If We Were Having Coffee // Remembering How to Do Things I Don’t Want to Do

Well hello, dear reader. Thank you for stopping by for a bit of caffeine and catching up. I’ve been playing with my old espresso machine again, tweaking the coffee to water ratios and getting closer and closer to the perfect brew. I’m still not there yet, but this one is at least as rich as it should be, even if it isn’t quite as velvety.

I haven’t had much time for coffee chats lately, but I’ve needed them desperately. The last time we met up was Christmas Eve, only two weeks ago but it seems a lot longer than that. Two holidays have passed. I’ve returned to work. I’ve been writing again too. The year has changed, and I think I’ve changed a little along with it. Not as much I as I hoped I would have by now, but less than I am sure I will by this time next week.

“Just coffee. Black – like my soul.”

― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas or New Year’s celebration.

Christmas was spent with family eating good food, drinking, and catching up. I was happy to see the joy my gifts brought the people I loved, and I was delighted to find out how much they knew me by the gifts I received. I know that everyone knows I like coffee and books because I racked up a significant amount of gift card money to both Starbucks and Barnes and Nobel.

For New Year’s Eve, we got together with a few of our closet friends to get fancy and head downtown for a black tie event. I found a lovely maroon velvet jacket to wear, and my girlfriend was gorgeous in an emerald green dress.

We had a lot of fun, and I was happy to start 2018 off surrounded by people who cared about me. I only wish the overnight temperatures hadn’t dipped so low, that Uber hadn’t jacked up their prices, and that the light rail had been running a little more frequently. By the time we made it home my poor lady’s toes were nearly purple.

Happy New Years! #newyearseve #blacktieevent

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had hoped we’d get to ease into 2018 but, wow, this past week was bananas! Half the country is frozen. Our President taunted world leaders on Twitter, again. A Trump tell-all book was published. Then he tried to convince us of his sanity by lashing out and acting completely mental. Oh, and the whole state of California is smoking weed now.

By the end of 2017, I had stopped watching the news, and I felt guilty for not keeping up with what was happening in the world. One week into 2018 I’m ready to give up again. The anxiety I feel every time that man tweets is more than I need in my life. I have my own everyday fears and obstacles to overcome. I shouldn’t have to add nuclear war to the list, and I certainly shouldn’t have to spend my day refreshing social media feeds to find out whether or not nuclear winter is coming.

I’m exhausted already.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that too much of my break was spent watching movies and TV shows, but I regret nothing.

I indulged nostalgia by watching every Harry Potter film again on HBO. Black Mirror season 4 was everything I hoped it would be. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was better than everyone said it was. Dave Chappelle’s Netflix specials were genius. Call Me by Your Name—both the book and the movie—were good but far from great, each in very different ways.

Still, I recommend all of it.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my return to work this week was, well, annoying. It’s hard to get through a week of Christmas preparation, Christmas celebration, a weird waiting period where all you do is drink and eat leftovers, the celebrate a whole new year, and then go back to doing the same old shit you were doing before. I’ve had a hard time readjusting back to my old life. I’m having a hard time remembering how to do things that I don’t want to do.

I could have had more days off if I’d wanted, but living in a capitalist society means I feel guilty when I spend my time resting, reading, or doing whatever the hell else I want instead of making money. All I kept thinking about was how much I make per hour times how many hours I wasn’t at work. I kept a running total in my head of all the things I wouldn’t be able to buy if I didn’t go in. So I did.

At least I was able to do office work and ease back into my work schedule before the kids come back on Tuesday. All in all, it wasn’t bad at all, and all in all, my job is a pretty good one, so I’m not complaining too much. I’m only musing on the weird mental toll having so much time off, and dragging myself back, kicking and screaming, into the real world takes on me.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the highlight of my week, and the reason I didn’t get nearly as much writing done as I wanted to, was finally getting started on a couple of big bookbinding projects.

The first is my new daily journal. Last week I spent a lot more money than I expected on tools and supplies and got all the paper I needed to begin folding and sewing. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted ruled, grid, or plain, so I picked all three and added a few others: dots, and triangles, and hexagons. I printed them on bright fuchsia colored paper in random order so I can be a little freer in the way I write from day-to-day.

I also gathered up all my loose and scrap paper I had been collecting got it all cut and folded into beautiful little imperfect bundles for a new sketchbook. All the pages are different sizes, colors, and textures. Some are proper sketch papers, some are tracing pages, some are from an old graph paper pad, some pages are white, or black, or light blue, or orange.

