When I was around eight years old, my carpool locked me in the car. It was accidental. I think. They just...well, they just forgot me. I wish I were joking, but alas:
I remember being squished in the backseat middle, and when we got to school (my favorite place in the whole world!) all three kids and Mrs. Morris (their mom, who had been driving) piled out of the car. As I was scooting across the sticky seat to the door—which Graham, the kid next to me, had oh-so-helpfully closed behind him—I heard the click of automatic locks. It didn’t register at first. Not until I pulled the door handle, and...nothing. So I—seemingly very calmly—pulled again. Nothing. Now, you should know that I live in a perpetual state of low-grade anxiety—you know, a general feeling of impending doom!—but that second attempt at the door is when I started to really freak out. It must have been childproof locks or something, I don’t know. As a matter of fact, to this day, I still have no idea what happened, because what did I do after I couldn’t get that door open on the first two tries? I stopped trying—And this from a kid who loved school and was deathly afraid of being tardy!
But in that moment, I was more deathly afraid of being visibly “stuck” or “wrong” or not being able to figure it out,” so I simply stopped trying. I didn’t pull any other door handles. I didn’t honk or scream or bang on a window. I just sat there—watching my carpool (who —it was clear—had forgotten me) blissfully skip off to school (OK, they weren’t exactly skipping, but still). Anyone who walked by the car in those moments would’ve seen a little girl casually sitting in the backseat, totally fine, totally normal, nothing to see here, folks. But the reality that no one saw, of course, is that inside the car, I was trapped and internally, freaking out, sliding all around the seat which was no longer sticky, because at that point, I was sweating in places...well, all over.
And that exact picture—that kid in the car, left behind, panicking, sweating all over but trying to look calm, cool, and collected—perfectly sums up my experience with anxiety. It’s my reality. It’s the reality I made for myself long before I was locked in that car—and long after I made my daring escape. In fact, I’m still living in that reality so much of the time—afraid to rock the boat or honk the horn, afraid to speak up, not surprised or indignant when I’m left behind or forgotten, just trying desperately to look cool and quietly figure out what I’m doing wrong in this situation. I’m still so mortified by my very existence.
I’ve lived with anxiety my whole life, it seems. I feel like it’s this huge thing that follows me around—like it’s stuck to me almost—and so I’m forever trying to find creative ways to hide it. Like a big zit smackdab in the center of your forehead that absolutely refuses to be covered by any amount of makeup. So then you start contemplating giving yourself bangs just to cover it up (anyone else? Or is that just me?). Kids at school used to make fun of my sweaty palms, which would leave slimy handprints on the papers at my desk. Sometimes by the end of a class period, the papers would even stick to my palms—you know, like Spiderman! But with an anxiety disorder. My thoughts are always racing like bullets. But if they’re bullets, the gun is pointed always at me: I’m ugly, I’m fat, I’m stupid, I’m stuck, I’m old, I’m unlovable, I’m doing it wrong, I’m going to get in trouble, I’m wasting my life, I’m poor, I’m sick, I’m lonely, I’m unlikeable, I’m worthless, I’m going nowhere, I’m afraid, I’m a fool, I’m anxious (yes, I even beat myself up for being anxious).
Some well-meaning people like to point out that anxiety (and the low self-esteem that often accompanies it) is actually very self-centered, because you’re always thinking about you—even if it’s just about how inadequate you are. But that’s not really the whole story. Sure, I struggle with thoughts of self-hatred, and yes, they take up a lot of mental and emotional energy. But truly, my anxiety comes not from being intensely aware of myself, but rather being intensely aware of myself in the world. How I relate to it, how I interact with it, how I can make it better, how I might be making it worse. I’m hyper-aware. Like, to a fault. Or a superpower. Depends on how you look at it, I guess.
And if you’re looking at me now, you wouldn’t know it. You wouldn’t know any of it. I’ve learned to hide my sweaty palms and my racing thoughts. I’ve learned to hide period. I’m no longer eight years old, locked in a car. That kid’s still inside me, sure, but she’s inside a woman with way more life experience (and who can take on any childproof lock, thanks very much). And what I’ve garnered during those thirty-some years of life experience is that anxiety isn’t all bad. Don’t worry!—I promise I’m not going to sugarcoat this; no fairytale endings here. But hear me out: apart from being biologically, ancestrally-designed to keep me safe, my anxiety makes me a kickass friend, a giving lover, and a talented writer/storyteller. Sure, I overthink everything. But that means I’m thinking about you a lot of the time. I remember birthdays and anniversaries, I can tell almost immediately when you’re having a bad day, I want to help you feel good, I worry about you. I won’t just walk a mile in your shoes. I’ll also polish them and bring them back to you. With a hug and a cup of tea. Because I understand—perhaps better than most—what you’re going through. My anxiety makes me incredibly empathetic. Which is arguably precisely what we need more of in the world today. So I own all of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the zit. I wipe off my palms. I try again. I speak about it. I share it. I tell my story. I honk the horn.
And in case you’re wondering: Mrs. Morris did eventually remember and retrieve me for that car. I didn’t get a tardy. She apologized profusely to my mom, and we all laughed about it for years. Because it is kind of funny. And after all, it didn’t turn out all that bad.
\When I was in college I had a professor named Robert Hass. This is noteworthy for two reasons: 1) I had been a high school dropout who somehow managed to get in to U.C. Berkeley, and 2) At the time I was there, Robert Hass had become the newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. I realize that poetry isn’t that much of a big deal to most people, and pretty much nobody knows what the hell a Poet Laureate actually is (I sure as hell didn’t until I became one of his students), but for me, attending Robert Hass’s English 131: Modern American Poetry was the entrance point to the most profound period of my college years.
Aside from tons of reading, one of my first assignments in Professor Hass’s class was to actually write a poem. Yikes! I had read loads of poetry before taking his class, but I had never really written any. At least nothing that I would ever dare to show anyone. Now I was to not only write a poem, but share it with one of the most renowned poets of his generation. This both terrified and exhilarated me to varying degrees. One of the reasons I had initially become interested in poetry was because I found it intimidating, and I wanted to be able to understand it — to somehow conquer it, or at least conquer my fear it. Now I was actually supposed to write something that I barely had a grasp on. I had no idea what I was going to write or even how to approach it, but somehow when I sat down at my computer, almost as if by magic, the words just poured out of me. I wrote and I wrote and the words flowed as if I were possessed. It was if I was channeling the spirit of some unseen poet, because the words and ideas coming out of me were fully formed and thoroughly self assured. It was more like I was taking dictation that writing an original poem. It was an absolute rush.
