Tuesday, May 24, 2011

fortune favors the brave

                                                         this lion will carpe the hell of the diem 

I have a friend whose a really good salsa dancer. Like really good; easily one of the best in town. We were chatting outside the studio on Friday night about dating and I started weaving a simile about how you didn't want your love life to be like one of those nights out salsa dancing where you waited on the sidelines hoping the men you want to dance with would ask you only to get stuck dancing with the sweaty guy who can't find the beat to save his life. She stopped me short and informed me that she usually does the asking exactly to avoid that problem. In essence, she proved my point about why a girl has to occasionally break with convention and ask a guy out if he's not getting around to it (it also makes me wonder why it's easier for me to break with convention off the dance floor and on but that's another matter).  

The point is, almost all of the people who get what they want in love, dance and otherwise are the people who go after it: the more tenaciously the better. Most of us don't just get things dropped in our laps and those of you who do, kindly STFU. Thanks. 

So write the book. Quit the job you hate and find one you love. Find out what that cute barista is doing this weekend. Ask him to dance. 

What are you waiting for? 

Friday, May 20, 2011

let's hear it for New York

I spoke to a former colleague yesterday and she asked me if I missed New York. I told her I didn't. I said I was very nostalgic about my time there but I was glad to be living here. Today I spoke to a friend who was thinking seriously about leaving New York and did I have any wisdom to share? I told her that making the decision was the hardest part; when you live in New York, it becomes a big part of your identity. I remember wondering who I would even be if I didn't live in the city I had built my entire post-college existence. Where would I work? Who would I spend my time with? What would I DO if I left? But I did leave and I gradually figured out the answers to all of those questions.

I was burnt out by the time I left. I remember being in the cab to the airport with my one-way ticket back to Seattle; just as we were hurtling out of the Holland Tunnel, I looked over my shoulder and saw the city behind me. I felt nothing, just relief to be moving on.

On a day like this, when it finally breaks 70 in Seattle and the water and mountains are so dazzling, it's hard to imagine wanting to live anywhere else. And yet...once in while I have a pang of longing for New York. I don't miss the place so much as I miss a certain feeling I had when I lived there: a feeling that something amazing could happen on any given day, that a night could lead just about anywhere. Everything was so exhaustingly extreme in New York; most of the time Seattle feels refreshingly normal, but every once in a while, the part of me that is still 23 finds it a little dull. The 29 year old part of me knows that I traded in the thrills for a more consistent sort of happiness and that adult life consists of many of the these bargains and the trick is knowing when to shift the balance.

But just because I don't want to get back together doesn't mean I don't still heart you NY, probably always will.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

body politics

I wrote for the Gloss's Hunger Games week today about ways to love your body. Spoiler alert: none of these include diets or punitive pilates training (unless that's what you're into). I always try to come from a positive angle when discussing body stuff because there will sadly, never be a dearth of negative feedback for women about their bodies. This was especially evident this week; the Gloss collected myriad first person accounts and almost all of them were incredibly depressing stories of body loathing in the extreme. Who knew that women and their bodies were such a necessarily dark subject matter? I suppose I should have known, but it still pisses me off.

People who know me in real life know I'm always crusading to stop the body hate. And now I take it to the internets, hooray! So maybe I can help, even just a little.

Has it always been this way? Will it ever change?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

this magic moment

The small but significant silver lining of dealing with a crisis is that it forces you to live in the moment. You lose the option to dwell too much on all of the things that led you to that situation and all of the possible ways it might go forward because it's too overwhelming. You have no option but to live by the hackneyed maxim of 'one day at a time' and in doing so, you realize that that is the manner in which your life has always been happening, regardless of how caught up in your head you were ruminating on the past or trying to plan for the future. 

Writers are natural dreamers, given to living in the imagination, a place that can feel more at home than the disorderly real world. But as much as it's a refuge in troubled times, so can it be a danger zone with all its chimeras. So I try now to concentrate on taking my physical self somewhere it wants to be: the dance floor, bed, a warm shower, the occasional patch of Spring sun and remembering my coporeal self. 

As someone who moves through life with a lot of momentum, sometimes the hardest thing is to just let it be.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who’s afraid of the big bad 30?

As I’ve checked things off of my list during this project, I’ve had ample time to wonder what being thirty is all about. What does it mean to me to be heading into this new decade of my life? Is it scary, exciting? Does it even have real meaning beyond the milestone status imposed upon it by romantic comedies and the greeting card industry? Are say 29 and 31 really any more different than 26 and 28 were? I feel like eras in one’s life are more accurately cordoned off into natural four or five year chunks: 18-22, 22-26, 27-32 etc.  This was echoed by my friend Colleen in New York (who is turning thirty next month) when said she’s actually felt like she’s been in her thirties for a while. I’ve felt the same for the last couple of years because I tend to associate my real twenties with the time period I spent in New York living in tiny apartments where I never cooked actual meals and went out to nightclubs on Monday nights. But while I’ve felt thirty-ish for a while, will I feel differently once I’m actually on the other side of that number? 

