Sunday, January 25, 2009


Dear Susans,

I never ended up making a New Year’s Resolution. Right now though, I resolve to stop doing things that will make me nauseous.

You see, I’ve been feeling off since eating brunch this morning. Jessica and I completed our Sunday ritual of going to the local diner to stuff ourselves with breakfast food and rehash what happened to us over the weekend. She always gets an omelet with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheddar, I always get an omelet with feta cheese and an English muffin on the side, and I always feel like crap for hours afterwards. This morning in particular I didn’t hesitate to undergo this masochistic ceremony, because just last night I had seen Notorious with some friends and my crush, Daniel. This was prime diner gossip material, despite the fact that I had made absolutely no new progress in this endeavor (and really, because of it).

Anyway, after my breakfast binge I nearly fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon while reading in bed, when I realized that I Cannot do this. I had just made a list of all the productive things I could do today and knew I would regret it if I let myself take a nap. So I finished my tea and took the subway to the garment district to buy fabric for a Zabuton (meditation sitting pad) I’ve been meaning to sew.

It was after I got home, around when I was hopelessly trying to cut in a straight line, that I first noticed the nausea. It felt exactly as if I had been spinning around in a swivel chair, or like that time we all rolled down the hill after swinging too long in Guilford (the infamous itchy sleepover). But I had done no spinning, swinging or rolling, and realized the queasiness had to be the result of the subway ride home, which did seem a little more jerky than usual, in combination of course with all I had put my stomach through earlier.

I tried to ignore it and worked on my sewing project while watching The Ice Storm. I had diner, then made some cookies, as the dough had already been opened for a couple days, it and would probably have gone bad soon (or so I rationalized). While talking to my mom on the phone, I thought nothing of eating all but one of the cookies that had just come out of the oven. Needless to say, this made everything worse and I laid down on my bed to do the only thing I felt capable of doing for the rest of the night: dicking around online. Now comes what did me and my poor stomach in: I found this optical illusion and proceeded to stare at it for at least five minutes, trying to determine why or how it was moving.

I never did find out, but I proceeded to get even more nauseous and felt even more useless than I had all day. But I was still fascinated with this illusion, and determined to post something on this blog before the end of this weekend. So I was originally just going to post this image with an apology and promise to write soon. But then I saw that there have been more entries (I thought for some reason that I would get an e-mail when a new post was made, so I haven’t read anything since that first one until tonight). Just reading your posts made me feel more human than I had all day and I realized that I could, and would, plow through my nausea and finally write an entry.

One last note about my New Year’s Resolution. I suppose I did have an informal one- simply to do what I know will make me feel better and avoid doing what I know will make me feel worse. And if I strip away all the nausea building activities from today, I can see that I have worked towards this resolution today (largely thanks to the inspiration you Susans have lent me in posting this last month). And just before writing this I tried out my Zabuton (with my Zafu). It feels like the nausea's already retreated from my body, the seat's so stable.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stinkin' Workweek!

Today after work I stopped by TD Banknorth to fill out a change of address form, since next week I am moving to the fifth place I will have lived since I moved to Montpelier. The bank manager was named Robert Burns and he looked almost exactly like the actor who plays The Floydster on 30 Rock, only older and fatter. I really badly wanted to ask Robert Burns if, when he tells people what he does, they ever mistake him for a baker, since people are always thinking I’m a banker. Anyway, as I was sitting there listening to him call banking headquarters or whatever to try to figure out how to change my address, I realized that I stank, and of the bakery I’d just come from. And I started wondering if there’s something general that could be said about what it means to have a job that one stinks from when coming home. Foodservice is obviously a field full of people who stink. When I worked at the pizza shop I stank, stank, stank of pizza, and so did my car, and so still do certain of my possessions (this one bag…). When Andrew gets home after a long night of baking and climbs into bed with me, he smells like toasted flour. The new bakery smell is not an obvious one… I think it sort of smells like bacon fat, although that doesn’t make any sense, since we cook bacon maybe once a week (for scones), but I smell like this every day. Photographers of old I’m sure used to come home reeking of darkroom chemicals, and I assume farmers, even modern ones, smell like livestock or hay or dirt. But I don’t think Robert Burns stinks of the bank when he gets home. I wonder if that means anything. I’ll think about it in the shower.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only connect...

For some reason, I have always taken my first sentence of the new year to be significant. More often that not it has been something like “Happy New Year” or a peculiar combination of words I decided I wanted to say for the occasion. This year I decided to let it be a reminder to myself: “Embrace the messiness.”

To my horror, I have discovered that I have become something of an excessive planner, an ardent organizer. I have even taken this organizing mania to a borderline OCD level – mentally poring over the rooms in my house before I go to bed every night (and sometimes more frequently than that) to make sure I haven’t accidentally left any of my possessions lying around. The irony is that when it comes to bigger and more important decisions – grad school applications, job prospects, life issues of various sorts – I am a hopeless procrastinator, delayer, deferrer. I think at a barely conscious level I think if I have the superficial stuff organized – my room, my schedule for the day – it somehow takes the place of the crucial stuff. At least it occupies my mind and hands to the extent that I don’t have time to concern myself with anything else.

True to form, I always have a laundry list of resolutions for the new year (sometimes they are numbered in order of priority). But this year I decided to embrace a new strategy. I am going to allow a certain amount of messiness, or laxness, to persist in my daily life, and concentrate on other things that matter more, not just in a cosmic sense but really in a personal sense as well. Things like deciding on your future (and deciding what that even means) are tidy if you just leave them alone, like unopened Pandora’s Boxes. They are looming and sinister, but they can’t touch you. If you open them, bad and good things come flying out and everything gets messy. But sometimes you need things to get much messier before they can finally be straightened out. And sometimes there is much joy in that process of finding order if only one can begin it.

That’s very much like writing for me. When I write anything I am proud of, I always start out with a huge hodgepodge of ideas swirling around. Nothing seems connected, everything is chaotic and disjointed. Then gradually, slowly, I cobble together bits and pieces and a unity emerges. It’s revealed that actually everything is connected if only I can see those connections. Those are true moments, heart-pounding and yet peaceful moments, perhaps in some sense like what Liza experiences out rowing or running, what people might feel when they meditate. Ordinary surfaces peel away, there is a deeper throbbing lightness beneath and you dissolve into it. When I don’t experience that messiness writing, and then am able to sort through it, what I write lacks any glimmer of truth or beauty.

It reminds me of my cousin’s strategy of shuffling a deck of cards; he drops them all on the floor and picks them up one by one. It’s not particularly efficient, it is certainly messy, and it is the truest way to achieve the result. Harmony born out of chaos.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


You both stink.