The day the assignment was due I handed my poem in with the rest of the class, excited, yet nervous to see what professor Hass would have to say about it. The class met twice a week and after that first week was over students started getting their poems back at the end of class. I waited with eager anticipation for my poem to be returned to me. A week went by. And then another. Still, no poem. Sure, there were a lot of students in the class, but what the hell? Why hadn’t my poem been given back to me? I was beginning to grow anxious and frustrated with waiting. After the third week or so without getting my poem back I nervously approached Professor Hass at the end of class and inquired as to when I could expect to receive mine.
“I’m sorry, what is your name again?” he asked.
“Thomas,” I said. “Thomas Morrison.”
“Oh! Yes,” he replied with a pensive smile on his face. “Say, do you have some time before your next class to talk about your poem?”
What?!? I was terrified. Why on earth would he want to talk to me about my poem? Could it really be that bad?
“Um…sure,” I cautiously replied.
“Great, let me buy you a cup of coffee.”
And with that he took me to a cafe on Telegraph avenue, sat me down with a cup of coffee, and started to dissect my poem. He went over it line by line and talked about the language, my choice of certain words, the subject matter, my use of repetition, asked why I had made certain choices, and made suggestions here and there on how I might improve it. And then he dropped a bomb…
“Have you read Howl?,” he asked.
“Um…” I was embarrassed to tell him that not only had I not read it, but I had never actually heard of it.
“Oh, my! You absolutely must read it! Allen Ginsberg was a huge fan of Walt Whitman (earlier had I told him how much I loved Song of Myself); Whitman’s poetry had a great impact on his writing. He even evokes him in a wonderful poem called A Supermarket in California. You should read that one as well.”
I scribbled these titles in my notebook and sheepishly told him that I had never actually read anything by Allen Ginsberg. My experience with poetry mainly consisted of the works of Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams and the other “Moderns” before taking his class.
“Ginsberg’s poetry is naked, vulgar, beautiful and honest. There’s a sort of rough-and-tumble elegance about his work that I see in your poem as well. Your poem isn’t perfect, to be sure,” he continued, “but it is raw, and turgid (he actually used the word turgid!) and has an earnestness and blunt honesty that I’ve rarely seen in a first year poetry student.”
I was floored. Not only did he like my work, but he actually compared it to one of his favorite poets.
“Hopefully you’ll continue writing,” he went on, “it would be a real shame if this was the only poem you ever wrote. You know, we have a wonderful writing program here. You should consider submitting to one of the poetry writing workshops next semester. In fact, I’ve got someone in mind that I think would be perfect for you.” I was absolutely floored.
Soon thereafter, Professor Hass introduced me to his colleague, Thom Gunn (who at that time was the “big man on campus” as far as poetry was concerned), and saw to it that I was admitted into Gunn’s exclusive poetry writing workshop the following semester. Professor Hass had his own poetry writing workshop, but it was only open to graduate students, so I gladly took my place in Thom Gunn’s class along with 14 other hand-picked students. And amazingly, not only did professor Hass make sure that I continued to develop my craft with Thom Gunn, but he invited me to come to his own office any time to share whatever I was working on. I was beside myself with gratitude.
In Thom Gunn’s poetry writing workshop I was introduced to the fine art of humility. While the poem that I had written for Robert Hass had effortlessly flowed out of me, I found that I was struggling to re-capture that original inspiration that struck me the first time. The first poem that I turned in to the class was a juvenile exercise in forced earnestness laid bare for the world to see. Not only was it not good, it was actually laughably bad. Robert Hass had been confident in my abilities, but I discovered I had much to learn. Most of the other students in the class had been writing poetry for years, so over the next few months I was able to learn volumes from them as we workshopped our poems. Some of the things I wrote were met with approval, some with polite disdain, but every word I wrote was being carefully considered by fifteen other people, and that was everything.
The following semester Professor Hass had another poetry writing workshop, and this time it was open to underclassmen. I had learned a great deal in Professor Gunn’s class, but there was no guarantee that I would be admitted into professor Hass’s class. During the interim he had been appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, so now he was the “big man on campus” and everyone wanted to be in his class. Even his Emily Dickinson seminar, which usually had a number of seats to spare, was jam-packed that semester, so competition to be in his writing class was fierce. I had written a poem for a submission that I felt was pretty good, but I was fairly anxious nonetheless. Fortunately for me, Professor Hass had taken a genuine liking to me and later told me that I need not have worried; “Of course you were going to be in my class,” he gleamed, “I was saving a spot for you all along.”
Holy Shit! God Damn! The motherfucking Poet Laureate of the United States was saving a seat just for me!!! I had never experienced such elation, such a feeling of overwhelming joy, acceptance and belonging as I did in that moment. That semester, and for the following years that I was at U.C. Berkeley, Robert Hass continued to see to it that I developed my craft. He invited me to participate in his writing class for two consecutive semesters and encouraged to come by his office whenever I wanted to talk about anything that I was working on or just to shoot the shit. Somehow he had seen something in me that I hadn’t even known was there, and he helped me shape and polish it, and inspired me not only to write poetry, but to embrace a more more “poetic” life.
During the time I was in his poetry writing workshop I was also enrolled in his Emily Dickinson seminar — another small class with only fifteen students. For this class, as in all of his poetry classes, every so often he would have his students memorize a poem to be recited in front of the class. It was his position that poetry was a living, breathing thing, and was meant to be read, or in this case recited, aloud. The other students all did their due diligence and memorized and recited poems in front of the class each week, but they all recited them like they were reading the day’s stock market report, or some lifeless insurance brochure. Some students recited their poems with weak, trembling voices, others with cold, matter of fact terseness. Nobody, however, seemed to get the idea that this was poetry! It was meant to be melodic, lyrical, moving, exciting, powerful — not dry, weak, timid, cold and boring. So I decided that when it came time to recite my first poem in front of the class it was going to be done with feeling and emotion. The only trouble was, I was horrible at memorizing. The only thing that I’d ever been able to remember with any degree of success were song lyrics.
Wait! That’s it! Song lyrics! It suddenly occurred to me that poems, especially poems that rhyme, are essentially just songs without the music! So I decided to merely add music to mine and sing it like a song in order to remember it. With a bit of tinkering I was able to come up with a wonderful little melody that sounded like something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, and proceeded to memorize Emily Dickinson’s poem #348 (I Would Not Paint a Picture) by singing it over the course of the next few days before I was due to recite it in class. When the day finally came, I was determined to deliver a powerful and heartfelt recitation, not some dry, stammering imitation of a poem as most of the other students had done. The problem was, however, that try as I might, I just couldn’t remember it without singing it. So, when it was finally my turn to stand before Professor Hass and my fourteen fellow classmates, I took a deep breath, focused on a tree outside one of the classroom windows (to drown out all distractions), and erupted in song with a big, bellowing voice more suited for the stage than a small classroom. I sang Emily Dickinson’s poem with feeling, emotion, and confidence, and as I finished, I looked over to Professor Hass to see him grinning from ear to ear, beaming with delight as the room erupted in applause.
