Atlas in My Lap

If you ask me, slipping into the woods is as immediately soothing as sinking down into a bubble bath up to your chin. Maybe even more so, because out there among those towering Dogwood firs, any mysteriously/stubbornly not-white parts of the tub feel largely inconsequential. And deep in the forest, where it’s quiet enough for your brain to follow suit, you don’t have to worry about the water getting cold. Or someone walking in on you. Or how much you might be fined for theoretically splash-soaking a library book.

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Have I mentioned how good I am at relaxing?

I actually am relaxed. Now, today, in this moment.

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I went to the market first thing this morning and swung by the library on the way home, because this is standard Saturday and how you get the clumpiest granola and the first look at the “lucky day,” two-week titles. This is also how you get the biggest and best sidewalk bouquet for a mere ten dollars. Wise purchase of the week, I tell you.

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Then I went for a long walk through Forest Park and thought about how lucky I am to be living in Portland, all things considered. Even though everything isn’t perfect, I could be doing a lot worse.

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I do miss being able to write as regularly as I once did. I miss being able to digest everything one day at a time. That was a nice pace.

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What I do now could probably be better described as a sporadic attempt to cram a full week’s worth of thoughts into a single sitting. This gets tricky, because what’s important seems to change so fast.

For example. What I lost sleep over on Tuesday was completely irrelevant by Thursday. What I felt so shaky about yesterday felt almost stupidly simple — ya-duh — while I was picking my way through the trees today.

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Worry is such a wasted effort. [And yet.]

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I wonder what you worry about. What the main thing is, and whether right now it feels big or small. I wonder if it’s surmountable, in your opinion, or if the real answer is: you just so, so, so hope so. Every finger and toe crossed.

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I waffle back and forth on this. I think it’s okay, to waffle. We’re allowed.

Last night I sat in my off-white tub until long after the bubbles were gone, quietly marveling over the last few months/years. So much has happened, so much has changed.

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Although I’m proud of about thirty things, I’m disappointed about two. Sometimes I think they’re small things. Tiny things, in the grand scheme of things. Other times they feel huge.

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It’s hard for me to remember that this part, at least, is normal. If you take five steps forward, say, at work, it’s not unusual to take two steps backward in some other area of your life. Temporarily, I feel like I should add. [We’re talking temporary setbacks.]

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I don’t get any joy, any satisfaction, any whatever you want to call it, out of writing about sad things anymore. Especially not during the summer, when it’s sunny and bright and we have any one of a dozen reasons to be happy, take your pick.

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I mean, there is something new at the market every week. 

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And the ten-day forecast doesn’t show a single day of rain. And three people asked me to do something this weekend. And not to jinx myself, but there’s a chance I’m going to be on the receiving end of some really exciting news next week.

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It’s the not knowing, the ahead of time, the am-I-going-to-be-able-to-do-this, the is-this-going-to-work-out that I find hard. And this sentence: “It’s been three years of stress and sadness and sickness, and four years since you last let somebody hold you, and I know there hasn’t been anyone since him, but I just think that it’s time for your life to be about your life, because the last couple of years haven’t been.”

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“The hardest thing about being 25 is that every bad moment feels like a verdict on who you are, on what your life will and won’t be. You are feeling discouraged right now therefore you will never amount to anything and no one will ever love you. You see the friends who write to their other friends, on their Instagrams and FB pages, ‘Oh Beth, you are so beautiful, can’t wait for brunch this weekend!’ and you think that no one could ever love you that much. People don’t feel that way about you. You don’t inspire outbursts of affection. Men don’t flock to your side. Career paths don’t open up like a yellow brick road before your feet. Your face is terrible, awful, an insult. Every cell of your body is a pox on the land. You don’t own the magic; someone else does. [You are not the kind of person who deserves magic.] However: WRONG. We all own the magic. And those of us in the same misshapen, flawed batch are maybe the best of all at finding it.” -Heather Havrilesky

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“And we drink our coffee and pretend not to look at each other.” -Charles Bukowski

“I’ve spent most of my life chasing the person I want to be. Because 20-year-old me will have better friends, and 25-year-old me will land a killer job, and 30-year-old me will be madly in love. And me 6 months from now will be skinnier, and me a year from now will be more confident…for years, this is what I thought. That if I could just wait it out, everything would get better. It took me a long time to realize that life doesn’t work that way. Because life isn’t about growing up to be all that we’ve ever wanted; it’s just about growing up. It’s about love, and change, and crying yourself to sleep when it’s all too much, and calling your mom every Sunday because you miss her like hell. It’s all of these things, and good things, and bad things, and the raw realization that it doesn’t get better or worse, it just gets different. It just changes. Always, always changes. And somehow that makes it more wonderful. Because future you may have the friends, and the boy, and the job, but she didn’t get it by waiting around. She got it by succeeding and failing, by growing, by trying again. Always by trying again.” -Unknown

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“To be brave, by definition, one has first to be afraid.” -Robert Harris

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” -Kate Atkinson

“It’s peculiar, as soon as I am in the midst of nature and by myself, everything that is base and trivial vanishes without trace. On such days nothing scares me, and this helps me again and again.” -Gustav Mahler

“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.” -Susan Cain

“Later that night I held an atlas in my lap and ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered where does it hurt? It answered everywhere everywhere everywhere.” -Warsan Shire

“I know it’s not easy for you, living this life, but try to remember, always try to remember, you’re not the only one with troubles.” -Laini Taylor

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“You’ve got to love yourself with all your shortcomings, and you’ve got to love the world no matter how bad it gets.” -Joan Bauer

“You cannot measure the loss of a human life. It’s all the things a person was, all their dreams, all the people who loved them, all they hoped to be and could give back to the world.” -Joan Bauer

“There is a place in the heart that will never be filled and we will wait and wait in that space.” -Charles Bukowski

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“I think you understand better than most people.” -Virginia Woolf

“You write to discover what you’re thinking and feeling, where the truth is. You don’t begin by saying, now this is the truth.” -Maxine Kumin

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“I love writing, but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, ‘You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, Giftless. I’m not your agent and I’m not your mommy: I’m a white piece of paper. You wanna dance with me?’ and I really, really don’t. I’ll go all peaceable-like.” -Aaron Sorkin

“We read to learn and to grow, to laugh, to be motivated, to understand things we’ve never been exposed to. We read for strength to help us when we feel broken, discouraged or afraid. We read to find hope. We read because we’re not just made up of skin and bones, and a deep need for chocolate, but because we’re also made up of words, words which describe our thoughts and all that’s hidden in our hearts.” -Joan Bauer

“The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” -Lorraine Hansberry

“All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” -Mae West

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“Songs are as sad as the listener.” -Jonathan Safran Foer

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing, something complicated and hard to get. Yet what little things can make it up: a place of shelter when it rains, a hot cup of strong coffee when you’re blue, a book to read when you’re alone, just to be with someone you love. These things make happiness.” -Betty Smith

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“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.” -Haruki Murakami

“Some people reflect light, some deflect it, you by some miracle, seem to collect it.” -Mark Z. Danielewski

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{Indian Beach waves via @bethkellmer, hanging plant via @pnwonderland, Mt. Hood/PDX via @d.priym, Historic Highway 30 via @nicholaspeterwilson, old growth forest via @andrewgolesch, Big Pink & Mt. Hood/plane & sunny street via @nicholaspeterwilson, SUMMER! via @howsweeteats, downtown Seattle via @cr.a.ig, cotton candy sky via @brambleworkshop, trail via @fursty, wispy ferns via @sasha.swerdloff, dandelion via @shutterbean — all on Instagram.}

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