Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Big Sur Weekend // Where them girls at (girls at)?

I had the lovely fortune of spending last weekend in the Big Sur/Monterey area on a much-needed getaway.

The women I went with are several of my favorite California friends -- these ones I got to know most specifically via book club. BOOK CLUB. How often do we actually talk about the books? Debatable. But I can say that these monthly meetings (and increasingly frequent social interactions in between) have been my sanity saver this past year. It is my safe place in so many ways.

I've always been lucky in the girlfriends department, but I didn't always gravitate toward an overabundance of girl time earlier in my life. Frankly, it's because, clearly, there are no boys at girl time. And how am I supposed to meet fellas and woo them into loving me if I'm spending all my time hanging with the ladies? But I feel like the older I get, the more I'm starting to value the female relationships in my life. They've always been important to me, but I can feel my appreciation for this aspect of life growing more and more with time. It's a balance.

This weekend, we grabbed ourselves an Airbnb reservation at the most adorable house stuffed full of plants, colorful decor, inspirational quotes galore and a piano (!). We filled our time with a gorgeous oceanside hike, eating our weight in sour gummy worms (was that just me?), and life chats about everything from work to religion to men to feminism to angsty 90s music to racial tensions in America. I love conversations both rambly and deep and both. It fills the soul.

To be fair, I've also been lucky to have several menfolk friends over the years that are near and dear to my heart, but the presence of female friendships is an irreplaceable facet of my life. And the great thing about female friends is that I can generally avoid the complications of dating that sometimes tangle up my cross-gender friendships. And since I tend to get closest with undramatic women (see: no mean girls allowed), I find that my female friend circles are wildly drama free in comparison to some of the angst I've seen go down in other people's lives. Why complicate a thing like friendship? It's nice when we all play nice.

Anyway. Here's to my girls....both the ones from this weekend, the rest of the ones in California, the ones back in Arizona, the ones I've met via blogging, the ones from college and before and beyond.....here's to all of you. Five stars, two thumbs up, 200 points to Gryffindor....you get the picture. Hashtag all the prizes.

Now on to the pictures from last weekend so we can all be aware that the nasty rent prices in the Bay Area come with some really great perks. Please note that a good number of the photos have no filter on them, because sometimes the earth really is just that amazeballs all on its own.

^^^ yes, that would be toasted marshmallow topping on my ice cream, blowtorched before my very eyes at this place in Santa Cruz. AMEN

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Business of Aging

I saw a movie last night that was pretty "eh" to me but did make me think a little.

It was called While We're Young and told the story of a couple in their early 40s whose friends are all having babies (RELATABLE), so they kind of have this midlife crisis and start hanging out with young hipsters. Anyway, the movie had some great moments and then some really "wha?" parts and didn't really leave me with a clear message or point. So don't take this as a recommendation lest you get bored and blame me.

But the parts of the movie I did like were all the parts about coming to grips with aging. This is something I've thought about in daydreamy moments lately. 

I'm only 28. I hardly feel old, as a whole -- it's more like I'm recognizing that every year gets me closer to being "old" (whatever number that is) and it just kind of bleeds in subtly, unannounced, when you aren't looking. I feel too old for some things, here and there. Like when I want to go home early from parties to sleep or curl up with a book/TV show. (See: Veronica Mars DVDs these days. Any fans out there? I'm a first-timer and it's totally my speed so far.) And also, the last time I went to a rock concert, in October (the fact that it's been that long is an aging sign in and of itself for me) it took me like 24 hrs to recover from a night of standing/dancing in a sweaty crowd until a very late hour. Am I losing my edge?

And there's all the good parts of aging, like losing my tolerance for dead-end situations or relationships that I so easily gave too much time/emotional energy to when I was a little younger. The good parts like learning to take care of myself and recognizing dysfunction when I see it. And learning to not add dysfunction or unwarranted criticism/ego to other people's lives, myself, when it's better that I just bite my tongue and let someone else be right or learn things on their own instead of trying to insert my opinions. Always working on that one. Maybe I'll officially declare myself old and wise if I ever fully get there.

Or there was also the time recently, when in a fit of "I need to meet new people and I hate online dating so so so much every time I try it," I checked out local meetup.com groups.....and ended up joining a local Scrabble group. From the looks of things, the age difference between me and most other attendees can be measured in decades. It's not unappealing, but will likely do nada for my entropic dating life. Never say never? Shrug. We'll see if I go. I do own my own Scrabble board that I found at Goodwill.

Those meetup.com groups might go better for my dating life if my hobbies weren't Scrabble, crossword puzzles, thrift store shopping, cross stitching and the occasional bout of knitting. I also really like watching Antiques Roadshow? And croquet? 

