All The Things I Didn't Buy at TJ Maxx Today

 

  • A St. Patrick’s Day t-shirt

Why I wanted it: St. Patrick’s Day cheer, duh.

Why I didn’t get it: By far the worst option of any of these shirts. It is amazing what you want based purely on timing. 

  • A candle poured into a gold ceramic owl, with a lid

Why I wanted it: OWLS. 

Why I didn’t get it: Gold isn’t part of my current color scheme. Also flames shooting out of an owl’s head seemed less calming than other candle options. 

  • A lantern carrier

Why I wanted it: Seemed romantic, rustic, and looked like something from that idyllic store on Abbott Kinney where I can’t afford anything but where I want to hide in the patio area until they close and can’t find me and then I can live there forever. 

Why I didn’t get it: Seemed less important than shelves for all the clothes currently living on the ground in my room. 

  • A bar stool

Why I wanted it: Could work as a modern-ish chair for the desk that I stand at, wishing I had a chair. 

Why I didn’t get it: Could only work if I set the desk up on a stage. Not the right vibe. 

  • A kimono, size XX large

Why I wanted it: Been dreaming of a robe to wear around the house that doesn’t make me look like I should be filing for unemployment or eating cereal for all meals. 

Why I didn’t get it: I am not a size XX large, even though does it matter for a kimono? This was a close call. 

  • A pair of Saucony sneakers, color pale pink

Why I wanted it: Um, hello. 

Why I didn’t get it: Already own a pair of Saucony sneakers, AND a pair of pale pink sneakers.

  • A shelving unit, on sale, “as is”

Why I wanted it: Need furniture, matched decor.

Why I didn’t get it: Missing all panes of glass, still over $100. TJ Maxx, this is some bullshit. Do less.

  • A tray

Why I wanted it: Desperately want to display candles on a tray, curated over a fuzzy blanket on a low table for maximum effect. 

Why I didn’t get it: Don’t have any of the other things for this ensemble. Thinking the tray might need to be the last piece, not the first. 

  • A different tray

Why I wanted it: See above. 

Why I didn’t get it: See above, but barely, because this tray looked like a marbled universe and how can you refuse that?

  • Honey butter popcorn

Why I wanted it: I had been in the store for 1.75 hours and would have eaten anything in my sightline at checkout. 

Why I didn’t get it: I didn’t have any free hands to grab it on account of all the things I was about to buy. 

Moral: With enough self-talk, you too can convince yourself not to buy almost 87 percent of the things you don’t need at TJ Maxx, and only return with a furry rug, a pom-adorned basket, and a pair of boots that look very much like the ones you wore to the store in the first place.

Theories

My body usually takes care of itself when it comes to getting the food I need. Which is why, when I blacked out in the shower today and couldn’t feel my legs, it was slightly disconcerting that I couldn’t remember what I had eaten.  

It was more disconcerting that I had to wash my hair in 10 second increments and spent a lot of time sitting on the shower floor. 

People assume that I do not eat meat. I think because of all the yoga. The truth is I just forget to eat meat most of the time. You have to think in advance to cook meat at home, and this is not a strong area for me. The planning part, not the cooking part. 

When I’m hungry, I am starving, and when I’m not, I won’t remember that this will ever happen again. 

“Hi, I’m just eating string cheese in your lobby like a weirdo.” - Me, meeting professional colleagues, yesterday. 

In Journalism, you are taught to collect quotes that will support what you already want to say. It’s like proving a hypothesis in science, except you will always be right and you will learn nothing. 

It’s what I do when I think I’m sick also; I have already decided what I have when I google the thing I think I have instead of the symptoms. Luckily I am usually sure that nothing is ever really wrong with me, and I only google things that seem sort of likely.

But when I tell you that I almost fainted today due to anemia, just know that I am not anemic and my Scientific Method is maybe a little bit flawed. 

This summer I broke out in hives all over my back and no one could tell what was wrong with me. I was teaching a sold-out event and tried to cover up any visible splotches for all the photos I was in, hoping no one regretted hiring the Leper Influencer. 

I went to the laundromat to ask them if they had switched detergent. This was the only thing that could be different in my routines. 

“No, but next time ask for the special detergent.” 

“Special?” I pictured magic detergent, something that would salve me. Or at least something with a steep discount.

“Yes.” She grabbed me by the hives, pulled me to the back room. “We use this one. But if you have—“ 

She wiped down her arm and squinted. 

“—this one is better for you.” 

They were both Costco brands, but the promised solution was for sensitive skin. I went home and googled the regular brand and “hives.” No results. Then, with keen investigative skill, and a hint of desperation, I googled the sensitive version and “fucking awful rash.” 

Pages. 

I stopped wearing my freshly-washed clothes and it immediately got better. Science. 

Today, laying flat on my back in my room in a towel, suspecting I was deficient in something massively underrated, I could not remember the last time I had eaten meat. I backtracked through the last day and a half of what I had eaten. 

That string cheese I got at Starbucks. 

A marshmallow bar, also from Starbucks. 

Coffee. 

Did you know that dairy and caffeine inhibit your iron absorption? I know this from googling “acute anemic attack,” because this, and not, “forgetting to eat; moron,” seemed more likely. 

I ate two bags of spinach for dinner tonight and now I feel fine. I am usually right. 

Personality Plunge

Nothing makes me feel less like a competent human than not being able to plunge the toilet. 

I make my bed every morning, I pick out my clothes at night, and I charge my devices for the next day while I write. I can use a hammer and a drill, and I can move all my belongings including a bed using just my own body, and these are the things I stack in the shape of how I view myself. Like a model version made of objects and routines. 

This is me, an adult. 

And then I can’t fix one thing and my whole self-perception flies out the window. No longer an adult, I am now a heaving, belabored ogress with a sweaty upper lip, bent over this stupid fucking toilet, stabbing myself in the palm with the splinters of a thousand desperate plunges, resigning myself to a life of public restrooms for the remainder of this lease*. 

At least two of my previous boyfriends did not think I was funny. I know this because I tend to say things like, “I’m hilarious,” and it has been met separately, yet repeatedly, with silence, a pat on the head, an “OK,” and a “Well, you’re clever.” 

“Clever? Like conniving?” 

“Like you put words together well.” 

