Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's spring (cleaning) somewhere

I threw away 15 socks yesterday.
They were perfectly good socks, and I don't judge them for having no match, but I did decide that they can no longer be in my life. I'm open to socializing with single people in this world, but I am going to stop letting single socks take up residence in my closet.
I kicked a lot of things out of my closet this weekend, actually.
Eight brown grocery sacks full, and I'm not quite done.
I passed along a suit jacket that grips me a little too tightly in the upper arms.
A tank top that looks great in the front, but pinches enough in the back that it takes away from the aimed for aesthetic.
A t-shirt that I bought within the last 12 months. It boasts a unique print, and yes, it's money down the toilet for me to get rid of it so soon, but I don't love it.
I got rid of a blouse that was a gift. I enjoyed it for a while, but I rarely wore it in the midst of several years. Examining it on me yesterday I realized, yes, this does indeed make me look like a cupcake. (It's very ruffly).
Aside it was tossed.
I resisted getting rid of things during the last several months. I thought I should focus first on cleaning, on getting the environment orderly looking, and then go through things and get rid of them. In gathering old things, it's just one more thing to deal with, I told myself: a bag full of things in my room, which would then get moved and be a bag in my car, and then I'd have to make a trip to Goodwill.
Horror of horrors, I know. #LazyAndIKnowIt
So I kept shoving things into my closet. With my new aim to live within my means, I've greatly curbed my habit for picking up needless things at drugstores, so I've at least stopped gathering greeting cards and tiny organizational baskets and holiday decorations.
But let me tell you something, Friends. When a woman offers me hand-me-down clothes, one word flashes across my vision, blinding me to any common sense:
For one, I grew up without sisters. 1, I never had the joy of receiving secondhand clothing that was feminine, and 2, I was not in a place in my youth in which I desired feminine items.
This weekend I started separating clothes in my closet, and I counted 40 dresses.
I called my dad and said the tomboy was gone.
"Why?" he asked, sounding legitimately a little upset, to be honest.
I told him nah, she's still there somewhere, but that she has 40 dresses in her closet.
"Excuse me, who is this calling?" he asked.
We chuckled and talked about our plans for organizing our spaces, then hung up to get back to it.
I tried on nearly every item in my closet yesterday.
A friend of Abby's gave her five bags of clothing to go through, and when A was done trying things on she gave me the remnants.
I had the instinct to keep all of it, blindly shoving it into a corner already crowded with junk, feeding the mouth of the monster closet as well as feeding my stress and anxiety.
I don't know what came over me, but I tried things on. I've always hated trying on clothes, but I did it. I took a walking break, then got back to it.
I gave everything a five second look in the mirror. I asked myself if, competing with so many other items on hangers, this particular blouse or button down would ever be selected to be worn. If the answer was no, I peeled it off and shoved it in a brown paper sack.
I think the most liberating element of this weekend was the honesty within it.
It's just clothing, for crying out loud, but it felt so good to say, "Bailey, you know you will never wear this."
So often we find reasons to keep things because of their value. I've had a perfectly cute flapper dress in my closet for years. The last time I successfully zipped it up was Halloween 2011, and it's been hanging there ever since.
What's the point?
Yes, the dress has value, but if I can't and won't wear it, what value does it have to me? It doesn't. In fact, all it makes me feel is annoyance that I can't fit into it and annoyance that it's taking up space to maybe, someday, be worn on a magical day when I both fit into it and am invited to a costume party.
And as for Halloween, I don't like to repeat costumes. So this flapper dress needed to retire.
And it has. I hope that someone finds it, and thinks, "Wow. What a find." That's exactly how I felt when I found it at a church rummage sale in Kansas, many moons ago.
I'm so ridiculously provided for in this life. I don't need to be greedy within it.
I'm relinquishing my flapper dresses to the thrift store universe.
And you know what? I'm fine. Feeling just fine.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Forgiveness prayers

Ryan preached a wonderful message on forgiveness yesterday. Kaylie and Donald sat behind me, and I only turned around three (or four) times during service to whisper to them. A bunch of "young adults" went to lunch afterward. We sat outside, and though I was hidden in the hood of my jacket like a good Angeleno should be, I was very proud of myself for remaining in the elements (read: sunshine and 60 harrowing degrees) for nearly two hours. I told Chelsea of my pride and she agreed that I had achieved a feat, as far as Bailey Brewer's tolerance for temperature goes.

