Oct 30 2012

Texas Book Festival: A Retrospective

Fall 2009:

I sit on a bench, draped in scattered sunshine and shade, outside the Texas State Capital.  I call my mom, because that’s what you do at pivotal moments in your life.  Or, at least, that’s what I do.

I tell her about the stunning fall weekend in Austin and the authors I’ve seen and heard at the Texas Book FestivalJill S. Alexander, in particular, struck a chord with me with her story about a small-town Texas girl.  I’ll soon read The Sweetheart of Prosper County and have her sign a copy for me that summer.

I’ve been unhappy.  I’ve been looking for purpose and peace and sense of self.  I find a few stolen moments of those things at this event, surrounded by strangers and literati, books and bibliophiles.  I’ll soon join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and come out of the Writing Closet.

I’m thirty.  Not young, not old, but somewhere in between.  I’ve lost a little bit of myself, and I’m not sure how to get her back.  She’s peeking out at me from the pages of my journal, tucked firmly under my arm as I traverse Congress and Lavaca, shifting from panel to panel.  She’s sitting next to me at this quiet spot on the Capital grounds.

 

Fall 2010:

Something has altered.  Subtly, gently, bit-by-bit I’ve re-claimed the girl that I was.  I’ve rooted back into myself, explored the shadows, and found strength.  It’s been a year since I perched on that bench, and I’ve done a year’s worth of self-work.

But this new-old person doesn’t fit into the life that I’ve built.  She’s an alien.  An outsider.  An unwilling transplant who’s figuring out how to get home.  I brought her here, but now that she and I are re-acquainted I realize that she doesn’t have a seat at my table.

Back at the festival, I stalk Holly Black to the signing tent.  She’s dark and whip-smart and a little cold (perhaps uncomfortable with my extreme FanGirlhood).  I’m distracted by the fact that she lives in my hometown.  She signs White Cat for me, and I devour it.

I call myself a writer now – the first step toward being me again – and talk to people with a certain level of confidence about my WIPs and my manuscripts.  Like they’re real things.  (Probably because they are real now, even to me.)  But these tangible and legitimate things also take me away from My Life as it is, as I’ve constructed it, and I don’t know if the pieces all fit together after all.

 

Fall 2011:

Everything has changed.   And it isn’t subtle or gentle at all.

I’m on the way to a divorce.  I live in a different house.  I teach at a different school (following a brief brush with full-time writer status).  I have a new short story and a host of new blog posts.  I’ve filled three times the journals that I did last year.  I have my old friends close by, and a host of new friends and colleagues.  I’m laying the foundation for a new life that looks so much like the one I had before I had a husband.

I know that it’s my fault, and that I let this better, stronger, more authentic version of myself and this life disappear like the smoke on a blown-out match.  I know that I’m responsible for the rise and fall of this relationship – the one that I have with myself as well as the one that I built within my marriage.  So it’s up to me to step up; to own it; to fix it the only way possible.

The Festival is a bit of a blur, but I remember Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo, and talking to a delightful student and her mom in line to have our books signed.  I feel healthy and alive.  I’m owning being a writer; I’ve converted the inner transformation of the past year into an external life.  I’ve taken control of my happiness, and I believe that it shows.  Every day is bright and promising.

But despite my fresh perspective, I wrestle with how to talk and write about this.  I feel responsible for this change and guilty for this surge of relief; this infusion of joy.  Common wisdom is that it’s dangerous to be close to a writer, because she’ll inevitably use you for material.  I don’t want to do that – to throw people into the writing fire – so instead I’m vague and inspecific.  My blog is packed with veiled references to my tumultuous life.  I know that, eventually, I’ll let it rip.  That I’ll have to.  That I’ll want to.

 

Fall 2012:

I take stock now, during fall’s last gasp, as I listen to Paolo Bacigalupi and Maggie Stiefvater and Naomi Wolf.  I scribble away in my notebook and hope to absorb a fraction of their genius.  This isn’t only about writing, of course.  This is about my identity.

When I reclaimed my writing, and my Writer Self, I became more honest.  I found a lot of Truth in my pen.  I was looking for something when I first arrived at this even four years ago.  I wanted answers, and I found them.  I just couldn’t de-code them yet.