To be fair, anything is unfunny if you get that meticulous about it.

Someone today gave me a measured compliment, in that she told me how much she liked class but tempered it with how much better it was today than it had been the last time she saw me. 

But why? 

Why would a compliment need to be tamed like that? 

And why would I let the clause negate the truth of it? 

Just because something doesn’t add to your worth doesn’t mean it detracts from it. The things we stack in the shape of success are not toppled by one object that belongs in a different pile. 

I am well used to being told I’m too much. Too weird. I do too many non-yoga movements in class, things that are not what people are used to doing. I’m stubborn and passionate and easily excited about the shape of a rain splotch or cover songs. 

I am not used to being told I’m not enough. It really knocks me over. 

“You need to have more of a personality,” I was told recently. 

The only thing worse than feeling like a nervous monster trapped in a bathroom is hearing your idea of a monster isn’t even real, or interesting, or monster-y. You aren’t funny. You don’t even register. 

This also sent me into a frenzy of thinking about what even IS personality? How does one have or not have one? Who are people with personalities and what makes me separate from them? As one can imagine, toiling internally about how to procure dynamism sabotages any shot at increasing personality. 

If you get meticulous about it, everything is doomed. 

Everything, that is, except plunging a toilet. As it happens, if you just keep doing it, it works.   

 

 


*This was the second day in my current apartment and I don’t think either of my roommates know this story yet. Also, yesterday. 

Magic Hat

The bus was free today and I don’t know why. 

An 8x11 sheet of paper was covering the payment machine, printed in shadow-block letters.

“The bus is free today! Thank you for riding the Culver City 1 bus.”

Green, to match the Culver City bus decor. 

My first thought was, “Oh, because it’s raining.” Which is not a solid reason for free bus rides. 

The thing about wearing my Red Sox hat is that Bostonians are not known for being chatty in a friendly way, so people generally leave me alone. Except the guy last week who stepped out into my way on the sidewalk. 

“Ooh I was trying to figure out what that B stood for. Boston. Wowzers,” he said. 

“Hmm.” I smiled without teeth. Gave him the bro nod and kept walking. Which would never fly without the hat. 

Some guy sat immediately behind me on the bus. He drank out of a styrofoam coffee cup. He smelled like booze. Could have been a ruse, or an honest, sobering attempt. But there were any number of other seat choices to be made and why do people think you won’t notice that? 

I tried to explain what I write about the other day, and the best I could come up with was, “I eavesdrop a lot.” 

The conversation lulled or I didn't respond to something obvious, and he said, “Are you eavesdropping now?” 

This guy with playing card tattoos peeking out of his sleeves had bounced up to a group of middle-aged men on the train platform. His wide teeth were too fleshy not to be capped and he was very White, but he called the other men “homies,” and how could you now pay attention to anything else? 

My headphones died at the coffee shop today. They only take fifteen minutes to charge, but there’s no telling how many chewing noises I will have to withstand in that amount of time. Today it was a whole sandwich left of my head. Something had egg on it. 

“So, in SF we have a whole warehouse. SF is giving us the freedom to move our product around, and if SoCal can give us what SF gives us…” 

He didn’t look as young as he sounded, and from what I’ve been told, no one says SoCal out loud. 

“Who talks like that?” The guy to my right stood up, peered around the pole, tried to find the face of the man with all the abbreviations. He had, until the last five minutes, been convincing his friend that the girl he likes looks impressively pretty without makeup. She lives in Germany. They don’t use Snapchat so much. 

“Hey man, can you lower your voice a little?” The guy with the German crush asked the SF guy. 

The guy with the egg sandwich chuckled. 

I grinned out from under my hat. 

I really only have questions and no answers today, other than this one: We were a team. For no reason other than it was raining and everyone hates douchebags. 

Have a Nice Life

It is quite nice to have a life. 

For the final nine months that I lived in Boston, I worked seven days a week. Since I tend to the dramatic, and that sounds aggressively false, let me clarify: for the last five of those months, I worked every single day except July 4th and August 19th. 

It is remarkable what you can do when you believe it is necessary. 

But 0/10, do not recommend. 

The “Facebook memories” for all of February have been some variation on “how much I hate February.” Apparently on February 10th there was a blizzard every year for the last four years. I started a countdown to March more than once. 

March is my birthday month, and also home to this 500 Words A Day Challenge at least three times. I started the last round by complaining about how cold I was then, too. There was a blizzard on March 23rd. 

This time last year, I knew I was moving to LA and had to keep it a secret for the sake of my 14 jobs that I worked for all those consecutive days. I would like to believe some of my complaints were for documentation sake - some capital in the nostalgia bank of Winter - but I’m pretty sure I was purely fed up with misery. 

With the thin and shaken state that is living out of necessity.

Nostalgia banks don’t work quite like you think they will, and all the complaints in the world can’t form the shield you want them to be. 

It is hard to shake the indentured value of working too much. Where else does strength come from if not from resistance? Grit? From trouble and snow? 

I am wary, I think, of too much sweetness. And yet. 

For almost six months, I have lived in Los Angeles. I have favorite places to eat, walking paths that I prefer, and weekend plans. I meet lots of dogs. My friends text me. Yes, it was weird to be the only one paying attention to the Super Bowl, and yes, I lost my debit card last week at a place too far to return to, and YES the yoga industry has been a wild thing to navigate out here, but oh, the sun and the sea and the open, rolled-back sky. 

We hiked to beat the sunrise on New Year’s. 

I have seen the ocean every single day. 

The sky feels thunderously large at night, and sometimes, when I walk up the stairs to my apartment, I reach up to hang on the stars, just for a second. Just for a swing. 

It is quite nice. 

I am also, at this very second, sitting up in the middle of the night, as before with this challenge, wrapped in a blanket with the heat on, because even if they are enjoyable, you can’t completely beat out your Februaries. Even if it is 56 degrees on March 1, without trouble or lidded sky. Even if. 

Bus Rider

If you want to scare up some fun facial expressions, tell people in L.A. that you don’t have a car. 

“How do you get places?” They will ask you.

“Well, I walk a lot.”

Silence.

“And I take the bus a lot.”

At this they will either laugh, or edge away from you like you suddenly, and violently, have fleas. 

