east end girl

It hit me the other day that, without recognizing it, I have been crossing a bridge of sorts, where the bridge = how a certain kind of music makes me feel. 

Around 2015 that I got really into a few different artists whose work shares this sound. I started a playlist, adding everything I could find along those lines. The playlist grew to include stuff that was different stylistically, but which still evokes the same emotional response in me. All more or less the same tempo and mood. It's music for feeling and falling; for adventures oxytocin. It's now over 30+ hours long. Talk about optimistic.

I can't remember a time in the past five or six years that this particular style of music hasn't been inextricably linked to being with someone, and feeling intimate, connected, and close. For that reason it's always something of a trigger, when I am solo. But the other night at some point my Spotify veered off in that direction and I didn't even notice. And when I did, rather than my heart seizing up it just...kept beating. I didn't feel sad at all, just relaxed and maybe a touch nostalgic. And that is amazing. 

So apparently, these are the endposts of the bridge I've been on:

loneliness <------------- music feels ------------> contentment 

And how nice to discover I'm closer to the the eastern end of that bridge. 

the toehold of truth

Have you ever been stuck on something, trapped in some negative headspace you can't get out of? It feels like you've fallen in a cold, dark well. And you pass your days just staring up at the sunlight, where everyone else is going about their lives, and you wish you could be up there, too. But instead you're down in the Well of Rumination. The Hole of Non-Acceptance. The Chasm of Spiraling Negativity. 

It's a horrid spot. Zero stars. Would not recommend. 

Your brain works furiously to get you out, because you love yourself and recognize that it's an unhealthy place to be. You reach for any thought that can act as a foothold or a handhold, to help you climb out. Most of my footholds seem sturdy at first, but turn out to be useless. They crumble under the weight of truth, because they aren't genuine. They're spin. 

An unsure toehold is a thought you can circle back to a hundred times, but in the end isn't going to make you feel any better. That's because deep down, you know it's either untrue or besides the point.

A secure toehold shines like the truth: gleaming, golden, guaranteed to hold your weight. But just like real-life climbing, you've got to the do the work to reach it. You have to stretch (your mind), be flexible (in your beliefs), and have faith in your footing. 

Hook your heart on honesty and you'll be back in the sun soon. 

there is this person

This person thrives on negativity. On bubble bursting and undercutting other peoples' happiness. He will pointedly ignore your successes and joys, but will quickly zero in on and talk up your mistakes. 

This person is dishonest, always exaggerating the dumbest things to make circumstances more dramatic. This person craves a big, shocked response from his audience and will manipulate the facts to get it. 

This person lies. He lies to cover his poor behavior. He lies to elicit pity. He lies for personal gain.

This person is chronically self-absorbed but totally lacking in self-awareness. He has no interest in the lives of others but will buttonhole anyone he can with anecdotes and images from his own life. He hijacks every conversation to make it about himself. 

This person gossips. He never heard a second or third-hand rumor he didn't instantly, compulsively share with everyone he could, without giving a thought to the fallout. 

This person is lazy. He passes every possible task and responsibility he can onto others. Sometimes it's to cover for his ineptitude and lack of knowledge; sometimes he just can't be bothered. He puts in the absolute bare minimum of time and effort and care, and takes full advantage of how little oversight there is of this. 

This person is jealous. He is envious of the resources, freedoms, successes, and talents of others, and finds ways to passively thwart them. He resents having to help anyone achieve anything that he won't get a piece of. 

This person is a phony. He's the type that feigns a zen, highly evolved state of being but it's all fake. He's an anger addict and a control freak, and has irreparably damaged relationships because of it. 

This toxic person has been a temporary fact of my life, until today. And tbh, I'm pretty proud of having survived my proximity to him with my dignity intact. 

The rain feels so good and so right tonight. 

per curiam

For months now I've been seeing a star get bigger and brighter and closer, until I finally realized it's not a star at all. It's a gavel coming down, fueled by finality so sure it's splitting the sky in half.  

Every night the courtroom assembles on my ceiling. The jury troops in, exhausted by evidence that doesn't sway them as much as emotion, no matter how many times it is trotted out for their review. A judge in heavy black robes presides, a faceless ghost whose ruling will set no one free, anyway. 

