Nostalgia for the music-hearted

I used to write song lyrics on fancy stationary in my best, curliest handwriting and taped them to a wall in my bedroom. The other walls showcased writing on them too. Letters people wrote me. Letters I wrote myself. An entire wall of fortune cookie wisdom I had arranged into a giant flower.

There wasn’t a single space of white in my childhood room. Every inch of space was covered with words mostly written in glittery gel pen.

I played piano too. Not well, but well enough to complement whatever song I was singing, even if that meant a few chords. I spent hours in my room fiddling around with notes. The sheet music usually ended up on the floor, and I’d resolve to whatever sounded the best.

I liked the sound of my voice. Much more in song than in speech. In speech, I felt clunky and brash. I hated it on rewind. In song, I could make my words flower and melt.

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I firmly believe language is dead without music.

I’d spend all week creating and memorizing a song, and then I’d serenade my friends. They seemed to like it. They’d nod their heads, lean into it, ask for more.

I started a band with a few other restless types. We called it National Fishing Day. Some inside joke my friend and I came up with while we got high in the forest preserve. She was gangly and sweet, and she played drums. We found ourselves a bass player. This short, turtlish guy who smelled like cigarettes and rocked out to hair metal. We all really needed an outlet. Our weekends became jam sessions in the drummer’s basement somewhere in the woods of rural Illinois.

We were all just learning our crafts. No one was truly good at anything, but we didn’t care. We weren’t going anywhere except for right there, in the now. I wrote two songs. I forget their names. When we performed them together, we flew. There’s nothing better than fumbling around with sound in a basement. When we were all in sync, it was our version of perfect.

That wasn’t the only fumbling happening. My drummer and I started making out on her dingy basement couch. I thought we were just friends fooling around, but our intimacy kind of put a damper on things. She wanted more, and I didn’t want anything more than her friendship and the band. Our poor bassist. We were all devastated when National Fishing Day was no more.

Somewhere along the way I stopped singing all together. Mostly because I grew more self-conscious. My ears would burn, and my entire face would go numb whenever I sang in front of more than a few of my closest friends. This happened when I gave presentations too. It affected the sound of my voice. The older I got, the more it quaked.

Why does age rob us of our childhood loves? There is something wrong here.

I rationalized that I express myself in other ways, so I could let this one go. But why let any of them go?

This weekend I waddled over to this divey karaoke bar. I’ve been here once before. It’s not what you’d expect. This tiny thing with a few tables and musty carpeting. But it’s apparently the place to be. You can’t even move an elbow without bumping into someone. One of the few places in the suburbs that kind of feels like city, but with cheap drinks.

My go-to karaoke is Alanis Morissettte. Pretty basic. I mostly listen to indie music you wouldn’t find on karaoke, but my girl Alanis does just fine. Everyone remembers her. She was a lot of people’s angst filled teen years.

I wanted to sound like myself. So I sang my hardest. I belted it out. I hit all the nuances. Because I like to sing. I’ve always liked to sing. It felt amazing to dust off my favorite instrument.

The bar became a gray blur around me. I couldn’t pinpoint a single face, just the words on the screen. I knew those words well, in a colorful bedroom long ago. Such is the way of karaoke. Nostalgia for the music-hearted.

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Practical ways to kick anxiety’s ass

I’ve been wanting to come up with a list of helpful anxiety combatants for a while now. Mostly for me, so that I have something tangible to grab onto when my brain goes into lockdown. But in light of all the mental health struggles being tossed around lately, I realize sharing these personal bits could potentially be useful to someone else.

Last week I sat in on a culture meeting at my work. One of my company’s leaders introduced himself, and in his introduction he said he has struggled with anxiety and depression, and is a recovered alcoholic.

I’ve been at my current job for less than a few weeks, and I’ve already talked about my anxiety and listened to a few of my coworkers’ run-ins with it. And these conversations have been accepted, if not encouraged. In a workplace of productive people. In a workplace with a bottom line.

It’s 2018, and if your workplace doesn’t acknowledge employee mental health as an appropriate or relevant topic of discussion to be had at least at some point, your business risks being left behind. Fuck, it should be left behind.

When I’m having a full blast anxiety attack, I tend to roll around like dough in bed and wait out the sickness. Every thought that enters my head is incomplete and razor sharp. Full of fear and ill intent. Not a single thought of comfort or relief. These are thoughts I do not want to leak outside my mouth so I chew on them and swallow them. And they jab at me on the inside. They pulsate in my stomach. They run up and down my spine like angry toddlers. An endless stream of them.

I don’t know what to do with myself except wait until my body caves into exhaustion. And when I come outside the noise, I always feel like I’ve just wasted another part of my life. Anxiety is such a waste of time.

I used to be terrified of being alone because this is usually where the 50-eyed monster finds me. So I looked for complete stimulation. All the time.

