knowledge talks, wisdom listens

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Perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. – Samuel Beckett

Yesterday, I fell. On the way to the train station I was fixated on reading an article on my phone and then suddenly I could see it–the trip, tumble and collapse–but I could do nothing to stop it. I tumbled a few feet and landed on the ground in the rain. I skinned my palms, my knee ached from the impact and a man helped me up and asked me if I was okay. I laughed and said, that hurt more than I thought it would.

Later on that day I read an article calling food sensitivities a myth, a product of our own psychosomatic invention, and I was angry not because the opinion was blatantly wrong, it was the fact that pretty, popular girls can publish un-researched, un-informed fiction under the guise of journalism and the masses will swarm at their manicured feet. I was angry, still, when a comment I’d posted–something I rarely do, comment on websites–calling into question the lack of research from both sides of the argument, the lack of interviews with trained medical professionals and those who actually struggle with food issues (because should we assume that since our food has been chemically and genetically modified more so in the past 40 years than the past 400 that our bodies would have a reaction of which science has yet to understand, much less concretely diagnose?), was deleted. I was angered over the ignorance and then the silencing. But the world presses on and they sell more branded gloss.

That night during my yoga class, in the dark, I kept thinking about night driving in California. How I hated being in cars at night because you couldn’t see the road ahead of you. But in California I didn’t mind not knowing, instead allowing the road to unravel ahead of me in degrees. I thought about a trip I took to Tacoma, Washington and being in car with a man who’d been drinking, and then drinking wine coolers in Manhasset, and I’m mixing it all up. All the memories are shards I can’t piece together and I’m angry that I can’t remember everything. That part of my life is gone and I won’t again feel what it’s like to be 24 in a car, sleeping while someone drives.

We tell stories in order to live, Joan Didion writes. What if the stories are all mixed up, silenced, deleted, not read, not told?

I met with my nutritionist yesterday and the weight loss slowed because I’d been, knowingly, adding more fat back into my diet. Bacon and candied pecans on salads, extra slices of sausage. I was worried, I said. About time. And I knew Dana wouldn’t understand what I was talking about, I didn’t, because I was acting like every meal was my last when another was three hours away. We tell stories in order to live, but what if time runs out? How could I explain that I worried about the time between now and then? How do I tell that story?

I met with an old friend and we talk about the business of books and I tell him I’m done with all of those people, all of that, and he shakes his head. Those people don’t matter. That history doesn’t matter. This thing about your introversion, he starts, and I talk over him, a thing I now rarely do, about how I was telling real stories on this space, on all the spaces I occupy, and he alluded to the fact that my letting people in isn’t a singular event. I have to to continue to leave the door open, even if it’s a crack. I have to keep telling stories, honest ones. I added my email to my About page, and you may think it’s not much but it’s huge, HUGE, for me. That’s the door opening, a little.

There are a lot of stories and I want to tell them but I don’t know. About how I don’t know what’s next and that’s okay but not okay. About how I have this book that I love this much but what if no one buys it, and I know I’m not supposed to wrap up my worth in the business of books but knowing something and feeling something are two different things. About how hard it is to be present because when you’re not present you fall on the ground. About letting my anger go when I see silly articles written or just how many men hate women in this world for no reason. About being young and not loving it then when I was in it and making it all pretty and romantic now when I’ve traveled oceans away from it. About hearing people who are 30 complain about being old when all I want to do is stop the clocks and go back and get a do-over because maybe I would have done things differently.

We tell stories in order to live, and I realize I write and eat and sometimes live like time is running out.

I take this picture of me in yoga class and I immediately dissect everything that is wrong anatomically with the pose. I think about the ten pounds I’ve left to lose. I show this photograph to my yoga teacher and he smiles and doesn’t see everything I do. He says, you look strong.

