Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Connecting the Dots

Pivotal moments of my writing life are linked to three specific people. Ex pushed me to dust off the pen and start this blog. Alaska urged me to stretch myself, thereby landing me in graduate school. And this charming, nameless guy who was nothing more than a bundle of lies inspired a short story that ultimately developed into my novel. Sure, I would have evolved as a writer without these three people. But I find comfort in seeing them as integral to my destiny.

I struggle more to explain the path of my love life. Recent relationships played out like a tired record, the needle catching on a scratch and repeating the same refrain over and over. In the moment, I am always certain I have erased bad habits. Or I seek a silver lining to justify the grief littering my past. Sure, Ex told me that a five pound weight gain rendered me unattractive. But if it hadn’t been for him, I would have never met Alaska. Except, that just turned out to be the same mess in a different pile. I guess sometimes the explanation you discover doesn’t always reveal what you want to see.

A few weeks ago, I returned from Denver and in my head I started connecting the dots. Maybe hibernating for the last few years, maybe refusing to let go of Alaska, was necessary for me to land here. Everything in life is timing and perhaps everything that filled my time up until now was necessary for me to be ready for what lay in front of me. I couldn't help but enjoy this explanation, reasoning that justifies the past in search of a brilliant future.

But then I got home and nothing had changed. I still curled up on my sofa on Monday nights with a remote in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. On Tuesdays I worked out with my trainer and on Sundays I went to the grocery store. But there’s no meaning to these acts. Buying aged Reggiano Paremsan has in no way contributed to my destiny. Nor has taking out the recycling, playing Scrabble online or watching endless hours of Andy Cohen produced television.

I’m not exactly sure what will come next. I don’t know when I will finally finish my novel, though I did recently complete one chapter and begin another. Where I reside and how I make a living are equally uncertain. Worse yet, I truly have no idea where my heart will take me.

In two years, I’ll look back fondly on this time and be able to piece it all together. I was destined to land a specific job, to move to another city. My novel wasn’t meant to be finished because I wasn’t ready to say what needed to be written. And no matter how strongly I thought otherwise, I still wasn’t ready to fall in love with the right person. Or maybe I was. Maybe two years from now, as I rest my head on his chest, I will smile at how wise I was, how far I had come.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


In just a few weeks I will be able to loosely knot a scarf around my neck and dip my chin into the folds of the fabric. I’m ready for crisp fall evenings, the night air tainted with the smell of wood burning fireplaces. And I excitedly await that moment where, upon exhaling, my warm breath hovers like a fog before drifting away in the evening sky.

Then comes winter, a time of shorter days and longer nights. Snow crunches beneath your feet as you traverse pathways yet to be shoveled. Mugs of whipped hot chocolate are no longer an indulgence but an excusable method of warming your body from the inside out. And only a Grinch could grumble at the way ice wraps around branches and glistens in the morning sunlight.

It isn’t that I dislike spring and summer. I love seeing the bulbs push through the earth and blossom into a cluster of delicate petals pivoting with the arc of the sun. The sound of crickets lulls me to sleep like a soft symphony. Warm weather means sand sifting between your toes, cups of watermelon water ice at four o’clock in the afternoon, and driving with all of the windows down.

I enjoy running errands in flip-flops and wearing shirts that expose my freckled shoulders, but too much of a good thing and you stop appreciating what you have. I’m tired of the heat that renders my curling brush and hair blower useless. Splashing around in rainstorms while wearing thin-strapped sandals has lost its charm. Summer is nice but I am ready to slip my hands into a pair of knitted mittens.

And listen, come early March, when Leslie starts telling me about the blooms on her crape murtle, I’ll long for the months where skirts trump slacks. At a certain point, I’ll tire of scraping ice from my windshield. I’ll curse the salt residue clinging to my car and I’ll pray for the day that the scent of honeysuckles tickles my nose. But for now I look forward to curling up on my sofa while snowflakes fall from the sky. A cashmere throw will rest atop my feet and the smell of fresh baked pumpkin bread will fill my home.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

At Least I’m Not Her

The summer before I graduated college, I lived in Atlanta with Leslie. At her suggestion, I secured a position with a family planning program affiliated with Emory University. Then I packed up my car and drove south for the summer.

For the most part, Leslie and I got along really well. It didn’t matter that we were sharing a double bed bedecked with Laura Ashley floral sheets. It didn’t matter that she liked to spend her nights dancing in the VIP section at Tongue and Groove while I preferred strolling the aisles of Barnes & Noble. We always came together for poolside sunbathing on Saturday or a bagel brunch on Sunday.

“Get out of the car!” I instructed as I pulled up to the curb outside of the apartment complex.

“I thought we were going to dinner?” Leslie asked from the passenger seat.

We were. The plan was to head over to Roasters on Lenox Road for some chicken and macaroni and cheese.

“Get out!” This time I was almost yelling.

“Fine,” she said with a huff.

Leslie opened the door and got out. But before slamming it closed, she leaned into the car and said, “You’re acting just like Mom.” Then she flung the door shut and stomped off toward the apartment building.

From childhood, I have resembled my mother. The slight bump on my nose is just like hers. Our faces have the same shape. We also both adore Paris, can eat grated Reggiano Parmesan by the forkfuls, and know every word to any Celine Dion song released before 2000. In other words, it wasn’t shocking that I would act like her. What was shocking, what stung the most when Leslie pointed this out, was that I was like her in the bad ways too. I was emotional, irrational and unreasonable.

To this day, I have no recollection of what I was angry about. No matter how often I revisit that memory, I can’t remember what it was that had me so upset. Which ultimately means it was something stupid and childish. What it means is that Leslie’s accusation was spot on.

“I’m so sorry,” the Southwest representative said as she tapped on her keyboard.

“It isn’t your fault,” I noted, leaning against the counter and looking around the empty terminal.

“No, but you still must be frustrated.”

“Eh, worse things have happened than getting stranded in Denver.”

“I’m still sorry.”

“Unless your name is Irene and you’re a Cat 3 hurricane, you don’t need to apologize.”

The woman looked up. She scrunched her nose and then told me that Tuesday was the best she could do. I’d have to fly to Tampa first, linger there for three hours and then, then I would finally be Philadelphia bound. When she finished, she raised her shoulders toward her ears and waited for the backlash.

“Well, that’s better than Wednesday! Thanks for working your magic.”

She exhaled. Then she smiled and thanked me for being understanding. But on the inside, I knew she was thanking me for not being my mom, a woman who would have complained loudly, wagged her finger and demanded the moon and sun swap positions in the sky. On the inside, I knew the representative was thankful that I had been reasonable and calm. And in that moment, I was thankful too.