And you. You shuffle in, locked in chains whose weight and shame have somehow transferred to me. 

And I. I lay pinned on my back, listening, learning nothing of use as you plead the fifth for the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth time. 

We represent ourselves, or at least pretend to, two souls already jailed by our own devices. And every night I wait for you to object. And every night I watch your face for some sign of protest. But silence is the only argument you have to make, and I have no choice but to allow it. 

a sweet sixteen

Hey, hi. Are you staying safe and sane? Did you have a good week? Mine was a bit of a rollercoaster. 

Ye olde deprefsionne has been pretty relentless most of this month. It hit a recent low on Wednesday night when I lay curled around my phone in bed, absolutely racked, tearfully listening to Biden's Lincoln Memorial speech. But that was some Churchill-on-the-Victrola London blitz shit as far as I'm concerned, and I ate it up. I found myself silently pledging: Yes, okay, grandpa. I will hang on a little longer. Fuck, okay, I promise. 

(It's been a time.)

But then the next morning, out of nowhere, a full pendulum swing in the opposite direction. Thursday began with awesome work-related news and the hits just kept coming. One of those great days in the midst of a rough patch that makes you say Ah yes, this is why we keep the faith and arise once more from the bath mat after a crying spell! Existence is occasionally tolerable!

So I'm making a list and loving it twice, of all the positive things from the week that I can think of. 

1. Got some news from my boss that I can't share yet, but suffice to say I can rest easy about what's coming down the line. Gonna be a busy, challenging spring - but I'm gonna be okay.

2. Cameron, my madly creative friend who always has about ten red-hot irons in the fire, put in a big push on one of his projects. He put together a visual compendium of the concept that explains it simply and beautifully. And it is so clever, and has so much potential, and I'm doing everything I can to help him get it off the ground. We are both super stoked.

3. Erin came home!...for a few weeks, anyway. We had a huge catchup session and holy god was it great to see my friend. She and her mom (who sent me a gift basket with, among other treats, homemade Chex mix) are now actively campaigning for me, too, to move back to the Midwest. Alas, I do not have a job waiting for me, managing a gorgeous inn in Amish country (!), and I don't think California is quite done with me yet...

4. Stopped by my own (temporarily closed) store, ran into some acquaintances I haven't seen in a minute. Is there anything better than hearing your name yelled from across the room followed by "We were just talking about you!" I'm sure there is, but in that moment, I couldn't have told you what it is. I have desperately needed socialization, and connecting with them was delightful.

5. I bought a moka pot! Every year or so I change up my caffeine source, because I think it's important to keep my addictions fresh. And right now I'm all about the espresso. I got a 3-cup white Grosche Milano and I'm in love. It's so tiny, so easy to use and clean up, and such a lovely little morning ritual. 

6. My buddy Steve landed a large and lucrative contract. He, like me, battles the Depression Demons, so I'm so thrilled for his big win. 

7. Jen Psaki. That's it. That's the item. 

8. Positive California COVID cases are, apparently, actually going down. What light on yonder horizon breaks? or if you prefer, What bed in yonder ICU vacates?

9. Got the most incredibly kind and encouraging letter from a reader. I couldn't even read it all at once; I'd get through one complimentary sentence and my imposter syndrome would yank me back into a chokehold. Eventually I finished and I haven't stopped floating since. 

10. Ordered a full-length mirror from Wayfair which came *just* messed up enough (on the back, not visible, doesn't bother me a bit) to get that sweet 20% off "damaged during shipping" discount but not so messed up that it needs to be returned. Score!

11. Heard unexpectedly from my friend Jamie in NYC who I haven't seen in years, but with whom I have the most elegant repartee. You know those friends, and those exchanges. The best. 

12. It's been grey most of the day, which energizes me, emotional goth that I am. I'm such a fish out of water in this state, ugh. 

13. I made a lil dance video! I wanted to do something to commemorate the election with my own personal moment of celebration. And it's cute but it was a very cloudy and windy night, and I kinda want to redo it and post a better version where the skyline is more clear. But it was hella fun to trespass, wait until I was sure no security was around, and then just fucking blast my music, consequences be damned. (There were no consequences. No one saw. No one cared.) 

