Orbital

The first time I watched the video, I was a little fixated on her crop top. Not her voice. Not their voices in harmony. But her lace-edged top, a little expanse of navel visible as she swayed and sang. Perhaps I should back up. I was very pregnant with my first child. It was late August 2015 and hard to tell if the constant weight on me was the relentless South Carolina heat or the ever-present question of when this baby would come out.

I knew Joy Williams was a mother, as I was about to become, and there she was wearing a crop top. A crop top. Her stomach showing. Now, I feel nothing but kindness toward this past version of myself. I have always latched on to small, possibly meaningless things in the face of great change as a way of feeling my way through it. And I think when a 8.8 lb. baby is rounding your belly, pulling your skin taut, and shoving other organs out of the way, feeling curious about what the aftermath might look like is only natural. 

It was the last hour of the work day and I rocked on my birth ball, listening in my headphones, again and again. Joy Williams and Haley Williams (of Paramore) had collaborated on an original song. Shot in black and white, the video documents their time in the studio recording this song: cheap saint devotional candles flickering, topknots, earnest swaying, collapsing in fits of laughter. The vibe was so definitively female and strong. I learned later that Joy had been a mentor of sorts to Haley, and this made sense: the clear current of sisterhood hums through the video—and I, almost but not yet initiated into another kind of sisterhood, listened to this song and felt emboldened.

+++++++++++++

I'm sure I was driving a respectable, responsible speed, but what I remember is hurtling through the night in my Honda, listening to Joy Williams and Haley Williams sing about heartbreak again. It's late September 2016. There's a carseat in the back, but it's empty. I am escaping. It has been a strained, sleepless summer that required me to keep moving full steam ahead, despite the presence of some significant, subterranean hurts that only my husband knew about. And because I am a woman, I did. I carried on, meeting the needs of my husband, my baby, my coworkers, my family. In August, I turn 27 and work all day; nothing changes. By September, I am coming unglued. Fraying at the edges. Worn thin. All those clichés for a cracking under a burden too great. 

This time, the lyrics hit me first:

there is not a single word in the whole world / that could describe the hurt / the dullest knife just sawing back and forth / ripping through the softest skin there ever was / how were you to know / oh how were you to know

It reads dramatic. But it feels knowing and empathetic, the shoulder-bracing hug from a woman who knows you deeply and nods affirmingly, murmuring yes, yes, this sucks so much

— which is all I needed after a summer of self-imposed silence and inner retreat. The female energy of that song washed over me, and I turned it up loud, letting Joy and Haley assure me:

for all the air that's in your lungs / for all the joy that is to come/  for all the things that you're alive to feel /  just let the pain remind you hearts can heal

++++++++++++++++++

When I stumble upon the song again, in early 2018, I am hearing it muffled through the past. The headphones of 2015. The heart squeezing of 2016. I am under the water of all those feelings from before and I cannot get my head above it to hear it afresh, as it really is. 

Which delivers me to this moment, to this realization, to this song's third, roundabout gift to me: I am underwater in the right now of my life. Not in a can't-swim, can't-breathe way—more like a good God I'll be tired when I haul myself out. Is there a nap as idyllic as falling asleep in strong sun after a long swim? Water drying on the back, evaporating out of swimsuits, the good kind of physical fatigue tucking eyelids in. I dream of naps in the sun. 

I dream of naps, period. Life has cycled around again, bringing my second child and the sleepless nights that come with an infant. Jury's out on if I would wear Joy William's crop top. The aftermath of pregnancy and childbirth is not a mystery to me any longer; my belly has emerged the same, but a little stretched. Familiar, but stretched—it's exactly how I felt as a person after my first child. But this time around, my inner self often feels strange and new, caught in some contortion of in-between. Am I shedding or holding on for dear life? Honestly, both. Honestly, I don't know. 

My heart is not breaking. This process—growing into a mother just as my two babies grow into boys—is not a bad one, far from it. It's just that as Joy and Haley's song orbits me around, past those earlier years, earlier me, I'm forced to see that I've changed, I'm changing. Orbit is the right word because it's a circle, a cycle, and see, I'm right back where I started before the first baby was even born: knowing that I will change, but not yet knowing how.

 

Kathryn DavéComment
Best Laid Plans

At just a couple months pregnant, tummy barely rounding yet, the first piece of baby gear I decided to purchase was a Moses basket. 

