why making friends as an adult is totes difficult

i wrote this post in the early morning of january 9.

i have to preface this post by saying that i didn’t allow myself to sit down and start properly writing it (properly, because i’d taken notes on my phone already) until i’d cleaned my room. my bed contained

  • clothes
  • books
  • a manuscript
  • my computer
  • vitamins
  • jewelry
  • a power cord
  • mail
  • and a few red pencils

and my floor was more of the same. i couldn’t sleep—i wonder why—and it was as if all that shit were cluttering both my room and my brain. i feel better now, but my bed has also become habitable, so i’m torn between writing and sleeping.

writing is winning, luckily.

my first reaction when i’m upset about something is to run away. i used to be a let’s-talk-this-shit-out, confrontational type, but now that i’m less volatile and more “zen” (in quotes because i actually kind of hate when people describe themselves as such), i retreat. or, at least, i fantasize about it and just delete my facebook account instead. i always come back, though, mainly because without the link to facebook, i can’t continue to cultivate my tinder habit. but anyway, budget, time, and an overall sense of rationality usually cull my urge to book a flight to ecuador.

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from the movie “i love you, man”

yesterday, after having spent five days in a row at my boyfriend’s apartment, it was time for me to return to the place i actually live, a place where in the fridge i had only feta cheese and almond milk and, at that time, my worldly possessions had erupted all over my room. my boyfriend is traveling for work this weekend, leaving me to my own devices for the next four and a half days. while seven days ago i thought of this weekend as a time to catch up on writing, be social, and be productive, yesterday afternoon i had a slight panic attack that aside from a few loose plans, i didn’t have much to do this weekend in terms of actually interacting with other people. though it was more than that; because what i was truly upset about was the fact that other than my boyfriend, there was no one within a thirty-mile radius who i could call and talk to about the fact that in the three months i’ve lived here, i haven’t really made any friends.

okay, so i have, like, two who are my homegrown friends and not friends of my boyfriend. and i did call him, and it didn’t really go well. which is what usually happens when you expect someone else, especially your boyfriend, to put a bandage on your problems for you.

so i considered driving to orange county to see my best friend. i looked at flights to places in the west (la, san diego, denver, santa fe, seattle, san francisco, and reno) and checked out driving distances and times and hostels for places like the grand canyon, phoenix, and flagstaff. i googled “good weekend trips from las vegas” and “good places for writers in the southwest” (i was really stretching with that one), and i even looked into going to mount charleston in nevada, which is only thirty miles away. anywhere, really, seemed better than here.

i ended up making no decisions and trying to go to bed five hours before i normally do, which resulted in my waking up at my normal go-to-sleep time, maniacally cleaning my room, and writing this post.

the last thing i ever want to identify myself as one of these awful things, but at four a.m. i googled “how to make friends as an adult.” because i was thinking maybe this isn’t a problem only i am having. when i saw that writers at publications from buzzfeed to the new york times had addressed the subject, a small part of me wanted to kick and scream and say, see! it’s not just me! but mostly, i just wanted some fucking solutions that didn’t involve a meetup group that makes you and twenty other people paint the same goddamn thing, like a lamp or a snowman.

students-group-atlanta-art-classes

i don’t know these women, but they’re really happy about just having painted the ugliest high heels on record.

 

i’m not going to apologize for hating on those painting classes.

plenty of people enjoy them.

i am just not one of those people.

 

 

“when you are self-employed” is probably a search term i should have added, because unfortunately, one common suggestion was make friends at the office. it’s okay to mix business and pleasure! my “office” is wherever i want, and that includes my bed, the kitchen table and counter, a coffee shop twenty minutes away (to say las vegas has no coffee shop culture would be an understatement), my boyfriend’s apartment, and recently, the poker rooms at various casinos. surprisingly, casino staff lets a small girl (adult?) with a laptop full of children’s book manuscripts hang out there due to the small chance she’s helping her boyfriend count cards.

even if you didn’t recently move across the country to a city filled with crazy people, apparently, according to my web research, it’s straight up difficult to make friends when you’re older. our standards are higher (because “someone to party with” isn’t our only requirement once we’re no longer in college); our time is more limited because of jobs, kids, and other obligations; and the means for making friends as an adult are really fucking awkward.

my suggested meetup groups. the harry potter one is tempting.

i won’t feel bad about shitting on those painting classes, but i do feel bad about shitting on meetup. i want to like meetup. i want it to work (and to be fair, one of my two friends is someone i met through the app, but only because he took the initiative to message me outside of a writers group we’d both joined), but there is something inherently creepy and forced about it. i don’t want to be in a book club with 567 members. i don’t want to try salsa dancing. i don’t want to learn krav maga or needlepoint with a bunch of strangers. i want a group that’s called “let’s sit around and have wine or coffee and talk about shit!” and i don’t want to find it on the internet. i just want it to happen.

it’s possible that my veruca salt approach and unwillingness to be a joiner are not helping me out here. the truth is, i’m very social. i have a lot of amazing friends scattered around. i like talking to people, and i often end up making friends or connections with complete strangers in random places. my friend from australia, who now lives in the united states, remarked the other day that she had trouble making her own friends as well when she moved, but that she and i became lifelong friends in a foreign country in about a day. so we’re clearly capable. it’s just better when the art of friend-making happens naturally and not like some bizarre playdate you set yourself up on.

