Archive for the 'uplifting' Category

i am twenty-eight

Katy Perry was singing “You’re hot then you’re cold! You’re yes then you’re no!” on the radio and Bear and I were driving towards the mountains on our fourth date. “I like your sunglasses,” he said, and when I glanced at his profile, it was adorably boyish. He was blushing faintly and his little smile was the helpless kind, where you can’t not smile. Everything is too good to not smile. I didn’t know anything about him except that he felt completely right and I felt completely right with him. I started singing along with Katy Perry, even though it was the first time I’d heard the song. He joined in.

We were yes! We were not even a little bit no.

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I was twenty-three.

I had never made a reservation at a restaurant because I’d never, as an adult, gone to one nice enough to need a reservation.

Bear was twenty-five. That seemed well into the totally grown-up range. He’d made a reservation for our first date, even though the restaurant was not in fact very nice, and I was impressed with the casual way he gave his last name, like he was used to eating out. Eating out impressed me (I either made all of my own meals or got a slice of pizza somewhere). Taking a cab impressed me (they did that on TV but everyone I knew exclusively rode the subway). Wearing ragged New Balance sneakers paired with Cargo pants did not impress me, but I thought it was cute that he didn’t own any jeans because he thought they were too fashion-y.

“I’ll buy you jeans,” I said, indulgently. I felt lavish, magnanimous. “You’ll like them.”

I was pretty sure I could blow this guy’s mind—worldly table reserving and all.

*

A few days ago, we were driving on the highway in Florida, headed back to the airport from Bear’s aunt and uncle’s home, where his ninety-five year old grandmother lives, too. We finally made it down there, for the weekend, so that Eden could meet her.

Eden hates the car so much. “Babies love the car!” people say, speaking of the accomplished babies of legend whose parents are always fresh-faced and proud.

Eden started to cry the second her butt hit the car seat. And now she cries “Mama! Mama! MAMAMA!!” lifting her chubby little arms in an anguished plea for help. It’s a little bit heartbreaking.

We were running late, naturally, and there was no time to pull over and comfort her. Nothing short of freedom works.

“ABCDEFG! HIJK, LMNOP!” we sang at the top of our lungs. “THE ITSY BITSY SPIDER!! WENT UP THE WATER SPOUT!”

“MAMAMAMAMAMA!!!” she wailed.

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“I can’t do this,” said Bear, his face crumpling.

“Stay focused!” I said. “Keep driving!”

She cried for forty minutes. I was hunched forward. Bear’s face had gone tight.

“So,” I said, looking at his profile. “We made a baby!”

He didn’t respond.

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Kate on March 26th 2014 in family, life, motherhood, uplifting

the only spiritual thing that’s ever happened to me

I am not spiritual. I don’t really know what it means to be spiritual, but I’ve guessed “no” when I’ve been occasionally asked. I am uncomfortable with the unknown. Maybe that’s why I write fantasy books, because the mystical, magical space my brain craves is self-contained, manageable—delicious but reassuringly confined to my own rules. I don’t know.

My mom thinks I’m spiritual. She also thinks I probably secretly believe in God. We’ve argued about this before.

“I would know it if I did,” I say.

“You just don’t like the way it’s described,” she says, “that doesn’t mean you don’t feel something.”

I shake my head and think she just wants her daughter to have religion. She doesn’t want me to miss out.

I don’t want to miss out, either, but my mind stays strictly on its path. I listen when friends talk astrology, but only out of politeness and sometimes, if I’m feeling wild, fun. I don’t want to miss out, but much more than that, I’m proud of my straightforward rationalism.

Astrological_Chart_-_New_Millennium

(source)

This story I’m about to tell is one of the only spiritual things that’s ever happened to me. The others were tiny. (I’m defining “spiritual” like this: it felt spiritual.)

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Kate on March 5th 2014 in being different, life, pregnancy, uplifting

what happens when you aren’t a piano prodigy

You have to understand, my dad is a brilliant pianist. He could always play, from the time he was a little kid. For no reason that anyone could explain or understand, he could sit down and make music. He never learned to read music, but if he heard something, he could play it right back, so when he finally took lessons from a local teacher, he fooled her for months. “Can you just play it for me so I can hear how it should sound?” he’d ask when she gave him a new assignment. She’d play the piece through, and he’d instantly memorize it. Later, he’d pretend to be studying the notes on the page. She was furious when she discovered his trick, or so the story goes.