“It’s actually not that bad,” you will say, and this is almost completely not a lie. 

It’s not that bad. Which is true, because the bus system in L.A. is a functional public transit system that proportionally not a lot of people use, which means it is infinitely cleaner than any other system I’ve ridden, and I have never not gotten a seat in the two and half months I’ve been a rider. And the Culver City bus costs $1. ONE DOLLAR, can you believe that? 

It is less true because one time someone smelled so bad the rest of us held shirts in front of our faces for twenty minutes. On Wednesday, my first bus was on time, but the second bus was early, so I missed my connection and had to take an Uber the rest of the way or I would have been late to work. Another time two teenage boys stared at me the entire trip, talking about what I was wearing and when I might be getting off of the bus so they could follow me, laughing and throwing a soda bottle back and forth across the aisle, but occasionally also throwing a fake-out toward my head. 

I am never sure if the man across from me is trying to get my attention or is just a wiggly person, and it’s not worth the eye contact to find out. 

After 6PM, the buses usually only run once an hour, and even in the daytime it’s difficult to get to places exactly on time, and not embarrassingly early or dangerously late. 

A trip that takes 15-20 minutes in a car takes 45-90 by bus. To get from the westside to the east will take three to four hours. Without traffic. 

You know all of these things cognitively. That’s why when someone laughs or backs away from your social disorder known as “bus rider,” you understand. 

But it’s important to look at why this is actually a difficult position to assume, this riding of the bus. 

It’s the small things. The in-between things. The things that make up your day. 

Mostly, I teach in Santa Monica. The #18 bus is my best bet to get there because it’s usually sort of on time, and I don’t have to transfer. It takes me 45 minutes door-to-door to get to one of the SaMo studios. Say I have to be at one of said studios at 9AM, and I teach a second class at 4:30PM, in Westwood, which is an hour or an hour and a half by bus from my house. I leave my house at 8:08AM, I’m done teaching at 10:15. I stay to practice, and I’m ready to leave the studio at noon. If I went home, I wouldn’t get there until 1PM, and now the #18 is running slower for midday, and the bus stop just moved but no one told me. I have to leave my house again at 2:30PM to get to the second class on time, so this seems like an inefficient plan. I decide to go get coffee. 

I ride the bus because I’m trying to wait to get a car until I have my financial picture fully set. Which means, I’m trying to not spend money, or else I’d be Uber-ing everywhere. Which means, before I even leave the house, do I have my portable charger, my reusable water bottle for use at water fountains, my snacks? 

And if I forget my snacks, now I have to buy snacks with my coffee because I work out for a living and I’m starving. 

To get to Westwood by 4:15PM, I have to leave SaMo by 3:45PM, but four hours is actually an excruciating amount of time to sit in a coffee shop, especially if the air conditioning is on because they don’t want loiterers, or there’s no bathroom because, again, they don’t want loiterers, so sometimes I walk by the ocean or try to read on a park bench. People bug you when you do that, though, and I have to make sure I pick a bench near another woman, or at least not hidden from view, or at the very least, don’t fall asleep. 

There is only so much coffee you can drink in one day, and juices are obscenely expensive, so if I get to Westwood early, I will probably hang out in the lobby or the locker room like a weirdo, playing on my phone even though both my phone and the portable charger are now running on fumes because I have checked google maps 85 times to see if the bus will be late or inexplicably nonexistent which happened the last time I went to North Hollywood. 

After class, it is now rush hour, so I can either take a bus that will get me home in two hours instead of one, or I can take another class even though I haven’t had a whole meal yet today, or I can spend more money to spend time in another public place. 

No matter what I choose, I am home at about 8PM. Twelve hours after I left, and at least $7 spent to be outside the house that long, if not $25. 

“Give up your daily latte habit and you’ll save enough money to travel the world.” Not when that coffee is your only access to a public bathroom for the next six hours. 

This is why the bus is difficult. 

This is why being of lower income is difficult. I am a single woman who can pay for all of these choices and is responsible for no children. 

BUT IF I WASN’T. 

The public transit system, like health care, works best if everyone uses it. The healthy people, the advantaged people, all the people, use it. If everyone was riding the bus, the bus would be on time. There would be easier connections, faster options. 

The #3 bus has a rapid option because it goes to LAX, where more people need to be somewhere by a certain time. Demand creates options, and disadvantaged people do not get to create demand in the same way. 

When people seem uncomfortable by my current options, it makes me want to stick with it for as long as I can. Challenges related to class are highly underrepresented in our cultural narrative, insofar as they actually relate to daily life. 

For as much as our society values overcoming financial difficulty, we give very little credit to the work it takes to live within strict monetary constraints.  

You know that not having money is undesirable, that it makes life difficult, but you don’t think about the actual reality of it, the small hours of how you spend your day that it affects. 

Because, if you can back away from that conversation, you probably will. 

How to Rip Your Life Apart

An article came out a few years ago, reeking of white privilege and other gross things, called “Why I Quit My $100,000 Job and Found Happiness.”* It entailed the author’s journey from Manhattan to a small island, wherein she now enjoys slumming it up as a bartender who lets her clothes air-dry among the quaint and provincial locals. 

“Leap and the net will appear,” she writes, incessantly, throughout. 

It’s actually one of the most infuriating pieces of writing I’ve read in a while, and I think about it all the time. 

I read a yoga book recently where the author talked of sleeping without a mosquito net in India, and how he meditated and the mosquitos, miraculously, left him alone. 

Which, no. 

You aren't going to just ignore predatory bugs away through the magic of thoughts. 

But I did read the whole book. And I did buy in a little bit. You have to buy in a little. You bought in enough to read this far. I bought in enough to meditate at all. There is something to be said for not swatting at all the annoyances, for that faith in the unknown, or that trust you have when you’re being brave.

There is something to be said for ripping your life apart for no other reason than you might, that you know you will, rebuild it in a neat way. 

There are things you should know about taking that leap, though. Moving from Boston to Los Angeles is my fourth inter-state move, and the longest one. Here is what I’ve learned in the process:

Bubble. Wrap. Every. Thing. 
    
I did this move in stages - I drove from Boston to my parents’ house in the midwest with only the things that fit in a rented, mid-size SUV, and then I flew from there to LA. I checked some extra bags and then I sent the rest through the USPS. 

