north shore getaway + thoughts on leaving minnesota (pt 1)

IMG_8699 (2).JPG

Two days after we decided to move from Minnesota to Maryland, I texted my oldest friend and asked “what’s been the hardest part about leaving Minnesota.” He answered, “Leaving Minnesota.”

On Monday, I turned 26, and on the Tuesday before, my partner surprised me with a two-day getaway to the North Shore, so I could see Lake Superior one last time. He knows this lake is sacred to me (as it is for so many). Growing up, my parents called it our “happy place,” and it remains a place of peace and power for me.

His plan was for us to spend Tuesday in Duluth, and Wednesday visiting my favorite spots along the shore. A day to connect, a day to explore.

Duluth PierIMG_8655.JPGimg_3492IMG_8693

Duluth is special to Chris and I as the place where we solidified our budding relationship. As much as this getaway was about my birthday and saying goodbye to Minnesota, it was a quiet celebration of us. It was easy, once we reached the lakewalk, to slip into some of our nostalgia. Last summer, the bay sparkled. We arrived at the golden hour, and the sun lay on top of the water like a silk. This year, the bay was stained red from iron and mud kicked up from weeks of torrential rain. Different a year later, but so are we.

We did what you do in Canal Park: Walk to the piers, walk the lift bridge, watch it rise for sailboats, walk the boardwalk until the crowds thin. We visited Vikre Distillery in the shadow of the lift bridge, and sampled gin, aquavit and whiskeys distilled in sight of the cocktail room. Later, we ate at Canal Park Brewing, a brewery with an excellent menu. Vikre was beautiful, the spirits an homage to passion and knowledge, and Canal Park Brewing Company is always a treat. (The food in Duluth trends heavy and American.)

We talked about everything. This next year will be big for us, but the way we talk about moving reminds me of what a friend once said about her pregnancy: it’s too big to talk about every day. Having hours without agenda let us roam. This is the beginning of something we can’t fully see. We agree that Maryland is temporary, but how temporary? And what comes after Maryland? We’ve each had thoughts about school or about my writing that excite me as much as they scare me. It’s the most fantastic learning curve to have a partner who actively supports the dreams that, six months ago, I didn’t think were worth pursuing.

As the afternoon stretched into evening, I grew quiet, so quiet Chris asked me if I was upset. Of course not, of course not. I process the world through words — if I’m not talking, I’m writing — but their volume can sometimes be an assault.

Admittedly, I barely understand how to be present in a moment, but I think it’s something like this. The experience of the evening — cool air off the lake, and lapping water, and his hand in mine — was too complete, too exquisite for more words. It was enough — it was everything — to just be in it. Happy, I told him, so happy.

IMG_8733img_35367c338b1b-d76a-4cd4-bd99-0587c534d1beCanal Park BrewingIMG_8851IMG_8966IMG_8990IMG_8999.JPG

I wrote too much for anyone to read in one sitting. Part two coming soon.

how to have the best summer

“I suspect that the way I feel now, at summer’s end, is about how I’ll feel at the end of my life, assuming I have time and mind enough to reflect: bewildered by how unexpectedly everything turned out, regretful about all the things I didn’t get around to, clutching the handful of friends and funny stories I’ve amassed, and wondering where it all went. And I’ll probably still be evading the same truth I’m evading now: that the life I ended up with, much as I complain about it, was pretty much the one I chose. And my dissatisfactions with it are really with my own character, with my hesitation and timidity.”Tim Kreider, The Summer that Never Was

Last summer was one of those golden summers that nobody ever actually has. Without contest, it was the best and the fullest of my adult life. (I’d say of my whole life, but there was a summer, when me, my mom, and my brother spent seven weeks lakeside, and the sun turned me blonde).

When I was fifteen, I was on the phone with a friend the week before Labor Day. Already, the days were shortening, and the dew forming on the grass made my feet cold. I sat on the steps of my deck, as far as our cordless phone’s signal could reach, and we talked about how summer never is what it’s supposed to be. Nine months later, when school let out and summer started again, this same friend made a list of all the things we were going to do that summer. I can still see the list, but I don’t think we ever crossed a item off it.

