Quick Thoughts: Ouch.

It’s funny how little we think about ambient noise around us. Different conversations, sounds from the street, the rustle of leaves in the wind. It’s so infrequently we think about these little sounds that surround us all the time, and we think even less on how loud these sounds add up to be.

Except me. This week. All I can think about and notice are the sounds around me, because I’m currently in the middle of one of the worst migraines of my life and frankly I’m not sure how I didn’t notice before today that the white noise machine in my office sounds like a helicopter and don’t even get me started on the pounding of my keyboard. I’ve suffered from migraines for years, but usually they’re extreme and horrible for 4-5 hours tops and then I’m okay. I’ve had this one for going on 36 hours. Yes I’m semi-functional – which was not the case yesterday – so I suppose it could be worse. I mean, things can always be worse. But they can also always be better somehow and oh god I’m sorry I completely lost my train of thought a siren just went by outside and I think I’m going to throw up.

I do not anticipate writing much this week so I can ensure both that I’m in tip-top shape for best weekend ever coming up and also so I can find out who is moving a MARCHING BAND PAST MY DESK. That may have just been one person in heels or the aforementioned pounding of the keyboard. Either way please excuse me while I go hide in a dark room until everything stops hurting.

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PLD Montage: Vol. 6 (Holiday Party Edition)

It’s been too long since I’ve done a round up a bad decisions, mostly because I’ve been super boring over the last few months. Like, stays in all weekend to rewatch Once Upon a Time on Netflix and eat takeout for three straight meals kind of boring. Luckily for all of us, last night was the company holiday party, and oh boy did I get into some fun.

Now I’m not saying I was *that* girl at the party at all. I actually managed to keep it together enough to get to the office on time. I am saying, however, that perhaps the office saw a side of me I’d been able to keep under wraps for the 11 months I’ve worked here. So without further ado – let’s get started!

PLD Montage: Holiday Party Edition

  • For the first time in my professional life, the holiday party had a dress code, in this case, “cocktail attire.” I brought my favorite LBD to the office, a Club Monaco number with cut-outs on the side that now show off my b-e-a-yootiful tattoo. I’d originally planned on wearing a pair of black wedges with manageable height to the fiesta, knowing I’d be up and dancing most of the night, but when I tried them on with the dress the night before, it just didn’t look right. So obviously the next option was 6-inch black stilettos. 9 hours and a walk along the Meatpacking cobblestone later…
    Lesson learned: BRING FLATS. Girl. Bring flats. Always bring flats. It’s cool though, no one needs to feel their toes 12 hours after removing the offending shoes.
  • As is fairly common with official gatherings these days, there were two massive screens on display that were showing photos tweeted/Instagrammed with the party hashtag. We even took it a step further and had a “Selfie Station” (COMPLETE WITH SELFIE STICK) that had all sorts of fun props to make the photos that much more fun. So naturally, I took at least 60 pictures and posted all of them throughout the night with the appropriate hashtag.
    Lesson learned: Always check you don’t have a red pepper flake stuck between your front teeth before uploading a photo. Some selfies really don’t translate from iPhone size to a projector screen.
  • The official work party wrapped up around 10, and as we gathered our things, no one had really mentioned an after party. Part of me was disappointed, since that’s the real fun about work holiday gatherings, but I did somewhat relish the idea of getting home at a reasonable hour and feeling okay the next morning at the office. In the coat-check madness, I heard someone yell “GASLIGHT” and just knew I had to go – the last time I went there was Superbowl Sunday 2014, the infamous day that started this whole chronicle. In my head, I was going to stop in for a beer and head out before midnight. Turns out, 2 a.m. comes around pretty quickly.
    Lesson learned: As evidenced by my pounding head and the fervent desire to crawl in bed with a bacon cheeseburger and all of the Advil, I can no longer function on four hours of sleep.
  • Leaving the party, I was not about to take the subway all the way uptown at 2 a.m. with my aforementioned sore feet, so I decided to take a cab to get me home. Upon checking my email this morning, it appears drunk LB called not one, but TWO Ubers, and missed both of them to get in a yellow cab.
    Lesson learned: Apparently Uber charges you $10 for every cancelled ride that waits more than 5 minutes. Do you think I can expense two car rides I didn’t take?
  • I made a promise to sober LB that I would get into the office on time, despite an excess of red wine and a lack of sleep, because I flat-out refuse to be That Person in the holiday party aftermath. Despite wanting to punch something upon hearing my alarm, I reluctantly made it out of bed, made coffee and breakfast, and even made it out the door on time. So of course, the subways were massively delayed. I had to get on THREE different trains at three different stations, only to make it back to the A train – very likely the train I would have caught if I’d just waited at my original station. Frustrated, cold and to be honest still drunk, I angrily got on the train and started cursing MTA in my head. And then I heard the most amazing thing: my subway conductor, my favorite conductor that has been missing for months, telling all of us to have “a beautiful morning, and a warm and cozy weekend.”
    Lesson learned: There’s always a silver lining if you give it a minute to shine.

