Monday, September 24, 2012

like living in the middle of the ocean

When I was 26, my sister and I went to Burning Man for the first time. We drove out there in a rental car with her boyfriend, wide eyed, excited and totally unprepared for what was about to happen to our lives (we would go many more times and build an incredible family of friends around it). My sister had made me a mix tape that summer, and on it was the song Central Reservation by Beth Orton.  It's just a silly pop song, but it reminds me of that time in my life- the feeling of open expanse that you get at dawn in the dessert after a night of partying. That feeling of open expansiveness that you feel when you are in your 20's.

It's funny, because that's exactly how Beth wrote that song,

"Apart from specific songs." Central Reservation, she recalls with a smile, the title track of her breakthrough 1999 album, "was written in Cartagena in Colombia after a different kind of night with no sleep. I had been doing what you do in Cartagena with some beautiful boy and snorting a stupid amount of coke and the song came from the joy of sitting in the sunshine the next day with a glorious hangover. I do remember that…"

Beth is forty now. She left the music biz 6 years ago after getting dropped from her label(she'd just had a baby), bought a farm in Norfolk, and raised her daughter as a single mum. She quit music... and then slowly learned the guitar and started writing again. She went through a bit of a dark, lonely time and then came out the other end and released a new album called Sugaring Season.

Today is my 38th birthday. It feels so strange to be this age. I'm not really sure I know how I'm supposed to act. Thirty-eight-- properly grown-up. A real adult. Nearly forty. Holy shit. Will there be more dawns after nights of dancing? Will there be more open expansiveness?

I certainly hope so.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Axeman Cometh

Sarah's new wardrobe
My sister and my friend Sarah have a lot in common. They are both sensitive, and by that I don't mean touchy, but that they are more engaged in the world than most people I know. They are the closest thing I know to real artists. Sarah is a writer and playwright, and Milla is a historian and painter. I love these two ladies for reals.

I don't know if it's a coincidence, but they both also struggle with the weight of things. To them, objects and clothes a lot of meaning. In contrast, I'm more unemotional... I try to keep what's loved, and let go of what's not (and I admit, sometimes I cull too much). They are hoarders, and I'm a purger. It's a perfect symbiotic relationship. I am their axe-man.

On Friday, Sarah and I attacked her bedroom. It took us about 7 hours. We were loving but strong. We culled. We sweated. We felt emotions. We pushed on. We saved (she now has a vintage box of her grandmothers treasures under her bed).  And under all those piles of clothes that didn't fit, were broken, had stains, or where just plain wrong, we discovered a beautiful collection clothes and shoes that she loves, that she looks amazing in, that are truly her.

Now her closet looks like a super-hip Williamsburg vintage store.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Kitchen Sink

I was having drinks with my good friend and incredible writer the other night. We were sipping whiskey (she: bourbon, me: Jamesons) and pontificating. It was a well-needed chat after we'd both had a hard week, with lots of ups and downs and feelings.

My friend has recently hired a cleaning person for the first time in her life. Now, she supports herself completely and works harder than anyone I know in NY.  Plus, she still makes time to write and drink whiskey with friends. So, paying hard earned money for someone to come clean her place once a month is a big deal.

A while back, I'd mentioned a seemingly superficial practice I had to her and she told me that night how much of an impact it's had on her: The simple act of always cleaning the kitchen before you go to bed.

I recently discovered the joy of waking up to a clean kitchen. Those early morning moments when you're half awake, walking barefoot into the kitchen, putting the kettle on, setting up the coffee grinds in the french press. The light is grey and the sun is shining into the window. This is my ritual every morning and it brings me pleasure every day.

Sarah confessed to the fact that she'd always though tidy people just didn't have enough going on, that if they had time to tidy, then they weren't thinking deep thoughts. She believed in the concept of the tortured artist. Art through struggle, blah blah blah... and how can you do that with a spotless apartment. Surely mess equals artistic depth?

But then you experience the early morning clean sink, and a light bulb goes off. And the next night, as your washing those dishes and wiping down the counter, you're thinking of the future you (8-odd hours away) and how you're doing something nice for her. It's so simple and so dumb. You're giving yourself a gift.

And the amazing thing is, once you start doing this one simple good thing for yourself, other decisions follow. You start treating that future you like a friend.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beginner's luck

I've had the most amazing week. When my friends ask me about it, I throw my hands  up in the air and laugh, shaking my had with puzzled gratitude. I read somewhere recently (and for the life of me, I can't find where it was) this idea about beginners luck. The idea is that the universe, this beautiful, strange and mysterious thing we all live in, is actually rooting for us to succeed. It wants us to be on our authentic path, and so when you step onto it, it give you a little bump. It's way of saying, 'Yes, that way!'

Now, I'm not sure I'm really that spiritual, but something out-of-my-control is definitely happening. As a recovering control freak, seeing what happens when you let go of the steering wheel is amazing. Letting things unfold naturally, responding to opportunity and challenges, rather than pushing for it to be the way you think it should be. (Oh, that word Should is such a tricksy little bitch) It doesn't mean that you're not working, you're just not working against the tide.

My ex used to say I was lucky, and my blood would quietly boil. I'm not lucky! I would pout, I've worked hard to get where I am! Which is true from one point of view. But from another, perhaps luck is our way of explaining the phenomenon that seems like chance, but is actually the culmination of many years of working towards something. Perhaps it's a little like Malcomn Gladwell's theory on experts: It seems like they just 'know' when actually it's just knowing so well that the concious mind can step aside.

However it's happened, I'd like to say, Thank you Universe for the Bump. I appreciate it.

Here's some of the crazy shit that happened this week.