Posted on May 17, 2015
Why do we fear failure? It’s quite often not failing itself that strikes fear into us, it’s the other negative outcomes that come along with failing like a lack of income or potential embarrassment. –From Ash Reed’s essay on conquering fear
I used to hate rain, now I welcome it. Especially when it come down in sheets through my window. It’s funny how we’re conditioned to fear rain–the inconvenience of it (my hair! my clothes! my shoes!), how it ruins and disappears things. But are we really afraid of water? Of papers getting soiled and hair coming undone?
When I got sober I composed a list of fears I wanted to overcome, things I wanted to do previously considered impossible. It was 2002 and I wanted to publish a book, see much of the world, and stand in the rain.
It took years but I remember a Thanksgiving when I found myself running around the park, getting drenched in a surprise thundershower. The sky darkened and the air turned cold. I stood still in the middle of it and thought, this feels good. This is what it feels like to no longer be afraid of that which is temporary and real.
It’s been a challenge to write lately because all I can think about is leaving. Originally I’d planned to wait until fall, until I had enough money saved and time to sort out the logistics. But really, I need to deal with four things: packing + moving, changing paperwork, finding a place in California and moving there. So many people make such a huge deal out of moving (the dramatics of which can be exhausting to read), but in its simplicity it’s just about moving a body and possessions from one place to another. It’s a week of phone calls and coordination and saying goodbyes.
Part of me wanted to be more productive this weekend–write more, work more, see more–but I ended up seeing a friend, binge-watching shows related to serial killers, making this chowder, and thinking.
Thinking maybe it won’t be so crazy to leave sooner.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Small Plates & Sweet Treats
4 ears of corn (you’ll need 3 cups of corn)
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (1 15oz can)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 sprigs thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chopped fresh chervil (optional)
Preheat the grill. Peel and rinse corn (removing all of the corn silk, I think that’s what those strands are called). Grill the corn over medium-high heat, charring the outside. It should take 8 to 10 minutes. If you don’t (and I certainly don’t), you can char these in the broiler for 15 minutes, turning every so often. Let the corn cool slightly and then cut off the kernels.
In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, vegetable broth, thyme, and corn kernels. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn the heat off and let it steep for 15 minutes.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Cook the vegetables over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add the coconut-corn mixture. Bring the soup to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
Add the cilantro (and chervil, if using) and stir. Then serve the soup warm.
Posted on May 15, 2015
Usually I make it a point not to see people on Thursdays because this day is devoted to being free of people–I need time alone, in unadulterated quiet. I can’t function otherwise. However, I acquiesced to meet old colleague whom I admire and hadn’t seen in years. What he probably doesn’t know is how I remember him. He was one of the first who interviewed me for a job that I once loved and slowly, over time, began to hate, and much of the interview centered around The Shining. I realize it’s odd to talk about a movie so horrific so comfortably, but we laughed over the twins, dissected Kubrick, and I revealed a predilection for horror movies.
People who are frightened of flying are often put in mock planes so that they could overcome their fear by confronting it, by breathing through it. One is never comforted by statistics because we always think that our flight could be that one in a million. We ignore silence so wholly and completely because our heart wonders how is it possible that a giant machine can be suspended in midair? We think ours will be an inevitable ruin, a tumbling and fall, and no amount of comparing plane crashes to car accidents will help. But if you put us on a plane and make us go through it, again and again, the hope is that we’ll find a way to cope with maths, probability. We’re never really cured, but we can sometimes go on planes without believing we’ll die. I like to think of this as being at the end of our private ocean–a life spent on the shoreline and then we’re propelled to take out a boat and move it as far as it will go until we’re at the edge. We never go over the edge but we know it exists, we’ve seen it, and we take comfort that we’re closer to it than a life lived on dry land.
This is probably why horror and darkness comfort me. They are my edge of the ocean.
So in that small space of time spent with a stranger who will become a coworker and now a friend, how could he know that on that particular day I started to work through why it is that I’m able to sit so comfortably still in the dark.
Yesterday we spend a few hours in a restaurant that serves good eggs and has a tree planted in the middle of the dining area. We talk about a lot of things–work created and owned on our own terms, the place where we used to work, and more importantly, what’s next.
I told him about my decision to move to Santa Monica, how I didn’t want advice (please don’t, please don’t). When he asked about Santa Monica I told him it was about being in the midpoint between the familiar and the foreign, and he wondered aloud if I was prolonging that which I desired for the sake of being comfortable. Was I losing time by settling in a place that in my heart I suspect won’t be home. So why not risk it and plant roots to prove my gut right or wrong, to know that I made a choice without regret, that certainty will invariably reveal itself.
Why not go to the edge of the ocean instead of paddling halfway?