Being alone was too much of a risk. But over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of alone time. Which means I’ve had a lot of attacks. But this has also given me the chance to get intimate with my disorder. Study it. Recognize when it’s on its way. I’ve learned how to set up traps for it. Sometimes, how to give it a job, make it work for me. But mostly how to accept it as a frequent visitor.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder a little more than three years ago. I’m not on medication, but have considered it a few times. I don’t think people who take medication are weaker or stronger than me. Everyone’s anxiety is different. I prefer to maximize all my outlets, outlets that have been working for me for a while.

Obviously, these activities are useless if you’re in too deep, but if you have studied your anxiety enough, and can get a good whiff of it when it’s approaching, maybe one of these could be of use to you.

Move your ass

Yes, I mean exercise. Give it a good eye roll if you want. I know I did at one point. I enjoy exercise, but I’m definitely not one of those people who is on a constant live or die exercise schedule. After long work days, I often have to outsmart my brain into letting my body exercise. The hardest part of exercise is getting yourself there.

Think about yourself hitting that free-fall point during a good workout. Do you feel animalistic? Strong? Like you’re knocking the piss out of invisible demons? After a good workout, how do you look at yourself? Do you slink around in your clothes? Or better, outside them?

My favorite exercises entail a certain element of risk and freedom. Running outside 30 minutes before the sun drops. Challenges and obstacle courses that demand problem solving. Dance is one of my favorite ways to sweat. Zumba, hip-hop, anything where you can showcase your inner freak or completely embarrass yourself and no one around you will care. Or, if you prefer to dance in the comfort of your living room, then truly no one is around to care.

I have large hips, and I know how to use them, damn it.

Exercise that doesn’t feel like work is generally the exercise I’m most interested in. Machines put me to sleep, so I like to be creative about it. I think a lot of people are in this boat. They don’t like exercise because they find it to be a chore.

I’ve discovered I need exercise. I’m a completely different person when I allow myself to work out three to five times a week. I’m less likely to fall victim to my own head games.

Exercise is one of the best, most scientifically proven stress-relievers and weapons against anxiety.

Do something artsy fartsy

There’s a reason those adult coloring books are so popular. I myself like to draw and write. If it’s not obvious, this website is a form of therapy. Though, sometimes writing in particular can summon the beast, especially if I’m writing about something that’s particularly painful to me. Some people blaze up a guitar. Others knit. I have a friend who has fingers made for jewelry. Another who knows her way around a piece of felt.

Making art, whether you’re any good at it or not, has so many mental health benefits. Not only are you creating new brain cells, but you’re boosting your dopamine levels. And dopamine is delicious.

A few months ago I drew something that took me 13 straight hours. I hardly noticed the time I was so immersed in the different shapes and shading. The second I dropped the pencil, I floated down from whatever dimension I was in. Though a lot of people may argue differently, that’s 13 hours of non-wasted time. There’s a product at the end of the creating. You feel good about doing a thing.

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Also, when you’re creating, you’re less likely to hurt yourself or anyone else.

Lie around in a pool of your own filth

Some days, I don’t want anything to do with art or exercise. I want to sit in a pool of steaming water and think about nothing. These are the days my anxiety is nipping the back of my heels. I need a quick fix.

I’ve really been into those bath bombs that have little treats at the center of them. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. There’s a stick of cinnamon or a clove waiting for you at the bottom of the bomb. A little treasure.

I like these guys because they force you to focus on what’s inside. I’ll submerge my hand in the water and watch and feel the fizzle of salt. Until there’s nothing but a small object that I study and twirl between my fingers.

Baths are my way of making my life come to a screeching halt. They’re also where I get some of my best writing ideas. Because thinking about nothing sometimes leads to something.

Build your music playlists

Spotify is one of my favorite things. For two reasons really. One is the Monday feature. New music based on your preferences. New artists who will speak to your soul and talk you through your morning. At the start of every week. A lot of people dread Mondays, and I imagine people with severe anxiety especially do.

A few weeks ago I was curling my hair and listening to the new Neko Case album on Spotify. It was my first week of work. My anxiety has been pretty high because I’m learning tons of new things and meeting tons of new people. The song “Halls of Sarah” started playing, and I leaned into the words and starting bawling. It was a good release to have before the start of my day.

I also enjoy the build your own playlist feature. I’ve been adding to my RUN and Write playlists for years. My Write playlist is for when I’m editing and writing. My RUN list is filled with workout jams. Pretty self-explanatory. But then I also have a playlist titled “Yold,” which is reserved for songs that make me feel both young and old at the same time. Then there’s “Bitch Mix,” which is for when I want to connect to my feminine side. Pretty scary to say, but there was once a time in my life when I listened to very few female artists. Their voices embarrassed me. I turned them down at stoplights. This is how Bitch Mix was formed. All these ladies help me when I’m really struggling with the dark side. They are my mothers and sisters.

