Sunday, March 23, 2008

liz lemon makes me feel better about my life

So I had this revelatory moment the other week right? I "found my bliss", decided to focus on the positive, etc., etc. hippie-babble. Annd I'm trying, honestly. But well, as my life as chosen to do lately, it keeps hitting me over the head with the bad. I don't want this blog to become a laundry list of things I feel sorry for myself about, that's not entertaining to anyone, least of all myself. But for honesty's sake and because I think it will make it better to put this all into writing, in the week or so since I wrote my "epiphany of wonderful" blog the following has happened. My brother called me and told me that my cat, Elmer, died. In recent years Elmer has become far more my mother's cat than mine. He wasn't very young but not particularly old and I don't really know the details other than it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. Despite the fact that he's my mom's pride and joy, it's not a good feeling when one of your pets dies, whether he sleeps on your bed at night or not. He was actually my Christmas present, about nine or ten years ago I guess. I wanted a dog sooo badly, had asked for one at every available opportunity, but my parents refused, and Elmer was the compromise. I, being the very devious, ten or eleven year old that I was, found out about Elmer by sneaking into my mom's closet to look for Christmas presents. There was a folder from the adoption shelter with a picture of him inside, a cute little gray fur-ball. And torture of all tortures, I had to put the folder back and pretend I knew nothing. I don't remember how long I had to wait but it must have killed me, despite the fact that I told any non family member I could about my future kitten. So Christmas day comes around, and there's nothing under the tree that looks like it could remotely hold a kitten, unless my parents were shockingly unaware that animals needed air. So I open a package with a kitten guide book in it, and hopefully I was a good enough actor that my parents thought it was a surprise. Because of our annual Christmas party with hordes of family, my parents wanted to wait to get him until things settled down the next day. So after killing myself waiting before Christmas, I have to wait one more day. We finally went to the shelter the next day, and as soon as we walk in there comes wee, little Elmer, right up to us. It was one of those places where the kittens run around the office, and if I'm remembering right Elmer was wearing a red bow in anticipation of our arrival, but even if that's not true I knew right away he was mine. Now I'm not a cat person, per se. Maybe it's why Elmer eventually attached himself to my mom. But I did love him, for all of his neurotic ways. And I'll miss him when I go home. But most of all it breaks my heart for my mom, because I know how much she loved him, how he slept on her bed every night, which was a comfort because of how much traveling my dad does. It's one of the weirder aspects of growing up that I've noticed, how we start worrying about our parents for the first time, not in the worry sense when you're little and you're afraid something bad will happen to them and change your life, but in the worry sense when you're not living with them anymore and it makes you hurt to think of these one time pillars of stability in your life, as being human and vulnerable and sad. So anyway, the only reason my cat dying hasn't even seemed that bad is because a week ago my aunt's boyfriend passed. In most conversation I would refer to him as my uncle because he's been a part of our family for so long, and he truly was a part of our family. Now I know my loss is absolutely nothing compared to my aunt and cousins and his immediate family, but it still hurts and makes me really sad. I don't want to get into it any further other than to say he will be truly missed.

So anyway, that's been my week. And today I spent Easter Sunday in my room doing the mountain of school work and reading I have piled up. So basically, yes I feel sorry for myself because I've had a really hard week, on top of a pretty hard semester, and I'm just waiting for good things to start replacing all of the bad ones. And I know that day will come, hopefully sooner than later, but it still sucks in the meantime. So anyways, to refer to the title of this blog, this is what I do when I feel awful and sad like I've felt these last few days. I put in my first season DVDs of 30 Rock, and every time it makes me feel better. Obviously it makes me laugh and that helps, but there is something about Tina Fey's Liz Lemon that always makes me feel like I'll be okay. And no I'm not crazy. I realize this is a television show, and thus fictional, but I've never bought into the idea that tv is just meaningless entertainment. You can watch a sad movie or show and feel empathy or compassion that you might otherwise not have felt. Or you can watch a funny one when you're going through something tough and get some comfort. And I feel like we all have a show or a character that we just get, and relate to, and can watch over and over again on DVD to cheer ourselves up with. And I relate to and am cheered up by Liz Lemon. Her life seems to be a constant mess. She's awkward and dorky and watches Designing Women in the middle of the night. We both agree that going home and eating a block of cheese and watching that show about midgets makes everything better. And when my life is feeling like the mess it has been lately, I know that it's not just me. We're all trying and bumbling and going through bad stuff. We're all a little bit Liz Lemon (and yes I realize how cheesy that sounds but I honestly don't care). So after a good ten hours of school work, I'm going to go take my tired, messy self to bed, eat a Caburry Cream Egg and watch 30 Rock. If any of you ever feel crappy, I suggest you try it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