* * *
Smash cut to the year 2012. My wife and I are standing in a long line at a Barns & Noble in Pasadena, waiting for Robert Hass to sign his new book, What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural Wold. He had given a reading that evening, and I was eager to see him once again him and introduce him to my wife. Since I had last seen him, I had attended graduate school in Boston, moved to Los Angeles and gotten married, while he had continued to teach at Berkely, write poetry, and win the Pulitzer Prize. Years had gone by since I had last been in touch with him (life has a funny way of doing that), but I was certain that he’d instantly remember me and remember all the time we had spent together at U.C. Berkeley discussing poetry, having a laugh in a bar, or talking about the future on his office balcony while we smoked cigarettes.
After graduating Berkley I kicked around aimlessly for a while, then on a whim, moved to Germany with a girlfriend for a bit of adventure. After a couple of years of working in bars and traveling through Europe we decided to move back to the States and apply to graduate school. One Saturday night while my girlfriend was at work I drank a bottle of wine and became nostalgic for my time a Berkeley, so I decided to reach out to my old mentor, Robert Hass, and ask him if he would write me a letter of recommendation for grad schools. The trouble was, this was way back when the internet was still in its infancy, so I couldn’t just do a quick web search and find his contact information. Somehow (to this day I honestly have no idea how I did this) I was able to obtain his personal home phone number, so with a bottle of cheap Italian wine in my gut I picked up the phone and drunk dialed my old professor.
“Yes? Who’s this?”
“Thomas… Thomas Morrison. I was a student of.."
“Thomas! How are you! It’s great to hear your voice!”
Holy shit! He remembers me!
“Um, I’m great! I hope I’m not disturbing you…”
And with that I went on to explain that I was calling from Germany, where I had been living for the past couple of years, but I was coming back to apply to grad schools and hoped he would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation.
“Of course! Just come by any time during my posted office hours when you’re back! It’ll be great to see you!”
A couple of months later I was back in California and living in Oakland, just minutes a way from Berkeley, so one day I decided to go and pay my old professor a visit. As I walked through the gates onto Sproul Plaza a wave of nostalgia passed over me. I had spent some of the best, most meaningful moments of my life on this campus and it felt wonderful to be back. However, as I made my way to the English Department building where Professor Hass’s office was located I began to get nervous. He had meant so much to me during the time that I was there I was honestly afraid I might start crying when I saw him. Nerves be damned, I climbed the stairs to the third floor where his office was located, reached out a tentative hand, and knocked on his door. When it opened, Professor Hass looked at me with a quizzical expression for the briefest of moments, then a huge smile spread across his face and he boomed,
“Thomas! Oh my! How wonderful it is to see you!”
Then he reached his arms out and pulled me in for a warm, heartfelt hug. I didn’t cry as I had feared, but my hands were trembling a bit with emotion and my voice cracked when I first began to speak.
That afternoon we talked for hours. We talked about the times we had spent together, writing, poetry, my time in Germany, my future studies, etc. He recalled with fondness the time I had painted cue cards with illustrations that I held up at the beginning of of each stanza as I read Emily Dickinson’s poem #869, Because the Bee may Blameless Hum, and told me he still had my paintings. He intimated that he was hopeful that I would apply to the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Program as well as regular graduate schools, and I told him that I would consider it, but I was leaning more towards a regular English Lit program. Eventually the day wore on, he promised to write me a glowing letter of recommendation that would be on file at the University, then he hugged me one last time and we said goodbye. That was the last time I had seen him until the night of his reading in Pasadena.
So, back to us in line. I had, of course told my wife everything about Robert Hass before this evening, so she knew how eager I was to see him once again. “What if he doesn’t remember me?” I joked.
“Yeah, right!” quipped my wife and we both had a laugh.
I grew nervous as we approached the signing table. It had been years since Robert Hass had and I spoken, and there were hundreds of people here, all wanting to talk to him. I was worried that I’d have too much to say and not enough time with all the other people impatiently waiting for their turn to have their books signed. As the line moved I entertained thoughts of my old professor warmly embracing me and inviting me and my wife out to dinner after the signing. Or perhaps out for drinks! This and a thousand other thoughts went trough my mind as we slowly approached the signing table.
When it was finally my turn I nervously held out my book and grinned from ear to ear, waiting for that moment of recognition when my old professor would realize who I am.
I continued to stare and smile.
Staring at me without a hint of recognition, he glanced back and forth at me and my wife for what seemed like years and kindly said,
“Hi there. Thank you so much for coming. Who would you like this made out to? Or would you just prefer a signature?”
“Thomas!,” I blurted! I’m Thomas Morrison! I was your student at U.C. Berkeley! This is my wife, Sloane!”
I was nearly hysterical,
“Oh,” he replied, “how nice to see you.” (I could tell that he had no idea who I was. ) Would you like me to make it out to both of you then? I’m sorry, what were your names again?
Thomas! I’m Thomas! I’m fucking Thomas!!! I’m the one who sang a fucking Emily Dickinson poem in your class! I’m the one you took out for coffee and compared to motherfucking Ginsberg after reading my very first poem! I’m Thomas! I’m the one you you went out drinking with at the Bison Brewing Company after class from time to time! I’m the one who saved an empty pack of your cigarettes after we had drinks at that bar on Shattuck because I was so fucking enamored with you! Thomas! Thomas! I’m Thomas! I’m the one who drunk dialed you from Germany! I’m the one you hugged in your office, like I wish you would be doing right now! I’m Thomas! I’m Thomas! I’m Thomas!!!
This and a thousand other things raced through my reeling mind as I placed the book on the table and simply replied,
“I’m Thomas. And this is my wife, Sloane. With and ‘E’.”
There’s a Grandmother somewhere.
And she looks exactly like she does in the movies: warm, white-haired, big-bosomed, and comforting. If quilts were clothes, she’d be wearing it. She’s mixing cookie dough in one hand and steeping tea in the other. She’s old, but not too old, with a voice that flows through your house like a melody. And you never want to let her go. That Grandmother is somewhere.
I just don’t know her.
