Making Friends

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. – Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness

 

Since moving last summer, I haven’t met too many people I would be able to call a kindred spirit. People here in the Northcountry are incredibly private, tend not to want to make the first move (yes, like on a date), and don’t tend to share too much, too quickly, for fear of being seen as weak (a true indiscretion up North.) As a New Englander named Isabel explained to me, there’s a system to it and you don’t want to put yourself out there, for fear of being left hanging out in the cold to die. “I started having weekly playdates with my neighbor,” Isabel told me, “But this week I don’t know if we’re getting together because I haven’t heard from her.” When I asked Isabel why she doesn’t just ask this neighbor if they’re meeting she said, “I texted her last so it’s her turn to text me.” Um, okay, so we have reverted back to dating…

I wouldn’t say people in NY are friendly. New Yorkers have a tough exterior that can be mistaken for aloof. However, once the exterior comes down, NYers have a lot to say and want to be heard. There’s just not a lot of time, and never enough space, to invest in someone right off the bat. Trust has to be earned. But once it’s earned, it’s pretty much a done deal. Okay, you’re cool. I can be friends with you.

Here in the unforgiving North however, it seems like trust has to be re-earned with every interaction. Yes, we seemed like friends last time we met, but a few weeks have gone by now so I don’t know if you’ve gone over to the dark side since then…” It’s exhausting, and frankly I don’t always feel up for it. I tend to run away to my mom’s (an hour and a half South, and where my sisters are), rather than waiting around to invest (and re-invest) energy in the cold bloods.

It’s a study in human development, as are most things, when I look around the playground and see 10 moms, all sitting alone, either on their phones, or talking to their own children, not interacting with any other adult. I was pushing Violet on the swing last week and there were 4 of us in a row, pushing swings. We all looked straight ahead. The strain was palpable but not one of us wanted to muster up the effort for that obligatory, “How old is your child?” I perpetuated this New England arctic freeze as wholly as the next person because, as I said, I don’t often have the strength for drivel. As soon as that mother tells me her child’s age and asks how old mine is, I’ve already forgotten her answer, she’s forgotten mine, and then we’re back to square one needing to think up some other inane question that neither one of us really cares about. Why not save my strength? It’s not likely I’ll ever see them again.

And this is why I don’t have a lot of friends… Stop laughing owls.

Maybe in NY, there were so many voices all around me, no matter where I was, that it gave the illusion of having company? No, I’m pretty sure I had friends in NY.

5 Ways To Check If You Might Be Lonely

1) When you pull up your street, you see the mail truck and try to time it so that you’re pulling up to the mailbox at the same moment as the mailman so you can start up some drivel about how unseasonably warm it’s been lately. Note: You don’t mind drivel—in fact, you welcome it—if you’re truly, unapologetically lonely.

2) You find yourself thinking about something funny the DJ said on the radio in the car that morning. Epiphany: DJs aren’t your friends.

3) You call your mom once—okay, who’s kidding who—twice a day.

4) When you call your mom, she says, “I’m sorry Iree, I’m on my way out. Can I give you a call later?” Note: This one’s a double downer because not only is your mom blowing you off, but you realize she’s also got more of a life than you.

5) You get excited when you enter the room of the library where you do your writing and see a couple of heads poking out from behind their computers. You’re not going to exchange one syllable with any of these people, however the fact that they’ll be taking up the same airspace as you for a couple hours, gives you a happy feeling of camaraderie. And nope, even that guy clearing his phlegm every other minute like a psycho behind you isn’t bothering you.

Bonus #6: You’ve been off Facebook for a few years now because you thought it was the devil, however once a week or so you ask your husband if any of your friends have said anything interesting on there lately.

Super Extra Bonus #7: You anthropomorphize owls.