By in large my friends seem unbothered by the idea of hitting the milestone birthday. The aforementioned Colleen added that it helps that she feels like she’s finally really getting somewhere in her career and that she’s surrounded by great friends and has a great boyfriend, which help to make her feel satisfied in who she is at 30. My friend Mo just turned thirty on Saturday and she said, ‘I feel great and nothing is sagging so it’s all good.’ My friend Kerri, who has a little more time on the clock than I, feels good about the idea as well and is happy about the way her twenties went. There are some differences now: ‘I still like day boozing,’ she said, ‘it's just that now I like that it because I can go to bed earlier.  I don't think that's why I liked it in my early 20s.’

In order to get some male perspective, I asked my friend Jason how he felt about turning thirty, which he did earlier this year and he was pretty stoked about it. I asked him how he thinks his thirties might be different than his twenties. ‘I’ll have more money to do rad things,’ he said. ‘Plus when you’re a 35 year old dude, you can date 21 year olds and 50 year olds.’ There is that!

It goes without saying that turning thirty is different for men than it is for women of course. Men don’t have reason to feel much anxiety about turning thirty as far as society and/or biology is concerned; there's probably a whole other column in that.

No one I talked to had anything negative to say about turning thirty though my friend Monica did say that the milestone birthday led her to some uncomfortable revelations about her life. ‘I was excited about turning thirty because I love big birthdays but afterwards I realized that I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be in life- which motivated me to make some changes. My twenties were fantastic but I was ready to move on to a new chapter; I saw my thirties as being a chapter of maturity.’

And perhaps that’s what’s a little intimidating about thirty; we see this as the decade when bonafide adulthood sets in. Looking forward to my thirties I have this vague notion that someone is going to force me to do all of the real, grownup things like get married and buy a house and have kids whether I want to or not. I have to smack myself and remember that a) I don’t have to do these things ever if I don’t want to and b) I do not live in a rom-com and/or the 1950s.

But there will be choices to be made at some point, this way or that and my options are not necessarily more numerous as they are just very different from what they will be in ten years. My chances to do all of the non-grownup things I want to do won’t completely expire on April 5, 2012 but it will someday, and someday creeps on you faster than you ever thought it could. When I look back on my twenties, I want to feel like I rocked them and I want to feel like I rocked 29 hardest of all. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

a few times I been around that track

When I started writing for the Gloss, I told myself I would take some time off from writing fiction to focus on 'building a platform' (is that not the WORST phrase ever? Ick.). I gave my permission to silence the guilty voices in my head that scream 'but what about your art?!' whenever I am trying to do something productive like paid freelance work or catching up the Real Housewives, so long as I was diligently keeping up with these other writing projects. But lately the muses have been calling. And I've been letting them go to voicemail.

A new novel comes around to me at once every couple of years, the way a new love does just when you start to think one might not. I think every novelist is different this way; some appear to have an endless stream of books coming out of them (Joyce Carol Oates) and some seem to either not have so many or choose them that much more carefully (Jeffrey Eugenides). And mine hit every couple of years. So along they come: new characters clogging up my neural pathways; saying 'forget the real world, come back over here where you belong'. And truth be told, I want to. I miss my parallel universe.

And yet. I can't help but think of the ones that came before. The foolish one I was involved with in college, the heady one from my New York days that I almost went the distance with, the third still in limbo. Do I really need to write another novel right now? Well...yes. I do.

Just as no single girl worth her salt would give up looking for love after a couple of bad relationships, neither can I.

I'll pick up the phone next time, I promise.   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

it was worth all the while

Wednesday was the only sunny day we got in Seattle last week. It was fitting that this was the day that we celebrated the life of Kim Ricketts, my friend and onetime boss who passed away last week. The service was incredible: moving, sad and funny all at once with heartfelt speeches and stories from her family and friends; it was held in one of the biggest cathedrals in the city and it was packed to the gills with hundreds of people who loved her. I met up with a couple of the other women who worked for her beforehand and we didn't part ways until twelve hours later. 

I had been dreading the day. Funerals are hard: I feel uncomfortable crying in front of people and I'm always desperate not to say the wrong thing. But as the day wore on, and the day became night and the nearest and dearest stayed on to drink and eat and talk about the amazing life of the woman we'd lost I began to feel as though I never wanted it to end. Surrounded by all of these wonderful people who I'd met through her, I couldn't hep but feel as though she would come around the corner at any moment. She never did of course but I swear I could feel her there. I heard people saying the same thing to each other all night. 

I've been thinking about death more than I would like to lately but this is only thinking about life really. Kim was a woman who knew how to live; she was passionate about doing the good things in life, eating good food, drinking good wine, reading good books and spending time with good people. Her life wasn't nearly long enough but I can't imagine anyone getting any more out of 53 years. She had a storied career, a beautiful family and about a billion close friends. 

Reflecting on a life so well spent can't help but make you question how you're spending yours. Are you doing the kind of work you want to be doing? Spending enough time with the people who you care about most and not too much time worrying about the rest? When you are gone what will be left of your efforts here? A family? A business?