The answer is that I adopted a life that wasn’t mine, with a person who wasn’t my match.  And eventually, I couldn’t do it anymore.  When I found my heart and my spirit again, they read the words that I could barely write.

Every day doesn’t burst with wonder.  I have fear and worry.  I cry and lose sleep.  If last fall was about celebrating a new world opening up to me, and a second chance, this fall is about settling in.  Seeing this reality for what it is and accepting it.

So here I am, deep into revisions on my primary manuscript.  Deep into the PLAY of the festival once again.  Deep into a relationship with a musician who is my challenger and my partner.  I’m Dorothy having landed in Oz – so familiar, but so different.  I’m Alice, emerging from the rabbit hole.  I’m Katniss, post-revolution:  broken, perhaps, but deep into the process of reconstruction.

But here, amidst people of words and letters, it feels the same.  I feel the same.  I felt like myself here all those years ago, and I feel like myself again now.  As the variables are modified in this experiment of a life, the words – my pen, my journal – have been the Always.  The Me.

And maybe that is the true key to my happiness.  If I have a soulmate, it’s the person who sees that.  Who reads my words for what they mean.  Or maybe that person is me.


Oct 4 2012

The Necessary Bug

“It’s hard for you to throttle down,” Jeff recently told me during one of our many Roommate Kitchen Talks.

And he’s absolutely right.

If I’m not teaching, I’m writing.  If I’m not writing, I’m playing (or coaching or captaining) Ultimate.  If I’m not playing Ultimate, I’m doing yoga or lifting weights or going for a run.  If I’m not doing one of those things, I’m having a drink with a friend or tea with my boyfriend.  And if I’m not doing any of those things?  Well, I guess I actually sleep now and then.

I often have to give myself permission to relax.  I plan my down time.  “R&R” isn’t high on my list of priorities.  I’m always running from one thing to the next at warp speed. And that’s usually okay.  In fact, I thrive under those conditions.  I’m more energetic; more productive; happier.

But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t catch up to me.

This time around, my body took control of the situation.  It had been an especially stressful couple of weeks.  As usual, I wasn’t sleeping enough, or getting quite enough fuel.  I was emotionally drained, trying to work through some personal stuff that was keeping me up at night.  My calendar was packed with meetings and practices and grading and social activities.

And so, following a four-hour Ultimate practice on a Texas Summer Saturday Morning, I crashed.  My body worked with me through the grueling heat and physical strain.  It cooperated.  But afterward…it just powered down.

Reality hit:  I was sick.

My throat started to hurt and my nose grew increasingly congested.  My energy plummeted.  Food tasted unsatisfying (which is really saying something for me).  I skipped a visit from an old friend, missed a baby shower, and bailed on a party that I really wanted to attend.  I fell asleep, fully clothed, lights on, surrounded by random items on the bed at 9:00pm.  And I slept until 8:00am the next morning.

I managed to get up for breakfast on Sunday morning.  But then I lay down again and slept away most of the morning, my laptop quietly glowing with reruns of 30 Rock on Netflix.

I did little else on Sunday.  I rallied and made some vegetable soup; I read a few chapters in my book; I think I may have talked on the phone.  But I went to sleep early again that night and slept through until my early-Monday wakeup.

It’s extremely rare that I let a weekend pass with so little activity.  I don’t generally sleep in very late, and even when I intend to go to sleep early I rarely accomplish the feat.  But this time I just didn’t have a choice.  It was out of my hands.  My body had surrendered and thrown my mind into auto-pilot.

Miraculously – and logically – I felt better on Monday and Tuesday.  The cold that had knocked me on my ass was rapidly retreating.  And my own fear of illness had pushed me to take better care of myself; to let a few days pass without a workout; to get sufficient sleep; to make plans for my meals.

I hate being sick.  But in some twisted way I needed to get this cold, with its snot and its scratchy throat and its headaches.  I hated it, but I’m kinda thankful for it, too.