Sand & soil,

Iris

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In Your Mouth, There Lives A Little Gremlin

Speaking of mindfulness and saying things you regret, I have been working hard on not speaking ill of people. It is a constant (and I mean hourly) vocation. You know when you gossip to a friend, about a friend, and then immediately have this pang in your chest? That’s called your conscience and it’s telling you to stop doing that. It brings you down. In fact, it’s the quickest way I know of making myself miserable. I could be having the best conversation with someone, connecting, feeling common ground, getting the repartee of the give and take… all instantly eradicated when I go to that ugly place (“She said this baby was a SURPRISE?!! I don’t get when people say they don’t know how it possibly could have happened…”) Poof. Good feelings gone. And, additionally, what I’ve now done is crumbled the trust wall I’ve worked hard on building in this friendship. The person I’m sitting across from isn’t thinking, “I’m glad Iris feels comfortable enough to share her innermost thoughts about Jackie getting pregnant.” She’s thinking, “I better be careful what I tell Iris because she’s liable to judge me and talk about me to Jackie! Not to mention that Iris has been here for 2 hours… it’s really time for her to go now…”
 
You see what happens? You go from 80 to 0 in 3 seconds. “Not talking smack” as they say on the streets, has been a particularly tough one for me because I have three sisters who I am close with. At the end of last summer, my sister Adelaide and I had a blowout fight. We didn’t speak for 6-8 weeks—sadly, the entire time she had morning sickness with her second child and could have used a friend. Because I was so distraught over not speaking to Adelaide, I complained daily to my other sister Lucy (and probably little sister Silvia too) about not talking to Adelaide. Long story short, Lucy got all mixed up with this beast I had created, a beast appropriately named “word vomit” (from the film Mean Girls) and everything spiraled out of control. Adelaide was hurt by me, I was hurt by Adelaide, Adelaide was hurt by Lucy, Lucy was hurt by Adelaide, and Silvia was probably hurt by auxiliary damages. After Adelaide and I made up, I made the executive decision to not talk badly about a sister to a sister. It’s not easy. There are countless times every day that I might feel word vomit brewing. It takes everything I’ve got to keep the vomit down.
 
In the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox says to Kathleen Kelly “…I must warn you that when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.”
 
The human condition is to talk about humans. So what, then, are we supposed to talk about? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’m not sure I have a foolproof solution. Talking surface-level all the time isn’t satisfying. Perhaps it’s not so much the talking about people, as the talking smack about people? So, declarations can be made (i.e. “Jackie’s having a baby”) without assigning a judgment to said declaration. Be forewarned, it’s incredibly challenging to maintain this kind of neutrality and I’m not sure neutrality is even the way to go.
 
And of course the owls, ever the mindful onlookers, haven’t uttered an ill word yet.

 

Sand & soil,
Iris

Mindfulness Is All The Rage

Apparently now that the 4th of July has passed, it’s “back to school.” Perhaps one of the reasons we feel like we are never living in the present moment is because the commercialized world makes a habit of having us live 2-3 months in the future. When I worked at CVS in high school, the Christmas aisle had been transformed into a Valentine’s Day aisle on the morning of December 26th.
 
What does it mean to master mindfulness? The word seems to be in the air lately. Mindfulness just means attention to the present—paying mind to what is happening to you as it’s happening as a way of staying grounded. Contrary to what one might think, contemplating future events is not going to break a rhythm of mindfulness. Rather, having a point in the future to look forward to actually works in concert with savoring the present, like ying and yang.
 
Mindfulness can be exhausting if done improperly. For example, when I first started fumbling around with mindfulness, I seemed to be focusing on the wrong things—menial tasks. I would be unloading the dishwasher and thinking I’m unloading the dishwasher now. I am putting the cups away and the plates. Now I am putting the silverware in the silverware drawer. Narrating every mundane chore around the house isn’t going to bring you nirvana. Rather, mindfulness is more a perspective. Okay, I have some chores to do around the house now, but after that’s done I am going to give my sister a call and see how she’s doing with X. It’s taking a pause and reflecting: I seem to be getting my writing going this morning. It’s stepping back from yourself so you can look at yourself from afar. I feel guilty that I spoke negatively about that issue to a friend yesterday. I forgive myself and am moving on from it. Next time I see said friend, I am going to be mindful of those negative impulses creeping in and stop them before they can do damage.
 
I am still learning the nuances of mindfulness. It doesn’t come naturally to me, so it’s something I have to work on. The owls, on the other hand, seem to have it down pat.

Sand & soil,
Iris

Welcome

Welcome to my blog. Here you will find anecdotes about my day-to-day life. In writing this, I hope to inspire, but more than that, I hope to ignite a passion in you to live your life authentically. We all have our own paths to follow, but sometimes our path is covered in brambles, making it difficult to see. This blog is about slicing through the brambles, making a clearing and forging forward into the wide, open space.