I guess I’m trying to make little spaces where every day will be a little different. I guess, without realizing it, I am craving a little less structure and a little more freedom.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have got to get going. Time flies when you are having fun, and it’s even faster with all this caffeine in my system. Loads of laundry need washing, more posts need writing, and I am itching to make a little more progress on those projects too.

I hope your year has been off to a better start, and that all the crap that is going on around us hasn’t already made your spirit weary. I hope your resolutions are still going strong. If they aren’t, don’t worry. There is still a lot more year left to go.

Until next time.

There is no you. #makeblackoutpoetry #share

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***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli

Photo by Ben Moore on Unsplash

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Hello 2018 // A Good Year for Dreams to Begin

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I wrote yesterday that ending of a year is a strange time. Of course, there is no difference in who we are or how the rest of the world behaves from December 31st to January 1st, not any more different from any other two days, but something is different though isn’t it. Something about changing the date from 2017 to 2018 changes everything else too.

This morning when I woke I felt a kind of pressure in my chest. I felt full of potential and possibility, and I felt afraid. I didn’t want to explore that feeling. If you don’t acknowledge it, you don’t have to face it right? If you never dare to dream, then you never have to regret your choices or hate yourself for being so cowardly. You never have to try, or fail, or try again and fail again. You can just float through life all the way to the end. Easy peasy.

But what a waste, and I should know, I have been floating along for a very long time. I have been lucky that happiness, for the most part, made its way to me, but lately, I’ve wanted to find a kind of happiness I had gone after myself. I wanted to feel I had earned something.

This year, I need a win! It would feel so good to have something to bring to my family and friends to show them that I wasn’t a loser or a failure. It would be nice to have them feel proud of me. It would be nice to know they didn’t think I was wasting my time. I need to prove that I’m more than a mere dreamer. I want to be a doer too. Maybe I need to believe those things about myself first.

So, I am going to explore that feeling of possibility and potential. I am going to dream big impossible dreams about all the things I want to have and do, and little impossible dreams about what kind of person I want to be deep down inside.

I’ve written a list of 100 dreams that I thought were impossible but aren’t actually impossible at all. It was only that I had convinced myself I couldn’t do because it was too terrifying to imagine a life where I could. Dreaming and trying, focusing and making a real effort, believing in myself and finding the strength to love myself enough not to get lazy, undisciplined, or timid, that is how I will get through my list. This is how I will make my life into the one I’ve wasted all this time dreaming of.

Of course, I can’t tackle all 100 dreams in the short course of one year, but I can start with just a few. Some highlights include:

***

1. Get over my driving phobia
2. Get my driver’s license

This has been on every New Years Resolution list I have made in my adult life, and every year I fail, but going into 2018 I feel closer than ever to getting it done. I have been driving, to and from work, to the store up the street, and around the neighborhood,  up until a little over a week ago. Then the weather turned nasty here, and I didn’t feel ready yet to drive in the snow without having a full on panic attack.

But the roads are all cleared now, and I go back to work tomorrow, so back behind the wheel, I go. I don’t want to lose all that progress, and I don’t want to go on letting everyone, most importantly myself, down. I will get through this by the end of the year. I have to because I can’t keep relying on others to get me where I need to go, and I want to because there are so many places I want to go and things I want to do and driving is the only way to get there.

***

 

***

59. Journal every day
60. Hand make all of my own journals

I already try my best to write in my journal every day, but buying the same old journal, again and again, is sucking the fun out of the habit. It’s boring and monotonous. It’s the same pages every day, with the same number of lines and even if I bought a notebook full of grid or dotted pages they would get just as boring eventually too. Why not pages that were all different? Some ruled, some dotted, some with a hexagon pattern, and some that were completely blank? What about some different color paper, something that pops! Hot pink or bright yellow?

I’ve been looking for a new hobby, something I can do with my hands, in the real world. I want to make something beautiful and useful, and a new journal, one I might enjoy writing in again, sounded like an easy enough place to start.

I found a tutorial by Sea Lemon on YouTube and decided to start making my own journals this year. It feels right that a writer should make their own tools don’t you think? So, a new notebook, and maybe a few notepads, and a pocket notebook, and a planner, and maybe a bullet journal for my sister and if people like them maybe I can make a few more for anyone at all who would like one.

I also have a lot of pages piled up just waiting to be made into a brand new art journal for number 72, “Complete one year of a creative habit.” Then maybe next year I can get to number 52, “Learn to paint with oils or acrylics?”

