinet is once again suspended where it should be. I still have a lot of lingering anxiety that it’s going to pitch forward again3, especially since I’m the only one at the apartment all weekend and this time it might be me the cabinet breaks its fall on.

I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes kitchen cabinets decide to throw themselves to their death at seven pm on a Wednesday night. But take this as a public service announcement, and a warning.

It happens.

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  1. Oh, don’t worry, he’s fine.
  2. Named Emerson, which feels very Boston appropriate.
  3. And take our surviving dishes with it.
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in which I talk about anxiety

My brain is made up of two parts.

One part works full time at telling me in a gentle monotone to be patient, and that things will work out because they always do, and nothing is as bad is it seems. It has a sharp tie in muted pastel and wire framed glasses, and starts most sentences with the word “actually.” Its shoes are sensible, its tea earl grey, and it’s always in bed by ten o’clock sharp. That is the rational part of my brain.

Then there is the other half. It wears neon colors and it screams. It flashes the lights so that I can’t focus on anything else and hollers NO THINGS WILL NOT WORK OUT. YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD AT ANYTHING. AND EVEN IF YOU ARE, IT WON’T BE GOOD ENOUGH. It is not patient. It is not kind. It is mostly made of bottle rockets and alarm bells, and it can take one sentence, one email, one deadline six months away and chatter about it for days and days and days until it blows up like a hand grenade. That is the irrational part of my brain.

Sometimes they balance. I can keep them talking to each other instead of talking to me, and the scales even out to something like quiet.

But then there are days like today, when one thing—and that one thing can be anything from the dust under my bed to where I see myself in forty years—and suddenly I am 99% irrational brain, and it is screaming and stamping and sending up sparks and flying off the handle, and the rational brain is fighting to be heard over top of it so he starts shouting too, and then they’re both shouting, shouting, shouting and it’s altogether too much noise inside me.

It’s not a good feeling.

Anxiety manifests itself in different ways for different people. I am not the sort of person whose anxiety makes it so I can’t get out of bed or eat, and it doesn’t make me feel the need to strip in the middle of a crowded square or stop breathing. My anxiety can look you straight in the eyes and smile and say I’m fine, even though my teeth are gritted and everything inside of me is screaming out of control like a runaway train.

I don’t know why some days I can deal with my anxiety and others I can’t. Why some days, I can step back from myself and listen to that rational part of me and understand that things will work out, and there’s not point worrying over what I can’t control. But there are other days where I can hear what that rational voice is saying and even understand it, but I can’t believe it. And then other days where I can’t even hear it because my worrying is too loud.

I give advice I can’t take. I make obsessive lists. I schedule every minute. I stare at the ceiling. I don’t sleep.

And I keep going.

That is how I deal with my anxiety. I keep going.

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in which I don’t get an answer

Years ago, when I was in high school and my world spun on a different axis, I auditioned for a play. I wanted the lead role really badly. I was having the typical “what do I do with my life?” crisis and I thought that getting cast in this role would somehow confirm that theater was my place in the world I was about to enter. When I got a callback, I thought, I am going to get this part, and this part is going to be my answer to all the big questions I was asking about theater and the future.

But it wasn’t.

I didn’t get the part. And I was pretty sad about that for a while1. Mostly, I was upset because I thought this show was my answer—something that was going to set me on a course towards my destiny—and it wasn’t.

But it turns out, it kind of was. Because I wasn’t cast in that show, I had my first opportunity to direct a play, which set me indirectly on a path towards children’s literature2.

Fast forward a few years. Just before I moved to Boston, I started having Second Thoughts. You may be familiar with Second Thoughts. They are those niggling little worms of doubt that accompany any big change or decision you ever make in life. If you’re me, they also come with anxiety, nausea, and mild panic attacks every thirty or so minutes. How would I ever pay off these student loans? What was the point of an MFA when people get published all the time without one? Isn’t children’s lit just a stupid thing to study? Maybe this was a waste of time.

So the big question became, Should I move to Boston?

Then, a few months before I moved, I was asked to interview for a dream job. This is a sign, I thought. I am going to get this job, and I will not do my MFA and I will not move to Boston and I will not get up to my eyeballs in debt. This is my answer.

But it wasn’t.

Since you read this blog, you probably know I didn’t get that job. I was a sad over this for a while, and this was magnified by my anxiety over the move to Boston and the start of the MFA. But it turns out that job was my answer. My answer was moving to Boston, because now I’m exactly where I should be.

About a year ago, I got my heart broken in an “I will never love again” sort of way. But then I met a young man with whom I had Chemistry with a capital C. He was handsome and charming and we had the same favorite poem and affinity for jazz-age disillusionment. This guy, I thought, is going to counteract all the damage done by the first one. Even if we don’t have some epic love story, he is going to restore my faith in love and romance. This is my answer, I thought.

But it wasn’t.

He ended up being a tool, and I ended up seeing The Great Gatsby alone. But in a way, he was an answer. An answer to the question of, “Do I need someone to be happy with who I am3?”

This week, I thought I was going to get an answer.

But, as you might have guessed, I didn’t.

And it’s hard, in the wake of disappointment, to look at things not working out as maybe being an answer. I can tell myself these stories and still not recognize the direct correlation to my current situation.

But while right now I am lamenting the fact that I did not get my answer, a small part of me understands that in a way, I did.

  1. I was definitely pretty scowly as I sat in the audience and watched the performance.
  2. Via directing plays for people, then directing plays for slightly smaller people, and then discovering that those small people are usually the best people.
  3. Answer: No.
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