Music legitimately saves lives. We all know this. Sometimes I feel intravenous with my music. I need it more than most things, and I’m grateful for it.

Pet a dog

My dog is my hero. She has magical super powers that ooze out of her eyeballs whenever she looks at me. I always wanted a dog. Especially a high energy one that needs a lot of attention. Dogs force you to get up and stop moping. They need to pee. They need to eat. They need you to clean up the tinfoil like object they just barfed onto the carpet. They want to play.

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Some of my favorite days are the ones I’m listening to the rain and lying next to my dog, Maya. She sighs heavily while I write in bed. Her warmth is a reminder that I exist. That I’m loved profusely by a living creature.

Dogs (and cats, etc) are amazing mental health enhancers.

Oh, but there’s so many more

I have a lot of other go-to anxiety fighters: nature walks, orgasms, video games, anything that gets me to laugh my ass off, having a meaningful conversation with another human, and turning off my fucking phone. These aren’t secrets by any means. They’re just reminders for you and me for when we begin to slip under.

What’s your list? If you don’t have one, then that’s a clear sign that you need to clear out some time for your rad self.

Clem

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I bought my rabbit, Clem, eight years ago from a thin, springy woman who ran a rabbit rescue from her large house in the country. Upon entering, I remember a sharp, rusty odor, but there was not a wad of fur or dropping to be found. Her house was immaculate for someone with animals living in every pore; rabbits munched and frolicked in their cages in the garage and living room. She even had a “private stash” in her bedroom that weren’t for sale.

I found this woman slightly unhinged. Little did I know, I would soon understand her need to cut across four lanes of traffic and throttle her car to the side of the road to retrieve an unventilated box of abandoned kits.

Clem was not my love at first sight. Nay, I had my heart set on a four-year-old Rex that looked just like the Velveteen Rabbit, one of my favorite fictional critters as a kid. My boyfriend, Sean, adored him too, but convinced me that it wasn’t such a good idea, since he had a large tumor on his hind leg. This would be our first pet as a fairly new couple, so I agreed to move on, reluctantly.

Clem flopped around a cage with a litter of rabbits that were indistinguishable from each other. They each had shiny black coats and stubby ears. We knew he was “the one” when he plopped right in front of us and shoved his nose into my hand. For 20 bucks, he was ours. On the ride home he nuzzled my waist, poking me with his whiskers and every now and then stretching his neck and sniffing the air. We named him Clementine; I didn’t learn that he was a male until a year later, when we went to get him neutered. I remember correcting the vet, who then schooled me by showing me my rabbit’s testicles.

Rabbits are not rodents; they’re lagomorphs, which is something I always threw into my father’s face. He assumed that rodents were less than those of the canine and feline families, and called Clem a “chew toy.” But I’m here to tell you rabbits are as sassy and conspiring as cats and as athletic as dogs. Did you know that rabbits can do kick flips with their hind legs? That they can throw cardboard boxes across the room? Pretty badass for a chew toy.

Clem has his own special brand of sassery. When I would study for college exams, I’d arrange all my books and notebooks across the floor and work, and Clem would come bounding across the carpet then nudge my hand. I happily mirrored his affection, but I’d have to shoo him away after the third or fourth round of pets in order to get any work done. Clem detested being shooed, so he’d devise a plan out of spite. He’d stare at me while threatening to chew through my lamp’s power cord. I’d sternly tell him NO and he would inch closer and closer to the cord anyway until I launched from the floor. The fluffy-tailed bastard would bolt underneath my dresser.

His favorite game to play with me though was the one where he’d rip a page from my notebook and flee with it into his cage. So fun. And everyone knew that once he was in his cage, he was untouchable; one could likely lose a finger in a single instant of reaching into his highly protected turf.

In literature, rabbits have always been depicted as tricksters, and I believe that every rabbit has a little of that witty, conniving Bugs Bunny in him. I believe Clem receives great pleasure when I bumble around the room to catch him. He is after all prey, and maybe he wants to be true to his nature by making his large, dim-witted oppressor hustle.

Clem lives for yogurt drops, his preciouses. All I have to do is rattle the bag of Yogies to get him to emerge from his dark tunnels. He rips them right out from my hand without a thank you. I was curious to know why he’s so hooked and decided to test them for myself. It turns out that the tart, artificial strawberry isn’t half bad. Hell, I prefer them to Smarties. Clem also saws down at least a quarter of a bag of hay a day. His mouth is constantly at work, rolling around in little circles.

