I had originally planned to write this blog last night, along with filing my taxes, spring cleaning my closets, building a blog business plan, calling 127 people, and baking a pumpkin loaf. Not to spoil anything, but what I actually accomplished was finishing Tenements, Towers and Trash by Julia Wurtz and the Netflix original series Alta Mar — two things that hold zero productivity points on paper but in reality, gave me a much needed respite from the constant intake of pandemic news.
The first day of self-isolation, when we were asked to officially work from home, I found myself hyperaware of my sudden need to lean into productivity and almost guiltily, have something to show for my time at home. “Uncertain about a situation? Make a list about it!” my brain yelled at me while playing a carnival organ. “There is no anxiety to see here behind this curtain! Just focus on these good ole’ fashion, unrealistic to do lists that will eventually bring you anxiety but until then, will distract you from the anxiety already brewing over the pandemic!” My brain is very theatrical in times of crisis. Bless it, it’s like an ever running production of The Cursed Child and Moulin Rouge combined.
Productivity, for better or worse, has always been my coping mechanism through uncertain times, giving me a fake sense of control in times when I really had very little. It should work wonderfully in theory, but then again so should MC Hammer pants. What my productivity coping mechanism almost always fails to take into account is that sometimes what my body actually needs is to slow down, acknowledge the uncertainty, and just be.
Going into week two of self-isolation, as cases of coronavirus ramp up by the thousands in New York City, I’ve been trying to avoid as best I can the social media posts displaying all the things one can accomplish during their time at home. Work out everyday and get a six pack, learn a new hobby, learn a language, clean out your entire house, write a novel — this is your time to make all your dreams come true! At times it has felt like every voice is yelling to be a part of the conversation that we all need to be making the most of our time at home.
And this conversation is driving me absolutely crazy.
I originally sat down to write a piece about the time one of my best friends and I went to a 6 a.m. sober rave on a boat that circled lower Manhattan for two hours. But then the past week happened and with it, a sudden shift into feeling like the U.S. was crawling towards the beginning chapters of “Station Eleven.” By now, you’ve received probably hundreds of emails from friends, family, organizations, your own workplace, companies, and brands talking about the coronavirus. In New York, it was at first hard to believe that a pandemic was happening when the spring sunshine was burning deliciously bright overhead, but then the streets began to empty out and almost all NYC institutions temporarily closed — the most personally alarming being the NYPL. When the NYPL (and later, Disneyland!) closes, you know it’s the real deal here.
On Friday morning, I thought I would do a last minute Trader Joe’s run before leaning completely into my new socially distanced life. Hundreds of other people must have had the same idea as I spent 45 minutes waiting in line to get into the store where employees ran around trying to restock as quickly as possible. When I finally left at 11:30am, having waited in line to check out for over an hour as we snaked through every single aisle (which on the plus side, meant a second round of grocery shopping), the store had already been depleted to bare bones. I felt grateful to how calm and kind everyone was throughout the process, all of us stuffed together like sardines trying to fill our tote bags with food as the store quickly ran out of carts, but in that moment it was an alarming reality of what was to come.
Precautions around the coronavirus went into overdrive last week in New York and on Wednesday, we were officially asked to work from home for the month in order to help slow the spread of the virus. It takes a major incident to slow down the city that never sleeps, but practically overnight it has all but come to a halt. And perhaps the hardest part, it’s all still a bit unknown with all of us just waiting in the wings to see what happens.
Today, amongst the many other thoughts pin balling around in my brain, I asked my therapist about balance. Specifically, if it’s possible to find balance while juggling all the priorities that make life feel fulfilling?
(Unrelated, how New York does it sound to start a story with, “I was talking to my therapist”? The answer is very, though perhaps not as New York as yelling at someone for using an umbrella even though it’s actually raining. But I digress.)
It was a conversation that then followed me into my yoga class. Between warrior twos and pigeons, the teacher quietly stepped in between our mats talking about setting down our expectations of needing to do everything. “Adulting is hard,” the teacher said, in what I can only describe as “the yoga teacher voice,” a mixture that sounds like the smell of vanilla and lavender. By this point, having run into the life juggling conversation twice in one day, and later a third time while finishing the book What If This Were Enough? (highly recommend), it felt like a bit of a sign to invite it home for tea. So here I am, with a little note to all the life jugglers out there.
Routines, the elusive beasts I’ve been chasing for years and only now, am beginning to understand the true power of.