By some karmic jackpot, my summer last year was that summer I always hoped I’d have at least once. Each day came to me like magic. I went to baseball games on weekday afternoons. I spent blissed out weeks on a porch, watching the sun set over the rooftops, too hot to do anything but listen to The Weeknd and drink wine. One Saturday, I woke up so early that I met the woman I was living with coming home from her night shift. She had a drink, I had coffee. That day, I drove south, and we saw the sun split itself into a thousand beans as it passed the horizon line, and then that night, I stayed out until two, and ran home in the rain.

I stayed out past midnight again, and again, and again. I walked home under the stars after spending hours with people I’d just met. I spent so much time getting to know strangers, because I was losing friends that mattered to me, and I didn’t know how to recover the pieces. Deep into July, I laid under the sun, and listened to elementary schoolmates, now grown, play basketball. I was shattered, in that warm grass, to think about how often all my friends have been new friends, and how very, very rarely they’ve become old ones.

I turned twenty-five, and spent the night before my birthday, a Saturday night, alone in an apartment cluttered with moving boxes, feeling too young to be this lonely and too old to care about the next day. I lost twenty pounds from stress. I walked hand in hand along the shore of Lake Superior, and remembered that our constants can take many forms.

After two strong margaritas, I watched Fourth of July fireworks set off over a baseball diamond. Their exploding light against the navy sky was so violent and beautiful that I cried. Again, and again, and again, I lifted out of body, and wondered what it was I did to get to access so much joy. I went to Italy. Swam in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Cried in the Basilica of Santa Maria. Threw a coin into the Trevi fountain, because the first time I did it, my wish came true. When I got home, I slept for three hours, and woke up and went to a nightclub. Last summer, I fell in love.

This summer will be, for every reason there is, different from last. I’m fighting my natural tendency to believe that different will mean worse. Last summer was bottled lightning. It was wild in its intensity, and shocking how much life I experienced during that short season. It was wild in the way it all surprised me.

For important reasons, this summer is calculated. I’ve done something I’ve rarely done as an adult, and made a list of all the things I want to do. I’m plotting out weeks (and more importantly, weekends) to maximize time. I’m building calendars based on priorities. Sometimes, this is what you have to do. Time is sometimes an ocean and sometimes a math equation. Yesterday, my boyfriend said to “we won’t be in town for a single Thursday Saint’s home game.” No dollar beer night this summer.

I think about how yoga teaches us to find space within our bodies. This summer feels a little bit like that, learning how to find space, to be at peace, to do all it is we want — and need — to do.

I supposed this is all my way of saying: here’s to a new season. One of the hardest thing I’ve had to confront is how I assume scarcity in the face of abundance. Last summer, we never ran out of time, out of sun, out of day, out of wonder. This summer won’t be like that. Already, the days feel finite. But why does that have to make them any less precious?

snapshots of a happy summer + why i’ve been quiet

B904A75D-AC3F-4C9B-BC47-20666307524D

I’ve left this space deliberately blank for several months, but I think I’m ready to return to it.

I spent the last three seasons living my life. For years, since I was a teenager (maybe earlier), I had the sense that there was some fullness of experience that I wasn’t getting my hands on. I paired with a crippling fear of what may come should I try to get to wherever that fullness was, and I lived inside of small boxes. It’s hard to explain to people who have been less afraid to me how deeply joyful and fundamentally expansive and overwhelmingly delightful it is to say yes instead of no. It’s wild and full, and it’s oxygen to empty lungs.

I spent the better part of the year hacking away at all these vines that had grown up around my life. Light after darkness? When you can claw your way to it, it’s glorious. It shows up on your skin and in your bones.

One of my uncles said to me: You look happy in your eyes. And my mom said: You don’t look scared anymore. And countless people said: You just look different, in a really good way. I told them this is what good looks like on me.

This summer, I saw things that I’d once clung to slip off my skin like water.