Jun 14 2012

On Allison Road

“Such is friendship that through it we love places and seasons.”     -Henry David Thoreau

 Internet dating wasn’t as big nine years ago as it is today. 

So you’d think that the most lasting relationship I’ve had here in Austin wouldn’t have been forged online.  And yet, it was.

In the fall of 2003 I was part of an incoming-class email list for a graduate program at the University of Texas (American Studies, to be specific).  And I have to say, I thought we had an awfully nice group of noobs. 

In all of my naïve and candid glory, I emailed everyone six months before we started classes, introducing myself to my future compatriots.  Something along the lines of, “I’m moving from Massachusetts, and I don’t know anyone!  Be my friend!”  And as nice as everyone was, only one person wrote back reciprocating my arguably needy plea. 

Allison and I “friend-dated” via email for the spring and summer leading up to our grad program start-date in August.  We exchanged pictures.  We talked about our relationships and our dogs.  We planned to get together when I arrived in Austin, and she promised to help me unload my UHaul.  My local friends joked that we’d probably realize that we hated each other when we were actually in the same city, and part of me agreed that it was almost too good to be true. 

But we just clicked.  She was friendly but edgy; smart and attractive; sassy but outgoing.  If not warm, specifically, certainly she was funny and generous with time, praise, and support.  And that didn’t change when I arrived in Texas. 

Allison and I ate lunch together twice a week, took almost all of the same classes, introduced our respective partners to each other.  We read each others’ essays, commiserated over the most arduous of readings, and shared dog-sitting.  And even when our worlds turned upside down over and over again, she remained a fixed part of my life.

So here we are, after three major break-ups (including two divorces), a wedding, twelve (TWELVE!) moves, three degrees, half a dozen varying jobs, countless cups of coffee, and more alcohol than I care to (or can) remember.   

And she’s leaving.

I exited our graduate program with my master’s, realizing that my experience there had run its course. But Allison stuck it out, and this spring she earned her Ph.D.  She’s Dr. Allison!  Huzzah!  But academic jobs are hard to come by, so that degree takes her far away from Austin.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m supremely happy for her.  She’s worked her ass off for this degree, and she deserves every bit of success that comes her way.  I know that she’s about to embark on a tremendous adventure; to grow personally and professionally; to fulfill lifelong goals and test her considerable mettle. 

But there’s a part of me – and not a very small one, either – that wants to stomp my foot and stick out my lower lip.  I want to blockade the door so that she can’t go.  I want to “borrow” some handcuffs and just send the movers on their merry way when they arrive at her doorstep.  I want to stand outside her window with a boom box playing “In Your Eyes”, my chin raised defiantly.  Don’t go, Dr. Allison!  How can you leave us?!

Because one could argue that the friendship that I’ve shared with Allison is the most successful one that I’ve had in Austin.  She’s marked my experience here.  I don’t know this city without her.  She’s been here from Day One.  I’ve made so so many great friends, and I know that (while I’ll miss her desperately), I won’t be lonely.  Still…there will be a void.  Allison is my Austin.  Here in this capital city, all roads lead to her for me.  

I know that we’re grown-ups, and your friends aren’t supposed to mean quite as much to you as you age.  That you’re supposed to transfer your attention to things like kids, career, romance.  But honestly, I think that’s a load of bullshit.  Who says we need to grow up at all?  Who says that our friends can’t be just as important as those things?  Not me. 

I’m confident that Allison and I will keep in touch.  We’re already planning a visit, actually.  And I know that no matter where our friendship leads us, I’ll be grateful for the closeness that we’ve shared.  But there’s no denying this:  A chapter is closing, and Austin is (once again) reimaged for me due to her absence.

In the winter of 2005 I took an extended trip to Europe, and Allison burned me a CD for my wanderings.  I still have that disc…somewhere…and every so often I pop it in to remember that time and place.  One of the last tracks was cleverly selected by Allison so that I’d keep her in my thoughts during my travels.  So here’s my dedication to my friend, who will in some ways always embody this place for me:  “Allison Road” by the Gin Blossoms.  Enjoy, friends.  And fare thee well, A.


Apr 24 2012

A Wedding

I dreamt we were dancing.

