Saving Face Part Two

One week post accident

One week post accident

When it comes to trauma, recovery is measured in months, not weeks. It has been six weeks since the initial fall, and five weeks since my facial reconstruction surgery. If you could assign a percentage to my healing process, the doctors would say that my face is about 50% healed.

If you could assign a percentage to my emotional healing, I’d say that’s about 10% healed. Getting back to work this week was a true testament of how far I have come, and how far I have not.

Since my return to Minneapolis, everyone has reacted as expected. “You can’t even see the scar!” “You look beautiful as ever!” “You look great!” “You don’t look any different than before!”

My initial reaction is to jump into a dramatic episode called MTV True Life: I Shattered My Face. “You think you know, but you have no idea.”

My cheek is still swollen and puffy. I have four metal plates in my face – including one supporting my eye ball that the doctor compared to a Lay’s potato chip. My eyelid has a scar across it that makes me look like I got in a knife fight in prison. The stitches in my mouth haven’t dissolved. The feeling has yet to return across my cheek and scalp – making for awkward meal times, brushing my hair, and applying lip gloss.

My left leg is one giant mass of hardened blood. It’s gross to touch.

My shoulder is as good as a limp noodle.

But.

I can walk. I can type. I can see. I can drive. I no longer need narcotics for the pain. I am able to use a treadmill. I can still sing. I am still fully able to live alone in my adorable Uptown apartment. I can cook meals for myself. And I can still think. Some days are better than others, but my brain still works.

And so does my heart.

10392520_10152388805173640_2638462995214832988_nA big part of the healing for me is processing how to move forward after feeling all this love, attention, and care. And I truly believe the only way to truly process this is to Pay It Forward.

The accident has caused me to think a lot about the kind of person I am, and the kind of person I want to be. It’s caused me to think a lot about identity, and beauty, and what criteria is important in the concept of “self.”  It has caused me to think about what is important in my life. And by what, I really mean “who”.

And by important, I mean the idea of placing someone else’s needs entirely above your own. No strings attached. No hidden agenda. No Catch 22. Just putting someone else first. Maybe for a good reason (like an accident), or maybe for no reason at all beyond “Just Because.”

So many people have put my needs first, over their own, time and time again over this recovery. And I believe the greatest thing I will learn from this experience is how to fully love.

I’m not necessarily talking about romantic love either – just loving people because. Not needing a reason, or a fact sheet, or a give and gets checklist. Just loving others because loving others feels good. And sometimes there doesn’t need to be much more to it. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be a reason.

Of course Meatball came. Registered "therapy" dog.

Of course Meatball came. Registered “therapy” dog.

My mother and father dropped everything to be there for my surgery. Jobs, clients, trips, vacation plans – everything. I mean, you could argue that parents really forfeit their lives entirely the day they bring children into the world. My parents have put their kids before their own lives every moment of every day since we were born. This accident was no exception. And I wasn’t the easiest patient to deal with. Immediately upon waking up after the anesthesia, I told the nurse “Don’t let my mom touch my face. She’s a kisser. Don’t let her touch me.”

My mom was standing right there.

That night I may have sworn a time or two (or twenty) from the pain. My mother’s response was to rub my feet.

Making the most of a broken face on my birthday.

Making the most of a broken face on my birthday.

Matt made the drive to Madison countless times to help take care of me and attend to my every need. It was only recently I learned that he was supposed to be on a house boat during the majority of his one-month summer vacation from school. I am sure there are MANY things that would have been a lot more enjoyable than preparing my breakfast yogurt and watching Pretty Little Liars. But he never complained once.

Am I the kind of friend that would give up a house boat vacation to take care of someone just because they needed it?

I don’t know if I am. But I want to be.

Will I be the kind of parent that will alter all my life goals for the sake of helping my children attain their goals?

I don’t know if I will be. But I have the best examples that a daughter could ever ask for. My dad has always said “My dream is for my kids to chase their dreams.”

I hope to be that kind of parent.

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20140727_123905My brother Steven opened up his house to friends, family, and strangers alike for more than a month – never even thinking twice about it. Talk about having your life completely disrupted and all your privacy invaded. My little sister got coffee and lunch with me every day – and let me crash any social engagement she had, even if it was weird to have your older sibling tag along like a lost puppy…

20140807_220827Am I the kind of sibling that can open up my doors and every other aspect of my life to accommodate my brother and sister’s needs?

Am I the kind of person that is willing to feel uncomfortable for the sake of helping someone else be comfortable?

I don’t know. But I hope I can be.

I’ve lived most of my life believing the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” I’m not sure I can find a reason for breaking your face. But I can find a reason for needing love and devotion, like the kind I received from everyone the last several weeks. The reason is to send that love right back into the world. And be the kind of person that people were for me when I needed them most. To be like my parents, my siblings, Matt, Jenn, Janelle, Bailey, Mickey, and Jake – and countless others.

People have always said “You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.” I always thought this phrase pertained to an individual’s struggle and trials. But I am beginning to think it has nothing to do with the individual. You don’t know how strong and capable you are, until you have to be for someone else.

Saving Face is beginning to feel a lot more like Saving Heart.

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One day before I returned to Minneapolis.

