almost famous

What should I call this, this self-directed lifestyle change? A new lease on life? Oh, god. No, no, not that (because yesterday I wrote about lease renewals, so you see how I would be trying to be funny).

I’m sitting at the computer at the desk at the office at my other job (not the kennel one, not the unpaid internship). I study the screen through the heat coming off of my hot cider. Three cups of coffee deep, I opted for something less. 

 Earlier I looked in the bathroom mirror, pushed my braid off my neck, stared at myself. Pale, man. So damn pale.

It’s not that I struggle with self-reflection. Or maybe it is exactly that. This morning, when I actually had tasks to complete for my boss, I didn’t have time to think about yesterday’s promise. The promise I sorta kinda made to be better to myself. To launch myself into a promising future. Perhaps, to stop writing so many fragments.

I skimmed over some job postings on LinkedIn. I stalked approximately three semi-famous people on Instagram. I walked across a parking lot to pick up Mexican food for the office. I got a grilled chicken salad. I poured queso on it.

Can I blog every day? Do I think enough thoughts for that? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean anyone wants to read them. It doesn’t mean that I want to form them into complete sentences.I don’t think that many people read this blog. Why would they? I don’t post my posts on Facebook (although my loving sister sometimes does). I don’t utilize tags (I can’t, I just can’t). I don’t spend every (or any) extra hour of my days seeking a more popular forum for my words. Who even knows this blog exists? 

Despite my constant cries for self-improvement, I still maintain this vague sense of a wondrous future. I’ve had it since childhood. I guess I’ve always thought that I’m going to be famous one day. Yes, actually, that thought. God knows where “fame as the ultimate goal” came from. Because my sister and I look the same, we’ve always gotten a decent amount of daily attention. Perhaps in my young, half-baked mind, I let this attention grow into the dream of fame. It’s still growing today.

I want (lots of) people to read my words and tell me that I’m a (really) good writer. And then I want someone to pay me (a lot). Or! Or. I would love to be someone’s companion. I can see my sister latching on to that phrase, tilting her head down, raising her eyebrows, sticking her flat chest out (what? we both have one/don’t have any), “oh really?” No, sissy, not a male companion. An old woman who travels to Europe. She asks me to talk to her because I’m a good conversationalist. She asks me to discuss novels with her. We go to art museums. The experience is my pay. In this, I am very rich.

Just because you write a lot, doesn’t mean that you write good. I want to write good. So, can I blog every day? Should I challenge myself to blog every day? I think that’s so silly. Documenting a journey. Dumb. Boring. Example:

Day 1: I’m fucking boring, which is wild because I can’t even think of something insightful to say in AFRICA! (or GREECE or THE OCEAN or CANCUNspringbreak2k14).

You get the idea. Don’t sentences sealed in numbered lists lose so much oomph? Someone cardboard-box-closed them into the forever realm of “things college girls like to browse while they’re supposed to be studying for finals.”

Perhaps my cynicism says it all–I’ll never be famous. I don’t love or hate anything enough to write POWERFULLY. I just work, daily, against the grain of mediocrity. But. Don’t we all?

If, when fighting mediocrity for fighting’s sake gets old, and the dream of fame keeps me going, keeps me writing– then I’ll hold on to it. Maybe I’ll even whisper to myself “hey, I challenge you to write every day.” But I’ll never admit that.

Chugging gas station coffee (20 oz. for $1.75), I sit at the desk of the dog kennel where I work. I know I need to head to the back and clean: sweep and vacuum dog hair, sweep and vacuum dog hair (it’s one of those never-ending tasks we find ourselves completing, mindlessly, until we’ve almost forgotten that not a penny of our $100,000 college education ever went towards this kind of learning). I furiously check my email. Groupon this, job alert that. Nothing good. I’m waiting to scroll through my inbox and find the kind of message that looks like a ticket out of here. I think I’m tired of working at a dog kennel.
Last night my boyfriend called me with big news. He has a pretty great job right now– as great as long hours and good pay in an expensive city can be. But there’s this new opportunity, this chance to do something he really enjoys, and a chance, if things work out, to be very successful.