***

48. Publish a book of essays and poetry

This one is the hard one. This one is what my year will be all about. This one will take discipline, and focus, and hard everyday effort! I’m starting with 400 words a day, no matter what. No matter how tired I am, no matter what else I am doing, no matter how much I don’t want to. 400 words a day that is all I have to do. I don’t have to write something great. It just has to be honest, and it has to be mine.

I’m not trying to get rich, I’m only trying to say something. I plan to self-publish whatever it turns out to be on my own when I am ready, and I will consider the dream realized if I can get 5 whole people, who I don’t know, to buy a copy of the damn thing.

I have other writerly dreams too. Number 46 is “Publish a sci-fi/dystopian fiction novel.” Number 47 is “Publish a graphic novel.” Those are big, and very far away dreams but number 49, “Publish 2 blog posts a week” and number 50, “Publish a zine” feel very doable for 2018, I think.

***

66. Read 30 books a year

This is another repeat resolution. Every year I set a goal of 30 books on Goodreads, and every year I fall short, but by a little less each time. Last year I read 22 books, my best yet. I got stuck a few time on books I didn’t enjoy and out of sheer pride refused to let them win and move on. This year things are a little different. This year I will move on when books aren’t interesting to me, and come back to them when I have the strength to try again. Some books take more than one introduction to click. It has to be the right time for you to meet you know.

I’m also going to work on number 58, “Get a library card.” I had one, many years ago but I checked out more books than I should have once and never got them back, and I’m afraid of how much money I might owe to be allowed the privilege again. But books aren’t cheap, and I don’t have the room to bring a brand new one home to stay every few weeks. I’m also going to give ebooks another chance. Number 67 is “Read more philosophy books,” and I happened to have a list of 135 completely free ones! And when I get tired of those there are many more authors, genres, and topics to turn to, all for free too of course.

***

37. Start running
38. Join a gym, attend regularly
39. Make meditation and yoga a daily habit
40. Become a weekday vegetarian

And finally, finally, I have come to my last resolution, so common and prone to failure I almost chose not to include it, get healthier. I want to start a running habit. It seems like the easiest place to start. Even if I just went once around the block, it would be better than all the couch surfing I am doing now.

Then there is a gym up the street. Walking, or rather, running distance away from my house. If I could prove myself by running every day for a month or two, maybe I could trust myself with a gym membership. I could cycle, take classes, I wonder if they have yoga? And then, I could take the two nights a week I don’t eat meat and make it 5 days a week. A weekday vegetarian doesn’t seem so hard.

As you can see, I’m trying to take it easy and make small improvements to my routine. Too many people try for a 30-minute hardcore workout every day of the week with a goal weight and a brand new radical diet. I have no goal weight, and I have no diet restrictions, as of now. I’m just going to try, and if I can just do that much, I can’t fail.

***

One hundred dreams feels like a lot, and I doubt the list could be completed in one lifetime. I doubt I would want to complete it. There are things on there I may want to do now, but five years from now or more I might change my mind. So, the list is a dynamic one. Not only will I be crossing things off, but I’ll be tweaking, and adding, and deleting from them too.

Hell, the list isn’t even finished yet! I made it to 85 things before the ball dropped last night and I thought I’d give myself some time to figure out the last 15. There is no rush after all. I have my whole life to figure it out, I only have to remember that lives tend never to last as long as we hope they will. I have time, but I better get started, and no time is better than the first day of a brand new year.

But what about you? Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Do you believe they can actually work? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

― Neil Gaiman

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Check out my complete list of 100 Dreams, or what I have so far anyway and if you make one yourself, feel free to drop the link in the comments so everyone can check it out.

Featured photo is by Josh Boot on Unsplash

Currently // December 2017: Nothing Has Changed, but Everything is Different

The ending of a year is always a strange time, but ending this particular year is quite a bittersweet thing. This past year was full of disappointments, death, and shocking setbacks but so many of us learned so much about ourselves and the world around us, and we came together! We grew stronger! And we’ll grow stronger still. A new year might be starting, but the same old work has to be done. So much has changed, but so much is still the same too. We have to bring 2017 into 2018 with us, as much as it hurts and as hard as it is.

With that in mind, while I have quite a few resolutions—big and small, personal and more worldly too—for the coming year, I only have one intention, to make an effort, to keep making an effort, every single day. No one really believes that these new year’s resolutions work because we give in, give up, and let it go until another year ends and another year begins, and we try to try again. But why waste so much time? Three months from now, when the effort gets hard, and the missteps start adding up, don’t give up.

