Today, 5pm. Needed to get the brain out of the office. I decided to find something adventurous, something new, so when I found out that there's a tram that goes to an island in the middle of New York City, the answer was: duh.
I took the tram to Roosevelt Island and fell a little bit in love with an island that reminded me of Europe, that kept me thinking about l'Ile St. Louis in Paris with younger architecture. I walked along the promenade and met a Russian woman and spent 20 minutes talking about the island and its inhabitants. Then I wandered some more and wondered how I could move there.
Got home, bubbled over with excitement about knowing a new place and Chris found a listing for a R.I. apartment online; tomorrow he's going to come with me to see it. I can't take it, even if I wanted to; my lease isn't up until the fall. But shit, this is the fun stuff to do with someone. Go see an apartment on a dream island and pretend it's a possibility.
Thanks to the 5-goal-per-day strategy, this week was productive as hell. Each morning I wrote down 5 things I'd love to have done by 7pm or so. Each day I got them done and more. It's almost as if focusing on less rather than more gave me more energy to go beyond the goals... try it sometime. Maybe it'll work for you too.
I think I'll leave this strategy for the weekend, though. I'm really spent from trying so hard all week and looking forward to some sleeping in and dining out.
I had a bunch of bad dreams this week. At one point the other night, I woke up from a nightmare around 3am and was too afraid to run to the bathroom to pee until I remembered that Oscar would come with me. He's such a little guard cat (or perhaps constantly tempted by my proximity to food when I head to the old Water Closet). When I realized that he'd walk along with me, regardless of the depth of his sleep, I felt so comforted. This is why people get pets; because the companionship is unrivaled.
Today we bought our tickets for Wisconsin. Three days of Chris' friends and family and cheddar cheese. I've never met a cheddar I didn't like and I'm hopeful that sentiment will translate over to the new people I meet as well. It's been a while since I took a plane with someone I know and I think it will be strange to even have the option of leaning my head on the person next to me. You know it's good when you and your seatmate have accepted potential drool for the duration of the flight.
I do my best running when I'm focused on something farther down the street. Sometimes I run for 3 blocks focused on the same Duane Reade sign. Head tucked, eyes lifted, I barely notice the people I'm passing; they move out of the way magically, as if my concentration has created a force field that protects me as I drive on.
Today was a focused day, one set up to be that way during my commute, when I identified 5 things that would make me feel good to do before I got home tonight. Like eat a salad. And get quarters for laundry. And a few other work-related ones. Rather than letting the day take my light-hearted mood and twist it as it willed, I decided where I would be at 7pm. And holy crap, did that work wonders.
The end of this week signals the 3-year birthday of this blog and I'll have a little surprise in store for you. Stay tuned, buddies.
We were sitting in Union Square park yesterday, the Sarahs and I, and I mentioned that NY has become a city of a million kinds of memories for me. From high school friends at a conference on the west side, to comic book shops with an ex, to several apartments and neighborhoods that I know well now. And the Brooklyn Bridge, which has been the site of a romantic walk, a struggling run and then, this weekend, a slightly coaxing activity with a nervous friend.
Yesterday, sitting in that park, I realized that I'll miss New York when I eventually leave it.
I won't miss it for the things that people typically cite: diverse nightlife, constant activity, innumerable opportunities for meeting people. I'll miss it because, like Paris, it's become a living artifact of someplace I knew people and they knew me.
Skersh and I talked the other night about her upcoming trip to London, the first time she'll travel outside the country alone. I was encouraging to her, explaining that she would be completely free to explore a place without a single regard for someone else's touristic desires. Later that afternoon, I re-found something I'd written in the little Moleskin I keep in my bag. I wrote this one afternoon in San Francisco, when I was spending the afternoon in Sausalito:
I have all the bread in the basket to myself and all of the butter too. This is the joy of traveling alone. I've been to so many places alone- or with moments alone. I'm my own best company. "What does this remind me of?" I think and I already know. Ireland. Or Italy. Or London.
... the bench I sat on in the park, the table at this restaurant, they are both part of my memory. But what of myself stays here? How does one find them again, how do you feel as though you are not just a visitor, but a change, a tiny speck of influence, however small?