I think about being awake in the car. I think about driving it.

journey to buff: flex studios + some thoughts on age {long read}

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When I look back on this week, I think about an old Duras quote: I’ve known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged. I’m beginning to feel the weight of things — my age and experience — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A co worker says, “I love the instas [Instagrams] of your home. It’s so beautiful and put together. It’s so grown up.” In response, I laugh and say, “I hope so, I’m 38.” A good friend gives me a first crack at a highly-covered social media position relating to food, and I bow out gracefully because the job is the sort of thing I would’ve leaped at ten years ago. So instead I recommend a few brilliant friends who would be better suited, a few friends who are prime for this leap. I guest-lecture on the subject of structure in writing, namely, how to be an architect of prose, and I tell a room filled with students that although we live in an attention-deficit culture, no one is waiting for their book. There should be no rush or frenzy to publication, rather, it’s more important to focus on one’s art. Write a good book instead of writing a book fast, I say — advice I balked out ten years ago. Finally, I find myself succumbing to food poisoning and a cruel reaction to dairy for two days in succession, and instead of racing through my days as I used to do, I stay home and rest.

Funny how time sorts things.

We live in an era of the perpetually young. We celebrate the newness of things; we desire a sheen to our objects. We want fast, we want now, we want perfection. The accumulation of hours spent in front of a laptop has become a badge of honor, something worthy of showing off. The desire to emulate a body we see sprawled across the pages of a glossy magazine {get that elusive dancer’s body! covet these abs! juice your way to joy!} propels us beyond our own personal velocity. Suddenly we power through our workouts and are confounded when we get injured or don’t get the body we were promised. We’re emphatic in our wails: Where are my taut abs? Where is my six-figure paycheck? Where is my VP title?

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As I get older I’m starting to appreciate the end game. I’ve become a tortoise advocate when I’ve lived my life as the valiant hare. I’ve been a master of the part rather than a tackler of the whole. Years ago, I was frustrated with my handstand practice, and my teacher told me that I had my whole life to figure it out, that each day was an accumulation of knowledge that will invariably get me to a place, yet the notion of place is elusive in and of itself, because the place keeps changing and the constant is our work. The metronome is our journey. So why not take the days as they come and commit ourselves to creating something new and cultivating mindfulness? This is not to say that I don’t have goals, I do. Surely I want to publish a novel but instead of focusing on getting a book deal on X date, I think about writing a certain amount of pages per week {and don’t admonish myself if I don’t meet that goal}, and if I complete the book and it doesn’t sell, I’m not a failure because of lack of finding a publisher, rather I’ve succeeded because I’ve written something completely new. A book I’m proud of. That’s the difference between Felicia of 2004 and Felicia of 2014.

Naturally, this sort of thinking has dovetailed into my fitness routine, where there are days when I’m absolutely killing it and there are days when I fall down or fall off machines. There are days when my once miniscule waist balloons, and there are days when I look slightly less pregnant. What I’m getting at is that there will always be flux, but the constant is how we manage the frenzy, how we keep our eye toward the long haul. It’s that eye to the journey that gets me through every new experience.

Enter Flex Studios. I invited my sweet friend Persia to accompany me {translation: provide psychological support and copious amounts of laughter with the promise of an apres-workout chow-fest} to Flex Barre. As soon as we entered the space in New York’s Union Square district, we were smitten. From the very pert and warm front desk staff to the piles of magazines that festooned the coffee table to the clean, minimalist surroundings, we knew Flex was the business. The studio hosts three class types: Barre, Pilates {reformer}, and TRX, and we took Barre, which was a fusion of traditional barre work {core, arms, thighs, seat and closing ab work/stretches} with bursts of HIIT cardio. For those who have taken Core Fusion, think of this as Core + cardio. For sixty minutes we pulsed, lunged, squatted, curtsied, lifted, and performed tricep dips and crunches with that cruel little medicine ball. Our teacher, Lanae Rhodes, an energy typhoon, provided constant, deft corrections to our form and provided endless motivation. Just when I thought I was going to collapse onto Persia, Lanae came over and gave me modifications, which reminded me, Oh, Felicia, this is a journey. I don’t need to out-squat the woman next to me; I don’t need to kill it.

I just need to do the very best I can on that particular day. Clearly I’ll need to remind myself of that when I tackle TRX at Flex next week.

It should be said that energy has a tremendous impact on whether I patron a space. Not only do I look for instructors who understand and appreciate varying fitness levels, but I also need to feel as if I’m part of a community. I’ve been to studios that felt cultish (cough, SoulCycle, cough), where fitness was a comparative and competitive act and women tend to ignore one another, and I’ve been to studios where women quickly chat and exchange tips. Flex fell in the latter, and not only did I meet a bunch of women who loved the space and gave me some feedback on which classes to take, we also got to gossiping about one of my favorite spots, Brooklyn Body Burn. Energy is so terribly important to me because I take group fitness classes to not only receive personalized attention from instructors, but to also get motivated by the folks around me. So the ebb and flow of positivity is tantamount.