I won’t give up. I will start again, a new me with renewed effort.  Every day is a new chance to start over. Every day I can be a new me, not just once, not just at the start, because there is no start, and the end was all in your head. You, I, we, we have to start looking at this a little differently. Discipline, focus, effort, those are the words we have to bring with us into the new year.

But first, here is what I am currently:

Writing slowly. Starting this year, I will be trying a new way to write. I am going to try word counts. I’ve never been good at them because on days when I don’t want to write it feels like torture and when writing feels like torture I write crap. But, I’m wondering if 400 words of crap might be better than no words at all. So, I’m starting with 400 a day of words that aren’t for this blog. It’s not a lot, but if I start with 750 or 1000, I’ll fail by January 31st. I’m going to start slow and give myself a chance to make a real habit of writing again. Slow and steady through 2018 is the goal.

Making a new journal, and some other bookbinding and paper goodies. I love writing by hand. Every day I fill in two pages of my Moleskine large ruled notebook, but I’m coming to the last pages of this one. As much as I love this brand, it’s pretty boring to look at, so, I’ve decided instead of buying another, I’m making my own, and I plan to make it very interesting. In the process of researching how to do it, I came across a lot of tutorials and inspiring examples that made me want to try other things, notepads, pocket notebooks, planners, etc. I need to make something with my hands and, loving words, and reading, and paper the way that I do, bookbinding feels like a good place to start.

Anticipating  So much pop culture goodness in 2018. There’s going to be some amazing movies dropping: Black Panther in February, A Wrinkle in Time in March, and Solo: A Star Wars Story in May, and the TV shows: A Handmaid’s Tale, and the return of Westworld, plus Game of Thrones, and maybe Atlanta. Oh, and the winter Olympics!

I’m also looking forward to the 2018 midterm election with great enthusiasm and anxiety. I’m hoping for a blue wave to wash across this country and cleanse the bad taste left in my mouth from the last round. I’m hoping we can take back our dignity and have faith once again, for the first time, in our institutions. I’m hoping the course can be corrected and compassion will return to Congress, for the first time, too.

Reading The Oresteia by Aeschylus. A trilogy of Greek tragedies—“Agamemnon,” “The Libation Bearers” and “The Eumenides”—that follows members of House of Atreus through murder, revenge, and eventually the end of a family curse. Apparently, it is the only surviving example of such a play and considered Aeschylus’s best work. I had never heard of it before but instead chose it from the many used books I won from Macrolit.

I didn’t hit my goal of 30 books this year, I only read 22, but it’s better than the year before and I plan to do even better in 2018. I’ve set another goal of 30 books, but I’m secretly hoping to read 40. I’ve carved out 30 minutes of every afternoon to read, and if I feel up to it, I can read before bed too. I’ll be getting a new library card, and trying ebooks again too to remove any financial obstacles. 30 books, no excuses!

Watching Black Mirror season 4 on Netflix. I have waited all year for this show. To be honest, I binged it in two days, and I’m already done, but it was so good I plan to watch it all again. The wait was worth it and not for a second did I feel let down. The” San Junipero” episode will always have a special place in my heart but some of this seasons came close to topping it. I highly recommend it! I’ve also finished The Crown, and I’m working my way through Planet Earth II.

Learning nothing right now. In the latter half of the year, I let learning go. My goal had been to watch a new Crash Course episode every day, work on a little math, and complete the International Health and Human Rights course on Coursera, but I didn’t get to any of it. So, I’m trying to start again. I’m trying to come up with a plan. I love learning, and I never want to let myself think I have done enough, learned all I needed to, or that knowledge and learning are not a top priority in my life.

Feeling a lot less stressed now that the holidays are over but also more stressed because some big changes are coming around the corner. My mother is moving in with us again, we’re fixing up the house, and we are getting married, I’ve been driving and slowly getting over this phobia so I can get my license in the next few months. After all that there will be school and maybe, possibly, talks about finally expanding this little family of ours. I feel like my life is going to begin soon, for real this time, and I am so happy and scared.

Needing a little love and patience, now more than ever. My anxiety has been worse, and depression is only barely being kept at bay. I’m doing my best to be strong and face my fears and my future and to do while working with my partner rather than against her. We need one another. We’ve made so much progress together this year, and I want us to keep going. We have to remember to love each other and be patient with each other, no matter what! We’re both flawed, but we’re both good, and smart, and creative, and worth every frustrating moment and every ounce of strength it takes to listen, communicate, and compromise too.