There is, of course, the visceral pleasure of things basketed. Think of the joys of the get well basket, the welcome basket, the congratulations basket, even the shrink-wrapped Bath & Body Works 'bath set' basket from the early aughts. Tucking items into a woven natural container amplifies the pleasure, if not the value, of said items. What could be more delightful than a baby — the most precious item — in a basket?

Then you must confront the undeniable aesthetic appeal of the basket. There's a reason all the Instagram moms have one. Woven from natural, blond-colored reeds (straw? who knows?), it does not offend my eye, the way most baby gear does. We decided that the baby's initial sleeping arrangement would be this Moses basket and an unobtrusive, blond wood rocking stand to hold it. Far beyond functionality, the look of this setup drove my decision. I knew it, and I didn't care, finding it important to dam my taste and my ideals against the tide of brightly-colored baby consumerism. A month or two later, my mom dropped off the first baby gifts—among them, a Fisher Price Rock'n'Play. Dumb name. But according to Amazon reviews and blogger roundups, this was a baby must-have. I shrugged my shoulders and felt grateful to have one and mentally moved on, stowing it in the closet. 

"You know," my mom said, half-teasing me, "he might end up sleeping in that Rock'n'Play instead of that basket. I've heard that babies like how it makes them feel cozy." 

"Oh, I don't know," I replied, tossing my hair and launching into a defense of my Moses basket, my aesthetic choice, my ideals.

My baby is now three weeks old. He has slept in the Moses basket for a total of four day naps and zero night sleeps. 

Every night, after rocking and swaddling and shhhhh-ing, we gently lower him into the Rock'n'Play, rocking it with one hand and eyeing him carefully to make sure his sink into slumber is undisturbed. The snug, angled mesh hugs his tiny body, and he feels secure—just as my mom predicted. A few mornings into parenthood, over a bleary cup of coffee, I stared at the Rock'n'Play, seeing it as the perfect silly symbol for this new season. As baby things go, it's not a bad-looking piece of equipment. The folding design is sleek; the lines are clean and curving; the palette is a mild blend of pleasant beiges and creams. And yet—it's not what I had pictured. It's not a carefully curated accessory in the charming visual story of my life. It doesn't fold into the narrative I had pre-imagined. 

Thank goodness. 

Motherhood is somehow harder and sweeter than I had imagined. Some of the feelings I expected to see never showed up, while other, foreign ones dumped their luggage on my doorstep shortly after Jivan went back to work. The shape of my day has changed entirely; in fact, in many ways, it has felt shapeless. The ever-eager achiever in me wilts at this new forced slowness, while some other part of me mourns the pounds Anders is putting on and the changes in his rapidly growing face. My baby won't be this way for long, and I won't ever be the woman I was again. 

Before the baby came, I tried to fashion a picture of what life with him would look like. I couldn't, really—and now, I see that no picture could have prepared me for attending to the constant needs and charms of a tiny human being. I have the privilege of bearing witness to his every moment in the first weeks of his life. Many of those moments—breastfeeding, diaper changing, soaked onesie changing, inconsolable crying—are repetitive, exhausting, maybe even painful. And in them, no one is around to bear witness to me. This work doesn't lead to a promotion or a raise or a gold star. This work looks much the same today as it did yesterday and will tomorrow. This work is emptying me in the very best way. 

Kathryn DavéComment
Cuddle Alarm

This isn’t the blog post I expected to be writing after our first summer as married people, a summer with a collapsed lung, weeks in the hospital, the loss of both of our grandfathers, moving into our first home together. I have a lot to say. I’ve had a lot of time to think. But sometimes, the best place to begin is with a random snippet of the story. Sometimes, it’s the only way in.

The alarm goes off promptly every morning at 6 am. It’s the cuddle alarm, so I silence it immediately and scoot closer to Jivan. The sole purpose for this alarm is to help us negotiate a peace treaty with the prospect of waking up. It’s a half hour truce, an interlude for us and the new day to acknowledge the other’s existence. We spend it spooned up to each other as close as possible, sliced peaches in the syrup of sleep. When the next alarm goes off at 6:30 (Jivan’s side, this time), there is more cuddling, and grumbling, and sometimes shared giggling. I’d like to tell you that we are immediately out of bed, the covers drawn up behind us, the coffee perking by 6:40—but it hasn’t been the case lately. We might hit snooze yet again.