The floor was creaky and unsure.  A life raft on turbulent water.  Your hand rested on the small of my back, and I wished that you would hold me tighter as we glided and stumbled with the music. 

When we found a rhythm it didn’t matter that you weren’t pushing or pulling me as firmly as I’d wanted.  It wasn’t a slow dance, and it wasn’t fast, but we fell into time with each other.  The sky was a painter’s navy blue, peeking at us through low-hanging Oak branches.  We knew it was nearing the end of the night, and that this would be one of the last songs.  We moved without urgency, without agenda, without frenzy or spectacle.  

I don’t know if we spun, or if you twirled me like a top.  Maybe you did, and I don’t remember for the spring air on my face, the creamy glow of Japanese lanterns, and the warm space between our palms. 

When you keep your eye on something steady, the world seems anchored.


Mar 2 2012

If I Lived Here…

I’m moving in two months.  Again.

Which is funny, because I’m generally someone who likes to stay in one place, put in some roots, settle down.

But I’m surprisingly excited about the prospect, even though I’m sure it’ll be an expensive hassle.  This will be my third move in a year, which is entirely unheard of for me.  But it does appear that I have options, each more appealing than the last.  Most of all, I’m hotly anticipating spending more time in a different part of Austin.  I’ve lived north of the UT campus for almost nine (count ’em, NINE) years, and I’ve loved it.  But Austin has all kinds of thrilling nooks and crannies, filled with culture and personality.  It’s packed with unique neighborhoods, each boasting their own character and style.

Yesterday I went to one of my potential neighborhoods – Barton Hills – and slowly drove around the streets, just feeling the vibe of the place.  Spurred on despite the rush-hour traffic, I meandered over to South 1st and South Congress and did the same.  And I found myself torn. 

“If I lived here,” I’d think one moment, “I could walk to Austin Java and Barton Springs!” 

But then I’d drive a little further, and sigh contentedly.  “Ooh, around the corner from Alamo Drafthouse and Black Sheep…” 

And then I’d remember how much I’ve recently fallen in love with SummerMoon Café and Freddie’s, and how I play wiffle ball at South 1st and Oltorf…

So it’s a win-win situation, really.  There’s no wrong choice.  I don’t know yet where I’ll be living in two months, and for the most part I’m okay with that.  It causes me a little anxiety, worrying that all of my options will fall through and I’ll find myself homeless.  But let’s be realistic.  That isn’t going to happen.  This is an opportunity, not a problem.  I get to pick up and experience something new; to explore a city that I love more every day; to grow and play. 

This is an adventure.


Jul 20 2011

Melee

Ultimate has defined my experience in Texas.

I moved here as a field hockey player, but within six months I was a convert to the Frisbee-based sport.  As a graduate student, I was hungry for a new team; for competition; for the good, hard sweat that comes with a grueling practice.  Much to my shock and awe, I missed the structure, the challenge, and the expectations of being a competitive athlete.  As an undergrad I mildly resented the commitment, but maybe all I needed was the chance to miss it.

So I stumbled across the women’s Ultimate team at UT Austin – Melee.  And since then, this sport has been at the center of my life.  It’s defined my vacations, my social life, my romantic life, my weekend plans and my physical activity.  It’s become who I am.

Unlike in typical sports, Ultimate teams generally opt for unique names.  Rather than being “The Tornadoes,” “The Tigers,” or “The Matadors,” Ultimate teams go for names like “Furious George,” “Riot,” and “Slow White.”   Which explains my first Ultimate team’s moniker. 

A melee can be defined as a fracas, a clash, a fray.  A scrum, if you will.  A mess, a shitstorm, a brawl.  Conflict.

And the irony is that, in some ways, this has also defined my experience in Texas.  I’ve gone through periods of calm and peace, but for the most part I’ve learned that being a grown-up is often fraught with difficult decisions.  With messiness.  With complications and change.  With tremendous inner struggle.