since last night i’ve done a few things. i inquired about getting put on a co-ed softball team, even though i’m half scared i don’t remember how to throw a ball; signed up for a site i found on the huffington post online called girlfriendcircles (i know, i gagged too); and joined a young professionals toastmasters group. i’m also considering going to a bar or a library solo, because those seem like normal places to meet people, and i can practice meeting them by shouting and whispering. it’ll really expand my vocal range and put me out of my comfort zone, both of which will help at my toastmasters meetings. or i can just combine the two and bring a book to a bar. nothing says, “be my friend!” like a young adult novel and some vodka.

is that weird?

alg-scotch-book-jpg

this is scotch. but you get the idea.

girlfriendcircles asked me to pick one of the following and only one of the following adjectives (annoying) to describe myself: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, or phlegmatic. while the main entry in merriam-webster’s for melancholy is “a gloomy mood or condition,” “quietly serious thoughtfulness” was also listed (and i’m definitely not sanguine, choleric, or phlegmatic). i’m going to take this weekend to quietly and seriously have some thoughts—

 

i’ve decided to stay in, and not run away from, las vegas—

about what it means for me to have a life here and who might fit into said life. while i still can’t stop myself from calling new jersey the h word, i live in las vegas now, and it’s about time i start considering this glittery insane asylum, and its residents, my home.

why leaving the “perfect” person isn’t crazy/why i hate love actually

i want to start this blog by saying one of my favorite words:

fuck!

one, because i haven’t written, let alone published a post in three months, and two, because this particular post has been the hardest i’ve ever had to write. it might be because i’m worried about offending people. when you set out to shit on such a gooey movie like love actually, you’re bound to infuriate pretty much everyone.

the idea for this post began two weeks ago while i was visiting my friend in orange county, california, a place where people actually say shit like right on and gnarly! and my pronunciation of the word water sorely sticks out.

wor-ter.

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this is me on the couch-bed sleeping with my friend’s dog.

i sat on her couch/my bed for the weekend and tapped a bunch of random notes on my phone’s notepad. they looked something like this:

movies, reaching for the same bottle of wine

jerry seinfeld dating himself (janeane garofalo)

relationship “résumés”

compatibility vs. boredom

eharmony

cracking knuckles

opposites attract?

and then we were sitting in a breakfast spot called the old vine café, talking about what we always talk about: relationships. we generally take a hacksaw to them and their origins, trying to figure out why most pairings slacken, the honeymoon phase is just that, and boredom can delicately wind itself into our lives in such a sickening, slow way that we don’t realize it’s there until we have been nearly strangled.

i remember a time not long ago when i had vivid daydreams in the aisles of grocery stores and subway cars, and between the shelves of bookstores. i’d think about what it would be like to meet someone in places like these. maybe we would both reach for the last unsweetened coconut almond milk. or we’d both be reading a young adult book no one else had ever heard of, our eyes catching as we finished the page we were on. or we’d simultaneously go to touch a book like goodnight moon, and the first moment we’d both had it read to us would play like a vhs tape in our heads.

i took to heart the compatibility ratings on match, okcupid, and e-harmony. and when i messaged men who i thought i couldn’t go wrong with—

he also likes tennis and lifting weights. he speaks spanish too! and, like you, he’s an only child with the same birth month!

—i took pains in writing first messages and responses, only to be disappointed many times over.

lots of women, and men, too, to be honest, live their lives as if love will—and should—be found and cultured within minutes in a modern fairy-tale setting (i.e., serendipitously in an a&p, the adult equivalent to a child finding a key to a magic kingdom in a clichéd chapter book). we also take common interests and the coincidences of having the same “favorites,” and mistake them for chemistry.

you like unsweetened coconut almond milk too?!

compatibility, sure. chemistry, not necessarily.

for the record, i learned how to crack my knuckles when i was ten because the guy i liked cracked his. i thought having this in common would make him like me. i am sad to admit this.

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in the changing room at urban outfitters

at the end of the day, you can have the same cultural background, religion, political ideology, and fiscal opinions, love red wine but hate white, and be obsessed with curb your enthusiasm, but it can still equal not right. and many people, when they realize this, are dumbfounded. their mate, on paper, is perfect for them. you’d be a 100-percent match in nearly every how compatible are you? relationship quiz in cosmo magazine. you guys just makes sense! your families get along really well! you both like parrots (for whatever reason)! you think ugly christmas sweater parties are stupid and passé! you both think using a word like passé isn’t at all pretentious! he’s a really great guy! he treats you like gold! he knows how to cook and you can’t scramble eggs!

relationships, my friend and i have hypothesized, successful ones, anyway, are less about compatibility and more about not getting bored.

so you’re all like, isn’t that uppity of you to think you know what’s a successful relationship and what isn’t!

probably. so i’ll let this quote from the huffington post online say it instead:

“a successful relationship is where the honeymoon period continues to snowball, not where the honeymoon is but a fond memory.”

one night when i was in college, i was in a car driven by our designated driver and a friend’s then-boyfriend/now husband, and we’d just left one of the two bars worth going to within a five-mile radius of our college. the girl and my other friend, plus another girl (i’ll call her acquaintance for accuracy’s sake) were also in the car, and acquaintance was knocking a girl whom a guy she liked had “chosen” instead of her when the lights had gone up after last call. she was spewing all kinds of nonsense that would have caused a person listening but who hadn’t met the target to think this girl had three eyes and the personality of a baby jellyfish. such ridicule included the following types of statements (types because i was a bit too drunk to remember specifics):