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Saving Face

sf 2 It started out as the greatest weekend ever. Five best friends from college. One storybook cabin. Set on the most picturesque lakefront in northern Wisconsin. A whole weekend to play and laugh – and pick up right where we left off since the last time we were together. We had been planning the reunion weekend for months, and things were already sublimely perfect that Saturday afternoon.

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We were taking turns on the rope swing – the same one Bailey and her family had been using since she was a young child. The first time was certainly intense, but everyone successfully made the jump from the wooden platform to the deeper part of the lake. All our fears were subsided. Mine included. But it turns out that the third time really is a charm – and on my third jump, my legs caught hold of the land, and I was dragged into the water, landing face first on a rock in the shallows. At least that is how it has been described to me. I immediately got a concussion and have zero recollection of the next 2 hours of my life.

I’ve had some time to deal with the trauma of breaking my face and losing all physical components of my identity…but honestly? The one trauma I cannot even begin to comprehend is the one shared by my friends, as they had to drag my unconscious body out of the water. I wish this kind of awful event on no one – and my heart goes out to beautiful, incredible souls that were there that afternoon. Yes, already my best friends. But my love and connection to them has grown leaps and bounds because of this incident. I will forever be in awe of Bailey, Jake, Jenn, Janelle, and Mickey – and all that they did for me that day and have continued to do for me every moment since.

I know everyone went into immediate action mode – from retrieving me, stabilizing me on land, calling 911, and following me to not one, but two hospitals across northern Wisconsin. My first undeniable gratitude goes to Jake Dahlin – Bailey’s boyfriend.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had been hoping for a pure girl’s weekend at the cabin. I knew it would be fun regardless, but I was still being a whiney 7-year-old girl at the time and craving alone time with the girls. But Jake’s presence that weekend is proof that everything truly does happen for a reason. If Jake had not been there, I am not sure I’d be typing this right now. He remained completely calm and collected in the face of this tragedy, (a trait that does not come naturally to us girls – sorry ladies) and was able to pull me from the water with the help of Bailey and Jenn. He kept my head and neck completely stable while my blood fell on his lap. I will forever be grateful for Jake and the immense support he provided to my friends as they dealt with this unforeseeable accident. I’m sure this statement is against a feminist code somewhere: but I am so happy a male was around – and one as capable and caring as Jake.

I know that Bailey and Jenn helped cradle my body as well – while Mickey and Janelle called 911, and waited for the ambulance. Not only did these girls have to deal with the trauma of the moment, but they also had to deal with me being a relentless bitch when I finally came to.

You see – I am the go-to girl in the group. Or at least I usually like to think so. Whatever you need – physical, emotional, or mental – I have you covered. I am always in control. So when I woke up on a hospital bed with a neck brace, a morphine drip, and a bloody swimsuit, I went into hyper anti-vulnerable mode. Post-concussed Melissa apparently started barking orders at my friends – demanding to know where crucial things were like my air mattress and my sparkly headband.

You know. Important things.

You wouldn't want to lose that sparkly headband either!

You wouldn’t want to lose that sparkly headband either!

This reaction apparently helped soothe my friend’s concerns. I was certainly acting like my typical, sassy self. And if you ever get the chance – ask them for their take on my hospital visit. It’s a tragedy turned comedy. I apparently requested a beer at one point….

Only one girl was allowed in the emergency room at a time, and they all took their turns holding my hand, rubbing my head, and assuring me that I was going to be okay – despite my sass bucket attitude.

Mickey held my hand tightly, and did not flinch once as the doctor had to suture my eyelid. She even prompted me to use my yoga breathing to deal with the pain. The thought of her saying those words brings tears to my eyes still – because she knew exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. And she didn’t flinch when I proceeded to projectile vomit all over the room from the pain meds…

And then there is Matt.

No questions asked, Matt traveled an hour and a half on a Saturday night to be with me in the hospital. The girls had been through enough between Minocqua and Marshfield, and Matt took the reigns. He immediately dropped everything to come to my aid. He stayed with me all night in my hospital bed – through countless episodes of pokes, pricks, pukes, pain meds, and tremors. And lying in a twin hospital bed is no easy task for someone that is 6 foot 7….

20140720_130419When I was finally allowed to eat the next day, he went all over Marshfield colleting every item I could have ever wanted – Culvers custard with hot fudge, pulled pork sandwich, bacon cheeseburger, Burger King fries, hash browns– and the ultimate care package filled with Band-Aids, Neosporin, Ibuprofen – everything. It was later we learned that my recovery would take a lot more than Band-Aids. I would need to have facial reconstruction surgery to repair the multiple broken bones across my cheek and eye.

And so the train phone began. To my brother in Madison. My parents in Boston. And everyone else from California to Denmark. It was difficult for me to communicate with anyone – so Matt became my impromptu nurse and my telephone operator, making sure my parents were constantly texted, called, and informed until they could be there themselves for the surgery.

Pretty funny how it takes breaking your face to make you realize that you are the luckiest, most loved individual on the planet. The love and gratitude that I have for everyone that has been by my side since the moment I fell astounds me. To the point that I can barely find words to continue.