In this way, traveling alone is the most intimate activity you can do with yourself. I think that's why it's easier for people to "find" themselves when they go spend time alone away from the norm. They have the quiet and space to not need to explain the connection between this place and their grandma's garden, to not search for why the smell reminds them of another memory; in these moments alone, you can sit in it and appreciate it without translating the moment into words for the benefit of conversation with another.
Chris and I are working out summer plans at the moment, trying to figure out how and when to go to France and if I'll be stopping by Wisconsin to visit his family. I've been thinking about how it will be to visit France with someone else; for the first time, I'm looking into hotel prices instead of crashing on someone's couch. It's thrilling to imagine sharing this special place with someone I love; it can be equally anxiety-inducing to balance time together with the necessary time I know I'll need for in a city that holds so many memories for me as well.
On a separate note, I saw one of my old roomies, Tejal, last week in Boston and talked about plans to head to Bombay for her wedding in December. The prospect of traveling so far and attending an Indian wedding, soaking in the culture alone with myself, is too fantastic for words. Plus, Christmas presents for the family from India? No-brainer awesome!
We're headed down to Muhlenberg in a few minutes for Steve's college graduation. One day you wake up and your brother's qualified in a scholarly way. Go figure.
Muhlenberg has a tradition that a close member of the family who is also an alumni can go up to the stage when the graduate receives his or her diploma. I joke around a lot about how this is clearly a parental photo-op, but in reality it's such a special thing to me. Tomorrow I'll get to give him a big hug after he gets his official diploma from the college president.
Watching Steve go through his four years at a place that I know so intimately has allowed me to understand his time there in a deeper way. When he called Freshman year and talked about his roommate, I could picture the dorms and remember the anxious, uncomfortable feelings I had myself encountered there. When he speaks about playing in the Red Door or driving to Hawk Mountain or chatting with Dr. Borick, these are all things that I remember vividly about my experience there. In a way, I'm closer with him now than before he went through college - if only because we have different memories that strangely overlap.
My mom and I were talking this morning about how we haven't heard from Steve all week and I pointed out that my memories of senior week are a blur, a mix of tears and hopes and nostalgia and promises. Kind of like the end of summer camp, though I've never been.
The weekend is not about me; it's about a guy who spent four years affecting drastic changes to Muhlenberg's environmental perceptions and policies, who lasted as the only dude in French classes, who spent a semester in Tanzania and who learned about Economics, Religion, Philosophy, Chemistry, and beyond. I'm so proud of who he has become and specifically that he has been able to spend four years discovering more about himself than he originally thought possible. Part of this is because Muhlenberg is the perfect place for that. Part of it is because he's the perfect candidate for this type of transformation.
Happy graduation, Steve-o. We're so excited to share this weekend with you. xo
Last night I washed dishes and freaked out and felt boring and old and took a bath and tried to get myself out of it. This morning I snoozed an extra hour and wore a dress I haven't worn in a while and came to work and felt like I'd be ok. Then today I felt just as fragile, just as out of balance as I did last night. Around 11am, I thought "that's ok, today you don't have to fight the battles or stand your ground or do anything just on principle."
Some days the notion of writing, of being a writer, buzzes just far enough out of reach that I almost imagine it has gone away. Like the mosquitoes that used to fly above my head while I tried to fall asleep, threatening to sting me if I lifted my head outside the sweaty sheets of mid-summer.
But then, just as the buzzing gets far enough away to imagine it's gone, it cycles back and I have an itchy red welt to prove it.
The satisfying itch to write. Thank the universe for that, my friends; when I don't know how to re-find myself, I discover this itch underneath it all, ever-present, almost irritating, but always silently waiting for me to scratch.
Something soon will change so this can happen. No. I will change something soon so this can happen. I will.
So I planted these seeds last weekend on my fire escape and then it rained. All week. As in, downpour. I noticed on Friday that several of the seeds ended up floating in the muddy flood water in the windowboxes, drudged up from where I'd planted them. You could tell that the seeds had already started growing; each had a tiny green stem poking out towards the top of the box and that growing was now totally jeopardized because of the excess of water.
I've been thinking about that image all weekend, how something that a plant needs (i.e. water) can be dangerous or even harmful if used in excess. I've been thinking about how seeds are a little like bright ideas and how creativity can get flooded by innumerable elements (criticism, responsibility, societal standards, other people's neuroses).