I would do it this way again, but I would spend the extra twenty dollars or so it would cost to buy a life-size roll of bubble wrap. Most of the things that I bubble wrapped arrived safely. Everything that I didn't, arrived shattered in pieces. Each box looked like it had been punted into a truck, sat on by circus animals, and savagely attacked by what I can only assume were zombies kidnapped and imprisoned through the postal service. I actually can’t imagine anyone doing a worse job handling packages. But I know that I could have done a slightly better job in preparing my belongings for war, and that is what really makes me sad. 

Ask for help.

This is not something I am good at. It is, however, not only a necessary evil of moving, but it made all the difference for this move in particular. Job leads, an apartment, checked bags, furniture, car rides, all from telling as many people as I could about what I was doing. 

I realize that I have some incredible friends, but you do too, and if you talk them to death about the logistics of your move, they will prove that to you. 

Save as much money as humanly possible. 

I mean, that’s it. 

Ask for more help. 

I thought I was all set and then I couldn't figure out how to sell my TV. And then I needed one more suitcase. And then I got lost on the way to the apartment. It’s going to be bumpy even if you have a plan. Just keep talking to people. 

Patience is a virtue.

Still working on this one. It’s hard to not have everything figured out at once. Or, it’s annoying to have clothes all over the floor because Target is far away and you just can’t take the bus any more times today. 

But hustle is too.

That drive to get it figured out? That’s what I fill my patience void with, which is debatable advice, but it does get me into more opportunities. I’ve been taking two classes a day since I got here and learning new sequencing for new places, and there is no way that won’t at least teach me something useful. 

Explore. 

When I moved to Boston, I would run until I got myself lost and then try to find my way back. Here, I’ve been taking the bus and using google maps so much my phone is constantly dead. But screw it, because it’s still exploring. Also, I walked to the grocery store and CVS on day one. It took me three hours. I consider this a win. 

Leap and the…nah I’m just playing.

Leap. No net. You’ll probably break something. But you’ll bounce back. 

 

*Not the actual title because I don't want to drive web traffic to a truly tone-deaf piece.

Pick a Place

How do you pick a place?

I spent most of the flight back to Boston today trying to figure out who, exactly, smelled like an old sponge and how to make it stop. The flight attendant gave me a water instead of the coffee I asked for, and then took the water back and never returned with the coffee.

It’s a short flight, and we had already started the descent as they handed out beverages, but before takeoff, we sat on the runway waiting for clearance for a half hour, so wouldn’t it have been more efficient to get everyone’s order then?

None of this is a big deal. We hurtled through the air and in the same amount of time it took to get to the studio where I took class yesterday, I was back in my apartment, opening more birthday presents.

My brother ended up in Queens after his old roommates scattered from Washington Heights and a coworker friend of his offered up a basement room.

My parents ended up in Indiana after running away from home and picking a university for my dad to finish school.

I have a habit of meeting people on the Internet and then forcing them to be my friends in real life because why not see it all the way through, and because something feels hollow about two-dimensions.

When I came back from California last year, a friend of mine said she was glad I was back, that she didn’t want me to move there.

“You can’t live where you vacation,” she said. “Then where would you go on vacation?”

This is, I suppose, a way to pick a place. It seems like a strange way to pick a life, though, to save all your fun and ease for the days outside of your reality. Something feels hollow there.

I have a hard time with people who complain about things that are within their control. There are plenty of situations we end up in, get hit with, fall into, without any sense of direction or ownership. 

But the other ones. 

The other ones are ours, and we can do anything with them.

We hurtle through the air now. We can go anywhere with relative ease and quickness. It’s a luxury of oddities that we can choose where to live, to pick a place.

I ended up in Boston because I picked a place to see what it would be like.

Why not see it through, and something feels hollow about not trying for the thing I thought I wanted.

But you handed me that water and I still want the coffee.

My flight landed a few minutes early this morning. It’s snowing here.

Waiting in the Cold

When you read the reviews, they all say how tiresome it is to wait, and you think, this is a dumb complaint because it says you have to wait right on the ticket, these people must be whiners.

Most people are whiny about waiting. (See: every other post I've written.) I know I am insufferably impatient, but if there is a game to win, and you have to be patient to win it, I will be calm and focused and not whiny any at all.

This is how, after waiting three hours on a rainy, miserable, should-have-been-20-degrees-warmer day, we won the waitlist game and got inside to see a taping of The Daily Show.
The actual taping took 45 minutes. No cuts, no other takes, they went straight through like we were watching the actual show. 

Jordan Klepper stayed in character before and after his segment. Roy Wood Jr grinned and waved at all of us. And Trevor Noah was his engaging self, asking us in a commercial break, "Really, I don't get it, do you? Do you understand why he would spend all this money on the military? That's like you're dying of liver disease but you go out and buy face cream.”

"He," of course, was Trump. The audience, of course, were all aligned in similar political views. Which has always seemed strange to me, even in a mass of like minds, in public, to loudly talk about things widely accepted as an even split. But that's not where we're at anymore. We're not split down the middle. We're splintered in factions and larger points of contention than tax breaks.

It seemed so fast, the taping, compared to how long we waited in the cold, and my toes did not recover until after dinner.

"I forget that this is the culmination of their whole day," my brother said, and he was right. They spend all day working on this show. The taping is the end. The cap. The final draft.

You forget other people had a whole day, a whole life, a whole set of reasons before the one emotion you see in front of you.

You forget that. I forget that.

That this forgetting is likely how we splintered in the first place.

Overall, the taping experience is far worth it if you're a fan, but if you do go, be prepared. Bring snacks, extra socks, and a coffee. On this, people of the Internet were right - it is tiresome to wait, it takes even longer than they say, and I'm not sure how anyone doesn't wimp out in the winter.

The Meaning of Guacamole

"I mean, why are you here?”

I thought he was asking why I showed up in New York, with no real plans or ideas for the week. This is something we both do, the showing up, the flying by the seat of our pants ish, so I was confused.

"Like, here?" I pointed to the guacamole.

"Yeah, like why do you exist?”

Oh, the other big question. My brother is good at these. He asks them in such a way that implies there is a correct answer, and he has it, and you are in the hot seat to figure it out. But he's actually asking you because he is curious.