Loving that this year I will get to ring in the New Year in style, surrounded by my friends and my girlfriend. Not that there is anything wrong with easing into another year, but we’ve done that, and as nervous as I am to look nice, and have fun, and not make a fool of myself tonight, it feels good to do something different. It feels good to know that I will be with people. I’ll have people who like and care for me with me, and I’ll have complete strangers too. People I don’t know and may have nothing at all in common with except that we are alive right now and got to see another day, together. It’s beautiful. Plus there will be an open bar!

Hating how these little breaks from work never seem to be enough. The weekends aren’t enough either. I want so much more time to enjoy the things I love, my family, my friends, my hobbies, and my pets, but I’m always kept away by work and by trying to find work that can get me out of this work. I hate that this is just the way that the world works. That we all have to spend so much time doing things that don’t make us feel good just to keep a roof and a bit of food. My job isn’t the worst, but it isn’t what I love. It isn’t what I wish I were doing. It isn’t for a lot of you I am guessing, and I just think it’s all such a sad shame.

Hoping that in 2018 we can all find a way to spend a little more time doing things we love, without guilt or fear. Work is a reality, but it doesn’t have to be all there is. It shouldn’t be all there is. There can be hobbies, and side hustles, and small joys all your own. Ones that you make happen and that no one can take from you. I hope you find some, make some, and share some too. I’m going to make things, and write things, and put more of myself out there for you to meet. I’m going to learn to say no to people and help others to say it too. I am going to learn to say yes, and hell yes, to myself as much as possible too.

All in all, this year was a batshit crazy one, and I am 100% sure 2018 will be just as batshit crazy or worse, but I’m here, and I am happy, despite it all. I hope this year was good to you, and if it wasn’t, I hope 2018 will be full of fresh starts and all the healing energy you need. I will post a proper list of resolutions and goals in the coming days, and if I feel up to it we may have a little coffee chat later too, but if I don’t see you, please, stay safe out there and remember that tomorrow you will be a the same you that you were today, only new.

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

The inspiration for this posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured photo is by Luke Hodde on Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Hello dear readers and thank you for stopping by the night before Christmas for a bit of coffee and catching up, or if you prefer, a cup of velvety hot chocolate, or a hot toddy. I will have all three if you don’t mind. It is Christmas Eve after all, and I am at home, enjoying the last of the peace and quiet I will have for another day or two and the first I’ve had in a lot longer. And that is why, despite all I still have left to do, I wanted to take a few minutes to catch up with you.  Because you, dear reader, always calm me and help me place the world into a more manageable perspective.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that today we are doing as close to absolutely nothing as we possibly can. We planned a large brunch for just the two of us, a lunch of just about every snack food we have in the house, and a seafood dinner of crab, shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes. Something a little different for just the two of us. In addition, we’ve had a few mimosas, some gin and tonics, and very soon, a spiked hot chocolate, and a maybe hot toddy before bed. As you can imagine, I am thoroughly enjoying Christmas Eve.

We’ve been outside letting the dog play in the snow while we shoveled, and giving her new toys and treats all day. The cat has gifts too, but she’s decided to spend the day snoozing so she’ll get them later I suppose.

The rest of the day was spent on the couch watching Christmas movies and a few episodes of The Crown. I’ve tried to do some writing but all this holiday stress has chased my thoughts away, and all this drink and laziness has kept my hand still and the cursor blinking in place. Even my journal lays neglected and has since Friday afternoon. But I must get moving, and there is no better place to start than here.

Soon I’ll have to get up. I have to make cookies, to wrap the gifts we have to give, and cook for a dish for brunch with my family tomorrow morning. After brunch, we’ll be off to see my girlfriend’s family for dinner and the rest of the evening, and it’ll finally be over, mostly.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I even though I hate the holidays I do wish there was more time to celebrate all the people  I love in my life. I saw my cousin and friends last night for game night, I’ll see my dad on Tuesday for dinner and Star Wars. The rest of the week will be spent getting my face and outfit together for the big (expensive) New Years bash downtown with friends.

And then, it will finally be over, and I promise I’ll do it better next year.

