Monday, December 10, 2012

I've got a gypsy soul to blame

I arrived at work today bedecked in furs. I had a long knee-length, dark brown fur coat, complete with fur hood, and a white fur hat with ears that resembled a polar bear.
I spotted the children and opened my arms wide declaring, "today we learn about Russia!"
I put heavy emphasis on the R, flapping my tongue like a rattlesnake to sound appropriately Russian. They stared at me large-eyed, mouths agape and then began to grin. Hey, I have never been one to do things in half measure. And if I am shaping the minds of children right now as my current career endeavor, well then I want to make an impact. I want them to remember Russia and the Trans-Siberian Railroad far into adulthood not just because it stands out in their mind that their teacher arrived adorned in furs and speaking in an accent, but because I want them to believe these places are worth wondering about.
We sat down on the floor so I could read them an itinerary as if we were about to embark upon the majestic Trans-Siberian, trekking from Vladivostok to Moscow. I told them that we would pass Lake Baikal, the world's oldest lake containing 20% of the earths fresh water, that we could stop and visit St. Nicholas cathedral, see mountains and villages, make a pit-stop for the Russian ballet, all of this on a 17 day train ride through Siberia.
I myself was wooed just talking about it. The more I read to them about Russia and watched as they sketched out maps of the Trans-Siberian Railway, I longed to merely blink my eyes, Bewitched style and suddenly be standing in Moscow already set with my thick furs for a cross country adventure via rail.
Alas life does not work with just the snap of the fingers, but it does, however, work with magic. Teaching my lil students about far-off places that I dream of going was a nice lesson for them, but an even better refresher course for me. It reminded me that all I do right now is simply preparing me to get there. Oh and not just Russia and its railways, especially the lesser known Baikal-Amur Mainline railroad, which I read about this summer and have been having soul-shattering fantasies about ever since. You know how people think of what they would do if they won the lottery, those kind fantasies? Except apply that same sighing whimsy to how I feel about seeing the entirety of this world and its people, creatures, waterways, mountains, canyons, prairies, festivals, legends, lore... oh gosh, I feel downright heady with the possibilities.
In fact, just reading some of the facts about Russia aloud to the children would cause an exuberant squeal from me. While they were excited and attentive about Russia, they couldn't understand that my mere relaying of information about another world was feeding my soul in a way it yearns to be fed.
Let me be clear. There are things I want in this life. There are things I need. And there are things I cannot live without. And riding a hundred something year old railroad through the wilds of Russia is something I cannot live without experiencing. Along with getting my face obliterated by tomatoes in Spain, or learning to work on a lobster boat, seeing huskies take off at the Iditarod, hiking the Appalachian Trail, seeing whales off the coast of, heck who cares, I just want to see whales, hearing Native American drummers, sifting through cranberry fields, or sunflower fields, or any field that I have not yet explored... these aren't just wants, they aren't just needs. They are deep and borderline debilitating aches for a life I am certain I was somehow already a part of.
Maybe I kid that I was a mermaid because I am so found of the sea, but maybe I was a mermaid.
Or maybe I was just a sailor. Or an explorer. Or a lost soul. Or a dignitary. Or a pauper. Or a poet. Or a dreamer. Or a storm chaser. Or an acrobat. Or a wild thing.
Or maybe God put infinite desire in me to know and recognize the places I must see and the lives that must intersect with mine. And he gave me the acute fluttering of my heart and pining of my soul to know when I have found something that is somehow already a part of me. A place I was meant to go back to. Or a person I am meant to know. Maybe I wasn't there in another life, but I am meant to be there now.
I know this.

I may not know much else about understanding life and all its fickle uncertainty but I do know that my soul is a wanton gypsy that needs to wander this earth until the soles of her shoes are scraped off and she is too weak to stand.
That is what I know.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recipe for an existential crisis

*Author's note--there is no delight in this post, so read on at your own peril. However, there is a quality music reference, so I didn't fully stray.

Make sure your paycheck that's owed to you for the last two months from your previous employer never gets sent to you, though said previous employer insists it's in the mail.
Get threatening texts that your phone is about to be shut off.
Don't pay your bills on time, because you have seven cents, literally in your checking and savings combined.
Avoid calls from any city that's not your own, Seattle, Newark, Manitowoc, because they are definitely about the bills that you aren't paying with the money you aren't making.
Don't bother thinking about your dreams because they seem to be spiraling downward into the toilet that is your life.
Look for work and find a job that is in your field of interest and you find very fulfilling but is only twelve hours a week while your other options of supplementing your never-ending pool of debt are waitressing or bagging groceries.
Feel desolate looking at your student loan bills creeping upwards of $80,000 with interest accruing daily and wonder why you paid for higher education just to serve beer and accidentally walk into the bathroom on someone doing a line of coke.
Don't go for a run because even though the endorphins would be good for you, the thought of putting on different clothes seems to be too much.
Lay in bed but don't distract yourself in any positive way, like reading quality books or looking at choice photography but instead think of all the ways in which your life is an abyss and feel markedly worse.
Continually switch your Pandora station because even the most folksy, mellow music isn't depressing enough to match your mood. Bob Dylan. You read once that if you're sad, don't listen to Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan it is.
Sleep in a bed with two of your sisters in a bedroom where you don't have a dresser and all your clothes are spilling out of bags and you can't find your underwear when you get out of the shower and your siblings steal your socks and you end up wearing the same three outfits every week rather than dig through the endless bags of chaos.
Take half a Xanax, but immediately fret that you should have taken a whole.
Wonder where all your positivity and pep went?
Acknowledge that when your most loved place sucker punched you in the groin when you were down and thoroughly made you question not only your belief in yourself, but your belief in everything, that it could be a rough road back to the top.