"Well if I knew I think I'd be done with it.”

"No, but say you had an hour left to live, and you were like, 'oh shit' - what would that 'oh shit' be about? What would you be scrambling to finish?”

"An hour is not long enough to finish anything.”

I'm not good at hypotheticals. It's been well documented and not the point of this story. Just bear with it. Everyone else has to.

He sighs. Takes a sip of the spiciest tequila either of us has ever had. We thought it would force us to go slow, like how real adults drink scotch. Instead, one of us got hiccups and the other got blisters.

"OK fine, but you're not getting out of the question - say you had long enough to address it, what would you need to get to?”

There's a deeply seeded part of me that feels if I knew the reason I was here, that would be the end of me. Superstition or whatnot, if I had the secret to life it would kind of ruin the ending.

"It's like solving a puzzle blindfolded," I tried to explain. "It's a pretty simple puzzle, I think, probably, but you can't solve it without the blindfold. If you take it off, game over, you're done. You have to do it with the handicap. That's the point.”

You don't know until you know is my point.

I don't know if I'm right, and I've certainly been hellbent on being wrong before. But I like to think of life this way.

I also like to think there are more people than just us two who eat tacos and ask a bunch of why's, but I haven't met many of them. So if you're wondering why else you're here, bring your questions, your avocados, and your margaritas to me as soon as you can, please.

Compare and Contrast

Last year I had one of the best birthdays of my entire adult life. I would like to say “the very best,” but I feel like maybe I’m not remembering all of them, and I love birthdays so I also can’t remember any bad ones. 

One year as a not-adult, my brother knocked his teeth out at daycare, and I came home to find him watching Disney movies, from inside a fort of his own presents. We went to Chi Chi’s and everything was fine until I had to wear the “house sombrero” before I could blow the candle out on the rapidly melting fried ice cream. But I was 13, so that birthday had a lot more potential for disaster. 

My mom dabbled in cake decorating for a while, and I got the better end of that time period than my brother, who either wasn't old enough or wasn't born yet to remember any of her work with icing. There was a ballerina cake that matched my jewelry box, a Rose Petal Place cake for my dolls, and a several more all photographed for posterity in my “Kate’s Birthdays” photo album back home. 

There are 2.9 bazillion photos of me as a child, and only 37 photos of my brother. (Not that anyone but my mom has counted.)

I went to California last year to be alone. To sit with things and feel the feelings that I had, not pinch the ones I didn’t like back under my skin. I knew what I was getting myself into and I knew that my birthday was part of it. That I ran a big risk of spending it all by myself in a studio apartment, eating peanut butter M&Ms and watching a Vanderpump Rules marathon. 

Instead, I went hiking. I bought juice and I saw the ocean and I hung out with friends in a basement bar, wearing a tan and a wide, open-mouth smile. 

I honestly can’t tell if it’s the lack of expectations or the actual events that were the key to success. There’s much I still have to learn about how to just do whatever the fuck I was going to do anyway and bank on others catching up. About how to only want the ones who catch up, that there are those who will. 

Today at the studio, one of the students told me about her injury and how she constantly compares what she could do in class last year with what she can’t do now.

“Oh, you can’t compare it. Then everything just feels terrible,” I said. 

It happens when you’re not looking for it. You look for it all the time. Stop comparing the years. You search through all 2.9 bazillion photos for evidence of happiness. Which cake was my favorite? All of them because then I wasn’t thinking about hanging on to this one “because what if the next one sucks?” 

This year, this day, today, I’m going to hang out with my brother, because that is what I actually want to do. (And he currently has all of his teeth.)

Bandit Kate

Everyone thinks they’re first. Everyone thinks they’ve been waiting longer than they have, than that guy over there, than is reasonable for places with mandatory patience minimums like crowds and anywhere. 

Everyone thinks they’re special, which is a low-grade, germy problem, a sort of auto-immune issue for society, and which makes it sort of difficult to track if something feels rotten because of the thing, or because of you as a person and your working deficiencies.

In other words, is my coffee taking actually forever or am I being dramatic? 

Confrontation and I have a strange relationship, in that it makes me feel jumpy and I get cold, but I didn’t quite understand what to do with this, my belly full of chilled shooting stars, until fairly recently. 

I think it’s generally a fair assessment tool to place yourself in someone else’s perspective before leaping into a caffeinated assault, which has been my mode of choice in implementing some kind of middle way in all of this. 

That time a barista drew a peacock in his latte art, and proceeded to take his phone out and snap four separate angles of it was when I started to hone this technique instead of alternately seething in silence or snapping in rage.

Maybe he wants to show it to his mom later. 

It is a fabs insta photo. 

If that’s my latte then actually I want to take a picture too. 

It was not my drink, but I think of him, crafting those feathers with care and pride, often while I’m waiting in line places, not being particularly patient and feeling jumpy. 

No one is out to get you. No one is trying to make you late to something or hinder your day. 

Unless they steal your coffee from the bar when it comes up and yes, apparently it was taking actually forever. 

“Excuse me, do you have a drink for Kate coming up soon?” I asked when I was sure I wasn’t being dramatic. 

“No, what was it?”

“A latte.” 

“Wait, did you say for ‘Kate?’”

“Yes.” Yes, same name as nearly half of my elementary school. I have been Kate S on almost every roster since ballet. Sometimes Kate St, as if spelling my last name a piece at a time is less confusing than using a full second name. Occasionally coffees get switched up, it happens. 

“There was an order for Katie - I knew they did this - they took yours.”

“OK, I figured that-“

“No, they took yours with theirs. They only ordered two drinks and they took three. I knew that was wrong.”

I’m freezing. My eyes dart around the room, and if they land on a woman who could have been in Kindergarten in the eighties, I will, so help me, snatch my coffee back. 

He gives me a latte with no art on it because he rushed it out, and a coupon for a free drink next time. I give up my search for Bandit Kate and warm up. 

Eggs

For the same reason I do many things, I keep trying to eat eggs like they will be something other than eggs. 

Not like, “oh I hope they don’t taste like eggs this time,” but “this is what adults do, they make eggs in the daytime because it is real food and not a Zone bar that you eat without chewing and run out the door.” 

But also, oh how I hope they don’t taste like eggs this time. 