My, how the mighty have been dragged down to slumbery quicksands—before he married me, Jivan shut off his alarm before the second ring and was out of bed ten seconds later. I bear some guilt for this. I bear even more guilt that I can’t seem to get my own act together and get out of bed. After all, my lung didn’t collapse this summer. There’s a parade of condemnation marching through my mind, a brass band of what I should be doing (more greens! more clothes in the closet and not in piles! more writing! less West Wing! earlier mornings! busier evenings!).

I am awfully tired of this tune. The rhythmic, brassy wop-wump, wop-wump of not getting it right.

When I married Jivan almost four months ago, I didn’t expect all sunshine and roses. But neither did I expect hospital stays and funerals just a few weeks in. Jivan’s lung collapse was complicated. We were separated by first by hospital bed, and then by great physical pain, for weeks. It is only now, ten weeks after the first collapse, that I can nestle up to him to again. It is only now that he can hold me again. And it is only now that I realize what a great, gasping gift it is to be loved and to be held by this man.

So although a “cuddle alarm” is ridiculous, and although driving to work with sleep cobwebs in my eyes is not ideal, and although our mornings would be happier if we were slowly scrambling eggs instead of pouring cereal—

I will not always have the luxury of uninterrupted morning minutes with my husband. I have them now. And for a little while longer, I am ignoring the failure parade. 

I Cutta, You Sweepa

Like most people, I have no memory of my first haircut. It was my mother’s handiwork, I’m sure, because we were a family of six then, and she was resourceful. Did I squirm, wispy reddish-orange ringlets falling to the floor? Later, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror in my Sunday best, submitting grouchily to her firm hand on my head and the pull of the brush through my hair. Owwww, I wailed. I’m sorry, she answered as she slid the clasp of a grosgrain bow firmly into my scalp. Hot resentment swept through me at the hurried injustice of this Sunday morning ritual. Now I'm grown and less tenderhearted, more aware: the sacrifice of time on a busy Sunday morning to "do" my hair was that, a sacrifice. I have no children, and yet I can barely make a cup of coffee and put mascara on in time for church every week.

When I was thirteen, and my hair was in the middle of an identity crisis (curly? straight? frizzy?), I got my first salon haircut. I don’t know what prompted my mom to book an appointment for me this time, but we buckled up on a Thursday afternoon and drove to a dim, swanky-looking place where the stylist expertly twirled me around on her chrome-and-leather chair. She snipped. She rubbed a foamy mousse into my wet hair, admonishing me all the while about the importance of using expensive shampoo. She blow-dried my hair, and finally, spun me around to face my mother. I felt invincible, untouchable. On the drive home, my mom promised she would help me blow-dry my hair straight, so it could look like that every day.

It was my last salon haircut.

I'm not sure why, exactly, or if it was ever even discussed. But for the next six years, Mom would corral me when she felt my curls needed taming, and I'd sit on a step stool in the kitchen while she combed and cut my hair herself. For a couple dark years in high school, I cried after every hair cut. It had nothing to do with her scissors or her skill; but for a girl who couldn't cry at any of the appropriate times, a miniscule change in hair length was enough to crack the cistern. I sobbed after every haircut, and miraculously, my mother never said a word about it. Just two months later, she'd patiently get out her scissors and the step stool and repeat the process again.

The relationship between woman and hairstylist is as famed as the relationship between man and bartender. There's just enough familiarity to loosen the gates and just enough remove to keep any and all confessions at a comfortable, safe distance. At the salon, you can talk about the rain or you can talk about a rebellious child--and no matter what you say, at the end you can leave it all in the chair and face the world again: washed, dried, and hairsprayed.

But there is no anonymity or remove with my hairstylist; there has never been. My mother has overseen the trimming and general creative direction of my hair since birth. She tells me how she likes it (swept back, with lots of volume); she tells me when I (desperately) need a trim; she tells me please don't dye your hair. And during the haircut, she tells me everything else. We are friends and always have been. We trade stories on the phone almost every day. Somehow, we never run out something to talk about. Friends of this caliber are rare. A friend of this caliber who also happens to be my mother is a treasure.

