Over and Next

When you have a birthday, people often ask how it feels to be X years old — as if 24 hours in, you’ll be able to report feeling distinctly older than you did the day before. If you are a good granddaughter, this is exactly what you do. You smile and nod and hope nobody’s up there tallying up little white lies, and you give your grandma the best seat at the table and the first slice of your favorite happy-occasion cake. The one that looks *very* homemade. (Notes for next year: cold cake, hot knife, clean the blade between cuts.)

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It’s nowhere near my turn to lick the frosting from the base of a brightly colored candle and send a private wish out into the world, but I’m in one of those stages where I can practically feel myself growing. I’ve always slept on my stomach, but lately I’ve been curling up in the fetal position at night, as if in quiet protest against all of the personal and professional kinesthetics going on. (We might need to call those the mid-twenties?)

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It is good to stretch and be stretched; I know. But it is also some of the most exhausting work there is, so it feels very good to just be alone today, in my too-big bed and pajamas with the drawstring long gone. 90% of my body is still nestled under a sea of pillows, my hair is still damp from my shower last night, and I don’t plan on going fishing for a bra until at least 9AM.

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Today there is no one to impress, no one to meet, no one to charm, no one to stand up to, no one to sway.

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Today I don’t have to write the mother of all persuasive essays. I don’t have to wrap my arms around words like “efficacy” and “economic benefits.” I don’t have to develop or implement or execute anything, with the possible exception of lunch. Our how-to-lunch strategy is important, especially on Sunday when it can be slow and savored. (And involve salmon, if we play our cards right.)

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Today, I don’t have to determine my market value or be prepared to defend it. Or not defend it; [take a deep breath and] sell it. I don’t have to wear shoes that spell trouble for my pinky toes or strong-shake somebody’s hand or look someone steadily in the eye even when the impulse to glance down at the floor or up at the ceiling or really anywhere else is real.

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Today, I don’t have to worry about what will be or won’t be. And I don’t have to come up with a game plan for attending to the little voice getting increasingly harder to shush: I’m fried; I’m toast. I can’t keep up; how am I going to be able to keep up. I need a break. Another break.

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Today I don’t have to find my way across town or sit down with a stranger hopefully about to become another friend. I don’t have to make small talk or talk at all, if I don’t want to.

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Today I also don’t have to work up the courage to give someone my number or figure out how to slip them a handwritten note (because old-fashioned still wins). And that’s a nice thing. Maybe today I can just enjoy the fact that three weeks ago there was nobody who looked interesting, and now there are four people who do.

What other conclusions can we draw? What other comforts are out there for the taking?

  • One comes from my mom, via NPR and I want to say Norman Lear, who is 94 years old and believes the two most important words in the English language are “over” and “next.” Just let that sink in for a moment. For some reason, that hit the two of us right where it hurt. (But also really helped.) Norman thinks about the present as a hammock between “over” and “next.” Could we be enjoying the swing in that hammock a little more?

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  • Three requirements for happiness, according to Eleanor Roosevelt: the feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; the conviction that you have done the best you could in your personal life and in your work; the ability to love others.

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  • You know what is good for you and what is not. Only you can say what’s too little and what’s too much. Separate but related: go with your gut.

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  • There’s a bunch of stuff under the banner called “Learning to Love My Single Life.” I’m learning I prefer to cross out the word “single” and just focus on enjoying the rest.

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  • “Amélie has no boyfriend. She’s tried once or twice, but the results were a letdown. Instead, she cultivates a taste for small pleasures: dipping her hand into sacks of grain, cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon, skipping stones at St. Martin’s canal.” -Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

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  • We talk about biggest 90-day challenges and 6-month S.M.A.R.T. goals at work, but what about at home? What about in life? What about learning to love ourselves despite the ease with which we lean towards the opposite? (I’m here to give you a high-five.)

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  • There is a way to be active without being obsessive/compulsive about it, there is a way to love food without being afraid of it/totally disordered about it, and there is a way to move through life without being hotly ashamed of the depth of your wants/needs. Spoiler alert: there are multiple ways.

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  • As a general rule: things feel less big/scary/awful when you talk about them.
  • You can lose a little battle here and there, but you can also elect to think of them as nothing more than minor scuffles in a big war that you’ve been winning and will go on winning.
  • “It is impossible, after a certain point, to go back to a previous way of life, a previous way of thinking.” -Henry Rollins

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  • From my friend-I-have-yet-to-meet Maggie, and her therapist who sounds a lot like mine: if you live your life from a place of scarcity (not enough food, not enough love, not enough sleep, not enough money, not enough time, not enough calm, not enough quiet, not enough people with whom you can connect with deeply), it will be very hard for you to find an abundance of joy.

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  • Wise words, from Michelle Obama: “If you don’t prioritize yourself, you constantly start falling lower and lower on your list.”
  • A four-sentence, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks observation from the Dalai Lama: “What surprises me most about humanity? Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money, and then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

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  • “Most everything you’ll learn on your own, but if I could just tell you three things: care is as important as career, heart is as important as head, and family is as important as fame.” -Anne-Marie Slaughter
  • It feels very good to say some things that need to be said, even if you bungle the delivery and the person on the receiving end doesn’t understand all of it. This hardly matters; what matters is those words long trapped and flapping to get out have been freed.

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  • One day, everything you ever could’ve wished for will be smiling at you from the other side of the bed.
  • “What advice do I have for you? Hell I don’t know. Once I saw you sit down next to a kid who was eating lunch all alone—always be that person. Once I saw you go up to a little girl who was crying on the playground and ask her what was wrong—always be that person.” -Aaron Sorkin
  • Equally excellent words, from a column called Ask Polly that I’m not at all embarrassed to say I religious-read: “The best people are the ones who care too much. The best ones are the ones with big, desperate, watery eyes. They are overly invested, they care deeply about how things turn out, they want to know what comes next, they ache for a wilder, more colorful life. You are way more invested than you want to be. That is fine. That’s just who you are. It’s time to accept that this is how you will live. You are a person with an almost boundless ability to care, to love, to feel, to create. These are precious and important qualities. It’s time to stop fighting yourself, day in and day out. It’s time to enjoy the way you are right now. Your desperation is beautiful. Your disappointed Chihuahua eyes are beautiful. Your overactive brain is beautiful. Your ability to ask yourself tough questions and answer them in reassuring ways is beautiful.”

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{Bubbles via @bythebrush, St. John’s Bridge via @jakeegbert, bridge from the Eastbank Esplanade via @crippeakasizzler1, Oregon coast via @annaeknutson, dirt road via @fursty, St. John’s Bridge w/ bike via @hayden_willy, blue door via @lilyrose, Natural Bridges Trail via @jaredtheridge, Toketee Falls via @nathanielgray — all on Instagram.}

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