I mostly wanted to write this post to say “Thank you”. Thank you to everyone that has shared their time, thoughts, words, prayers, and compassion with me. It has not gone unnoticed. It may seem like a simple text to you – but it means the world to me. Because words mean everything to me. So thank you to everyone that has shared their words. Thank you for reminding me that home is not about a location. It’s a place in my heart where all your love lives. Thank you for brining me home.

More to come on Saving Face…

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A Writer’s Dream Come True

sally-fieldsAs a writer, there is nothing more flattering than having someone like your work enough to want to publish it on their site. When I found out that my work would be featured on Fulfillment Daily, I had a Sally Field’s moment. “You like me! You really like me!”

Fulfillment Daily is new website with one mission: give you daily doses of inspiration to help you live a happier life. And those doses are all backed by science. Pretty neat, huh?

It’s has been incredibly rewarding to work with the Fulfillment Daily crew thus far, and I feel I have already grown leaps and bounds as a writer. It’s another way to reach people with my words – and there is really no greater joy for me.

Be sure to give them a follow. It will probably be one of the most productive things you do today.

And now for a little shameless self-promotion: go give my latest article a gander. “5 Healthy Ways To Deal With Loneliness After A Breakup.”

It was definitely hard for me to publish something that hit so close to home. Which is maybe why I haven’t written about said topic here. So thanks Fulfillment Daily for giving me another outlet to deal with all the crazy thoughts swimming in my head!

Melissa Faulkner

 

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The Great Bull Run of 2014

20140621_123045Matt Backhaus can be summed up by his signature phrase “I’ll try anything twice.”

So when he asked me to join in him in an event titled “The Great Bull Run”, I didn’t really think anything of it. I was not the least bit surprised.

In fact, I was almost a little offended. I pride myself on knowing about all the quirky, awesome, local Minneapolis events, so when he discovered this before me, I was a little peeved.

I enthusiastically accepted.

And then I read the event description. “Face the adrenaline rush of a lifetime as you run beside 1,500-pound bulls stampeding down a quarter-mile course, then celebrate with thousands of thrill-seekers in a massive, day-long festival that also features our insane tomato food fight, Tomato Royale!”

Festival? I can get down with that. 1,500 pound bulls, and a tomato food fight that requires protective eyewear? Eh, not so much.

But Matt asked me. And I didn’t really have a good reason to say no (see previous blog post about trying new things). I’ll admit, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I said “I always want to take new adventures,” but I was certain it would make for a killer story.

20140621_115453And apparently the local NBC news station thought so too.

A couple days before the run, a message went out to the Great Bull Run participants, stating that NBC was looking for local runners to interview. On a whim, I sent a two sentence email: I am running with the bulls. And I am not camera shy.” Three hours later I was being interviewed outside my boss’s window. Apparently I didn’t really fit the “Bull Runner” stereotype, which made for an interesting twist to the story. You can see the video in all it’s glory below. Including an excellent clip of me laughing at my own joke in typical Melissa fashion.

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Until this point, I hadn’t really publicized my weekend intentions. Not even to my parents. But obviously I wanted to share my 15 minutes of fame – and that’s when the calls and emails came flooding in.

“WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?”

“MELISSA. THIS IS REALLY DUMB.”

“Melissa, please don’t do this. It is dangerous.”

I even got concern from strangers. One brave gentleman Facebook messaged me and said “I saw you on the news. You’re kinda cute. If you survive, we should get drinks. Sorry if this is creepy.”

Yes. Yes, this is creepy.bull 4

And so the big day of the event arrived. I enjoy a good cup of coffee before I risk being gored by an animal, so I headed down to the local coffee shop. In typical Minneapolis Nice fashion, my barista asked me what my Saturday plans were. Ironically, I just happened to be at Bull Run Coffee. When I responded  with “running with the bulls” I think she thought I was making a joke.

Nope. No joke. Actually running with bulls. And sorry I came here and made things super awkward for all parties involved…

The Great Bull Run certainly delivered in festival-atmosphere. Country music, Bud Light, Foam Pits, mechanical bulls, absurd costumes (Fred Flintstone, fanny packs, “Insert Horn Here” shirts, tutus), and of course: muscular, non-castrated, male bovines.

You’re herded into the arena (pun intended), and you’re handed your red bandana. You say a gimmicky chant about honoring the bulls and Ole and stuff, and then they lock the red gates. And then the bulls come out in four waves of seven. And you run.

It looks something like this:

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Six minutes later it was over. And all we got were a bunch of bull selfies (see what I did there?). And a lot of bragging rights. And my name on a PETA hit list. And some minor street cred. And a good story for the bars that night. And a great topic for this blog post.

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Oh, and my first TV appearance. Not how I originally envisioned my 15 minutes of fame, but I’ll take what I can get.

Worth it? Most definitely. And my co workers have spared me no expense since.

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Defining Yourself After College

In 5 days, it will be exactly one year since I graduated college.

Hollister T's all day every day. Circa 2002.

Hollister T’s all day every day. Circa 2002.

When I think back on 13-year-old Melissa, I think 13-year-old Melissa thought she would have things figured out by 23. I thought that I would graduate college, and I would know who I am. I would know what gets to me, what makes me tick, what makes me sick, and what brings me joy. I thought I would step into this role as my “real and true” self. I was pretty sure that by 23 I would know who I was.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about what it means to “define yourself.” When I introduce myself at social gatherings (aka bars), usually the first topic of conversation is what I do for a living.

