Pause.

Fourth of July weekend. A few days off the daily grind to relax by the pool, cook everything on a grill and enjoy such classic American pastimes as drinking beer and tanning excessively. I debated heavily back and forth this weekend whether I wanted to spend the time in Connecticut with family or stick around the city to see what the Nickname Posse would get into, but by Thursday, exhausted from a long week and in desperate need of a pause button, I decided I’d sleep in on Friday morning but take the first available train back once I was functional enough to make a coffee and check the schedule. Connecticut is like that for me, a pause button on everything else in life for a crucial few moments, falling asleep and waking up to nature and devoid of real responsibilities during the day. I’m not constantly on my phone when I’m back at home, I don’t bring a computer or use the desktop there that often. Aside from a few Instagrams (because obviously), I stayed pretty off the grid most of the weekend, and it was exactly what I needed, a pause on the crazy before everything picks back up again.

Part of the weekend was a welcome throwback, a concert on the town green which featured the youth orchestra I played in for six years. Yes, I just said youth orchestra and no, I’m not embarrassed. I’m proud of the time I put into playing my instruments, especially since I’m near positive I can’t anymore, and the conductors, a married couple who also teach the band/orchestra at the middle school and have basically shaped a part of the town culture for the past forty years, finally retired; this was their last concert, potentially ever. We rounded up the old group, the only people I still keep in touch with from high school, and surprised the conductors by near-rushing the stage at the end of the performance. After gently chiding us for not grabbing our instruments and playing with them, their first question was of course “what have you all been up to in the past few years?” We looked at each other, and one friend summed up my life perfectly with her next words. Pointing in order to my sister, another friend, herself and then me, she replied “Engaged, married, engaged, yoga.” I laughed so hard at that statement tears ran down my face – what a perfect way to sum up the most important things in our lives since they last saw us all together in 2006.

Sometimes it feels like my life is a romantic comedy, except I’m the quirky best friend who provides advice and comic relief, while the lead characters grow up and move forward. I’m there for the nights out to follow through on the dare from an engaged friend to make out with a stranger, I’m the last-minute date stand-in when something comes up. I’m never left out of the plot for long, but my role isn’t crucial to the love stories taking place around me each day. Simply put, hearing that statement was certainly funny, but as the words sat with me, they were a little challenging as well, laying out pretty neatly how it feels to play second fiddle to everyone else’s lead character navigating the standard milestones of your late 20s. It was nice to be able to go back to my parent’s place after that, grab a towel and head to the front yard for a little yoga on my own, separated from the rest of the family with just my thoughts and the slow movements of a gentle vinyasa flow, a pause button on a weekend that had already paused everything. I needed the meta-pause for a few minutes to gently remind myself that I’m not being left behind, and I’m not doing something wrong. I’m just not living life on the same wavelength of some of the people I love the most, and maybe it’s a scary thing, but it certainly isn’t a bad one.

Yesterday I got home early and sighed with relief at the chance to roll out my mat and stretch in the comfort of my own living room. I worked through a lot of tension in my hips and my back, long, slow stretches that opened up everything, all the anxieties of the past weekend, all the clenched mouth responses to the “of course it’ll be your turn soon!”s that follow me like a mosquito in my ear when I’m trying to fall asleep. After things felt properly bendy, I started to play with arm balances, first a headstand, then a forearm stand, and finally I moved myself to the wall to practice handstands, surprising myself as I find it starting to become easier and easier to hold the pose without the support of the wall. At one attempt I didn’t need the wall at all, until my excited gasp of air at holding the pose brought me back down with a laugh and a rush of endorphins. It was the kind of yoga high that made me so grateful for the pause button that was my life for the two days prior, a chance to set my head on straight again; and finding balance in those two seconds of hangtime in a handstand made me so grateful towards my body and mind for learning to breathe through these challenging moments, both physically and emotionally. A pause button by way of a weekend away recharged my positive energy for the future, and pausing in an almost-handstand reminded me progress and change will come with time. Now it’s time to push play on a new week, a crazy new week, and a new summer season, where the only pause will have to come from me, taking advantage of the precious moments where I can roll out my mat and remind myself that the end goal is just progress – and that’s something I can do all on my own.