When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we begin to measure the time remaining: six months, two years. But it's always finite, the clock is ticking on all of us. Now is the always the time to make it count. The only question is how.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

writing about writing about writing

My post for The Gloss today is about trying to get a book deal. In truth I felt a little strange talking about it in a forum outside my own blog where at this point I feel pretty to free to indulge myself in getting all meta by writing about being a writer. I don't know why I always find talking about the process of trying to get published vaguely embarrassing, like it's some indecent combination of hustling and searching desperately for love and attention.

After a couple of months of cooling off the agent search to focus on my column and the blog and just give myself a break from rejection-apalooza, I'm struggling to gear myself up to jump back in. It was easy not to think too much about all of it when I was in Argentina, but then I got back and LIFE started happening again in a big way as it's wont to do. 

I feel really reticent about getting back out there. The agents and editors of the world are not going to stop bringing the pain because I'm going through a rough time in my personal life. But then, I also wonder if my other troubles might not put the whole thing in perspective; there are much worse things than not getting your book published after all.  

And at the end of the day, when IS it a good time for this all too often brutal process? Is there no time like the present or is it sometimes best to sideline yourself for a while? 

Monday, May 2, 2011

what dreams may come

I worked with an author recently who is a psychiatrist; she was really into dreams and what they could tell us about ourselves, our intuition and our future. I've always had very vivid dreams and more so lately than ever. I still have the usual outrageous flying dreams with fantastical elements but recently many of my dreams have been all too grounded in reality with my worst fears and wildest hopes playing themselves out over and over again on a nightly basis. My brain works it all out but then I wake in the morning to a life unchanged. Lost loves are still lost, conflicts with a loved one still unresolved, paths still not yet taken, words still not spoken.

My author suggested listening to the advice that comes through in your dreams and indeed this is advice I've sometimes heeded as I did when I started this blog after having a dream last winter that I went to Argentina and regretted not blogging about it (dull but useful as visions go). But other times the scenarios played out in my dreams are reckless and hinge on things I could never control, like stubborn people seeing the error of their ways. Strangely I don't recall ever dreaming about becoming a famous author, the imagined future which I colloquially refer to as my 'dream'.

So what does it all mean anyway? Are dreams significant or just the flotsam and jetsam of our subconscious mind?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

goodbye my friend

I hadn't known Kim Ricketts a long time when she passed away last week; it will be a year ago this May that I first met her. But in that short time, she had a big impact on my life.

This time last year, I was feeling lost. I had moved back to Seattle over the winter holidays and was trying to figure out what in the world to do with my life. I had left New York with the intention of going to grad school but the longer I was home, the less that idea seemed appealing. I was working part time for my dad and writing a lot and I was happier than I'd been in New York but I was adrift; I didn't even know where to begin. And then along came Kim.

Kim ran an eponymous book events company here in Seattle; she hosted visiting authors of all stripes and was known around town for events that were both thought-provoking and incredibly fun and lively (which you know is extraordinary if you've been to half as many literary events as I have) that left even the most demanding authors pleased as punch and forever singing her praises.Whenever I told someone in the New York book world that I was moving back to Seattle, their immediate response would be 'oh you have to meet Kim Ricketts. She's amazing.' Everyone in publishing seemed to know her and love her; and it's really something when a bunch of big bad New Yorkers all rave about someone working out of the far-flung hamlet of Seattle.

And so, once I'd officially nixed the grad school idea, I asked one of my buddies at Doubleday for an introduction to this famous Northwest book maven. As serendipity would have it, Kim's publicist was leaving and she needed a new one. I went over to her office in Freemont on one of those rare, glorious spring Seattle days to meet with her about the job and we hit it off like a house on fire.

How do I even describe what Kim was like? She was about half my height and bursting at the seams with energy. She was as warm and generous as anyone I've ever met but would never hesitate to tell you when she thought someone was being a moron and she had one of the all time epic withering looks for those who really trying her patience. She was that rare combination of biting wit and generous spirit; of straight talk and straight-up kindness. She was mother-hen-meets-scholar-meets-Grand-Marshall-of-the-whole-goddamn-parade. She was passionate about books and incredibly insightful the complicated industry and its many foibles.

Working for Kim was a blast; I've never had a job I enjoyed more. But it was more than that for me too. Working with her made me feel for the first time like I belonged in Seattle, like I could really make the place my home again as an adult. And when Kim decided to stop doing public events last Fall (therefore negating her need for a publicist), it was she who encouraged me to go out on my own and she who introduced me to all of the people who have helped me out along the way.

Far more eminent voices than mine have piped in this past week on the many ways in which Kim was a wonderful human being and an irreplaceable force in the book world. She meant an awful lot to a lot of people; I share my sadness with a cast of hundreds of those who knew and loved her. I was lucky to have had her in my life and I miss her. My heart breaks for her husband and three children, one of whom I'm lucky enough to call a friend. There's no doubt that Kim's time here was too short, but she did more with half a century than most people would do with a millennium. She was a legend in the industry and there will never be anyone else like her.

She was a terrific boss and a dear friend to me; I never didn't feel better about life after seeing her. Kim guided me and inspired me and gave me a sense of belonging here that no one else could have. In short, she helped me find my way back home.