Oler

They say smell is the sense with the strongest ties to memory, and there’s nowhere I’ve been with more distinct smells than New York. People associate the city smells with the bad ones, a long line of smoke from one of the people ahead of you, trailing tobacco and marijuana, and the occasional pipe smoke too; the garbage that piles up in the summer has an acrid yellow tinge to the smells and the memory, a toxic haze to the long, hot days we dream about all winter long. There’s the unmistakeable smell of unwashed flesh that permeates an empty subway car and so many corners of the city, the smell you learn to run from, the memory tinged with compassion and pity for how many people have to watch others run from them because they don’t have a $1,500 a month closet to shower in. I have so many memories of this city in my approaching-six years here and I would be lying if many of them weren’t tinged with one of the smells above or the myriad other terrible ones I’ve encountered. It says a lot about a memory, when the best you can associate it with is a bad smell.

Sometimes when I look back on bad weeks, I remember a terrible smell from somewhere in that time, and then I wonder if it’s a smell from that time at all, or if the sensory overload we experience daily here just demands a smell attach itself to every memory made. I don’t even think they’re all my bad memories or bad smells really. Like the week a few months back where everyone else I knew was having a miserable go at life and all I could do was offer my near-limitless optimism; looking back on that week I can remember the ashy, cool smell of black snow leftover on the sidewalk, but it barely snowed this year after the big storm in January, and I don’t think the week I’m remembering was snowy at all. But the memory of everyone around me getting dealt blow after blow, and me fighting to find a little sunshine for them, that memory to me feels and smells like that: cool, ashy, dirty, leftover and waiting to melt away. And the week after that one, where my life started exploding, that week is connected with the smell of forgotten raw turkey burgers left on top of the fridge instead of inside it, a pleasant surprise to come home to after two days of work and one night in Queens; I don’t remember when I did that but I do remember almost crying when I came home to that smell after a long week, and then just before a tear fell I started to laugh hysterically, because in reality…. it was a pretty hilarious and stupid thing to do.

Yesterday I was walking to the subway the long way after work, taking a few extra minutes to go to Penn Station instead of 14th Street. It’s been a really odd week again, the high of watching a full studio of friends in savasana tinged with the grief of two people  I love experiencing unexpected and unimaginable losses. The past few days have also made something really, really apparent: I miss my best friend. People keep telling me it’ll get easier adjusting to life without M and N around the corner, and I suppose in some ways it has. But it will never be easier having my best friend in a different country. It’s just a new normal that I have to adjust to, and this new normal lately is tinged with that acrid yellow, that ashy cold gray like winter and the faint burning of someone else’s smoke, the smells of bad memories in NYC. Walking through midtown to Penn Station yesterday I felt sad somehow, dejected. Things are changing in ways I couldn’t plan for and sometimes I wonder if everything will be okay.

And then I passed one of those roasted nut vendors, the famous ones dotting the city with that intoxicating aroma of roasted sugar and cashews, and as I lifted my nose to inhale I found myself staring at the top of the Empire State Building. Little memories started popping back into my mind, the citrus and mint essential oil from the first vinyasa class I ever taught on my own, the charred, smoky smell from a perfect burger on a first date in December, and the way the city smells alive, constantly changing, constantly moving. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice, staying in this expensive, smelly, loud, exhausting city, especially when my best friend is gone. But part of me knows I would never really leave it all behind. The good and bad memories, the good and bad smells. This is my New York, and I love every piece of it, starting with every distinct smell.

Friendly Conversations: Ett

It took me until APRIL to post one of these! That’s insane. Decided to give the countdown Norwegian numbers this year, for reasons that will become more apparent later this summer. And for the first time ever, T isn’t featured at all. She and I are going to have to step it up. Don’t worry though, per usual there’s a fantastic showing from Mama B, and a slow realization through texting A that I may have a problem with sugar.

Now for tales from my texting history!