Now, maybe it’s just me.  But in observing my friends and family, I’m inclined to think that being an adult is simply…difficult.  Unless you hide yourself away in the wilderness to live by your wits outside of civilization, you’re bound to face some internal and external melees.  And wouldn’t it be sad not to have choices?  They can feel so paralyzing, so desperately painful.  But at the end of the day, I’ll hold on to my free will, thank you very much.  I’d rather have too many options than not enough.  I’d rather have to navigate thorny relationships than not connect with other people in meaningful ways.  I’d prefer to make a decision and wonder if it was the right one than to not have a choice at all. 

There was a time when I wanted to run away from these conflicts, and I even thought that I could avoid the ones inside my head and my heart.  I thought that leaving Austin entirely would calm things down.  I imagined myself out in the boondocks (or at least the suburbs), living a quiet and peaceful life with the birds and the wild bears.  But I’m an intensely social person, and it wasn’t long before I realized how much I truly love where I am.  How much I appreciate my choices, and even the emotional clashes that I have to face in order to be a citizen of the world. 

So I say, bring on the melee.


Jul 11 2011

Saints and Poets

EMILY:  Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

STAGE MANAGER:  No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.

–Thornton Wilder (Our Town)

I sat on the patio overlooking Lake Austin, remembering this line, and I thought, “I want to be like that.”

I want to realize life—to appreciate it, to make the absolute most of it, to be thankful for every moment—as I live it. 

But of course, that’s asking too much.  And it’s so easy to think that when you’re in your pajamas, drinking sweet coffee, looking out at a gorgeous sunrise on the water and your dog is napping contentedly at your feet.  It’s a simple thing to be grateful for those moments.  You’d be crazy not to sit back and appreciate them.  The trick is catching your breath during the difficult times.  Sinking into them and being thankful—yes, thankful—for the lessons that you can learn from the pain.

I’ve talked with writer friends and written before about how the challenging times can make the best fodder for our art.  Sure, I write when I’m happy and at peace, too.  But what about those times of struggle?  Of conflict and discomfort?  Of heartbreak and fear?  I’ve often thought, that’s where the good stuff is.  It’s buried deep down inside those dark experiences.  Mining the gritty stuff, the ugly bits, the angry and the sad stuff.  That’s where it’s at.

So maybe that’s what Wilder meant when he wrote that saints (who inevitably sacrifice) and poets (who invariably struggle) realize life every minute.  Because they actually know that life isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t always beautiful.  And since being a saint just really isn’t my bag, I’ll be a poet.


Jul 5 2011

A Snapshot of My Austin

It was two days after my birthday, at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday.  I was standing on the corner of 4th and Colorado in downtown Austin wearing a bikini and a Harry Potter towel.  My hair was wet, my makeup was smudged, and I’m sure I smelled like chlorine.  As I waited patiently for the “walk” signal, I noticed two guys dressed as Uncle Sam (in ridiculously small cutoff jean shorts, I might add) heading my way from across the street.  They joined me on the corner and we happily struck up a conversation.  You know, just a girl in a bathing suit in the city and two dudes in costume.  Totally normal.  But then, that’s the city where I live. 

I knew almost immediately that I’d be writing about it.

Almost eight years ago I packed up my life and left beautiful western Massachusetts, bound for the scrappy hills, hippie-cowboy vibe, and artistic and academic culture of Austin, Texas. 

A lot has happened in those eight years, but I’m not going to get into that here.  I already do a lot of reflecting back to years past, and right now I want to think about the last seven days.  About how Austin has become my home and my center.

Last week I turned 32 (despite one friend’s repeated insistence that I’m 33; ugh).  It was a Thursday.  Just a normal day, when the only thing I had on the books was time for writing and a few ultimate games.  I’ve never been huge on birthdays (as evidenced by how frequently I forget others’), so it wasn’t a big deal to me that I didn’t have a party planned or that I’d be playing ultimate for three hours when I could be drinking 32 for my 32nd.  That said, I still made a point to meet Sheila in the afternoon for a margarita at the coffee shop/bar/performance space Spiderhouse Café.  Sure, I should have been hydrating for ultimate…but what fun is that?  Sheila is relentlessly smart and funny, so naturally we had a fantastic time just sweating it up on the outside patio, margaritas in hand.  (I had the spicy melon, she had the cucumber lime.  Both were delicious.)

