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.

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Fearless

“DID YOU LISTEN!?”
“I’ve already listened to it twice!”
“I KNOW IT’S… wait seriously? It’s not even 9 o’clock.”
“….. Yep.”

Monday was a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. My coworkers and I had the conversation above the moment we all walked in, fresh from the weekend and a beautiful sunny morning, because we’ve all been waiting for Monday for a long, long time. Why, you ask? My entire office of 20-whatevers has been waiting with baited breath to finally, finally hear the new Taylor Swift album.

Now, I’ve alluded to it here before on more than one occasion, but I have an unwavering and unabashedly loud love for Taylor Swift. I’ve been listening to her since 2006, royally pissing off my Twinster while on break freshman year of college as we listened to her first CD on repeat while working at the local toy store during the Christmas rush. From the early, early moments of listening to her twangy beats I felt really connected to the songs, similar to how many of her fans do. It’s part of her charm, the universal appeal, but it still feels very personal at the same time. I love that she’s only a year younger than I am and also has cats and loves to bake. I love that she and I probably have the same issues with love, in that we’re everything or nothing when it comes to bringing someone else in our lives. And I love her music, from the early low-country drawl about cowboy boots and high school crushes, to the synth beats of the new album, which I’ve been listening to on repeat since buying it within 45 seconds of waking up on Monday.

For a long time, I played down my rabid Swift fandom, listening to her music in my college apartment, at the gym, in my early NYC apartment, but never when anyone else was around, never playing songs on Spotify, lest it announce to Facebook that I’d been listening to Fearless for six straight hours. I was really concerned for years about cultivating an image that listened to all this indie, unknown, underground music; I didn’t want to be associated with the screaming teenage girls in the background of a bad MTV show, hysterically crying that Taylor Swift’s songs are “BASICALLY MY LIFE.” It was years, really, of listening to this music over and over in secret and categorically denying that I knew every word to every song and then some before I finally stopped caring. You know what? I’m allowed to love the weird underground music alongside T Swizzle. She’s a talented songwriter and artist. Her songs are catchy and relatable and I want to raid her closet. So I stopped pretending that I didn’t know everything about her and her music and started telling people within five minutes of meeting them that I’m a full-on Swift addict and I don’t care who knows it.

This is my 100th post on this blog. One hundredth! Sometimes I’m still in shock that I’ve been able to maintain the site for this long already, that I’ve somehow found 100 topics interesting enough to inspire me to share. And other times, while watching the total views and total visitors creep higher and higher each day, I’ll panic a little bit. In 100 entries. I’ve admitted to: injuring myself and losing things after excessive drinking, flashing my nipples at a neighbor, stepping in puddles of pee on the NYC sidewalks, walking around for hours with food in my hair, and accidentally making out with strangers who tell me I’m pretty. I’ve also immortalized how on more than one occasion I’ve felt like a total failure at my job, how it felt to hand someone my heart and watch him crush it slowly and then all at once, and what it’s like for my heart to break a little, even now, when I see a beagle in the street or I find another wayward Chapstick under my bed.

It’s really scary to have opened myself up to criticism in the way that I have with this space. Sometimes I’m expecting my inbox to be flooded with emails from exes or friends, demanding I rewrite their story, forcing me to take something offline. Other times I wonder if strangers think I’m crazy, a stereotypical single girl who lives alone with a cat and worships all things Taylor Swift. It’s crossed my mind more than once not to put something up here, looking at a final draft with the same trepidation that I would an email to a client, scrutinizing every word as though my life depended on it. And every time I stare at something thinking “Am I really about to put this out into the world?” I always hit OK. I could censor myself easily, but if I’ve learned anything from 8 years of tireless devotion to Ms. Swift’s music, it’s that there’s no point in doing anything if you’re going to do it halfway.

The new album this week was more than I’d been hoping for, with a few lines that literally took the breath out of my lungs, because once again, I know exactly how she was feeling when she wrote it (10 months sober, I must admit/Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it). She finally knocked Hozier out of my headphones, and 1989 will stay there until I’ve learned all these words like I have all the others, dancing at my desk, on the subway, while at home in PJs with little miss. Say what you want about my love for Ms. Swift or any of the decisions I make here, the content and the stories I’ve deemed acceptable for public consumption. Because haters gonna hate hate hate – I’ll be the one shaking it like everyone’s watching for the next 100 entries and beyond.

Look Up

In the past month or so, I’ve spent a lot of time in my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H’s apartment, such as the infamous jumpsuit weekend and last week’s trip back in time. Since I live approximately a thousand miles away (approximately) from their beautiful FiDi building, I try to travel there in the afternoons with everything I might need for the evenings, like extra clothes and accessories. Unfortunately, as a highly responsible person, I have a tendency to leave said extras there, so by this time last week I had quite a lot of stuff in their guest room, ranging from sunglasses to a bathing suit to my entire gift bag from Jazz Age. Most of the things left there weren’t immediately necessary for me to have, but eventually, I reached a point where I did the unthinkable: I left my headphones there.

Headphones, for most people, are a nice tool for distraction during a workout, or maybe something to use while laying on the beach. For a New Yorker, and me especially, they are pretty much everything. EVERYTHING. If I’m not having a direct, face-to-face conversation with someone, my headphones are in: on the subway, walking to and from the subway, office, apartment, talking on the phone while cleaning and cooking, while working, while working out and more. And I’m not the only one, especially not in New York. If you look around the streets or the subway, inevitably you’ll see more people with headphones than without, using them to watch a movie, listen to a song or sometimes just to block out the rabble around us. The way I see it, we use them as a way to space out while surrounded by strangers, getting lost in our own world.