Gavel Smash

I walked up the five flights of stairs to my apartment early Sunday evening carrying two overfilled Costco bags and a Lululemon tote stuffed with my clothes from the weekend away, exhausted, sweaty, and ready to be home. Finally ascending the last few stairs, I got really excited and then really annoyed as I saw what was waiting for me. Outside my door was something I’ve been eagerly awaiting (a diffuser for my doTerra oils #nerdalert), but the packaging had been torn open. I peeked inside quickly and saw nothing but bubble wrap, and in an instant was furious. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I said aloud, angrily kicking the empty box into my apartment while struggling to fit all the bags in the door. Look, there are a lot of stereotypes out there about Washington Heights, but my neighbors have never been nothing but helpful and nice (if *too* nice at times), and ending an otherwise fantastic weekend by coming home to a stolen package frankly, well, sucked. I spent the next half hour slowly unpacking while quieting the white rage bubbling in my stomach, trying to focus on the positives from the past few days and redirecting my thoughts away from judging my neighbors for who was the “most likely” culprit for diffuser-gate 2015.

This weekend was an amazing mix of highs and lows, starting with something I’ve known about for a few weeks and been anticipating for a few years. Friday night my lovely friend M and her N made the forever promise on a beautiful spring evening and returned home to a surprise party for M celebrating their engagement organized by N and yours truly; we had a blast and a half but between the adrenaline, nerves, anxiety/eagerness for the party, and the lack of a proper dinner between the half bottle of champagne and being spoon-fed Jell-O shots by my fashionista C, I was down for the count by 9:30, passed out in M and N’s bed by 10, and in a cab to the Upper East around midnight, feeling awful from an impending hangover and the idea that I’d ruined their party. The low continued into the morning, where I thought I could make it through a simple walk around the block with the dogs without throwing up (spoiler alert: the walk ends with me throwing up bile next to a tree while a family looked on horrified), but carried into the high of my Twinster visiting, a rare treat that I cherish, and somehow between essential oils, egg sandwich delivery, a 9 a.m. nap and a run with the pit bull, I managed to kill the miserable hangover for at least a few hours. The high of a twin visit lasted through the aforementioned Sunday homecoming surprise, which made me realize how much I’d judged strangers and friends, and felt judged by the same people that weekend on a number of different levels.

I judge people. There, I said it. I don’t mean that I spend my days passing assumptions on everyone who comes near me, and I certainly don’t take pleasure from making assumptions, but sometimes it’s just a reflex to make a judgmental thought. It’s almost never entirely intentional, but it happens – I’ll walk behind someone at 7:30 in the morning already puffing away on a cigarette and think how much it sucks to start my morning in a cloud of smoke, and I get sad when I see parents feeding McDonald’s to children, whether they’re overweight or not. I’m blessed to have experienced a lot of privilege in my life, and that privilege likely contributes to the somewhat automatic thoughts of “gross” when I accidentally walk onto an empty subway car, or the look down my nose at the thought of doing my own laundry in the city. I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to pretend that I’m sitting on a high horse judging everyone, but there are moments where I see something, or where I experience something, and I can’t help but let a judgmental thought run through my brain.

I would probably feel worse about my auto-judging tendencies if I didn’t also feel that on a regular basis from fellow strangers as well. I am the only white girl in my building and on my block in The Heights, and I’ve had everyone from old women to small children make comments along the lines of “Is she lost?” and “Damn white girl, thinking she belongs here,” usually in Spanish since they assume a white girl can’t speak the language fluently. Then there’s a particular look that a certain generation gets when they get a glimpse of me on the subway if I’m holding the pole with my left arm up, because who is this girl with a nose ring and a ridiculous tattoo riding on a train dressed like she’s going to a real job? I’ll feel it on the weekends like this past one, where I got to watch D&D’s pups, the sweetest girls in the world; it’s hard to miss when people with small dogs, or even with no dogs, cross the street when the get a glimpse of a pit bull walking their way. And it’s not limited to strangers, of course. I love my family and my friends with all my heart and soul, but there’s a reaction they give you when you make the comment that by the end of the year, all your friends save for two will be engaged or married. It’s a “you’re next!” sentiment, a “he’s out there for you!” comment that makes me feel like I’m supposed to be upset that all the people I love are celebrating love this year, or feel like I’m missing out on something because M is my wedding date for probably the next two years.