Life makes choices for us. I didn’t choose to be born in Seattle. Just like my parents didn’t choose to be born in the Midwest. But they did choose to leave it, in pursuit of opportunity. But the side effect of moving away included leaving their hometown, their siblings, and their parents. It put over 1,000 miles between my grandparents and I.
And that might as well have been an ocean.
It wasn’t the kind of ocean filled with white caps or rocking fishing boats. It was simply the kind of ocean that keeps two people apart. It exists, steadily, wind whispering on the waves, while you live your life. My grandmothers carried on with their lives, more richly engaged in the lives of the family who remained in town - which, of course, is no one’s fault. It’s not as if we had a falling out. Holiday visits simply ended as their health precluded it. Phone calls felt more and more obligatory as I was a tween. There was love, of course there was love, but for the most part, we lived without each other.
I often wonder how other people feel about their Grandmothers. Is she like the trope I have in my head? When you hug her, do you disappear into her sweater? Does she smell like a bakery? Is her laugh like the coo of a dove? When you think of her, do you think of love?
When I remember my own grandmothers, shouldn’t I immediately think of unconditional, ancestral, endless love? Shouldn’t it be effortless? Shouldn’t it be innate? I feel like I’m betraying a sacred thing, a golden relationship. But when I’m honest with myself - really honest - when I think of them, I don’t think of the love first.
If not love, what do I think of?
My father’s mother was stoic, stalwart. She was strong and soft-spoken, steady and still. She loved history and genealogy, which feel pretty unimportant to me as an 11 year old dingus. She suffered a stroke that nearly paralyzed her - leaving her left half weakened. She could walk, but was unable to use her left arm. But that stroke didn’t take her down - she lived for almost twenty years after it. But I never knew her any differently. We had to be careful with her, help her get up from her chair, and walk slowly with her. If we hugged, it was a half hug, because of her weakened arm. She never seemed a physically affectionate woman, so she probably didn’t mind, anyhow.
My mother’s mother was a delicate Polish bird. We were opposites - I was a loud, brash, witty, and obese little kid. She was sweet, fragile, and respectful. A perfectionist, she preferred to do it herself rather than teach you how. She had high standards - she’d (politely?) judge and comment on your choice of clothing. She would cut her food up into tiny pieces, nibbling away slowly. She enjoyed tradition and was a long-time Catholic. She could walk, but she had a significant hump, which shamefully - as a child - embarrassed me. I know she loved me, because she would tell I had perfect fingers to play piano - “long and slender”. I knew this to be a lie, because I had sausage fingers. It was a lie of love.
When I think of them, I think of those things - the complexity of their personhood. Their flaws, their strengths, their physical weaknesses, their history. I think of our deep differences. I think of the courage it took for them to bury their husbands. I think of how they were impacted by their time. I think of how I am too. I think of how they’ll never really know who I am. I think of how I’ll never know all the women they were. I think that even though we were decades and oceans apart, their blood will always run through mine.
There is a Grandmother, somewhere, in a dream. But she’s not mine.
Mine are better. Deeply and wholly real. Yes, I love them. But I respect them more.
Those two words, I don’t know when I’ll ever hear it.
Such meaning brings about a tear, just imaging what that may feel like.
Stop reading this, and take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine:
Swimming Pools, Roller Coasters, Movie Theaters, Concerts, Shopping, Camping.
Performing, Game Nights, Traveling, Bar-be-ques, Birthday Parties, Dating.
Kissing, Holding Hands, Whispering Into Ears, Hugging Tightly.
Breathing, Smiling, Laughing, Crying, Happy….--Together.
Yes… --I know, it’s hard. Hard to imagine such a far-off distant instance.
I don’t know what to feel regarding this normalization of this new norm. I would like to say I’ve been okay so far, which is usually my go-to response whenever I catch up with a friend, though sometimes my deep lows catch up with my somewhat high highs. I’m not the first person I’m sure who has expressed this notion. I apologize if this comes across too negative, as my patience has been going up and down with each passing day, so I’m doing my best in keeping my head held high.
Earlier in the year, my friend Liz recommended that I write down my feelings into a diary, a book, whatever; just so I could feel better. Ironically, she recommended this so that my confidence would improve whenever I performed on stage, yet it has been a bit of a Godsend in getting through this nightmare. I would write poetry, thoughts, script/play/dialogue/monologue piece ideas, etc. It’s not completely filled, and sometimes I’m sad that it’s not even close to midway, or that I’m not as productive as my mind imagines I should be. Some days I just don’t feel like writing, sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball, listen to my playlists and hide. But lately, I’ve noticed my interest in writing has been more frequent than in the past. Sometimes I have to stop whatever I am doing, and quickly write it down, so whenever I go to work, I carry a satchel with me: containing my water bottle, a charger, pens/pencils, white-out and my book. I’ve never felt so comfortable being so vulnerable in sharing my inner thoughts.
Self-reflection during covid has had me learn so much, I’ve now come to terms with the open wound I’ve neglected to heal all these years. It is no secret how much I keep to myself, doing my own thing, staying under the radar, and when I do choose to appear, it’s usually for a good reason. I realize now the pre-Covid Andy overworked himself with all these gigs/projects/performances to drown out all that raw inner hurt. Based on a work in progress, I know now that I can learn to be a better man than what I was yesterday, for myself, for my family, for my friends, and for perhaps...that special someone/partner/friend I hope to meet someday. I see post-Covid Andy, or even now-Andy, opening up, trying, attempting, …--dating. I see him confident with what he wants, I see him making no self-sacrifices just to measure up to another’s ideals, I see him being okay with rejection so that he can quickly move on and live a life that brings him happiness. I feel he is ready to open his heart to that special somebody, to take a leap, even when he hides in his shell. The difficult part is in taking that chance, and it has to be said: that fear, that emotion is very real, it’s valid, and I completely understand it. It’s scary, yes, but what is life worth even living without a little risk? These days, you go outside without a mask and it’s a risk. I believe in not having regrets. I don’t want to be old 50/60 years down the line and regret the chances I didn’t take or letting that someone slip through my fingers. I’ve missed out on so much growing up, I cannot afford to miss out on anymore. Admittingly, all this self-recovery has been quite a homecoming to this person I’ve always known was always there; it was just a question whether I had the courage to allow him entrance to this... “Now”.