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the gathering kind: getting surgical {part 3}

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She didn’t finish her sentence because Isabel was running through the cypress trees so fast and with such force the trees were shaking for minutes afterwards. Laura watched the momentary chaos of the trees. It was as if they had been pushed off balance and did not quite know how to find their former shape. — Swimming Home, Deborah Levy

This year we will be surgical. I tell you there’s no other way. Our greatest tool is the scalpel and we’ll need to it excise the unnecessary appendages because we live in a world of barnacles. People who will cleave to you in shallow waters, wrap themselves around you so tight that it becomes difficult to breathe. And by the time you open your eyes and do the maths, they’ve multiplied; they’ve got you boxed in and there’s no way out. The barnacles are tricky, sessile, set on feeding on anything in motion. Determined to drain every bit of you out of you. So there’s you trying to make a life for yourself and there’s them, trying to leech it away. Survival is now predicated on discipline — how we notice the drift, the cleave, the attachment and how we’re able to cut it off and push it away. Because if you don’t you will become lost in the forest that is them, and you’ll never find your former shape.

You may think this bit is about coming apart — antithetical to gathering! — but I promise you there’s more in play. Make no mistake, we live in a kingdom of animals and it’s Darwinian.

Lately I’ve been preaching this conceit of the barnacle and the scalpel to everyone who will listen. Especially those who, like myself, fall prey to unnecessary attachments. People consider us the court jester, prone to performances the peanut-crunching crowd always love (we’re such a sight to see!), or perhaps we’re the kind, compassionate creative who has something — a life, a mind, a heart — of which the barnacles secretly covet. And we book our calendars full of lunches and dinners. We participate in their endless interrogations, listen intently to their latest drama (which is always on the level of the Greek), and dole out advice like dolls. They come away in a fever while we lean against buildings for support. How is it so possible to feel so weak after a single meal? How is it possible that all you now want to do is curl under your covers and sleep?

If your friendships are such that you are consistently and relentlessly carving out pieces of yourself to give to others, then break out the scalpel because this barnacle|host relationship will end up killing you. Imagine yourself weighted down by attachments, unable to flee through the trees, unable to recognize the shape that is yourself because you’re always seeing the others. This clutter, this noise, this feverish motley lot prevent you from gathering with the ones who truly deserve your affection. {Haven’t you found yourself canceling plans with the ones you love because you’re exhausted from so many unnecessary engagements?}

I’m not a “popular” person; I’ve never been part of the “in crowd” {do we even use these terms anymore?}, and I never want to be. I used to be invited to dozens of parties and my calendar was always booked out for weeks, but now I have longer meals with the ones I love and the invitations are more about quality than quantity. From a mean girl where my every exhale was akin to walking on proverbial eggshells, to the married friend for whom my single status was her constant project, to the friend who was always telling the great story that was her life, a life where no one could get a word in edgewise in the midst of a two-hour dinner, to the other friend who grew frightened whenever I was quiet and measured, and only seemed to calm when I was my most boisterous “on” self — these are but a few of the extremities I excised.

As the years press on I find myself endlessly excising. Whittling down to my beloveds — those whose relationships are reciprocal in energy, where both of us leave inspired, refreshed and focused. Granted, this isn’t a call to cut the cord when friendships get difficult by any means — this is more of an examination of how much you’re bloodletting and how much you’re giving of yourself at the expense of yourself. Examining all that is superfluous to refine and carve and hone to all who are essential.

I thought of all this, actually composed this post in my head as I was taking a much-needed respite at Bottega Falai. Yesterday it was cold in the city and I was entirely too early for a date, which is another sort of gathering, I suppose, and I slipped into this small cafe cum retail concept and watched Italian men with their sons, teaching them manners. I watched tourists slip in and fawn over the crepe cakes and pastries and I listened intently to two friends engaging in that barnacle|host exchange. The host’s eyes glazed over and part of me wanted to lean in and tell her about scalpels, but it wasn’t the time and it wasn’t my place so I just listened and composed and thought about sharing this with the ones I love.

Prosciutto sandwich
Crepe cakes
Crepe cakes
bomboloni (donut)
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