After lunch I went home and folded laundry. I watched a little Netflix and met Alex at our favorite place: a WWI themed restaurant/bar by an airport runway, where we watched the Chiefs die a slow death, killed by field goals. We talked to a pilot, and a friendly man named Joe bought us each a drink. I gave Alex a Christmas present, and though I usually hate it when he correctly guesses his gift while still in its wrapping, we both enjoyed a game of 20 questions. (I was feeling generous; he loves guessing. I'm just upset that I'll never be able to throw him a surprise party, because he'll for sure be on to me.) My love discovered I had given him Mr. Springsteen's memoir with more than five fingers of guesses to spare.

We closed out the evening over Thai food. I plan to heat up my Massaman curry for lunch, on this holiday spent in bed with Max. I am provided for, and then some. So grateful to spend each Sunday with a community in which love abounds. Grateful to pray with my church family each week. Yesterday's focus was forgiveness -- moving on from viewing life as eye for an eye.

One of my favorite things that Ryan told us was that when we forgive someone, we are often reluctant, because it feels like we are letting him off the hook for something. Ryan said, when we forgive, we are in fact letting someone off the hook: ourselves. Letting ourselves off the hook from the anger that eats away at our insides, leaving us still angry and not any healthier for it. Holding on to resentment is not like a workout at the gym; it doesn't have a grand payoff, making the pain worth it in the end. It simply ends in pain.

Each week, Ryan and I check in with each other about the theme for the week's worship. Via Facebook message, he lets me know the general idea of his sermon, and on Sunday morning before worship, I chill in bed with Max and a cuppa, typing, backspacing, typing some more, hoping that my words of prayer effectively meet Ryan's ideas, at least somewhere in the middle.

Below are yesterday's prayers. Feel free to pray along with us. You are always welcome in our pews, or you can pray right where you are. Our church membership runs far and wide. Be blessed, Friends. If you're working today, may you feel fruitful in your labor and be surrounded by silly coworkers. If you're off the clock, enjoy a day of rest. Smooches from me and Office Max.

As we look at the date on our phones, and gasp at how quickly this year is unfolding before us, let us give thanks for the amount of life that has already filled this January. For paychecks earned, for quiet nights of rest, for early mornings of wide-awake children, children who are eager to share their enthusiasm at the day’s first light. For meals shared with friends over clattering restaurant noise – clinking glasses, divulging fears, and hopefully laughing. Let us be grateful for the people who are there, so that our celebrations and our tribulations do not get trapped in stagnant air, but fall on the hearts of those who care.

Amidst the breathtaking brokenness in our world, may we see hope breaking through the cracks, shooting prismed beams across our paths. May we point people to birds swooping in flight, to tiny sprigs of green pushing upward between pavement. May we know that in giving yet another chance to people who have broken us will give us, too, a new chance. A chance for living untethered, running free through life’s meadows. Let us not be afraid to conquer the monsters in the night. Armed with a mighty torch, may we always fight for light.

When we are simmering in hurt, because of something someone has done to us, said to us, or because they have neglected us, meet us in our ache. When we cannot understand why we must simply feel so much, sing sweet lullabies into our ears. Grant us rest, and as sun splashes against our windowpanes and streaks the peeling wallpaper as we wake, gently nudge us toward the gifts in our lives. May we breathe through the painful emotions, and with each silly text message received, each nudge of a pet into our limp palms, each time that we can’t help but sing along, may we once again feel joy.