There were people I forgot to buy things for, and too much was planned and bought last-minute. I didn’t get the tree up, I didn’t get the lights out, and I wasted too much time on indecision and anxiety. I did better than last year, and for that I am proud, and I never let myself forget what the season meant to represent, and that has helped.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that it’s getting late and I have stalled as much as I can. I have to cook, and bake, and wrap the gifts now. I have to get my clothes out and clean some of this mess up. I have to finish off this wine and get the hot toddies started too, and then I have to get to bed because it will take all the energy I have, and a lot more coffee, to make it through the day.

I hope you’ve had a good weekend. I hope that all your careful planning and preparation you’ve done makes for a perfect holiday and all that stressing and worrying will prove to have been for nothing. Most of all I hope you feel loved and connected to the community around you. That is what the holidays are for are they not?

Have a very Merry Christmas, and if we don’t see each other until then, a Happy New Year.

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // Just One Week to Go!

Hello dear readers! Thank you for stopping by for a bit of coffee and conversation. I know it’s late again, but I decided to wait until after I did my Christmas shopping this time. I didn’t want to feel so rushed, and I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood for chatting before such a stressful activity. But I’m done now, and I am happy to say I’ve made considerable progress. Just a couple of gift cards and a trip to the post office to go and I’m done!

So, I think it’s time for a reward. A nice cup of cold brew, a cookie or two, and a chance to catch up with you.

“I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.”

— Howard Schultz

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m once again trying to work through my extreme fear of driving. I’ve tried before, many times over the years, but my anxiety makes excuses and may need to avoid my fear is so intense I simply don’t think about it, until I have to.

My girlfriend always drops me off at work, and a friend who lives close by was taking me home. The arrangement wasn’t ideal, but it kept me from having to face my fears. Lately, though, my girlfriend’s job is taking up more and more of her time, and this week my friend’s crapped out beyond repair.

Now I’m just getting rides where I can and using Uber when I have to, but it’s hard being such a burden to everyone and spending so much money when I only live 15 minutes away. It’s not just getting to and from work though. Dealing with this phobia all these years has left me feeling like only half a human. I feel low, broken, stupid, and trapped. There is so much I haven’t been able to do because I can’t get around easily or timely, and I’m tired.

The impact on my self-worth and my relationship has become more than I can handle. I am still afraid, but I’ve got to get out there and try. Yesterday I had a breakthrough. I drove to Target and parked, next to another actual car. We went shopping, and then I drove us home, at night. I did it without hitting anything and without crying, not even once.

Tomorrow, and all this week, I’m going to drive to work, and in the evening I am going to drive home. I am going to drive to work, and I am going to drive home. I am going to drive to work, and I am going to drive home. I am going to drive to work, and I am going to drive home…

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m actually looking forward to this work week. It’s going to be an easy one, and it is the last one before I get two whole weeks off from work. I might even get Thursday afternoon and all of Friday off. I don’t think my boss is too happy to give it to me, but since it won’t count against me and I have plenty of writing to do, I’m taking it.

Speaking of writing, if we were having coffee I would tell you that I have been making a lot of progress on my project. I even told In Real Life people about it! I never tell In Real Life people anything about my writing, which, I suppose, is another fear I should try to get over soon. One thing at a time Lisa. One thing at a time. Anyway, I have two pages of notes now, one more than I had last week, and this week I’d like to end with four.

More and more I am letting myself hope that this thing might be a real book one day. Not the book. Not the one I set out to write when I first let myself dream to be a writer, but it’s a book. It’s an important book. It’s what I need to write, and I hope, God I really hope, that other people might need it too.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had a good reading week too. I finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. It wasn’t an easy read by it was really good.

A friend loaned it to me after he found out I hadn’t read it and I hadn’t seen the movie, Blade Runner, either. I read it quickly so I could return before I ruined it and he gave it back. He said I could keep it and then he bought me Blade Runner too! Which was also really good…if I pretend I saw it for the first time in 1982. Maybe this coming weekend I’ll check out the sequel, Blade Runner 2049.

I also finished Things Are What You Make of Them by Adam J. Kurtz, which was also really good. It’s one of those books I’m going to keep on my desk, so I can come back to it whenever I start to doubt myself or lose direction.

Next up I’ll be reading Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman. It isn’t the usual kind of book I would choose to read but my girlfriend read it, and she wants me to read it too so we can talk about i. When I’m finished, we’ll be seeing the film version too.

Oh, and I finally watch Mother! on Saturday night. I’d wanted to see it in theaters when it was released, but the reviews were so blah I decided to wait in case it was bad and I might feel I’d wasted my money. I was wrong, and I totally should have seen it in theaters. It’s good, but only if you get it and once you get it, it’s fucking genius. Jennifer Lawrence is now my favorite actress for this, seriously.