photo-booth childhood

A week ago my cousin e-mailed me these pictures, the photo-booth kind with four images in a vertical strip. In them I'm probably nine or ten. It's clearly summertime because my skin is ridiculously dark and my hair is practically glowing it's so blond. It's in the pre-braces days, and my teeth look, as my roommate so lovingly referred to them, like chiklets. I'm wearing some goofy floral print top, and one of those friendship bracelet looking necklaces, the kind you spend hours at the pool making when you're little, or at least I did. I looked at these pictures for a long time. Something about this frozen remnant of my childhood was so compelling to me. And maybe it's because I look at a picture like that and I can't help wonder if it will ever be that easy again. I don't remember the last time I even gave a photo-booth a second glance. Now it would be a waste of time, a waste of money. But I remember so many impromptu photo booth sessions from when I was little, at the mall, at amusement parks. This was before the days of digital cameras, when the most exciting thing you could do was stand and wait a few minutes for the little piece of paper with the pictures on it to come zipping out of a slot. I miss that. I miss having naturally bright blond hair, and skin darkened from practically living at the pool. I miss the way that when you're little you can completely forget yourself, and make silly expressions in a photo-booth not to be ironic or cool but because it comes naturally. I miss the easy, perfect photo-booth, friendship necklace days of my life. They might not have been the best years or the most exciting, but they were without question the simplest.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

finding my bliss

So as of late I may have been a negative Nancy, a Debbie downer if you will. You see, a handful of not so great things have happened in my life over the last two months, falling down stairs, wrecking my car, getting money stolen from me, etc. and etc. And it all seemed a little ridiculous. Because these things, while not life shaking or tragic, just seemed to keep coming, one after the other. I have never considered myself lucky. I bet you money that if I go to a McDonald's with a large group of people, and one delicious cheeseburger order goes amiss, time and time again it will be mine. I fall down a great deal. So I'm used to life's little bumps and sometimes quite literal bruises. But something about the last couple of months, maybe because it's winter, maybe because graduation is coming at a frighteningly rapid pace and it's freaking me out, whatever it is, something about the last two months has left me feeling beaten down, broken down, just down. This past weekend while I was dog-sitting, my roommate's dog ate a bottle of Advil, which resulted in a frantic doggie ER visit in the wee hours of morning (thankfully she's quite okay and back to her lovable/awkward self again). But let's just say the experience left me feeling pretty awful (even though my roomie's wallet is probably feeling a lot worse). So just as I was beginning to recover from all of that craziness, yesterday the Americorps people somehow completely forgot that I had scheduled a phone interview for 10 am (which I had gotten up early just so I could prepare for). After rescheduling yet again, I hung up with them and was pretty sure I had reached my breaking point. I sat at my computer desk, and I cried, out of frustration, out of anger, out of stress and worry and just the general negativity that has clouded my life lately.
So here's the deal. Some crappy things have happened to me recently. And I've spent so much energy and time focusing on those crappy things, so much so that I have completely ignored the hundreds of beautiful things that happen in my life on a daily basis. I'm not being a Pollyanna. I don't even think I'm being particularly corny. This is the truth. Somehow even though we're in the middle of it, we often see our own lives in broad strokes. We see the bold or italics, the red letter moments or experiences. But what I have constantly believed, will always believe, is that life is in the details. And some details can go bad, little, stupid daily things, but the vast majority of our details are the good stuff. And I don't know what it was. Maybe it was babysitting last night and watching The Little Mermaid for the 12th time in the last two months, complete with back up vocals by a two and a four year old. Maybe it was the glorious nap I took yesterday. Maybe it was just the fact that I couldn't deal with any more negativity, because negativity colors everything and only breeds more negativity. But something kicked me in the ass (in a good way), slapped me around a little, and told me to wake the eff up. All I've been seeing is the bad, but for God's sake, the second I stopped doing that I saw the cornucopia (yes cornucopia) of awesomeness that surrounds me. I saw not one, not two, but three amazing live music shows in the past month (more on those in another blog). I am taking interesting classes this semester that I love, and I'm actually looking forward to the research paper I'm going to write for my Mid. East politics class (yes I'm a dork). I live in an apartment that I adore, bugs and busted kitchen equipment included. I'm surrounded by tiny little things that make me smile, favorite books, awesome tv shows, two hours of 90210 every day for Lord's sake. I live in the loveliest, most graceful city in the world, a city that can still break my heart with her beauty in even the most mundane moments, driving over the bridge at rush hour, the harbor to my right and the blue Atlantic just visible at the horizon. Or when I'm taking a walk along the same path I have taken hundreds of time, but still find myself pausing to peek in half hidden courtyards or to just look down a quiet, spanish moss strewn street and wonder what I did to deserve to live in a place like this. I'm surrounded by friends I love and who are wonderful and kind and loyal. I have a family who supports me even when I want to get paid nada to go off and join Americorps for the year.
I wasn't visited by an angel with an affinity for Mark Twain. There was no almost dive off a bridge into icy water. But I can't help but feel that in some tiny away, the last couple of days have taken me by the shoulder, and said in no uncertain terms that see, I really do have a wonderful life. We so often want to confuse wonderful with perfect. Because the idea of perfect is so wonderful and enticing. But perfect is a fairy tale word. Except for Olympic scores, it doesn't really belong here. But wonderful, that's the stuff of every day, the stuff of snooze buttons and Cadburry Cream Eggs and DVD on tv marathons. But inside of wonderful there's things that really suck, banged up legs and even more banged up cars, sick dogs and horrible advisers. But those things are never going to go away. Tomorrow I could very well fall off my porch, total my car and get kicked out of college. But that's life. It's annoying and stressful and sad and crazy and weird and awkward and scary. It makes no sense whatsoever. But it's always, in no uncertain terms, wonderful.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