  • “but we both love the mets! she doesn’t even like baseball!”
  • “she’s cute but she’s not that cute”
  • “doesn’t she have kind of a funny-looking [insert arbitrary body part]?”
  • “and we’re both poly-sci majors!”

this rant went on for a mile or so, and while my two friends and i stuffed our mouths with quikchek sandwiches as both a method of distraction and to prevent ourselves from yelling, “shut the fuck up!” my friend’s then-boyfriend finally snapped. at a red light, he didn’t even bother to turn around. he simply said in a calm, rational voice: “do you ever think that maybe he just really likes her?”

acquaintance stopped mid-insult and unwrapped her quikchek sandwich, joining us in food shoveling and quiet reverie.

i was twenty-one. and at that time, my ideal mate would think dashboard confessional wasn’t just for moody high-schoolers; would believe the yankees, steroids and money-grubbing aside, were the greatest baseball team of all time; and would be italian and from new jersey—otherwise you just wouldn’t fuckin’ get it. i looked at guys i liked who chose girls who weren’t, in my opinion, as good of a “match” as i was, and thought, i don’t get it. we’d be perfect together.

which is also what people in failing relationships often say to themselves when seemingly they inexplicably want to leave their significant others.

i don’t get it. we’re perfect together. what’s wrong with me?

nothing is wrong with you.

IMG_9901

a california sunset

with regard to love actually, had i seen it when it came out, when i was twenty-one, i would have adored it. i’d have cried and found myself wishing i could fall in love with someone who couldn’t even speak my language. or someone who i’d never spoken to at all! (the prime minster and his housekeeper—really?) the only good part about the movie is emma thompson.

that’s it.

on christmas day i’ll be with my atheist boyfriend, plus his family and jewish videographer, watching home alone, actually.

“i’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. i’m going to tell it the way i remember it.”*

i started this blog last night, and by started i mean that i wrote what kind of storyteller are you? at the top of an otherwise blank word document and then went to sleep. i think i was hoping that while i dreamed, a tale would manifest itself and inspiration would pelt me like an ice storm on a foul winter’s day in new jersey. it sort of did, because when i woke up and took a stroll on facebook, my former company had posted something about it being national storytelling week. it began on february 1, apparently, and i am going to guess that in the shuffle of freelancing four books in a week, working on my story and ghostwriting someone else’s, i was too busy copyediting and proofreading and writing stories to realize i was supposed to be celebrating them. so yay, stories, and all that.

a story is nothing without words, so in honor of the sum and its parts, i’m going to attempt to use the past three days’ worth of words of the day (merriam-webster sends me an e-mail with a new word daily) in this blog. usually i try to memorize and use the word i’m sent on the day of its delivery, but i’ve been really bad about completing this self-appointed task, so this is my punishment. therefore, when you read and suddenly start to think, why the fuck is she talking like that? you’ll realize, ah, she’s using one of those “words of the day.”

there was a guy in my eighth-grade english class who used to do just this sort of thing, except that he committed the same four or five words to memory and then used them all the time, in an abnormally loud voice, as a joke. the words were savvy, myriad, and a few others, and he tried to incorporate them into a sentence every time he was called on, even if the words made no sense in context. it was actually really funny, and although our teacher was probably growing tired of the gag by the end of the year, we all found our peer to be quite simpatico.

without my knowledge, i was in the perfect place last night to bask in the refulgence of national storytelling week. i went to my first toastmasters meeting in the cafeteria of riverview medical center, and if you don’t know (and i didn’t, until last week), toastmasters is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals improve their speaking, communication, and leadership skills. there’s a timekeeper, then someone who counts the number of ahs, ums uhs, likes, you knows, and all those other shitty filler words we all use, and even a grammarian, who picks apart speeches for, well, what else—grammar. i am already envisioning 1). becoming her minion or 2). stealing her job. there’s no right or wrong answer when asked why you’ve decided to join toastmasters, and you don’t have to be in any particular industry to attend a meeting or become a member. i checked it out for a variety of reasons, and i’ll be going back in two weeks.

a few people were scheduled to give speeches to work on various skills, to make them more soigné, if you please, and while we all wrote down our thoughts on tiny perforated slips of paper, one person in particular was assigned to each speaker to serve as an evaluator, i.e. someone who thoroughly critiques and gives feedback post-speech (mid-speech would be kind of cruel). toward the end of the meeting, each evaluator does his or her own five-minute set, essentially, about his or her assigned speech-giver’s speech.

my favorite speech of the night, unequivocally (not a word of the day; i just like this one), was given by an evaluator, a woman who, i believe, isn’t much older than i am and seems to be italian, used emphatic hand gestures, and kept speaking even when the timekeeper raised the red piece of paper indicating that she’d reached the five-minute mark. a few people made jokes about her long-windedness, though i had been more captivated by her speech, “too long” or not, than by any of the others, and i have to believe that everyone else had been too.

when she evaluated her speaker’s speech, she first pointed out the things she liked. the speaker had been comfortable taking the floor, his voice had been loud and clear, and he hadn’t appeared to be nervous. she admitted, however, that to be honest, she didn’t know the speaker and, if she had to give her opinion about him as a person based solely on his speech, she wouldn’t like him very much. she went on to say that his message wasn’t clear; it should be made clear at the beginning, then woven into the story, and then—clap—hammered home at the end. she essentially called his phrasing clichéd (that’s my word, not hers) and at one point she said, “that’s not how people really talk when they’re telling a story. they don’t say, she squeezed my hand and there were tears streaming down her face.”

there are two types of storytellers, she said. there’s the bedtime storyteller. the one who sounds like he or she is reading to a child from a picture book. the words are printed and there for the reciting, the story is theatrical and rehearsed. the listener is conscious of the fact that a story is being told. the story itself is technically sound, topically interesting even, flawless on paper. i’ve read books like this. ones that try so hard, they make spectacles of themselves. they use words like soigné in utter seriousness. i picture these writers sitting in hipster coffee shops on purpose, begging for inspiration, a pocket thesaurus on hand that they consult for every other word.

