The Island of Us
I've been running a lot lately. My favorite trail is just a few miles from our house; I escape my office for ninety minutes several times a week to clear my head and squint at the sun instead of a screen. Earbuds in and plodding at my determined-yet-dawdling pace, the sun hits my shoulders and the backs of my legs as trail grit makes its way into my shoes and socks. I run past stock ponds, through cottonwood groves, up crumbly buttes and down their sloping sides.
I got a text from Bev yesterday that began with, "You weren't kidding when you said you were going to keep your head down and work, work, work." She's good at gentle nudges, that Bev, consistently delivering tender reminders when I've gone radio silent. A well-worn pattern of mine, I tend to put on my blinders when life gets difficult, ignoring the aspects of myself that are lagging or slow to respond while the rest of me forges ahead, hobbling, stoic and silent. The past few weeks have indeed been head-down and work-intensive; I've typed the phrase "work is a welcome distraction" in at least twenty emails to sympathetic clients and well-wishing friends. It remains true.
The New Normal
Last week, two of my oldest and dearest friends, Bev and Sarah, came to Boulder for a long weekend. We'd planned this visit months ago, and aside from my not-quite-right demeanor, I was determined to make it a fun, memorable and photogenic experience. Initially, I was nervous about seeing them. There's something difficult and nerve-wracking about reuniting with friends who knew Sage for the first time. Would we cry? Would we be normal? Would we talk about him at length? And we did all of those things, in no particular or appropriate order, and we filled all the other moments with the regular things that longtime friends do: we ate incredible food, hiked beautiful trails, and enjoyed each other's familiar and comfortable company.
Grief is a demanding companion
Our family crossed the one-month mark on Tuesday, a day that was both difficult and a small triumph toward healing. Alongside the outpouring of well-wishes, we're still not firing on all cylinders. I've found myself dodging good-intentioned phone calls, turning down dinner invites, and gently requesting patience from clients and friends for a short-term memory that fails me regularly, my distracted neurons sputtering and firing at random.
No one wants to be here
Some of you know, some of you don't: My brother-in-law Sage killed himself on April 30 after a decades-long battle with depression. In the past two weeks, I've traveled to Arkansas and Puerto Rico to be with my family as we move through this heavy, oppressive grief, gathering the pieces of a life unfinished, and confronting a new reality defined by his absence.
Pardon me, is that your Unabomber bag? 😳
We're sitting in the theater Tuesday night, ready to see Ghost in the Shell. The lights had just dimmed for the previews when a guy walked in alone—with a backpack. Not like an old school Jansport that holds a few books; this thing was REI-style, with dangling straps and tie-downs, big enough for an overnight stay. He sat a few seats over from us in the front row, the bag propped on his knees against the railing. I'll just say it: the bag made me squirmy.
🎶 You Get What You Need 🎶
In the months leading up to my sixteenth birthday, I fell head-over-heels in love with a car. It was a 1951 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, mint green and liberally chromed, with an unmistakable front end that looked like a cross between a compass and a nipple. A black and orange FOR SALE sign taped to its passenger window, the Studebaker sat for months in an empty lot at the corner of Block and Church, its white-walled tires and equally white interior luring me to its glass with cupped hands every time I walked past. I wanted this car more than anything.
Learn to control your superpower, or it will consume you. 🍔
I'm rounding the northwest corner of the Boulder Valley Ranch trail, finishing up the fifth episode of Missing Richard Simmons and clapping enthusiastically for Olive to stop sniffing and catch up. Through my earbuds, host Dan Taberski, in an effort to explain several theories behind the sudden disappearance of Richard Simmons in April 2014, reminds us rapt listeners of the oft-recited adage, "Learn to control your superpower, or it will consume you."
Where is home for you? 🏡
I just returned home after spending ten days in Arkansas with my parents. It was good to be back in the familiarity of my hometown—its hilly streets, friendly people and charming local enterprise. Fayetteville hasn't changed much (although I'm sure permanent residents would say otherwise) and it's remarkable how easily I slide back into its slower, less frenetic pace of life.
Grab me a glass of water, please? My hair is on fire. 🔥
After several weeks of concentrated, head-down work—I've been onboarding two new (massive!) clients while keeping my longstanding accounts afloat—I'm forcing myself to close out of Sprinklr, Hootsuite, and look up from Instagram to focus on something else for a couple of hours, like this latest dispatch to you. Here, I get to vent a little, ramble some more, and exercise my writing muscle that lies flaccid more frequently than I'm comfortable admitting.
"Pardon me, but can you shut the hell up?" 📽
Let's talk about going to the movies. The other night, Hobbs and I left the theater mid-movie. Not because of the film, but because of the audience.
This was a first.
MTV + My Twenty-Year Obsession with Tony Bennett 🙈❤️
I was raised on MTV. Our old RCA tube television sat in the living room on a homemade bookshelf, with flimsy woodgrain plastic paneling and no remote. The picture scrolled sporadically, a problem remedied by a swift bang to the top with the heel of my palm. After school, I splayed on the couch watching Remote Control, Club MTV, back-to-back music videos, and Adam Curry deliver the day's news. On weekends, I stayed up late to watch House of Style, Yo! MTV Raps and Headbanger's Ball.
