Saved by the Bell

There is a rabbit hole and we’re about to go deep down in it, but first I need you to make me a promise. Adjacent to the room with the rabbit hole, there is a pot of wild rice, bubble-boiling away. Your job is to help me not forget about the rice. Whatever happens, wherever our wayward thoughts go, you’re to stop and swivel me at the fifty-minute mark. Okay?

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Sometimes I feel like the woman who wrote this post, and sometimes I feel like the woman I was this morning. The woman who woke up with damp cheeks for no real reason at all. The woman who waited five minutes to flip over her phone to confirm nope, nothing, no one, before throwing the covers back and padding to the bathroom to brush her teeth, sweep up her hair. Sidestep the mirror.

I wonder what Saturday looks like for you. On a good day and a bad day, both.

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Sometimes it feels so easy to fill my life full. I have coffee together. I go to a class. I stop at the library, the farmer’s market. I swing through the park and watch all of the puppies — some actually, some just in spirit — play. I meet for brunch [and wish it were lunch]. I pick a place, two places, and do whatever I need to do to be able to check them out.

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When I get tired, I wander back to familiar streets. I shed my pretty-in-public clothes as soon as the door clicks shut and reach for something soft. I wash my sheets. Sweep my floors. Save scrubbing the bathroom for tomorrow. I sit cross-legged in sweats in the sunniest part of my studio, and I write real-mail to people with addresses I really ought to know by heart.

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In the late afternoon, I listen to Pandora on low. I read. I pull out a cookbook and thumb through for something that’ll make it smell like Mom. I put Pandora on loud. I forget all about my damn phone, still silent. I feel reasonably content to be here and in early, watching a stellar sunset slip through cheap white slats.

And on the more difficult days — oops, time’s up — I ask Polly.

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Other gems:

“The short-term answer is very easy. You can choose to be a million times happier than you are right now. All you have to do is say, ‘I deserve to be happy.’ Write it down in big letters with a Sharpie and tape it to the wall. Now write, ‘I deserve to be deeply loved.’ Tape that to the wall. Write, ‘I will open my eyes and my heart and take in all of the beauty in the world, every day.’ Tape it up. Now go home and write for an hour. Type out all of your thoughts, feelings, worries, regrets, and hopes for the future. Every single word is okay, because it’s a part of who you are. You are young and you are learning how to live. Write that down. I AM VERY YOUNG AND I AM LEARNING HOW TO LIVE. Tape it to the wall by your bed and read it every morning. You are very, very young. You are learning how to live.”

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“You need to do thankless work. You need to show up for your job and be treated like someone who is not very important and not very precious or unique or special. You need to tolerate that by telling yourself, every fucking second of every day, ‘I have something to give. I am doing great. I am proud of myself.’ And also, ‘This is me, working hard, making it on my own. No one will save me from this. This is me, doing it all by myself. No one can swoop down and make this better. I am not very good at anything yet, but goddamn it, I’m going to GET good at something, because I’m going to work very fucking hard at some things until I figure out what I want to be good at, and then I’m going to work very, VERY hard at that one thing until I’m fucking GREAT at it.’ If you work very, very hard at something, you will be great at it.”

“You’ll always have echoes of self-doubt bouncing through your brain, no matter what you do. Most smart brains work that way. You shouldn’t be aiming for perfect, though. You should be aiming to love exactly who you are. You’re a dented, damaged person with a big heart. You’re flawed and fragile. If you try to inhabit some bulletproof success story, that’s not going to feel right to you or anybody else. You have to embrace your moodiness and your sensitivity and all of your idiosyncrasies. Notice how often bad voices tell you you’re unlovable and awful and you’re messing up. I had to talk myself out of these absurd assessments, every single day, almost every hour, for a long, long time.”

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“Figure out why you hate your life or why you can’t love properly or what it is that keeps you from getting close to yourself and other people. Let yourself doubt everything. Let yourself be uncertain forever. Let yourself do what you’re born to do: grow. Grow. Grow out of who you used to be. Don’t buckle down with yourself and become so stubborn that you can’t even see past your own pain.”

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“I would rather live in the real world, which is ruled by a wicked laugh and a faint whiff of honeysuckle and a chilled pint hitting a man’s lips, along with the vague sensation that he’s brighter and stronger than he usually is, because he’s sitting across from a woman with beautiful eyes and a sick sense of humor who really, really gets him. Real-life beauty is a blur of motion, a flash of disbelief, an assured gesture, a long sigh that sings with intelligence and self-acceptance. We can’t capture in two dimensions, or reduce to a series of numbers, the feelings that real human beings experience in the company of a woman with the confidence to own exactly who she is, to show where she’s been, to listen closely and understand completely. The reason the beauty-industrial complex kicks up an acidic taste of contempt in so many of our mouths is that it can never quite capture the intoxicating magic of real-life intrigue and attraction and romance. Flat, glossy images of size-0 teenagers can’t come close to conjuring the sensation of being alive in the company of true charisma and sensuality and courage — that electric feeling of being close to someone confident and witty who, for some unfathomable reason, hasn’t been loved nearly enough.”

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{Yellow canoe via @bethkellmer, maple leaves via @tracyshutterbean, PNW road via @bertymandagie, Mt. Hood via @chasehagfeldt, PNW trees via @emitoms, Haystack Rock via @farvista — all on Instagram.}

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