It Was All A Dream

A work by Tracey Emin

I had a nightmare the other day. In this nightmare, I awoke from a deep afternoon nap and found our house completely destroyed, our beloved dogs helplessly beaten, and a message on the wall that said: I will make sure that you will never be happy. My boyfriend searched every room for the intruder. "It's happening because I'm happy!" I sobbed, "Maybe... Maybe if I show that I'm unhappy, they'll leave us alone."

I actually believed that this was the only way that I could protect life, as I knew it, from being taken away from me.

And then I woke up for real.

The house was fine. My boyfriend was fine. The dogs were fine. But my existential core was slapped so hard that I found myself crying.

This might sound strange, but I realized that I'm not quite accustomed to things being, well, good in my life. My upbringing was sort of steeped in chaos, so I've been predisposed to thinking that something is always bound to go wrong. I have a twisted relationship with anxiety. I can't tell you how often I've been preoccupied with what might happen instead of enjoying what is happening.

It's no wonder that adjusting to my move has been somewhat of a process. Things have been so good that I can't believe that it's real. Surely, the rug will be pulled out from under me? In fact, come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if the intruder in my dream was merely a representation my own self. I am reminded of a scene in Sex and the City: The Movie where Carrie asks Charlotte: "What makes you think something bad is gonna happen?" And Charlotte replies: "Because! Nobody gets everything they want! Look at you, look at Miranda. You're good people and you two both got shafted! I'm so happy and... Something bad is gonna happen."

Of course, I had to have a therapy session with a friend on the phone about this and I couldn't think of who better to call than my friend Amandine. She has had the proverbial rug pulled out from under her before and that's one of the reasons why we bonded so well.

"Your life changed so drastically overnight," she said, with her charming French accent, "We were both working so hard and struggling and being stressed. And now you live in this beautiful place with someone who loves you. Don't think about New York. Nothing changed; it's the same. Enjoy your life. You really should enjoy your life." 

Here's the thing: Even if you live in the most perfect of conditions, in order to fully enjoy it, you have to exorcise all of the insecurities, judgments, anxieties, traumas, and other psychological roadblocks that you've let inform your identity. Like anything else, it's a process. The relationship that you have with yourself is an ever-evolving one. Don't forget to take opportunities to get to know who you really are on the inside, beyond what've you been through. Sometimes a nightmare might just be a wake-up call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stories We Tell

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I decided to manifest my childhood dream of becoming an author this year. This re-ignition was sort of fueled when I attended Cindy Chupack's book reading at Book Soup in L.A. at the beginning of January. (She's an author and a screenwriter. Most notably, many of her dating experiences have been written into Sex and the City.) Somehow, chatting with her made me feel like I can do this. That I could, quite possibly, have it in me to write a book. I mean, I have good stories and I'm now living in the most ideal place to write–isolated in the mountains–so it'd be stupid for me not to do something about it. 

After taking a few stabs at some sample chapters on my own, I decided to work with an editor. In addition to guiding me through story development, having an editor helps me mentally commit to this "project." Prior to our call, I had sent her a synopsis and two sample chapters which took me a couple of months to produce. I had mined through a personal collection of experiences and did my best to weave all of the key events together in a meaningful way. It was a lot like throwing spaghetti against the wall. I knew that it needed more work, but the gist of it was there. Based on what she read, she told me that I had good instincts and that she can sense an overarching journey–we'll just need to work together in the next upcoming weeks to uncover it. 

Our phone call reminded me of a therapy session, except my editor would refer to me as the character. She asked me questions like: What is her identity at the beginning of this journey? and What is she after? What does she want to be? How is her perspective changing? She wanted me to peel back the layers of the onion. "It's not about what happened," she said, "The reader wants to know how it affected you." 

I think the reason why I've been having such writer's block is because I am still, at this very moment, trying to figure out how my experiences have affected me. I want to go "there" with my writing and I want to go "there" in my life... To really kind of float out of my own body and see everything holistically and as purely as possible.

In the meantime, I'm looking at different ways people or characters deal with themselves honestly by: flipping through The Andy Warhol Diaries, watching Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy, re-reading Bridget Jones' Diary, watching Sex and the City re-runs, and ordering films like Frances Ha and Tiny Furniture from Criterion Collection, which explore the burgeoning anxieties of young women. 

Here are a few words from the verbal mood board that I've scribbled down in my notebook as inspiration:

REVELATION
AUTHENTICITY
BRAVADO
INDEPENDENCE
FREEDOM
HOPEFUL
EARNEST
AWKWARD
CELEBRATION
PROFOUND
WHIMSICAL
CHARMING
INCANDESCENT
FOIBLES
TRANSITIONS
MORTIFICATION
GRAND
ROMANTIC

Writing is just as expressive as painting and, conversely, just as mechanical as mathematics (or anything else that involves problem-solving). Sometimes it comes easily to me and, at other times, it's completely challenging. But whatever it is, I want to get it right. I can feel the story brewing inside of me. I just need to find a way to pour it out... 

