It was my birthday and I was at work. I like to think of myself as one of those especially evolved adults who doesn’t require a #birthdayweek or (worse) #birthdaymonth worth of attention via social media comments and posts, strings of nights out celebrating, tiaras or gifts. Thus, I was absolutely appalled at myself as I heard myself beginning a whiny sentence to one of my colleagues with, “not to be a birthday diva, but…”
You see, the office “fun committee” had provided their annual birthday surprise of flowers, a card signed by the staff, and one’s favorite dessert, which they had gotten wrong. I’d been working there for three birthdays, and an on-boarding check box for new staff was the filling out of an “about me” questionnaire that controlled for preferences, filed in the employee’s HR folder. Mine clearly, explicitly said, I love all things chocolate, dark only, and all chocolate, only chocolate, all the time. Imagine my injured surprise when I followed the post-it note the fun committee left on my desk pointing me to the freezer and pulled out the freezer drawer to find a pint of vanilla gelato with my name on it. WHAT WAS THE MEANING OF THIS? I stormed over to the committee head’s desk to investigate. Continue reading →
I was in the fitting room at Nordstrom Rack trying on a random assortment of clothing, and in the quiet of that space on a Monday evening, a young girl’s running commentary in the room two doors down was clearly audible.
I’d seen her regarding herself in a full length mirror as I walked to my own room–door ajar, her mom standing with an appraising air over her as she wriggled into a swimsuit. What struck me was the tone of pure delight and body positivity that wafted from this young girl’s room as she tried on swimsuits. A task most American women speak and think of with something approaching dread, if not total dread outright. At what point did we change, focusing less on the promise of cool summer swimming and bright summer sun, and more on our perceived flaws and the inability of any piece of synthetic fabric to deliver us from them? Continue reading →
I’ve had a complicated emotional relationship with money since I became aware of its awesome power. As a kid I believed my family was on the brink of destitution. I thought this because I had limited perspective and because I wore hand-me-down clothes and my parents said no every time I whined for them to buy me things when we were out shopping. We were austere, eating endless leftovers, owning the same single car from the time I was five until I left home for college, rarely eating out, our vacations road trips.
My dad would sit at the dining room table elbow deep in papers doing our bills and finances. It was a soothing ritual for him, but I sensed tension. I lay awake at night worried about whether we were poor and what we would do. My perception was that we didn’t have the things our neighbors had, or my friends’ families had–new cars, new clothes, mountains of toys–and I reasoned it must have been because we were living on the edge of poverty. Continue reading →
I attached a strong stigma to feeling lonely, believing this natural human state of existence to be a sign of a major flaw–being unlovable. Or worse, “lame”, that defeated state all kids, from middle school to college so desperately try to avoid. Being unlovable was one thing, a terrible sense of inevitable isolation, but being seen as lame, and therefore uncool, stung so much worse in the short-term. I’m not sure I can accurately calculate the amount of hours I spent alone in my room, or later my apartment, doing absolutely nothing other than castigating myself for not having more friends and interests. Desperate for someone, anyone to assuage the crushing sense of emptiness; the reverberating ennui. Being lonely was my biggest fear, and avoiding that natural state caused me to do impulsive and mean things. It made me the worst version of myself, someone whom I could not recognize, which, of course simply compounded the problem. Continue reading →
I once read that there are two types of drinkers–the type without a family history of alcoholism and the type with. The type with history was known as sensation-seeking. I can’t help but feel like this phrase describes my life now. I feel like I am out there looking for sensation constantly, the next high. I’m not talking about substance abuse here. Since getting married I feel even less settled and certain about the future, in the most unexpected and delightful way. I’m reminded of a question we ask our survey respondents at work: did you want so much to engage in pleasurable activities that you ignored the risks or consequences? Every time I ask that question I see myself in it. It’s like I’ve connected with a part of me that I thought I lost long ago–the impulsive Kate who is always looking for a rush of some sort. It feels so good that I can’t help but wonder if there will be a crash. And when there is will I even care?