He said all of this without judgment, without talking about the pros and cons of north vs. south (I’m sure you’ve already worked that out), but he suggested I make a choice based on time and gut and heart–the rest will sort itself out. And then I came across a typewriter on my way to the bathroom in this restaurant, reminding me of my presence in prose.
I left exhilarated, confused, feeling as if I walked in a metronome and walked out oscillating wildly. I have so much to think about in the coming months, so much to consider.
Then I came home and fell into a world of work and watching The Fall. I felt sick because the character so closely resembles Kate in my novel and I realize that I’m not quite done with examining the masks people wear in my work. I’m still paddling–not quite at my edge yet.
A small note: For the next few months I won’t have comments activated on this space. It’s not out of disrespect, but more from a place of self-preservation, and a need to filter out distractions as much as possible. There will come a time when I’ll reopen them, I promise.
Posted on May 10, 2015
Always the setting forth was the same, Same sea, same dangers waiting for him, As though he had got nowhere but older. Behind him on the receding shore, The identical reproaches, and somewhere, Out before him, the unraveling patience, He was wedded to. There were the islands, Each with its woman and twining welcome, To be navigated, and one to call “home.” The knowledge of all that he had betrayed, Grew till it was the same where he stayed, Or went. Therefore he went. And what wonder, If sometimes he could not remember, Which was the one who wished on his departure, Perils that he could never sail through, And which, improbable remote, and true, Was the one he kept sailing home to? — “Odysseus” by W.S. Merwin
It’s normal for me to wake at dawn, to feel the cool air coming in through my window. I spend most mornings working, reading, making food to post on this space (like these veggie balls), contemplating and planning, and by nine it already feels like afternoon. Already I’ve asked myself where the day has gone. Already I’m thinking about time, how there’s never enough of it; how it’s slippery, it’s the one thing you can never retrieve or contain. There is six, seven, eight and nine in the morning. Gone. The past becomes irrelevant, the future is always on the verge, lingering, waiting with bated breath, and as Buddhists will have it, we only have this one moment in which to live, the present.
Easier said then done.
I remember coming across Merwin’s poem when I was working on my first book. I was searching for the right words to introduce my story but I couldn’t find them. I read Merwin’s words but couldn’t inhabit them–they were an ill-fitted suit, a pair of too-tight shoes. Merwin’s words were beautiful and clean but impenetrable, and it would take me years to understand that I, much like Odysseus, was forever tethered to the extremes of past and future, creating a kind of self-imposed alienation that only served to imprison, rather than liberate, me in the present moment. I’d become fixated on finding myself a home that spanned across two points of time, yet ignored the life I lived in this moment. Right here, right now–not what came before and what will inevitably happen, but this breath that I continue to breathe. What of that?
I hadn’t had the distance to see the flaw in a man who tried to find his way home because time had become a metaphor for his self-doubt and fear.
I just remember sitting at my desk thinking, I can do anything with my time. Anything. Is this what I want to be doing? –From Elle Luna’s Design Matters Interview
People tell me they admire me and this makes me uncomfortable. Strangers act like they know me, like we have this intimacy, and this makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know. I wake every morning and try to be brave. I try to remember that there’s a quiet nobility in leading a good life that need not be large or thick or heavy. That abundance isn’t about the size of what you occupy, but it relies more on how much of your heart you’re willing to bear. How you’re willing to play a hand without looking at the cards. Years ago a great love told me that I was a coward, that I slept on top of the sheets instead of between them and I never let him, all the way. He was right. Abundance would’ve been flinging the doors open and letting the mothballs flutter out. Abundance would’ve been folding him into me and letting him be there. I’ve learned from that, and in my morning hours I remind myself to let the right ones in. Not everyone, but the right ones.
I sat in my mentor’s office crying. You should know that I’m not the crying type, but that day I went the distance. We’re talking marathon tears: flushed face, tissues askance, contact lenses ready to fall out–that kind of cry. All because he’d asked me a single question: Are you happy? It took me a good ten minutes to choke out, between cries, that no, I was not happy. Never did I conceive that I could just get up and walk away. That I could leave that which no longer brought me joy in search for what could. After the tears I got pragmatic, hyper-rational. I had all the questions.
What if this doesn’t work out?
What if I become broke?
What if I lose my new apartment?
What if I break every connection I’ve made over the past 3 years?
What if this is a decision that I regret in 3, 5, 10 years? –From Sean Smith’s “The Truth About ‘The Right Time'”
What if I fail? I said. Impossible, my mentor said. And then he corrected himself. Over the course of my life I will fail. I will face-plant onto the pavement and I will have to sometimes rely on splints and bandages. I may even need a walker. But choosing to live my life instead of sleeping through it was the antithesis of failure. It took me until now to see that. It took me quitting my job without a safety net or familial financial assistance, and breathing through the months I sometimes had to use my credit card to pay for my rent, to realize that the road to joy is winding, circuitous, and sometimes painful. Periods of darkness and uncertainty are inevitable but if you remind yourself that all of this is temporary, necessary even (as David Cain posits) , you will get to a better place. The optimist in me believes that.