I’m now going to retreat under my desk with the aforementioned bacon cheeseburger and hide until I learn that 2 a.m. is not an acceptable bedtime on a work night as a 26 year old. Happy weekend kids!

Half a Badass

For a period of about 10 weeks, between early August and late October, I spent a lot of time wondering what motivates us to do things we know are going to be painful. We push ourselves at the gym to run that extra mile, or hold that stretch for another five seconds, in spite of aching muscles, stilted breath and a soundtrack of “TAKE A BREAK” on repeat in our heads. We keep eating that particular spicy food, fried rice at Spice Market or a burrito bowl from Chipotle, despite watering eyes and the constant burning from the tip of our tongues to the back of our throats. We hold on to that tiny bit of hope, thinking maybe this time the phone buzzes, it’ll be the “long time no talk” message we swore we weren’t waiting to see. It’s like every time my partner-in-crime R convinces me it’s going to be a good idea to go back to Village Tavern – I know it’s going to end with me eating pizza at 3 a.m. with beer spilled down my dress, but there’s a part of me that knows despite the imminent pain the next morning, everything is going to be awesome.

About four weeks into the aforementioned 10 of contemplation, I had this weird feeling that the reason I spent those weeks pondering on pain wasn’t going to happen. Every time I talked about it with friends, every time I thought about it, every email exchange and every week that went by, I had this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that it wasn’t going to happen as planned. I knew it was going to happen eventually, but October 22 just didn’t feel right, and I couldn’t explain why. I shared this sentiment about five weeks into the 10 with my lovely friend M and my fashionista C, who laughed and told me I was just anxious, and it was going to be fine. So I kept thinking about pain, and how to prepare for pain when intuition is saying that it’s not going to happen as planned, but everything is going to be okay. When it came within 24 hours of the scheduled start time, I tried to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking it must have been nerves that had my mind running around with this idea that this major life event wasn’t going to happen. And then my phone rang, and just like that, everything changed.

So innocent on paper...

So innocent on paper… (Done by Mikhail Andersson at White Rabbit Tattoo, NYC)

Pain is a funny thing. No one wants to be in pain, whether physical or emotional, and there are some kinds of pain that make you wonder if it will ever go away. But with most pain also come strength. It’s pushing yourself into that last mile in a long run, dealing with the extra ten minutes of pain so you can spend the rest of the weekend elated you beat a personal record. It’s realizing after a while that you’ve stopped looking for that same number and the “long time no talk” message, and how nice it feels to know you’re moving on. On that fateful October day, I was in a different type of pain than expected, an emotional vulnerability that comes with dreaming of something for so long and having someone tell you to keep waiting. But I told myself the strength from an extra month of preparation would be worth it in the end, and at the end of the day, a month in the grand scheme of forever is barely a speck of dust on the radar. I felt stronger, having waited and anticipated longer, and by the night of November 24, fielding “good luck tomorrow!!” texts left and right and nearly working myself into a panic attack from high levels of excited and nervous energy, I felt like I could handle anything.

"This is going to be great" - me, five minute prior to start.

“This is going to be great” – me, five minutes prior to start.

On November 25, I walked into the same shop I’d entered back in March to meet with the same artist, M by my side and nervous excitement in my head. I saw the stencil on the page, even more beautiful than I’d expected, and I saw the stencil on my body, even larger than I’d expected, and I braced myself for pain that I really thought I could handle. After all, I’ve spent the past year dealing with everything from post-Spartan ankle injuries to a twice-broken heart. And this was a pain I’d experienced before – four times, in fact! “I can handle it,” I thought, as I laid on my side, arm over my head and M’s hand in mine for reassurance. I took a few deep breaths, settled in to the stiff position of my body, stuck in my headphones and gave the thumbs-up to the artist. And then, the whir of the tattoo machine started and I entered into a world of pain I have NEVER experienced.