On chocolate (pt. one)
A Chocolate

On life after food poisoning (pt one)
Mama chili

On chocolate (pt two)
A cookies

On freezer surprises
A hot pockets

On life after food poisoning (pt two)
A MBS

And just in case anyone thought I was lying when I said my flight to Austin earlier this month was delayed for five hours:
United

 

[Draft Series] YTT Diaries

Original draft: February 6, 2016

Week 3, Day 4

I think the fact that we had to trust that the teacher was there and would take us out when it was time, we had to trust each other to stay focused, eyes closed, and we had to trust an open door at our back; all of these things were on our minds and yet we had to focus our sole attention of a single thought or breath or image or sound . We spent the next 90 minutes after that working on opening our hearts and our hips, more gestures of trust and love, and we laughed that whole practice with our instructor, hence running over by a quarter of an hour. 

Something powerful happened today and when MH talked us into savasana I let the tears roll down my cheeks as her words ran through me so powerfully: “We just kicked each other’s asses, and we get to spend this whole weekend together, and that’s all awesome.” Her words hit me somewhere powerful and deep, because they were so perfectly true in that moment for me, where the walls outside YTT were really confusing and cranky, so it’s wood floors and conversations were the only place I could lose myself in something I love. 

24, 48, 72 Hours

Last week was a really, really long week. Food poisoning completely wiped my appetite and joy in eating, as I would take three bites of things and feel nauseated; that exhausted and sick feeling did a great job masking how poorly I was really handling my two best friends moving across the world which spoiler alert: wasn’t very well. Work is getting busier and my yoga practice has been suffering as a result of all of the above, with barely more than 10 minutes available every day for me to meditate or stretch just a bit. It’s funny how all these things can come together in a perfect storm of awful confusion, the kind where not even your favorite chocolates and flowers from a very supportive boyfriend can help. I’ve been on my own for a few years now and I didn’t realize how poorly I would handle having someone try to be there for me when I really needed support.

I’ve thought a lot about this entry, talking about what it’s like to say goodbye to your best friends, even though it’s not really goodbye considering M and I literally haven’t stopped texting aside from the 21 hours they were on planes. And I can’t compare my experience of transitioning to a life in the city without them to their experience transitioning to an entirely new culture even a little bit. I started to expand on the actual goodbye itself, clinging to M outside Central Park as my whole body shook with sobs and we couldn’t say anything more than “Thank you for the past six years” and “I love you,” N and A looking on at us pointedly judging because girls are crazy. Even writing that one sentence I’m overwhelmed with tears, where I’m so happy for them and I’m so excited for them but I’m reminded of the empty feeling that my nights have sometimes, void of the option to stop by their apartment for a quick visit on the way home from work. This paragraph is as much as I can talk about them leaving, really, because it’s the most I’ve opened up about it since it happened.

Thursday and half of Friday last week are a complete blur. I mean that literally. I remember waking up and going to work, going through the motions of being in the office, going home and watching Netflix in near-silence with A while he tried to ask me gently how I was doing and I shut it down by snapping at him or turning up the television. A small family emergency popped up in the afternoon that required me to leave work the next day to head to Connecticut for an overnight with my baby nephews, Aunt Lo to the rescue because their poor mama can barely stand, let alone hold two growing baby twins. That was where I kept my energy focused from mid-Thursday on at that point, the promise of an afternoon with those sweet boys. I couldn’t process the myriad emotions running through my mind, stress and sadness and loss and support but I could look forward to an afternoon with two little munchkins that needed me to take care of them. I went through the motions of “nice girlfriend” on Friday morning, A cautiously tip-toed around me as I made coffee and avoided eye contact lest his unending support cause me to start to feel real emotions. I stayed in that funk all day at my desk, not talking that much to anyone, just focusing on the clock until mid-afternoon came and with it, the sweet release of the weekend.

It’s really interesting, the waves of emotions that come after a week of sickness and goodbyes and emergencies and loss. But sitting on the train headed to Connecticut, after waves of awful emotions for the past 24, 48, 72 hours, out of nowhere in a really profound moment, I felt this tangible calm wash over me. I started texting jokes with A and a friend from work, and I smiled when I heard from the recent Vietnamese residents, content knowing M and N were safe in their new home. The weekend ahead promised beautiful weather, time with my family, time with A and a Sunday dedicated to yoga with my best friend from yoga training, someone I haven’t seen nearly enough in the weeks since the sanctity of that studio. Life had changed, somehow, in the short amount of time that I left New York for five days in Austin, and now life was settling too, the new life, the one I’m staying in New York to live. Mourning the loss of my friends around the corner or in the same time zone just happened to coincide with all of that and overshadowed everything. There’s a peace when everything settles though. Life returns to its new normal, waiting for the next change to come along.