The last time she cut my hair was two days before my wedding. We talked about ordinary things: people we know, wedding plans, dinner that night. But she told me a story I had never heard before: the story of my first spoken sentence. Apparently it was a full sentence, complete with an adjective and verb. She was ecstatically proud. My first sentence made it to the Christmas newsletter that year. As she casually told me this story, I felt how proud she was of me, twenty-two years later.  I thought about the awesome emotional weight of motherhood, of  how dizzying and exhilarating and full it must feel to have your child do you proud. How crushing and heart-rending it must feel to be disappointed.

In my twenty-three years, I have done both. Through it all, my mom has remained just who she's always been, my closest friend. Her haircuts are always free. She gives her time, and I sweep up my hair after. Although I did not always thank her well in high school, I thank her now. For her time. For friendship. For listening ear. I don't ever want to change hairstylists, Mama. May we always live close enough for the 6-week haircut.

Holding him.

We threw a huge Christmas party on Saturday night.  Twinkly lights, bumpin’ music, gallons of gin fizz punch.  Almost every part of my life—and my roommates’ lives—was represented in the bright people who streamed through our doors in their Christmas fanciest.  I was surrounded by friends; my boyfriend won my heart a hundred times over all weekend; the party was a smash.

And yet, the very happiest moment of the whole shiny shebang for me was holding my friends’ six week old baby, Maverick.  After Friday morning, this felt righter than anything.

I stood on the porch in a black sequin dress and four inch heels, cradling a baby in my arms like there weren’t a roomful of sweaty, sparkly people dancing to Ke$ha behind me. I cradled him like he was mine. I could feel his parents watching me hold him. I could feel my boyfriend watching me hold him. But then we locked eyes, Maverick and me, and everything else was background.  The porch twinkle lights caught Maverick’s gaze. He turned his face up to the glow, folding and unfolding his tiny fingers in the absentminded way of new babies. I was transfixed. Immensely thankful. I felt immensely thankful to be holding him, then.

I've seen many, many words on the internet about the tragedy in Newtown since Friday. The shock and horror have rung so deeply through my soul that I haven’t had any words—and to be truthful—I have felt wild anger at the sheer inadequacy or flippancy of the words I have seen. I know we are all trying to do our best. I know we are all trying to process, if such a thing is possible.

I can’t say anything. There is nothing to say.

I recognize that the razor-sharp rage rising when I saw meaningless, meaningless tweets from brands and bloggers over the weekend (“Oooooh! Holiday nightcap recipe on the blog!”  “Ugh, so glad it’s finally Friday.” Etc etc etc.) was irrational. I recognize that the entire world cannot halt, even if it feels it should. Life is for the living, they say. It is. There is no way around it. It demands to be lived. No matter how many tears we (I) cried on Friday, I still had to go home, muddle through dinner, grocery shop, bake appetizers for my Christmas party, lock my doors, brush my teeth, wash my face.  You did too.

When I opened my eyes at seven am on Saturday morning, my very first thought was for the mothers of Newtown. When I opened them again twenty minutes later, my very first move was for my phone, to read through the latest updates. Answers, answers, answers, there aren’t any. I will admit—going forward with the Christmas party felt sad and wrong.  Maybe if it were just me, I would have cancelled.  But canceling a party that had been planned almost since last Christmas felt wrong, too.

So we lived on because life says we must. Giggled when a country Christmas tree farmer tried to steal a kiss from me in exchange for a wee bunch of mistletoe. Ooohhed when the mantel was lit for the first time. Stomped around in heels line dance style when someone DJed The Proclaimers. In the midst of all this, Allie and Tyler showed up to the party with their new son, Maverick, decked out in a chambray button-up.  Some time later, I abandoned my party host duties and, finally, I danced.  I looked over to see Allie and Tyler dancing too, grooving with their baby in her arms to some stupid, meaningless, dancy Chris Brown song. If I hadn’t already been smiling, I would have cried at the sight of that brave, cool little family.

There is a place for the trivial, the normal, the happy humdrum of daily life—even in great sadness.  There is a place for Chris Brown songs and babies in chambray and bittersweet dancing.

So I broke my silence last night with a tweet about Chinese takeout with Jivan. Tiny. Trivial. But I hope that somehow, maybe, you saw what I didn’t say: that on a rainy Sunday night after one of the saddest weekend’s in our nation’s recent history, what I finally found words for was love. 

