ten.27

I have a confession to make. Six months ago, when I agreed on this past Tuesday as the date to be my next forever, I remember the entire process except for one crucial thing: I can’t remember how I came up with the idea in the first place. I remember every step of the process after making the first decision, the consultation, setting the date, imagining left and right what my forearm would look like in just a few months’ time, but I can’t remember for the life of me where I had the idea in the first place. All I know is six months ago I made this decision that this past week would be one of permanent and major changes – little did I know exactly how right I’d be.

Anyway, once I had it in my head that this past Tuesday was happening, three days after the wedding in the midst of a much-needed staycation, I started doing something to make sure I was making the right decision, which has probably become apparent in some of the crazier things I’ve said on the blog lately: I’ve finally turned full yoga hippie because every month now I’m tracking the moon cycles. I know, I know. It’s almost too clichéd to be a cliche. But in tracking these cycles I’ve learned a few things that have become invaluable knowledge, in this week of permanent alterations to the status quo: first, there’s a beauty in the chaos of the cycle of life, knowing that things must always balance out but never knowing how it’s going to happen; and second, I know now that deep down, even in the darkest of times, the tides will always shift and everything is going to be okay.

I found it interesting that Tuesday was a full moon, and allegedly a powerful one, on the year that I had the exact activity for that Tuesday planned. I already knew it was going to be a weekend of major changes that I hadn’t even begun to comprehend, the permanent altering of life in so many ways, T changes her last name and I change my right forearm. But oddly enough, while I was in the car driving up to Massachusetts for the big wedding weekend for Twinster, I had this feeling that something was about to happen and it was not going to be good. I can’t explain it; I was thinking about all the upcoming changes around this powerful energy, and I just had this horrible feeling that something was going to happen, and truly the word that wouldn’t get out of my head was “death.” It was an terrible yet interesting sort of premonition, because despite this ominous, scary feeling, I also knew one thing for sure: whatever I was feeling was not going to interfere with the wedding.

The wedding. T’s wedding. Where I watched my other half become someone else’s other half (as mentioned in my maid-of-honor speech, which KILLED by the way). The weekend couldn’t have been more perfect, the freezing weather as a perfect backdrop to peak fall colors as we rode the chairlift up the mountain and back during cocktail hour; the way they smiled and laughed every time they looked at each other, and how much fun it was to meet people who, for the first time, had a hard time telling T&me apart. The food was delicious, the band was phenomenal, and the end of the night was the bridal party plus guests in a hotel suite in sweatpants, drinking the final few beers leftover from the limos and eating the Chex mix from the hotel gift bags. It was, in the only word that comes close to describing the weekend, perfect.

I left the weekend with this amazing new-found happiness, appreciation, and understanding of family. It was such a brilliant crowd of people, and it made me so excited for everything next year. I had Tuesday to look forward to, now that it was a real thing, and I had three days of vacation ahead in that as well. It sucks when your family, after this perfect and wonderful weekend, gets a call that something happened that is absolutely no one’s fault and was completely unavoidable. But it sucks when the family that has just spent 48 hours smiling until our faces hurt and then a little more finds out the fourth sibling, the one that kept our parents sane after we all moved out, the crazy sibling who barked at anything that moved and loved to hoard stuffed animals and sticks of butter, left us forever, just as one of us said forever and I looked forward to a Tuesday of my own forever as well.

Tattoo by the ENORMOUSLY talented Mikhail Andersson (www.tattookarma.com; Instagram: @mikhailandersson)

I felt a bit numb when Tuesday finally came around, which even translated into a physical symptom as my arm lay in an uncomfortable position for just around 90 minutes, hanging out in a private studio with someone who is practically an old friend at this point. But I never let that sink in, the numb energy, and I reminded myself why it meant so much to have this image permanently etched to my skin. And so as all these new beginnings were happening, life without the fourth sibling, life as the only B daughter, l watched as my big new beginning, the one I can’t remember how it came to be, marked so much more than I could have imagined in a beautiful line down my forearm. It marked this new life I’m following and finding myself in ways I’ve chased for years. As I stare down at my arm now I’m reminded of so much more than I could have imagined, some wonderful and some very challenging, but all wrapped into why I wanted to immortalize something on myself in the first place: to remember that life moves in cycles, and there will always be balance if you have patience. And most importantly, that even as things feel impossible now, everything is going to be okay.