Getting Tattooed with Food Poisoning and Other Tales from Austin

Greetings from my home sweet home here in New York City, after a week that can only be described as “eventful.” I’m referring to my grand Austin adventure, originally planned as a way to start sowing seeds for a new life and instead becoming a grand ol’ vacation in Texas with my lovely G; and I’m referring to what it’s like to say goodbye to people that irrevocably changed your life just by being in it. I talk a lot about how crazy it is to realize how things change over the course of a year, or two years, or five, but this week I learned it’s crazy how things can change in just an hour – or five. But in the spirit of keeping this under 12 pages, let’s start with Austin Adventures:

We start our weekend last Friday at 4am, as I leave A’s place for a 5:45 flight from LaGuardia, stopping in Houston to switch planes before ATX, baby. The plan was to take the earliest flight out so I’d have the whole afternoon to bask in the Texas sun, go to a yoga studio, and generally enjoy my time in my second-favorite US city. Things felt *slightly* weird after boarding the plane and then not moving or hearing anything from the flight attendants for over an hour, but you know, flights can be weird. By the second hour that passed on the plane, I was getting pretty cranky. I should mention I avoid coffee before long flights and was not super thrilled with anything at that point, especially as I’d already missed my connecting flight. By 8:15 we finally had an update: everyone off the plane and maybe we’ll leave this morning. After a HUGE coffee and some airport yoga, I had a smile on my face – I wasn’t going to let a delay ruin my Austin weekend – but starting the weekend with a 5-hour delay should have been a clue that I may love Texas, but it was not about to love me back.

Friday and Saturday went off without a hitch, a perfect two days singing in the car and hanging out with G, those rare moments where we can pretend we do this all the time instead of barely once a year. I sang her Happy Birthday and we ate some of the best desserts (“manna cotta… panne cotti? Just put more in my mouth.”). G’s roommates joined us for Saturday night and we danced on Dirty Sixth among cowboys and bachelorette parties, and in the midst of getting our hair done earlier that afternoon, we hatched a plan to continue a now-tradition the next day during our Austin adventures: somewhat-spontaneous tattoos.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a little foggy but overall fine – I’d stuck to beer the night before and made a point to drink water so I’d be comfortable while needles pierced my skin that day. I’m an early riser and the girls were still sleeping, so I ventured down to the hotel lobby for a small breakfast of yogurt (<– that’s important) and cereal while watching an old episode of Ink Master on my computer (*how am I so cool). Eventually G and I went out for breakfast tacos, and I noticed my stomach felt…. not right. I should mention I’m not a hungover puker. Like, ever. I mean okay there have been occasions, but for the most part after heavy drinking, I get headaches and migraines, I don’t vomit. So when I started to feel my stomach churning in the middle of a delicious breakfast taco salad, I thought it was odd, but brushed it off – it had to be a hangover, right?

We went back to the hotel to lay down for a quick nap to stave off G’s hangover before heading out for spontaneous tattoo adventures. I didn’t sleep so much as toss and turn, telling myself I wasn’t about to vomit because that’s not what I do. Turns out that was what I ended up doing for the next hour – stupid hangover! Luckily, after a particularly spirited outburst of the final remnants of my breakfast in the streets of Austin while walking around to kill time before the shop opened, I miraculously felt wonderful. We spent the next few hours in the tattoo shop where we’d been two years before, chatting with the artist, reviewing the design, the familiar buzz of the machine and then just a hint of pain as I reminded myself why, in fact, I’d sworn off any more rib tattoos after the first one. As mine is larger, I was the first victim of the machine, and I watch G get two perfect arrows on her forearm with a mix of awe and excitement. And then my stomach did the familiar churn of the morning, and while her arm was saran-wrapped and instructions for healing were offered, I projectile-lost-everything-in-my-body in the shop bathroom and a nightmare night began.

I have to say, having never had food poisoning before (*and not realizing that’s what it was for a while since I was only vomiting), there really is no introduction quite like a night by yourself in a strange AirBNB in a semi-strange city, alternately wincing as you brush a fresh wound on your ribs and throwing up so violently you can’t breathe. Sadly said violent-vomiting meant my very last day in Austin, the only bright and sunny day, the one where I had two yoga studios picked out to attend and the whole city at my beck and call, was instead spent huddled on a strange bed under the air conditioning, sipping Walgreens-brand Pedialyte and watching Netflix.

