Start to Finish

I have this thing that I do whenever I’m sad. I read a book. I realize that this is not that unusual. Many people read for comfort. What I do is a little different, though. I don’t read a book for a few minutes. I don’t read a chapter. When I need to read a book, I read a whole book cover to cover. I dive head first under water. I’m a basin submerged in the deep end and I let the book completely fill me up until there is no room for sadness or anxiety or heartbreak. For however many pages the book lasts, that is all there is.

I started this over a decade ago, but I didn’t actually realize that this was my coping mechanism until recently. I suppose your late 20s are a time for reflection. As you find yourself drawing closer, or at least seeking, anyway, the right friendships, finding the right career path, you become bolder and braver in your actions professionally and personally, you become acutely aware of your mental health. With each passing year I have found myself discovering things that others found long ago.

It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I figured out how to take a compliment. Wanting to come off as modest I would rebuff those that said kind things, arguing against their assertion that I looked pretty or that the food I cooked was delicious. It wasn’t until someone told me that to argue against a compliment was to actually insult the person’s intelligence that delivered it. After that, through rosy cheeks and uncomfortable smiles I started simply saying “thank you.” Once I did, I realized how peaceful compliments can make you feel. Whether we want to admit it or not, compliments are actual validation that the dress we chose to wear to the wedding, the meal we chose to serve at our dinner party, the presentation we worked so hard on at work, all it, all of our work and all of our choices were well received by those around us. And with that peacefulness comes a confidence, and that confidence attracts those around us. All by simply being brave enough to just say “thank you.”

Learning that modesty doesn’t always have to require that you run and hide in a corner yelling “I am NOT pretty!” (and other equally hilarious hyperboles) also led to my reflection on why I must read books cover to cover on bad days. You see, the longer you dive into a book, the more you forget the rest of the world exists. I know I am not the only person that is sad when a book concludes because I actually miss the characters. I feel like they’re my friends. The real world feels less bright with the characters no longer in it. It is around page 100 that you forget that there is a world outside of the page.

As such, you become so terribly invested in the characters’ lives, problems, hopes, and dreams. I once read that it is impossible to listen and speak at the same time, and I truly believe that it is impossible to read deeply and hurt at the same time. Eventually, about 20 pages into your journey it is as if you literally set your own problems down on the counter to pick up later. And as long as you are in that carriage with Scarlet driving through Atlanta while it burns, you aren’t thinking about your mean boss or your selfish friend or your broken heart. It is truly, truly, an escape.

I read once (and I realize I said that about six sentences ago also – perhaps I should write a post all about things that I “read once”) that if everyone were to take their problems and throw them in a bin and we all got to pick new ones, we would still always pick our own. I can’t help but think that it is because the age old expression Catholic moms use everywhere – God never gives you more than you can handle – is true. Even on my worst day, I still prefer my problems to anyone else’s.

While reading, though, you aren’t thinking about your problems. You are thinking about whether Sarah is going to chose Nick or Bryan in this 10 year long love triangle. You are trying to figure out which of the four best friends had a baby out of wedlock in 1942 and did that baby really die? Or did they just tell her he did so she wouldn’t look for him in the orphanage? You are desperately trying to figure out if her husband really was the war hero that they all said or if his PTSD had turned him into a monster. (None of these are my imagination, by the by, all of these are from this summer’s reading list.)

And when you close the last chapter, when you have helped the characters along as they solve their issues and heal their hearts you have a sense of peace come over you. Sometimes I have become so enamored that I must stare at the wall for a few minutes to come down off of the high that the books have me on. And when it’s over, I can always find new clarity for when I walk over to the counter where I left my problems, pick them back up, and start to address them.

I think the big piece is that most authors present an issue and have it solved within 300 pages. It’s not rocket science, it’s basic plot structure. Seeing the conflict be presented, watching the action rise, observing from the safe distance you sit outside of the pages as the story reaches its climactic point, and then holding the hands of the characters as they finally come to a resolution reminds you of something: this, too, shall pass. The issue when we are knee deep in our own drama is that it feels like it will go on forever. We see no way out. Books, however, have a way out, always. In the imaginary space between the last page and the back cover comes that sweet reminder. And as such, we are reminded that there is always an end to the darkest of days.

The next time you find yourself in the depths of despair, give it a try. Turn off your phone. Call in sick to work. Literally go hide with a book. Do not come out other than for water and food as needed until the book is done. Trust me, your heart will heal faster than you can read. Unless you were an English major – then you might need two books.

