Struggle City

I wonder if your middle of the night sounds like mine. A refrigerator’s intermittent hum — noticeable now, in the quiet. A radiator’s pops and bangs — no rhyme or reason. A dog’s bark — short and sharp. A neighbor’s heavy footfalls — clomp, clomp, clomp above. Outside, the clinking of cans, the slam of a dumpster lid, the rat-tat-tat of a stolen shopping cart making its way down a bumpy street.

I roll over, untwist my pajama bottoms, and stare at the insistently bright light recently added to the fire escape. I really should get some curtains (to go with my cheap shades).


I am so lonely. Now is when I’m lonely. Over the weekend, when people have plans. When they switch off their alarms and shake off the week, when they sleep late and stand in line for brunch. When they linger over their meals, laughing.


I eat my breakfast alone, at 6:30 AM, with my back propped against my pillows and a book open across my lap.


It’s not all bad though. I like this time of day. I love my breakfast: thick swirls of tangy Greek yogurt, thinly sliced banana, 2/$5 blackberries, big-cluster granola, and a handful of roasted almonds all nestled in my mom’s favorite ceramic bowl. It’s not raining (yet), and the book I’m reading is a good one.

I’ve gotten better at living alone. Being alone. I listen to podcasts (currently: Dear Sugar, Spilled Milk, Burnt Toast, Adulthood Made Easy, and Modern Love). I make myself beautiful food I want to eat. I burn overpriced candles. I move things around in my apartment. I text people I love when I miss them. I ask people in Portland to do things, instead of just hoping they’ll ask me. I know exactly how much time alone is too much time alone. I go for walks. I take myself to coffee. I write when I’m sad. I buy myself flowers, when none of the above works.


I’m fine during the week. Perfectly fine. There’s a lot going on, especially now.


There’s so much going on, in fact, that I always think I’ll be so relieved when the weekend rolls around. So thrilled to have nothing to do and all day to do it in.

But this is the umpteenth Saturday I’ve woken up a little at a loss. It’s not like I wish it were Monday or anything, but…I don’t know. It’s hard. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is.


I guess I don’t know how to make life feel bigger again. I know life is fascinating and weird and incredibly worth staying awake for, even if you have not found someone who will make everything in the world feel amazing and just so inexplicably right, forever and ever, amen.

I don’t know about that anymore. (I think that’s an awful lot to pin on any one person.) But here’s what I do believe: I believe I have a long way to go before I can love someone and honestly-actually let myself be loved in return. I believe it’s brave to WANT, in neon capital letters, anyway. I believe it’s brave to ask yourself what hurts, what’s missing, even if it’s like staring straight into the sun, and you can only do for it for a second before you have to look away.


I believe all of this getting-to-know-myself, struggle-struggle-city is going to pay dividends, someday. I believe one of the big keys to being happy is not being anorexic. I believe life should be full of warm things, kind things, sweet things, spontaneous things. I believe life is meant to be lived, not controlled. I believe every day should not be laced with sadness. I believe what you do or don’t look like is so unimportant, the first five minutes after you meet somebody. I believe it’s possible to feel at home in your own body. I believe it’s possible to let yourself off the hook. I believe sometimes you need a little help tapping into what you already know.


I believe it’s better to be alone than to be with someone just for the sake of having someone to see, call, text. (Hug, kiss.) I believe there’s a big, big place for friendship. I believe you have to take some risks. I believe intimacy is the biggest one of all. I believe desire is a real, palpable thing. I believe it’s better to be the kind of person who smiles at people even if they don’t smile back. I believe it’s best to be the kind of person who isn’t afraid to ask someone if they’re okay twice, if they say they are but look like they aren’t.


Here’s what else I believe: you can’t stay in bed with the covers pulled up to your chin. I mean you can, but not indefinitely. You can wake up and make yourself a nice breakfast and text a picture of it to your mother with the caption wish you were here. You can brush the tears from your cheeks and put on some clothes that hug in all the right places and be a little bit glad that some things didn’t work out the way you once wanted them to.