“gross,” she said.

no, no! backspace, backspace, backspace. let’s dress up that natural dialogue with alliteration and superfluous adverbs!

“that’s positively putrid,” she expounded.

but then there are the storytellers in whose words you lose yourself. if someone taps you on the shoulder in the middle of the story, you act as if you’re being attacked with a tire iron. you fall into rabbit holes, stumble through wardrobes, and pass out, drugged in a field of poppies. you can actually taste an everlasting gobstopper and you think frobscottle and butterbeer are real. you cry when sirius black and dumbledore die, and you cry even more when you find out that snape was a double agent all along because he loved, loved, loved harry’s mother.

when i was a kid, instead of reading to me from a picture book, my dad made up stories ad-lib about lightning bugs who fall in love, frogs who escape swamps and frolic around new york city with a little curly-haired girl named kaitlin, bears called pookies who live in trees, and talking pigs who have adventures around the world and who also, crazily enough, let that same kaitlin girl drive their car at the age of five. instead of a human imaginary friend (or no imaginary friends for those of you who had “real” companions, those of the fleshy variety), my friendship circle consisted of insects, amphibians, and both fuzzy and furless mammals.

in improv comedy, you’re given a word or a topic to say yes to. one of the biggest mistakes you can make in this type of comedy is not to accept the premise (or “reality” of the scene) or to try to be funny.

if someone says, “hey, you can’t come into my store wearing no pants!” you don’t say, “but i am wearing pants. can’t you see my blue jeans?”

you say, “yes, i can. i’m a member of the sanspants denomination of nudism and today is our sabbath.”

and the other person doesn’t respond, “there’s no such thing as sanspants.” he or she says, “oh, you guys again. you’re worse than jehovah’s witnesses.”

and so on.

one of my good friends, who is a comedian and a truly great storyteller, once told me that when he reads my writing, he feels as though he’s sitting next to me and we’re just talking. so i hope that in my book, when i’m drunk, you’re drunk. when i’m alone, you’re alone. when i’m inspired, you’re inspired. and when i’m in love, and i am, so much so, you’re in love too. but if you tell me i’m a bedtime storyteller, i’ll say “yes, and” and accept it. right after i feed your hand to a crocodile and drop a house on your sister. and your little dog, too.

*charles dickens in great expectations

“a child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”*

this was written on november 2, and posted from the achilles tent, one hour before i started the 2013 ing nyc marathon on november 3.

i joked before i left for vegas on october 22 that what would happen there could end up in my blog. i was only half kidding about that at the time, but now i find myself wanting to write about the trip, though without baring the gritty details (you can ask me about those personally; and i might tell you).

but the trip, as a whole, allowed me a glimpse into what my life could be like all the time. it was a test for me to see if i could hack it as a club-going wingwoman by night and a glasses-wearing freelance copy editor for children’s books by day. somehow, i rocked both. either i have multiple personality disorder and my late-night alter ego katerina takes over once i hit up the club—i think she just made a brief appearance there—or i’m simply socially excellent and able to easily adapt to any situation. or maybe it’s a combination of both, plus the fact that the person i went to see in vegas, my boyfriend, makes me feel unreasonably (in a good way) capable of accomplishing anything i’ve envisioned. he also makes me feel comfortable with being completely myself, even those parts i never wanted to show or admit to. i was doing pretty well in this department when we met, but it never hurts to have someone in your corner; someone to go to bat for you; more sports clichés, etc., etc. right now he’s in tokyo, and virtually unreachable, and i’m set to start mile one of twenty-six tomorrow morning at 10:30. it’ll be 11:30 p.m. in japan. i told him weeks ago, however, that despite the lack of his physical presence, or even a technological one, just thinking about him gives me the energy and strength to run ten marathons.

okay, okay. sorry. i don’t usually romanticize like this (all right, maybe not so much, anyway), but right now i’m alone, sitting in the empty apartment of my friend in jersey city, my stomach absolutely jam-packed with what i’d estimate to be about a gallon of water and five pounds of food from carbo-loading, and feeling, to be honest, kind of down. when i think back to where i was a week ago, having woken up only two hours ago (it’s four p.m. in vegas), where i was going that night (marquee in the cosmopolitan), and who i was with (see above), it’s not that my life in new jersey is drab or unsatisfactory by comparison. it’s just not . . . me enough.

i watched a plane taking off from newark airport this afternoon while i was on the path. i stared up at the sky-bound vessel’s underbelly, then its tail, and finally what had become just a speck of its body, and i thought, take me with you. this from a girl who used to need practically a sedative to be on an airplane. i’d never realized, not until about two years ago, how much i hate not moving. it’s like that itch a person gets when he or she is inside on a beautiful day, the sunlight yanking on an arm like a persistent friend. come on! i feel that tug all the time now, an insatiable desire to be constantly doing, improving, to consistently be surprised, shocked, and awed. luckily, there is still a lot of world to see, still a seemingly infinite amount of people to meet and learn from, and, of course, more books than i could read in three lifetimes. but it makes me wonder: how in the shit did i ever endlessly loaf on a couch, watching tv and playing words with friends for hours and hours?