A rabbit’s chow-down is much more complicated than it looks. They chew in sequences, first chiseling hay like a paper shredder, then grinding it down between the molars on one side of the mouth at a time, then pumping their intricate jaws to bring food to the back of the throat. They have a total of 28 teeth, including their trademark front incisors. Rabbits are delicate creatures; their skulls are not solid bone, rather they are thin and fenestrated, resembling a lace-like fabric.

There came a point when I felt guilty about Clem being alone all day, so I bought him a rabbit friend, whom we named Dexter. He’s cotton swab white with black rims around his eyes, which makes it look like he wears glasses like Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory. Dexter and Clem hit it off right away. They cuddled together so tight that they looked like one rising and falling ball of yin and yang.

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Around the time Dexter hit his teenage rabbit years, the love spell wore off. Dexter grew impatient with Clem’s dominance, his insistence that Dexter should clean his fur whenever he commanded. He was smaller than Clem, but faster, and growing into himself. He didn’t like to be bossed around and thumped in protest. I noticed they started sleeping on different levels in the cage. Dexter took the top bunk, and Clem huddled in the bottom one. It was a tragic observation. They were supposed to be brothers for life.

One day I was doing laundry in the basement, I heard a loud clamor coming from the ceiling. I slammed the laundry basket on the floor and heaved myself up the stairs. When I opened my bedroom door, Clem and Dexter were one again, except this time a tangled tumbleweed rolling around on the carpet. Patches of Clem’s fur were scattered across the floor in between small red dots of blood. I didn’t know what to do. I sat there deciding which finger I could afford to lose. I had a feeling this was an ultimate death match to decide who would be the alpha once and for all. Finally, Clem staggered, so I scooped him up, saving him and his dignity. Dexter’s tail was raised, and he was still grunting heavily. This fluffy bunny wasn’t fucking around.

In the end, Sean and I bought another cage and split them down the middle. It was devastating for us to watch. Their brief and passionate love was no more. I’m going to be honest with you; I felt a little resentment toward Dexter, even though I knew he was transforming into a man rabbit who wanted his space and independence. Clem couldn’t handle that. To him, he and Dexter needed to share one beating heart — one that beats 180 beats per minute (at rest). Was Clem’s affection too big, too suffocating for Dexter? Clem handled their breakup fairly well, though, in the time he spent chasing Dexter around the apartment, he made up for in eating. The poor bastard put on a couple of ounces.

It’s interesting how much value you can get out of 20 dollars, and also how much work. I guess most pet owners stumble over these crossroads.

The brushing of a rabbit is serious manual labor that you have to keep on top of. There was one year I was up to my eyeballs in jobs and homework. I vividly remember the messy hair buns and basketball shorts, the Monster Energy drink-induced nights where I was trying to decipher the Canterbury Tales, the braille of English. I slipped. I couldn’t keep up with Clem’s high-maintenance fur. What happens when you don’t brush a domestic rabbit? Well, they start to ingest their fur, which does startling things to their digestive tracks. Anyway, Clem ate so much of his own fur that it formed a web-like weave around his shit. The result was solid, golf ball size turds that Sean and I had to chop off with a pair of designated scissors.

Let me just say that rabbits aren’t as cute with solid rock turds hanging from their butts. Or when they’re yawing. Or when they’re eating their poop, which is pretty standard for most animals.

I thought we almost lost Clem. He wasn’t eating for a couple days so I rushed him over to a pet clinic near me. They turned me away because apparently Clem is considered “exotic,” which blows my mind. Clem, exotic? Give me a break. Exotic basically means risky, specialized, not to mention expensive, in veterinary terms.

So I drove Clem 45 minutes to a pet emergency center that was open 24 hours. I couldn’t locate his carrier so I sat him in my front seat, draping my cardigan over his head so he could hide, which he seemed to appreciate.

“We’re almost, there, Clem. Hang in there, old chap!” I told him. I turned my wheel gently, as opposed to cranking it. I didn’t want to freak him out even more than he already was with his wet, black eyes maniacally jutting out of their sockets.

I shoved my rabbit underneath my armpit, and we entered the emergency room. The receptionist, a young man with messy hair, jeans and a slight lisp, escorted us to our room and left us. I began to pace. I texted my friends about Clem’s updated status even if they didn’t ask. I let Clem sit underneath my chair as we waited for the vet.

About 30 minutes later I asked the receptionist how much longer until we were seen. Just as he was about to respond, a loud screeching alarm blasted through the hallway, bouncing off walls. Dogs began to bark, and two women in blue scrubs hustled past me with carriers with whiskers protruding from them.

“There was a gas leak. We all need to evacuate,” they told me. Clem was statuesque in his spot on the floor where scooped him up.

Rain pelted the street and cars. People huddled with their pets under umbrellas or scurried to their cars for shelter. Clem buried his head in my lap.