I live with my husband and five-year old daughter Violet in a small New England town. We moved back to New England last year, after having lived in New York for twelve years. NY was a trip… a way of life I am grateful to have experienced, but one that made me even more appreciative of my Boston roots. NY is likely to come up a lot in this blog, because it is such a part of me. If you’ve ever spent a chunk of time in NY, I imagine you’ll be able to relate, and if not, well… it just might kindle a little NY spark under your seat and get you packing your bags.

A few months after moving back, I read a collection of essays called Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York by Sari Botton. It rang true on many levels, particularly just how crowded a city NY is and how you find yourself fighting for every little thing, right down to that space of oxygen around your head that you need to inhale in order to survive.

In this venture, I will mention books I’m reading, conversations I’ve had with Violet or my husband Jonathan, possibly things I’m eating, interactions with friends, family and strangers, odd situations that come up in life, lists (yes, if Lena Dunham can make a list of the 20 grossest things in her book Not That Kind of Girl I can make a list of 10 things that I find beautiful, or 2 things I miss about NY, or 5 things that will help alleviate that morning overwhelm slump.

Why don’t I do that last one right now, actually.

5 Ways to Move Beyond a Morning Depression/ Anxiety Slump:

1) Get up.

My grandfather was told this by one of his favorite people, and he was kind enough to pass it on to me. It’s as simple as that. If you want to shake that heaviness of Oh man, I have so much to do today, I don’t want to do any of it, I’m so tired, I never do anything fun anymore…etc etc. the best way to get past that is to GET UP. Lying there ruminating and wallowing and basically giving credence to those negative thoughts is only fueling the unwanted, unwelcome fire.

2) Pray for strength.

I’m a spiritual person so I find that praying for courage helps enlist the power of something bigger than myself.

3) Have a hot cup of something.

There is something comforting about slowly sipping something that warms your insides. I prefer tea, plain old Lipton decaf with honey and cream, but if you like hot water with lemon, coffee, boiled green smoothies… all will achieve the same effect. This is especially therapeutic on cold, winter mornings.

4) Put on clothes that make you feel attractive.

One of the worst things you can do on a day you feel like wearing sweats, is to wear sweats. I like comfortable clothes most of all—loose, cottony, pretty things—but there are days I need to fight that initial temptation to shower and then basically put on my pajamas (sweats) all over again.

5) Get out of the house.

Even if you’re a homebody, even if you’re a stay-at-home parent, even if it takes you until noon to get out the door like it did for my daughter and me during the first year of her life, getting a change of scenery from the four walls that are your everyday is paramount to feeling like you’ve accomplished something. You don’t have to drive somewhere. Walking can be tremendously liberating. You might see a squirrel busy gnawing on acorns and that might make you smile, or might motivate you to want to be working hard gnawing on something too.

Something that is counterproductive to the above 5 things:

Going back to sleep.

When you’ve had to drag yourself out of bed early and get off to work, or school, or your screaming infant, you may have wondered what it would have felt like to go back to bed. I’ll tell you exactly what it feels like: awful. You don’t feel more rested, in fact you make yourself feel more sluggish. Other emotions you might experience after sleeping into the daytime include: guilt, worthlessness, anxiety over having missed out or needing to catch up… You get the idea.

Exceptions to this are if you’re really sleep-deprived, just got back from a trip in another time zone, just ended a job/ semester/ childbirth/ or otherwise emotionally or physically taxing venture, or if you’re on reverse time which happens more often than one might think.

Note: I’m also not averse to turning on a morning talk show for a few minutes to jump-start my day. I am particularly partial to Live with Kelly and Michael because a) my grandparents used to have it on (rather Live with Regis and Kathy Lee) in the background during breakfast when I visited them so it invokes memories of leisure, summer, relaxation and imminent fun things. And b) Thinking about Kelly Ripa waking up every morning at 4am to work a high-pressure, high octane, high-heeled LIVE talk show inspires me to kick myself into gear while, at the same time, making me feel grateful that I got to sleep until 7am.

I have not thought of a name for my blog yet, but I hope it will come to me in the next few weeks. Where I sit in the library writing, there are two life-size owl sculptures, wings raised, looking at each other on bookshelves above me. Maybe their motionless wisdom will transfer.