Well. I do marketing. But is that what defines me? Is that who I am? A marketer?

downloadWhen I switched my major in college to marketing, I was 100% certain it was my calling in life. Applying to Wisconsin’s School of Business was the best decision I ever made. I made the decision after taking a year off of school – a year filled with a lot of soul searching. I was pretty certain I had figured out who I was at that point. Or who I was supposed to be. I was certain that I would obtain my marketing degree, and take a job that filled me with energy, passion, and excitement. I would change the world as a new marketer! I was certain I had found my key to happiness. Marketing would define my future, and I was okay with that. I was down right excited about it. Marketing was me. The real, true me. That’s who I was. A UW Business student. A marketing major.

IMG_6919In college, you get so used to having this label – this title that defines you – that I think you leave college and crave that same title. You crave the elevator pitch that defines who you are, and what you offer the world. “I am a University of Wisconsin Business Student.” Boom. Done.

Taking a full-time job in your field of choice (hopefully) seems like a great way to define yourself post-college. “I am marketing specialist for an agency.” Boom. Done.

After all, you’re going to spend 80% of your week doing that job. Your job will consume your days, and it will provide you with a title to place on your Facebook, your LinkedIn, and your email signature. And that will define you. And that feels comfortable because a definition is what you are used to.

I’m starting to realize that, to some degree, a job is always going to be a job. And if I rely on my job to define me, I am quickly headed for the path of un-fulfillment.

Yes. I do marketing. I do a lot of marketing.  Marketing defines my days, but does it define me? Is that who I am? Is that the real me? How do I figure out who the real me is? Is this the key to happiness? Figuring out the dictionary definition of Melissa Faulkner?

glitterIn these conversations about “defining yourself” – there always tends to be some tangent about knowing who the “real you” is. Defining ourselves is not about one activity – like marketing – but a lot of activities. And finding all those things that get deep under your skin and light up your soul….those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make up the “real you.” Supposedly when you are doing these activities that define you, you shine. And it’s obvious to everyone around you. Like Twilight. Literally your skin will glisten with diamonds.

Anyway.

I’m starting to have these thoughts that I don’t want to be defined by anything.

I still love marketing. I still love social media. And I really love yoga.

I also love organized dresser drawers. And I love iced coffee with a little bit of soymilk. I love cotton nightgowns. I love having proper glassware for every type of cocktail. I really like bike riding. I really like bike riding with a buddy. And I love grocery shopping. I love buying things I don’t need and not needing any justification beyond “Because I wanted to.”

But I don’t want any of this to define me. I’m not sure I ever want to 100% know, without a doubt, who I am. Who the real me is. Because that’s when the adventures stop. That’s when the fun, and the growth, and the change stops. I constantly want to test the limits of who I am. I constantly want to be learning and growing – and discovering myself. I don’t want to be afraid to do new things, because it might not be in line with what already defines me. I don’t want other people to be afraid to ask me to try new things, because it doesn’t seem to fit with what defines me. I don’t want to be a definition. Or a title. Or an email signature.

IMG_6957I want my soul to be one giant, empty book – nothing but blank pages waiting to be filled. Stories to be written. Experiments to record. Data to collect. Songs to be sung.

It has been one year since I graduated, and I still have absolutely no idea who I am. And I think I am okay with that. I am not sure I ever want to know exactly who I am. Because I want to redefine that every day. Because I never want a reason to say “no.”

I know I am not unique or special in this post-college identity crisis. But I really want to stop thinking that this identity crisis is some disease that I need to cure. Maybe this identity crisis is a blessing in disguise. Maybe it is a reason to always say “yes.”

In closing, I’d like to quote Viktor E. Frankl from his book Man’s Search for Meaning. “Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

I’ve decided it’s time to just stop caring about finding myself, defining myself, finding my true self – whatever you want to call it. I’m just gonna let it happen.

Bring it on, Life.

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My Pick Six in Minneapolis

Being a transplant in a new city inevitably means that you will have visitors. Or…at least I hope so.

Dear new person in a new city – I really hope your friends from your former city come to visit you.

Dear former friends of new person in new city– GO VISIT YOUR FREAKING FRIENDS. MOVING TO A NEW CITY IS REALLY HARD, OK?

Fortunately, I haven’t had to be that blunt with anyone yet. I have been very lucky to have many visitors from my former life.

Planning weekend visits is beneficial for two reasons. 1) You get the chance to reflect on all the things there are to do. Suddenly you realize “Wait…this place isn’t that bad. Look at all this cool shit to do!”

And 2) Your friends are equally impressed with all the cool, new shit to do. And suddenly you find yourself bragging about how awesome your new life is, when in reality you spend a lot of nights home alone contemplating why the hell you ever left your old life behind…

jayIts kind of this self-fulfilling prophecy – tell everyone how awesome and cool your life is, and then all of a sudden, your life actually becomes that cool and awesome. And your friend’s positive reaction to all this cool stuff only validates that. And I’m all like “LOOK AT HOW I RUN THIS CITY! I LOVE MY CITY AND MY CITY LOVES ME!” like I’m Jay-Z throwing down for Brooklyn every damn day.