someone said to me recently, “you know, you don’t have to be so driven all the time.” ugh. wrong.

so yesterday i googled peter pan syndrome, not thinking it’s actually quite a serious thing (but if it’s on wikipedia, it has to be, right?). though it’s not formally in the dsm, some psychologists do refer to it, characterizing it as “an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level. . . . [who] leads a provisional life, due to the fear of being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. . . [who] covets independence and freedom, chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable.” there are books dedicated to peter pans, and other references on how to school women on avoiding and breaking their addictions to pp’s. well, too late for me with that one, but i thought then, what if i’m the female version? (is there a female version?) and what happens when you put the two of us together?

puella aeterna is a child-woman in jungian psychology, and the characteristics aren’t exactly positive. they aren’t much different from those of the male counterpart, but they include such descriptions as wanting “to be taken care of” and “led through life by the hand,” inciting the notion that there is a danger for a lady of being robbed “of every opportunity to fulfill her intellectual, creative, and professional capacity.” this must not apply to modern female peter pans from new jersey.

i hypothesize that a male and female both “suffering” (or, hello, thriving) from peter pan syndrome would make for an interesting pair. while i didn’t set foot on an airplane until i was twenty-two, i have a feeling any kid of mine will be one of the following: a). born on a plane, b). chilling on a plane as an infant, or c). conceived on a plane. the last one was just to make sure you’re paying attention. but i can see that kid, trailing behind me and toting his or her own backpack on some hike up a mountain somewhere faraway, or knowing his or her way around new york city, yammering on in more than one language, both a book of poetry and a popular mechanics magazine on his or her person. and if i have a kid who doesn’t like to move as much as i do? i’ll just have to develop extra-strong back muscles in order to carry him or her. the little one can jump off when he or she gets too big.

all these crazy thoughts are stemming from one thing that happened on my trip. for the entire week, i was thinking about—stewing over was more like it—the blog post i wrote when i was in costa rica, the one in which i gave myself a cutoff, a self-imposed ultimatum for happiness in which i’d high-tail it out of wherever i was if i wasn’t content. the post was written out of a supreme sadness, the kind stemming from feeling alone in a strange land, having just turned thirty and quit my job and wondering what the hell i was thinking. the kind in which i felt as though i needed to make a promise to myself never to let it happen again. realistically, however, i nor anyone else can make good on that promise, no matter the ultimatum, cutoff, or what have you.

so when i sat in the diner of a casino on my last day in vegas, i said something to the effect of, “i’m just not sure what i’ll do if one day i realize i can’t completely handle all this.”

the response was, not verbatim: “you say that you want to be with me forever, yet you are wondering if you’ll have to leave if you can’t completely handle everything?”

i didn’t have to think. i just answered. i said that i remembered, months ago, making a pros and cons list about the situation, only to have the items in each column cancel one another out. when it came down to it, there were two choices: you, or no you. and the choice, then, was easy. what had i meant in terms of what i’d do? i meant how will i deal with my emotions, my jealousy, however infrequent. what tools will i use to fight the tiny spots of cold dampness to realize how bright the rest of the day is. the question isn’t about being or not being with you, loving or not loving you. and it never will be.

that’s when i realized, as the words flowed out as comfortably as if i were simply saying hello to someone, that i not only love this person, but i love him unconditionally. and, well, shit. to take that one last barricade down? that’s scary. it’s also . . . perfect, however imperfect it might seem.

when i was leaving for the vegas trip, when my plane had been cleared for takeoff out of jfk, i decided to do something i’d never done before. despite having gotten very used to flying, i’ve continued to cling to the habit of shutting my eyes and not daring to look out the window until we’ve reached a comfortable cruising altitude after ascending. but last tuesday i made up my mind that i wanted to see the ground rush away from me, watch the world go from life-size to fun-size. what had used to feel like an agonizing five minutes, my eyelids scrunched shut, my palms sweating, suddenly felt like mere seconds. i watched happily—and, fine, maybe i cried a bit too—as the plane looped around the atlantic ocean, and the mid-morning sun sprinkled itself on the waves. i was still somewhat scared, but i was so glad that i hadn’t let myself miss out. so glad that, for once, like a kid, i had my eyes wide open.

*paul coelho

“and the darkest hour is just before dawn. . . .”*

i wrote this post on june 30, after a late night out on saturday, june 29, and while plagued with a fantastic hangover.

i’ve found that we humans do our deep thinking at times and in places that personally suit us best, which of course, makes perfect sense. maybe it’s when having a cup of coffee in the morning, before our day starts. when showering, letting the hot water go cold as we mull over various dilemmas and potential decisions. while driving or commuting. or maybe right before bed. or even while brushing our teeth (my friend, by whom i just ran this post, told me that’s another ideal thinking time). but i think there is one time, and one place, in which no one should be thinking at all, and that’s during the early hours of the morning, when we’re in bed, around three or four a.m. or so. it’s still dark, and it’s too early to get up, but it’s also too late to fall back into a deep sleep. yet despite the fact that this point on the twenty-four-hour daily ride is not ideal for thinking clearly, or rationally, i often find that this is when i’m most awake and the least likely to be capable of banishing any negative thoughts. when i’m up at this hour, nothing can soothe me and no one can reason with me. and mostly, that’s because no one else is awake to let me vent and tell me how unreasonable i am acting.

