22 – 42

22. Delicate scent of tiny pink flowers
23. Three dew drops on a leaf like peas in a pod
24. The damp, heavy heat of summer a.m.
25. Abandoned spiderwebs behind chairs
26. Ice cubes clink against glass
27. Brick crumbling into fine powder
28. Black and yellow spider
29. Electric white lines painted on black pavement
30. The pale blue layer of mountains
31. Light crunch of leaves hitting the grass
32. Parents cheering at a soccer game
33. Rusty iron turning black
34. Garlic cooking in bacon fat and butter
35. Maisie’s nails clicking on cement
36. Vanilla Porter
37. Squirrels leaping on telephone wires
38. Back-and-forth of barking dogs
39. Black tree boughs
40. Throwing rocks in a river
41. Exhaling cigar smoke
42. Bright, white moonlight

Still

I’m learning to be still.

I recently moved and am unemployed, and with nothing pressing on my time, I’ve been waking up to a furry face instead of an alarm, and sitting outside on the patio with my French Press while Girliedog trots through the leaves in the backyard, checking on all the holes in the fence.

For the past month, the “Get a job get a job get a job” mantra has followed me throughout my day, quickly followed by “Please God, please please please please help me find a job.” I don’t usually pray or make sweeping requests to a higher power, but at the beginning of October, this little-girl voice from my childhood has been hounding Jesus for ways to make money to where I’m nauseated at 3:00 a.m. and curled up on my air mattress with the blankets over my head because I can’t stop adding up my bills and counting what money is left in my savings and wondering how much longer I can last without any income.

Lately, though, the intensity has dissipated. For the first time in my life, I am an independent adult in a new city with no job and a vastly smaller social circle. But also for the first time, my life is quiet with precious stillness. The ability to sit. The time to sit. To process. To reflect. To slow my mind. The chaos and complexity of the past has begun to settle, whether that’s just Time’s steady, dependable tick or an acceptance of my inability to control any outward circumstances. The more I try to orchestrate, the more the chaos escalates. So, gradually, I’ve let it go, and I sit.

I’ve never appreciated the quiet solitude of morning. For five years I’ve had someone to wake up with, to make breakfast with, to get ready with, to leave the house with, to send off to work, and to kiss goodbye. By packing up my car and driving into the unknown, I have (unwittingly) placed myself in a position to be still. My morning hours aren’t spent lying in bed playing Two Dots or rereading my newsfeed or favoriting snarky Tweets.

It’s just me and Puppygirl and the squirrels in the morning sunshine.

I feel like I’m on the brink of something, or on a precipice of I-don’t-know-what while leaning toward a cloudy haze. It’s stressful and uncertain, this feeling of transience, but it’s pushed me to the point where I can be still in the restful quiet.

I’m figuring out how to bottle the stillness and keep it with me. I’m more motivated when I’ve had my quiet. I take Puppygirl for more walks. I clean more efficiently. I cook more ambitiously. I apply for more jobs. I feel as though I’ve accomplished something during my day when I spend time being still. These solitary mornings can’t last. I’ll get a job eventually (even if it’s puttinh out bagels and heating a coffee pot for someone else’s commute), and I’ll start setting an alarm, going to bed early, taking scalding showers to wake up, and skipping breakfast to be on time.

But until then, the birds still sing, there are smells for Girliedog to snuffle under the brittle leaves, and there is time to sit in the quiet and be still.

Stuck

 “You do not meet the minimum qualifications.”

“Thank you for your submission! We are sorry to inform you that your story has not been selected for <insert journal here>.”

“We feel your poem does not fall under the parameters of our theme…”

“…you will not be contacted for an interview.”

“Kindest regards,”

“Best of luck on your search,”

“Sincerely,”

“Warmly,”

Yeah, ok. Thanks.

My reaction to this kind of rejection is complicated and goes berserk in milliseconds.

  1. Sinking feeling: “Oh…”
  2. Rage: “Well screw you, I didn’t want to work for/be published by your stupid company/journal/online magazine anyway, you bastards.”
  3. Combination of shame and self-satisfaction over rage.
  4. Unbookmark the two sketchy Craigslist rentals in <insert city here> that permit Rottweilers and cross off <insert publisher here>.

Do not roll the dice. Stay in jail.

I’m closer to thirty than I am twenty, and it feels like I’m just not THERE. I haven’t happened upon that mythical balance of career, life, and happiness, or found the place where everything falls together in perfect harmony. Fortunately, no one else I know has found it either. I still have yet to hear, “No, actually, it’s all perfect; I’ve made it. And let me tell you, it’s great!”

It’s so easy to project it though, isn’t it? Social media sites are waterlogged with how great people are doing, how happy they are, how successful their jobs are, how cute their kids are, photos from their latest trips, their newest cars/grown-up toys/Coach bags, the list goes on and on. There have been occasions where I’ve rolled my eyes at any or all of these posts. And there have been occasions where I’ve posted the exact same sentiments of how “wonderful” everything is. Forget the body image criticism Cosmo gets – I’m suffering from Pottery Barn’s lifestyle image.

The first draft of my thesis had a line that went something like: Maybe twenty-four is too old for a coming-of-age story… and all three of my thesis committee members chuckled. “You’ll have one at twenty-four, another one at thirty,” they said. “Then again when your first child is born, and when you buy a house, and when you’re forty. Life is a series of coming-of-age stories and mid-life crises.”

Perhaps I’m later to this realization than my peers, but THERE exists with unicorns, flying pigs, free plane tickets to Paris, and a single, modern-day Rollo Lothbrok. And yet why is it so hard to remember that? When did my life become a series of “I don’t haves,” instead of “I do haves”?

I recently read an old blog post sponsored by the Huffington Post here. It offers a new perspective, one that celebrates your 20s as your chance to be impulsive, to try new things, to wander, and to explore. So I’m wandering. I’m exploring. I’m being impulsive. Let’s be honest, I have no money to do those things the way I want to. I’m hoping that buying this Iced Triple Grande Caramel Macchiato with light ice and extra caramel drizzle won’t be the deciding factor that determines whether or not my cell phone bill gets paid… (as the voice of logic that sounds too much like my father screams “Then stop buying them and stick to your budget!”)

But my heart can wander through Rumi and Neruda’s poetry. I can explore my neighborhood with Maisie while we walk, seeing my neighbors through new eyes. I can change my hair color on a whim. And I can write about whatever I want.

And so we 20-somethings pick ourselves off the floor and gather up what’s left of the dignity we develop and shatter simultaneously. We try again. We apply again. We resubmit again. We “do” again.

1 – 21

  1. Maisie’s black puppy fur shining auburn in the sunlight
  2. Calm summer dusks humming with lawnmowers
  3. Thick, creamy pages of my journal
  4. New plates fastened on my car
  5. Down pillows at night
  6. Fresh flowers in a vase
  7. Lemonade with strawberry slices
  8. Slow conversation and familiar smiles with old acquaintances
  9. Backgammon on the front porch
  10. Maisie’s snores and snorts
  11. Sweet, fragrant peaches
  12. Green grass under my bare feet
  13. New scents of a unfamiliar city
  14. Fudgsicles
  15. Half & Half swirls in a glass of iced coffee
  16. Birds singing in the morning
  17. Leaning into the curve of a motorcycle’s sharp turn
  18. Scent of shampoo in my hair
  19. Brash, mismatched patterns in a quilt stitched by my great grandmother
  20. Unseen relief of the AC on a muggy afternoon
  21. Maisie’s chubby belly moving up and down as she sleeps