silver linings/ the sun (also) rises

How do you make the best of something bad? I think we struggle with this every day. The problem, though, isn’t that we’re bad at finding silver linings–it’s that we seek them far too often, and in far too many things. You burned your dinner? That’s good–now you can try out the new pizza place. You drove around on a deflated tire and now you need a new one? That’s actually a blessing in disguise; you were looking for a local place to take your car.

Everything is not always good. A lot of the time everything sucks. Go ahead, admit it–you really wanted those scallops juicy, not burned. You could have used that tire money for your rent. You grin and bear it. Laugh it off. Move on.

How would we survive if we never learned how to cope? Silver linings keep us moving, ever forward, to the promise of something wholly good. There’s gotta be something good now, right? It’s time for things to go smoothly. It’s time.

But, a thin silver line, quivering in the distance, cannot and will not sustain us. Many silver linings will not keep us from falling.

Ever the optimist, I start more than enough sentences with “well, at least.”

I’ve heard myself saying this a lot lately. My luck keeps running out. Or perhaps I haven’t quite caught up with it yet. And I have begun to wonder about the sanity in seeking those silver lines.

My life is nothing if not a quest for balance. Enough sleep, exercise, food, alcohol, laughter, tears, friends, enemies, dogs, cats. Just enough of everything. On a good day I run, drink good coffee, go to work, make dinner, drink cheap wine. On a bad day I eat Oreos for breakfast and my coffee is silty and I’m “let go” from a job I didn’t even get to start and I eat Oreos for dinner and I only have PBR in my fridge. The silver linings in the bad day look like “well at least this is fodder for a funny story” and “Oreos are delicious.”

You know what those silver linings are hiding in, though? Regret. Shame. Sadness. A really, really heavy feeling of inadequacy. Driving home from the dog kennel where I work, I start crying. It’s fun to be 22. It’s fun to take your time in deciding what you want to do with your life. It’s also hard. Painfully hard and confusing. And a lot of the time, instead of starting my self-pity party with well at least… I just want to scream “Well, this fucking sucks.”

I’ve always said that the goodness of my life is measured in its moments, not in any significant span of time. I’m not going to stop seeking silver linings. I will not allow myself to sink into a sadness from which I may not recover. I will laugh it off, and I will move on. But this kind of work requires reminding.

Yesterday I woke up at 7 AM. I’d gone to bed at 9:30 the night before, so my early rising was only natural. I’ve seen maybe five sunrises in the past five years, so in a rare burst of morning energy, I made myself coffee, drove (I wasn’t so ambitious as to walk) down to the Battery, and watched the sun rise. Yeah, I did it so I could take a picture–one day I will deal with my addiction to capturing life’s moments via social media–but I also did it to prove something to myself. 

I’d had a rough week. Shin splints and stomach aches and embarrassment and insecurities swirled in my days and in my dreams. I woke up every night, soaking wet with night sweats and night terrors.

Then, I saw the sun rise. And you know what? Your legs can hurt and your stomach can clench and your breath can get caught up in that gurgly-almost-crying tightness. People can let you down. You can make one million mistakes. You can hope and pray for whatever you want, and never come close to getting it. But the sun– the sun doesn’t really care. It still rises. And you’ll get out of bed and try again. You still rise too.

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wednesdays with lee lee

Yes that’s a riff on “Tuesdays with Morrie” except Lee Lee is not a human, but rather, a very fuzzy cat. I also never finished that book because at 16, life lessons from the Fountainhead seemed a lot more appealing.

Sitting at my dining table, gently prodding my cat’s nose with a pen, I realized that I should probably start filling my time with words. If I must sit at the computer and refresh my bank account screen every 5 minutes, then I might as well blog about it. 

I’m waiting for my $48.25 check (from the catering I did for a wedding last week) to go through so that I may pay for my $40 alcohol training course (for the job I’m starting this month). I guess loads of drunks have destroyed SC’s trust in humanity, for this is just one of many strange laws regarding alcohol. They used to serve only airplane bottles in bars! No, I don’t know of any other alcohol laws but I’m pretty sure that one’s terrible enough. 

Perched on my plastic red chair, squinting through the morning sun’s glare, I feel like I’m still in college. Why else would I be in my pajamas at 11 AM? Why else would I only have $6 in my bank account? Every day, I waver between poignant stings of joy and despair. Driving to work at noon, donning a bright red camp counselor shirt, I wonder if I should be somewhere else. 

Making dinner with my sister, bumping into her in our child-sized kitchen, singing the wrong words to all of our favorite country songs–I can’t imagine being anywhere but here. I love going to work because I get to work with dogs–what could be more rewarding than that? I loathe how quickly my apartment gets dirty. I love that lizards crawl under my bed because the cracks in my building are so old. I grow tired of the tedious moments of my underemployed life–the ones where I wait for new and fruitful opportunities. I cherish my moments of waiting, for they are full of an untarnished optimism.

Joy and despair. Both exaggerated in my dramatic mind, both played out in my normal life. That my life is made up of days, punctuated by moments, makes those bad moments just a bit more bearable. It’s hard not to want to life an exciting life. A stable life. A life full of money. A life full of love. But full? Who can possibly maintain full? Full would mean no parking tickets, no empty wallets, no overcooked turkey burgers, no litter boxes. Give me half full any day–for joy is nothing without despair.

Before I moved to Charleston my mother said: “You know, nothing’s irrevocable.” She wanted me to know that I could come home, if I needed to. She wanted me to know that it’s okay to change your mind. I’m not sure if she knew how important those words would become. I tug at the silver necklace she gave me for Christmas (sissy, of course, wears the same one). I repeat the mantra over and over again: nothing’s irrevocable.

George the lab jumps on my chest and pulls at the chain, nips at my face. I laugh and tuck the necklace under my bright red shirt. “Mr. George,” I say in mock surprise. He nods his head, wags his tail, stands patiently by my side. I am 22 years old. I am a camp counselor at a dog daycare. I am a server at a new restaurant. I am a writer. I am a twin. I am the proud owner of a small and fuzzy cat. And tomorrow I can be something else. I can change my mind. For now, though, my moments seem to balance themselves out. My check has still not gone through. But I’m sitting in a 150 year old building, drinking coffee with my cat. Half full’s not so bad.