Gratitude: Country Music

I fell in love with Country Music the night my best friend showed me “Garth Brooks Live in Central Park” on VHS. We danced our asses off in her Grandma’s living room until we were sweaty and breathless.

Tonight I watched all three hours of the CMAs.

I feel like the country artists are my close friends. I love how they look out for each other, celebrate each other and sing together. It feels warm and genuine. When they say how much they love their genre, I really believe it.

It feels like a community. And I feel grateful to be a part of it.

You Can Do It

I feel lonely and nostalgic during finals. I miss hanging out with my friends. I mostly study, eat and practice yoga in my empty apartment. I laugh less. Hug less. Complain more.

Last night, huddled in my bed, I closed my kindle and started reflecting on love-filled memories from other days of long hours studying and limited human contact.

My mind landed on my bedroom wall, two years ago, at 1501 16th street, in apartment 202.

During Spring semester of my first year of law school I had five finals in 10 days. Five finals. Ten days. It was insane.

The mere act of taking that number of exams in that short a period is enough to just about kill a regular person. Ask any law student how they think they would handle it. Listen as they tell you, “I need a drink.”

I slept at my mom’s house the night before the first one. The madness had barely begun and I was already feeling strung out and overwhelmed. When I stumbled into my room to grab my belongings,  I glanced up at the wall above my dresser. There, on an ordinary yellow post-it, in her giant, less-than-elegant, but very distinctive handwriting my roommate had written:

You Can Do It.

I breathed it in. I held my breath to soak it up.

Yes I can.

Over the next ten days, I took a careful, deliberate moment to look at that post-it every time I was in my bedroom. I breathed it in. I held my breath to soak it up. I could feel my roommate squeeze me and look me in the eyes. She believed in me. It felt like she was holding me up.

It was a small act of love, but, even in my reflection, I feel the strength of it.

Four months after my last final we moved out of that apartment. The post-it was the last thing to leave my bedroom.  I was plagued by feelings of loss and fear and sadness for the end of two incredible years living with my best friend. I’d been crying for almost five hours straight. As I peeled it off the wall I paused. I breathed it in. I held my breath to soak it up.

You Can Do It.

Failblog

During the first year we lived together, my best friend and I were completely obsessed with Fail Blog.

We’d email each other about it all day long and then get home and rehash it over uncontrollable (disproportionate to the level of entertainment value) laughter on our living room floor.

Every time something bad happened we’d said “fail blog” to commemorate it. “Another one of my kids just got expelled, failblog.” “I woke up too late to shower and my bangs are sticking to my forehead, failblog.” “I almost pooped my pants after the Chipotle burrito buffet at work, failblog.”

We spent entire Sundays communicating exclusively in hand gestures and “fail” or “success” blogs.

Three years later, I failed the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam. Failblog.

The biggest.

You see, no one fails the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam. No one. Especially not me. I don’t fail(blog) at anything. Ever. I win. I achieve. I succeed. I flourish. I get everything I want. I am the walking epitome of 28-year old lady perfection.

At least that’s how I think I should be.

Failure has got to be one of my top three most uncomfortable feelings. Reading my MPRE score resulted in the immediate and intense onset of nausea, followed by the sensation of wanting to run away from my computer, travel back in time, and/or hide from my friends and family. Forever.

All day I moped around in self-loathing. The internal dialogue went something like, “damn Katie, you are a complete moron. What’s wrong with you?” Of course the MPRE fail couldn’t stand on its own as an isolated incident of my complete lack of preparation and disregard for the exam. Oh no. I used it as a barometer for how I’m performing in every other aspect of my life: Survey Says? Terribly.

I suck at standardized ethics exams. I suck at deciding what I want to do with my life. I suck at relationships. I don’t have a job. Or a boyfriend. Or a house. And oh shit, I crashed my car a month ago, so I don’t even have one of those any more. Man, do I suck.