the cutting edge 3?!

So imagine my surprise. Here I am enjoying my normal morning routine: peanut butter toast, coffee, Gilmore Girls, when I see a commercial for The Cutting Edge 3. Now this might be a made for ABC Family movie, but still. My beloved, childhood movie The Cutting Edge has spawned not one, but two sequels! Growing up, I probably watched this movie about once a week. I wanted to be Moira Kelly in this movie, the glorious 80s hair, the ice-skating rink in her backyard, the awesome spandex outfits, the hunky hockey player love/hate relationship. At a very impressionable age, I learned from this movie how to take a tequila shot. Although at the time I didn't really know what tequila was, and I simply thought adults took every shot by first licking salt off of their wrists and then shoving a lime in their mouths. Thank God I quickly learned this was not the case. I still chuckle to myself every time I hear the phrase "toe pick." I can't not watch figure skating at the Winter Olympics. Let's just say in the pantheon of movies you love when you're little, The Cutting Edge, for me, was right up there with Jurassic Park and Wild Hearts Can't be Broken ( I was a weird kid okay). Yet I've accepted that most people do not view The Cutting Edge with the same adoration. In fact, most people have never even heard of it, unless I have forced them to watch it with me. So the fact that two sequels to this movie have been made absolutely blew my mind. Because it means that I am not the only one who loves this film or figure skating romantic comedies. In fact it means there is probably a whole group of people out there, anonymous but devoted, who are like me, who absolutely have to watch The Cutting Edge when it comes on television, all prior plans be damned, who still have crushes on D.B. Sweeney, and who get a little choked up at the end of the movie when they pull off the fancy schmancy, illegal ice skating move and smooch at the end of their routine.