I’ve talked with some close friends; we seem to share this mutual fear of losing everything we’ve taken so long, so many chances at building towards. Our old lives come crashing down because of a virus, so we retreat, we feel so helpless, at times we feel so alone, and we’re not sure of anything anymore, except for that one pillow we can count on flooding our tears with. It’s taken a bit of time, but I’ve come to accept my old habits, beliefs, my old life has extinguished. The life pre-Covid is long gone and burned away, but from those ashes, comes a strength, a deep inner-enhancement long overdue in it’s arrival. It will happen for all of us, it will most certainly happen for you so please embrace it, take the reins and don’t look back.
Understand this, take this with you: You don’t have to smile in front of me if you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to pretend all is okay just to keep up with a facade of positivity. Take it from somebody who knows how to keep their emotions close and is constantly working on opening them up: I know what you feel, I can see it in your eyes (zoom hides nothing), I feel your hurts too, and I have no solutions or answers to cure you of your problems. What I can provide is somebody you can openly vent with: your anger, sadness, frustration, stress, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm let it all out because I feel them too. Life has been placed on a “hopefully'' temporary pause, we’re making due with what we have, and it certainly helps that soon Biden and Kamala will remove that malignant orange tumor from the White House. The most important thing now is that we are alive, we are staying healthy, and that we are all important in this universe… Never Forget That!
I truly do look forward to being able to greet you again, like it all used to be before: in person. What truly a homecoming that will be. I never thought I would miss just merely hugging another human being, to miss being in their presence without worry, to share experiences without cloth or glass. I don't know what I will feel or think, when that particular Today, Comes At Last.
I’m sure most people have heard of Graceland- the former home of Elvis Presley in Memphis,
TN, where you can take a self-guided tour of a dead guy’s home narrated by none other than
John Stamos. It’s a pretty popular tourist attraction where I’m from.
BUT have you ever heard of Graceland Too? Not many have, but those who have been there,
like myself, can tell tales of an experience unlike any other.
Graceland Too was a full house shrine dedicated to Elvis Presley, located in Holly Springs, MS
and owned and operated by a man named Paul MacLeod. While Graceland and Graceland Too
were similar in name and theme, they could not be more different attractions, and unfortunately
for some tourists (especially foreign tourists), they found that out the hard way.
For just $5 you could visit this shrine literally 24/7. It was never closed. It was said that Mr.
MacLeod never slept and he claimed to drink a full case of Coke per day to stay awake. So one
late night when my friends and I were in college, we decided to drive up and see the place for
ourselves. We could not have predicted what we would find.
Graceland Too was on the corner of a dark and deserted street. We drove up to a dilapidated
house, painted blue, green, beige, white, and black, with a barbed wire concrete block fence,
two lion statues, and a yard full of what appeared to be spray-painted Christmas trees. The front
door was wide open. I had that feeling that I was the girl in the horror movie that the audience
was screaming at:
“Don’t go in there, you idiot! Well, she’s dead. That’s it.”
As we walked into the house, we were immediately bombarded by Elvis, literally floor to ceiling. Below our feet, Elvis rugs. Above our heads, Elvis posters. And everywhere we turned, Elvis figurines, records, and memorabilia.
Then, we saw the man himself- Paul MacLeod, looking sort of like a poor man’s Terry Bradshaw with Elvis-style slicked back long gray hair and wearing black pants and a black and white Hawaiian shirt. He was leading a reluctant British couple who looked as if they had made a grave mistake.
He greeted us animatedly and talked fast and loud, although we could barely understand what
he was saying. He took our money, and then we were off on quite the adventure, although all I
could really focus on were his dentures that seemed to be popping in and out of his mouth.
The house overall looked more like a scene from Hoarders than a “museum,” but Mr. MacLeod related literally everything to Elvis. There was a box of Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches that he clearly had purchased to eat himself, and he said, “Elvis LOVED Jimmy Dean.” There were some gum wrappers that he claimed were worth $5000. And we realized just how crazy he was when he said, “I swear on my life. If I lie at any point while you’re in this house, you can kill me.
Shoot me dead. Cut my head off. Kill my family.”
He also did this thing where anytime one of us wasn’t paying attention, or even if we just weren’t looking at him, he would grab our arms and scream, “HEY!” At this point, the Sonic grilled cheese I had eaten on the drive seemed to be forcing its way out, but I swallowed it down and just laughed nervously.
Between the slurred speech and the scary “Heys!,” we picked up on a few more of his eccentricities. In one room, he opened a drawer full of bras and panties. He claimed they were all from women who were so moved by his Elvis tribute that they stripped and gave him their undergarments. That was the first time I thought, “Wow, we might actually die here.”
He took us into the backyard, which again, was closed in with a barbed wire concrete fence like a jail. Then, he said, “I have to take a phone call real quick. I’ll be right back.” And he locked us out there- where I discovered a fake electric chair with a mannequin child strapped into it.
My stomach dropped. And I immediately started hyperventilating and looking around for any possible thing I could use as a weapon.
But he did eventually come back, and luckily, we were not murdered.
He took us into the final room, and he said, “I have something really exciting to show y’all.”. He
pointed to a photo on the wall of a man dressed as Elvis, next to a photo of the actual Elvis.
“Who does that look like?”
“Uh... Elvis,” we said.
“That’s my son. Named Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod. He is the reincarnation of Elvis.”
Even though the two looked nothing alike, he showed us a wall full of photo comparisons of his son and the actual Elvis, trying to prove his theory.
Having resolved myself to death, I pretended I was in an episode of The Office and looked at the fake camera with a signature Jim wide-eyed face.
Then, for his grand finale, he pulled out his karaoke machine and started singing the most off-beat, tone-deaf version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and yelled the familiar “Hey!” if we weren’t watching him. Suddenly, we heard another group come in the house. Lucky for us, he immediately went out to greet them, and we were able to make our escape.
About a year after our visit, Mr. MacLeod apparently had an argument with a man who was helping him paint his house over an allegedly unpaid debt of $10. Yes, $10. Then, Mr. MacLeod pulled out his gun and shot the guy in the heart at point-blank range, killing him.
The next day, Mr. MacLeod was found slumped over on his front porch, dead of a heart attack. After hearing about these events, I was more convinced than ever that we were lucky to make it out that night. It’s something we all laugh about now, but realistically, Mr. MacLeod was slightly deranged and wildly unpredictable, and should not have been operating a tourist attraction. We actually could have been murdered or seriously injured, and that’s something that will forever haunt me.