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Things Everyone Likes

Do you remember when you were in middle school? And everybody liked something and you had to like it to? Sure there were those really self-aware people with a great amount of self-confidence that didn’t mind saying “no, actually, I do not think that funyuns taste good.” For the rest of us, though, we mostly pretended to go along with things. As I’ve aged I have come to realize that I am finally comfortable not only identifying for myself the things that aren’t for me, but saying it to others, too. Here are six things that popular culture would suggest I am supposed to like but I just…don’t.

Traveling

I’m just going to say it: I don’t like traveling. This is the one I will probably get the most dropped jaws about. Most people I know love to travel. They use words like “priority” when describing it and when you ask them what they would do if they won millions of dollars it is the first word out of their mouth. I, however, do not care for it.

This is not to say that I don’t love vacation. If given the opportunity to hop a plane to a beach right now I would jump at it. However, traveling exacerbates my biggest demon: my anxiety. I combat my anxiety with exercise and mostly, with routine. Traveling destroys routine. There is none! That is probably one of the big draws for others but for me, it is ridden with worry. I realized this when I started visiting cities for the second time. With each time I visit somewhere, I enjoy it more. Slowly I pieced together that it is because question marks are removed. I know how to get to a coffee house. We have one dinner at a restaurant I know I liked planned. I don’t feel obligated to see everythingthateveryonesaidIhavetoseeandthelistissolongitsnotevenavacation.  (Actually what my brain looks like when I go somewhere new). For this reason, while I love a good beach vacation, I will never be a world traveler. And that’s okay. Great for you, not for me.

Beer

I just don’t like it. I pretended I did for years and years and years. Fraternity parties aren’t known for their elevated beverages and I wasn’t about to be that girl. So I drank it. And it was fine. And then I started dating Mr. James Hampson and he loves it. On our first Valentine’s Day we went to a brewery and did a tasting. And it was fun! But I ate a french fry after every sip. And eventually, as we grew a little older and we spent more time at restaurants instead of fraternity parties, and our dinners became a little more sophisticated than cheeseburgers and wine paired with food better than Bud Light, I stopped being that girl and it started becoming okay to say, “yep, I hate beer.” I really dislike it. Will I drink it? Sure. Do I want to? Nope. Adulthood is great, isn’t it?

Concerts

I can’t attend concerts. I went to a few as a child. George Strait was my first (and believe you me, I have hung my hat on that for years). When I was a teenager, though, my mom and I went to see Kenney Chesney. My dad got us great seats, in row 13, and we were so excited! The concert took place on the field of AT&T park so we felt super comfortable having been there dozens of times for Giants’ games. When we got there, though, it seemed as if the entire audience was being filmed for a commercial on alcohol poisoning. The toilets overflowed from all the vomit and the entire experience was, put simply, a little scaring. I haven’t gone to a concert since. Now, this may seem like an exaggerated response to one bad experience, but I just don’t feel it necessary to go. I’ll listen to my favorite bands on Spotify for way cheaper from my comfy seat on my couch, thank you very much.

The Kardashians

I just…I can’t. I’m not even gonna bother explaining.

Avocados

This is the one I get the most raised eyebrows for, actually. Mostly because most girls that look like me and act like me also love avocado toast. I just don’t like it. I don’t like it on toast, I don’t like it in guacamole. I do like it in the eye cream I use at night, but then, that just goes on my face. It’s partially the taste, partially the texture, and all around just a not for me thing. The biggest issue now is it’s really expensive (I’m tuned in enough to know that it’s “extra” even if I’m not eating it) so I feel wasteful and have stopped “just trying it.”

Game of Thrones

James will give me grief for this, but I firmly dislike this show. You see, I feel that everybody reads/watches TV for an escape. I don’t read nonfiction for pleasure, and I don’t watch television that upsets me. James likes to say that I watched one episode of Game of Thrones and it was “a bad one” and I’ve been scarred. And it’s true, I did, and it was, and I am. BUT I will also contend that in the years since I have sat in the other room while he watches it and all I hear is yelling and screaming and people in pain and people being tortured and I am sitting here thinking why are you watching this? Doesn’t it give you bad dreams? Every once in a while I’ll feel a little left out, but the truth is, I’m just fine watching my Friends reruns over and over again.

Final Thoughts

And that about sums up all the reasons why, if I was still in middle school, I would be unpopular. It’s okay, I was, and I turned out fine. My only concern now is that as I grow older this list will grow longer and before I know it I will be a crotchety old lady. But that will never happen. I like baking cookies too much. So, what did I miss? What do you hate that everyone else loves?