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Blood and Water

For the first eighteen months I lived in Washington Heights, the best part of my early mornings was the 7:42 a.m. A-train subway conductor. Most people, myself formerly included, don’t pay attention to the subway conductor, either woefully stuck with the same disembodied robot voice announcing that “The next stop is 42nd Street,” or a muffled and disgruntled voice ordering everyone to “Stand clear of the closing doors (please).” But in my first few months in the Heights, I noticed that if I left my apartment by about 7:35, I would get on the same train, where the conductor always sounded like he was in a good mood, and strayed far from the typical conductor script. On Mondays, he’d tell us “Welcome back from the weekend! This is a downtown bound A express train,” and every day at every stop, he’d announce “This is [station stop] – hope everyone has a [beautiful/wonderful/stellar/fabulous] morning.” Every Friday he told us “Happy Friday! Have a warm and cozy weekend.” It was so minor, these little quips, but so endearing that I would race every morning to make that train, just so I could tell myself “Well, looks like I’m going to have an exciting day today!” or “It is a beautiful morning.” In June, all of a sudden he was gone, likely reassigned to another train time or track, and my commutes went back to silent staring at nothing with headphones turned all the way up.

Sometimes people have an impact on your life that is, at a glance, insignificant, but powerful in its own way. From the outside, my morning conductor is just a blip on the radar, but the cheery greetings, without fail each morning, put a little more of a bounce in my step, and every morning I still hope his voice will surprise me as I head down to the Village for another day at the office. I mean, I don’t even know what he looks like. I never introduced myself or saw him walking through the cars, or maybe I did one day but wouldn’t ever know it was him. But there are people in our lives sometimes who are important because we want them to be, and not just because they’re supposed to be. This holds true for things as minor as a usual conductor, and for things as major as the traditional definition of family. I don’t mean that garbage about “traditional family ONLY MEANS a mom and dad,” but the idea that your “family” is limited to the people that share your genes, “blood is thicker than water” and all those great cliches.

This is not to say I don’t have I have the most amazing, ridiculous, and large (quantity, not physique..) extended family. I was so blessed to be born into this clan, the crowd that still tops 30 people for the “small get-togethers” on all the major holidays; I don’t envy T having to sort through how many save-the-dates she needs to send for my dad’s side alone. Growing up, it was hard enough trying to remember which cousin was on whose side, and what aunt lived where in all these family gatherings, so imagine my surprise when at about age 9, I found out one of these families, my aunt, uncle and two cousins, were not actually related to us. CUE KIDDIE LB GASP. The one family I knew by heart, the one who spent summers by our pool, kids splashing each other and adults leaving us be (/drinking heavily, I’ve since learned), weren’t the same as my other aunts and uncles that we saw on Christmas?! “So they’re not our family?,” I remember asking Mama B after I found out, trying to sort through this weird new information about my favorite aunt and uncle. She laughed a little and let me rest my head against her side. “Of course they’re family,” she told me, stroking my hair. “They don’t have to be our blood to be our family.”

This week we said goodbye to a woman that inspired me with every breath she took, a damn good fighter until the very end. We watched her health move like a roller coaster for nearly a decade, the miracles that gave us years we never thought we’d have and the final valley where she chose, on her terms, to stay, surrounded by love and understanding. She spent her entire life surrounded by love; she was so loved by her doctors, her coworkers, her friends, the family she was so fortunate to have and the ones she chose. She was soft-spoken and poignant, poised and caring; she is and was and always will be family, she will always and forever be remembered and be loved and be missed.

Through a sea of black and tears last night, I found my cousin, someone with whom I’ve been so fortunate to share amazing memories since really reconnecting about four years ago: spontaneous happy hours, meeting his “new girlfriend,” going to their wedding, and everything in between. His sister, my other cousin, and I had hugged, and cried, and shared our favorite memories, while his dad, my uncle, kept a brave face for everyone, but my cousin and I just kind of stopped and held each other for a brief moment, and I told him “I’m so sorry” and he just hugged a little tighter. I grabbed his wife’s hand after that, the most recent, wonderful addition to our better-than-family, and told them both I promised to stop flaking (per ushe) and I would make sure we all did another city dinner soon. As I left them, we all looked each other in the eye, and with tears attached to good and sad memories, just said “Love you much.”