I’ve been thinking about cliff dives, fear and the agony that is uncertainty. I’ve also been thinking about time. Over the next few months I plan to play a tourist in my home. I plan to do all the things I’ve largely ignored as a born New Yorker because I’ll get to it. There’s time (not really). I plan to travel to Asia before my move out west because being in Asia gives me the kind of clarity and quiet I rarely achieve elsewhere.
And then I plan to follow my gut. To ignore making the “right” decision because I don’t quite know what is right, only other than the fact that I need to leave. As of this moment, I’ll be moving to Santa Monica. If over the course of the next few months I change my mind that’s cool too, because I know I’ll have to live through questions in order to wade my way home. I have to find my own room and I can only do it by living moment to moment, tuning out the periphery opinions and noise, and cleaving to that which brings me joy and shelter.
Ultimately there’s no escape from living with uncertainty, for anyone. No matter how often you compare yourself to others, or check your email, or read the news, no matter how much you worry, you’ll never know what happens after you die, or what other people really think of you, or what your life will be like in five years. So it helps to get comfortable with the small uncertainties, too. Then, at least, you’re used to it. –From Julie Beck’s “How Uncertainty Fuels Anxiety”
INGREDIENTS: Recipe from A Modern Way to Eat, with modifications
For the balls
1 1/4 cups (250g) cooked puy lentils
2 zucchini, grated (about 275g)
1 cup (100g) almond meal
4 1/2 oz goat cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
Finely grated zest 1 unwaxed lemon
1 red chilli, chopped, or a pinch dried chilli flakes
Bunch fresh basil (or mint), leaves picked and roughly chopped + reserve greens for topping
Olive oil for drizzling
For the pistachio pesto
Handful pistachio nuts (about 1/2 cup)
Small bunch fresh basil, leaves picked
4 tbsp olive oil (I used 2 tbsp pistachio oil because I ran out of olive oil and had this on hand + 2 tbsp olive oil)
3 tbsp water
Juice ½ lemon
The hardest part of this recipe is all the annoying prep work (cooking the lentils, grating the zucchini) because this is a one-bowl dream. Mix all of the ingredients for the balls until completely combined. Allow the mixture to rest for 20 minutes while you preheat an oven to 425F.
Roll the balls into small meatballs (you can get 24 small bowls out of this mixture, but I prefer fat balls so I managed 18) and add them to an unlined baking sheet. I made the mistake of lining one of my trays with wax paper and the balls stuck to it which made removal a nightmare. Drizzle with olive oil on all sides and cook in the hot oven, rotating once, for 22-25 minutes until browned.
While the balls are cooking, blitz all the ingredients for the pistachio pesto and set aside. Once the balls are done, dress them in this delicious sauce and eat with a pile of greens or quinoa cooked in vegetable stock. Trust me, you won’t be able to eat just FIVE.
Posted on May 9, 2015
I held her. Both arms. And asked her to stop. She shrugged me off and told me to where to go. Then she fell. Knocked her head against the table. I heard her neck snap. I wanted her to rest somewhere beautiful. Somewhere where I could see her every day at the exact center of my world. Here. She looked so beautiful. –From Hinterland, “The Girl in the Water”
The sun came down on the branches, lit them up in a pale fire. A man leans back, considers his life. The whole of it. Thinks about the girl he left in the field, which puts him to thinking about the girl he used to love who worked in a church. She was the rice girl, responsible for harvesting the white pearls just as quickly as they were hurled at couples, who seem to perpetually move in slow motion. Couples who were once sepia and sun-kissed, but the rice girl knew that sepia invariably crescendos to color to only tumble to black. She knew this because the women who shook rice out of their hair would one day charge back into the church and ask a man of cloth if it was possible to once feel a love so great her heart would burst to then feel nothing at all?
The rice girl told the man this while he cut the ends of her hair. She liked this, she thought, the feeling of damage being excised, removed. How do you tell them that their faces will be a river, the rice girl said, to which the man replied, what do you do with the rice? Throw it away? The rice girl laughed, said that would be bad for business. No, she said, we box it up and onto the next. The man considered this act of recycling life, of throwing the same seed. This didn’t sit well with the man, no it did not, and he considered ending it, ending her, until she interrupted and said that municipalities were cracking down, laws were in the process of being rewritten, and now she’d been forced to be creative. The rice girl rose from the bed where the man held a pair of sheers in his hands and she came back with packets of sunflower and bird seed. She said why not get to straight to the point because one day one of them will decide to leave.
Because people always leave.