When he grew up, my dad bought a grand piano and then was too poor to fix his car for a whole winter. My parents were barely in their twenties, proud of their tiny square house, running their own tiny business out of the basement, and there was this sleek, giant Yamaha grand filling the whole living room. Almost a decade before I was born, that piano was my dad’s baby.

When I was a baby, he sat me on his lap while he played, my hands on his hands.

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(I don’t have a photo of that, but here I am as a baby, with my hair looking much like a wig, playing)

And of course, when I was old enough, he taught me some pieces, and eventually signed me up for lessons. He still couldn’t read music very well, but he wanted me to learn, so I was sent to a piano school that specialized in early classical training. The word “pedagogy” floated around in the halls.

I don’t know where my ferocious competitiveness came from. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, an engine too big for my body, eternally revving. It wasn’t enough to just play—I wanted to be the best.

I dreaded the finger exercises. I was bored by the endless arpeggios. The flick of the thumb under the third finger going up the scale—the movement had to be perfectly smooth, subtle, the arrangement of the hand needed to stay even. I wanted to play Rachmaninoff, with the crashing depths of the low register. Lush, chocolate-y Brahms. I wanted to play cascading Debussy, with the blur of rich sound, and Chopin, of course, with the delicate right hand trilling up at the very top while the left hand ran darkly around the bass. I wanted pounding drama and thunder and thrill. I wanted to close out the annual recital with a show-stopper. I was jealous of the kid who got to do it, while I was still playing in the middle of the pack. I was also terrified of performing.

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the smartest guy at college

I started out as a music major, and once I cried in a practice room, sitting next to a chipped old grand piano, because everything felt wrong.

I was dating a French horn player and all of his friends were brass players too (they were really very nice but I never fit in) and all of my classes were about music, except that somehow they were boring and difficult at the same time. The other sopranos were better than me and also harder, somehow, and the one who made herself throw up in the dorm bathroom was the most popular.

I signed up for one academic class. Religion and Psychology. Professor Jones, a commanding man with exactly the right amount of facial hair to be distinguished-looking, and a low, thoughtful voice made for oratory. I sat towards the back, but soon I was raising my hand a lot, because I wanted to talk about everything. And the other students in the class wanted to talk, too. There was a really smart girl who sat in the front, a little to my left, and took notes in the neatest handwriting. There was a lumbering guy with a baseball cap who sometimes debated with her. And then there was the smartest guy at college.

glasses

(source)

That’s what I called him in my head. He had a lilting accent I couldn’t identify because I wasn’t worldly enough. It made me want to be more worldly. He had very black, thick hair that did a sort of sweep because it was long enough to and because it had natural style. He had glasses that looked almost decorative, because I thought glasses were really cool. He had read everything. He could quote everything. He didn’t even sound like a jerk about it. Well, maybe he sounded like a tiny bit of a jerk, but I didn’t mind. I thought he sounded fascinated and, by immediate extension, fascinating.

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Kate on December 31st 2013 in fear, life, new york, relationships, uplifting

i am one lucky cow

I am writing with my laptop balanced on one knee, tilted against a stool, as Eden sprawls on my lap, mostly asleep for a few hard-earned minutes.

This is her third diaper in about an hour. She pooped on my leg somehow. Damn cloth diapers. I put a disposable on her, casually contributing to the destruction of the environment to avoid poop on my legs.

I am thinking about Maine. I have never been there, but it is paradise in my mind. Maine is the land of milk and honey.

Not breastmilk, though. It shouldn’t squirt like that, but it does. I walk around, milk spurting freely from my nipples, cascading down my ribcage, unstoppable. I think of myself as a cow. Eden’s cow.

She cries— “Come here, cow,” I say in my commanding Eden voice, “Ready your udder. I require sustenance.”

“Right away,” I say obediently, in my cow voice. “Your cow is here, at your service.”

“I am displeased, cow. You are slow.”