For the opportunity to forgive. While it may not seem like a privilege, and sometimes feels like a painful, impossible thing to do, may we realize the freedom it sets before us. The freedom to let go. To see someone who hurt us in new light. To move forward, from a boiling cauldron of anger, whose fingers of flame clutch our hearts and singe our skin, to a cooling pool of peace. May we gently bob, in a spring amidst mountains, watching swirls of mist dance above the water’s surface. Up and down, like a tea bag being dunked by the One who loves us most, steeping to become stronger in grace.

Let us recognize how many times we come out of darkness and into light, each and every day. From our haggard morning selves, to the caffeinated person who can carry on pleasant conversation. From the scary pile of paperwork to the triumph of a file cabinet organized, because we didn’t give up. And for the switch from night to light that happens without us even noticing: each time we blink. We go into the darkness a thousand times a day, and we don’t feel scared to close our eyes, because we know that, thanks to a creator who lifts and drops our eyelids, we will be back in brightness in but a moment.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The year of the continuum

If someone were to track my conversations with Jill, I can nearly guarantee that the line of dialogue with the most tallies by it would be: "Have you read...?"
Just today I've asked her about three different authors/novel series, and we haven't even hit the lunch hour.
Mostly we communicate via text and email, but every once in a while we get Mexican food together and fire back and forth for two hours:
Have you read the Neapolitan novels?
Have you read anything by Marisa de los Santos?
Have you have you have you?
Shoveling queso into our mouths, we leave with brains full of titles to devour, overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, but knowing that somewhere, someday, some of them will be read, and we will be happier for it.
Jill's reading pace is impressively more prolific than mine, but we still find several books and authors that we've both read. It's funny, we can often have very different opinions of stories, yet she still seems to take most of my reading suggestions, which I appreciate and applaud. I think that's a good character trait, to give people a chance, to try new things. Both of us are hoping to explore new reading genres this year. We're in the market for fantasy recommendations, so hit us up.
We also have several life things in common. In fact, it's the reason I felt the need to track her and Hilary down online to become friends in person, because of all the life things the three of us have in common. Hilary's a Midwestern native, Jill's a social work veteran, etc. etc.
(Hilary used to join our queso meetings, but she has since left California, so now Jill and I leave a chair for her honorary presence at the table, quietly grieving her absence).
I was reading Jill's blog today, and I discovered another peculiar thing we have in common -- we were both in a childhood classroom that combined fourth and fifth grade students.
Naturally, I had to email her and tell her, "Me, too!" ("Me, too" is probably the line of dialogue with the second most amount of tallies).
And then I got to thinking about the impact that classroom had on me, and I realized: it was a lot of impact. As in, it's still living out in me today.
To this day, I can pause and reflect on my time in fifth grade, and it's one of those near-perfect memories. Sure, I fought with my best friend a time or two. I think that was the year I took a tetherball to the face. But all in all, it shook out to be a pretty stellar nine months of school.
At Christmastime, we did candy cane math. We were asked to bring a candy cane to school, and we measured its length in paperclips, and in other objects and actual inches. I already liked math, but my magical classroom made it even more fun, and tasty.
We studied whales for a very long time, and we watched Voyage of the Mimi starring Ben Affleck. I learned to research something in depth, even after it seemed knowing the basics was enough. Like the ocean is vast, I discovered, so is the world to be discovered. There is always more one can know.
We read Number the Stars and grew quietly humbled about atrocities and the reality of our world.
We were allowed water bottles at our desks, because we lived in Colorado which is officially "semi-arid." I stayed hydrated, and, at least during the day, remained content with the essentials. (After school, it was soda on tap).
We were allowed snacks in baggies, but we couldn't have sugar (I discovered that Cheerios have some sugar in them, but Mrs. Borth made a concession for the granular O's). When we wanted to impress our teacher, who picked up litter on her morning walks, we brought reusable bags to carry our nosh. We studied the rainforest and puberty; we started to care for our bodies and the air and plants that feed them.
Mrs. Borth wore shorts with tights. It was her signature look. I developed my own fashion sense, gracing the playground with rainbow-colored stretchy cotton shorts.
I threw moldy grapes out the window of a parked school bus, and they hit a teacher on the head. She got on the bus in a fury, and a good Samaritan offered to pick up the grapes, cooling the teacher's anger. I still feel guilty, and I remember the name of the one who stood up, knowing that it was me who did something childish and irresponsible.  
Forgetting a permission slip, I forged my mother's signature. I was taken into questioning but not publicly outed for my crime. Mercy was poured in my direction, and I took note of how it could offer immense relief to someone who really needed it, even if she didn't deserve it.