Ships in the Night

I’ve long loved this phrase, the picture of two silent ships passing in the night, blinking at each other in the dark. I thought about it this morning when I walked silently into our kitchen, bleary-eyed, and passed my roommate. Kacie and I do this almost every morning, passing each other quietly on our way to coffee and the fridge and the stove. The ritual is usually wordless, but there’s a peaceful understanding running between us, an agreement that mornings are too raw to be broken with pleasantries. Sometimes, we say good morning or wish each other a good day. That’s usually it and it is enough.

I won’t have these quiet crossings for much longer. Kacie is getting married and moving out in just a few weeks—and while I couldn’t be more delighted, I also couldn’t be more sad.

It is humbling and a little scary to admit we need people. After almost a year of living alone in a city where I had hardly any friends, I convinced myself that I was tough enough to go it alone. So when I moved to Greenville, I felt pretty unenthusiastic about settling into life with roommates again. It’s okay if these people don’t become my best friends, I told myself. They can just be roommates.

When Kacie gets married, it will be three days shy of a year together in Greenville. It’s been a year where God gently knocked down the fortifications I built around my heart, a year where I stepped out bravely and fell into a sweet surprise of a friendship.  Community is one of those dreadful Christian words that we all toss around, but rarely prioritize. We think about community as Bible study groups or Sunday morning hellos.  It is so much deeper and meatier and harder than that.

I know, because this year I found it. Or, rather, God gave it to me—but it took some willingness and work on my part. I learned to say yes to invitations and to extend invitations myself, even uncertainly. It took money (bacon and coffee beans for brunches don’t grow on trees).  Connecting required time, real time, and with time, slippery, trembling vulnerability. We’ve seen the worst and the best of each other this year. It’s there that true friendships formed.

As September turns into October (it is a golden slip of a pirouette; fall is surely a ballerina) and I turn into my second year in Greenville, my relationship to community is changing. I dream of it growing deeper, wider, more intentional. I wanna start conversations that change us, conversations that get to the heart of things and point us right back to Jesus. I’d like to laugh even more than we did this year, if such a thing is possible. I say all this here because words on paper (pixels on pixels?) spur me to make good.

Almost a year ago, Kacie, my unlikely friend, invited me to brunch with a lot of strangers. On the way back home, we bought a $3 vintage chair and a $3 vintage ice cream scoop—and this first venture of friendship gave me hope for a new life in a city I wasn’t sure about. Now, we can glance at each other from across the room and have those eye conversations that all close female friends master.  In six weeks, Walker will be the one who gets to bump into Kacie in the morning and I will be the one to make two less cups of coffee at 1415.

November is coming fast, and it will bring change the way all year-marks bring change: some good, some sad, all necessary. The wind will blow, and the brown leaves will dance on the streets, and we’ll all settle into a season of new gratitude. Mine will start with a thank you to Kacie, for teaching me that community is something worth stepping out for.

Double fire.

"Give me a new mouth and I'll be / a guardian against forgetfulness. " -- Stephen Dunn If life is cyclical,

if we are always orbiting around and around our former selves,

then the sometimes-sharp transition from summer to fall is when the orbital pull is strongest. Memory is a moon, and I am the tide, and in racing forward to the shore, I come so close to last year's Kathryn retreating, I can see what she's thinking/feeling/seeing/hearing.

Oh, September with your new notebooks and shiny apples and cardigan dreams, there is a dark bronze undercurrent running through you. I feel its electromagnetic tug, pulling me to old poems and pennyloafers from another life of mine.

I am a writer, but I have never been able to articulate the intensity of this awareness I wear in the fall. Do other people feel it? Surely I cannot be the only one who walks down a street with a perfectly glorious September sky overhead, crisp in all its blueness, feeling that I'm passing the shadow of the girl I was at this time last year or other years.

This is no plea to go backwards. My life so far is full of both sad and sweet, and to walk backwards would be to trod on those times, tinkle of old glass under my feet.  I don't know what this is, other than a mile marker kind of observation:

everything changes and so do I.

Islands.

I left work with a long to-do list, and he did too. I cooked dinner for him; he shot photos for one of my projects. What stands out to me about this back-and-forth is that it is easy. There is joy in sharing, a joy that we first learn in kindergarten, but morphs into a different joy entirely when what we are sharing is ourselves. In this age of the over-share, it still feels risky to open my clenched hand and let an idea see the light. Let someone else see the idea.