Every time I’ve failed at anything, as far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled through the same set of feelings and observations. This has contributed to two patterns in my life:

1) I don’t like to do things I’m not already good at.
I’ve had a paralyzing fear of flying since I was 8 years old, so I barely ever fly. I’ve had very little romantic success in my adult life, so I barely ever date. I rarely hang out with people who are not already my closest, most intimate friends. I order the same thing every time I go to a restaurant because I know it will taste good.

2) I never give myself a break.
I practice yoga six times a week, at least. I feel irresponsible and inadequate if I don’t. I wear a size zero, in everything. If my pants get a little tight or my tummy pooches any detectable amount, I feel like I want to stop eating for a week just to get “my” body back. Any time I’ve gotten really drunk since I was 19, I’ve felt guilty and ashamed for a week and a half.

These two: stories, behaviors, ideas, can really suck the joy out of a pretty awesome and abundant life. And in the aftermath of my most recent failure, I’ve considered taking a different approach. What if I observe the failure instead of absorbing it? What if I assess how I could have done better, commit to it for next time, and then let the whole thing go? What if I fly, date, mingle with strangers and it’s a total disaster? So what?

I’m struggling now to learn that I can’t always look the way I want to, act the way I want to, perform the way I want to. And that’s fine. This is a radical revelation. But it’s clear in this moment that no amount of hiding, avoiding and attempting to control has prevented failure in my past, so chances are good these strategies won’t work in the future.

In August, I will re-take the MPRE.

In the meantime, I will try to take one failure at a time, reminding myself that it’s ok to: have a bad flight, date, test, day, week, month. I will recover. I always do.

Gets Me

I’ve had the same best friend since I was 13. 15 years, spanning early adolescence to our late twenties.

It feels like eight different lifetimes.

When we were freshman in high school we shut ourselves in my bedroom and recorded songs about imaginary homecoming dates on the karaoke feature of my stereo system.

When we were juniors, I held her hair back as she threw up peach flavored Boone’s and slurred through an apology about being so drunk. Later, she squeezed my hand in the seat next to me at my brother’s graduation from therapeutic boarding school.

When we were in college, we shared feminism, progressive politics and ten or twelve Oprah book club books. We became strong, assertive women.

When we grew up, we lived together, in my favorite apartment, on the tree-shaded corner of 16th and O, in midtown Sacramento. We wore spandex and danced up and down the hallways of our building. We watched all ten seasons of the original 90210

In the stages between, I dabbled as a lesbian and she had her heart broken by the man she thought she would marry. I cut my hair into a mohawk. She had adult braces. Together we transformed a summer camp and built a beautiful community of young people. We fought, we cried, we struggled, we grew, we triumphed. We laughed. So. Hard.

Life is change. In fifteen years, I’ve changed my hair, my politics, my career path, my diet, my fitness regiment, my spiritual beliefs, my taste in men, my values, my attitude, my goals, my dreams, probably five hundred times. Amy got all of it. “I feel you.” “That’s awesome.” “You should definitely drop out of law school and move to a mud hut in Bali, why not?”

I can’t think of anything more important in my life than having someone who gets me. Someone who shows up with affirmative and unconditional love in the face of every: bizarre decision, bad behavior, sexual misadventure, fear, sadness, loss, excitement, celebration.

A dear friend of mine is dying of cancer and I can’t stop crying about it. Last night I called Amy. I was hysterical and incoherent, rambling in fits of sniffles and sobs. On the other end of the phone she held the space. Heard my voice. Felt my pain. And got me. She understood every word, every feeling, every thing I was trying to express, spoken and unspoken. All of it. And as soon as I got off the phone, I took a deep breath in, a long exhale, and stopped crying. I felt safe. I felt understood.

I feel deep gratitude that my life is witnessed by someone who sees me as my fullest self. She reminds me that I’m perfectly awesome just being who I am, or changing, or whatever works for me. She’ll see me, love me and support me, no matter what.