Not really.

But anyway…The Minneapolis Pick Six.

The top six places that I have taken my friends and family to show them just how awesome my new life is (without giving away that I miss them desperately and just wish we were all still together…).

Bryant1. Bryant Lake Bowl

And the award for most hipster joint in North America goes to…Bryant Lake Bowl. Craft beer, vegan, organic, locally produced menu, a vintage sign that hasn’t been touched since the 60’s (even though the place opened in 1993..), and an ironically never-renovated eight-lane bowling alley just casually chilling at the back of the bar. Bryant Lake Bowl is honestly the shit. You can bet your ass we are going there if you come to visit me. Doesn’t hurt that it’s only three blocks from my place…so no one has to feel bad about having one too many PBR’s…or rail tequila shots…

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1029_lobster_roll2. 1029 Bar

Bingo starts at 2. And if you want any hope of sitting down, you best be there by 1. You’ll be sitting next to the North East locals that haven’t left the bar since 1975. Stella will call out the numbers, but don’t you dare give her a $20 for a $1 bingo card. She ain’t got that kind of change. And when you find yourself a little buzzed from their homemade bloodies served in plastic cups, you can order the infamous Smack Shack Lobster Roll. And you will never be the same.

3. Indeed Tap Room

In fact, any tap room is on my list. Tap Rooms are a new concept to me, as to probably most of the world. A couple of years ago, you used to not be able to serve beer in Minnesota at the same place you brewed it. Then one brewery decided that staproom1ucked, and the Surly Law was passed. So breweries started adding tap rooms to their properties. “Tap Room Lyfe” is very different than the Minneapolis bar scene. Tap rooms are usually only open til 10 PM, and they tend to feel like big open warehouses. Lots of windows, lots of wooden tables, lots of board games. You can actually hold a conversation with people. And – food trucks normally swing by since the tap rooms rarely serve food. Nothing like sipping a craft brew pint at 4 PM while playing Cards of Humanity over a wooden barrel.

TOURIST VFW flag4. The VFW

It’s hard to miss the VFW in Uptown. See Photo. The VFW holds all sorts of tantalizing events –  Meat Raffles, Two Fisted Trivia (I have no idea what this actually is…), and of course, karaoke. My personal favorite. Karaoke is so popular at VFW that you to have to arrive early just to get your name on the call list! There is nothing sadder than when old man Richard gets up from behind his DJ Station to sing God Bless America at 2 AM…signaling that it is time to GTFO. You have missed your chance to sing Hit Me Baby One More Time.

5. Common Roots Cafe

common rootsI am in a serious love affair with Common Roots Cafe. Their slogan is “Don’t compromise your values or your taste buds.” And they aren’t messing around about that. Everything is made from scratch using local and organic ingredients – making for the most orgasmic breakfast sandwich I ever had had the privilege of eating. The staff is so cool that I almsot don’t feel worthy ordering from them – but they do provide great style inspriation like purple hair and white washed jeans. And they constantly rotate the art in Common Roots to feature different local artists – one of which I ordered a custom cow print from. Yes. A painting of a cow. And the artist turned out to be the sweetest woman ever, and now we follow each other on Instagram, so we are basically best friends. Because that’s just how Minnesota works.

6. Lake Calhoun

lakeNow, in my former life in Madison, we all bragged about the lake. But I am sorry to break all you Madison lake lover’s hearts – Minneapolis KILLS Madison in lake life. All the lakes (all 12,000), are lined with walking and biking paths. As opposed to Lake Mendota, where it’s not plausible to traverse the perimeter of the lake due to….well…Maple Bluff. It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 degrees or 80 degrees. If the sun is out, all of Minneapolis can be found walking/running/biking/frolicking on the path at Lake Calhoun. With their dogs. And their babies. And their smiles. Lake Calhoun is the place that makes Minneapolis winter’s worth it.

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Writing about Writing: A Joan Didion Review

1383348_10152279756790726_743771316_nI had a thought to write a blog post about my vacation in St. Lucia. But how boring would that be? It was warm. I got tan. I swam in the ocean and drank approximately 600 rum punch cocktails. I posted 4,000 selfies to my Instagram. I called it #springbreakselfieseries. I probably lost a lot of followers.

Now. Let’s write about what really mattered in St. Lucia. Which is…well…the writing. I spent a lot of sleepless nights, writing in St. Lucia. Things that I will probably never publish, never share, never mail. But it was what I needed from that vacation. My parents must have had some premonition back in November that I was going to need to escape the winter blues in March. And damn, were they right. Despite being on an emotional roller coaster in the middle of March, there are certainly far worse places to sort out your feelings than by a turquoise ocean in the constant 75 degree sunshine. And for this, I am grateful.

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A friend recommended I pick up some Joan Didion before I headed to the surf and sand. Her book “Slouching Towards Bslouching-towards-bethlehem-essays-joan-didion-paperback-cover-artethlehem” defined my vacation. The book is now smothered in pink pen and yellow highlighter (that was all I could find in my sister’s backpack…).