It’s a terrible lesson to learn, but knowing my aunt is at peace gives us hope and happiness for her. My heart breaks for my family, and what they’re going through, and it’s making me hold my siblings and my parents a little closer, these sad, cold nights. We’re all so fortunate to have and have had them in our lives for this long, and I will cherish the memories we’ve made and the ones to come forever. It’s a terrible lesson to learn indeed, losing someone you love, but it’s a reminder, and a big one, that family, and the ties that bond us, run so much deeper than blood.

Waves

Things have been going really well lately. Like, surprisingly well. I’m busy at work which is keeping me engaged and occupied, I’ve been excelling more quickly than I’d anticipated in yoga practice, I’ve had some great time with my family and my friends, and I have some exciting events coming up in the next few weeks, like the shared birthday for my lovely friend M and my work buddy S, and Friendsgiving with the Nickname Posse. The holidays are my favorite time of year, between the food, the family, the time off of work, and of course, the food (I really like eating). I know life isn’t a straight trajectory, marred with surprises and the natural ebbs and flows that come with being emotional creatures, but I was feeling really good about the past few weeks. Up until about 10 last night, when the third straw in an already emotional day nearly put me over the edge.

My partner-in-crime R and my fashionista C probably know better than anyone that things tend to happen in waves, something they reminded me last night as I sat quietly in my apartment, trying to sort through the tangled mess that comes when confronted with life’s inevitabilities. And M made the point that these things tend to happen in threes, two very upsetting pieces of news, and an unwanted email; the first news was bad enough, the second was enough to be a bad wave, and the email was the final straw in unwanted information. I’ve been able to compose myself today, and with everything else on such an upswing for the first time in a very long time, I’m feeling like I know how to handle this particular situation. But it’s hard to have things finally going well, and then to have a wrench thrown in the middle, like a heckler in the punch line of your best performance.

Good things and bad things are a yin and yang that we can’t predict or control. Sometimes you’re on an upswing as simple as the person at Starbucks spelling your name correctly in the morning and finding free snacks in the work kitchen in the afternoon. Sometimes the bad things are as trivial as someone else getting to that subway seat before you do, followed by more dirt in your shower when you get home from work in the evening. Sometimes a text from an old friend will make you smile, and then in that same thought you’re wishing the text came from someone else. Life isn’t perfect any of the time: there’s good moments in the bad weeks, and bad hours in the good days. It’s so easy to seek out the bad in the good, the self-doubt and the second-guessing, but so infrequently do we try and find the good in the bad. I’m working on the latter today, reminding myself that I’ve seen miracles and those miracles gave us four years of borrowed time, and finding relief in an email that finally cuts all ties, removing all traces of his presence in my life so I never have to see him again.

I have a journal that I write in from time to time, a full-secret space where I can use names and talk about work and chronicle my life through my eyes, for my eyes. There was something I wrote just under a year ago, which was a pretty significant time, and the words came back to me last night while texting the girls. Out of context, it reads:

(Autumn, 2013): It moves, undulating like a wave. Up and down, back and forth. Gone and back again. It moves within me, rocking me back and forth on my heels, my toes. Throwing off my balance like a rag doll, all fluid and no bones. I feel like I’m wobbling on a precipice of happiness, depression, healthy and sick. One comes, the other follows. Happiness lurks as depression looms, then dominates loudly and large, bringing healthy with it until I can be healthy no more, when everything rises up again… Happiness is fleeting; it comes and goes as quickly as it came and went the last time. I suppose I’m on the bottom of the curve these days, but if I swing hard enough tomorrow perhaps I’ll land at the top.

I think about two weeks ago in the middle of the months-long funk, I pulled on what was holding me back and swung away from it with a fiery fervor, a Hail Mary, last-ditch, all-or-nothing effort to get myself back on top before this weekend, because this Saturday is going to be an emotional day. I’ve been mentally prepared for the feelings I know are going to surface on Saturday for a few weeks now, knowing it wouldn’t be a sad day, but more a day for deep reflection on how things change as quickly as the second hand of a clock. The waves this week are a blow to the upswing, calling me back to the chaotic ocean without promise of a raft, but the view from the top of the wave is too good to give up. I’m going to keep seeking that good in the bad, finding the small pockets of sunshine where I can and sharing them with the friends and family who need all the positive vibes I can send them right now. And I would ask, for anyone who has a few good vibrations of their own to spare, to send them out to people in your life that need them as much as my people need mine. Because now and then, we can all use a little push from the bottom of the wave.