These words, written by my 28 year-old self in a facebook “note”, (if anyone remembers that apparatus), revealed itself to me in an fb memory from 2008, the year I married and took a nosedive off the wagon. I shuddered reading it, and remembered writing it. Continue reading →
Watching Barack Obama’s farewell speech this week was an emotional experience, and I found myself crying, don’t leave! at the TV over and over, as he made critical and sensitive point after point in his signature way. I struggle to find the right words to describe the gratitude and privilege I feel to have had him as my president after enduring eight years of inarticulate, knuckle-dragging W. (to say nothing of his policies) as I came of age.
The first time I saw Barack he was the junior senator from Illinois speaking at the 2004 DNC. I remember sitting on my parents’ couch in Athens, Georgia, straightening up and leaning forward as he mesmerized me with his oratory brilliance. Who was this guy? And then he rode in on a unicorn in 2008, offering me the hope and inspiration I so desperately sought. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again…the holiday hangover after the wringer of family expectations, beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with whatever December holiday we celebrate. I’m telling you, the ill-at-ease, creeping dread isn’t just due to overindulgence in food and booze. The heavy fatigue isn’t just from the abundance of parties and late nights and rushing around to get everything done. The urge to hibernate isn’t just the cold dreary weather that feels no longer a winter wonderland. No, the cluster of symptoms is, for many of us, related to the crush of family expectations and our inability to hold them at bay, to keep our resolutions that we’ll not let them bowl us over this time.
We let them bowl us over this time. And, as in years past, dating back as far as we can remember, things looked and felt and went as they usually do. Sighhhh. Continue reading →
I’m a modern woman, so I navigate my relationships with an almost singular goal in mind: Don’t be crazy.
When he calls, answer. And don’t be crazy. When he doesn’t call, don’t sweat it. Don’t be crazy. If he hangs out with you, play cool. Don’t be crazy. If he declines the invite, that’s fine. He’s got his life. Don’t be crazy. If he tells you you’re special, that’s great. Appreciate it. Don’t be crazy. If you’re not sure, remember you’re independent. Don’t get crazy. Don’t be too eager. Don’t be too distant. Don’t punish him with your feelings. Figure that shit out. You’re not crazy; don’t be crazy.Continue reading →
I visited Carlsbad Caverns over an August weekend, and there’s nothing like exploring our National Parks system for instilling a sense of wonder, history and gratitude. Just when I think we’ve destroyed all of nature, that we’ve polluted the entire world, slashed and burned and dumped and drilled the environment into oblivion, I get outside and see we haven’t quite. Not quite yet. Which makes me realize that for my strong identification as an urbanite–Manhattan being my spiritual home, the place I feel most alive and centered–I need to sense the natural world. I crave the astonishing beauty of Mother Nature, and the feeling of integration with the environment, my place in it, and the humility it brings. I feel so connected and astonished and shriek! Tommy, stop that right now! Shriek! Well, nothing ruins a moment in the park like people who don’t know how to act in public. Continue reading →
It was a desperate, confusing time. I’d hitched my wagon to a star, uprooted my life to chase my dreams back to my hometown. I had seen a shimmering (if rain-soaked) post-graduate school future of career fulfillment, rich sociability, fascinating interests, and wealth (of course). I saw this vision with such clarity I believed all I had to do was go home and the pieces would fall into place. In fact, I remember journaling something along the lines of “this new life is something I feel I can just relax into”, so certain was my hope.
The brilliant sunlight glinting off the Columbia River, the water teeming with people recreating, the golden plains stretching to the horizon seemed to foreshadow the bright future that lay ahead as my boyfriend and I drove west on I-90. We were going home.
Just a couple of hours later the shade of the Cascade Mountains enveloped us as we curved our way through Snoqualmie Pass. We drove across the bottom of a tunnel of Evergreen trees, dense and dark. A deep sense of dread began to spread through me, disguising itself as a stomach ache. I was so out of touch with my feelings in those days, the emotional usually expressed itself physically. I felt off. The glory of my triumphant return home was draining out of me and soon I was on edge. Had I been able to peer into the future at that moment I would have insisted we turn the car right back around for Arizona. Continue reading →