The Search for “Atta Girls”

When I was a kid my mom got my father a card for his birthday. On the front cover was a little boy and his grandpa. The little boy had turned to the grandpa and said “let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say wonderful!” It was the most darling scene because anyone that has spent time with children can obviously see that the little boy thought that was how you played. You threw, and someone complimented you. “Throwing darts” quickly became family shorthand for “I need some atta girls.” It’s an expression we use when we know we are shamelessly asking for validation. And let’s face it: we all need validation. For some reason we decided that by using this pithy expression, we are so terribly self aware that we do not need to be admonished for an action that previous generations would have shamed us for: self gratuity.

To my dear loyal followers that logged on each morning for months to see what I wrote, I genuinely apologize for my absence from this blog. My neglect of the blog started merely from a lack of time. I entered Pure Barre teacher training which took all of my free time, and then a new job kept me far busier than anticipated. So I gave my self a month off. And that led to two. And before I knew it, I got out of the habit.

I went back to write countless times, but the issue became not that I didn’t have anything to say, but rather, that I was embarrassed that I was asking people to read what I had to say. Why are my thoughts worthy of being out there? How could I be so self important as to think that my musings on events, or that my fashion choices, or my recipes were worthy of a read and a double tap?

I tell you this not so that you will leave comments telling that my thoughts are worthy, I’m not asking for you to “throw darts.” Really, I am simply pontificating on a larger issue that my generation is faced with: just because you can share, should you? You see, we live in a world where my generation puts everything on Instagram. It’s actually quite horrifying. I remember distinctly telling James when we were dreaming of someday getting engaged that I didn’t want to be proposed to in public. I was terrified that people would judge my reaction, that I would be too shocked to cry (I was, actually, when the time came), or that I would ugly cry, or that I would just be so awkward, and I didn’t want that incredibly special moment to be ruined by my own tendency to get in my head. He listened, and to this day our engagement was witnessed only by the walls of apartment 176, and the NSA, if they happened to be tapped into my webcam at the time because my laptop was open right next to me since I had been working on it.

But the privacy of this moment actually became more special the more time went on. You see, proposals can be anything from a few fumbled words to a whole soliloquy. The thing is, you don’t know until you plan it. But the things that James said? The promises that he made about our future, our children, his intentions in our marriage? I wouldn’t want anyone to hear them. Don’t get me wrong, they should hear them. They were amazing. But that’s the thing: they were amazing to me. And they were amazing to me because they were filled with all the secrets we had told each other and all the private moments we had shared over our years together. A proposal is a very, very, very intimate thing at its core, so the idea of having a video of it to post on Instagram? Why would you do that? And then I can’t help but wonder: if James knew that his words would be shared with the world rather than just his future wife, would he have been so beautifully vulnerable?

That, to me, is the big issue. When we started sharing things on social media it was just that: sharing. Now it feels that rather than sharing our actual lives we are creating falsified versions of them so that we can post them. We are trying to keep up with the Joneses and the Joneses aren’t actually even keeping up with themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I have moments where I love Instagram. I call it “my grown up picture book.” I love looking at pretty pictures and laughing out loud at funny memes. I live states away from all of my friends from college and high school and I am joyful to see their happy lives. The other day, though, I went in to my iPhone settings to go in low battery mode since my iPhone 7 (yep, people still have those) dies so quickly now. I discovered that since my last phone charge 28% of my charge had been spent on Instagram. I was horrified. I realized I’d wasted who knows how many minutes on a silly application watching other people live their lives.

The bigger issue than simply my wasted time and probably damaged eyes, comes from the 21st century version of an old expression: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Sadly, the new question is actually “if a life event happens, and you don’t post it on social media, did it even happen?” We have gotten to the point where we create events around the photo.

I am 28 years old which means that my entire newsfeed is filled with two things: weddings and babies. It’s a joyous time, but the more I look at it the more I realize how much we create events just for the photo. Ten years ago a “gender reveal party” was a very private affair where you and your husband would go to the doctor and he or she would tell you that you were having a boy or a girl. And then you would call your family and tell them. Now you have to have a whole party with all kinds of cutesy games and Pinterest-y things and you have to invent a hashtag for your unborn child so that every moment of their life is captured. How do we not realize how sick that is?

We have been creating moments for ourselves since the beginning of time. The interesting thing, though, is that it used to just be for us. There is a photo of my sisters and me on the mantle at my mom’s house. We are all smiling, but my sisters and I remember distinctly that I cried my eyes out that day. Molly and Merry had gotten haircuts that day and I, in my eight-year-old logic, felt that I had been given the short end of the stick and shouldn’t have to be photographed when their hair was done and mine wasn’t. The thing is, though, that that photo just sits on the mantle, and no one else ever saw it. Mom wasn’t out there with our old family camera that still took film insisting that I smile so that she could share it on social media bragging (and yes, it is bragging) about how cute her kids were and what a blessing motherhood is.

