Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Battling the Mean Reds.

There are days, sometimes even entire stretches of days, when even Holly fails to Go Lightly.
You know that speech, my loves., when Holly explains the Mean Reds:
Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
I find the Mean Reds descend with no rhyme or reason. Maybe it's a gray day, or one filled with sun. Maybe you've been holed up in your room alone for the day, or maybe you're surrounded by brilliant and sparkling and lovely people. And ZAP, like lightning straight out the clear blue sky, your soul turns Red. And not the lovely warm and vibrant red. But the infected and angry and hurt red.
I have learned that life is like a flowerbed of beautiful and various flowers. And each morning, the buds burst open to greet the sun, to greet the day, to greet the world. The lily of contentment, the daffodils of success, the snapdragons of sass, the magnolia of self-confidence, the spider mum of imagination, the peonies of wit, the gladiolas of wisdom, the lilacs of honest friendship, the rose of love; a bevvy of things that characterize your day, that, together, color your life. But maybe on one day - or maybe many days in a row - one of those buds stays closed tight. Amid the wash of color and scent and wonder of life, one quiet stubborn blossom stubbornly refuses to open, perhaps for fear of a cold-snap. But how to coax it open? How indeed.
How do you battle the mean reds? Clearly, I bury myself in some sort of beautiful metaphor. Or, even better, I find a theme song.
So here it is, my darling dears.
The song that I'm relying on to pull me out of the mean reds,
whether or not that shy blossom decides to bloom:

Hello you long shots,
You dark horse runners,
Hairbrush singers, dashboard drummers.
Hello you wild magnolias, just waiting to bloom.
There's a little bit of all that inside of me and you
Thank God even crazy dreams come true.
I stood at the bottom of some walls I thought I couldn't climb.
I felt like Cinderella at the ball, just running out of time.
So I know how it feels to be afraid.
Think that it's all gonna slip away?
Hold on. Hold on.

Here's to you free souls, you firefly chasers,
Tree climbers, porch swingers, air guitar players.
Here's to you fearless dancers, shaking walls in your bedroom.
There's a lot of wonder left inside of me and you.
Thank God even crazy dreams come true.

Never let a bad day be enough
To go and talk you into giving up.
Sometimes everybody feels like you.
Just like you.
Thank God even crazy dreams come true....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Swagger, Wit, True Love, True Friends, and 29.

I'm 29.
I realized this morning, as I cleaned the bathroom and imagined myself as Cinderella, scrubbing the walls and humming to imaginary bird friends and daydreaming of an as-yet-unmet handsome prince, that I'll never give it up.
I used to think that at some point, I'd snap out of it. That either gradually or all of a sudden, the stars and sparkles and delights of imagination and daydreaming and resolute belief in practical magic would slough off under the pressure of daily life, the wear of getting older.
And I have a horrible confession: in my somewhat cowardly fear of aging, in my discombobulated comparisons of Life-I-Thought-I'd-Have to Life-I've-Lived-And-Am-Living, in the past 1/2 month, I've tried very hard to ditch the old ideas. I tried, quite half-determinedly, to drop the impractical belief in a soul-mate, the impractical belief of every-day-magic, the impractical belief in All-Will-Be-Well, the impractical belief of It-Will-Work-Out-How-It's-Meant-To-Be. I tried to became a nihilist, in charge of my own life and quite unconcerned with magic and true love and bothersome things like that. Right up to my February 14th dinner with two marvelous friends (B&C, who tell their longtime boyfriends "February 14th belongs to Chesley. Deal with it." every year, and then sweep me off to dinner and a non-romantic movie to celebrate life and friendship and cinematography. Those precious girls...), I tried to give it up.
But magic doesn't slough off. Hope doesn't fall away like old scales to be shed. Faith may crack but it will not break. These things come from somewhere inside the heart. They're bred into the bone until they become part of the soul, existing in tandem with life.
After my Valentine's Day Birthday, I realized this. I cannot be practical when it comes to life. And to pull me out of those trenches of self-examination, friends appeared with unsolicited truisms about the Me I've always wanted to be, and sometimes forget I am.
One told me I had swagger. A funny complement? Maybe. "But it's not the type of swagger of someone with something to prove. You can put it on and take it off as you please. You have swagger when you want to, but you're still authentic. It's part of why you're so fun; It's part of why your friends love you." (I maintain that I get this quality from my mother- who will deny it if you ask her. She will swear up down and sideways that she has no "swagger." But when she needs to charge a party or direct an atmosphere, there's nobody like her. Sometimes she gets a sparkle in her eye, and there's no stopping her. I get that from her.)
Another told me I was witty. (Babes born on February 14th, so say the astrological books, are gifted with quick wit and clever quips. But I maintain that I get this from my father.)
Another told me a difficult truth: "You act like you've got all your shit together. This makes you very intimidating to men. But on the plus-side, you don't compromise yourself to live a life with a man you don't love, and you don't need to." That's a bittersweet realization.
And then M&J sent a birthday card- after treating me to a stunning night on the town. The card, which came when both girls were out of town, told me something these girls tell me constantly: "you are fabulous." But it's not a meaningless refrain. They're silly words, unless they come from people who truly know you, who speak of your life and your soul and your truth.
And B&C, my practical, no-nonsense, no-mushy-love-at-first-sight dears, sat across from me at a dinner table, their offerings of brilliant music and epic literature wrapped at my side, and said: "Listen, Turner. If you need to have a life crisis breakdown tonight, we are here for you. Go for it. But we know you don't believe in all this crap you're saying about growing up and giving up on Love and Life. So say it if you want to. But we don't believe you, and you're not going to convince us."
Sometimes- oftentimes- real gifts don't come wrapped in boxes or tied in bows. They come in words or looks or feelings from friends who tell you why you're wonderful, who tell you what you need to hear but make sure it's still true, who know you well enough to know when you're lying to yourself, and listen patiently while you do it, and then firmly point out that you're full of nonsense.
The sea of life has washed a 29th wave upon me. And for a while, I was afraid of what would be washed away while it ebbed. But it's slowly receding, and I still see sparkles, and magic, and gems and seashells, and hopes clinging fast, and faith resolute. And what is making it's way out to sea? Quiet insidious fears and uncertainties that have no place in a life like mine.
This post is dedicated to the dreamers, who still believe in Jiminy Cricket's song. And to true friends, who encourage you to live nobody's life but your own.