The house and its contents were put up for auction after his death. It almost seems like a place that never existed. But to all of us who got to experience it over its 25 years of operation, we will always remember the child mannequin in the electric chair, the $5000 gum wrappers, and the man who loved Elvis above all else.
dog days. 1 : the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere. 2 : a period of stagnation or inactivity
Growing up, I hated summer. Weird, I know. What can I say? I just really loved school, and summers always seemed to bring with them an extra loneliness, a sadness. I also wanted to be a nun, though. So maybe that tells you everything you need to know about me as a kid. Even more than a nun, however, I wanted to be the Virgin Mary. I had a pink, faux-satin nightgown and matching housecoat set, trimmed all over with white lace, which I would wear (no matter if day or night), laying the housecoat over my head and tying the sleeves under my chin as a makeshift veil. I had a little plastic bottle of holy water that allegedly came all the way from Lourdes (although, for all I knew, it had really travelled no farther than someone’s kitchen tap), and I would sprinkle it ever-so-delicately on my wrists like it was Chanel No. 5, and I was the Queen of Sheba. Once readied, I would glide around the house on the balls of my feet, hands clasped in front of me, making a show of benevolence (and making my parents wonder, I’m sure, how the hell their middle kid ended up so weird). It gets weirder, though: whenever I misbehaved—or even thought about misbehaving—I would relegate myself to a time-out. In our house time-outs took place in the conversation pit, a little open nook set a bit down and off from the living room, and whenever I was feeling particularly guilt-ridden and masochistic, I would march past the rest of my family, all together in the living room, straight down to the conversation pit to sit and think seriously about what I’d done—or what I’d thought about doing.
Now for the big twist ending: I did not, in fact, end up becoming a nun, nor did I end up becoming a virgin mother. In fact, the closest I got to being a virgin anything was remaining one for twenty-two years. I grew up, lost myself, found several men (and a few women) along the way, and well...the rest is history (as was any notion of joining the convent). What I actually ended up becoming was a waiter. The thing about being a waiter (one of many “things” really!) is that no one dreams of becoming one when they grow up. Now, of course, there are lots of jobs like that. After all, for better or worse, we can’t all grow up to be the proverbial ballet dancer or astronaut, and still, we all have to make a living, or so society tells us. However, there’s a particular sort of depressing hopefulness (or is it hopelessness?) about being a waiter, especially in Los Angeles—everyone assumes it’s a meantime job, a little something you’re just doing on the side while you’re “becoming” something else. Waiters in LA are often treated as a sort of generally unhappy, pitiable, replaceable, searching bunch of folks.
And now I may as well just admit it—I’m an actor. Or at least, I was. I have a BFA in Theatre (so you know I’m either very serious or very dumb—or both). As we’ve established, I was a strange, shy kid, but when—at sixteen—I discovered acting, it was like getting that letter to Hogwarts, like looking down one day and seeing tits for the first time, like meeting a superheroine alter ego I would’ve never guessed was inside me all along. I loved theatre. Getting my degree proved difficult, however. By the age of nineteen, I was bingeing and purging so frequently that I had to drop out of the university I’d attended for only a year and move back home. I got a job as a barista at a Barnes & Noble (where I stayed for five years) and dabbled in community college and community theatre. When, several years later, I transferred to the university and theatre program from which I would eventually graduate, I breathed a sigh of relief (you’ll recall: I loved school).
The program was hard work—some of the hardest I’ve ever done—but it’s also one of the things of which I’m most proud. Once I graduated, however, I found myself drifting once again—literally, as at the time, I was crashing on couches, putting off the inevitable, before finally biting the bullet and officially moving to Los Angeles. Most of my classmates had already done it, and it seemed like the thing to do. Without school to moor me, life was one long, interminable summer (and you’ll recall: I hated summer). So maybe it’s not such a twist ending that—fast forward six years almost to the day, and—I’m still spinning my wheels (only figuratively, of course—bumper-to-bumper traffic doesn’t allow wheels to actually spin here). Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful for a certain amount of success in LA. I’ve done some delightful plays and some indie films; I’ve met some wonderful people (who might’ve proven even more wonderful had I allowed myself to actually get close to them); I’ve stopped crashing on couches and have steadily—if only modestly—increased my income each year; and somehow—perhaps most auspicious of all—I haven’t gotten a single parking ticket in nearly two years.
But that exponential increase in income has been from bouncing around odd jobs (bikini bartender, barista—three different times—cocktail server, and—most recently—waiter). It has not, in fact, been from acting or writing or anything else that I once imagined. In fact, I quit auditioning about two years ago and began to focus solely on waiting tables. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, I had become so afraid of requesting time off for auditions or—every once a blue moon—gigs I’d miraculously booked, that I simply stopped requesting off at all. Restaurants are highly competitive, and I didn’t want someone to come and take my place, so after a while, I simply refused to move—even though I didn’t at all like where I was.
Every day that I put on my little black apron, I put on with it a heavy coat of shame. And then, I felt ashamed at my shame (why, yes, I am your basic ex-Catholic, thank you very much) because what—did I think I was better than waiting tables? Let me be clear: there is absolutely no inherent shame in waiting tables. It’s honest (and sometimes even enjoyable) work, and I’ve met phenomenally talented and good people who do it. The shame I felt was, of course, pure, unadulterated ego—the feeling that I “should” be doing “more.” I know...what a lame, bullshit construct of society, right? But even so, deep down, all BS aside, what really broke my heart was that I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be doing more. Nevermind “should.” I could—if I wanted to—and I wanted to, I really really did. I was drowning in a dark, dank well of untapped potential. I’d always dreamt of somehow melding passion with money to make one brilliant, elusive thing called “a career.” I’d never personally known anyone who’d actually done it, but still, I was hopeful.
As I continued to wait tables, however, year after year, as I continued to make it not just my living but my very life, I felt as though my chances were slipping by. I was afraid of everything: requesting off work, quitting my job, losing money, investing in a dream, even defining my dream—it all terrified me, catapulting me smackdab into indecision, which is where I’ve made my home ever since. But now, a true twist ending (or, perhaps...a beginning?): one Saturday in March of this year, I went to work, like I always did, and was scheduled to work the next day, Sunday, like I always did, but I never ended up making it to that shift—the restaurant didn’t open Sunday, and it hasn’t opened since. See, pandemics apparently don’t care that you’ve been at a job for almost five years, ever since they opened their doors, or that you worked hard to be the first promoted from host to server. Nor do they care that, over the course of those five years, you sacrificed almost everything in the name of getting more shifts, then better shifts, then the best shifts, fighting tooth and nail for your place there. I suspect pandemics probably don’t even care that the whole time you were doing all that, you actually thought you were doing the right thing; after all, you were being responsible. In short, pandemics don’t offer immunity even to those of us who’ve insisted on playing it safe all our lives, shoring up against every real and imagined disaster.