This was it. I thought chopping a poop ball off my rabbit’s ass had officially made me a crazy bunny lady, but I think the moldy cherry on top was waiting out the rain in my car with my supposedly dying rabbit until the firemen fixed the gas leak and told everyone to go inside.

The firemen waved everyone back in. We sat in the lobby waiting to be resituated, dripping in our chairs. A sick pitbull rested his head on his owner’s lap. The woman stroked the spot around his half-shut eye. A vet tech who was holding a cat in its carrier dozed off against a wall and dropped the cat’s fluids bag on the floor. Everyone in the waiting room peered at it on the floor until the tech noticed and snatched it up. Clem and I had a staredown contest with an overweight Yorkie who looked unamused with the entire situation.

Finally, Clem and I were herded into a room again where I began to pace back and forth, anxious to hear my rabbit’s fate. A vet tech popped her head in. She was pretty and looked slightly older than me. I stared at the infinity symbol strung on a chain around her neck when she spoke to me. I stared at it some more when she told me the final bill to keep Clem over night and administer medications. 1,200 dollars minimum.

“Lady, I love him, but he’s a rabbit. Give me a break, huh? I suppose you don’t do payment plans?” I laughed.

“No, but we take credit cards,” she said. Not a drop of sympathy in her clear, blue eyes.

“Ah, I figured as much. I think I’m gonna just take him home then. I mean, I just don’t have that kind of money. Is there any way I can just give him the meds on my own?”

“Well … I will check back with the doctor and see what I can do.”

She was tired. Clem and I were tired too. I took a peek at him. He was trailing off in my arms, but not really, as rabbits only sleep when it’s safe, which isn’t often for an animal born into fear.

We nursed Clem like he was a newborn. Five different medications, including one you have to mix into a green sludge. We’d take turns wrapping Clem burrito-like into a towel and shoving syringes past his two teeth. He jerked and sneezed as we force fed him the green sludge and spit it up if we gave him too much too quickly. Why is love always such a messy operation?

In two weeks, Clem was in perfect health. He rejoiced, kicking his hind legs, and all my began innards began to frolic.

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Mangoes

Last week I ate a mango like an apple, forgoing the cutlery. The juice dripped down my chin and stuck between my fingers. I had no shame about the loud squelching and appreciated the fleshy eroticism of it. Why not? It was a Friday afternoon, and there were three people working who sit on the opposite side of the office from me. No one walked in on the carnal act, and I don’t think I would be so devastated if they did. Point is it was the most delicious mango I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

And it was a steal too. Got a box of mangoes last week from Valli for 7 bucks. Say what? Did you know that mangoes are super heroes? They are cancer preventers, immune system boosters, cholesterol-lowering wildebeests, just to name a few of the street cred names they’ve obtained. They are also good for your eyes, skin, digestive tracts. Sweet deal.

Hey, did you also know the plural form of mango is both “mangoes” and “mangos”? Either or is fine as long as you’re consistent. English will never make up its mind. I’m going with “mangoes.” Why the hell not?

Today I started my morning with mangoes in cottage cheese with a piece of toast. I ate this while I finally did my taxes. I think I might go to the library and feed my brain with something packed with nutrients and life-enhancers. Gonna go feed my brain some mangoes.

 

Fourth of July pig out

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I’m trying not to rip myself a new one; it was Fourth of July yesterday after all. It’s practically patriotic to pig out all day. Burgers, brats, potato salad. Etc. Whatever. Who cares. My friend’s father got his paws on these mouth-watering sausages from Bari, an Italian deli on Grand Ave. in Chicago. HOLY SHIT. Let me tell you about the speed of that thing flying down my gullet like a bullet. A little bit of mustard, onions, and homemade giardiniera. Oh my sweet, smoky lord.

But what disturbed me was the image of myself after hours. After the beers. It’s hunched over and haunting. I. I can’t look at it for too much longer.

Even though I was still full from the large intake from a few hours prior, I insisted on Burger King. My boyfriend said, “Sarah, you know you’re going to be mad at yourself and me tomorrow morning, right?”

“ARGRHH BLURPP,” was the wolfish sound that slopped out of my mouth. Poor Sean had no choice but to give in to my urgent desires. The monster wanted to HAVE IT HER WAY NOW, MOTHERFUCKA.

I passed out in the passenger seat before we even made it to Burger King. I’m pretty sure I was snoring when Sean plopped the beautiful brown bag into my lap. Immediately the meaty aroma that BK pumps into the air on the constant awakened my senses. I asked for buffalo sauce so I could dunk my fries. I fingered fries in the darkness of Sean’s car, plunging them and covering them in sauce up to their very tips. For some reason Burger King’s fries aren’t as delicious as I remembered, but buffalo sauce can make dog poop taste good. I feel like everyone knows that.