I was more than grateful to get home early on Tuesday afternoon, except I knew that meant a terrible goodbye was on its way. It wasn’t the vacation I’d had planned at all – not even a little bit. But that’s exactly how my last Austin adventure went too. And really, nothing that I ever plan for Austin turns out the way I think it will. Maybe that’s the beauty of my relationship with that city: the constant reminders that life is full of little surprises, and forever is composed of nows.

Swan Song (Pt. Two)

Part Two: “Two words. Nine letters.”

C and I were enjoying our final sips of $7 pinot noir as the bartender brought over our check and I nervously bounced my foot, uneasy about leaving the escape of a perfect happy hour. It was early February, the weather had just changed from a mild winter into that deep chill that settles in your bones, the kind that makes you want to stay inside and hide from so many things. I was hiding, at that point, from a conversation that I’d been dreading having for nearly two months, because when the wine ran out I had to go to Queens and start talking. C gave me a perfect hug when we parted, and promised me everything was going to be okay, the thing that I needed to hear even if I didn’t believe it. I’m an eternal optimist, for sure, but even I was having trouble picturing an okay conclusion to a conversation where I had to tell the person that I didn’t plan for and was falling in love with “oh by the way, you might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m planning to move across the country in the semi-near future.”

After I’d made the decision to leave the city, everything felt so clear. I was watching the life that I thought I wanted evolve around me, my focus shifting from work hard/play hard to following my heart. I felt this tangible pull to the decided new destination every time I walked around the city and saw that perfect NYC sunset, and I felt it when I would stand on a subway platform in tears, exhausted from a long day and still no sign of my train, 20 minutes later. I had graduation goggles mixed with impatience mixed with nostalgia mixed with love, but from August till December, much as my feelings surrounding the decision wavered from one end of the spectrum to another, my decision to leave never once wavered or changed. I knew that it was time to change my life. I knew from the bottom of my heart that the life I had built in the previous five years in the city was not a life I wanted to continue living. And so in the spirit of taking chances and being brave, towards the end of what I wanted to be my final full year in NYC, I went to a wedding in Jersey all by myself, not knowing a soul aside from the bride, and then all of a sudden my entire life changed.

I spent January and half of February waiting: waiting for Whole30 to be over, waiting for YTT to start, and most importantly, waiting for A to leave me, because how can someone handle a girl they barely know who stops drinking for a month right as you started dating, then disappears into a yoga studio for the next six weekends and oh by the way SHE’S PLANNING TO LEAVE THIS CITY. After all, that’s what I knew about dating from my limited experience, how to be left behind and forgotten. It will always be easier to prepare for the worst, so I convinced myself in all this waiting that it was silly to get invested, because eventually I’d find his breaking point, and at least then I could say I would never be the girl to change her plans because of a boy.

Once it hit me that he wasn’t going to leave me, I took stock of my entire life and tried to remind myself why I was so dead set on leaving everything. Not only did I have this person that was making me question everything, but my entire life was changing in ways I never saw coming: I had a new sister-in-law, and I had two baby nephews that are already growing up too quickly. I had a whole new tribe of women from YTT that were the missing pieces from the gap left by M&N as they moved across the world, and how would I find all of the best happy hours and workout spots without my C? Suddenly I realized the change I’d been craving like cool water on a New York summer day was already happening all around me, and the parts of my life I was ready to give up were already gone, whether by my own doing or by the slow creep of time and growing apart. In a moment that paralleled the moment I decided to leave back in August, I took a look at A one night as we were falling asleep, the tiny smile on his face as he stroked my hair and told me to sleep well, and in an instant I realized how happy I was. The next morning I took a look at myself in the mirror after realizing all of this and said out loud: Why the fuck am I leaving this all behind?

So this year, I’m still saying goodbye to a lot. Goodbye to the New York I came here to be a part of. Goodbye to that life, goodbye to who I thought I wanted to be. Goodbye to the LB fraught with insecurities and chasing happiness without stopping for a minute to let happiness find her. Goodbye to looking at life as something you can force.