There’s something to be said about looking up from such a distraction, to be sure. In the week without my headphones, I’ve seen some really amazing things on the subway, like an old woman thanking a soldier in uniform and offering him her seat, teenagers giggling to each other and talking about who’s in what class for the upcoming school year, and couples silently leaning into each other after a long day at work.  In the streets, I’ve heard and seen more performers, noticed stores I haven’t in the past and managed not to plow into the paparazzi waiting outside an Equinox to grab a sweaty photo of whoever exciting was in there. And back in the spring, I had a brush with what could have been love after taking a chance on taking out my headphones on the subway in the mornings. So I can agree that sometimes it’s good to disconnect from certain distractions, since you never know who might be distracted by you.

Thing is, though, much as I enjoy wrapping myself in the interesting lives of strangers around me, I think having time to yourself is key. While I’m fortunate enough to live alone and spend a good majority of my days talking to myself and my cat, the silent subway contemplation and walking around the city alone, lost in the same Spotify playlist, are some of my favorite times of the day. I like getting lost in my own thoughts and watching the people around me do the same. I’m not worried about whether I should get off the couch and clean the stack of mail that’s steadily growing next to the flowers I should probably throw out; I’m not mentally running through what needs to get done at the office the next day as busy season rears its ugly head again. I’m just enjoying the music, alone with my thoughts, blocking everyone else out around me, relishing that small piece of my day, whether it’s the forty minutes it takes to get from the Heights to the West Village, or the ten minute walk from my apartment to my lovely friend M’s place.

I managed to get to R and H’s place by Friday last week, as I enjoyed the day off, and practically ripped through the bag with all my other missing possessions until I found my precious headphones, immediately putting them on and turning on my favorite Spotify list. I had just about six blissful, wonderful hours with my headphones before promptly forgetting them on New Jersey Transit as a friend and I made our way to East Rutherford for the Jets/Giants preseason game. Spending an early morning train ride to Connecticut the next day with no distractions put me in a mood, draining positivity and excitement as I realized the girl next to me was not turning her own music down and I’d be listening to her blurry beats for the entirety of the trip. I looked up in frustration briefly and saw a toddler and her dad playing some kind of game on the iPhone, her delighted squeals making him smile, making me smile in turn. I suppose at the end of the day in all things, it’s nice to be distracted and insulated by your own thoughts and music, blocking out the world with small white earbuds. But every once in a while, whether on a crowded morning subway or imagining the future, it doesn’t hurt to look up.

Gimme a beat

This morning I was lying in bed with AlunaGeorge playing on my phone, trying to muster the will to stand and start the day. After rolling myself onto the floor and into the living room, I kept her voice as the background to my morning ritual: yoga, coffee, email, and news, all while piecing an outfit together slowly, one part at a time. Her music is breezy and cheery, upbeat and deceptively deep, a good type of music to get you out of bed without making you feel like someone dropped an anvil on your head. Once I had a sun salutation and some caffeine in my system, I perked up and started dancing around the apartment while holding coffee, brushing my teeth, grooving with little miss until I finally had to switch the stereo for headphones, continuing the dance party for one while turning the bolt. I was still humming to myself as I bounced down five flights of stairs and left my building (I’m crystallized ’cause you’re my kaleidoscope love) smiling and moving with the beat as I faced a new week.

Music is in everyone, good music can relate to anyone and all music inspires someone, sometimes in ways we don’t expect. I have approximately a million playlists on Spotify (rough approximation) with just as many different artists, haphazardly creating new lists every time I find an artist or song that makes me stop and think, inspires me, or calls memories to mind that make me smile. A funny habit I picked up from my last relationship is listening to the same song over and over, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few weeks. It used to annoy the snot out of me, if I’m being honest, constantly hearing his song of the hour on loop only to have it change two days before I finally memorized all the words, but lately I’m starting to understand it. There’s a calming effect to listening to the same lyrics, same tune, same artist on repeat, sitting in the mood evoked by that song, still and resigned, a way to focus on that day’s problems or triumphs without provoking anxiety. It’s just sitting with a song, same lyrics, same tune, and letting whatever you’re feeling build with the beat, rising with the bridge and falling as the last chorus fades.

Total dick move.

Total dick move.

I think at times, lyrics find us when they’re supposed to, and that’s why we can’t get them out of our heads. Last Saturday after a spirited afternoon playing drinking games on my fashionista C’s roof, I decided to stay at home that night, making bad delivery decisions for dinner and catching up on an SNL rerun. I stayed up just long enough to watch the first music performance, Sam Smith, Stay with Me. Even in my leftover sangria haze I perked up as that song played on, drinking in the live performance, the lyrics, even rewinding the DVR to watch it again. It’s been on repeat for me for two days, singing it in the shower, playing it on my computer, humming it in the elevator.

A combination of work, play and a few things in between have had the fact that I’m alone in the forefront of my mind recently, scary and exciting all at once. For whatever reason this past Saturday, Smith’s words comforted me (darlin’, stay with me/’cause you’re all I need/this ain’t love, it’s clear to see/but darlin’ stay with me). I don’t know if it’s reminiscing about the past when those words meant something beautiful yet painful, like an emotional concrete; pondering the present where they mean something wild, unfamiliar, scary and fun; or wondering if the future may bring a new meaning to that tune. I’m sure this will fade in a few weeks, edged out by new Beyonce or another welcome recommendation from a friend. It’s nice to sit in this mood with this song for a while though, and wonder where this vast music world might take my mood next.