brunch at sarabeth’s + cultivating a kula

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Today I had one of those days where nothing happened, yet everything happened. Forever petrified of “new” people, I spent the morning with a friend and her best friend, working out and eating all there was to eat at Sarabeth’s. When I left, I found myself staring at a woman at the crosswalk, and when I shouted, K? Is that you?, she glanced up and beamed and we embraced in the middle of the street. K and I have been friends since we met at the Columbia writing program in 2001, and she’s since moved to New Orleans to be with her boy and her writing, and she occasionally visits the office of the fancy magazine of which she’s employed. She’s also the only person with whom I’ve entrusted my novel in all its messiness and broken pieces.

After we hugged and gushed over the randomness of our encounter in Union Square, we made our way to the sidewalk where we shivered and caught up and spoke of the children we were harvesting — mine in the form of a novel, and hers in the form of a little girl who will see sky come August. When Sophie died, K told me that she cried in a hotel room in Sweden. She wept because she knows how I grieve, how I can so easily fall into a kind of private dark. I know how you love, but I also know how you grieve. Nodding, I confessed that I’d had a tough summer, the worst I’d known. I’d fallen down the stairs and come autumn I’d started to climb them again. I’m forever climbing.

Before we departed, before I promised K a home-cooked meal and proper nuzzling with Felix (so regal! she said) in February, she held me close and stared at my face in a way that would make most feel uncomfortable, but from her it was home, and she said, You’ve looked the best since I’ve known you. How do I get that glow? How do I get what you got?

I laughed, still rotten at taking compliments, still, and said, This is what happens when you go off the sauce and work out five days a week.

On the subway ride home, I thought of K, of a lesser version of myself all those years ago, and I felt humbled by my life now. While I’m still paying off thousands of dollars in graduate loan debt, while I’m still uncertain how I will be employed past May, while I don’t know where the day will take me, I know this: I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and I finally have a close group of friends on whom I can lean. No longer do I care about collecting acquaintances and strategic connections, about the people who are good to know, I care more the quality of the people I’m cultivating in my life and the time I’m committed in sustaining these friendships, knowing that there’s beauty in watching them bloom.

In yoga, there is a term kula, which loosely translates to community. In this community, there is balance and harmony and beauty and age, and right now I feel all of these things. I hear the sound of forks chinking at Sarabeth’s as we dive into one another’s plates and I squeal that the English muffins look like the ones in her cookbook! I feel the tight hug of a friend who doesn’t want to let go, a friend who tells me that I need to keep at this book, that it’s good, really good, and in return I tell her that I can’t wait wait wait until I lay eyes on her beautiful little girl.

It’s good to be on speaking terms with the people you used to be, but it’s even better to fall in love with the woman you’re becoming.

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the gathering kind: new friends + brunch @ buvette

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In Sanskrit there is a term, “kula,” which loosely translates to kin or community. When I first heard the term I was at a yoga retreat deep in the woods of Maine, where I found myself trusting people whom I just met, barely knew, because they didn’t let me fall. Frightened of inversions, I would plead with my partners to hold my hips, tight during my handstand practice, because the idea of falling backward was unimaginable. During a two-hour class, strangers held my hips and whispered, just breathe. In that rare stretch of time I felt my hands pressing deep into the grass and I closed my eyes. Knowing my kula would never let me go.

Fast forward the tape to now where I’ve done some heavy editing. A few weeks ago I talked about getting surgical with the barnacles. You know the type: people who drain every inch of life out of you, people determined to claw, wheedle and ruin. People who preach fear like sermon.

People who are not on my bus.

Over the past two years I’ve excised all the people who made me feel like a lesser version of myself. Whether they expressed doubt about my life choices {my being single is highly comic and tragic to the motley married few} or imbued every inch of light with darkness {Good luck with that French class! I dropped out after the third week. What a waste!}, or prattled on endlessly about their connections and how I could achieve a higher state of microfamery {You should meet that person; she’s ‘good to know’}, they had become a coat worth shedding.

I’m wholly selective of whom I allow trespass into my small, strange world. I do this because my relationships have depth and meaning. I invest, I get involved, I care. I don’t care who they are or what they’ve done, rather I consider how present they are in my life. How they add light and energy rather than deplete it. If they’re the sort of person who would hold my hips tight, never let me go.

From now on my first experience at Buvette, an extraordinary spot with simple, extraordinary eats, will be marked by spending time with a new friend. Jamie’s the sort of person you want to be around because her energy is infectious, and there’s something pure and honest in the way that she draws you in, and warm about how she keeps you there. For two hours we were never short on conversation, there weren’t any of those ubiquitous pauses, and I came away feeling invigorated.

Because now there’s time to let all the right ones in. To open up the kula and let in all the light.

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