Knowing that it's never too early to master public speaking, our teacher assigned us to "Teach a lesson." Taking the role of the instructor, I showed my classmates how to make a cheese-jelly-bologna-potato chip sandwich (my father's creation). I called the Village Inn restaurant to request individual jelly packets. Resources were available, and I practiced asking for them.
When (I presume) Mrs. Borth needed to catch up on grading, she let us read ALL DAY, taking breaks only for recess and lunch. A woman who I admired greatly paved the way for future days spent sitting in bed. Surrounded by snacks and stacks of hardcovers and paperbacks, I have never felt guilty for spending hours drenched in literature. It's not a fault in action to read. Even when I've put off school work in the name of reading something else, I'm not sure I've ever regretted it.
My classroom, like I mentioned, was made up of fourth and fifth graders. It was called a "continuum," meaning that you would continue from fourth grade into fifth with the same teacher and classmates. This was a curious way to organize youth, I thought going in. I thought age groups should be kept separate. The intention was to keep students in the same classroom for two years, give them a little more stability in their environment. This is my theory, anyway. For all I know, they could have just had an overflow of students and needed to meld us together.
I was a fifth grader that year, and I assumed myself superior, thinking I would spend the year socializing only with fellow fifths. Only occasionally, for state standardization purposes, were our lessons different from each other's, and I learned that people younger than me were capable of learning the same things as I. As I developed bonds with some of the fourths, my elitist air began to crumble. I learned that a number on my birth certificate didn't mean I needed to build a wall, blocking out the 1986's from the 1985's. My social world expanded, and I saw that all people have value in contributing to the lives of others. My boyfriend is five years my senior and one of my best friends several years my junior, and I can't imagine life without either of them. I have the continuum, in part, to thank for this.
In my continuum year, I joined the Battle of the Books, an organization that asked teams of students to collectively read 50 young adult books and answer trivia questions about them at competitions. I tracked the pages I read, and when I reached elementary school graduation, I had read thousands of pages in less than a year.
I started the school year, however, crippled by words on a page. For whatever reason, I needed every fiber in my brain to double down and concentrate in order to take in what I was reading. Crushed in the corner of the couch, I cried in the basement, not able to drown out the voices of my family or the vacuum cleaner above my head.
I honestly don't know what happened to change me. My parents talked to me after a parent-teacher conference, and I was embarrassed about my seeming inability to read. I hadn't previously struggled; the only thing I can point to that made it suddenly difficult was the fact that I was being assigned more to read than I had in previous years.
Perhaps I just forced myself to finish my reading assignments, not wanting to be further embarrassed. I was always a compliant student, so I was probably too petrified by the idea of not completing my homework to risk even trying. I don't believe in magic in the traditional sense, but maybe it was the welcoming, warm, encouraging bubble of my classroom that made me feel like I could open a cover and come out on the other side, a new story inside me with countless more to ingest next.
Whatever happened, I'm ever grateful. Reading has become a beloved pastime, one that has led me to a career in writing, which, well, I can't even visualize my life without. And that's another thing that the continuum classroom gave me.
I have been trying to track down Mrs. Borth for years, to tell her what I'm doing with my life. In addition to granting us all-day reading sessions, she taught us many basic elements to structure our writing. We weren't allowed to use the word "said" in things we wrote. Instead, we exclaimed and proclaimed and declared. Mrs. Borth didn't let us simply say what we felt, who we were. We declared it. Made our mark.
Thanks to her instruction, I got a little better at writing that year. At the end of our time together, Mrs. Borth wrote notes to each one of us. Mine said (oops, sorry. Mine commanded), "Keep up that great writing!"
I still have her words, handwritten on construction paper. I have a picture of us together at graduation in a bright magenta frame.
I don't ever want to forget the year of the glorious greatness. The year my brothers got Donkey Kong Country for Super Nintendo, which I slowly mastered on days I was home sick. The year I got invited to a birthday party for someone turning 10, not 11, like me. The year I kept reading. The year I kept opening book covers, clamping my eyes onto words, willing myself to read one more until I had read a whole sentence. A paragraph. A chapter. And then another, and another, and another.
I don't know when exactly, but at some point I no longer heard the vacuum cleaner. Or my family's boisterousness. It was just me and Laura Ingalls. Me and Matilda. Me and Mrs. Frisby. Oh, was it sweet. And oh, has it been sweet ever since.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Books vs. movies (AKA Bailey's complicated thoughts re: story)