“I’m staying.” 

And hello to love. Hello to making plans and making a huge deal about the plans; and hello to changing all of those because sometimes following surprises can be the biggest adventure of all. Hello to a new life that’s exactly what I was hoping to find when I made the big decision in the first place. And the biggest hello to my city, my New York. Throughout this entire process of staying and leaving and changes and non-changes, the one thing that’s never wavered is my undying love for this concrete jungle I call home. It’s an entirely new life in New York that I’m starting to build here, picking and choosing pieces I want to keep from the many years I’ve lived and loved here so far, and reveling in the blank spaces of new memories to come.

Swan Song (Pt. 1)

Part One: “I just want to get out of here.”

I remember walking through the streets of New York City from the age of six, clutching my mother’s hand like a lifeline, completely overwhelmed and amazed at the tall buildings and how many people surrounded me at all times. I remember putting subway tokens into the coin slot, and once my sister and I were separated from our family when the doors closed too quickly. I remember the first time I went to New York City with just my friends, no parents, and how we walked around like we owned everything, despite straying no further than a small radius in Midtown. I remember late nights in Little Italy, the deli we used to go to after visiting the jewelry district, the smell of the city when we stepped out of Grand Central. In my childhood, my parents loved to take us to the city once a month or every two months or so, and at the end of every trip, I would say the same thing: “I’m going to live here someday.”

Back in 2014, when I got the New York City skyline tattooed on my arm, I had no intention of leaving. I wanted to commemorate my life as it turned out, single in the city, finding myself, and wearing my heart on my sleeve, always. I’ve loved this city with every breath that’s come out of my body since the day I got the keys to my first apartment, back in September 2010. New York has been my greatest relationship, one of my soul mates and maybe even my true love; this city holds so much of my heart that I ache to leave it, even for a few days, missing the constant movement, the sensory overload, squishing with strangers in the subway, stairs for days at every turn. For so many years after arriving here, the only thought I had was how much I couldn’t wait to be here forever.

There was a distinct moment over the summer, when I took stock of my life in New York City and realized that everything was perfectly fine. In my nearly-six years here I’ve watched friends grow and get married; I’ve settled into my apartment and fallen in love with Washington Heights in the three plus years since I moved into my own apartment and everything started changing. I love the bustle of the city, the fast-paced nature of my job, and the people that are a part of my life here. But in that distinct moment this summer, I had this overwhelming gut feeling like I was getting ready to say goodbye. It felt like the last hour of a wedding reception, where the band is starting to wind down, people have slowly trickled out, and while you and your friends are still having a total blast, you know you’re in the final stretch till the afterparty.

And so I contemplated that thought for the night, letting it run over me like a summer rainstorm down Fifth Ave, until I reached a moment of pivotal clarity that has shaped my life every day ever since. Could I leave New York? If I could leave, where would I even go? It was a question that popped into my head more than once over the years, but it’s something I thought about more from a casually-interested, what-if perspective; now all of a sudden all of those conversations with myself came flooding back and I realized that while at the time I’d pushed them out of my head as silly hypotheticals, they were really rooting deep somewhere inside my brain, ready to come out the moment I was finally ready to ask myself the most important question that I’ve been thinking about daily ever since:

When can I logically move across the country to start over?

To be continued….

Swingandamiss

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.”
~ Leon J. Suenes

Things are happening here that I didn’t expect. My week has been rattled ever so slightly and it’s completely throwing me off. I know I promised to post yesterday and now I’m posting a nothing entry today. But please know it’s not because I don’t have anything to say. It’s because right now I have too much to say, and it’s crowding its way out of my brain. I can’t get the thoughts out because once I pay attention to one, another pops up, and then another comes out of nowhere, and then things start happening and I’m so overwhelmed I have to shut my computer down before I scream.

Life throws us curveballs. That’s what it’s here for; that’s what it’s supposed to do. There were two this week that have really rattled me, so much so that the only things keeping me going at this point are the promise of dinner with A later tonight and a weekend with G in Texas. The juxtaposition of those two things is what makes the quote above and the announcement later in the week so darkly funny. None of what’s going on is funny at all, really, but in the comedic relief of life’s curveballs, all I can do when I think about this week, especially after the events this afternoon, is laugh. Better than crying, at least.