Maybe this risk comes sharper to those of us who are shy, who fear the graceless fizzle of failure.

Jivan’s apartment is tucked in the streetside corner of a 1940s building that stands above one of the busiest intersections in downtown Greenville. His white walls are defined by an unusually lucky number of tall windows;  in the morning, the place is aglow with early sunlight, and at night, the stop and go of traffic comes in flashes. Sometimes when I'm there, I hear bits of car radio floating by, beats throbbing as cars pause at the red light. And no matter the time of day, there is always the faint rush of cars going by, a big city energy that feels rare for my baby city of Greenville.

I stood in bare feet, holding a beer in one hand and an unshaded lamp in the other--casting light and shadows on the still life he was photographing. Through the windows, I watched tail lights bob and swim into a dark blur of the road I couldn't see. We weren't talking to each other, quietly absorbed in our own work. His little apartment was a rock in the middle of a river, the rush of going and coming all around us. I felt isolated, the way you feel isolated on a balcony overlooking a busy street.  We were in the middle of things, but not; alone, but not; the world ours, but not quite.

It felt a little like love.

The pleasure of your company.

My generation knows how to do a lot. We know how to rally the world for change, how to build successful start-ups at a stupidly young age, how to use our tools to hold brands/organizations to higher standards,how to create at an astounding rate, how to nurture friendships with people we've never met.

But we don't know how to entertain.

And maybe this is most evidenced by the popular "BYOM" parties. Bring Your Own Meat. While in theory this notion doesn't seem so terrible for casual cookout parties with friends, in practice, it falls tinny and flat. For both host and guest, the process of sorting through a random pile of meat to lay it on the grill--and then sorting it back out minutes later, charred and juicy, to divvy it up among the proper owners--is awkward. Maybe this "everybody pitch in" approach is fine for quick, spontaneous gatherings. The kind where a flurry of texts fly around after work, and one person volunteers to bring wine and another pasta and another salad, and the important thing here is simply making time to gather.There's a time and a place for pitching in. But for a party? A party that begins with a planned invitation (even one as informal as a Facebook event)? No.

A party is a gift, an offering from the host to the guest. It's a chance to create--a mood, a meal, a memory--and share with a community. It's an art. Our parents--and definitely our grandparents--were masters of entertaining as art. Today, American gatherings have shifted away from the home. Now, when we spend time with friends, we meet them at restaurant somewhere for dinner and drinks. Someone else cooks for us, someone else cleans for us, and everybody pays for their own dinner. The beauty of what was once a highly-personal exchange is stripped from the evening.

Cooking is vulnerable. Hosting, even more so. It is the willingness to lay your talents, resources, and limitations out before your guests--and hold your head up proudly and graciously at what you can offer. The bounty of my home for the pleasure of your company. And in the appropriate amount of time, the whole process would be reversed. But my generation somehow lost the appreciation for exchanges like these. Our wedding registries are the portrait of this shift: we register for TVs and Keurig coffeemakers now, not fine china or fancy table linens or crystal glasses. And I know the tide has shifted; far more women work now, and simply gathering the family around for dinner (even with paper plates and dishes from Trader Joe's freezer) is triumph enough.

I'm twenty-three now, swimming wide-eyed and happy through what I know is still my early adulthood. Nonetheless, two years in the working world have taught me this: celebrating the ordinary matters. Without the steady milestones of growing up (driver's license, first job, first kiss, graduation, Dean's List, internship, etc, etc, etc) the sameness of adult routine can choke creativity and breed mediocrity. A party--even a simple dinner--gives us new eyes. In bringing out nicer plates, in folding cloth napkins, in lighting candles, in crafting a menu, we bless a daily ritual with the beauty of our time and attention. When we host, our efforts are focused toward serving someone else, but at the end of party--

when the money has been spent, and the dishes dirtied, and the wine drunk, and the stories told, and the plates cleared, and the room silvered with laughter--

when our feet hurt from heels, and we're glowing with victory, and maybe we'll have to eat cheap the rest of the week, and our bonds are stronger, and our friends leave feeling warm and happy--

at the end of the party, we are the ones who have been served.

The glow of our summer.