“Have you made a pro/con list?” I ask, a little too late, since I’ve already exclaimed, “do what’s fun! don’t settle!” “I haven’t had time,” he sighed. I told him that was his answer–his current job keeps him from making a list about his current job. This new thing, this new bright and shiny opportunity, THIS sets that piece of paper on fire and says, come on, let’s do this. Let’s go. Your ticket out of here.

I have to renew my lease in the next six days. I’ve never renewed a lease before. For whatever reason, moving to a new place each year was the only option in college. Maybe we all wanted to start over every year. new roommates, new rooms. New selves. So, here I am, sitting on a lease that I received over a week ago. Why haven’t I signed it, passed it on to my sister for her signature, gotten paw prints from my cat and dog? What am I waiting for?

Tuesday was a Charleston snow day. Icy roads and closed bridges promised a day or two at home. In college I would have gotten sufficiently drunk (god, the smell of wet clothes, warm beer, and bags and bags of potato chips–who knew I’d long for that now?) and lounged around with my friends. But I don’t really have any friends here. The ones I do have are (closed) bridge distance away. No driving, no friends. My sister and I got into an argument about what we would do. I told her I didn’t want to hang out with her boyfriend. “Well then WHO are we going to hang out with?” she yelled, exasperated.

I went into my room and cried into my dog. “Guess it’s just me and you,” I moaned, as Emma licked my hands, seeking any remnant of peanut butter. Even my closest companion wasn’t concerned about my plight. I thought about my lease. I thought about my mother’s words–the ones I whisper to myself when I think I’m about to explode with uncertainty: “nothing’s irrevocable.” I don’t have to sign that lease. I can move anywhere! Me and Emma Louise on the open road! I could leave my sister. I could leave that friend-less apartment. I could be anyone and anything.
Sitting here now, I stare at the email: “12 Bee St. Lease Renewal 2014-2015.” I click on it. I print it. I’ll take it home and we’ll sign it and we’ll take it to the rental company. I need a ticket out of here. Here, though, isn’t Charleston. Here is this:

I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.

Because as often as I repeat my mother’s words to myself, even more often do I reflect on Emerson’s wisdom. You can’t run away from yourself. I’ve been chewing on this quote since high school, when I really loved to wallow in mud baths of self-pity. It’s not particularly uplifting, but by god does it work when it needs to.
My boyfriend’s voice carried over hundreds of miles last night. I don’t even know if he knows how he glows in that kind of quivering potential. It’s pretty sexy. It’s strong. And it’s maybe even more inspirational than my mother and Emerson combined (although can you imagine a greater force? I shrink in fear at the way they’d kick my ass into gear). My ticket out of here? It’s all me. It’s me blogging this. It’s me writing and writing and writing ’til my fingers fall off. I know what I want to do. I think I know what I need to do. And if I can’t do that in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, well then my Sad Self is more far gone than I know.
I will make more friends and I will make more of an effort to see my existing ones. I will get a job where I can write. I will live in this city. I will not escape.
“You know if you smile, it makes things a whole lot easier. Don’t forget to breathe either.” Of course my yoga teacher said this (of course my new found sanity-keeping practice makes its way into this blog.) She crouched behind me and pushed me further into a stretch. I thought I’d rip apart. “In, out, in, out.” She pushed me on the “out,” until my nose ground into my mat. Under my sweaty mass of hair, I forced a smile to ease the pain. She knew I could do it–she saw my potential and she helped me reach it.
Where the taste of cheap hazelnut coffee, hazy tap water, running nose and cracked-skin lips meet–that’s where I see my potential. I’ll help myself. And then I’ll “embrace my friends, embark on the sea” and wake up somewhere we all knew we could get to, if only we tried.

begin again

I’m reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Knowing that I would love Diaz’s words (a few paragraphs in, you generally know), I took a pen along with me on my coffee shop/me time/ novel reading outing today. I was glum. If someone came up to me and said “hey!” I’d probably just say “hi.” That’s glum. That’s a no good funk.