Friday I’m posting part one of a two-part entry, where the big “thing” I’ve been alluding to for the past nine months (*I’m not pregnant) will finally be out in the universe. It’s been a whirlwind since I first made a decision to change my life and somewhere in the time between then and now, my whole life has changed around me. It’s wild sometimes, looking around and marveling at how things have turned out. It’s terrifying, sometimes, to stray from your plan.

So in the spirit of wild, terrifying, sad, curvy things that are flying around me like spring fever, I’m going to finish out this day at work, one that threw me an entirely unwelcome but not unsurprising twist, and make my way through the rest of this week before I’m in Texas with my G. Good vibes appreciated, if you can spare any this way.

I didn’t plan to post today.

Really though. I originally had ambitions of posting something thoughtful today, and then I couldn’t pull myself together in time to write the draft (it’ll go on Monday PROMISE). I thought today would be a good day to hold on posting in favor of waiting until I had something really interesting to write about, like what I’ll hopefully be posting on Monday. And then I started reading this article while browsing the interwebz at lunch, and a line gave me so much pause that I did something unthinkable. In this article on xoJane, the writer mentions a one-sided romance she had before meeting her fiancé, and says this: “The cliff-hanger ending of that story rattled me deep.” Almost immediately after reading that, I had this ridiculous impulse to click over to Facebook, take a deep breath, and type The Child’s name into the search bar.

What was I thinking? Why am I doing this? All questions that were running through my brain as I lightly pressed the keys, finding a small bit of amusement in how I couldn’t recall exactly how to spell his last name. I wasn’t expecting or wanting to see anything. I wasn’t looking at him because I missed him or because I wanted to know about his life. I literally had no reason to be clicking on his profile and yet even in my small hesitation as I went to click through, I couldn’t stop myself. And then all of a sudden there I was, looking at the same face that broke up with me over a text message and then strung me along for a few months before he left Manhattan for good. I felt nothing as I looked at him. Pity, maybe, that he has to keep living with himself, and his self is not a good person. A flicker of nostalgia for a time where my weekends were late nights with R&H, where I had three tattoos and long hair, where I was thinking maybe this yoga thing was something to explore. But mostly? I felt nothing.

Why are we compelled to check-in with people that break our hearts? In the two years since he came crashing into my life on that cold subway platform, I’ve moved jobs, cut off all my hair, gotten three tattoos (nearly four), received my yoga teacher certification and found someone who could really be someone. Nearly everything about me has changed, save for my apartment and morning commute; and yet even with all of this, a single line in an article can bring me back to 2014 LB who was curious about a cute stranger on a train. I’ve long since stopped being angry; I haven’t cared about him in years, and I knew that looking at his face from behind a social media profile wouldn’t change any of that, and I didn’t want it to! So why the fuck did I feel the need to do it.

What is it about exes that keep such an odd hold on us? I suppose it’s not all exes: the big Ex and I have maintained a friendly relationship since we fell apart, a testament to his maturity and how much we really did love each other while we were together; when he pops up on social media I feel that little pinch in my heart that calls to the piece that will always love him. But I don’t “check in” with him ever, really, because if I really wanted to check-in with him I’d text him to make plans for coffee. Frankly, I don’t know that I’ve been compelled to “check-in” on any ex, whether we’re officially ‘exes’ or not, and yet despite having not thought about him in months, reading that one sentence today brought my thoughts immediately back to that person. Both people, I suppose: who he is and who I was when he knew me.

Is there a conclusion to this post? Not really. The whole story is no more than “I thought about a stupid fuck of an ex for the first time in months today and figured I’d see if he changed his profile picture and he didn’t.” Barely an interesting sentence, let alone a full post. Perhaps there’s something about being in a not-so new-anymore relationship, where you’re still learning about each other but you’ve settled into a comfortably boring and perfect routine, where you’re making plans for the immediate and distant future like they’re one in the same; perhaps there’s something about that which calls to mind what it took to find that person and that point of happiness. I kissed a lot of toads and one whopper of a snake before I met a prince. Maybe that’s the lesson learned in all of this: people shape our lives for specific reasons. The surest mark of growth is looking at a face that once made you swoon and sob at the same time and feel absolutely not a damn thing.