 

 

 

 

A New Season

Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps, if we never veered off course, we wouldn’t fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change, so do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it’s comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart–and, if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away.
— Carrie Bradshaw

Homeland Insecurity

"We've been hanging out for months and I still haven't seen your apartment," I was told recently. 

It didn't even occur to me that a few months had gone by. I have several good friends in New York whose apartments I have yet to visit, but, when you're dating someone, it can seem a little suspicious. For example, years ago, a girlfriend of mine dated a guy who never once invited her over to his place (nor had he stayed over at hers). After four months, we jumped to the easiest conclusion: he was probably married with kids. 

With absolute certainty, I can say that I'm not hiding a spouse or children. My personal hang-up, though, is that I don't live in a perfect environment. I have a housemate, my walls need to be re-painted, and there are mismatched glassware in the cupboard. I've been in the same apartment for two and a half years and, still, I feel like it's a constant work in progress. Progress that I'm very slow to push because, apparently, in addition to lacking the bride gene, I'm also lacking the home decorating gene.

Remember that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie repaints her kitchen cabinets in eggshell white and confesses to Miranda that she is exhausted from portraying herself as "together Carrie" to Mr. Big, who lives in this perfect uptown apartment with $500 bed sheets? I can see where she was going with that. When you're with a guy whose tastes in interiors is far superior than yours, it can be a intimidating. It can cause a little anxiety. It can cause a little shopping trip to Restoration Hardware for Turkish cotton bath towels and Belgian linen bedding, which is exactly what I did.

So what became of the grand unveiling of my apartment? 

"It's small. It's nothing like your place," I said, as I opened the door to my bedroom, "I need to get another lamp in here. I've been thinking about getting proper curtains too. I should just get it done. " 

I was nervous. Does he think I have bad taste? Does it look like I care enough? I searched his face for any telling signs. And then, this–he sat down on my loveseat and said: "I like your place. It's quite comfortable."

Exhale...

 

 

F*ck Weddings

One night, while I was making dinner in the kitchen with my friend Lulu, my housemate nonchalantly mentioned that he had committed to attending a total of six weddings this year–not realizing that he had simultaneously kicked a hornets' nest, opened a can of worms, and released the millions of imps inside Pandora's box. 

"Think about how much of your income you're spending towards everyone else's wedding," pointed out Lulu, as she ate a forkful of pasta, "It's not just about the wedding either. It's about all of the other events surrounding the wedding: the bachelor or bachelorette party, the bridal shower, the travel... If I had a wedding and my friend couldn't make it because she couldn't afford to, I would totally understand." She paused, dangling her leg off the side of the ottoman. "First of all, I would never make my friends go through that! People should just invite people who are 'into weddings' to their weddings." 

 "I know! I mean... Do I even look like I'm into weddings?!" I asked rhetorically, in an angry manner to nobody in particular.

Weddings. Who knew they'd be such a touchy subject amongst single girls.* 

My friend Preston says that, while he does not believe in marriage, there are only two reasons why people should have a wedding: (a) to get a green card, and/or (b) to celebrate their commitment/love amongst their family and/or close friends. The ideal wedding here being JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessett's secret ceremony on Cumberland Island, which had all of 40 guests in attendance. (See also: Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big who tied the knot at City Hall and had brunch with a table of friends at Junior's in Brooklyn.) Some weddings feel like obnoxious, overblown, over-the-top affairs, complete with fairytale princess themes. And I only know this because sometimes I spend evenings watching wedding videos of strangers on my laptop while drinking questionable red wine.

Like Carrie Bradshaw, I am under the suspicion that I may have been born without the bride gene. I don't have a secret "first dance" song. I haven't picked out a color palette for my bridesmaids' dresses and I don't know what flowers will go into the table centerpieces. However, I have had the occasional flashes of fantasy when it comes to wedding stuff, so let me indulge just this moment...

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*This, of course, has already been covered by Sex and the City in an episode titled "A Woman's Right to Shoes",  in which Carrie Bradshaw expounds upon it further:

“I did a little mental addition. And over the years, I have bought Kyra an engagement gift, a wedding gift, then there was the trip to Maine for the wedding, three baby gifts—in total, I have spent over twenty-three-hundred dollars celebrating her choices. And she is shaming me for spending a lousy 485 bucks on myself?! Yes, I did the math. And if I don’t ever get married or have a baby, I get what? I get bupkis?

Think about it... If you are single, after graduation, there isn't one occasion where people celebrate you. We all have birthdays–that's a wash. I am talking about the single gal. Hallmark doesn't make a 'Congratulations-you-didn't-marry-the-wrong-guy' card. 

The fact is, sometimes it’s hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now and then, to make the walk a little more fun.”