On Sunday morning, I scooped some new dirt into the boxes, hoping to absorb the extra water and let the seeds keep doing their thing. I also moved the boxes to another spot on the fire escape, hoping that they might be more protected in the new position.
There's a myriad of metaphors that come to mind in this one action: protecting younger siblings, working on colleague-relations, setting aside enough time to do one's art. Are you protecting someone's ability to have new ideas or ventures? Do you know someone who dumps buckets of rainwater on someone else's day? How are you fostering your own growing? And how can you foster other people's growth around you?
I think about this a lot. Chris and I talked a little this weekend about what people want out of their jobs and part of my answer had to do with pushing the envelope in meaningful ways, using the tools available to me to make something better when the time is right. I think this applies to relationships, to friendships, to politics, to spending or saving money, to finding a space for yourself on the subway. Or figuring out if you're the planter of seeds or the protector of seeds or the weed-fertilizer.
Katie visited this weekend from Montpelier and (per usual) we talked a lot about different cultures. I find myself calmer than the last time she visited, less apt to jump on the next international flight just to seek adventure. Because, as we discussed, it's very possible to find a different adventure choosing one place and diving deep. I have a rich lifestyle in New York that was never possible for me when I was abroad; likewise, I will never re-find the same spontaneity here that I thrived on in Paris.
I guess the point is that they can both be great. There's no way you'll ever have a choice between the perfect life and the imperfect one; although Republicans would like you to believe that the world is black and white, it really, really isn't. As soon as I realized that tough moments living in New York were going to exist no matter where I lived, my perspective shifted and I was able to make progress within that knowledge. I feel good about that, actually. It makes sense to me.
I got an email from Erica this morning, our little Bostonian who officially became French yesterday. She's spent the past 5 years in Clermont-Ferrand and she's a perfect example of the truth of shades of gray. The way she became French was by giving up life in America, by proving that she wanted to be part of a culture she was not born into by literally paying with time spent living outside her home country.
Happy French-ness, Ms. Erica... I expect you to grow a full-on curly mustache, wear a beret and carry a baguette around on your bicycle. Also, please go on strike immediately while drinking Pastis. And don't forget to relish your 500 vacation days per year... YOU EARNED IT!
Well. Hello there. Holy thank the goodness it is Friday night. Let's be a bit informal tonight, shall we?
Thing #1 to talk about: Today I got a package in the mail from Dove. Attentive readers (and ex-roommates) know how much I love their stuff. Mostly because their deodorants smell delicious and they give out a free bag every year (Example A and Example B). Well I must have been put on Santa's special list because today I got home to find a FREE REGULAR SIZE deodorant and a bunch of pamphlets about the newest deo waiting for me. "What do they think, I'm a health teacher?" I thought, but then I realized that I now have 25 pamphlets with coupons for deodorant myself and I promptly stopped sarcastically complaining in my head.
Thing #2 to talk about: Last night we went to see Moon at the Tribeca Film Festival and we saw Sting! He was wearing black and walking quickly, but it was him. The movie was pretty good (if you like Sci-Fi, you'd LOVE this) and although I wished the director and crew were smarter during the Q&A, it was a good time.
Thing #3 to talk about: Tonight I had my first of 2 creative writing workshops with Marc Levy (yes, French people- THAT Marc Levy!). He was very engaging and smart, but the rest of the members of the class were a bit... how shall I say... 40 years old and flirty? Never wrote a creative word in their lives? Asked him to sign their books afterwards? Sigh. We are supposed to write something for the next class and I am already a little inappropriately giggly about what some of these dames are going to show up with.
Also: I forgot how catty French women can be. I had a tough day at work and showed up at the FIAF, all ready to smile and be friendly to fellow writers and French-speakers. "This going to be my crowd!" I thought. Except that it really wasn't because I forgot how much women in France don't have the same types of female friendships that other cultures do. And that's all I'll say about that.
Thing #4 to talk about: Krishna got married last weekend and I put the photos up on Flickr, but for those of you who are not so Flickr inclined, please click these underlined words here and you TOO can see Krishna get hitched. It was lovely; the ceremony was in Sanskrit, Korean and English and the Asian Fusion dinner was delicious.
Alright, enough of this jabbering. I brought home some new Telenovelas for the weekend (it's supposed to rain and rain...) and some Pablo Neruda poetry in Spanish. Maybe I'll try to translate a little for you this weekend.