14. No less that three sweet pups climbed all over me when I met them for the first time, in various situations this week. Nothing, nothing, nothing better. I always walk away from petting a dog and immediately sigh - I can literally feel my blood pressure drop, instantly. 

15. Today I learned the word Icarian, which means what you think it does, and which I absolutely love and can't wait to use. 

16. My cousin texted me tonight, which was a lovely surprise. He's the only relative I have any contact with. We only reconnected recently, and we still keep a respectful distance from one another (the drama in my extended family runs deep and very, very dark), but we've always been simpatico and eventually I think we'll get close again. 

6 ways to shake off the last 4 years

1. Sit in the bathtub with the shower running above you. Think back to 2016, to the feelings of disbelief and dread that settled in the day after the election. Meditate (briefly) on every sickening thing you can think of, that Trump and his administration did. As the water hits your skin and drains away, let the toxicity of his presidency drain away, too. It's finally fucking over

2. Cull some of your news-related follows on Twitter: the journalists, pundits, and wonks who've helped keep you sane. Stop taking in the exhausting 24-hour a day news cycle. The grownups are in charge again. You can relax. 

3. Explore non-political interests on social media like science, the arts, or some other aspect of American culture that doesn't elicit twice-hourly commentary from Maggie Haberman. 

4. Lighten your news podcast load. Give yourself permission to be blissfully ignorant, for a time, about current events. Switch the channel of your attention to literally anything else.

5. Dedicate yourself to a new personal project, perhaps in honor of the breathtaking scope of problems that the new administration must tackle. Biden and Co. have to fix an economy, eradicate a pandemic, and stave off a civil war. You can make a Chatbook.

6. Celebrate. Bake a cake. Get fucked up. Grab your tripod, speaker, and iPad, and trespass somewhere the city skyline makes a great backdrop for your own private dance party. Or, like, whatever works for you. 

big love

There is a question that's been on my mind more and more lately, a consequence of the pandemic having led me down a path of introspection about what I want from life moving forward. It's a decision I have to make, that, in the scheme of things, is among the biggest and most important I'll ever make. 

I'm talking of course about what kind of dog to get next.

I've known from the earliest days of having Chaucer that I was forever after going to want big dogs, and only big dogs. There's just nothing comparable for me. It isn't only about having something large enough to wrap my arms around, to feel the whole length of my body against when we snuggle - though that is a visceral comfort I miss every single day. Having a giant dog makes a sort of statement about you and your place in the world. I don't mean in some classist way, like Look at me, I can afford this expensive beast with the appetite of four regular-sized dogs. 

Having a giant dog is a way of unapologetically taking up more space in the world - of taking up space for two. And if you raise your dog right, and your dog is right for you, it's also a way of creating a unique, endless source of energy. Big love, if you will. Big, inescapable, unavoidable, unmissable love. Love that goes with you everywhere you take your dog. Love that gets attention, and amazement, and smiles, and laughter. Love that rolls out a sort of red carpet of joy, everywhere you walk together. Love that creates an incredible feedback loop: 

A stranger loves your giant dog. 

You love the stranger for loving your giant dog. 

Dog is happy. Stranger is happy. You're happy. It's suddenly a beautiful moment of interspecies connection, here on the sidewalk, on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday afternoon. 

I know, of course, that this kind of delight has the potential to be created by every loving pet owner. All dogs get admired, get fussed over and pet by strangers. But when you've got a really big dog, it's never ending. Every walk, every visit, every interaction. There's no hiding your pup. There's no scooping him up into your arms, or scuttling him out of the way. He's there, he's a bear, get used to it. 

In ten years of having Chaucer, I always acknowledged that not everyone is charmed by dogs, period, much less ones sized like horses. But when they are? When someone comes into your life that adores your massive beast as much as you? That. That is an incredibly powerful thing. In fact every single relationship I was in during my Chaucer years was hugely colored by their relationship with him. 