The pan had some melted plastic on the bottom of it, probably from the last time I used it and set it on a to-go container. For whatever reason I had forgotten this ever happened, saw the pan, and still fucking used it, thinking, “it’s solid now, it’s just part of the pan.”

Nope, still plastic. Still melts. All over the stovetop. 

Which is difficult to clean when the stove is still hot and I have to run out the door, because no matter what food I decide to eat, I am late as a person. 

Some days I’m way better at being an adult than others, which I’m sure is true for everyone. For some reason, though, there’s always just one piece out of reach. 

  • Make The Bed Every Morning: 10 points
  • Floss Every Night: 15 points 
  • Use Crest White Strips: 1 point for the three times I did it, extra points pending from the box I’ve had for a year
  • Put Laundry Away: 8 points (was 10, deducted 2 for the week it sat around)
  • Make Lunch Before Work: 5 points for effort, -5 points for all the plastic
  • Send Presents to Friends: No points for the package that is sitting on the floor 
  • Eat Vegetables: 100 points
  • Eat Fruit: 80 points
  • Don’t Eat Only Candy for Dinner: 3 points because it only happened once this week
  • Wear Weather Appropriate Clothing: 1000 points because this is a newly developed skill

So maybe more than one piece out of reach. 

“How old are you, are you even 22?” Some guy, probably 24. 

“Yes, I’m plenty older than 22.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, my birthday is Tuesday, I’ll be even older.”

He asked if he could help me celebrate, which I only considered because literally no one else has offered, but I’ll be in NYC, and also thank you but no. 

He insisted that I must be 22. Twenty-six at the most. 

Yesterday I made butternut squash noodles for dinner with pesto and green beans, on top of lettuce, like a warm salad. I taught two classes and took one, laid in the hammam for twenty minutes and took a hot shower. I remembered to take the trash out, even though my roommate got to it first, and I ran the dishwasher. 

I also burnt off a chunk of my hair that I got stuck in the hairdryer because I spaced out in the mirror. 

Surely real adults do not keep trying in vain to make themselves appropriate, to continue to eat eggs and hope they taste like something else. Twenty-six at most.

Seat Belts

On some corner of the Internet, I read a thing by a guy about how when cars were invented, people drove them in diagonals and bumped them into things, and generally hurt themselves. Rules had to be created, some kind of structure to guide everyone onto roads and into turn signals and protect people from themselves. 

His point was that we haven’t quite figured this same thing out about the Internet itself. We keep bumping into things and hurting each other because we’re new at driving here, and no one gave us any seat belts. 

One of the cult-favorite, unofficial Internet Rules is to never read the comments section. 

I break this one all the time because I am too curious for my own good. I want to know what’s out there. I do not want to bubble-up. 

This is also how I one time got in a comments-fight with a troll on a Thought Catalog article about music. He said Bon Iver was more talented than any rap artist because “they are all thugs who want to fight and Bon Iver wants to live in the woods and play the guitar.” 

I said he was racist. 

He said I was a dumb bitch. 

I, separately, but not totally unrelated, cannot stand Bon Iver, except the one song that sounds like, “shaking babies will stick with hair,” which I’m pretty sure are not the words. But I can’t be certain because all the songs sort of sound like a cat in the shower. 

And if you’d like to leave me a comment, I can take it, because I have sort of grown up from this web-exchange. 

The thing is, I’m sure Bon Iver is a lovely person, simply talented in a way that I don’t quite appreciate for my own leisure listening. I’m just not convinced that guy in the comments section is a good person. 

This is where seat belts come in. 

How do we continually roll out new technology without thinking about contingency plans? 

Where will it crash? What could go wrong? Where might people hurt themselves, or others? 

I suppose the greater question is how do we enforce empathy across multidisciplinary lines? 

Or emphasize it.

Or teach it. 

Leaving the studio tonight, a woman who had just taken a shower was cleaning her ears. I do that, too - fresh out of the shower, with a Q-tip, an open mouth, same deal. How do we all learn that? How does more than one person across state lines pick up on weird little shit like that?

I didn’t ask her because it seemed intrusive and I don’t think everyone is as curious as I am about the minutiae of the day. 

No one likes a real-life troll either. Seat belts. 

But I think the answer to trolls lies somewhere in there, with the cotton swabs and tiny, daily details. Somewhere, fresh out of the shower, standing naked on the Internet instead of hiding in blanket statements and a cave of insults.

Flair For Drama

“Did you hear that,” my mom said to my dad while on the phone with me, “It’s the coldest day of the year there!”

“Um, no wait,” I said, backpedaling, “It’s not actually. It just feels like it.”

“Oh, it’s not?”

“No. It is really cold, though.” 

I inherited both my flair for drama and my naïveté from my mom, so neither of us were surprised by this exchange.  

She said on the first day of Spring, she heard the birds singing like they knew the weather was about to turn. 

“Did you notice any differences in Boston?” 

I thought about it. I did not. 

My birthday back home was always somewhere around 60 degrees, maybe it rained, maybe it was perfect, maybe I wore some tights with my dress and maybe I didn’t. But there were flowers in bloom and birds sang and this is not part of my propensity to exaggerate. 

After college I moved to Chicago, and after eight years there, I moved to Boston. I’ve worn a winter coat on my birthday for almost every year in each city. And every year I say, “This is not birthday weather.”

It’s amazing the indelible impression your childhood has on how you see the world. 

I once went on an awful date with a guy who didn’t know what Muppets were, and even though these are two separate facts, the Muppets one mutually excludes any salvaging of the awful date. 

Love of anything Muppet was imprinted early, and it is an essential part of me at this point. 

Eavesdropping also started early, I think. Likely due to my bedroom and its location adjacent the living room, with the TV. Long after I was supposed to be sleeping, I would bend the metal blinds down at the corner of the French doors and watch whatever my parents were watching. At any pang of fear from getting caught, I would dive back into bed. 

In hindsight, the diving was the risky part. I thought I was so sneaky, but the noise of me crashing into bed is apparently what gave me away.

The women getting pedicures at the nail salon while my toes dried today did not want me to hear their conversation. 

Something about yoga and teaching, and then they saw me and dropped their voices low, which made me feel like I was eighth-grade me, sitting in this chair without any friends, picking candy out of the bowl because hey, free Baby Ruth. 