I was pleasantly surprised when Tina also suggested that we grab a birthday drink following our games.  I’m a teacher on summer vacation, so I happily accepted.  Go to a bar in sweaty athletic clothes on my birthday?  Why not?!  It’s not like I had to get up in the morning. 

We went to one of our favorite spots, Black Sheep Lodge, owned in part by a fellow ultimate player and friend named Keith (a.k.a. “Homie”).  I was further pleasantly surprised when a number of other friends showed up to wish me a happy birthday, making it a far more celebratory gathering than I’d originally expected.  Homie kicked things off with birthday shots and a tasty IPA (I still don’t know specifically what it was because he ordered it for me), and Jenna helped out by driving me home at the end of the night…Thank goodness.

On Friday I hit Barton Springs with fellow teacher and ultimate player Dawn (a.k.a. “Dawngo”).  She and I slathered ourselves in sunscreen, laid down two huge blankets, and hid her cooler away in her bag since it’s considered Against the Rules at the springs (even though we only had ice and water inside).  The pool was blissfully cold as always, the weather fantastically hot, and we fell into deep conversation while lounging in the sun.  About halfway through our stay, we ran into new friends Bonesaw, Hoag, Connor and Morgan (the first two are members of the Austin band Full Service, the other two houseguests of theirs), who were looking for a reprieve from the heat since they’re currently building an addition on their house off South Congress. 

This is one of the things that I adore about Austin:  It has all of the great restaurants, happenings, culture and activity of a big city, but the small-town feel of my own Amherst.  Running into the guys was a complete coincidence, but it wasn’t really a surprise.  It’s Barton Springs.  Everyone goes there in the summer.  (Especially when you’re a musician who makes your own schedule or a teacher on break.)

Dawngo and I eventually recognized that we needed to get out of the sun, so we said our goodbyes and I went home to get ready for the evening’s birthday activities with Allison:  Dinner and the Full Service show at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q.  Things started off great—with Mexican food and just enough margaritas to set the mood—when I got a text from Hoag saying that the show was cancelled due to plumbing problems.  So sad.  We paced around outside of Stubb’s for far too long, mourning the show’s cancellation, but eventually ended up at Lovejoy’s drinking good beer and playing “Conversion” (a game I’d explain here except that it’s really too complicated and not all that important). 

The next morning I hit up free yoga at Barton Springs and followed it up with an iced turbo (a sweet, cold, frothy coffee drink) at Jo’s.  Amanda popped over on her bike to chat, and then we both headed from there to Hannah’s place at 2nd and Lavaca, where we laid poolside with Holly, yet another Hannah, and Jess (a.k.a. “Venus”), basking away the Saturday afternoon.  When I finally left, I realized that I didn’t want to put on my dry clothes…Which brings me to the chance encounter with my Uncle Sam-impersonating friends. 

The guys explained that they were on a scavenger hunt, and shared their current clue with me.  We laughed about taking a picture together—two guys in costume, one girl in almost nothing—in the middle of downtown Austin.  They walked me to my car and I wished them luck as they took off at a run for Rainy Street.  Then, on my way home, I caught a glimpse of a march going down Cesar Chavez, which appeared to be a men’s statement against domestic violence.  I rolled down my window and caught a picture as they turned off Congress and passed by my car. 

It had already been a busy weekend, so I was happy to slow down with Alexa that night.  We ordered pizza, baked cookies, and watched Labyrinth, laughing and gasping like little kids the whole time. 

Sunday was pretty quiet, with a little housecleaning, time at the gym, and The Hangover Part II with Hannah for my birthday.  We went to The Alamo Drafthouse, though, which is easily my favorite theater in Austin.  A menu with my movie?  Yes, please!