Friends, there's a reason I go to bed early: because if I don't, then I'm tired the next day.
Case in point? Today.
I mean, I'm not complaining (well, sorta), because I was up late retrieving Alex at the airport. Finally! After three weeks, my muffin top is home with me again. I hugged him by the luggage carousel and told him, "California isn't right without you."
"Well, duh," he responded.
I've missed that little sass pot. So romantic it makes me melt.
I watched the movie Blue Jay this weekend. Wow, did Mark Duplass' character make me squirm. So did Sarah Paulson's character, actually. I don't say that as a criticism. I think it was well acted, and thus made me uncomfortable as it was supposed to do.
Anyway, the movie caused a revelation in me. I've known for a long time that I'm more of a book person than a movie person. I'd rather read words than watch figures on a screen and listen to their words; I'm not a great auditory learner. And while I can read in 20 - 30 minute clips before bed, I have a hard time sitting through a two hour feature without getting the urge to pause it and do something else.
So, I did some overthinking yesterday (as I'm wont to do), and came up with some thoughts/ideas/theories. Would you like to hear them? Great:
1. I think that I struggle with the sitting and watching for two hours, because the pace of each movie out there varies so much. Sure, the pace of books varies, but that's when I like to send in my friend Speed Reading. If there's too much description of plants in a book, or too much back-and-forth, clippy dialogue, I just flip a few pages and move forward. Problem solved. If a movie is slow, I'm just like, "Blahhhhhhhh." I don't like waiting for it to get more interesting. And if those slow parts are filled with awkwardness or sadness, then I'm like, sitting with that emotion inside me until the director/screenwriter decides to move me forward. No thank you. I have enough awkwardness and sadness in my real life; I don't need a movie to inject more of it in me.
As I writing all this, I realize that this may explain why I'm a fan of the great American sitcom. Cheesy? Sure. Formulaic? Like a bottle for a baby.
But does it move quickly enough for Bailey's ADD brain? Yep, it sure does.
I know it's pathetic to think that life gets wrapped up in 22 minutes, but at least I know that I'm only investing 22 minutes of my life in a story. (More on story in a bit. Hold that thought).
2. Now this thought/theory might be a "no duh" to many of you who have already thought through all this, but it only occurred to me just yesterday that movies contain emotional elements that books don't.
Like I said, no duh.
Now sure. While I'm reading, I'm picturing characters in my head. I'm hearing their heated, angry dialogue. And I'm relating to their emotions.
But I can't remember the last time a book has made me uncomfortable.
When I watch people in a movie sit through an awkward silence, cheat on someone they love, yell at their parents, I bring my hands to cover my mouth. I clutch myself, willing the scene to be over. It's hard for me to handle. All those things can happen in a book, and I'm totes fine.
There's something about the visual, and the auditory element, that really affects me. Add in a well-orchestrated score, and it really tugs at all my feelings. I've deemed myself a highly sensitive person before, but I never really thought of it in accordance to my abilities in participating at the local cinema.
To be sure, I rarely go to the movie theater. I do my best to vet a movie before I go, to be fairly certain I won't have a rough emotional time while I'm there. Half the time I see kids' movies, to be safe. At home, I can turn something off, but I'm too chicken to walk out of the theater, especially when I'm in company. So, I'm just realizing this now, but I think I understand a little more clearly that I may, in fact, actually be avoiding the local AMC.