I was sitting by the pool, reading an essay on keeping a notebook. And I just started to cry. I’d never read anything so black and wIMG_8814hite about who I am. “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

I have been keeping a notebook since I was eight. I often go back and read my entries – to remind myself how far I’ve come, and how far I haven’t. To remind myself that the things that plagued me – in fact – ended. I did – in fact – heal. And the wounds I thought I’d carry forever, did in fact, disappear.

I do my best writings in the morning. Between 2 and 4 AM. I will literally be jolted awake, as if some phrase could physically grow a fist, and knock at my head. If I don’t write it down, it will never stop pounding. I know the feeling all too well, and I’ve grown to just accept it. When the old bits and pieces of my former self come knocking, I just answer with words. And there I lay them, in my notebook. Like my words are just infantile children that I must coddle, swaddle and burrito. A little baby word burrito. Just keep them pacified. Keep them at bay. Because the next time I look at these infant words again, they will not be infant words. They will be seasoned adults. Words as settled as aged cheddar cheese. And matured red wine. Words that don’t need my care and attention anymore. Words that don’t sting the way they used to.

IMG_8747Giving physical life to the words in my head immortalizes them and brings death to them at the same time. And it’s just about the only way I know how to cope. And it’s a very solitary way to cope. And I think it scares people. But I just came this way. Didion expressed similar sentiments in the same essay. “Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant re-arrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”

It’s this idea of needing to be “alone” to cope (and therefore, write) is probably what bothers most people about me. It’s the part of me they don’t understand. Ask anyone to describe me, and the first qualities named would probably be outgoing, social, vicarious, and loud. Retreating into isolation during times of trouble is about the most contradictory trait in my book (pun intended?).

IMG_8940In another essay, Didion wrote about the American Dream that we have all forgotten – the want to be alone. And free. She talks about the reasons we kept chasing the Pacific throughout the nineteenth century –“to be a free agent, live by one’s own rules.” Nowadays, being a social beacon is trait to be admired. And frankly, I think it is a trait I possess. But the older I get, the more isolated I get. The more I desire to be alone. It’s a growing want and need that probably scares those closest to me – more than my frantic notebook jottings. But it’s this side of myself that I grow more comfortable with as I get older. And I am proud of it. To sort out the inner workings of my brain and heart entirely on my own is a survival skill. And I think it will ultimately be the one trait that keeps me sane as I navigate “adulthood.”

When I am alone, I write. And when I write, I feel like the best version of myself. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It’s the only time of the day that I can intrinsically validate myself. And that, above all, should be a trait to admire.

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Going To a Bar Alone

An opportunity presented itself last week – an opportunity to do something that utterly terrified me. I’m all about pushing my limits these days (new city, new job, new adventures, you know the drill), so I decided to go to a bar by myself. I’ve always stigmatized solo bar dates to be demeaning and depressing, but something about this seemed liberating. A chance to prove to myself that I was capable of sitting, eating, and drinking alone – in public. I mean…I am really good at sitting. And eating. And drinking. So I am not sure why this particular evening seemed more out of my comfort zone than normal.

42_01_ARTS_COURTESY_MOTHThe Moth radio puts on a live Story Tellers session once a month at the Amsterdam in St. Paul. It’s real people (as opposed to fake), that get up and tell real, live stories. Some are pros, some are not. But it’s always a good time.

I purchased tickets for myself and my main Minneapolis guuuuurl Ashlayyy. But she decided to have a client dinner, or some bull like that, and couldn’t attend. I know approximately four people in Minneapolis, so the list of back-up dates was short. And one was going to be in El Salvador (cough cough, Matt, I hate you, cough cough).

And I wasn’t going to go alone. No way.

So I sulked my way to a coworker’s desk, to offer her and her husband the tickets. My treat. Rather see them get used than not. She was unavailable, but our mysterious, trendy, art director overheard my proposal, and all about lost her mind upon hearing that The Moth had live events.

I don’t want to stereotype or anything…but Michelle looks like she would be totally into The Moth. Michelle is so cool that she doesn’t even go by Michelle. She goes by Meesh. She has the coolest hair – bleach blonde on top, neon pink on bottom, with some carmel-brown hi-lights. Her hair looks like a Neopolitan Ice Cream Cookie sandwich – and she freaking rocks it. Like…what the hell. Who rocks that?

tumblr_mlbaqnvtT91r4xjo2o1_r1_500 She has thick, black glasses. And wears bright blue ankle booties and cat sweaters. And her desk is covered in interesting art (and yes, cat gifs), – art that is probably so much cooler than my untrained eye can even comprehend. Meesh is honestly the only person in the office that I have barely interacted with, because I feel this insane pressure to say something awesome, interesting and profound to her. I am undeniably intimidated by her level of coolness, so I just choose not to approach her.

Meesh said she would love to take the tickets. She had a date that night, and it would be a perfect event. She kindly asked why I couldn’t go. I bashfully started picking at my nails and looking at the floor, and was able to mutter “Well…it’s not that I can’t go…I just…don’t have anyone to go with. I know like…4 people in the city…so…”

Bless her heart, Meesh offered to make a group affair out of it. She would bring her date, and they would meet me there, and it would be a joyous, fun event.

My first thought was to abort. Abort the mission before she realized I was a cool phony.