“I’m sorry. I am just a humble cow. I’m not very fast-moving, like a horse.”

“Hmm. Indeed. Still, you annoy me.”

“Yes, m’lady.”

“Enough, cow. Feed me the milk.”

Bear and I imagine Eden as a bit of a future galactic conqueror and possible Empress of All Things. She will command great fleets of battleships, bigger than the Death Star.

wide eyes

I am writing this on a Monday morning, and I feel that I should be working. It occurs to me that this is the first time in a very long time that I have not worked for longer than a two day stretch. It’s been over a month now and there is still no time. But strangely, I’m not as stressed out about that as I expected I’d be. I feel just as ambitious, in the sense that when I contemplate my mortality, as I do with neurotic frequency, I think, “I have to write books! Then I can die.” But I don’t feel quite as sharply that I’m failing right now, or not succeeding enough. Or maybe it’s just that I’m thinking more about other things and so my potential failure doesn’t seem as pressing.

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Kate on September 4th 2013 in life, motherhood, new york, uplifting, work, writing

make the world a little better: compliment another woman today

I had been feeling really terrible. Actually, I’d been throwing up every day for three months, and I had long since forgotten why I’d thought it would be a good idea to get pregnant. But that evening, I had to put on a gown and go to a work event. An actual gown. It was twilight blue and clingy without losing elegance, with long sleeves and a cinch at the hip, where a sparkling faux diamond bangle nestled. I had gotten it on sale, during a miraculous day of minimal nausea. I felt ridiculous in it, riding the elevator down to the street to hail a cab. Everyone else was wearing normal clothing, and I was unsure of my thickening body—not obviously pregnant yet, but not my familiar shape.

A woman was looking at me. I looked away.

“What a wonderful dress!” she said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“You look beautiful,” she said.

(I kind of wish I had more occasions to wear a gown… source)

I was smiling when I walked out the door. A twenty-something woman on the street paused as she passed me. “You look amazing!” she said.

“Oh, god, thanks,” I said, awkward and caught off-guard.

“Love the gown!” called another woman as I frantically waved at an approaching cab, running late as always. “Where are you going?”

“A work thing!”

“Enjoy!”

I was queasy in the cab, but I felt awesome. I looked beautiful! I sat up a little straighter. I felt sort of queenly, a little glamorous. I imagined myself for a moment as someone leading a fabulous, high-society life, rushing off to expensive benefits and romantic penthouse soirees. As far as anyone knew, I might be doing those things. A woman in a twilight blue gown might have a life like that.

It’s funny, what a compliment can do.

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Kate on April 15th 2013 in beauty, feminism, uplifting

why personal essays are really important

When I started writing personal essays on the internet, I was half embarrassed, half proud. Even though I grew up in a generation that’s supposedly all about oversharing and facebooking and nonstop blabby social connectedness, I’d still learned that privacy is a virtue, modesty is preferable, and you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry. But I also wanted to talk about things that felt relevant but had been kept quiet. And I wanted to share those things with other women, because I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be facing some of the same challenges that girls and women all over the world deal with, even if those challenges at times felt intensely, well, personal. Even if they felt too small and mundane for the news. I came into personal essay writing open-minded, scared, and determined.

And then I read the comments.

But it wasn’t just the comments. Someone (who kept him or herself anonymous) tried to get me fired from my synagogue job after reading an essay I’d written about a complicated romantic situation. The message was clear: no one who works at a religious institution should write about her love life. I was a whore, wrote commenters. I was never going to be happy. Never going to find love. I was going to ruin every man who came near me. Personal attacks were the result of personal writing. Afraid and humiliated, I apologized to the synagogue president and cried all night.

That was years ago. Since then, I’ve watched critics and commenters alike chastise personal essayists for their vulnerability, their supposed self-centeredness, their apparent fame-mongering. Even as the personal essay as an art form becomes more popular, its detractors are ready with scathing criticisms that suggest it is worthless, superficial, and, god forbid, easy. And it’s interesting that most of the criticism is lobbed at women. Often young women. Because more often than not, it is young women who write personal essays.

(source)

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Kate on March 4th 2013 in feminism, life, uplifting, writing