The Cult of the Coffee Shop.

For the uninitiated, it's easy to see only another storefront, another hole in the wall peddling caffeine to the great tired masses.
But coffee shops - real ones, not commercial Star cafes - are really havens. Here you find the artistic, slightly-intellectual, moderately pretentious, wry-humored wanderers who are looking for a place to belong without really fitting in. Awash in the glow of Mac apples, shaking slightly from the extra shot of espresso that the drug-pushers behind the counter dropped into their cups, they sit.
(or I sit, as it were...)

The thing about my coffee shops is I get unreasonably attached to them. Some serendipitous inclination attaches me to one shop or another, and if I depart from my home-base, I feel like I'm cheating on a true love with a less-than-adequate lover.
In the past three year's, I've nested in three different cities, and therefore in three different coffee shops.

In Boulder, CO, it was Saxy's Cafe.
Not the closest to home, nor the biggest, nor the smallest. Just the best (I think...). It's where I watched World Cup matches at 6AM, where I knit together May Day posies, where I crafted an ode to artwork, where I tapped out a million posts on this very blog.
Then there was Cafe Verde in Lawrence, MA.
I couldn't visit this lovely little place as often- no transportation to its green walls and light-strewn windows and delicious Brie-and-apple paninis. But I escaped every now and then to sit and sketch and dream myself away from the snow-trapped stillness of the most silent winter days.
And now, back in Philadelphia, wandering past American monuments of history and freedom every day, hoofing it every weekend to the market for cheap produce and fresh meats, to new friends' apartments for hours of construed productivity, to old friends' apartments for hours of patching up the soul and renewing old hopes and new, to yoga class or salsa class or hipster bars or irish pubs or dance clubs - trekking mile after mile in discovery of life... now, I have Cake.
Or more properly: Cake and the Beanstalk. Green walls again, bedecked with images from Jack and the Beanstalk childrens' books, furnished with mismatched furniture painted with quotes and pictures and Giving Trees and Where the Wild Things Are and Picasso, and boasting an in-house baker with an impressive talent for crafting cakes and brownies and blondies. I've found a new home base.
So if you're ever in Philadelphia on a weekend, come find me up the beanstalk...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wait... when did that happen?
Y'all. January flew. FLEW. I'm starting a new project- a memory jar. (I'll show you a picture soon.) One of my brilliant new city friends found it on Pinterest (new obsession, and accessible via iPhone, therefore mobile). We're taking a memory, a quote, a moment, from each day, writing it down, and dropping it into a mason jar, to be dumped and read through on January 1, 2013.
I'm busy as bees in honey. New job, new apartment, new friends and old- there's hardly any time! Can I make blogging again my February resolution? I think that's allowed.

It's my birthday month- 29 glorious years of life, but more on that closer to the 14th, yes? I'm a little unsure about how I feel about this birthday... it has me perplexed.
Life is a funny and wonderful thing. There are a million people to meet and learn and love, and what a wonder it is to delve into someone's brain, to make friends with people who are different than you (because somewhere, really, we're all the same. And we all have something to give each other). I think as you lose the i-can-do-everything,-always idealism of the early twenties, you wrap up in this marvelously bittersweet realization that some things are meant to pass, so you take what you can from them, and you kiss them goodbye.
My latest favorite musician, Gotye, summed it up in this song: "Give away love. Give it. Give it for free. No strings attached. Just don't ask for it back. Learnalilgivinanlovin."

Go give, my friends. Go give and love.