I'm not special-unicorn-brained enough to think I'm the ONLY person my age who's into these sorts of traditionally geriatric things. And I'm also not silly-brained enough to think that I have to have the exact same things in common with people to want to hang out with them.

I think my point is that there is a certain....slowing down....to growing up, and that I can feel it more and more here and there these days. It just kind of strikes me in quiet moments now and again.

For my 28th birthday, I wished for steadiness. So far so good, with the new stable job I just started. Things feel very calm in a lot of my life arenas. And it is delicious, in a lazy front porch, warm summer evening kind of way. Which is one of my favorite kinds of ways. Toss in a little tank-top wearing and roof-sitting with stars to look at, fireflies and a little humidity in the air and I'm golden.

Tangents. Anyway.

I think while I was watching that lukewarm movie last night, it just reminded me of my own moments lately where I can feel the calming, even current of growing up. And sometimes that hits me with a side dish of panic that "time is running out; am I doing everything I want to be doing??" Because yeah, I feel that like anyone else. I know that biological clocks are ticking and bodies only stay in youthful condition so long, and that the dating pool does in fact get thinner and more difficult the older you get. That's no joke. And sometimes that makes me antsy and I worry I'm going to look back one day and realize I ran out of time to do important things that I should have done while the opportunities were still ripe for the picking. Because there's just one life, you know? Just one chance at it. Just one story to write. No going back and redoing any of it.

But then again, life is joy. And I'm human enough to have those life crisis moments sometimes, but also "me" enough to ultimately just settle back on that emotional rooftop and keep on soaking in the contentedness of a warm summer night firefly season of life. The kind of season where things aren't exactly perfect if you think too hard, but they're not bad by any means either if you can just tune out some of the buzzing. And as long as life will let me keep taking it one workday, lazy weekend morning and/or adventure at a time, I'll just keep moseying along with it for now. Because like I said, no more fighting. Unless it's the good kind of fighting for the good kind of things. Not now. Just that steadiness. And maybe a crossword puzzle or Scrabble game or two. You know.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Life is Joy

One of my favorite things in life are those delicious moments when I pause in the middle of whatever I'm doing and realize how HAPPY I feel.

Happy, content, brimming, sparkling. All that jazz. Just those moments where I'm suddenly hit by how GOOD life can feel and think sunshine might burst out of my pores. Sometimes it's when I'm on my way to meet up with friends I really care about, sometimes it's during a life phase when I feel passionate about my career and am working someplace that feels like a good fit, sometimes it's when I'm on my way to a service project I'm pumped about, sometimes it's just as simple as being happy it's Friday night and I have something good to watch on Netflix.

It's like a feeling that no bad things (exist though they may) can bring me down, for a few minutes or hours, or days if I'm lucky :)

I've had several of those moments lately. Just while I'm driving down the road, or as I've settled in at my new job, or when I'm looking forward to a couple upcoming small weekend trips (or daydreaming about bigger travels I've yet to plan down the line), or when I'm texting with friends I care a lot about and giggles are bursting out of me in public places.

But when I say life feels joyous, I actually don't mean "devoid of conflict." Maybe I just mean...whole.

I read this quote once that I love, about how overall happiness/joy isn't the absence of pain, but rather the conglomeration of ALL emotions. And yeah, having anger/betrayal/sadness/grief as elements of my life now and then can mean bad days or afternoons or weeks sometimes. But that's just a part of the whole.

Look, I found the quote:
“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying 'write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep,' and 'cheer up' and 'happiness is our birthright' and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say 'Quick! Move on! Cheer up!' I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word 'happiness' and to replace it with the word 'wholeness.' Ask yourself 'is this contributing to my wholeness?' and if you’re having a bad day, it is.” -Hugh Mackay
In those moments I described at the beginning, the ones where I am overwhelmingly content, it's not so much that all things are inherently GOOD – it's more that things are FULL. It's like there are all kinds of different emotions running through my veins and just pumping me full of life and all its many facets.

Because for every ecstatic phone call with a dear friend that sloshes me full of happy giggles, there are also more days than I'd like lately where my health has been less great than I want to be, or my body has random aches and pains that I wish would heal up already (I'm looking at you, creaky achilles tendons). And for every "my new job is amazing so far" moment I've had this week, I've had handfuls of sadness for a boy I miss very much but feel like the decision to do anything about it is out of my hands. So I put down the phone and say nothing when I want to say everything, and try to quiet the inevitable "what other girl does he want more and what does she have that I'm lacking" voices that flood my mind on long nights or quiet mornings. I am certain you all feel me on that one, because we've all been there. It's a rotten part of life but it is life. I know this. So onward the little heart marches, with trust that, like other letdowns before, this one will also pass eventually and just be a dot back along the road.