The next four hours felt like post-Spartan, post-breakup, all job-related and all love-related pain combining to form a miniscule blip on the pain threshold. There were moments I didn’t think I could make it through, but I kept sitting, eyes closed, hand clenching M’s so tightly I’m surprised it didn’t fall off, because I knew it wouldn’t last forever, and it would be worth it. We took two ten-minute breaks, two hours in and then three hours in, and in each break my body would shake uncontrollably, coursing with too much adrenaline from the needles raking over thin skin and from all my excitement; it felt like going down the big drop in the roller coaster over and over until you can’t feel your body anymore. It was the best worst pain I had ever experienced, and walking up to the mirror after those four hours, I had never been so relieved, excited and fucking nervous all at the same time. I turned towards the mirror for the moment of truth, and in an instant, none of the pain mattered.

"This is beyond" - me, five minutes after. Tattoo by Mikhail Andersson at White Rabbit Tattoo

“This is beyond” – me, five minutes after. Tattoo by Mikhail Andersson at White Rabbit Tattoo

That’s the thing about pain, really. It makes you stronger when you least expect it to. It makes you understand your threshold, physically, emotionally, to handle anything. If I can sit through four hours of needles scratching the thin skin around my ribcage over and over again, who’s to say I can’t push myself into tittibhasana in yoga practice, or can’t stay an extra hour after work, regardless of how tired I am, to make sure everything is perfect? I feel like I can do anything after this, like I know my limits are so much farther than I’ve ever pushed them in the past. Our tattoo artist joked around when my anchor G was getting her rib piece back in July that to get a piece on the ribs makes you Half a Badass, which is promoted to full badass if you get a piece on your spine. I may never get to that level, so nervous am I just to go back and finish this piece next month, but I think for all of the pain I’ve experienced in recent days, half a badass is all good to me.

Anyone in the NYC area looking for ink, I seriously can’t say enough wonderful things about my artist and shop. You can find the artist on Instagram (@micleandersson) and his website (www.tattookarma.com), and the shop is White Rabbit Tattoo (www.whiterabbittattoostudio.com). 

Novocain

I have a few interesting habits and ways to deal with strange, confusing and very strong emotions. Depending on what I’m feeling, it could be crying to my lovely friend M, dancing around the apartment with little miss, or cleaning obsessively, and let’s be real, those are usually accompanied by a lot of wine. This past Friday, while sorting through what turned out to be the beginning of some interesting emotions, I decided to pick up my Kindle and flip to The Fault in Our Stars. I thought rereading it (again) would be a good distraction while waiting for something which never ended up coming, trying to find comfort in the words I know so well. I’ve highlighted a few passages over the course of a few rereads, popular ones that everyone knows courtesy of the Buzzfeed coverage of the movie. The words are familiar and obvious but they were also, to an extent, exactly what I needed to read at the time. First up: That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.

Sometimes that sentence is very true. Regardless of whether it’s a little bit of pain, or something incredibly painful, sometimes you can’t do anything but sit with that pain and let it run through you, allowing it the attention it demands for as long as it needs. But once in a while, something finds you, something happens that you would expect to be painful, but the pain doesn’t come. It’s waiting for the final push into the right emotion for the situation, but you can’t locate it, so you just kind of Are, you just kind of Feel, capital A, capital F.  There’s no gaping hole in your midsection gasping for air, no tears streaming like melting ice cream, bittersweet. It’s not even pain, really. To an extent, it’s nothing. And yet in that, it’s everything.

If I’m dealing with that type of emotion, a blank slate where it doesn’t help when I laugh, or cry, or drink more wine, I can’t tell if it’s the logical part of my brain telling me there has to be an explanation for whatever is causing the almost-hurt, or if it’s my heart putting up steel gates, trying to protect itself for just a little longer. Things can happen in such a whirlwind that you lose track of time, lose track of reason and just wander with the flow of the moment, wanting everything to stay exactly how it is but more, enraptured by the thought of the wide, unknown, hypothetical future. It’s exciting and scary in the best way while it’s happening, but when you find yourself out of the vortex and into the eye of the storm, you’re left standing still, surrounded by this beautiful mess with no way to clean it up. So you watch, and you wait, and try to sort your way back into any kind of emotional release, anything to escape from the numbness that’s slowly creeping into your extremities.

No one can stay in purgatory forever, at least not the emotional kind. Eventually the emotional novocain starts to fade, a temporary fix only. Through a combination of time, group texts with the Nickname Posse and yes, lots of wine, the pain will demand to be felt or will go away on it’s own, sated by it’s dulled, short-lived emotional fix. I may have reached that moment, or maybe I’m still riding the dull wave of a muted emotion, but starting a Monday numb and confused was not what I’d hoped. It is in that mindset that the next highlight from TFIOS comes to me, while looking back on the emotional ride I’ve taken in the past year and what I’ve learned in the past six months: I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.