Please don’t make fun of me, ladies with the diamond earrings and perfect hair. 

I realized, though, as I got up to leave, they dropped their voices because I was wearing yoga pants and had my trendy gear with me, and likely their story had sensitive information that could only have been risky for them. 

I can’t know for certain of course. I didn’t actually listen in. Mostly because I wasn’t interested; partly because I was fully engrossed in a video* of Cookie Monster eating “cookies throughout the decades.”
 

*I SWEAR THIS IS ACTUALLY WHAT I WAS DOING, and here is the link. 

The Click Point

For years, I’ve explained how I learned to roller skate by watching a clip on Sesame Street. It took months of falling, and reliving all the frustrations of the “bike riding saga,” and then one day I watched some kid gliding along to a jazzy soundtrack and it Just. Made. Sense. 

My brother, as a child, was always more adept than I was at seamlessly fitting into physical challenges. Basketball, running, biking, he could always just play. I, on the other hand, thought about it too hard. I wanted to know all the information first and then sort it out. 

Which is the road to getting picked last in gym. 

We have mixed our personalities as adults, my brother and I, both of us picking up anything we can, and both of us now stubbornly determined we can do it even if it doesn’t quite make sense yet. (See: slacklining.)

They say excellence is a habit, or what you do you get good at, and I believe this is true for most things. 

Handstands, for one. 

Writing, also, even though once I spent a month in France, (twice and a half, actually, but once in a really emo state,) thinking I would write every day and it would turn out something lovely. It did not.* 

For a while, on Wednesdays, I would work on a few different poses or transitions that have been a particular bane of my practice. Wednesdays because I was warmed up from all my classes and I had the space, and those challenges because I am an Aries in both Sun and Moon signs, so TELL ME I WON’T. 

But I’ve had different and far less sweaty weeks for a couple months. 

I’ve also been showing up extremely early to things, which is sort of false advertising for when I cannot, inevitably, keep this up, but this is how I showed up to the studio 45 minutes before my class today, and had time to play. 

And I nailed one-legged crow** without thinking about it. 

This is the beauty of Instagram. Not as a comparative and physique-obsessed playground, but it consistently is for me now what that roller skating clip on PBS was when nothing else clicked. 

You are what you repeatedly do, but sometimes you have to set the whole thing down for a while. Give yourself a chance to redefine your own limits. Become a person who picks things up because you are determined and you are sick of writing whiny stories and food diaries. 

For years I’ve talked about this phenomenon of letting things happen in their own time, about this Sesame Street clip, so today I ventured into the gaping hole of the Internet to find it. The only film closely resembling what I remember is THIS, which is actually nothing of what I remembered. I thought it was a teenager in jeans skating down a street, not David in his harem pants disco-ing through Central Park. 

I also broke my wrist roller skating on my own street a couple years later, so, it’s not magic. Keep practicing too. 

 

 

 

*Actual entries in my travel journal include “This is crap, everything I’ve written here is crap.” Which, in hindsight, it was, so at least I have accurate taste. 

**Nemesis number one.

Evacuation

We had to evacuate the building shortly after I arrived for my first session today, 

“Do you think I should get my shoes?” My client blinked up at me, in her blue-striped socks, in the hallway. 

“I think, probably,” I said. 

It was 20 degrees and snow-covered outside, and the information we had included some flashing white lights, a few scurrying spa-goers, and a gentle PSA, “This is to inform you an emergency has been indicated and you must leave.” 

I didn’t want to seem alarmist, but I felt certain shoes were a solid choice. 

“I’ll believe it when I see the guy with the ax,” she said*.

We were outside all of four minutes before the firemen were waved off, including the one with the ax.

Everyone had the same, accurate, hunch that this was a precautionary alarm, set off by the construction next door. We stood close to the door, were not herded off the property or even away from the awning. 

My last couple years in high school were during the height of the Anthrax scares, where any kind of powdery substance became cause for concern, and quite frankly, mass chaos. At least five times a year we were shepherded out of the building and off the grounds, and waited in the sheer depression that is a pool of sulking teens to go back inside. 

Three years ago, the building next to my old apartment caught fire and I watched as the flames burst through the glass and climbed out over the roof like a demonic beanstalk. I called my mom. 

“So, you can see it from your window?” She asked.

“Yeah, it’s the top floor, same as ours.” I bobbed my head up from the windowsill. I, apparently, didn’t want the fire to see me. 

“OK, well I think maybe you should leave the apartment,” my mom said. 

I took my computer, jewelry, a change of clothes, and my favorite photos that are not digitally backed up, and I sat at the bar in the basement of the building, drinking water and stalking the fire department’s Twitter updates. 

If the wind had changed direction that day, I could easily be telling you a story about how I ended up with an armful of possessions on a bad day in February. But it didn’t, and I’m left to think and rethink my choices if put in the same position again. 

This, of course, is hypothetical, and I don’t do well with those questions. 

In high school I don’t think we were allowed to get anything out of the lockers. I’m almost sure of it but it feels hazy and when I picture standing in the cold, I picture myself in the clothes I wore today with my whole and confident self, and not my flared jeans and frizzy hair, unsure with which sulky teen pool to commiserate. 

Today, I carried out everything I brought in without a second thought. Which is all you can really hope for in an emergency - that your decisions come as second nature, without much frenzy, and of course, include a pair of shoes.  

 


*She did opt for shoes. 

Fill The Space With Noise and Cookies

If you are looking for an effective way to demonstrate balance in your life, combining seemingly disparate activities is a good way to start. 

It’s also a pretty good way to show that you do not have a handle on anything you’re doing. 

Today I spent the afternoon baking cookies and doing yoga. At the same time. 

I set the timer for 10 minutes, ran to my mat to play, and back, on repeat for an hour. I wish I could tell you this is part of a new online course I’m offering, but it was actually two things I wanted to do and I slept too long to do them separately. 

A friend of mine posted an article earlier this week called, “5 Self-care Strategies That Aren’t Fucking Mani-Pedis,” and, while it’s extremely helpful overall, it struck me that most of it comes down to creating boundaries. 

Stop saying yes to shit you hate. Or at least stop acquiescing to shit that low-key gets on your nerves. 