Between May and November, I read very little. It wasn’t an active aversion – books weren’t a struggle, but no longer were they a salve. One of the first warm afternoons in May, I took a blanket and a stack of books into the yard. I spent three hours moving my blanket to follow the sun, and not once did I open my books. Over and over, I found myself more content to sit quietly with my own thoughts, than I was to fill my mind with someone else’s. What little I did read, though, was brilliant, and radical, and healing.

Television, too, has lost some of it’s appeal. I’ve written before about how much I love well made TV, and while that’s still true enough, I don’t have the same stomach for it anymore. I still haven’t seen the new season of Game of Thrones or Stranger Things, and I haven’t even cared to give Mindhunter a chance. This is nothing intellectual or enlightening, I can still fritter away hours like a champion, I just don’t have the need I used to to anesthetize. Why would I, when all of a sudden, mine was so bright, and so beautiful, so equal parts terrifying and exhilarating?

I also wrote very little. Circumstance often left me without a laptop or without the paper manuscripts I work off. A notebook and pen were easy to carry with me, so I wrote extensively for myself and about extensively. But the littleworldsI’vespentyearscreating? I left them empty and untended to for months. I am coming back to these, but I’m finding it harder to slip into someone else’s skin now that mine has grown so easy.

Of all the changes I experienced this summer, losing my anxiety was most exciting. At some point this spring, it began to steam off my body the way fog burns away underneath a rising sun.

Do you know what it’s like to feel at ease in the world? For a long, long time I didn’t. I’ve writtena lotabout howmy anxiety is (was) a constant negotiation. I carried Xanex and apples with me, chamomile tea and a book in my bag. I was always bracing for what next thing would cause that awful, nauseous fear. And then I woke up one day, and it was gone. New people? Crowded rooms? Spending time with someone new? With several new people? With a whole room of new people? May, June, and most of July were one long rope of anxiety triggers, and not once was I triggered. When a friend asked me how I was handling all these social situations I was describing, I laughed. Afraid of being rejected? People have done worse to me than not like me.

At the beginning of November, I felt the first tremors of dread that I’d felt in six months. It took me a minute to recognize that particular internal shaking, but when I did, I breathed through it. It’s going to be okay. Not because it’s meant to be, or because it has to be, but because it always has been.”

I cried, one Monday morning, when I realized that I’d spent an entire weekend meeting new people. Not once, in three days of introductions, did I want to peel back my own skin and hide. (Big, big thanks also to the man I was with).

I am now at ease.

It may be gone for just this season, but I really hope it’s not. Of all the things that have rolled away from me this year, my anxiety is the one thing I most hope will never, never return.

I spent much of June hot and in my underwear. I was living with people who were rarely at home when I was, and because of it, I spent most of my evenings alone, and on this beautiful porch. I’d set myself up with a book and maybe a glass of wine. The sun would set all pinks and oranges over the neighborhood. One night, I heard a little boy yell at this dad “no, you need to go to bed!” Another night, the pre-teens next door played basketball and worked on memorizing the lyrics to 1-800-273-8255. I listened The Weeknd (surprise soundtrack to my month of peace) on loop, and rarely opened my book. I was so much more content to lie on that sofa, and reflect on who I was. Who I might be. Life was (is, will always be) as astoundingly, fundamentally hard as it was ever, but the difference was (is) that it’s hard in ways I want to be awake for. I think that’s the reason why I’ve been foregoing so many of my old habits. I no longer want to be distracted. Comfort isn’t the endgame anymore.

When I was a freshman in college, I was far too deep in the throes of an anxious depression to experience that particular thrill of being on the precipice of that which you cannot fully grasp. June was me on that ledge. I called it an ecstatic explosion. I didn’t have any other words to explain the compounding joy of learning and relearning to live a life of my own choosing.

I know that I’ve rambling, and I know that a lot of this is vague, but this is my way of coming back. For two years, I found something hopeful and inspiring about writing here for an audience so small it could barely be counted. At some point, writing became another coping mechanism in my deep chest of survival tools. I’m ready to come back to blogging (I’m even giving this space a new name, y’all!), because I’m hoping it gives me a path back in to the fiction writing I’ve loved for so long.

Onward, right? Always, always onward.