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Adulthood - a list

Thursday, June 18, 2015 by Rebecca , under

Some things I think are associated with growing up, in no particular order:

  • Self-knowledge and subsequently, self-kindness
  • Willingness to transcend the propensity toward black and white and live in the space between
  • Accepting losses
  • Accepting what is (which is often the same thing as losses)
  • A willingness to stare into the meaningless of existence without reaching for distraction
  • Appreciation of little things
  • Ability to tolerate boredom
  • Openness to being wrong - or to being only partially right
  • Not knowing
  • Accepting a lack of closure - of never knowing
  • Willingness to make decisions and accept the consequences
  • Showing up
  • Making basic human decency - giving up seats to old people, being kind to mothers with screaming children on airplanes, holding doors, saying thank you to customer service - the default mode
  • The ability to give time-outs to oneself, think before speaking, and not saying all the potentially terrible things one could whilst in the heat of the moment
  • Delayed gratification
  • Willingness to go it alone, if no one else is headed that direction

Moving through space and time

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 by Rebecca , under

As a pitfall of working with data, I sometimes have to slog through large quantities of recoding variables or fixing little pithy aspects of a dataset that are incredibly time-consuming, but necessary in order to complete analysis. The repetitive cycle of delete, return, enter, scan, copy, paste is mind-numbingly tedious; I find my only small consolation is the ability to zone into some music while I code. I can't listen to anything with content because I stop paying attention to details and make mistakes in the data, but a good long set of music makes this type of work bearable. I can't usually listen to anything when I'm doing regular analysis- my brain needs all the bandwidth to focus on the task at hand. So sometimes coding is a lovely break. 

Anyway, that's a tangent. Today, I have been recoding a hideous dataset requiring many, many hours of sloggery. I turned on Pandora to the First Aid Kit station and a Brandi Carlile's "Have You Ever" came on. It was sort of a shock to my system to realize two things: 1) I had a Brandi Carlile phase of my life - a phase marked by many images of the first Sugarhouse place, of mountains, of travel and falling in love, of ocean escapes and less-than-well-concealed pain and bonfires and that first new summer after so much had changed, and 2) that it is over. Sometimes you don't really realize you're in a specific place until you leave it. 

And then, oddly, right after Brandi finished her song, Bon Iver came on playing "Skinny Love." After Mikee died, I couldn't bear to listen to that song for several years - it was almost a physically painful experience to remember his sweetness to me after Josh and I had broken up and I was sort of broken. It was Mikee at his best and the song is a tour de force of remembrance of how much he meant to me. Today, I listened to it and felt no pain - just a strong appreciation for the fact that I have something that so viscerally connects me to someone I love. Another phase of life long gone, but this time, without any residual nostalgia or pain. 

Time is like a steady drip of water on stone. What once seems so solid will eventually wear away to reveal new shapes - a changed view of events and life and a deeper appreciation for all the seasons of this crazy journey. 
April 13, 2008


You fell asleep with your face buried in my neck
breathing humid drops of air
curling the little hairs near my ear
holding my hand
Uma Thurman exacting her revenge
on the blue screen
with a samarai-
neither of us caring or
wanting anything else
but a few peaceful hours
of simply this.


Sunday, November 3, 2013 by Rebecca , under

There's a corner of my building -
near my door-
where people abandon their plants.
yellowed, crunchy lost causes,
thrust into sunny ubasute.
out of sight.
out of mind.
I, too, have abandoned many things I
once loved
for their own good
for a better life
I tell myself.
But yesterday, I took a little wizened bonsai
from the corner and
watered its tired, desiccated bones and
put it in my windowsill
a testament to second chances.

A Lack of Access Inwardly

Thursday, September 12, 2013 by Rebecca , under

I am Jack's barely contained
typing furiously
rushing against the cynical tide
only to find
all work and
no play
a dullness,
a calm before the storm.

4 Minute Warning

Monday, January 14, 2013 by Rebecca , under

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between quitting and walking away. You know what I mean. We all do. There are times when we give up on something because it is too hard, because we're lazy, because we're not willing to go the extra mile, because we're too afraid to push through it, because  we don't want to risk failure- there are a thousand reasons to quit something. I once quit a job because I wanted to stay at my friend James's house and play Risk all night. Quitting is something you do because, for one reason or another, you don't have the capacity (skillset, maturity, tenacity, etc) to see something through.

Walking away though, is a different concept entirely. Walking away is something you do for yourself because staying is bad for you. Not difficult, not challenging, not something you can tell yourself to just push through, but something that is harmful to you. You usually walk away from something you don't want to leave. You can quit something for a thousand reasons, but you walk away from something when you love yourself more than you love whatever you are leaving. It could be anything, but usually its a job, a person, a relationship, a dream- something you've devoted a significant amount of time and energy to. Nobody taught me how to walk away as a child. I think it might be one of those lessons you learn through trial and error, though sometimes I wish I'd been a faster learner.

How do you know when it's time to walk away? I think it's pretty situation-specific, but there seem to be a few common denominators.  In my experience, they look like the following:

  • Feeling exhausted. This feeling is pervasive—it's not some bad-day/bad-week/bad-month feeling—it seems to never go away. 
  • Feeling like, no matter how hard you try, you can never make any progress, despite working harder than you've ever worked before. In fact, it may seem like the harder you work, the worse it seems to get. 
  • Feeling afraid. Not the type of worry you feel about passing a class or getting a promotion you've worked for, but actually feeling yourself contract in some sense.  This may also manifest itself as a constant and relentless stress. 
  • Being unable to live in the present moment, either because it's too miserable or because you're so focused on a future when things will be better, you're trying to forget today exists. 
  • Finding yourself chronically sacrificing your health for XYZ. This could be not sleeping, not eating good foods (or not eating much of anything because you don't have time), not moving enough (because you're too tired, or you're tied to your computer), not taking time for mental health. 
  • Feeling confused. On some level, you just feel confused as to why something you care about so much is so bad. There seems to be no connection between what you think it "should" be and what it is, which creates a feeling of confusion. 
When you get to this place, it's good to realize that walking away usually involves some sort of loss, but that the loss that you think you will experience has probably already occurred; you just haven't acknowledged it. Walking away involves turning inward and trusting your own feelings. Part of you will want to stay just a little bit longer, to work just a little bit harder, to try a different approach, to... Unfortunately, doing so is usually dangerous. The signs above are warning signs- they are indicative that something is wrong. Problems resulting in these types of feelings are most likely in the process of coming to a head; to stay can often place you directly in the explosion. Or, oppositely, it can cause you to compromise and contort yourself, causing some sort of slow inner death. 

The decision to walk away feels right. It doesn't always feel good and it doesn't always make sense (because maybe you don't have a backup plan), but it should feel solid. Usually it takes some courage. Sometimes it may not be accompanied by a next step. I think this can sometimes be simply due to the fact that, until you let one thing go, you don't have space or capacity to see something else. 

There's a pretty awesome episode of This American Life called "Self-Improvement." The first story is about a guy who decides to walk away. I thought I'd include it just for kicks. 

Poem of the day

Friday, December 28, 2012 by Rebecca , under


Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,
the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me
and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.
The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,
and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.
Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk
Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts
but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;
I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,
I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back
and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?
You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

by Tony Hoagland