Squeezed between two strangers on a picnic-table style bench, I hunched over my novel, attempting to embark on a journey of pleasure reading. Every few minutes I checked my phone. Slid my glasses up the bridge of my nose. Bent down, squinted at a spanish word. Pushed my glasses back up. Glum.

Two days ago I ran a half marathon. Six miles in I started to cry. I wasn’t in pain and I didn’t feel defeated. I felt glorious. I am fucking DOING this. This is going to happen. After spouts of shin splints, days of self-doubt, and Friday night second thoughts (spawned by the sight of all those runners at the packet pick-up: the fancy shoes! the compression leggings! the viking braids!)–I really didn’t know if I could run 13.1 miles. But I did. After the first two miles I found my pace–9:03 per mile. Not fast. But after about a month of averaging 9:40 per mile, I felt like I was really kicking it. I kept that pace ’til the finish line. I hugged my sister. “Imma cry!” she exclaimed. I laughed and smiled and basked in what I had just done.

And now I’m here, crouched on this bench. My back hurts and I keep looking around to see if a table opens up. It’s one of those coffee shops (yes, coffee shop, specifically–and if you’ve frequented enough you know what I’m talking about) that has huge storefront windows that let in all that sun. And white curtains act like they’re shielding anything, when in fact they are shielding nothing. And it’s hot as hell. And there’s nothing good on my phone. But I was here to read, anyway, right? To knock myself free of this funk? To dive into a world and come out refreshed, lucky to have known the characters within?

It’s pretty easy to understand why I’m in a no good mood. My weekend peaked on Saturday morning. And even then, even in that wondrous moment of strength, I still wondered what I could have done better. Wondered how I could have gone faster. Wondered if I could eat a big brunch, or if I hadn’t run quite enough to deserve that. Terrible, downward spiraling thoughts. This is, of course, the condition of existing, at 22, in the month of January. I accept that, and I will myself through, to the more bearable months of late spring. But, still, isn’t there a way to capture that moment of wonder, and extend it for at least a few more days? 

I was about to give up on the “pleasure reading.” My iced coffee (there was something so special about it that it cost $3.50) was almost gone. My stomach was growling. And then I read:

Beli had the inchoate longings of nearly every adolescent escapist, of an entire generation, but I ask you: So fucking what?

Seizing my pen, I underlined the sentence. My shoulders dropped, I sighed, I tucked my phone back into my bag. I settled into the book. I’d found myself. I could continue.

So fucking what? Is the question of the day, and maybe of a few days before and after today. Because that is the source of my gloom and doom. Hand me a successful half marathon? I laugh in disbelief. Offer me a day, shiny and new, and watch me spit in its face. So. fucking. what. I’m still basically lonely, basically sore, basically anxious, basically poor. That rhymes and makes something else: frustrated as hell. I won’t even change it. I’ll wallow in it.

I went to yoga tonight. After a week’s hiatus, I could physically feel the gloominess of my day melt away. My body questioned the wisdom of my seizure of so fucking what. In all of its looseness, my limbs didn’t feel like upholding such a hostile modus operandi. 

I got these compression sleeves for my race on Saturday. My good friend suggested them the day before (in response to “half marathon advice?”…she also talked about eating pasta, so overall it was an extremely enriching conversation), and if I wanted to continue being an asshole to myself, I could lament the fact that I hadn’t found them sooner. They help blood flow in your shins and calves. In layman’s terms: they’re miracle workers. They’re crucial to Connelly’s 4 step half-marathon plan:

Step 1. Think you can.

Step 2. Put on compression sleeves.

Step 3:  Play Ludacris Pandora, specifically, “You can do it” by Ice Cube.

Step 4. Run.