On Monday I started ultimate camp at the UT Intramural Fields.  We have an almost entirely new staff at camp this year, but they’ve proven themselves to be amazingly adept at this coaching thing.  Their instincts are spot-on, they know exactly how to engage the kids, and they’re a hard-working bunch.  (Breaking the stereotype of the always-late, lackadaisical ultimate player.)  Monday night picked up with wiffle ball with the Full Service guys and friends.  I’ve only recently joined their game, but I’m hooked.  We play around various obstacles in the park—a cement bench, a sand volleyball court, low-hanging tree branches, etc.—and it’s always a bit of an adventure.  But the hazards keep things interesting, and we all show up for the company and the competition anyway.  On this particular night, we followed up the game with a trip to Barton Springs for the free hour from 9:00-10:00.  I’d never been at night before, but Bonesaw had promised me that it would be worth it, and he was right.  There was something very summery about the cooler air, the quiet chatter, and the artificial light in the night sky.  Save Our Springs Alliance featured a bluegrass band that night—Whiskey Shivers—who played while we paddled around in the freezing water.

On Tuesday I hit up my regular yoga class at Yoga Yoga (although my instructor, Mandy, is out of town for her honeymoon), and that night I went to Cipollina with Nazish for my birthday.  We split the crepes and the risotto—mmm.  After dinner we walked over to Contigo for a few more drinks and a bit more conversation.  (I had a Moscow Mule, she had El Pepino.)  We’re neighbors now, so we stumbled our way back home, alternately giggly and pensive.  Because our lives are never simple, but for as long as I’ve known her we’ve shared them with each other.

 Wednesday brought the first practice of the year with my women’s ultimate team, featuring a gorgeous sunset over the IM Fields, solid play, a strong turnout, and an overall good atmosphere.  At one point, after setting up cones for the field, I stopped to reflect on how good it felt to be surrounded by such a positive group of women.  Walking up to the cluster of ladies as they laced their cleats and took swigs from their stickered water bottles, I reveled in the comfortable chatter.  It’s a mixed group of women, ranging almost two decades in age, and many of them don’t yet know each other.  But they were happily introducing themselves, laughing, and gearing up for some frisbee.  I started the team just last year with two friends (Amy and Naz), and I’m captaining again this year.  It was gratifying to see our first practice so well-attended, with the girls gelling quickly and smoothly.  My girl-athlete heart swelled. 

After practice I chatted with Amy in the parking lot about how well practice went.  Then, throwing sleep out the window, I caught the tail-end of an impromptu Full Service jam and hit up Opal Divine’s for beers and darts with Hoag and Connor. 

And that brings me to today.  Thursday.  I’m now 32 and one week, and if you’re only as old as you feel, well then I’m…I don’t know, younger than 32.  I feel like every day holds new excitement and new discoveries here in Austin.  I’m back at Spiderhouse with Allison in a corner booth, both of us clicking away at our laptops, occasionally pausing to talk about our sordid lives or ask an academic/professional question.  We’re both yawning, because neither of us sleeps enough.  I’m still in my clothes from camp this morning, whereas she looks put-together and polished (as always).  We have earbuds in, but sometimes we’ll share a song with each other when we need a break.  I’m drinking an Italian soda because I just can’t have any more coffee, and she’s on her umpteenth refill of caffeine.  I’m headed back to summer league tonight, and even though know that I will once again be without a female sub, I’m looking forward to it.  I’m exhausted already, and my voice is hoarse from pushing it too hard at camp all week.  But it will be good to run around and play, however poorly. 

My good friend Tessa once told me that she moved back to California in part because California is in her blood.  That its culture is the right fit for her.  My family is in Massachusetts, and it’s a struggle being so far away from them all the time.  I miss them tremendously.  But I’ve found another family here in Austin, and when I’m honest with myself I know that the culture of this city is—as Tessa might say—the right fit for me.  I’m a Gemini, so I love its eclectic feel.  I appreciate meeting so many different kinds of people all the time, and it’s that much better that everyone seems so warm and open.  Austin is liberal with a sense of humor.  It’s quirky and cosmopolitan.  It’s educated and down-to-earth. It’s come-as-you-are.  And no, I’m not saying that I’m specifically all of these things, just that I appreciate these qualities about this city.  There are times when I wish that I could slow down a little bit more, but Alexa told me over the weekend that she’s never seen me so happy.  So maybe there’s something to that.  Maybe this activity does sit well on my shoulders.  Maybe this snapshot of Austin—or my version of the city—is the one that I need to frame and hang on my wall, or keep on my bedside table.  Because it’s the one that’s giving me strength and life.  It’s the one that I want to remember and hold on to.