I’m trying to make my life enjoyable and easy. And I’m not very good at it. 

It’s difficult for me to not wholly embody the busy worker bee who never stops, never slows down. I mean, it’s not hard because I love doing nothing, but it’s difficult to let go of this mentality. If I just kept going, surely there would be more I could get, more I could be. Fill up the dead space with the noise of a thousand hours worked. 

I can’t hear you, doubts, I’m too busy. 

Something snapped. Something moved under my fast feet. Something stopped me for long enough to listen to the nagging suspicion that I wasn’t even enjoying any time off because I had nothing to do in it and no one to see.

I’ve been sleeping a lot. Partly because I’ve been writing at dumb hours of the mid-aughts, but mostly because I’m catching up on a lot of mental clarity. 

(Also I love sleeping and it’s nice to do things you like. Do all things with love and such.)

There are some pests in my inner-ears that tell me if I just worked a little harder, I wouldn’t be so lazy. If I picked up a few more things, I could save more money. 

But would it be worth it or would it be noise?

I can hear you, doubts. I'll let you finish your monologue.

At some point, darting between the oven and the mat, it occurred to me that I might just be terrible at setting boundaries for myself. Making noise for no reason all over the place. 

But it’s noise I love in the alive space I have created. It will never cease to amaze me that I have jobs that I love because I made some decisions. That Wednesday is a day I made out of cookies and yoga. 

Everyone Hates When You Talk About Dreams

There are only two types of dreams for me. 

1.) The standing-in-line-at-CVS dream, where I’m late for work and the line keeps getting longer kind of thing. You know, the least interesting parts of being regularly awake kind of dream. 

Or, 

2.) The cat turned into a person and told me the girl who owns the apartment secretly chopped up her boyfriend and hid him under the floor.* You know, the super murder-y kind of dream. 

I used to keep a dream journal and write them all down when I woke up, but it turns out, this is quite hard to do. And you will scare your then-boyfriend who already thinks you might need help because of the “ghost incident.” So I stopped. 

For about a year I was having plane crash dreams fairly consistently. This was nothing new, per se, since it followed closely on the heels of all the flying-death dreams. These, though, were all the same: the plane would get too close to a gold-domed building, shut down, and hover in mid-air like a Zack Morris timeout. It wasn’t the State House gold dome - it was matte, crowded in the midst of several blanched and European buildings. 

Eventually we’d all get back in our seat, the plane would head out to sea and then it would crash without warning into the ocean and I’d play with some sea creatures amongst the wreckage. 

I had a tiny book of dream meanings that I read cover to cover in high school. I memorized and terrorized my friends with everything I “knew.”

“Teeth falling out is actually like a good money omen,” I would say, unhelpfully, because no one wants to hear how great something is that fucked up their REM cycle. 

“If you know you’re dreaming, it’s called a lucid dream, and it’s like hard to do,” I would say, even though I never know I’m dreaming and cannot wake up to save my life. I once slept through a tornado. 

“Did you know you can’t read in dreams?” I would tell everyone this, even though I definitely learned it from watching Batman: The Animated Series, and still, in present day, have not vetted this information.  

Nothing in that tiny book, nor Batman episodes, explained why a person would have murder-y dreams in general, and certainly made no mention of benign plane crash adventures. 

The last time I came back from NYC, the bus took a detour to avoid some construction, and we drove through some small-ish city in Connecticut.** There, around a curve, was the gold-domed building, surrounded by stubby, white mid-rises. We drove slowly, and I pressed close to the bumpy window, feeling much the same as every time I see a ghost come to life. 

I haven’t had the plane crash dreams since then. I’m sure the book would say something about having been there before, or that I worked through whatever it meant. And I do think there’s something to exorcising your demons by seeing them in the light. 

But I’d like to know where Batman stands on this. 

 


*Last night’s installment. Swear. 

**Might have been any state really, I was obviously sleeping for the rest of the trip. 

Quitter

In the cart next to mine was a carton of Lactaid milk, a beef and broccoli frozen dinner, and two jugs of Liquid Plumr.  

The girl behind me had two carrots, a head of lettuce, and some bread. 

The boys in front of me had $192 worth of three cases of Dr. Pepper, two bags of red hots, six frozen pizzas, some BBQ Lays, 12 shamrock cupcakes, one greeting card, and an empty Dasani bottle. 

I know it was $192 because they only* had $175 to spend on groceries. 

I know they only had $175 because I waited ten minutes for the kid in the sweatpants and button down shirt, bloodshot eyes and bedhead to text his dad for the rest of the money. 

Maybe you don’t need the greeting card, I thought. 

But maybe you do, since asking a parent for junk food money at 11 PM seems like something for which you send a hand-written thank you. 

In all, I waited 25 minutes from the middle of the baking goods aisle to the checkout because we are waiting for a snowstorm that no one is prepared for, least of all, apparently, college students. 

I listened to music and my phone was charged and I knew what I was in for, but something was off. I was off. I just never got into things today. 

It takes me about 100 pages to get into a new book. I’m either hung up on the memory of the last one, or easily distracted because I don’t care about this world yet. If, after 100 pages, I’m still at struggle bus station waiting for a ride, I know it’s going to be a rough read. 

There are exactly two books I’ve given up on at that threshold. 

  1. The Collected Short Stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I’ll save you the suspense - every story ends with, “And that’s when I knew I was actually dead all along.”)
  2. Watership Down by Richard Adams (Which purports to be a nice story about bunnies in a warren, and is actually terrifying. As is the cartoon movie, and I’m not sure which one ruined the experience for me first.)

The point is, my stubbornness doesn’t usually allow for a way out. I push through terrible books. I wait in obscenely long lines. I get up and I deal with it being eight degrees in March because that is what is happening and when it’s done I can read my new book in the April sun. 

But something about today. 

We are waiting for a snowstorm. And all I can think about are all the ways I could ditch out before 100 days. Where is the way out from this day and all the cold and the general stuck-ness that fills me with numb?

That, and what could that guy be planning with all the Liquid Plumr?

 

*This, to me, is an absurd amount of grocery money for a twenty-year old, and I desperately wanted to ask them if that was a weekly allotment, and if it was intended to cover more than these cases of soda and pizzas.