Monday, March 3, 2008

solitute and road trips

I have a confession. On occasion, I am a loner. I not only enjoy some good alone time, but revel in it. This is not to say I'm some would-be hermit or misanthrope. I like fresh air. I don't panic at the sight of crowds. But, while I love and adore my friends, I also love and adore the times I can just hang out with me, myself and I. An ideal alone night: a nice glass of Pinot Grigio around 6 while watching the second Beverly Hills 90210 episode on Soap Network (right now I'm right in the midst of the whole juicy Kelly/Dylan/Brenda cycle and I remember so clearly watching these episodes when they first came on, when I was very, very little, and being shocked, just SHOCKED at the whole situation), making dinner around 7ish (something especially yummy, whole wheat pasta with home made tomato sauce and cucumber, tomato and feta cheese salad). A really good night of television makes for an ideal alone night (Monday for example with John and Kate Plus Eight at 9, then No Reservations at 10, or Thursday as soon as new television starts up again when I can enjoy The Office, 30 Rock and Lost). There's got to be some quality internet surfing (a little or eonline perhaps if I'm feeling particularly vapid), all polished off with a Daily Show and Colbert Report hour before bed. If I'm still awake at this point then a good book in bed makes for the perfect end to the night. Nights out with friends are the good stuff in life, the substance. But nights in by myself are what charge my batteries and keep me sane so I can enjoy and stay awake during the good parts of life. And sometimes it's really insanely hard to beat climbing into my pajamas before dinner and spending the rest of the night in vegetable mode.

My last few blogs have been decidedly negative and rage filled, and unfortunately my rage prevented me from discussing perhaps the biggest highlight of this otherwise sucky, sucky past month and a half (I'm sorry, I'm trying to be positive, but there's no denying the utter suckage of so many moments in the early parts of this semester) But I digress. Two weeks ago I road-tripped from Farmville, VA to Chapel Hill, NC with some buddies to go see a show on Will Ferrel's Funny or Die tour. I have never been to anything like it. Imagine a massive coliseum, completely packed with mostly college students, and watching stand-up in this atmosphere. It was nuts, like some weird rock show-comedy club hybrid. And I almost peed myself so, so many times. I knew Demetri Martin would be hilarious because well, if you've ever watched any clip of Demetri then you'd know this. But the other two stand ups, Nick Swarsdon and Zach Galfinakis (I'm almost postiive that's the wrong spelling but I don't feel like looking it up) were awesome and genius. I was surprised when Nick Swarsdon took the stage, because I realized I knew him as Terry, the gay, roller blading prostitute on Reno 911. And he's now one of my new favorite people. And of course seeing Will Ferrell in all of his silly, goofy glory was awesome. But I also loved the whole process of going to the show. I know that you can road trip post-college, but I have a feeling it won't be the same. I have been on countless of these mini-road trips, to concerts, to visit friends. And somehow the very mundane act of being stuck in a car for a few hours becomes something bigger than the sum of its parts. It's the moment when you first pull onto the interstate, surrounded by friends, the whole experience ahead of you. It's pulling through drive-thrus after a concert, when you're still a little giddy or keyed up from the show and hungry in a way you've never been hungry before, for greasy cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets that will never taste better than when you're sitting in the back seat of a darkened car in what feels like the middle of nowhere. It's going through dozens of tiny Virginia or North Carolina or South Carolina towns, sleepy, forgotten southern villages that you could drive through in twenty years and find almost completely unchanged. It's the moments on the way back, in the early hours of the morning, with friends asleep in the back, and the music on high, staring out at patches of farmland underneath speckles of stars. Or the completely random, hysterical conversations that spring from boredom or exhaustion or anticipation. It's getting lost repeatedly, and the triumph of finally finding the place. It's gas stations, loading up on soda and snacks and stretching out sore, stiff limbs. It's knowing that road trips, in all of their spontaneous, impractical glory, are perhaps the quintessential expression of youth for college aged kids. We can drive four hours to see a really great band perform in podunk Appalachia and not get back till practically dawn. We can leave early in the morning and spend an entire day driving without getting fired from a job or chewed out by a spouse. Road trips are almost mythic in the American imagination. Think of how many books, movies, Journey songs focus on the simple act of being on the road. Even more so than where a road trip takes you, there's a simple kind of freedom in movement itself. It's being unattached, uncommitted. It's the beauty of irresponsibility. It's knowing that life will probably never be as pure or as easy as this again.
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