I wanted to start this blog post off with something profound, but all I want to talk about right now is Hem sitting with her paws extended towards the radiator, snoozing away on her scratching post. She only wakes up when fat squirrel runs past on the fire escape and after the excitement has died down, she puts herself right back to sleep, content with the warmth and the music and the constant snuggles from her over-loving mother. It’s so adorably cute, how am I expected to focus on anything else?
If you had told me ten years ago this would be my daily view from New York, I would have been both a little bit skeptical and anxious with anticipation because it’s where I hoped to end up. And yet, the journey to get here has been so different than I ever could have imagined.
There is something deeply humbling about being a beginner as an adult. Covered from bangs to cuffed ratty jeans in clay, I’ve spent many a pottery class watching the vase I spent 45 minutes working on fly off the wheel in front of me or the glaze on a piece I loved coming out looking rather vomit-ish.
In 2015, I signed up for a wheel pottery class — something I’d never done before. Arriving the first day, it appeared I had hit upon a secret club of other 25-year-old ladies having quarter life crisis as we dawned aprons and spent hours hunched over our wheels waiting for our creations (or perhaps lives?) to take shape.
That first semester, my class included a girl named Laura who took to pottery like a YouTuber takes to a photo op against a wall of fake flowers. From the first class, Laura was making mugs that held their shape, graduating quickly to complex designs like tea pots and casserole dishes with lids while the rest of us stumbled along in the dark creating bowls without bottoms and vases that “purposely” leaned to one side. At 25, I was a beginner beginner again, something I hadn’t been in years. It was a humbling feeling, to say the least. But as I continued to pursue pottery over the next three years — showing up each week to cover myself in mud in the pursuit of making a mug — I realized just how important that feeling was to me.
^^ Photo from one of my favorite artists. ^^
For me, there is a fine, almost invisible, tripwire between admiration and jealously. Often times I don’t even know I’ve crossed between the two until I find myself muttering on the sidewalk such statements as “But she’s so cool and friendly and successful and focused, and I’m so … *waves arms in the air like a deranged mime or cat being forced into a bath.* When it comes to comparing my insides to other’s outsides, rarely do I come out on top. But after reading a recent piece from Inthefrow, I couldn’t help but wonder, is comparison always a bad thing?
I just heard the best, most wonderful news EVER — Call Me By Your Name is getting a sequel at the end of October and the news has warmed me from the inside-out. If you’ve yet to read the book or see the movie, I envy you because that means you get to enjoy both again for the first time. In both the novel and its adaptation onto film, Love is a lead character along with Oliver and Elio, and written in a way that reminds the reader that love is never just one thing.
When I first moved to the New York City I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and was single for the first time in my 20s. Until then, I had felt that when people talked about love, while there were countless types of loving relationships one could have, the ultimate love one was supposed to seek was romantic. It was the creme de la creme, the penthouse suite, the first class of relationships, and the one you were expected to want the most, to work on the most, and to envision defining your future happiness. And to that *hits mic and clears throat* I CALL BS! Hear me out.
Walking to dinner at a friend’s house the other night, I came to the realization that New York City is full of a lot of umbrella judgement. Unless it’s raining so hard that Noah’s Arc sent you a text telling you they’re three minutes away, DO NOT open your umbrella. It is like everyone else made a secret pact to muscle through the downpour and give sideways looks to anyone (me) who dares to show up to a social event not looking like they’d just jumped in a pool.
Look New York, life here is already challenging enough. I carry my laundry on my back every couple weeks hoping I don’t drop a sock (or, God forbid, an actual piece of clothing) on the sidewalk because once it’s down, I can never touch it again. So lighten up about the umbrella judgment please.
What a tangent but no, this post isn’t actually about umbrellas or sometimes judgmental New Yorkers or laundry. It is about (believe it or not) the life lessons I’m taking away from Freestyle Love Supreme and having an out-of-the-blue, one-for-the-books, totally-magic New York City night.
The other night I went to a birthday party where the only person I knew was the host. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that being the new person walking into any social gathering is my kryptonite. Give me medical emergencies, traveling to communist China, but please don’t invite me to your wedding where I know zero people. My nervousness started as a low hum the week before and each day, the dial would turn up incrementally. By the time Saturday night rolled around, my nerves had grown from ignorable background noise to headlining act at Madison Square Garden. But this time around, I was determined to go come hell or high water — or in reality, come four trains, one Lyft, and three hours of delays.
As you might expect, the party was lovely and after chatting for a couple hours, I was reminded how much I really do love connecting with new people in this city. But perhaps what surprised me the most was that the night left me feeling brave. Like proud-of-myself, call-my-mum-on-the-phone brave. Not because I had done anything particularly courageous on paper, but because I had done something particularly courageous for myself.