Here’s the worst part: as soon as we got home, I put on my pajamas, opened up the fridge, and proceeded to eat the rest of our leftover lasagna lying dormant in the largest baking dish we own. I ate with a plastic frozen yogurt spoon. On the top of the pink spoon is a rosy-cheeked girl with an ice cream swirl of hair.

I woke up during the middle of the night with cold sweats. I was constipated and sad, so I picked up one of my library books. It was only a matter of time before the spicy food bitchslap reared its terrifying head. But I snuggled into my covers and slipped into my book’s character. This too shall pass, I told my quivering stomach.

Early morning read

I set my clock early this morning so I could read. I slunk into my slippers, uncovered the bird and told her good morning. She squawked her annoyance, but then puffed up and settled into the warmth of her feathers.

I sat in Sean’s spot on the couch because it’s cozy and worn from his habitual video game play. My eyes still wore a foggy film of sleep residue, but I propped myself up and willed myself to be awake.

As my eyes began to hunt the text, I realized I didn’t have to look for mistakes and inconsistencies. I could just read. I burrowed into my book. It was lovely.

I edit things all day, so I spend a lot less time reading for sheer enjoyment than I ever have. It’s funny that when you have a job and want to do it well, you almost take on the persona. I am an editor, but I’m so much more. This sounds like a common sense statement, but it’s important for me to say it, for me to come back and read it over.

Lately, I’m hyper aware of betraying myself, of squashing my artist, of forgetting where I come from, of becoming all ego — personally and professionally. I think most people, especially young people, have an issue with this balance — how to believe in yourself but not fly too high. Some people think there are no limits, and I have never been one to believe this. We are filled with limitations. And that’s okay. That’s the beautiful part, right?

I received a mug as a birthday gift that said: “I’m silently correcting your grammar right now.” It’s actually my favorite mug because it has the perfect weight, coffee distribution, and lip to drink from, but that’s  besides the point. The point is, I don’t necessarily identify with the words on the cup.

I have a secret for you: I don’t cringe at the sight of bad grammar or misspellings. But yes, I absolutely notice them, especially if I’m the one making them. I have high standards, but I try my best not to glower, not to make others feel small.

Anyway, there are worse things to have than bad grammar. Like a rotten heart or a closed mind.

The book I started reading this morning is called “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. A friend recommended it to me. I’m about 40 pages in, and I’m already digging the simple-Jewish-man-travels-across-the-world-to-study-Buddhism vibe to it.

This book is a challenge for me. Though I would call myself a spiritual person, I don’t tend to take pragmatic advice on the soul or choose to read the equivalent of a car manual on spirituality (contradiction, anyone?). This text is far from that. I find it inviting, so much that I set my alarm to read it this morning. I will have more thoughts to share and quotes to pull from it eventually (or not, maybe I will read for the sake of reading), but this is what I have so far.

I’m glad I woke up today.

Time zones

I’m seriously challenged when it comes to time zones. I have an interview with this guy at 11:00 in mountain time. I wrote down in my notes yesterday: Sarah, this means you call this bro at 10:00 (INCORRECT). This morning I call him at 9:00 a.m. central time (Nope) when he’s just walking into his office door (in Utah). I’m all chipper, and he’s like uhhhh can you call me back in two hours, my friend?

And now that I still have to interview this guy I will probably say something about how mild the winter was here and make that conversation last 10 excruciating minutes, and he will be silent when I laugh at my own jokes. And to segue that conversation I will ask him about his childhood or his biggest fear, and he’ll be like uh, is this relevant? And I will be like, yes it is because I don’t exactly care about the new and latest even though I know it’s your job to discuss those things, and it’s my job to care, or at least pretend to.

Or I will accidentally tell him my age, and he’ll be like wow, I remember my first big kid job or when my bones didn’t ache. Or I will tell him that I really need a vacation because I no longer care which version of your/you’re is used in a sentence. And all the while my stomach will gurgle because of how uncomfortable I am, or because I’m hungry, and I will not have eaten my lunch yet because I will be all botched up on time. I’m supposed to eat my lunch at 10 a.m. everyday because I never make it to noon.

And by the time I’m done thinking all these things, I will get myself to laugh about how dumb all this sounds.

Are you done now?

Do you feel better?

Hey, the interview will go just fine.

Breathe, girl.

Relax.

 

TGIF

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Fridays are holy days for Alexa and me. I’ve never written about our Fridays. My guess is that I can’t paint them just right. I’ll smudge em up too much. Or maybe there’s something untouchable about them, something that’s reserved for us only. But lately we’re all about being brave and sharing what is most important to us — and that includes each other.

This Friday we went rollerblading through Busse Woods. Though it was a fairly mild winter, we still couldn’t help but seize the first spring-ish day. Alexa didn’t have work, and I was released into the wild early. We hopped into my little red Mazada, which desperately needs a car wash. We parked and feverishly laced up our blades. Alexa wobbled on her feet, asking, “I’m stable, are you stable?”