But then I thought about the 452 blog posts I have read titled “How To Make Friends In a New City.” I know that I am NOT ALLOWED to turn down ANY social invitations. So I awkwardly accepted her invitation to crash the party that I had initiated.

We agreed to meet there. I knew how valuable seat retail was at the Amsterdam, so I decided to go early and save seats for us. Then I thought about the traffic, and the parking, and decided I’d just go right from work. I arrived about 45 minutes before the doors were supposed to open. So there I was. At the bar. Alone. And I wanted to jump for joy and give myself a gold star for doing something that I had 100% sworn off.

5488823250_57d22f0c19_zI asked the bartender for a beer recommendation, since I was new to town and wanted to try something local. The couple sitting next to me overheard me, and in true Minnesota Nice fashion, began to ask me questions – about my move, my job, my favorite hobbies, my hometown, and my hopes, dreams, and future goals for happiness.

And then the man that I will forever refer to as “The Origamist” showed up. Probably in his mid-fifties. British accent. Yelling orders across the bar for a very specific drink with Bombay Sapphire and grapefruit. But of course he sounded adorable and not demanding. While he waited for his drink, my new friends and I struck up convo with him, and I too, was Minnesota Nice.

The man proceeded to tear about the 5X5 paper menu on the bar counter, and fold in every which way. By the end of our conversation, he had made a paper rose. That he handed to someone other than me.

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Rude.

Not Minnesota Nice.

I went through a state of black-out anxiety while at the bar alone. I don’t remember anything that was talked about or shared. I just remember being exhilarated that I was so uncomfortable.

But it wasn’t awkward. And the beer was good, and the portobello mushroom slider was even better.

I went to save us seats, and Meesh texted me to tell me she’d be late. But she had previously promised she would be late. So NBD. I’d forgive her for anything. She’s just too cool.

When she arrived, she apologized for being behind schedule. Her date was running late at his studio, because he’s on a deadline to finish the album artwork for Arcade Fire’s next album.

Really Meesh? Just. Stop. You have enough street cred.

And there we sat, on our awkward third-wheel date, listening to strangers tell us stories about heartbreak. Stories about abandoned love, abandoned children, and adolescent confusion surrounding the term “Blow Job.” And suddenly sitting alone at a bar for an hour didn’t seem like that big of a deal. amsterdam-b-fr-mtpmcg-1211-sm-3970

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Meeting New People

1474410_10152077459395726_1159010951_nI think the biggest fear of moving to a new place post-college is how to meet people. It’s always so easy in school. “Oh, I have class with you. Oh, you like pineapple Smirnoff too? Oh, yeah, I will be at the football game. Let’s get rip-roaring drunk together, spill our biggest secrets, and become best friends.” Nothing says friendship like doing a shot-ski together, and wiping mascara-soaked tears off your new BFF when the guy she is crushing doesn’t text her back.

Fast forward to this thing people keep calling “adult life” – where apparently it isn’t socially acceptable to puke on the first night of meeting someone. Suddenly there is all this pressure to have things of value to say. I can’t just complain about my Accounting final, or talk about our mutual friends that hooked up, or realize we actually used to live right next to each other sophomore year. Instead we talk about weather, our favorite local brewery, green tea, coffee addictions that led to green tea, and the recent sale on tights at Macy’s. Oh, and trend diets. My personal NON-FAVORITE OF ALL TIME EVER.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to meet people – at work, at the coffee shop, at the tap room, and at the yoga studio. But the opening topic is the hardest. So below is my personal brainstorm session for appropriate starting topics while meeting new friends:

I don't discriminate. I like it all.

I don’t discriminate. I like it all.

Ranch

  • Ranch Dressing is probably my favorite conversation topic of all time. My personal life-quest is to find the best ranch in the world. I put ranch dressing on everything. And if you can’t get down with that within the first five minutes of meeting me, then it’s just not gonna work out. This particular topic makes some people cringe, and they get this look in their eyes – like an internal alarm is going off, screaming “FATTIE ALERT. FATTIE ALERT.” But most true Midwestern-ers will usually just chime in with their poison of choice – blue cheese, guacamole, hummus, mayo… Condiments are always a safe and fun way to find commonalities when meeting new people. And maybe it can even lead to another meet-up, where we conquer the Ranches of the World together.

Croatia Yacht Week

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#10Friends

  • Some friends and I recently decided that the main goal in meeting new people would be to recruit friends for Croatia Yacht Week 2015. #CYW2015 if you will. Hashtag Blessed. It is common knowledge that the perefect number for said week is 10. Hashtag 10 Friends. In fact, 10 friends is kind of the optimal number for everthing – camping, renting out tap rooms, potluck dinner parties, summer softball league – you name it. 10 friends is ideal. So when meeting new people, I think this might be a worthy starter. “So. We are currently recruiting friends for Croatia Yacht Week. It’s over a year away, so that leaves plenty of time to assess your character. Consider this an audition period. And the prize is a starring role as ‘champagne manager’ on our yacht. Think it over. I’ll need to make sure we both look good in the same filter too, so if you could just hold still for this selfie really quick…”
You see the resemblance now, don't ya?

You see the resemblance now, don’t ya?