i’ll occasionally do some writing during these instances, and while, then, i believe that i’m making valid points and coming to some profound conclusions, when i later read anything i’ve written at that ungodly hour, the words are completely absurd, as if some verbally gifted demon hacked into my brain and spewed some well-written yet bat-shit crazy, half-baked ideas that i had previously thought were positively brilliant. think joyce’s ulysses if it were merely straight-up nonsense and not a nonsensical masterpiece (and, actually, it’s not even really nonsensical; most people just think it is).

there’s a song called “in the wee small hours of the morning,” an old tune that was first recorded by frank sinatra in the 1950s, that i always think of when i find myself unable to sleep, my heart filled with dread. the song is about how you miss the person you love, if they aren’t there or if they don’t love you back or whatever, most desperately during the early morning hours. i was talking to a friend recently about trying to do any real productive thinking at this time and she said that she doesn’t believe our bodies were created to handle thought during those hours. almost as if we’re supposed to be shut down, like a computer. yet sometimes, when a thing is bothering us, we reboot, and all sorts of irrational ideas come barreling through the wall that our sleeping brain was supposed to have been programmed to put up for about six to eight hours. there must be a glitch.

why am i talking about this? i’m not completely sure. maybe i just feel the need to try to understand why we can’t quiet our brains sometimes. why, like a car with cut brakes, our perceptions of things can abruptly lose control and our thought process can work up to a dangerous speed as we can’t help but let it roll downhill into a busy intersection. i am also worried, maybe, that twelve hours from now, i’ll be staring up into the bleak ebony night, wondering if the decisions i’ve decided to make in the next few months are going to be ones i regret or can’t take back. or both. or possibly something worse i haven’t even anticipated. i know i’m being cryptic, but right now i have to be.

months ago, when i still lived in hoboken, i was awake in the middle of the night, and i became inspired to compose a poem (one of the few examples of middle-of-the-night writing i’ve done that i think is actually decent). i’ll get to that soon.

but behind the poem, there’s this. so, for a long time, i was fortunate to have someone i cared about sleeping next to me in bed. it sounds silly, but even when that person was snoozing away, it was nice just knowing that he was there. when i’d wake up at four a.m., upset about something, i could look over, feel safe, and roll back to my spot, where, in about a minute, i’d again be asleep. i wrote the poem below long after that person had vacated my bed, and although, while writing, i was in an apartment with two roommates, i felt as if i were miles away from any other form of life. you can quickly get used to having the comfort of a warm body next to you, and when the other side of the bed is empty and you still take up only “your” half, you wish someone would fill that space. and sometimes, right after that person is gone, you think that anyone can lie there. that anyone can step in and give that comfort you used to have. i have made mistakes with this—because i was lonely or sad or confused—and i mistook anybody for that somebody. and when i was alone, i felt uncontrollably restless and uncomfortable in my body, as if it were merely a vessel meant to keep me trapped, and i wanted so badly to have someone else there. now, having moved past the lonely and sad phase (albeit maybe not the confused one), i can now think of only one person to fill that void, and maybe that’s even worse. because when he isn’t present, there can be no replacements—no second-string quarterbacks, understudies, or stand-ins—so it is during those wee small hours that i do miss him most.

anyway, this is one very convoluted and slapdash post. i’m almost not even sure that i didn’t write it at four a.m. instead of four p.m. . . . though maybe four p.m. when one is hung over and has the sunday blues is about as close as one can get to dawn.

sometimes i try to run through the early morning anxiety, when everyone else is still asleep

nyc skyline at sunrise
sometimes i try to run through the early morning anxiety, when everyone else is still asleep.

here’s the poem.

a collector truck backs up,

beep.

so this is how

a few stragglers wind home from the haunt,

whoo-whoop.

your midnight goes

a streetlight goes out,

zap.

yes, this is how

a few bars from a song in a passing car,

doo-doop.

your midnight goes

a set of tires on a dewy road,

skid.

when you’re all alone

a few rodents scurry to their homes,

scritch-scratch.

in a big, big city.

*from “dedicated to the one i love” by the mamas and the papas

“do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still.”

when i meet someone, or talk to a person who doesn’t know me very well, i tell him or her what i do for a living (i work as a production editor at a publishing house), and the next question is almost always the exuberant response of “so what are you reading?” i then reply that i work with children’s books, as if to indicate that i’m probably not reading anything this person would want to read, yet he or she still looks at me as if i’m supposed to slap a sticker on some chick lit novel and voilà, pick the next book club selection. the reality is that, yes, i read quite a bit, but usually the book i’m reading at any given moment is one i’m working on at my full-time job or a book i’m copyediting or proofreading on the side, as a freelance project.

so it comes as no surprise (at least, not to me) that after two months, i’m currently on only page 128 of a 281-page non-work book.

the book to have earned a solid sixth of my year, so far, is born to run, which, any runner will tell you, is a must-read. i was skeptical, of course, because anytime someone tells me i have to read something, i automatically don’t want to read it, and well, i guess that stems from my dislike of doing anything i’m told i have to do. anyway, i’m at the point where i think it’s safe to say that the book is good (side note: after reading the girl with the dragon tattoo, which took one hundred pages to get good, i am willing to give any book a fair shot up until the one-hundred-page mark).