My hair, please cut it, the rice girl said. She couldn’t imagine parts of her still broken, breaking. He had to cut it all, she thought, there’s no other way.
The man met the rice girl on a cold beach and felt something resembling affection when he caught her staring at a little boy longer than she should.
The man realized that she would bring him seeds and then nuts and then he’d have to leave her because who up and kills the nut girl? You can’t rationalize that. He liked them simple, knocked-kneed and wide-eyed. He preferred their vocations to be among the unnecessary, the exotic, the no-one-will-ever-miss-you variety. The woman in Japan who was responsible for pushing people onto trains during morning rush. The woman who fluffed pandas. The woman who was paid by doctors to feign illness for internists to diagnose. The woman who dressed circus elephants in all their silks and finery.
These were women who hated their mothers and secretly thought about killing (or fucking) their fathers. They were brilliant but they would come undone in the face of simple arithmetic. And they needed to hold every single kitten on pet adoption days. The rice girl was all of this–beautifully insignificant, and then she started talking about nuts and possibly a day job in an office with air conditioning because she’d never been in a place that was temperature adjusted, unless you count the mall.
The man cut more than he should have. How did she fail to notice the sweep of hair blanketing the bed? How hadn’t she noticed her cool neck? For a moment he pressed the metal against her shoulder, let it linger and the girl moaned and wondered aloud if living with air conditioning was like boxes of scissors pressing up against your body.
Something like that, he said, rising from the bed. I got to go, he said. I have a shift, but he didn’t have a shift or a job or a home. He lived where they lived. He occupied their territory, learned their passwords and pin codes and paid their bills on the 1st and 15th. He wondered about supermarkets, if there were people who still bagged groceries or was it all just self-serve now?
Where does everybody go when they say they have to go, the rice girl asked. He distracted her with talk of packets of petals and dried leaves, other things one could throw. For some reason this made the rice girl nervous and she cut the bags of seeds open and began eating until there was nothing left.
You can leave, you can leave, the rice girl said.
Please leave, the woman in the field says, now. Give me the dignity of not having to die next to the man who killed me. Give me at least that.
Posted on May 8, 2015
People have opinions, even if you don’t invite them in, even if you don’t want to hear them. People will share them, emphatically, just so they’re heard. Just so they have a say. They want to tell you about that time they lived in the wasteland that is Los Angeles and hated it. They want to tell you that California isn’t New York, not by a long-shot, and in response you sigh and close your eyes and wonder if people really think you’re this naive or stupid. And then there are the clamouring voices of those who love New York, those who couldn’t imagine abandoning it, and they ask, with a mixture of confusion and mild disdain, why would you ever leave New York? Perhaps it never occurred to them that I am not them. I do not live my life according to anyone else’s opinions or flights of fancy.
I don’t make life decisions based on consensus; my move isn’t a team effort. I haven’t spoken or written much about my impending journey west because everyone seems to think they know exactly what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. They consider their opinion of a place as fact, and Felicia, you need to know all the facts. You need to know what you’re getting into.
I may not know what I’m getting into, but I want to flee all the noise, the constant barrage of unwanted color commentary. I do not want your opinion about where I should move, especially when I haven’t asked for it. You are not me.
Right now I’m going through a battle of the Santas: Santa Monica vs. Santa Cruz, which is really a battle between the bridge to the unfamiliar and the completely foreign. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Santa Monica over the past 11 years and while Los Angeles is not my vibe, I love the compactness of Santa Monica. I love that it’s familiar, yet different from New York, and navigatable. I’ve been mulling over this privately, and it wasn’t until a beautiful friend reminded me a simple, brilliant truth that put my heart on pause:
Maybe this is one of those moments where you realize that there isn’t a right decision. Both places would be awesome and you truly can’t go wrong. There’s a lot of freedom in that! I personally always spend a lot of time trying to make the “right” choice. But sometimes I realize that I’m stressing over nothing because both choices would be good outcomes–just different ones. I bet that’s the case here. Either choice is a right one. As big a deal as moving across the country is, ultimately…it’s not that big of a deal. Meaning that if you move to one place and hate it (unlikely), you can pick up and move to the other. Then it’s just a slight detour, but still a lesson and an experience you’ll be glad to have had.
I could just pick up and leave. I could leave! The point isn’t the final destination, rather it’s the journey home. And I’m deliriously excited to make the leap!
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup cubed mango
1 cup almond milk
3 pitted dates
DIRECTIONS: Blitz until smooth!
Posted on May 6, 2015
Nine months and a handful of days (give or take), and here’s me giving birth to a plate of halloumi covered in macerated fruit. We’ve come a long way baby from the days when I thought it logical to douse everything in cheese, and after nine months of keeping gluten and dairy in exile, I’m able to enjoy both again, albeit sparingly. And by sparingly I mean I can only have gluten or dairy every two weeks. For the rest of my life. I’m going to let that sink in for a second.