It all just makes me go, "Hmm," ya know? The first step in this life is often self awareness, so maybe I'm about to have a breakthrough here, who knows?
Now. Back to story.
I've heard people talk about this a lot. People chat about the power of story, the ancient ritual of spoken stories, before paper and pen. Donald Miller wrote a whole book about story, and now leads workshops on it. Yesterday, my pastor preached on the importance of story to humans.
As a writer, I've never thought of myself as a "story person," whatever that might be.
Alex laughs at me when I tell him this, because he doesn't understand how a writer could possibly not be a story person.
"I don't know," I tell him. Because I don't really know how to explain it, and I think maybe I am a story person and don't realize it.
Sure, I'm absolutely a fan of the redemptive story. I need to hear and read and see stories of repaired lives, of happiness restored, of a scared, feral cat named Office Max finding a home in my lap, where he constantly returns to, purring in the freedom of domestic bliss.
But as much as I love the conclusion of these stories, when everything's all good, I have a really hard time milling about in the painful part.
I pride myself on being able to listen to people talk about anything they're going through emotionally. People can be incredibly depressed, over the moon happy, or so anxious they feel like life is over. I can hear all that, because I've been there.
But scenes in movies where people fight, or talk past each other, or stare at the wall in their apartment, staring so hard you can just see the weight on their chest? Yeah, I hate those.
I watched Brooklyn with Alex a while back, and I made it through the whole thing in one piece, until the credits started to roll. And then I basically sobbed into Alex's chest. I related to Eilis' plight too much. Not the torn love story part, but the being far from family part. The guilt part. The grief part.
To be honest, while I think that Nick Hornby* is a genius, and I've enjoyed what I've read of his stuff, I don't know if I feel like watching Brooklyn was a good use of my time. It made me feel, but I don't know that I considered it cathartic -- at least not in the "Wow, I feel better now" way. Every time I remember watching that movie, it just makes me feel heavy. Not grateful.
[*To be clear, while Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay of this film, the story is not his. Colm Toibin is the novel's author.]
I'm well aware that I'm rambling right now. Which is the beauty of a blog. One doesn't need a beginning, middle and end to build a blog post. One just writes.
I don't know where I'm going with all this, but I guess part of what I'm trying to say is that I don't love all the "essential" elements of a story. I don't like conflict. I want to read a two sentence synopsis of the conflict, and then get to the grand apology scene. I don't like a lot of description (unless it's beautiful and makes me catch my breath). I HATE reading about a character's "sandy brown ponytail." Gag. I never need to read those three words again. It bothers me when writers list names of plants. Why? Because I couldn't identify a common oak if you asked me. It makes me feel inadequate to read about poplars and rhododendrons and bougainvillea. Plus, I don't care what type of flower is in the heroine's window box.
Wow. Sorry. Got a little Grinchy there.
I'll stop. Mostly because I'm not creating a story here, and I understand that story is a crowd pleaser. I'm just throwing thoughts out and hoping they land.
So anyway. If you have thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them. Hit me up with your comments, yo.
Be back soon.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Greetings from the Dumps