I Have an Ulcer (Alt title: The Time I Took My Boss's Job) 😐
I have an ulcer. It's on the lower left side of my stomach. It's been there for ten years and flares up now and then, usually triggered by stress, hormones, tomato sauce or too many peanuts. I imagine it like a frying pan, black and scrubbed matte, sizzling and searing whatever hits its surface. I'll tell you the story of my ulcer.
Gwyneth's Clean Sleeping + Fan-Girling over Louis CK 😆
Crawling into bed is the best moment of my day, an event I like to announce every night of my adult life with a creaky, "This is the best moment of my daaaay!" as I pull the covers around my head. My bed is other-worldly comfortable, with a fluffy duvet and a pillow for each body part. When I feel myself start to drift off, I get this tiny rush of "Oooh, here we gooo!" And lately, I've been getting more sleep—about nine hours a night (insomniacs and new moms, you're welcome to roll your eyes). And like I mentioned last week, I'm feeling good. Like, really good.
When I cooked instead of wrote. (Hey, there's a recipe!)
The mid-January personal renaissance is in full swing. What's that mean? We're sleeping more. Drinking less. Working out more. Eating less. Meditating more. Stressing less. (Well, for the most part.) The by-product of this lifestyle rework means we feel good. Like, really good. Energized. Coherent. Present. Interested. Capable. Happy. Future self: don't forget what this feels like.
Adios, muchachos! (Con salsa.)
The subject line of this week's newsletter is a private joke. One of those nonsensical, irritating things that makes only two people on earth keel over in fits of short-winded laughter while the rest of you are left rubbing your earlobes, giving me the side-eye, and asking, "...Do whu'now?" I won't attempt to explain it, which would only dig this awkward hole even deeper. Just know that the phrase was recited ad nauseam in a dark, echoey guest room on the outskirts of Havana by two people who'd had one too many Havana Clubs con hielo.
A Tale of Two Countries: Saludos from the Other Side
What a trip. With pages of scrawled, rum-inspired notes and twelve hundred photos documenting our time in Cuba, I still don't know where to begin, what to think, or how to describe it. Our experiences on the island were everything: fascinating, confusing, captivating, depressing, alluring, maddening, heartwarming, bewildering. I spent a week in a country that hasn't seen substantial progress since 1960, where the infrastructure is crumbling, the politics are veiled in secrecy and oppression, and the people are patient, resourceful, and kind. Stories have holes. Vagueness is the status quo. Self-censorship means survival. I left Cuba with more questions than when I arrived.
So THIS is why people live in Florida. (Plus a cocktail recipe!)
Over breakfast this morning, we were talking about how a four-hour plane ride can deliver you to a completely different world, removing you from painful single-digit temps and dropping you in a warm and humid climate—one that rejuvenates cracked, desiccated skin and replenishes waning vitamin D levels. What a difference seventy degrees makes for both the body and the mind.
What a big week it's been!
The house is quiet this morning and there's a light dusting of snow outside, the proverbial icing on the cake to an incredible long weekend. Hobbs turned forty on Friday and since Wednesday night, it's been a non-stop celebration of some of the best things in life: good friends, snowy walks to dinner, lazy breakfasts, playing hooky, dog walks, rollicking bus rides, roller skating, eighties playlists, cupcakes, pizza, hot tub parties, mezcal, cat naps, inside jokes, frozen fly fishing, happy hours, and late-night conversations to download it all.
Do you make your bed every morning? (Oh, shit. A poem.)
Every morning, I make the bed. It's a rather tedious and time-consuming task, but one so deeply hardwired into my habits, I've never minded it. We had a queen-size bed for many years, which was quicker and easier to make, and we recently upgraded to a king. The increased acreage means the task takes longer, shuffling from side to side as I pull corners and smooth wrinkles. The thin cotton blanket folds over at about six inches, leaving room for our stacks of four pillows each. Each pillow has its order within the stack, and each of their cases must face the same direction. The duvet, folded neatly in half, is centered at the bottom of the bed, fluffed free of wrinkles. This is just how it is, folks.
Friends, casseroles, turkey legs, lend me your ears.
It's the holiday weekend, and I'm writing this in spurts and surges as time and inspiration allow. I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving Day, however, wherever, and with whomever you chose to spend it. For us, we feasted with friends in Boulder instead of going home to Arkansas, a decision that sprinkled a little guilt on my potatoes and also left me feeling relieved of obligation and a mind-numbingly long drive.
Hi, Friends. I'm glad you're here.
So, this newsletter: a brief where-I'm-coming-from and then I'll get on with the show. Consistent blogging is damn hard. I do it regularly for clients but when it comes to my own blog, I get distracted or put it off or go blank or torture my words into oblivion or get staggering stage fright. Putting your words out into the world is simultaneously invigorating and agonizing, quite frankly.