Last week I risked it, got cocky, had cheese on my burger and a bite of a tart, and I ended up breaking out in hives. That night I fell asleep with steroid cream slathered on my arms.
Good times, people. Good times.
The good news is that I’m no longer addicted to carbs. Gone are the pasta and muffin cravings, and I finally understand the joy in eating wonderful, diverse food. My journey was never about weight or fitting into a certain size or getting that “summer beach body” (brief aside: it takes everything in me not to punch people who serve up this garbage as gospel), it was about how I felt and functioned. It was about sleeping the sleep of children. It was about coming to my workouts energized and strong. It was about falling in love with my body and everything I put in it. Your body is your house, and do you want to spend your whole life stripping the floors and stuffing it with trash off the street? No, you want to care for it the best way you know how. For me, that was eating the rainbow and enjoying a mostly plant-based diet.
Over the past nine months I’ve fallen in love with flavors and cuisines I’d previously ignored because why bother when there’s a box of pasta in the cabinet and pesto in the fridge? Dinner in 10 minutes flat. Yet, I was never full. Yet I was always sluggish and tired and forgetful. Now I grate cauliflower and saute it with coconut oil. Now I roast chickpeas and cover them in a mustard sauce. Now I eat a beet burger from Sakara, and think, holy shit, this is actually good.
Now I realize that if I have pasta it has to be the good stuff. It has to be homemade and worth the brain fog that will invariably ensue. If I have a croissant, it can’t be the crap kind from the local deli. And my muffins? I’m no longer into the hockey puck of full-butter game. Every time I touch gluten or dairy it has to be worth it.
And can I tell you that this dish was WORTH IT. I love, love, love halloumi, and the sweet berries married with mint really cut the saltiness of the fried cheese. I devoured this along with a salad and felt sated.
It feels good to be healthy, strong and present in my life. It feels good to no longer view a shrunken frame as a badge of honor or something worth fighting for.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Vibrant Food
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 serrano chile, seeds removed if desired, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (8- to 9-ounce) package halloumi cheese, cut into 8 slices
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, agave nectar, serrano, and pepper to taste. Toss the strawberries with the dressing and set aside.
Heat a very large skillet over medium-high heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add the halloumi slices. Cook the cheese for 2 to 3 minutes per side without disturbing, until a deep brown crust forms.
Remove the cheese from the skillet and spoon the strawberry mixture over the slices of cheese. Serve immediately, while the cheese is still warm.
Posted on May 5, 2015
Beauty: You guys. I don’t purchase many beauty products because I can’t be bothered with the upkeep. Save for red lipstick, I don’t wear makeup because I can’t cope with a multi-step process. I’m serious about this. My beauty routine has to be simple, fast, and efficacious. I’ve always been into skin + body care. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with good genes and my skin is fairly unblemished and I’m only just starting to see small lines around my eyes. Unlike the rest of the free world, I’m not all that concerned about the aging process (if you set aside my crippling fear of death), however, I do want to look like I’m not digging my own grave. Nutrition, water, proper sleep and exercise play huge roles in my life as does my skin care regimen.
I haven’t been into serums until this year (because process), but I’ve been using Origins’ Original Skin serum for nearly two months and it is my JAM. I have noticed a demonstrable difference in the appearance of my pores (smaller) and people have remarked on my glowing skin (this could also be attributed to the fact that I’ve been eating greens like a fiend). I use the serum before my moisturizer, and these days I’m rocking either Jurlique’s Skin Balancing Face Oil (I have combination skin and I’m still shocked that my face doesn’t resemble an oil refinery) or Caudalie’s Premier Cru The Cream (it costs a MILLION DOLLARS but it’s worth it).
It should be said, out loud, that my friend Grace has all the knowledge. While many bloggers have devolved into the equivalent of the women who spray perfume in your face in department stores, Grace is one of the good ones. She tests all the products she uses and she’s genuinely excited by the hunt and discovery. I trust her implicitly, and she’s never steered me in the wrong direction. Last week, I found myself pawing her beauty products and she preached the gospel that is One Love Organics. When I wasn’t huffing her coconut scrub, she told about Skin Savior, a miraculous cleanser + moisturizer (dual purpose!) that doesn’t require you to wash your face! Apparently, the oils in the balm attach to the oils in your skin, making for a deeper, nourishing wash. I’ve only used this for a few days and I’m already in love. I’m still not used to washing my face without water, but I’m giving this a go.
After I finished pawing her beauty products, I sprayed Grace’s Coqui Coqui Coco Coco on my wrists, and I black-out shopped this perfume using her computer. The fragrance is fresh, not cloying and smells of Indonesia (coconut, sand and ocean). I plan on wearing this perfume to the grave.