despite my unwillingness to give him credit for anything (though i love him dearly), i have to say that my manager at the previous publisher i worked at is the one who got me into running. he has several marathons under his belt (and will be running this year’s new york city) and as my christmas gift in 2010, he bought me a new york road runners membership. up until that point, the most i’d run at a clip outside was maybe four miles, and any miles i’d pounded on the pavement had been comparable to having my eyelids peeled back. or maybe even peeled off. i ran sprints (usually suicides. remember those terrible things?) in high school for softball and more of the same for rugby in college, but that was the extent of my running career.

so once i was an nyrr member, i signed up for a few short races (four miles, a 5k), and i was starting to feel more confident that i could run farther. in the spring of 2011 i signed up for the colon cancer challenge, a 15k (that’s 9.3 to you americans) whose proceeds went to the colon cancer society. my dad’s father, my grandfather, had a myriad of health problems, but colon cancer was his reaper, and i decided that i’d run my longest race in honor of him. i trained, but not as much as i should have, and when i stepped into my corral in central park, i was hoping i’d be able to run the entire route without stopping.

i looked around then, though, and saw people who’d either made shirts or had signs over the nyrr ones included in the swag bag that read things like: i’m running this race for my sister or i’m running this race for me: three years cancer-free. i was so emotionally stirred that i spent the first mile calming down from a crying spell. i finished the race sans tears or torn tendons or breaks taken, and at mile nine, i realized that i could keep going. not only that: i wanted to keep going.

christopher mcdougall, the author of born to run, talks at length about our society’s—hell, the human race’s—shift from living like running people to living like . . . slugs. and that many of those who do run, want, as he says, “. . . medals, nike deals, [and] a cute butt.”

“no wonder so many people hated running; if you thought it was only a means to an end—an investment in becoming faster, skinnier, richer—then why stick with it if you weren’t getting enough quo for your quid?”

even after that 15k, even after that emotional “breakthrough,” i still, shamefully, saw running in the ways mcdougall describes it above. if i ran a few times in a week, i could feel my hamstrings, stronger, tighter, pushing my gluteus muscles up, and my stomach was noticeably flatter. my pants got looser. i even got a little color on my face and legs from running in the sunshine! look at me!

it wasn’t until last year, when i went through an awful, awful breakup, that i realized that what i didn’t need, or even care about, was a cute butt or a flat stomach. i needed sanity. i needed time to myself, to think, to pump my body full of endorphins. i needed to release stress, aggression, and some serious, serious anger. i’m talking fuming, blowing-a-stack-cartoon-style anger. i started waking up at 5:30ish because my body was ready to wake up—i didn’t even have to set my bizarre mental alarm—and i was ready to go. any day i didn’t run, my psyche was more fragile, my mood more likely to tank. but any day i did run . . . i ate better. i smiled often. i liked not only everyone else around me more, but i didn’t feel that self-loathing that had for so long been part of my ego. when i started running, i was happy to hit a nine-minute mile. last year, and now, as well, i was and am consistently running around an 8:30 mile. and i wasn’t killing myself to do it. and, while i was happy to be improving my pace, i didn’t even care that much about it. all i knew was that i felt better after i ran: immediately after, at lunch, during the afternoon when i was wrapping up my workday, back in hoboken when i was socializing or freelancing or doing whatever, and, of course, when i lay in bed at night, feeling that good kind of tired, the kind that makes you feel as though you accomplished something that day, even if it was just running three miles or so as the sun rose over the new york city skyline and the rest of the world slept.

after reading a chapter in born to run the other day on the train, i happened to check my e-mail on my phone. there was a message in my in-box regarding the 2013 new york city marathon. i’ve felt many things about running, but finishing a marathon was always something i felt indifferent about. i thought maybe, one day, i’d feel the desire to run one, but so far that day hadn’t come. but as i was sitting there, commuting home, i finally felt ready. the deadline to apply was this past friday, and this wednesday, may 29, i’ll find out if i made it in. getting access to the new york city marathon is hard any year, but this year, one year after hurricane sandy, it’ll be almost impossible. i’m content, however, just to have had the gumption to apply. and if i don’t get in, i’ll apply again next year and the year after and the year after that.

“but the longer and farther i ran, the more i realized that what i was often chasing was a state of mind—a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.”—scott jurek

*chinese proverb

on dating and deriving

it’s six p.m. on sunday night, and i’m sitting in my parents’ living room in a brown leather recliner, staring at a pile of freelance work that i’ve been poring over all day. i’ve reached that point where i’m bleary-eyed and spent, and every word i read slides by the others and gets tangled, to the point at which, as a copy editor, i start to do more harm than good. i’m editing a memoir, a pretty heavy one (and i mean heavy like marty mcfly meant heavy, not physically burdensome) and the author deserves someone who is 100-percent alert and diligent to be working on his/her manuscript. and, well, right now that person is not i.

mother nature has been eking out more minutes of daylight since december 21, but save the glow of the moon and the streetlamps and the suburban family rooms, tonight it’s still quite dark. and cold. not that i’m confused or surprised—after all, it’s january, and that’s a news flash for most facebook users who won’t stop yapping about the low temps—but all i’d like to do right now is take a long run to defrost my psyche without wiping out on a patch of black ice or slamming cartoon coyote–style into a street sign. instead i’m going to sit here and imagine myself eating ice cream. anyone who says that sad, moody girls wallow in their emotional downward spirals by lounging around eating ice cream and watching chick flicks hasn’t met me. i’m going to lounge around, wish i had ice cream but make no effort to get any, put the same death cab for cutie song on repeat, and blog with the hope that this post will alleviate some of this high school-esque angst i have.