The pathway was mostly ours. Our muscles remembered the zigzag movement, the loud breeze blasting in our ears. Busse Lake was calm and stretching out in the sun. The trees protruded their nakedness. As soon as we began sweat clung to the middles of our backs.

Alexa and I talked about our plans. She told me how she wanted to be more spontaneous with her workouts, instead of stuffing them into a strict regimen. I told her I wanted to pick up running again, since this time of year is my favorite time to run. We talked about writing. She told me about her blog’s new look and setup, that she wants to work on a new challenge. Her last challenge was not to eat out in order to save money, and she rocked it. I told her about a recent blog I wrote about Trump that wasn’t very good, just something I needed to get off my chest, and also about this book of poems I’ve been putting together that I’d like her help in organizing.

We trucked through the eight-mile trail. We barreled up hills, rounded sharp corners, forgoing the treacherous sticks and patches of tar on the pavement. There was a point where Alexa was trying “too hard to be cool” and almost fell backwards. My heart skipped a beat as she flapped her arms like a crazed bird. We laughed at the close call, and she reminded me of the time last summer we went rollerblading, and I almost ate shit. I had instinctively reached for her arm. “So you want to take me down with you, huh?” she had asked.

We spotted a few of the famous elk lazing around in the grass. It’s amazing how the enchantment of seeing them in a town we’ve lived in most of our lives hasn’t worn off yet.

At the end of the trail, we both sighed our contentment. Even though the blades were off, it felt like they were on. It’s weird how certain movements imprint themselves into your limbs, how they stay with your body for a while afterward.

Before going to Alexa’s, we stopped at the Tensuke Market and picked up some plum wine and seaweed wraps for the sushi we were to make for dinner. I was distracted by all the adorable dishware to eat sushi from. I made a mental note to explore this store on my own, as I never had before. The young man who checked us out bowed each time he received and returned our money, which took us both aback.

Alexa showed me how to assemble sushi. You lay out the wrap, slap some sticky rice on the paper, line up the vegetables, wet the end of the wrap, and roll it nice and tight. The end product awkwardly enough feels like an erect penis. How adult of us to notice this. Anyway, then you slice the log into individual rolls. I think Alexa might have cut more rolls than me because I was talking a lot. I can’t exactly remember everything I said, but I do remember talking and talking. Poor Alexa. That shit has to get exhausting. I get really close to her face when I talk, a pesky habit of mine, which I think used to make her kind of wary. Hopefully by now she’s gotten over my bubble-popping invasiveness.

Her dog Bubba was licking his beautiful, big chops, waiting for us to drop food on the floor in the kitchen. Alexa caved into his demands, giving him a meatball for rolling over. Gale was in the living room, focusing on this new sketch she’s working on of a German Shepherd. She was precise, using a ruler to measure out the face’s dimensions. She showed me the sketch of a friend’s backyard that she had been working on. It’s as inviting as the real thing. The koi fish, the grass, the knick-knacks, Stanley the cat’s tail flickering around the shed. Gale has a way of capturing real life and then some. In my room is a framed sketch that she drew of me. It’s so beautiful I was intimidated to put it up when I first received it. It was like she tapped into something that I sometimes have difficulty seeing and believing myself.

Alexa and I went into her room. We wolfed down our sushi rolls and sipped the plum wine. We scrolled through social media, and read about the Bernie rally that some of our friends had attended. And then it suddenly occurred to us: why didn’t we go?

It dawned on both of us that it would have been really something to be a part of the history we were watching before our very eyes. There was Sanders in his element and glowing, waving his conductor hands, hitting on all the big ones — healthcare, college loans, Wall Street, women’s rights, the lead-poisoned residents in Flint, and the U.S.’s dwindling infrastructure, etc. People of all colors, ages, genders, and ethnicities cheered behind and around him, armed with their “A Future to Believe in” signs. Muse’s Uprising began to play. “They will not control us… We will be victorious…”

Here is a man who has dedicated his whole life to people’s rights, who flies down escalators, who talks with his hands. At 74, he’s awakening a tired and angry America looking for more long-term change. Sanders represents all of them. And he represents Alexa and me. We could have been there, standing shoulder to shoulder with all the others.

In any case, I was happy that I was watching the rally with Alexa. When she got up to go to the kitchen for some more sushi, I gave her hug. I told her, “Man I can’t believe we’re alive right now.”