Finally, the gross bit of the lot. If you suffer from allergies as much as I do (I’m on prescription meds, people), you will love this souped-up neti pot. I’ve been using this simple solution for a week, and while it sometimes feels like I’m drowning, I’ve noticed that my nasal passages are clearer, and I’m wheezing less. You won’t be too thrilled with what exits your nasal passages (I’m fascinated), but you will feel clean.
Books: Believe me when I say that a tower of unread books rests at my feet. From David Brooks’ The Road to Character to Maeve Brennan’s biography, and scores of unread fiction, it’s been hard to play favorites amongst the lot vying for attention. However, this past weekend I found myself cleaning out my bookcases and I’m stumbled upon a book a friend had given me as a gift–and would you believe it was Elena Ferrante? A full two years before I discovered her remarkable Neapolitan tetralogy, a friend inscribed The Days of Abandonment with: you must read this. Ironic that I wrote about being comfortable with not being married and then I go find a book about a woman coping with her husband’s untimely abandonment.
Another book that eclipsed the rest is one that arrived in the mail yesterday. You should know that I stood outside of my apartment building, ripped open the Amazon box and nearly squealed as I unwrapped Chloe Sevigny. I’ve been infatuated with Sevigny since her Sassy days and I obviously purchased the blue tee she wore in KIDS after I saw the movie in the theater. Although our styles couldn’t be more divergent, Chloe is just so cool. She gives zero fucks and this is precisely why she continues to inspire me even after all this time. The book is a compilation of private and public photos snapped over the course of two decades (snaps of scripts, Chloe’s room, traveling with friends), and it’s satisfying, inspiring, and captures everything I love (and didn’t) about the 90s. Within 24 hours I’ve shown this book to four people and we pored through the photographs like they were gold.
Naturally, the time I would meet Chloe would be the day I’m barrelling down the block with a huge bag of laundry. Yep, I ran smack into CHLOE SEVIGNY while carrying my laundry bag and wearing sweatpants.
And of course she looked the epitome of cool.
Travel: I went from being a woman who only carted around designer gear to a woman who reused Whole Foods and Sakara Life delivery bags for gym and travel. Until this year I haven’t owned a proper carry-on and I finally broke down and purchased Lo & Son’s Catalina bag. You can fit a small CHILD in this bag it’s so roomy. I love that I can toss the cotton canvas in the wash and it’s sturdy enough to fit a pile of clothes, shoes and accessories. I can’t wait to test-drive it when I head to Singapore + Bali in July, and it will obviously come in handy when I move to California come September!
Posted on May 3, 2015
I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. ― Beryl Markham, West with the Night
Someone once asked me about the kind of man I’m looking for, to which I responded, I want someone who’s been through war and has some of the bruises, but doesn’t make changing bandages his life’s work. Give me a man with scars on his back and I’ll deliver you my still-beating heart. Tell me you’ve carried the weight of the world on your back and you’ve somehow survived, in-tact and victorious.
Over the past few years I feel as if living in New York has become a wound that never closes; it festers and aches with the passing of each day, and I spend most of my time searching for thicker bandages, new ways to dress an injury that will never heal. I quit my job (ambulance, CPR); I made it my goal to see much of the world (ointment, cloth, and bandage); I came home in pursuit of a life of intention (dressing, redressing)–but still I bleed. Still the phantom ache.
During a trip to Nicaragua, a man asked me if I could move anywhere in the states where would I live. Don’t think, he said. California, I said. As soon as the words left my mouth I found myself surprised over the fact that I’d uttered them. I’m from New York–it’s in our DNA to eschew all things west coast. I spent a good deal of my life on the Biggie side of the Tupac/Biggie war (although technically Tupac grew up in East Harlem), preached about the pernicious disease that was California with its tomb of lithe bodies, Less Than Zero nihilism, and monosyllabic vocabulary.
And then I got wise to the fact that I based my opinions on stereotype. How could I believe that a small fraction of people were emblematic of an entire state? Also, how could I ignore all the pinpricks that had transformed the place I’ve known for the whole of my life into a stranger? Imagine waking one morning to find the streets you once loved erased and the friends with whom you’ve shared your most intimate secrets suddenly packing up shop and scattering about the globe. A certain kind of sadness sets in when you realize your house is less like a home and more like the place to which your mail is being forwarded.
Now I wake to the thrill of saying, I’m leaving. It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m leaving New York this year. Maybe it’s because bills continue to be stuffed into my mailbox, my books remain in bookcases, and lilacs stand stalwart in vases. The reality of my move out west feels like a whisper rather than a shout because I haven’t done anything other than to confirm the location of my new home. There are items to pack, mail to be forwarded, dozens of phone calls and lease negotiations to be made. I’m biding my time on this, waiting another month to launch the blitzkrieg.
Until then I’m slowly, deliberately removing items from my home.