Aaaaand that outta do it.

Congratulations, you are now in the throes of an existential crisis.

**Additional author's note--okay, after writing this post I waited awhile before publishing as it seemed rather bleak and true enough it is. But since then, a very kind and incredible man whom I love dearly made me laugh, well amidst my tears, but he accomplished something noteworthy in my crisis nonetheless. So I take it back about the no delight. Life isn't all grim. I love and am loved. That's not to be discounted, even for the sake of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Also I went ice skating today. So... there's that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Falling Apart

What do I write about? Hardship? No, that's dreary. So no writing then for the past few months. Why? Because it seemed that all I could possibly write about was the cold, dead weight of hardship pressing down on me to a point where I couldn't fashion a quick lemonade stand out of my hefty bag o' lemons anymore. For I was lost and sinking like a lead pipe in the Bermuda Triangle. Of course I started letting on that New York was hard--understatement by the way, that New York is not When Harry Met Sally or Sex and the City. The New York that I experienced wasn't even a comedy or a romance. It was a sad, sad story, definitely the kind that make Oprah's book club, you know the ones: They start out a little sad in the beginning, are a lot sad in the middle, and horribly bleak in the end. That was my New York.
But don't misunderstand me. I love that city and I would do it all over again, including the moments of sobbing in the fetal position on my bathroom floor. Oh but did I have my moments of grandeur. Even Oprah's stamp of approval books can't be all grim, there has to be glimmers of hope, for that's what every heart needs. And that is what I had in New York. I gave it my all and I gave it my love. But sometimes even the greatest love fails, despite what we want to believe about Edward and Bella. And even the battles that everyone favors the bold to win, well they sometimes are lost, despite the most noble and valiant soldiers. And when this happens, as it often does in life, the ugly part, the sad part, the part that no one really wants to know, because it's not the success story, or the time for great applause and the graceful dipping of a bow, it's the time when the hero or in my case heroine--while I may be downtrodden, I am still the heroine of my own life--is left with the remains, the destruction, the hurt and the defeat wondering and replaying what she could have done differently and how she is supposed to make sense of a tremendous loss and how to make something funny that doesn't feel funny at all?
That's the problem though, there is a time for laughter in life, and I want to believe that is always, because I prefer joy, and oftentimes I prefer denial, but while laughter has it's divine merits, so do tears. And if I learned anything from a very wise coach I had, it's that sometimes in life, you need to stop trying to be tough and just let yourself fall apart, dammit.
Alas that is what I have been doing for the past two months. Falling apart over and over again. Sure I did my marathon and believe me I sort of fell apart during that too as running for 26 miles offers a lot of time for self inspection. And it was a splendid metaphor for New York. Oh I started out so blithely unaware of the atrocity that is keeping your body going mile after mile after mile, hour after hour. By the time I got into the twenties I felt a wee bit deranged and asked myself why anyone would torture themselves in such a way, why would anyone intentionally feel horrendous pain and grief in the name of a dream? Honestly, because it's fucking worth it in the end. I didn't have a noteworthy time for finishing, took me six and half hours, that's tortoise slow by all running standards by the way, I had moments where I was chugging my cup of water and limping, certain I would require an ambulance, but I'll tell you what, crossing that finish line, still running, despite the knots in every muscle of my legs and my mind whimpering for mercy was one of the most profoundly rewarding moments of my life. For all the pain and wondering why I would attempt said feat during the six and a half hours of making myself keep going, it all became clear to me why I did it once I crossed the finish line and began to weep. Because I believed in something enough to try.
New York was nothing I could have expected, trained for or even forced myself though with sheer positivity alone: it was hellish and beautiful, poetic and heartbreaking, disastrous and wonderful, yet the race came to an end. But for me, it's important to know this, I saw it through to my finish line. At least for now. Because as much as I told myself during my marathon I would never endure such brutality for the sake of personal achievement again, I felt differently upon completion. I wanted it all over again. My mom sagely told me that was the same feeling as childbirth.
So while I may not be in New York right now, it doesn't mean there isn't another race in my future. Maybe it requires better training or maybe it's a simple understanding of what I want and won't settle for. And turns out as funny as it will be in my chapter of life that I did get to ever so briefly be homeless in New York, stay in a hostel and huck my wordly possessions through the subway and streets in the pouring rain, it isn't so funny doing it for more than a few days.
I wish I could sum it up in a more pristine package, make you want to stand up and cheer, but like I said, this isn't one of those stories. But do know this, in my book, the heroine doesn't stay down for long. She always has a comeback.

Oh and a leading man. But that's a story for another day.