This was also the same night that Chicago protestors shut down the Trump rally. UIC, one of the most diverse campuses in a melting pot city. This had to have been planned? A publicity stunt. But in any case, the protestors had the place surrounded. They shut. it. down. I’m proud of their efforts, but I’m anxious to learn about the next city to replicate the maneuver — next time with people getting seriously hurt. The truth is I’m scared about the chaos, just like a lot of people I know. The Nazi incitements, the violent Trump rallies, the amount of blatant hatred being tossed about the streets in large hoards of people, which is nothing new, exactly.

I mean everyone seems to be calling this a revolution, and the thing about revolutions if I can remember right from the textbooks and people who are alive to talk about living through one, is that it goes beyond the breaches of electing a president. This is something that needs to be system-wide, population-wide. And I feel we still have miles to go if we want this to happen.

Here’s what I know about organized chaos, since I’ve been somewhat versed in it on a micro level — right now is a chance for great opportunity for those who want to help. During this very alarming time in our country my gut tells me that now is the time to start showing extra strength and kindness. Now is the time for the ones who care to start thinking outside the box to finally get outside the box. I don’t know what that means for me just yet, but I’m willing to be open about it and find out.

I petted the extra soft parts on Bubba’s paws, between the pads. I tried to move him so I could have more room on Alexa’s bed, but failed. He’s such a large animal. His humans keep him safe and happy. And he spends the majority of his day just loving people.

***Alexa and I challenged each other to write about this Friday together. Check out hers here! http://alexawynne.com/2016/03/14/the-politics-of-rollerblading/

 

Sitting in my car

I do this thing where I sit in my car in the winter. Sometimes I read the last bit of something. Sometimes I let the lastest song on repeat fill me. Sometimes I do nothing except let the day’s unresolved extraness leak from my skin and settle into my seat.

I wait until all the heat leaves my car, until my toes are numb from the cold. When I can’t take it anymore I go inside to my warm home that I am lucky to have, even if its ceilings are stained in the blood of dead flies, and it’s on the third floor.

I don’t really know when I started doing this. But I killed my battery doing it the other day. I left my lights on. Sean helped me jumpstart my car.

I’m sitting in my car right now. I can see Sean in the window. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing. My eyes aren’t the best in the dark, but I think I figured it out. He’s holding two ends of a Christmas tree in his hands.

He probably wants to surprise me. I’m surprised alright. Why does he continue to choose me? That’s a legitimate question. Not for him, but for me. It’s my song on repeat.

I snap pictures of him with my eyes. I add more to his living eulogy I’ve been writing inside my head for over a third of my life and go inside.

Inside, Sean smiles and strings lights.

I need tampons: A true list of things

Ready, set, being productive on my lunch break. Yeah!

•My eyebrows were officially touching in the middle, so I decided to throw in the towel and get them waxed so my boss doesn’t stare at them when she addresses me anymore.

•Coffee. Dunkin Donuts. Duh. Sarah lives on Dunkin. Not Starbucks. Starbucks can be quiet now.

•Call Sean. Complain about how fun it is to ask people direct questions and not receive answers. Oh who knows? People in business don’t want to admit when they don’t know things or they don’t care to know things. It’s unprofessional, so let’s keep everyone guessing and questioning themselves.

It’s like that game… where the fuck is Waldo? Waldo’s not here. Waldo is on vacation (again). Can I transfer you to Waldo’s voicemail?

Sean’s wiring a water purification trailer that will be shipped off to an oil field in Nebraska, or wherever this one is going. His job is monotonous and draining, but he’s doing okay today. Most days, he has this gift of mental separation when he works. I’m envious. I need like 10 Ted Talks to even get me moving in the morning. Okay, 10 is a little obscene. TED Talks are good, but they can feel a little like organized religion if you consume too many at once.

I tell Sean there’s this delicious melon that I cut up and put into the fridge. I can’t remember the name of the melon. But if cantaloupe and honeydew had sex, this melon would be its baby. Sean’s excited to taste. I’m excited he’s excited to taste.

Whoever gets home first is making the Tilapia tonight. I hope it’s Sean. He’s a better cook, and I can’t follow basic instructions. I stick metal forks into toasters. Not always, but sometimes.

•Box of tampons from Jewel. And why yes, as a matter of a fact, I will take two. What a delightful little sale. Even though how expensive tampons are makes me die a little inside whenever I’m forced to purchase them. If it was up to me I would bleed all over the place. Women’s rights? Too soon?

Get up to the counter and the two boxes go flying in opposite directions. The guy wearing dark sunglasses in front of me hands me a box. The cashier snorts into her shoulder. I basically threw the other one at her. I apologize and tell her that I go all Hulk on my period sometimes. She says she does too. I chortle. The sunglasses guy laughs nervously to amuse us, and then he stops. He looks out the window like he has somewhere to be. I feel like giving him a nudge in the ribs. Some guys are afraid to get in on period humor.

Last night I told Sean that he better cuddle with me or I would slit his throat. See? Hilarious. Or at least I remember him laughing.