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ― William Morris
We won’t talk about the fact that I still own a Ayn Rand book. We’re just going to shuffle along; keep it moving, nothing to see. Know by the time I hit the “Publish” button, Night of January 16th will bask in a Brooklyn stoop sun.
Many of my friends are Kondo’ing their life. Don’t think I haven’t acknowledged that we’re at a place in our culture where the name of a Japanese decluttering consultant morphs into a verb. I’ve even circulated this humourous take on Kondo tackling Anthropologie (a refuge that straddles the spectrum of joy and clutter). Nearly all my friends have tried to press this book into my hands, and in response I shake my head because I don’t need to Kondo–owning what I love and need has been my practice for some time.
Over the past three years I’ve hemorrhaged books, cookbooks, clothes, shoes, accessories, cooking utensils, and anything that takes up unwanted space in my home. However, until this year my wardrobe and book collection have felt like clown cars–there was always more that could be discarded, and it took time to realize that living mindfully isn’t simply about discarding what is longer necessary, it’s about the connection you make with things before you purchase them. Do I really need this? What purpose or function does it serve? Do I really love this? Why does it bring me joy? Am I only filling a void with an object whose value will only depreciate and whose sheen will inevitably dull? I grew up poor, and for a time I was fixated on the accumulation of things because I felt it said something about me. You know what it said? I owned a lot of shit.
Because there’s a difference between owning things and things owning you. Did you ever consider how much time and energy you exhaust managing your things? The things need to be dry-cleaned. The things need to be dusted. The things need to be sorted and managed. The things need a lot of upkeep, don’t you think?
Years ago, I bought a gorgeous navy Jil Sander dress. It was classic yet architectural and I loved how I felt when I wore it. I considered it my “power dress” or whatever that means. Then stress consumed my waking hours, pasta became the sole food group and the dress remained unworn in my closet for three years. Recently, I zipped it up expecting to feel what I’d felt all those years before…but nothing. I stood in front of my mirror and fidgeted. The dress no longer brought me joy, in fact it was a scab-picker, a cruel reminder of my life all those years ago. And for a time I clung to it because it was beautiful and classic and Jil Sander.
When I met my dearest friend Persia last week for a long lunch it occurred to me that SHE would look so beautiful in the dress. I remember describing it to her, telling her that I sometimes still cleave to things for all the wrong reasons. She listened, her face was awash in light. So this morning I wrapped the dress in tissue and sent it to her home. Because bringing joy to my friends feels like a wound closing up. Love feels like a set of bandages discarded. Leaving feels like a wound healing.
There will come a time when my wardrobe won’t be the kind that covers wounds. There will come a time when I will trace my body with my hands and feel scars, not wounds. Let all the light in. Soon, soon.
Posted on May 2, 2015
It’s rare that you’ll find me buying cut flowers. While they’re lovely in all their hue and plumage, I consider it a waste of money to have something in your home that will expire in a week. I’ve a long history of killing plants–I was notoriously responsible for the Cacti Famines of 2004 and 2007, respectively, and while I long to have life in my apartment the only thing I can manage is a cat. Felix is vocal about his wants and he always has something to say. I can’t get the kid to shut it!
So it was odd that after a long walk this afternoon I bought a bushel of lilacs. Lilacs are my favorite flower–I fell in love with them when I was 19 and reading “The Wasteland.” I remember the long walk to my college dorm and how it was eclipsed by a lilac bush; I practically buried my face in it I was consumed by its fragrance. There’s something beautiful about limits, memory, and desire, and when I came home I realized that my time in New York is limited and beautiful, too.
Would you believe I’ve lived here my whole life and there’s so much I haven’t seen, still? I haven’t been to The Four Seasons. I haven’t visited every independent bookstore. There are so many nooks and crannies left to explore, and I remember a reader who commented a few years ago, suggesting that I look at my home with fresh eyes–photograph it like I was a tourist (thanks, Barb!).
Over the next few months I plan to do just that. I’ve pared down my social commitments considerably to only spend time with my beloveds. And on the days reserved for me (my introvert time), I plan on having my last looks. I plan to look and then not look back.
You can’t know how excited I am to be leaving.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen, modified slightly.
1 small spaghetti squash, approximately 2 lbs., 2 cups of squash strands
2 cups finely chopped, leftover rotisserie chicken
1 fat shallot, minced
1 cup almond flour
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
2-3 tbsp coconut oil for frying
Preheat oven to 400. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and place it cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, then use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a fork to remove the spaghetti squash strands. Measure out 2 cups of the strands and place them in a large bowl.
To the squash, add the chicken, shallot, almond flour, eggs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well and form 8 patties, similar in shape to burger patties.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 to 3 patties, making sure you don’t crowd the pan. Cook on both sides for a total of 4-5 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the patties, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all the patties have been cooked.