anyway, yesterday my mom and i waited in verizon wireless for about forty-five minutes while calvin the verizon tech third-wheeled me onto my parents’ family plan and synced my old phone with the iphone 4s upgrade i bought. before doing the latter, he asked if i had backed up everything on my computer’s itunes account and i of course said, “sure,” though i couldn’t remember the last time i had done so. it turned out that the last time i had backed up everything was in october 2011, a few months before i went from being kind of normal and predictable to being whatever animal i am now.

when i got home, i plugged baby siri into my computer and attempted to sync her. i got some prompt that i naturally didn’t read carefully, and whatever option i choose caused new phone to take on the insipid personality of old phone, aka kaitlin’s iphone circa october 2011. at least ten people who i now couldn’t imagine not speaking to on a daily or weekly basis didn’t exist as far as october 2011 phone was concerned, and then heaps of old messages flooded my recent texts as if they had been sent or received within the past few hours.

it was creepy. there’s something very different about reading old texts, as opposed to other forms of written communication, or looking at other memorabilia, so to speak. they’re not often thought out, so it’s not the same as reading a diary entry or a letter or an e-mail. it’s not like looking at a photograph, which is often a posed, unnatural portrait of who we were or who we were trying to be. reading those texts was akin to looking squarely at an unabashed series of snapshots of myself as i chatted about my day and my feelings and my fears with a person who, at the time, was my best friend.

so i couldn’t help myself; i read the texts—many of them—going back as far as may 2011, until i realized that a half hour had gone by and i’d never get that half hour back. but i kept thinking, who was that person? i mean, good lord. i had left the hyphens out of e-mail and good-bye too many times to count (wordpress will probably flag this phrase as a cliché. and i’m thinking i probably could count them if i really wanted to. typing these three sentences just cost me a minute i won’t ever get back).

aside from blatantly ignoring what can only be described as egregious and despicable spelling errors i would never ignore now, i was different then in many other ways. and, as i sit here eating an imaginary frozen dessert and listening to round ten of the world’s smallest death cab for cutie playlist, i don’t know who i like better: october 2011 me or january 2013 me. i think if i asked siri she’d say it’s a toss-up, but we’re both sort of pains in the ass and for god’s sake turn off that emo hipster shit in the background.

my parents just walked through the door, my mom saying in a singsong voice that she has a sweet treat for me. hazard a guess what it is. and yes, i put peanut butter in it.

something else i found on old phone was a note i’d typed on its electronic steno pad. like much of the random crap i jot down quickly, usually at a bar or on some form of public transit, it was cryptic and vague, and it took me several minutes to recall what it was that i had thought was so critical to remember. the note, from april 2012, just before i vacated my old apartment, read:

convo in margon. plantains and rice and yucca. the logic of relationships. 8/10. your happiness versus others’.

after wracking my brain for several minutes, and thinking that the above would make for some excellent instagram hash tags, the day came back to me clearly. i had been having lunch at a cuban restaurant in the city with a friend, and we were talking about relationships, and more specifically, why people settle for mediocre ones. this friend said that relationships should be thought of in terms of probability and logic. so if you are dating someone who is an eight out of ten (ten being your ten—not the world’s ten, where someone like angelina jolie would be a ten and we normal womenfolk would hang out somewhere around a four), that the logical thing to do would be to stay with your eight. because if you drop your eight to find your ten, you’re more likely to find a bunch of threes and sixes and a lot less likely to find your perfect ten. meaning that, once you see what else is out there, that eight isn’t looking too shabby.

i’m not good with numbers in any facet of my life—figuring out the bill at a restaurant gives me agita—but i’m not at all likely to use numbers, probability or logic or statistics of any kind, when it comes my love life. you can find the person who is your ten, whether on paper or in your heart or both, and the relationship may still not work out. it may not work out with your eight, either. maybe your six is where it’s at. maybe you wouldn’t even know your ten if she or he threw up on your shoes outside a club (i’m sure a few tens have come off as twos that way). maybe some of us will feel it immediately. maybe it will take others months, or even years, to realize that the right person had been in front of them all along. maybe we’ll never find our ten or our eight or even our one. maybe we’ll be alone.

ah-ha. there’s the real fear, isn’t it?

my dad just asked my mom for more ice cream. she responded that he had already had two bowls. he said that he had had only one. they’re still going back and forth about how much ice cream my dad actually consumed, and i’m just sitting here, typing, and laughing at them, and eating my second bowl of vanilla chocolate chip swirl.

“i think i’m being bamboozled,” my dad just said.

“well, i think you’re gas-lighting me,” my mom replied.

despite their excellent vocabulary, i think they’re both acting like fours. but i have a hunch they’re each other’s tens.

after reading those old texts, after scrolling through a relationship’s high and low points, after watching as it slowly and sadly deteriorated, and after mulling over the cuban lunch conversation with my friend, i realized, as i said before, that a ten in your heart, no matter how much you want to will it to work, won’t always be worth a ten in a bush—that’s how it goes, right?—and, well, frankly, october 2011 kaitlin wasn’t anyone’s ten. and i don’t think you can be someone’s else’s ten until you see yourself as one. maybe, once you get there, well, i guess . . . we shall see. and maybe, after revisiting them one last time, i’ll have the strength to move on and delete the ghosts of texts past from my virtual icloud nine. but whether you go by the numbers or as princess jasmine once sang, that “indescribable feeling,” i hope we all find our tens.