I wish that I was cool enough to be completely off of social media. I wish that I knew how to disconnect in that way, and I could be writing all this atop my high horse up there on the moral high ground. What I can tell you is that I have a new philosophy. Instagram is often referred to as the “highlight reel.” I read a blog recently, though, where the blogger talked about how even that isn’t true. You see, the truly blissful moments in life you don’t actually post. The sound of your puppy running down the hall when he hears your key in the door, the smell of your coffee pot brewing, the warmth of your love’s hand reaching for yours in a crowded room – we don’t post those. (Or we shouldn’tand if you are are stop.) And that is where we will find our redemption – we must find that line. What is and is not appropriate to share?

I suppose it’s different for everyone. Some people are massive over-sharers, and always will be even if Al Gore decides that we no longer deserve his sweet invention and takes the internet back. Here’s my new rule though, and I hope you will join me in following. Remember that just because something can be shared doesn’t mean that it should be shared. 

With that, I am going to begin writing again. I love writing, I really do. But I am not going to post a picture on Instagram every time I do reminding people to read it, and I am not going to share it every time on my Facebook. Truly, those platforms are a great way to advertise, but I don’t want my friends to think that I am begging for them to read. And, frankly, I don’t want to beg. Because if I beg, if I shamelessly seek the “atta girl” then aren’t I just as bad as the people that post falsified versions of their life on the internet just for the sake of likes?

I don’t know if I’ll write daily, or weekly, or if this is going to be a once a month thing. What I do know is that I will share thoughts, I will share joy, but I will not share anything that, before the dawn of the internet where the lines got blurry, I wouldn’t invite a stranger to be privy too. And I will not create moments simply for the sake of popularity. I don’t need darts that badly.

Just One More Thing – Volume 4

Happy Hump Day! I apologize for my absence the past week or so. My life is going through some massive changes (which I promise to share on here soon!) so I haven’t been able to post. Fear not, I’ll be back with gusto, soon! In the mean time, here are a few things I want to make sure I mention!

Continue reading “Just One More Thing – Volume 4”

The Five Types of People You See In Spin Class

I have recently gotten really into spin class. I hated my first one with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. I was so bored and the inhumanely hard seat made me count the minutes until it was over. But for some reason I kept forcing myself to go. Learning that there was a family history of heart disease pushed me to give cardio a real chance and after about seven classes of misery, I started to really like it. And now? It’s a very healthy addiction. While the playlists and instructors change, one thing that doesn’t is the archetypes that seem to always be in every class. Below are the five types of people that seem to have perfect attendance.

Continue reading “The Five Types of People You See In Spin Class”

Just One More Thing – Volume 2

The HQ App

I am absolutely hooked on this app, and I feel like I’m the last person on earth to know about it. Every day at 3 pm and 9 pm you will get a push notification that the game is about to begin. If you log in, you begin a 15 question trivia game. It is single elimination, and the longer you last in the game the harder the questions become. The prize? $2,500. It. Is. So. Addictive.

Garnier Naturals Soothing Face Mist – Rose Water

I saw this on Instagram a few days ago and naturally I had to go find it! Face mist? I don’t have a fact mist! Do I need a face mist? Turns out, I do! This mist is simply a moisturizing spray. I use it on days when I have to go straight from the gym to work, or feel like my face needs a little bit of a pick me up. It smells just delightful, and gives your skin a dewy sensation. A perfect primer! You can buy it at Target, Ulta, and Walmart!

Talbot’s Sperry Tennis Shoes

I have long been a fan of boat shoes, and when Sperry started making darling feminine tennies a few years ago, they rapidly became my favorite run around shoes. I am absolutely dying over these blush ones. Let’s see how long I hold out before have to buy them.

Disposable Cups

I have long felt that presentation is half the taste. Did Martha Stewart say that? Or was it my mom? Anyway, with presentation being half the taste, I needed to up the presentation of my green smoothie. There are few things in this world grosser than trying to clean a reusable cup that has dried on spinach after it has sat in your car for your entire work day. Enter: these plastic cups. Not the most environmentally friendly, but they make my smoothie look so appetizing and like it came from an expensive smoothie shop instead of my kitchen and so I just love them! You can’t beat the price either!

Daffodils at Trader Joes

Trader Joes has daffodils. Repeat: Trader Joes has daffodils. Daffodils are always my sign that spring will indeed come. Since you buy them before they bloom, they are a lovely metaphor for me that all flowers will bloom again if we are just patient. My mom used to put them in blue Ball jars all over the house, and now every time I see them I am reminded that sunshine is just around the corner! Winter shall end!