there’s beauty in the attempt (and honesty)

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I have a friend coming over for brunch today and I’m pulling out all the stops: homemade blueberry waffles topped with fresh compote, maple bacon, fruit salad and brewed coffee. It’s been a while since I’ve had someone over–possibly because my home is my refuge, and I couldn’t imagine anyone in it because I viewed the slightest intrusion as a pillage on my sanctuary. Although I’ve been in California only a brief time (five months), it feels like home because it’s not yet blemished by all the history. Even though I moved apartments in the Brooklyn brownstone I once lived, I felt haunted by Sophie’s passing (among other things), and I could feel the weight of having grown up in Brooklyn and seeing it changed. And while the city has been remodeled to the point where it’s barely recognizable, I still have the memory of it. I still remember being a teenager, riding the subway, my feet on the seats.

In Los Angeles, there are no subways, and the streets are clean and expansive. People drive and I walk, and sometimes I’ll walk the eight miles from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica simply to feel space.

Last week, WordPress emailed my end-of-year report, which is kind of like an annual report for your blog, and I normally try not to look at these things, to concern myself with the business of numbers because numbers have a way of doing things to you, altering what and how your create. And it’s no surprise that this space had demonstrably more traffic when I was happy, and people seemed to fall out of the frame when I got sad. And then this put me to thinking about social media and how it can be brutally suffocating with everyone demanding that you be positive, happy and in a constant state of growth and repair. People want to read about your dark times only in the past tense, only when you’ve made it out to the other side and you are gleaming and dressing your wounds. There is so much talk, so much desire for that which is real and authentic, yet we see time and time again how people are rewarded for their artful representation of a coveted life. People want their darkness in manageable doses (that one book everyone reads/movie everyone sees) because possibly they have so much (or little) going on in their lives that they don’t want the burden of someone else’s grief. Rather, they reach out to light so religiously they don’t realize when they’ve been burned and blinded by it.

When I was a teenager, I kept losing PTA-sponsored writing contests because people always died in my stories. Parents can’t reward something that disturbing, a teacher once confided to me. Later, when I was at Columbia, a teacher asked me in my first year why people in my stories died and I was confused and said because that’s what happens. My father once told me that I hold on to darkness too hard. In response, I said no, it was more like I didn’t like letting it go. There’s a difference, even though at the time I didn’t know what that difference was.

 

I’m going to ignore what’s popular and inherently desired because I think that our work allows us to weed out that which does not serve us. I’m in this kind of purgatory where I’m not as low as I was a few months ago, but I’m not out of the woods yet and I feel this tension between the need to get better and the ache of giving up. Being in Los Angeles has given me so many things already–a new book, space, and the want of rebuilding a tribe when the old one didn’t serve me well. It’s hard, really fucking hard, to see the constant stream of posts that speak to how everyone’s life is so! fucking! awesome! when my life is anything but, but their life isn’t my life and there’s no joy in comparing myself to others and what they chose to edit and project out into the world, so all I can do is keep attempting, keep doing, keep working, and keep being my most honest self–even if it’s not as attractive as the world would want it to be.

I woke this morning and thought: well, at least it’s no longer 2015.

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21 thoughts on “there’s beauty in the attempt (and honesty)

  1. Ya know what? I consider you brave, because I can relate to almost everything you are saying! I had a pretty messed up life and I held on to alot of things but i made it through. You are who you are and i think honesty makes a person more meaningful! Have a fantastic New Year, and Enjoy your new Home! 🙂

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  2. You writing is real and raw! Keep writing! Keep being you! Those that enjoy the realness will stick around. My fav quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” ~ Dr. Seuss ~ Happy 2016 to you! May it be filled with much peace, strength and healing!

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  3. Your beautiful writing evokes a range of emotions and feelings in me. I read Sophie’s passing with tears in my eyes. I think your writing is so moving because it expresses the human condition – something that isn’t always sugar plums and rainbows! Keep telling your story. Happy New Year! Sandra

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  4. The waffles look so yummy! I love how beautiful your writing is and I will pray tonight that God gives you the strength to become happier:)

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  5. I really love what u said about there being a difference between holding on to darkness and not wanting to let it go. That will stay with me for a while, I can tell.

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  6. I used to be all about the food blogs – I loved everything about it, how food molds us and how we in turn manipulate food and memories in an unending cycle, how it was a window into someone else’s life, how inspiring and warm and cozy and lovely it was.
    And then one day I quit the whole thing cold-turkey because all of the silken cheer was suffocating. I didn’t have a wonderful husband or a precious baby and my dreams scattered in tatters around my broken feet.
    I simply couldn’t do it, couldn’t pretend not be both completely disbelievingly envious and ashamed that just as I couldn’t do puff pastry from scratch, nor could I shape my life into something as adorable and photogenic as those macaron-lives they turned out by the dozen. Even their trials seemed like distant fairytale obstacles, just a plot device certain to be overcome by the deserving, even though I’m sure they didn’t seem that way for them.
    It’s been years and I’m only now thinking that I might be able to go back to cooking and the joy I found there instead of thinking about emotional labor and broken hearts.

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