And here we are, five months later, right in the thick of summer—still my least favorite season, although I’m not sure why. For me, there’s no longer a school year to tearfully end or another on the way to eagerly anticipate, but still, whenever June rolls around, so too, like clockwork, does that old, familiar melancholy, that loneliness, that feeling that everyone is at a party, and my unwritten invitation wasn’t even lost in the mail. This year, however, summer feels almost nonexistent (for obvious reasons), and yet, lockdown—to me—has felt like endless summer. The solitude, the isolation, the boredom, the anxiety are no longer specific to a certain season, are no longer specific even to me. Worse still, we don’t have our good old standbys—like the school year or jobs—with which to distract ourselves. There is so much loss. More than perhaps we can even imagine. There is sickness and dreams on hold or given up altogether and heartbreak and fear and loneliness and death and uncertainty. There is a feeling of time standing still but also hurtling forward into the unknown. There are all these things, and also: there is forced radical change—for myself, certainly, but also for our nation and our world—perhaps for the better, perhaps not; in every case, it remains to be seen.
All I know for certain: had none of this happened, I would still be working as a waiter at a restaurant that didn’t want or value me, ever forcing myself into the conversation pit of my own making, my life in a perpetual state of time out. Honestly, I don’t know if I ever would’ve worked up the ovaries to leave there of my own volition. But in the end I didn’t have to. Is that a blessing or a curse, a little nudge in the right direction or one of the worst things to ever happen to me? All I can say is I’ve written more in the past three months than I have in three decades. I’ve somehow—surprisingly, wholly unexpectedly—fallen in love with lifting weights. I’m getting bigger, with visible muscle in the same places where I once desired to see only skin and bone. I’m also more sober than I’ve been in more time than I care to admit. I am—literally and figuratively—stronger than ever. It’s not my intention to sugarcoat what’s happened here, what’s still happening, to leap hungrily to the good and bypass the bad—my own or anyone else’s. But, as with all things in life, the truths are many—and often conflicting. I am a would-be nun who ended up an ashamed—and then, a proud—slut. I am a would-be actor who ended up a hard-working—and then, an out-of-work—waiter. I am a would-be writer who ended up...well, who knows? There’s really no telling. Life can change overnight, as easily as Saturday transforms into Sunday, and oftentimes, we think we’ve ended up—when really, we’ve only just gotten started. And while summer may feel interminable to me, the truth is, for better or worse, it’s nearly over—as all things hard and interminable always are.
(based on one summer humid night back in Moreno Valley where I had to sleep with no power whatsoever)
Close your eyes...
LIE...everything is fine...if you just Lie still and breathe deeply,
Stop seething beneath your seedy defeating overheating!
Pleading with the universe will not revive the air conditioner--
But oh sweet Jesus, the humidity--
Such anguish of my unanswered wish,
Follow my trail of tears and sweat!
Beget my regrets I often forget as admission for my early requested untimely death!
I ache for swift relief, to let my assets reset back to that cold shower--
For exactly one hour, I savored the cold water soaked from the lavour,
Surely heavens forbid I cower in over-lather my lengthy skin shielding my bladder, but--
Alas the end, as Linkin Park ballads, doesn’t really matter,
The nightly temperature, one-hundred and five, my soul.. ruptures--
As the city’s infrastructure experiences disrupture of electricity,
I no longer shock at such thoughts of stability,
Truly quitting this unprovoked battle,
And Upon my mantle, the clock stiff still, ill-mannered as to say:
“Straddle-up! Tis’ night’s straggled tempo shall be dreadful”,
As I lay in bed, Lying ‘everything is fine’,
Attempting to ignore such loud roaring silence,
Insects romantically prance this nightly dance upon the outdoor plants,
My hearing enhanced,
The neighbors vulgar chants distance-ly track along the cul-de-sac,
My trapped laughs blasts through the hushed air as I relapse back into my current circumstance,
I relent this night, my window indiscriminately bestows blaring blowing sirens--
Wailing alongside many questionably-close-by violence,
Perhaps it is due to this drought,
Though I doubt such jail cells provide the icy-temps many, as have I, sought after,
My bed takes no longer to get hotter, to not bother with my frozen body,
Minutes mutate shuddered seconds into years,
Fears bear my rage,
Slowly my folie overtakes my surrounding property,
Sickly-sticky-stuck upon these sheets,
I contemplate possibly fleeing from this inherent heat--
I cry at the thought of lost sleep upon an impending defeat,
Why of all nights does circumstance pile on my obvious plight I no longer wish to fight?
Tonight requires rest,
Tomorrow-- well, surviving it will be the ultimate test,
Tossing, turning, a threshold shall be stubbornly discovered,
And at long last, I now best a side of my warm humid-lowered nest,
Although I confess how the mattress is now such a mess--
I can now peacefully slumber,
Life confers my request, lest my obsession allows to recommence,
I reflect upon the many past summer nights--
History often repeats,
A self-reflected smile upon my face furthers shut down my internal file server,
My warm skin slightly touches an outside breezy cooling,
Oh such a faint melody I cling to--
So enchanting, so soothing,
Now as I can now dream, I LIVE,
I lie to not lie,
Everything truly is fine,
As I now surrenderly close my eyes….
The idea of having a summer love is something I’ve imagined for a long time. Where you meet someone and grow closer to them during the summer all while having the time of your life with this person who makes you smile more than you ever have before. Going for a bike ride around a lake in the warm summer heat. Splashing through puddles from the rain and racing down hills at a dangerous but hilarious speed. Taking a trip to the beach and burying him in the sand. Having late night talks while driving around the city, where the lights shine bright reflecting your soul’s happiness in the moment. Every time you see his face you can’t help but smile. He always gives you the best hugs that just make you melt. He makes you laugh so hard that you’re certain you’ve developed abs specifically from his ability to make you laugh. You hope and pray that he will be the first to say something or hold your hand or even go in for that first kiss.
As time goes on, you think maybe he’s too shy to say anything, and he’s not really sure of how you feel. So you make the decision to say something to him, and it takes all the strength and courage you can muster. So when you finally are able to tell him in some crazy dramatic way, you leave it in his court on whether or not to chase after you...and he does. He runs after you and grabs your arm to spin you around to face him before he pulls you so close to him that you’re not sure where you end and he begins. Then he kisses you with a passion that you never thought you would experience and it makes your head spin and your heart feel like it’s going to explode. You pull away and smile shyly, saying you weren’t expecting that to happen and he smiles and says that he’s been waiting all week to do that. Then you have to leave and go home, but you do so with the biggest smile on your face and your stomach filled with butterflies.