***

If we were having coffee, I would apologize for keeping you up so late. I’ve been distracted by housework and the TV. I’m glad got to catch up with you though. I wouldn’t want to miss a coffee chat with you the weekend before Christmas.

I hope you’ve got your gifts bought and your dinner plans in order. I hope you won’t have to work so much and that your stress levels stay within healthy and manageable levels. If I get busy, and I don’t see you before the holiday, I hope you get everything you wanted, and you are surrounded by people you love to share it with.

Take care of yourselves, okay?

Until next time.

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli

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What I Learned from // The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

“Dr. Armonson stitched up her wrist wounds. Within five minutes of the transfusion he declared her out of danger. Chucking her under the chin, he said, “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.”

And it was then Cecilia gave orally what was to be her only form of suicide note, and a useless one at that, because she was going to live: “Obviously, Doctor,” she said, “you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

In his debut novel, The Virgin Suicides Jeffrey Eugenides tells the story of the beautiful, strange, and mysterious Lisbon sisters. The girls Cecilia (13), Lux (14), Bonnie (15), Mary (16), and Therese (17) live in Nowhere, Suburbia—AKA Grosse Pointe, Michigan—in the 70s under the ever watchful eye of their mother and the timid parenting of their father. We watch them through the eyes and memories of the neighborhood boys who have become, and will forever be, obsessed with them.

Through carefully cataloged bits of evidence and eyewitness interviews, the boys present us with what they know. They know a lot, but it turns out it isn’t enough to have saved the sisters and certainly not enough to explain why they did it. Suicide may seem a grim topic for a novel about teenagers and love, but Eugenides gives us enough distance from the trauma to see what his characters cannot.

The book was a dream to read, but it’s taken me a long while to wrap my head around what exactly Eugenides was trying to tell me. The style is unique, written from the perspective of the boys years later, still obsessed with their investigation into the lives of these three young women. Their ordered presentation of evidence and testimony drew me in, and I became just as obsesses with the Lisbon girls as they were, but what I learned is that this story is not about the Lisbon girls.

“We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides is the story of boys growing into men who know that women aren’t mysteries to solve or beautiful objects to pursue and possess, they are people. They have dreams and needs, and they experience emotional pain. They are complex, cunning, and sexual. They are no more mysterious than any man is too another man. Look at them, at us, as human beings, and you will see.

I suppose most boys have little reason to consider the growth and development of young girls. There is no reason to care whether a girl’s inner world is as rich and lively as their own, but maybe that should change. Maybe it already has, but thinking back on my own experience of teenage boys much more recently than the 70s I find many reasons to doubt that. Some boys loved me, wanted me, and who were very sweet in their efforts to show me that, but I never felt truly seen by them.

These boys also learn that even when you love someone, if you can’t see them as whole human beings you can’t even begin to save them.That kind of love is, at best, useless, and at worst, self-serving and harmful. This is the way men often love women and how parents often love their children. It comes from thinking that your experience of a person is all there is to a person. It comes from never considering that women and children (and gays, and transgender people, and people of color, and elderly people, and disabled people) are more than one-dimensional and that the solutions they seek may be complicated.

The system failed them, the school, the neighborhood, their parents, and ultimately the boys who loved them too but it was all a metaphor for the many people, men, and women, young and old, are failed by the people who love them and the systems mean to save them too. The Virgin Suicides is about our collective aversion to dealing with issues of mental illness and abuse.

“They said nothing and our parents said nothing, so we sensed how ancient they were, how accustomed to trauma, depressions, and wars. We realized that the version of the world they rendered for us was not the world they really believed in, and for all their caretaking and bitching about crabgrass they didn’t give a damn about lawns.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

We would rather pretend it doesn’t happen and hope it goes away, and when we can’t do that, we resort to empty gestures and shallow, often selfish acknowledgment. When that doesn’t work, we try anger. We shame and blame and force the ugliness away from us so we can pretend again.

And suicide isn’t the only issue we would rather not face. Poverty, sexism, isolation, religion, humans are always finding new ways to avoid what hurts, embarrasses, or confuses. We find more and more mundane and pointless things to focus on to leave as little time left to consider life’s unanswerable questions. We let people who can’t conform slip through the cracks because it’s easier that way but what we can’t see is the devastation under the thin and shining lie.