My point is, life is not perfect. It's not flawless or without hard emotions, and it has required hard work and risk and patience from me to get several of the best things I have going for me right now. My life is incredible and blessed and lucky in so many ways; I'm not naive to that when I read the news or books about other peoples' struggles and life situations.

But mostly, my life is FULL. And my life is HONEST. And to me, that adds up to joy. Cracks and crevices and pretty parts and all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Paint With All the Colors of the Wind, etc.

Sometime last year, I fell in love with paint by numbers.

My life was in a bit of tumult at the time. More than a bit. Lots o' stuffs in my head and a lot of tongue biting and lip chewing and figuring out what words and when and if and so on and so forth.

Just ignore that sentence if it made no sense.

So one day I was at Michael's......not a man's house, the craft store. Don't you get any salacious ideas about my after-school activities.

Relevant side note: I don't even go to school. A middle-aged man asked me recently if I go to school. I get asked that question about once a month. Probably because I have the face of a 17-year-old. When I had braces, 4 years ago, (for the second time), I got asked that question probably once a week. Except, they currently ask about college, and during Adult Braces Season they usually asked about high school. Well, I think they ask about college now. I haven't clarified. Maybe sometime I'll just say "yes" instead of "no, I work"....at which point they actually probably wonder if I dropped out to work at a fro yo shop or the local grocery store. Or, start a billion-dollar company with no degree because #SiliconValleyProblems. Teen dropouts, man.

Or maybe I work at Michael's. The craft store. Not a man's house. I do not work at a man's house. But I could hang out there. Because I am of age to date men. Except when I was 24 and had braces.

Michael's. I honestly can't remember what I was there for. Halloween costume stuff? That feels likely.

Anyway, I bought a paint-by-number. It was a wolf. And you know what? The finished piece looks like....a cheesy paint by number of a wolf. It is nothing fancy. In fact, it's tucked in a drawer and not hanging up anywhere because....well because it is clearly a paint-by-number. Or I don't know, maybe some deeper philosophical thing about "this hobby is for me and me alone, not the rest of the world to see!"

Which isn't true, because I'm showing it to you right now:

What I like most about this whole paint-by-number business is that it is incredibly...still...for me.

It's like meditation. You know when else I feel that way? Completely absorbed in what I'm doing, just focused and relaxed and kind of out-of-body all at once? Infrequently, is the answer. But one answer from the short list: when I play the piano. And as I discovered recently, when I'm doing a paint-by-number. (Is that damn word hyphenated? I can't decide. I-can't-decide. Eff.) (E-f-f.)

Few activities can make me single-task. It's like a blissful euphoria that is sort of an escape but sort of not, because I actually DO think about my real life during those times. I'm just...sorting through it calmly rather than fretting about it or anxiously tugging on my earlobe (hey there's an insight into my life – I tug on my earlobes when I'm anxious....what if they get really long and weird someday?) (oh wait that happens when you get old anyway. I'M JUST AHEAD OF MY TIME)

I'm capable of making very calm, rational decisions after both a long piano playing sesh and paint-by-numbering. I'm tired but rejuvenated, and just peaceful enough that I feel recklessly brave and diplomatic. That's a good state to be in for dealing with conflict. It helps me say things that need to be said in a very nice and straightforward way. I should probably start all my days with these activities. Piano playing and paint-by-numbering errrry morning! In my underwears! (Just tacking on extra life bonuses like "no pants" while I'm at it.)

Did you know I've played the piano since I was like....4? 5? Something in there. That's longer than I've done anything in my life other than being alive. And walking. And eating? OK let's not get technical. Anyway, I'll write more about the piano another day.

This post is about paint by numbers. Paint-by-numbers. paintbynumbersz3

I think what that silly wolf did for me, last fall, is best described as...centering. It made me feel centered. It opened my head like a little zen garden and raked all the sand up nice and put the mental little black rocks in a neat little row. I took it on a plane to my parents' house and started painting it in their living room in Arizona, then finished it back here in California. I'd sit and paint for hours until my body cramped from being in one position. This color in that spot, that color in that one. Law & Order or whatever rolling in the background. I'm not independently artistic (really – my little sisters paint theatre sets for their jobs and I'm over here like "how do you make a cow not look like a dog"), so I liked that this was simple for me to get right.

My next quest in life is to find paint-by-numberszsd43 that are actually pretty and not cheesy cottages with cheesy lawn chairs by a cheesy lake. (A lake made of cheese actually sounds like a grade-A idea. Someone find me one please kthx) I've yet to find many PBNs (see how hip I am with my abbreviations?) on the Internetsz that interest me. Actually, I'd like one of Florence because FLORENCE! And Iceland; be still my forever-homesick-for-Iceland soul. Or, I don't know, Andrew Garfield's face (with a beard). So if anyone knows of any. Perhaps. Maybe. Tell me.

The end.