"I think you still have a little bit of lightning in you." -- Moonrise Kingdom

Lightyears ago (or what seems like lightyears), I read that relationships are not supposed to feel like hard work. They require hard work—all successful relationships do—but actually living in the relationship shouldn’t feel like a daily struggle. For some reason, this was a revolutionary idea for me. The sort that left me blinking in the sun after exiting a cool, dark room.

__

A friend told me the story of her first date with her husband, and it went like this: he came to pick her up on a Friday, and she never wanted him to leave.

__

The literary canon is full of stories about passion and heartbreak and chemistry and connection and drama and sparks and everythingchanginginaninstant. Life doesn’t always work like fiction.

I knew that something in my world was shifting when I started being weird around Jivan. The kind of whole-hearted weird that meant I said what I really thought and sang out loud and played DJ without stress and squinched up my face to “wink.” I am rarely fearless—I can be brave, with time to summon my courage—but this year, I was fearless. As I spent more hours with him, I realized that the change was not an absence of fear, but rather the presence of acceptance (which, in time, erodes fear anyway). We were not in competition; I was not holding him up; he was not changing me. He just liked me, exactly as I am, steadily.

Who knew that steadiness—surety—could move my world so dramatically?

__

Over the last few weekends, I’ve been helping my boyfriend move into his new apartment. This is a big deal—not the moving, but saying it, here, on this blog. I have been relatively quiet online this summer, finding it hard to gather up all the little things that shine about my summer and tell you about them. 

But helping Jivan move—which involved 60s pop, ice water, Italy vs Spain, sweat, Julie & Julia, sangria, boxes, bare feet, dinner on the floor, laughing—helped me realize that little things are lightning. We moved on the hottest weekend Greenville’s seen yet, and we moved when we were both already exhausted. It could have been a crankfest, but instead, it was unusually sweet—as most things are with him.

I was never looking for him (and honestly, he was never looking for me), but that’s how lightning goes: a quick flash after a long build-up of storm, and one day, I saw.

It makes me nervous to write about relationships when they are my own.  But, I tell myself, this really isn’t a story about my boyfriend. It’s a story of a hundred little hopes come true, the final deceleration of a rollercoaster that had been roaring long before Jivan came around.  This is a story of steadiness, and not just his. My steadiness: I am not being moved, not bending like a birch tree under the wind.

But most importantly, this overwhelming glory of a summer is the story of a God who picked me up, whirled me through the last two years, and set me down in Greenville, city of constant surprises. 

Jivan just happened to be one of them.  

A pretty dang good one.

Young and full of running.

I spent last Thursday night folding laundry and listening to John Mayer. Neither of which are very “cool” things for a twenty-something to do with her Thursday night. In fact, among half the circles I run in, listening to John Mayer would be decidedly uncool, a musical choice that would require a private listening session on Spotify to keep my indie cred firmly in place. But I refuse to feel guilty about listening to John Mayer. And lately, I’m experiencing some sort of weird John Mayer revival. I can’t get enough of him. The other weekend, Jivan and I drove to my college town in the grey light of a heavy, muggy afternoon.  We were both battling terrible headaches; I was wearing a frat tank, my face plain and pale without a drop of makeup. For the first time, I wasn’t thinking about it. I spun his iPod to John Mayer, with a nervous smile. Can we listen to it again? I said after the first play of “Your Body Is A Wonderland.”  Yes, he laughed. So I put my feet on the dash and played it again and laughed out loud. Relief like the first bracing sip of coffee. Hey, wake up, this is good.

For my generation, taste is as much about what you don’t like as what you do. Maybe more, in fact. We grew up believing we were special, that we could do anything. Then we grew right into our Facebook accounts and Twitter streams, loudspeakers for the lives we believe to be so unique. The Internet feels like a race sometimes. Whose joke will get the most retweets. Whose day is the worst. Or the best. Whose sarcasm is the sharpest. Whose dinner parties are blog-worthy. Who will be first to the band/film/trend. If the Internet is a competition, then we never stop sizing each other up. To be young now to lead the examined life, the quotidian shared and consumed and dismissed.