The truth is we can’t ever escape the ugly parts of ourselves and our lives. I would bet each of us has our own catalog of evidence and eyewitness accounts of every pain we lived through. We carry it with us wherever we go. Maybe it’s time we presented it too and admitted we know nothing at all.

“What lingered after them was not life, which always overcomes natural death, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

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At Least the Thorns Grow Roses

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”

— Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

There is no doubt that this past year has been a hard one. Were more divided than ever and growing increasingly exhausted by the repetition of disagreements and offenses. We all just want to be heard. We want to be a little happier. We want it all to be a little easier already, and somehow, in our warped minds, we’ve decided instead to go on making the world more horrible and then to give up on it, and each other. We’ve grown collectively cynical. We’ve resigned ourselves to a permanent state of outrage and hopelessness about everything.

It should change, but it won’t. We could change it, but we won’t. We want to be better, but we can’t. It’s too late. I’m too tired. I hate you, and that and I don’t care to deal with it. It’s not my problem. It’s not my place. Nothing is going to change anyway. That’s just the way the world works. Life sucks, and then you die, and I’m just here to make a buck, make a name, and leave.

That’s how I feel sometimes. That’s how a lot of people I know feel too. Every day they wake up, go to jobs they hate, eat food that doesn’t make them feel good, and fill up on coffee to get through. Then they go home to spouses they forgot how to love, watch shows they don’t even like, avoid the news because it makes them angry even though they have no idea why. They go to bed too late even though they have to wake up too early the next day and do it all over again.

They get sad, they get lonely, and no one cares. They want things, need things, and no one cares. They want to do more, and no one will let them. The last time they were happy, truly happy, was grade school and even then, now that they think about it, that wasn’t such a great time either.

Nothing good has happened to them since, and now they can’t imagine anything good happening ever again. There are no miracles, and the bad guys always win. Dreams don’t come true and happily ever after is a lie. So what’s the point?

I don’t have an answer for that friends. I wish I did because I am struggling just as much as you. I have so much doubt and fear, and there are days when I envy those who were never conceived. They never have to deal with being a person, and they never have to deal with disappointment or death. But, most days, I don’t feel that way. Most days, I can see that even though life is hard and painful, its beautiful too.

Most days I’m happy to be here, to breath, to laugh, to eat good food, and to be among other people. Most days I can remember that I am loved and that things are just as good as they are bad. I can see I am lucky, to have a job I hate and a home that needs so much work, and friends who get busy but still care about me. I can see I am lucky to be in love and to have a chance to grow old with someone, even if it means a life of little frustrations, misunderstandings, and mistakes. Life has books, and sunshine, and puppies, and the smell of honeysuckle, and the taste of barbecue ribs and creme brûlée. Life has science, and history, and good people fighting every day to make it better.

We can all join that fight by learning to love life again. When you love life, when you can see all the good there is in it, you can see that it’s worth making better for everyone. You have to see the roses!

That doesn’t mean you should ignore the thorns. This world is certainly going to shit. You have certainly fucked up and failed. The universe is wholly indifferent to your needs or pleas. There will be no breaks, and what you have you have only out of pure chance and hard, dirty work. It will go on like this, people burning down their one home in the universe and burning bridges with the ones they ought to love, and you will be no exception.

But as embarrassing, confusing, and terrifying as a human life is, it’s the most beautiful thing there is. All of it. Look outside right now, the sun, the trees, the people walking here and there, it’s all beautiful. You are lucky to get a chance to see it at all. You are lucky to be so angry and afraid. You are lucky to be here, to love to laugh, to run, and to shout how much you love, hate, or damn it all to hell.

It could be worse, there could be nothing but pain. It could be a hell of a lot better too if we tried. If we looked around and found less reason to be angry and hateful. Imagine if we all found less time to complain and more time to change. Let’s try it. This week just acknowledging that yes, a whole lot of all of this life is shit, but a whole lot of it is good, and right, and rich, and gorgeous, and fucking amazing to be a part of too.

The thorns hurt. People hurt, life hurts, we even hurt ourselves, oh, but the roses! The roses in all their colors and sweet smells. The feeling you get of seeing one, and the face of the lover you give one to are all well worth a few scrapes and scratches if you ask me.

Life isn’t fair. Not one of us was promised a rose garden, and we certainly shouldn’t take for granted that we were given one despite everything. It’s no one’s fault but ours that we never tended it and it’s no one’s fault but ours that what we’re left with if more pain than pretty. But we can fix it. We can care for what we have and do the hard work of growing more.

“The rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorns.”

— Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash