My Best and Only Girl

In times of unease (read: straight up UPHEAVAL, in shouty caps 70% percent stressed), where do you go? What do you turn to?

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I’m still feeling out that second part, but I’ve discovered Forest Park is a good place to go. If you’re into petrichor — the smell of earth after rain — you will like it here.

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You will feel soothed here. Restored here. All the words from the last time you did yoga, here.

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I remember feeling better in the woods in Maine, too. I used to go for long, long runs, just looping in and out and around, ignoring the way my body would protest, thinking determinedly of calories burned, time elapsed, miles completed. Occasionally: the way the forest floor would soften the sounds of my steps.

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I walk when I go to the woods now. I don’t wear a watch and I don’t bring my phone. (A little break from all of the buzzing and scrolling and swiping feels good, no? With phone in hand, I find it hard not to stop, check, check again. Okay just-one-last-time, I promise.)

If you were to ask me where the opposite of over-stimulated is, I would say here. Right here.

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If you were to ask me about the middle of Manhattan, I would say a million miles away. (These were goals, if you remember.)

When I go to the woods here, I am surrounded by sounds — water running, birds chirping, wind blowing — but they play in concert. They don’t compete. Generally speaking, nobody’s making an especially valiant effort to be louder, brighter, flashier. Faster. My ears don’t hurt here; my head doesn’t spin.

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This is not a new thought, but: how important it is, to be surrounded by green, growing things.

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I’m still trying to figure out what else is important. And how it’s possible to be growing so unevenly. (To finally be progressing professionally, but to be so firmly parked personally, at the same time.) I’m still trying to get a sense of how people have enough energy for it all.

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Answer to self: emergency snacks.

Snacks when your tired legs say so. Snacks before you start dragging. Snacks when you’re so gloomy BECAUSE RAIN, MORE RAIN. Snacks when you’re stressed at work and you know you’re likely to eat less. Ditto when you’re homesick, unsure, and erratic-sleeping.

Snacks when it would be easier to check out and not feel 80% of the above, thanks for asking though.

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Unfortunately this is not a lock and key situation; those feelings creep up anyway. They descend when I’m sitting alone in a park with my face tilted up towards the sun, just dizzy with how good it feels. When I’m 5 minutes out from meeting another potential friend, thanks to Instagram (or, as I see it: social media in its highest and best use).

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This ever-present onslaught of unwelcome emotion — it comes when I’m making a list of recipes I want to make. When I’m bending down to tie my shoelaces at the door. When I’m checking the eggs for cracks at the grocery store. When I’m standing at the stove, waiting for water to boil. When I’m stabbing the “lift and look” button on the toaster. (No more patient there.)

It’s a lot of things I can’t quite put my finger on and a few that I can. It’s: a humiliating and bone-deep ache to connect. An immediate desire to feel less alone, less separate. An appallingly intense longing for love and affection and, maybe more importantly: acceptance.

And overriding it all: an unshakable anxiety that things might NOT work out; I might not ever find it; I might not ever figure it out; I might not ever get all the way better.

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There’s shame in there, too, I think. I feel 99% sure shame is in there.

I think I have a better understanding of what came out of my mouth last week at therapy, in a sentence that surprised me too: I just want someone to tell me I’m doing an okay job.

At what? At pushing myself professionally, while resisting the urge to hyper-achieve, be perfect, make no mistakes? At still taking good, gentle care of myself, while figuring out how to balance this new life/work?

Or was it about doing an overall decent job of continuing to challenge myself to meet people and make Oregon feel like home? (But somehow still wanting to preserve and protect the time alone I need in order to unwind/recharge?)

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Or did I mean: am I managing my priorities the way I should be? Am I gaining weight, and feeling soft and sweet and mostly forgiving about it, knowing there’s just no other alternative, and the right person won’t care, and the right person needs to be me?

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These are questions I asked my mom when I got back to my apartment. When we talk instead of text, we often do so from our respective couches. Hers is a buttery leather beauty, in a cognac color I always thought would make a particularly spectacular pair of riding boots. We call it the baseball glove. Mine is an error in judgment I’ve grown rather fond of, a hard-as-a-rock navy blue number from West Elm. We call it the velvet pincushion.

I stacked 3 pillows behind my head, kicked off my shoes (suede booties, ruined by a recent rain), and let her words wash over me, so comforting. “Life is really long. You are so young. You will wrap your arms around it all. You are my best and only girl. Love you more than all the world.”

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“You just need time. Sometimes half an hour is enough.” -Unknown

“It’s so weird how life is so full of moving around — people coming and going, people passing by each other all day long. You never know which person’s going to steal your heart. You never know which place is going to settle your soul. All you can do is look. And hope. And believe.” -Natalie Lloyd

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“People were buying milk, or filing their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.” -Rachel Joyce

“I don’t want to have to do this living. I just walk around. I want to be swept off my feet, you know? I am prepared for amazing things to happen. I can handle it.” -Miranda July

“On some level, even though it never turns out to be true, and even though I should know better, I still expect life to be like the movies.” -E. Lockhart

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“What if you knew, with indisputable certainty, that love was never going to be yours. How would you live your life differently? What about your daily routine would you alter? What about your long-term plans? We want someone to swoop in during our darkest hour and save us, but what if we knew they never would? We’d have to start doing everything differently.” -Heidi Priebe

“We come from a generation of people who need their TV or stereo playing all the time. These people so scared of silence. These soundaholics, these quietophobics.” -Chuck Palahniuk

“I have a sadness shield that keeps out all the sadness, and it’s big enough for all of us.” -Where the Wild Things Are

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“Board my body up. I am not for loving.” -Eimear McBride

“The most intimate thing we can do is to allow people we love most see us at our worst. At our lowest. At our weakest. True intimacy happens when nothing is perfect.” -Amy Harmon

“Sweetheart, I’ll always be in your corner. And if the time should come that you want me in your center, I’ll be there, too.” -Bruce Adler

“Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out.” -Ruth Ozeki

“My heart is at ease knowing that what is meant for me will never miss me, and that which misses me was never meant for me.” -Imam al-Shafi’i

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“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. Are you looking for a way to miraculously transform your life? This is it.” -Eckhart Tolle

“If you feel you ought to go, if I came to you at a moment when nothing could make you happy, if it’s necessary for you to leave me now so that you may someday come back to me at peace, then it is I who ask you to go.” -Alain-Fournier 

“I was in a place where nobody knew my heart even a little bit.” -Carol Rifka Brunt

Temporary. I had never known a word that made me feel both terrified and relieved.” -Mandeq Ahmed 

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“We have a whole new year ahead of us. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other, and a little more loving, have a little more empathy, and maybe — next year at this time — we’d like each other a little more.” -Judy Garland

“There is only one way to go, and that’s up. I know that it is possible for life to look, sometimes, as if it’s going downhill, as if everything is falling apart. But consider this: When life is ‘falling apart’ things could actually be falling together, maybe for the first time.” -Neale Donald Walsch

“That was just it. You never knew what lay ahead. One minute you’re walking through a dark woods, alone, and then the landscape shifts, and you see it. Something wondrous and unexpected, almost magical, that you never would have found had you not kept going.” -Sarah Dessen

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“Whatever happens next…happens next.” -Charlie Skinner

“After all this, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.” -Margaret Atwood

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{Forest Park 1-3 via @andrewgolesch, sunny trees via @bdorts, Diablo Lake via @connorsurdi, bright lights via @jonny_riot, Ace Hotel via @sliceofpai, foggy mountain/lake via @theplaidshirt, Oregon Coast via @monascherie, Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm via @roydufek, Mt. Hood #1 via @jakeegbert, Smith Falls via @alexhinphotography, latte via @thetraveleaters, house portrait via @fursty, Mt. Hood #2 via @john.burgesssd, cherry blossoms via @alison_wu — all on Instagram.}

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4 thoughts on “My Best and Only Girl

  1. Wow, that place you walk is really beautiful. And I understand where your coming from because I feel the same way too.

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