Jun 29 2011

Gratitude Journal: As June Draws to a Close…

I’ve been working on a post for almost a week now, and it just doesn’t feel right yet.  It’s become a bit of a monster, really, growing more elaborate every time I revisit it.  (Clearly I need to work on my editing skills and make some friggin decisions!)  I have a feeling that I’m going to need a bit more time on that one.  So while I continue to plug away, here’s a Gratitude Journal—Summer 2011 Style.

I’m grateful for the new friends that I’ve made in the last year.  People who’ve added a whole new color to the spectrum of my life in Austin; energized me; inspired me; and reminded me that life can be full of wonderful surprises when you’re open to them

I’m grateful for the old friends who’ve rallied around me in the last six months.  They’ve provided support, distraction, words of wisdom, sage advice, confidence, and unconditional love. 

I’m grateful to live in a city that is so eternally filled with life.  And I’m grateful to discover something new about this city almost daily.

I’m grateful that I have a body that allows me to play, escaping from the trappings of my busy mind.

I’m grateful to have another season leading and playing on a women’s ultimate team full of enthusiastic, committed, fun female friends and teammates.  Teams like this confirm the value of women’s sports.  They’re validating; life-giving; challenging; motivating; stimulating.

I’m grateful to live in a country that allows women to be strong and athletic; to speak their minds; to be aggressive and assertive; to make choices for themselves.  (And yes, I know that we still live in a patriarchal society…But I’m thankful for the freedoms that I do have.)

I’m grateful for the things that I’ve learned about myself during this time of flux.  My life may be in transition, but I’m finding myself calmer, stronger, more resilient and more independent than I ever could have hoped.  I had almost forgotten that I was all of these things…And I’m thankful to have this opportunity to learn more—or be reminded—about who I really am.


Jun 14 2011

Magic 8 Balls, My Life, and Other Unpredictable Things

Remember when you got your first Magic 8 Ball?  You’d ask it to predict the future by asking questions like, “Will Jacob ask me to the dance?” or “Will I make the All-Star basketball team?”  Or maybe you were grade-conscious, and you’d ask about passing a certain test or whether you should sign up for advanced placement social studies.  You’d give it a good, solid shake, and wait for the answer to present itself. 

Of course, shaking it made it that much harder to read, because all of those little blue bubbles would turn to foam, further clouding the multi-sided die when it rose to the surface.   But you’d shake it anyway, because really—who can resist shaking a Magic 8 Ball?

My life has been quite the Magic 8 Ball lately.  And the questions are all much more grown-up, involving career and marriage, dream-chasing and realism, living situations and familial distance.

I’ve definitely been shaking this Magic 8 Ball.  And it’s alternately thrilling and terrifying, not knowing all of the answers.  The more I shake it up, the less clear things become.  But I’m feeling almost bizarrely calm about everything.  I’m just surrendering to the chaos.  I’m winging it, to say the very least. 

I most recently described the feeling to a friend:  “It’s like I’m carrying a really large tray, with lots of glasses of water on it.”

“So having a job would remove one of the glasses?” he asked me, because my simile was intentionally vague.  “Or would it be adding another glass?” 

I thought for a second.  “I don’t know!” I shrugged at him, because I really didn’t.  And I was (and am) strangely okay with that.  “But I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of balancing it all.”

I’ve reached a point where I accept that the answers aren’t all that important.  I mean, sure, they’re going to make a difference in my life and all.  I’m at the proverbial crossroads; a turning point.  But as someone who likes to have control over everything, it’s been incredibly liberating to just wait and see.  To sit with this indecision, this not knowing, this constant change and uncertainty.  To trust myself enough to know that I’ll be okay—great, even—no matter what.  To allow the die to settle at the top of the 8 Ball whenever it’s ready and wait for the bubbles to clear. 

I guess I’m embracing the idea that there are no “bad” choices.  There are just different paths, and whichever one I choose (or whichever one comes to be) is mine.  It will be up to me to make the most of it.