“There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere.” -Edward Abbey

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” -Henry David Thoreau


“To feel anything deranges you. To be seen feeling anything strips you naked.” -Anne Carson

“We can make ourselves more or less vulnerable by how we think about things.” -George Bonanno

“If you’re in pitch blackness, sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark.” -Haruki Murakami


“Everything that’s happening to you is what’s supposed to be happening to you. Try to relax.” -Chris Martin

“You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” -Cheryl Strayed


“If you can take it or leave it, you should probably leave it. Make room for something more magical to come into your life.” -Bevin Branlandingham

“It was like she forgot how to be herself. She had all of the pieces, but she couldn’t figure out what went where. Ever have a puzzle you could never seem to finish, but knew if you did, it would make the most marvelous picture?” -Miranda Eckert


“We’re so afraid of failure, of feeling hurt, of feeling rejected — but we need those things in order to grow.” -Mariana Salem


“You must discover work that you love to do, whether it succeeds or not, whether you are praised for it or not, whether you are loved and rewarded for it or not, whether people know about it and are grateful to you for it or not. How many activities can you count in your life that you engage in simply because they delight you? Find them out. They are your passport to freedom and love.” -Anthony De Mello

“Act as if you’re a writer. Sit down and begin. Act as if you might just create something beautiful, and by beautiful I mean something authentic and universal. Don’t wait for anybody to tell you it’s okay.” -Dani Shapiro

“But we cannot simply sit and stare at our wounds forever.” -Haruki Murakami

“You are not hard to love. It is so easy to love you. When I look at you, all I can feel is love.” -Unknown


“Sometimes you get a flash of what you look like to other people.” -Zadie Smith

“Love heals scars love left.” -Henry Rollins

“Just throw off your fear and come running to me.” -Unknown


“It’s quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don’t do it.” -Jean-Paul Sartre

“If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” -David Foster Wallace

“In every job I’ve taken and every city in which I’ve lived, I have known that it’s time to move on when I’ve grown as much as I can. Sometimes moving on terrified me. But always it taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway. If you allow it, fear will completely immobilize you. And once it has you in its grip, it will fight to keep you from ever becoming your best self.” -Oprah Winfrey


“None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” -Jane Austen


“You know what I love? I love that moment when you find out something so real about someone, when they offer up a part of themselves that might be a little vulnerable or a little awkward and they trust you with it, and you get to volley back something of your own, some insecurity or some truth you’ve been wondering if you should share. I always think: this, this is what love is. This is what life is.” -Bryce Longton

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” -Japanese Proverb


“Yes, she was trying, exhausting. Aren’t we all? Aren’t we all a little too demanding of life, our friends, ourselves? I think she was desperate to matter, to be important, to be a good friend, to rise above the demons of her life, most of which are unknown to people and most of which would have destroyed most of us. I think she wanted someone to love her without fucking her — metaphorically or otherwise — and I think she wanted someone to listen to her, really hear her. Haven’t I just described all of us? I know I’ve described myself.” -Dennis Hopper

“When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you’ve been looking at the map upside down.” -Stephen King


{Milk Glass Market brunch via @nancytheskater, Mt. Hood via @davelackman, waterfall #1 via @alexbaileypdx, Haystack Rock reflection via @griffinlamb, waterfall #2 via @oregon.nw, PDX at sunrise via @gemini_digitized, Eagle Creek trail night shot via @nicholaspeterwilson, birds in flight via @bythebrush, Cannon Beach via @samuelelkins, rock via @tannerseablom, misty road via @russellpenny, woods via @dannybabko, mountain lake via @dhen2020, Good Coffee interior via @marshallsteebes, Crater Lake National Forest aerial view via @madeoregon — all on Instagram.}


7 thoughts on “Struggle City

      • Yes, you see, you are not alone. I was feeling a bit lonely today and THEN I read the lovely post for this children’s book and had to share it with you. What a special idea for a book. It reminded me that in November I was feeling a bit lonely and decided to make stuffed animal frogs and donate them to the Children’s Hospital. I was so busy and having fun making the frogs that I did not have time to be lonely, because, as the book said, I KNEW I would be leaving a treasure for the children who are ill and in the hospital. In return, the Children’s Hospital thanked me and my heart felt extremely big. So, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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