The Nicest Word There Is

Oregon’s slick, silver ribbon roads feel like distant memories. Can I show you where I am?

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I’m in the desert, drying out. Soaking up every second of sun. If you want to know the [sad] truth, there isn’t a whole lot of it. It appears I tugged the clouds this way, and Arizona’s in for a second string of uncharacteristically overcast days. But it’s okay. It’s not actually raining, and I’m not alone in Portland — both of which I consider very big bonuses.

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I wonder what your holiday plans are. Whether it’s easy or difficult for you to go home. Whether it’s blissfully simple or impossibly complicated, or maybe most accurately: a mixture of both.

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I wonder whether you wish things were the same, just the way they’ve always been, please, or you’re actually pretty glad everything’s new.

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I think the holidays are tricky. Scratch that — I think it’s plain old growing up that’s tricky.

It’s hard, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels good and wise to press pause on all of the merrymaking and give everybody an hour or two to themselves.

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Sitting here by the pool, in my mom’s sweatshirt and the one pair of long pants I thought to bring, I am quick to think: there has been a lot of merrymaking. There really has.

After a few days of getting to know each other again, it’s obvious our old jokes still stand. Our backgrounds are still irrevocably intertwined. Pieces of our personalities are still the same, and when we’re all together, draped over armchairs and stretched out across sofas, something about it feels right.

My oldest brother is newly into mountain biking, so he rented all of us these colossal bikes for Christmas and quickly Googled where to go, and yesterday we went out and did it. How long has it been since you clipped a helmet onto your head and careened down a mountain you had no business being on? I highly recommend it. The I-am-about-to-go-flying-headfirst-over-these-handlebars-but-wait-this-is-so-FUN feeling is a good one. One we shouldn’t forget.

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Here’s another feeling I’d like to wrap up and stick in my suitcase: how it felt to have a baby boy fall asleep nestled in the crook of my arm, all warm weight and blind trust and soft sighs. My youngest older brother is now a dad, which means I am now an aunt. And oh, how I like being an aunt.

It was enlightening to spend some time around a newborn. As the youngest, and as a teen who expressed an interest in doing anything but babysitting, I have remarkably little experience with infants. I was just sure that I wanted one. (Or two, or three. My own little family.) And I do, I absolutely do, but meeting my nephew has helped me realize: not just yet. I may be in a bit of a hurry to start getting to know someone, but I’m not in half as much of a rush to be engaged/get married/have kids as I thought I was.

There must be a way to really enjoy all of the different stages, as slowly or quickly as we move through them. It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen in love. Or maybe it hasn’t been very long at all.

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Sometimes I think the key word is just: e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y. And here, where I have people to eat with and laugh with and be excited with and yup, get annoyed with, that doesn’t feel like such a death sentence. *Eventually* actually feels really nice.

It might help to keep trying to take a step back and look at the longer arc of my life (versus the nice and neat linear progression that simply doesn’t appear to be in the cards), whenever things start to feel really bad. And they do feel bad sometimes, even on vacation. There was a moment on the highway with my mom just yesterday when I felt completely and utterly alone — more alone than I ever have, New York and Oregon included — and it just about broke my heart. My mom’s too, if I had to guess.

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While it’s so good for me to be around family, it’s also so hard. If you’ve landed on this site even once, you know I’ve been unbearably lonely and, at various points, pretty seriously depressed. It goes without saying that I need to be around people who love me, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it: seeing my family again is an enormous source of comfort, but it’s a bigger cause of angst. For almost the entire year after completing the re-feed, I couldn’t see my family. I had to be alone, in order to do it. And it’s upsetting to realize that after all of this time, seeing them continues to constitute a very real threat to my ability to stay on track.

However. I’m lucky I have a mom I can cry with and be honest with and say it’s not your fault and I don’t blame you and I’m sorry I’m not done; I’m sorry it’s not over. I’m glad that I can tell her that as nice as it is, when I look out the window at all of the passing palms and waving cacti, sometimes I catch myself thinking where am I, and then: what are we d-o-i-n-g here? This doesn’t feel right.

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There was another moment, just a split second at dinner the other night, when I looked across the table at my brother and was just bewildered, honestly absolutely flabbergasted, to see a baby bouncing on his lap. It’s no less unsettling to picture my dad by himself in Maine (where it’s been 60 degrees), watching TV, a few days before Christmas. Or to think about my mom going out on date tonight, or to imagine my other brother celebrating the holidays in Philadelphia with his fiancé’s family, although I am genuinely so happy for them both. For them all. So much has changed, and yet, as I put back one slice of bread and triple the amount of vegetable on my plate, the parts I wish were different have stayed the same.

With all that being said, I’m glad I can nod my head in agreement when my mom gives my shoulder a squeeze and says we’re all just doing the best we can. We are. Things aren’t perfect, and we’ve all changed; we’re all different. But in a way, those two pieces of very unsettling information are two of the most comforting things. Nothing is perfect (nobody is perfect?), and we’ve all changed. We are all allowed to change.

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“You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.” -Alain de Botton

“Home is the nicest word there is.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

“It is perhaps when our lives are at their most problematic that we are most likely to be receptive to beautiful things.” -Alain de Botton

{Desert sun via @sliktz, palm tree texture via @lily_rose, sunrise from Camelback Mountain via @eric_jla on Instagram.}

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