The way to my heart was (and will be, again) through my dog's, and though this was an implicit rather than explicit corollary to a relationship with me, I'm sure all my boyfriends knew this. I'm sure they all sensed that they were being heavily graded on how much genuine affection, care, and patience they showed Chaucer. Truly, half the reason I stayed with one boyfriend as long as I did was because he was unbelievably good to Chaucer. And half the reason I got over another in < two weeks was how obviously lukewarm his affection had been for my best canine friend. I never forgot it. 

Anyway, I'm going to get a Great Dane. 

I've somewhat surprised myself with this conclusion. I'd pretty much ruled them out, due to life span. I was looking at a range of large and giant breeds, many of them rare, European, and probably incredibly difficult to get. I explored mixed breeds, too, and wow are there some absolutely gorgeous hybrid pups out there. I've weighed everything: temperament, health, lifespan, sociability, grooming requirements, climate requirements, living space requirements. I thought about another mastiff, but even a different variety (a Neopolitan, for instance) would be too close to Chaucer. And Chaucer is irreplaceable. Chaucer will stand alone for the rest of my life as the thing that saved my life. As the great love of my life. Out of respect to him, I don't want to even try to replicate that experience. So, something different. And at some future date I'll post about what cemented my choice for a Dane.

It's not going to happen anytime soon. There are things that need to be in place before I can do it. I have big plans for myself, for the next five years. And slowly, step by step, I'm working towards creating a life that once again has the resources - and the room for - big love.

because you didn't, I did

For today's lockdown activity, I wrote an alt-country song. The lyrics to one, anyway. 


I'm staring at the white space bottom left of my last blue

But there's no three dots, no grey bubble transmission coming through

And the basket with your boxers doesn't have as much to say

As the snapshots that you strung above the pillows where we played

And the tie dye that you twisted stained a lot more than my shirt

Like checkered shoes, pacific eyes, like blackouts soft and blurred

I've been waiting for so long to hear the song I thought I earned

But it seems there's none forthcoming, so this is what I've learned

All the things you love

And all the things you hate

Stay bottled up until it's bottoms up

And then it's much too late

And you can buy more keyboards

And you can remix lies

But what's the point of keeping up

A songwriter's disguise?

You packed up all your baggies, took your Herschels and my heart

Found a forest cold and clean where you can make a brand new start

And someday maybe sunshine and my love will bring you back

Until then here's to finding and then writing a new track

Cuz all the things you love

And all the things you hate

Stay bottled up until it's bottoms up

And you can't think or see straight

And you can stitch new patches

On pants you've long outgrown

But you're much too good a tailor

To tear up what's been sewn 

in which I prettify my life choices

Four years ago I couldn't have edited a spreadsheet if my life depended on it. Then I got a job involving a fair amount of accounting and tracking of inventory, and I had to at least learn the basics. Eventually I started making small, aesthetic changes to the Excel and Google sheets that my company had been using for years. 

I got hooked on spreadsheets same way that learning a little bit of HTML led me to launching Rainy Day Templates (RIP). Colors and fonts and spacing, oh my. Over time I redid all of my store's SOPs, checklists, order guides, purchase journals, menu matrices, special request forms, etc to be easier to read and (imho) much better looking.  

Anyway, all of this dovetailed with my growing interest in and efforts towards self-improvement, and I now have a small collection of spreadsheets for budgeting, time management, and habit and goal tracking. I find I'm much more likely to stick to a plan if I have a cool-looking sheet on which to stay accountable. 

And I figured I'd start sharing my templates, in case anyone wants them? New year's resolutions and so forth.

So here's my super simple food journal template, with a monthly and a weekly tab to choose from, and locked days/dates and meals, to easily move the data around. Totally editable, so have at it, but it currently looks like this:

not sure if honeybees or murder hornets

There is this one moment that won't go away. 

Remembering that moment is like waking to a dozen pairs of gossamer wings on my skin. Each fluttering detail of the scene - the diffused light of the room, the cloud white comforter we swam in - lands lightly at first. Then your face comes more clearly into view, and I feel again the way you would grab my arm or my leg to wrap around you, to always keep me close. And suddenly the soft touch of thought becomes a hundred blistering bee stings.

I breathe through it. It ends. It's okay. I'm okay. 

Bees are important to all ecosystems, and I don't want my memories of you to collapse. I just want to bottle the honey, honey, and not have a hive for a heart.