Spirit Animals

  • I’ve found I have a knack for telling people what animal they are. Give me a few minutes of creepily stalking you and judging your every word, and I bet I can guess exactly what animal you would be. Although, sometimes this can create immediate enemies, rather than friends. Not everyone is comfortable with the truth about their spirit animal. But I am just here to serve the people, ya know? If things get awkward, I tend to just place focus on me. My spirit animal is  a moose. And I turned out okay. Kind of.
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yummy.

How About Dem Packers?

  • This particular topic is touchy. In Minneapolis, there is a good chance the person you are talking to is a Packer Fan. Because. The Packers. But if they aren’t, just run. It’s better than listening to them talk about their fan hood for some other team. Much like the ranch situation, if you don’t care for the Packers, then I’m over you, and you are not #10Friends material. Here’s the only problem with Packers talk. I actually don’t know anything about football. I know I want to have babies with Clay Matthews. And I know that Aaron Rodgers is the greatest human specimen on the planet. But the second you start talking about play-by-plays, it is pretty obvious I am a football phony. It’s kind of like knowing one phrase in another language. I ask you “Where is the bathroom?” in Italian, thinking I’ll  appear really cultured and sexy for knowing another language. And then you respond in Italian. Only for me to ask you to respond in English cuz I don’t speak Italian….. yeah…busted.

And lastly…weather.

  • Lord knows I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. It’s cold, okay. Winter blows. You know it. I know it. Can we just stop already? Cuz nothing says anti-friendship like complaining. No more weather. Just. No.

Perhaps soon I will have data to support the success (or failure) rates of these topics. But in the mean time, I could use some suggestions for how to talk to strangers. Where all my adult friends at?!

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How To Have a Bad Morning

imagesYou know it’s going to be a rough morning when you wake up and it’s the warmest it will be all day. At 7 AM. 4 degrees below zero, and the temperature is steadily dropping. Your car will struggle to start, you will soon lose all feeling in the tip of your nose, and the coffee in your thermos will lose 90% of its heat before you finish your 15 minute commute to work.

Or. Your front tire will blow out in the middle of a five-lane highway interchange, and you won’t make it to work. That’s definitely one way to have a bad morning.

I don’t deal with crisis well. ESPECIALLY car crisis. See previous post: Dealing With Car Troubles as an Adult. So when my front tire exploded while I was going 60 MPH during rush hour at a curve that three major highways meet at, I kind of broke down. Quite literally.

firestone-tire-blowoutI was able to move onto a shoulder and avoid any collisions. Blessing #1. But there I was, at one of the busiest interchanges in South Minneapolis, and it was a whopping -8 degrees outside. Luckily, I had just recently switched my insurance to include Emergency Roadside Assistance, and had the number on speed dial before I had ever even moved to the Twin Cities. I called only to hear this lovely recording: “We are currently experiencing heavy volume of callers. You’re wait time is 20 minutes.”

And that is when I lost it.

It was only minutes prior that I had been listening to the weather on the radio – with the alarming warnings that even five minutes outside could lead to frost bite and hypothermia. I internalized that as “If you are outside, you will die.” So I messaged my parents to say my goodbyes. They calmly responded with “Stay in your car, and call a tow truck.”

I googled Minneapolis Towing – another reason I was hysterical. I didn’t have the first clue who to call or where to even get my car towed. That was the whole point of having Emergency Roadside Assistance, so I didn’t have to do this. I called the first company on the list. The guy who answered could tell how distressed I was. Maybe it was the sobbing, breath-inhibiting sentences I was failing to form. He told me they were swamped and gave me a different number to call – a smaller company that probably wouldn’t be as busy. I had almost managed to keep my composure with the next tow truck company – until the woman told me it would be about 40 minutes til the truck could get there. And then I lost it again. Black-out hysteria style. The last thing I remember saying is “So you are sure I can’t freeze and die in that time period?”

Meanwhile I had texts out to everyone I knew. Including a friend at work. Who informed the rest of work. And then I had a call from a very concerned superior. Who caught me at a particularly rough moment of hysteria. So…that’s awesome. Three weeks into a new job, and I’ve already cried to my boss about how I can’t handle adult problems. Great start to a working relationship, right?

geicoI decided to pass the time in my frozen tomb by hunting down Geico. When I got through, I had some very choice words from them about what it means to pay for Emergency Roadside Assistance and to be abandoned during an emergency. Let’s just say I think I have free emergency towing for the rest of my life.

What felt like four hours later, I was finally rescued. The first thing the tow truck driver said was “You just had to break down in the busiest and most dangerous part of town, eh?” I immediately felt that my hysteria was justified.

The best part of the morning was by far the conversation that took place between the two tow truck drivers. They bantered back and forth in some of the thickest Minnesota accents I have ever heard. And yes, they had beards. I lamented about why I chose to move to an even colder city than Madison, and one driver responded with “Yeah…I’d live down south fer shure, if it weren’t for all dem critters.”

I didn’t ask him to elaborate on critters. But yes sir, I agree. Critters are the worst.

Moes_Southwest_Grill_homeI finally strolled into work at quarter to 12. Where a catered taco buffet lunch was waiting for me. Bad mornings always have a way of turning into good afternoons.

Alas, the Polar Vortex strikes again. Claiming my two front tires, my office reputation, and my waist line. Cuz you know I stress-ate those tacos all damn day.

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