The sleeves prevent the buildup of lactic acid, said the running store assistant. When I heard that, I almost fainted. Every time my shins start to ache, I just picture cement-y lactic acid being poured all over them. Ow. Ouch. No more of that? I wanted to hug her.

“Set an intention,” said my yoga teacher tonight. I closed my eyes. I was sick of the lactic acid of my glum thoughts. No one wants to drag their cement block of a body half a mile to a coffee shop (I guess that sentence would pack more punch if I hadn’t just made it clear that I could run a bit more than half a mile) in an attempt to shake shitty thoughts. No one deserves to give in to so fucking what. Not even if it feels so relatable. So good. 

So, sitting here now, I will repeat my intention: strength. Physical, sure. But really–I’m talking about the strength to get over the woe-is-me of every day life. The strength to say back to my glumness: hey, so fucking what? You don’t feel so good after all. I see happiness and something that looks like wholeness waiting just around the corner. Move, please.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t Diaz have some positive thoughts you can relate to and revel in? Glad you asked.

I felt like I always did at the last seconds of a race, when I was sure that I was going to explode…I was waiting to begin.

Sometimes I feel like I’m going to explode into a million terrible pieces of not-quite-there-yet. And then I close my eyes, take a deep breath, push through the heaviness as best I can. I can go days feeling just okay. Just “hi” (not “hey!”). But I don’t live for days. I live for moments. And in this moment, I intend to extend my strength until it almost explodes into a million wonderful pieces of looks-like-I made-it. Unlike Beli, I am not waiting to begin. I have begun (many, many times). I am beginning right now. I am beginning tomorrow. I am waiting to begin, again.

 

namaste, my friends

Sitting in my yoga class this afternoon, I felt distinctly out of place. For one, I’d kept my socks on. No one else kept their socks on. I discreetly pulled them off, balled them up, stuffed them under that wooly looking blanket everyone else placed next to their mat. As a hot yoga veteran (I’ve been to a class or four in my entire life), I knew that my t-shirt would be out of place. I was at least mentally prepared for it billowing out, covering my face, getting caught in between my legs, my mouth. They really make you stretch in this yoga class.

I felt a little less out of place an hour later, when the class was finally winding down. With my knees touching my ears (yeah), I felt a little more capable. This body, I thought, this body can do anything. I was beginning to think that I’d worn the t-shirt so that I looked less like a try-hard–so that any missteps (or mis-stretches) made more sense to my audience. And that’s when it hit me. When I realized that my body could do anything, I also realized that my mind could too.

A room full of vibrating “ommm”s is a powerful thing. For me, it’s equalizing. There is no such thing as an audience. I tell myself this all the time. It doesn’t really matter. Forever and always, I will be self-conscious. I will think that people are looking at me. Thinking about me. Wondering what I could be doing better. It may never occur to me that I am the only one having these thoughts. Today, omming and stretching and attempting to stand on my head, I heard oofs and thumps all around me. Laughter. “That means you’re trying!” shouted our enthusiastic instructor.

That means you’re trying. I’d researched this yoga studio before coming. It looked a little wacko. Kinda kooky. Free spirits and shit. Maybe more than regular yoga studios. But everyone there was trying. Other people, like me, had come alone. Hey, we’re trying all by ourselves! “High five your neighbor!” exclaimed our lithe blonde teacher after a particularly trying stretch. We all turned, smiled, smacked hands. 

Maybe the class was so full because it’s January. New year, new me. I’m currently hot and heavy courting my marathon training. I just wanted to take yoga to stretch my sore muscles. New year? Shit, this schedule started in November. May, really, if we’re counting my resolve to run my ass off.

I’m not one for New Years resolutions. They don’t stick. They’re promises to yourself and when you don’t keep them, they hurt more than they ever could have helped. Today, the stretching felt good. The dark room, pulsing chants, drawn curtains–it all felt far removed from my reality. I guess I liked that. I do not resolve to do more yoga. I do not promise to find stillness and calm in my life. But I’m thinking that it may not hurt to try.