Maybe I was just extra sensitive from a few embarrassing moments over the weekend or maybe I was just coming down from a crazy high of so many wonderful things in just 48 hours, but I let that empty box sit in my foyer for a few hours while I unpacked everything else and took a minute to enjoy my brand-new loveseat that had been delivered while I was gone that weekend. It felt like a gavel smash to a crazy weekend, that my neighbors had finally done something to feed into the stereotype that I’ve been insisting is overblown ever since I moved up there in 2013. I finally calmed down and took a minute to appreciate that if that was the worst thing that’d happened to me all weekend (or at least tied with throwing up on the streets of the Upper East Side at 8:30 in the morning), then I have a pretty good life. I sighed, grabbed the box to put in my recycling pile when all of a sudden I started laughing hysterically. A quick peek and a judgment about the meaning of a ripped-open had hidden the fact that my little diffuser was still there, entirely obscured from view by too many packing bubbles, perfectly in tact and not, in fact, stolen. Apparently my things aren’t cool enough for the neighbors to take, if that was ever the intention at all. It’s a nice reminder that people and times can still surprise you every once in a while, blasting the tendency to judge before thinking, and reshaping memories that felt like judgments into funny moments with friends or a caring word from a family member. I mean, speaking honestly, I guarantee this weekend was not the last time that I’ll pass judgment mistakenly or otherwise, and it won’t be the last time I feel judged by those around me. As a tiny reminder that life can still surprise you, though, I’d rule this weekend a rousing success.

YAAAAAAAS!!

I am in *H*E*A*V*E*N*

Okay technically that’s not entirely accurate. As I’m writing this, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m very immobile on my couch (where I also slept last night), watching RedZone and eating chips for breakfast (brunch?), after a wild Saturday which involved a lot of surprises (e.g., limo for everybody) and a whole lot of fun. I’ve long known this was going to be a memorable weekend, as plans were put together months ago, but couldn’t say anything, lest I be the one to ruin the best kind of surprise. This weekend we raised many a glass to two of my favorite people; surrounded by family from all over and friends who came in without anyone knowing, we raised a glass to a long, happy, wonderful future for my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H.

In the years since it stopped being strange that people I know are announcing engagements, I’ve noticed a pattern in my reaction to the news. If it’s a distant acquaintance, like someone I had a class with freshman year of college, or the obscure friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend I met once that likes everything I do, I feign interest in the ring shot for half a minute, and then usually move on. It’s different when it’s someone I sort-of know, maybe an old friend or someone I don’t see that often anymore; there’s this twinge in my chest, a tug at heartstrings, that speaks of polite and quiet happiness for their next step but is touched with just a little jealousy, a casual reminder of my own single life and how easy it is to want something that secure. Before any of my close friends and family were engaged, I felt a little trepidation at how I’d react to their eventual news – I knew I’d be happy, of course, but I would never want to look at an engagement for someone so close to me with any negative emotions, not wanting to mar any memories with the acrid taste of a jealous single girl.

When I was younger, I always thought I’d be married, or at least engaged, at 26. It felt so old at the time, like I’d have my life completely figured out enough to share it with someone else forever; it felt so possible for a while, as I watched the weeks turn into months turn into years with the same person throughout my early twenties. I’ve been contemplating this during my marathon couch-sitting session today, while surfing through photos from Saturday night, looking at the happy couple, looking at friends who are next. 26 is a really interesting age so far. It’s no longer strange to watch friends get married and have babies, but it’s officially strange to think I wanted that to be me. Don’t get me wrong: I love watching everyone around me fall in love, and I couldn’t and can’t wait to see them celebrate engagements and weddings and beyond. But I’ve barely been single for a year! A chaotic, stressful, at-times painful year, to be sure, but also a wonderful year, one where I cherish all the time to myself and yet still feel like I don’t have enough. I love the idea that someday I might know someone well enough to share what little time I do have, but for now, an occasional text that never fails to make me smile feels like plenty enough.

I’m sure H wasn’t thinking of me at all when he decided to pop the most important question last week, but their engagement adds another layer to what is rapidly shaping up to be one of the most insane and best years of my life. Despite thinking for so long that this might be the time I’d be planning my own happily ever after, I get to channel all of that energy I’ve been saving up into planning the weddings for my twin sister and my best friend, a small slice of heaven to color my daily life. I have a full year of centerpieces and save-the-dates and test-driving the midnight s’mores recipes, a year of showers and bachelorette parties and shopping for fancy things. I have a full year of watching two of the most important women in my life at their happiest, looking towards the rest of their lives, a certain presence in an unpredictable future. And in the rare moments where I’m not thinking about them, I’ll have a full year to figure out what it is that I really want, untouched by long-set expectations, while navigating what 26 turned into in the end.