I write to you from the Dumps.
Unfortunately, I find myself stuck here. Occasionally, I climb out of the muddy pit and feel sun on my face. I talk fast about small things, feeling like myself. I get lost in a book. I snuggle my face into Max's freshly licked fur (and, you might think this is crazy, but I LOVE the smell of freshly licked cat fur). I tell him how much I love him, knowing the words don't mean anything to him but believing that he can sense the safety in my voice.
I haven't made it to the gym since some time before Christmas, but I have eaten a vegetable each day this year. I bought tiny cans of Low Sodium V8 this morning, to tend to this habit, which, here's praying it will actually become a habit, because oh if my body doesn't need the vitamins.
I am making a list of the small things that could be practically feeding this funk, so that I don't turn the blame inward, even though I know this is never anyone's "fault" to feel this way.
I remember that Alex is out of town. I am independent, yes, and not clutching for his presence, but it is affecting me that I haven't been in his embrace in 18 days. I tell myself to enjoy the Netflix binge until he comes home Sunday.
I look at the grey skies in Los Angeles, and remind myself that I've never done well in my adult years with grey skies. I try to be grateful for the rain, in this time of desperate California drought.
I remember that schedules are always weird this time of year. Key people are out of the office, celebrating holidays, and when they roll back in to work we're all in an alien place, because we're trying to do things that don't fit our normal patterns, with resolutions to eat vegetables and spend less money and exercise more. I tell myself that personalities go missing around January 1st, as we all try to be our best selves, pushing down our desires to snack and move freely as we did in December.
I talk to friends, and I feel relatively normal. I take a frozen pizza to Sam's place, and giggle at the Minnesotan accents in New in Town. I hang with a cluster of peeps after church and interject and listen and feel temporarily buoyed.
I keep popping my pills, paying attention to my moods. I wager when I should go to the doctor, knowing that the new med needs time to become effective, but also knowing that I can't play the waiting game forever.
I re-read what I've written here so far and sigh, thinking "This sucks."
I keep reaching out. I call Alex -- again -- fighting the urge to keep it all inside, even though I wonder if he's tired of saying "What's wrong, Muffin?" and "You sound so sad." I know that he loves me and wants to see me happy, and if his job is to listen to make that happen, then I'm sure he's willing to do all the listening.
I write belated Christmas cards, to use up my stationery and tell people in my life that they bring light to me. I feel pleased as I reflect on the words I scribble in my chicken scratch, because they are truth -- I can't but think, "Man! Am I lucky, to have such awesome people spread far and wide who care about me."
I read. Because I love to read. I love strings of words so poetic or funny or heavy like a sack of flour to the gut. I reflect on my lifelong attraction to words, the attraction that was there before I even noticed -- begging my parents for a word search book on vacation, writing words with my finger on the leg of my jeans (really, who does that?), copying the words of my Amelia Bedelia book on the family typewriter. I marvel at how it all makes sense, that even when I hated to read in fifth grade and hated to write during college, the path was all being paved for me to do exactly what I would eventually love -- read and write, every day for the rest of my life.
I breathe. I drink water. I drink coffee when I get sleepy, even though it stains my teeth. I try to be friendly with people who aren't my favorites. I smooch on that cat like there's no tomorrow. I enjoy movies new to me like Penelope and silly silliness in shows like Baby Daddy.
I go out on New Year's Eve, to a dive bar when I feel isolated but can't muster myself up for a full-on party. I put on lipstick to be a team player, but don't bother with mascara or blush. I sit alone at the counter, miserably texting friends in Memphis and Malibu. And then someone says, "Hey!" and I don't even notice. Until I do notice, and I look up and the voice, who now has a face, says, "Yeah, you." I move down a few barstools and I have friends until midnight. I show them pictures of my cat and survive another night, always taken care of.
I don't stop reaching out to people on the ground, asking shamelessly for company or hugs to get me through. And I hear a baby Lauryn Hill singing: His eye is on the sparrow:
I tell myself that He watches over me. At the beach with sticky sand on my skin and sun on my face, and right here in the muddy, blegh-ful Dumps. May we all feel happy and free enough to sing. If you're in the Dumps with me, please reach out. Spring will be here before you know it. And besides: You're worth it.