I’m going to drop some truth right now: THESE ARE THE BEST FRITTERS I’VE EVER MADE. I can’t stop eating these. Like, really. I can’t stop. Promise me you’ll make these and share all the sordid details.
Posted on April 29, 2015
I will send you a note later about the specific difference between those writers who possess the natural confidence that is their birthright, and those fewer writers who are driven by the unnatural courage that comes from no alternative. It is something like this–some walk on a tightrope, and some continue on the tightrope, or continue to walk, even after they find out it is not there. — Maeve Brennan, in a letter to William Maxwell (via).
A few weeks ago my best friend’s nine-year-old daughter and I were playing. Our play consists of her sometimes weaving pink ribbons through my hair or me helping her assemble an imaginary set for a show she’s intent on producing (she’s creative, this one). That day, after I affixed one of the many glittery crowns she owned on her head, she asked, Are you ever going to have children, Felicia? I admired her moxie, the way in which she’s able to navigate terrain that one could consider a minefield. Adults exercise politeness and discretion in a way that can sometimes be numbing, and it was such an odd relief to hear a child ask something so plainly–just because I’m the only woman she knows who doesn’t have a child of her own. My best friend and I exchanged a look, and I replied, No, C. I don’t plan on having children. She appeared pensive, and after a few moments she nodded her head, said, okay, and we continued on with our play.
I did love, once. Yet it was love that was easily altered, one that had slowly come apart at the seams. But for a time we lived a terrific photograph, and spoke of glinting diamonds, me swanning about in a white dress and children winding around my calves. This life, while part of a defined plan I had for myself, felt distant, foreign–an uninhabited country for which I needed a visa and complicated paperwork for entry. I never took to the idea of being owned by someone else; I never considered changing my name. I never imagined myself in a white dress (I prefer blue), and I’ve never truly felt the maternal ache and tug as many of my dear friends who are mothers, describe. Back then I viewed marriage as less of a partnership and more of a prison, but I imagine that had much to do with the man in my life. Back then I slept on top sheets rather than between them, and I was forever poised for flight. Back then I didn’t want children because I was certain I wouldn’t be any good at it considering my history.
After a couple of years of playing house, this great love and I experienced a drift and while he went on to marry and have a family of his own, I never once thought I’d missed out on my chance, rather, I was relieved. I treasure my solitude, my freedom. I didn’t want to be harvested. Back then I had so much work ahead of me, work on my self, my character, that I knew I wouldn’t be much good to anyone else. I knew I had to make myself whole and complete before I gave even a sliver of myself to someone else.
“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self.” —Edith Wharton
I came across Kate Bolick’s Spinster not from her widely-read Atlantic essay (I miss out on everything), but serendipitously through a Times book review. I nodded along with Bolick, and found her to be an “awakener” (a riff off Kate Chopin’s The Awakening), much like the ones she describes in her book. Over the past few years I’ve been so consumed with cultivating a good life, in living through the questions, in being a sponge when it comes to knowledge and culture, that I hadn’t stopped, not even for a moment, to consider the fact that I’m in my late 30s and am still not married. I’ve witnessed scores of my friends fall in love, marry, bear children, and I feel joy for them, rather than envy. And I’m also privy to the unseemly side of coupling–of people who talk about being incomplete without having a partner, people who feel like a failure because they haven’t fulfilled a role ascribed to them, and my heart breaks because no one person will ever complete you. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to come into the game, whole; you’ve got to hold your own cards, be willing to play your own hand.
It doesn’t make sense to come to the table with a few cards rather than a deck.
Nearly all my friends my age are married–most, happily so. Acquaintances congratulate engagements and pregnancy announcements with a welcome to the club message, as if these points in time gain you access to some sort of privileged society, which rings odd and exclusionary, at best. I don’t view marriage, or the decision to have children, as checks in a box or private clubs where one is finally granted trespass, rather I think of them as individual choices we make. We meet a great love and decide to marry, or not. We meet a great love and decide to have children, or not. We never meet a great love and the world as we know has yet to collapse. Or, perhaps, we don’t make love a vocation. Maybe we just live our best lives and play out the hand.
She was the only one of the lot of them who hadn’t gone off and got married. She had never wanted to assert herself like that, never needed to. —Maeve Brennan
It occurs to me that I’m not certain I’ll ever get married, and I’m okay with that. While I like the idea of a partner, a companion, someone with whom I’m besotted, somehow the vision of me in a dress surrounded by people applauding me down an aisle makes me cringe. The idea of me trading one man’s name for another feels false (I’ll keep Sullivan, thank you). And I’ve come to realize that I’m a better friend, sister, and lover because I choose not to have children.
All I want to do right now is create, to see everything that hasn’t been seen. To know what I don’t know. And if in that journey I meet someone, cool. However, if I don’t, that’s cool too.