Or maybe your instance ends a little more like mine. Everything happens the way I’ve just described and you tell him how you feel in some dramatic way, leaving it in his court on whether or not to chase you... and he doesn’t. He gets in his car and drives away as you walk into the airport, not knowing how he really feels. You call your friend to tell her you did it and she is so happy for you and tells you it’s in his court now. When you get on the plane you see he posted something on instagram about how genuine and kind of a human you are. Expressing how thankful he is for you and your friendship. Then he texts you when you land, thanking you for being honest with your feelings, but that he just sees you as his best friend. You say it’s okay and that you just needed to say something, but you know full well that you only told him because you were almost certain he felt the same way. He invited you to his family’s house across the country after all.
It hurts even more when you look back at the conversations you had while you were together. The way he said “I just knew when I met you that you were going to be very special and in my life for a long time.” Those words made you swoon and that’s what drove you to say how you felt.
But then he continues to talk to you, though, opening up to you about his life and feelings, which is hard but he cares for you and wants to be more vulnerable with you. Knowing he cares about you and still thinks of you as this special person in his life makes you feel better, right? When you call him and he says “We were just talking about you!” You laugh and wonder why on earth he could be talking about you every time you call him. He says it’s because he misses you and his family does too. But he just misses you as his friend. There’s nothing else there for him. You won’t ever be anything more to him. But you’re his best friend! That’s enough, right?
To me, a home away from home is a place where you feel just as comfortable as you do in your own home. In these places, I find the muscle memory of getting around or what I love has never left, even if it’s been many years since I’ve visited. The places that are my home away from home have changed over the years of my life.
When I think about growing up, home away from home instantly conjures up images of my Nanny’s house, and my Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The moments that I spent in these two places are moments that define my childhood. How could I ever forget the feeling of comfort that I felt at either of these places? There was always a feeling of peace after arriving and hugging my Nanny or Grandma. It was a safe and happy place to be.
I grew up on the east coast, and it will always feel like home to me. Whenever I go back to visit family, there is an immediate comforting and familiar feeling the minute that I get off the plane. It doesn’t matter if I land in Philly, Newark, or Baltimore - it always feels like I am being welcomed home. I couldn’t stand the winters growing up, but now when I go back east for the holidays, the cold air feels inviting and refreshing. The lush, green, rolling hills in the spring and summer months are the most comforting scenery that I could imagine. The leaves changing in the autumn are the most welcome and beautiful sight.
There’s another place that feels like a home away from home for me, and that place is London. Even though it’s been a few years since I lived there, whenever I’m back, it immediately feels like home again. The distinct scent of the underground and the air moving past me as the trains arrive and depart on the underground makes it feel like being there is still the most normal thing in the world. Walking past Regent’s Park and Baker Street Station reminds me of my many mornings going to school and spending time at the pubs with friends after we had finished our classes. There are many other spots all over the city that remind me of wonderful moments and memories with both my family and friends. When I see my dad’s family again, it always feels like no time has passed at all. Everything in the city still feels familiar and comfortable like when I lived there.
I always try to be appreciative of where I live in the present, but I have so many days where I feel the longing to be on the east coast or in London, or I suddenly miss the memories of seeing my grandparents as a child. Whenever this happens, I try to do things that make me feel in tune with those places and moments in time. I have a cup of tea and listen to some of my favorite English bands. I’ll watch a show or movie that takes place somewhere in the Northeast or in the UK. I’ll look back through photos of my favorite spots in these places that feel like my other home, or look back through family gatherings during holidays over the years. I also remind myself that I’ll never stop going back to my home away from homes, and they will always be there to welcome me back.
I firmly believe that a good walk can change your life – it’s happened to me before.
On a solo vacation to London, I was feeling completely frustrated by the fact that I hated my current producer job and hated myself more. So, I went to this beautifully massive park called Hampstead Heath and walked, and walked – for a solid four or five hours.
For a long while, I let my mind run wild with its tornado of anxious, existential thoughts: What am I doing? Why am I here? Why didn’t I wear shoes that fare better in mud? The usual. But once I hit hour three and half, I had somewhat of an epiphany. Everything started to straighten out – It’s like my brain got too tired of thinking at ten thousand miles per hour, and in its surrender, decided to settle on some decisions.
Feeling a weird sense of peace, I sat down on a bench and started to type out a simple one year plan on my phone (I could never plan for longer, due to a deep-set fear and respect for fate). I paused, looked at the muddy grass in the empty field around me, and reminded myself that all I’ve ever wanted to do was write. So: I was going to quit my job to “write.” I would stay in LA, and for a whole year, I would give it my best shot, even if that meant completely depleting my savings account. I was finally going to go for it. And it was going to be okay.
Despite this epiphany, I’ve found it difficult to bring the “art” of walking home to Los Angeles. Though there are walkable neighborhoods, when you consider the most “walkable cities,” it just doesn’t make the list. How can I walk in a city that makes me wander under a freeway just to get to Trader Joes? I daydream about moving someplace else, a place where maybe I wouldn’t be able to afford a backyard, but at least I could go to a bar without having to order a Lyft.
But the past few months have been different. The world is different – we’re collectively fighting off a virus! I’ve lost my job, my social life, and my sanity. My weekly schedule is wide open – like wiiiiiiiiide open. And I can only vacuum my apartment so many times.
So, just about every day, I’ve been walking. Walking to absolutely nowhere (after all, there isn’t anywhere to go). Sometimes I follow a specific route. Sometimes I weave aimlessly through my neighborhood, hoping that the time would pass by faster. On a good day, I cruise through audiobooks of the romance/beach read genre, and on harder days, I listen to the Dixie Chicks and pray that my neighbors can’t see the welling tears through my sunglasses.
Walking isn’t very romantic when you’re not on vacation. It’s starting to feel more like a chore – similar to virtual yoga, it’s just another way to ensure that I won’t have to purchase a new size of jeans whenever we have to wear jeans again. I’ve memorized the homes in my neighborhood, and I hate them all.
But then I take a few days off, and I’m reminded of how much I rely on it. I start to crave it again. I need the escape – a scheduled time to breathe air that hasn’t been circulating inside my apartment. A time to let my mind run: Who am I? When will I start to feel normal again? Will there ever be a normal again? Why didn’t I put on sunscreen before exiting the house?
Slowly, but surely, the spaghetti-like blob that is my brain starts to unravel. And I become more aware that I am a living, breathing person rather than just a bunch of feelings inside a head. I don’t type out a plan, because it’s hard to plan for anything these days. But I do thank the walking gods for letting me feel at ease, even if only for an hour or so. I am here, forcing myself to keep moving. And it is going to be okay.