The process of growing up includes a period of an intense awareness of other people’s perceptions or opinions. Sometimes the intensity of this awareness is a bucket of cold water, a roadblock, a re-router.  I’ve always cared too much about what people think of me. Fear follows me like a doctor’s scale; I am always measuring and adjusting, being measured and deciding to adjust. I’ve kept quiet, flip-flopped, said yes when I wanted to say no, bit my lip, swallowed my tears, walked out onto the stage anyway, given up, squared my shoulders, waited too long, felt stupid, looked stupid, avoided the scary but missed the sweet.

But the beauty of growing is motion, progress. And rain, if it doesn’t destroy what’s blooming, only speeds that growth. Caring less about what other people think about me would have happened naturally, in time. Thanks to the last two years of my life, it came quickly and miserably—but quickly. Of course, I’m not done learning this, because I’m not done growing up. On the short end of my twenties, I still worry about what people are really thinking, if I’m funny enough, why my house doesn’t look put together.

I’m listening to John Mayer shamelessly again, though. Ditching makeup when I feel like it. And, in a breathless rush, I recently confessed my shocking addiction to top 40 favorite, Call Me Maybe (Warning: it is the auditory equivalent of licking the cake batter off the beaters—not very good for you, but impossible to resist.) The most important thing about all of these other things is just this: I don’t feel the need to explain it or tweet a sarcastic joke about it or apologize for it.

The last time John Mayer was in heavy rotation for me was 2007, the hot hot Mississippi summer after my freshman year of college, when the world and all its maybes were basically mine. Nobody really knew me there, and I already stood out from the rich prep kids, so I was free to be as happy and weird as I wanted. I spent a lot of time reading that summer, late into the night, because although I was wholly 17, that is what I wanted to do. I remember lamplight spilling into high thread count sheets, Saul Bellow in hand and dry toast on the table next to me. I remember peace.

What I am trying to tell you is that my wild, tired, two-years-double-time heartbeat has finally slowed. I’m telling you that my life lately sounds like the first beautiful twelve seconds of Bach’s famous Prelude. But it also sounds like John Mayer singing “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” and if I get to listen to it unashamedly on a happy Saturday afternoon, you better believe I’m gonna turn it up.

The blue centerlight pop.

When you don't know where to start, you just start. Right? It's been six weeks, darlings. The last time we talked, I told you about what I was giving up. How the practice had changed me. And for the next few weeks after that, we gave up other things. Friends rotated in and out as they pleased. We went a week without texting. (!!!)  We stopped phoning while driving (or tried to, at least.) We gave up meat. We gave up music that wasn't classical or worship. In the middle of one those weeks, however, around a table full of friends and wine glasses, we decided to explore what we could add to our lives. What we could we start.

Although I am a grown woman who pays her own bills and makes her own decisions, I often forget that I am the one controlling the pattern of my life. Annie Dillard says (and I frequently quote): How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. And so having arrived at a place where my heart has finally healed and my dinner table is finally full, it's up to me to decide just how to use the exceeding, abundant, more than than I could ever ask or imagine gifts God has bathed me in lately.

In my mind, I crunch down the gravel paths of wilderness camp in Alaska and I keep walking until, at last, I turn around and see the mountains around me for the first time. Everything feels possible again.

I want to tell you about baby goats and a Victorian rug and boys and impulsive bed buying. I want to tell you about firework-like love for the Lord and sneaking into a Young the Giant concert and shrimp tacos on the back deck. I want to tell you about roommates who surprise me and allnighters and friends who came back.

Can I show you some pictures instead? Let's look at them together and pretend that we're real life friends, not separated by actual miles. I do have stories for you. A cocktail recipe. New music mixes. In time, my friends. I'm learning that the only way to handle the vast, exhilarating, slippery "next" is to grasp firmly onto "now."

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Bourbon and lipstick and old lady shoes make an appearance in my life sometimes. So do Mad Men style birthday parties and the opportunity to wear my hair on the very top of my head.

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This verse means more to me after the last two years than I ever would have thought possible. He is so good. I can't stop talking about Him this year, about the steadiness and magnitude of His love. About how He rescued me and set me in this spacious place.

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Major opportunities and tiny surprises -- I seem to be saying this a lot lately.

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And five years later, I finally climbed another watertower. The kind I've been dreaming of climbing, with a terrifying, rusty ladder and a sunset that turned everything magic.

I don't know anything about about tomorrow, but from my hotel bed in deep south Georgia, today looks beautiful.

____

P.S. My old URL "kathrynwrites.com" was stolen. Which explains all the recent spam. Please update your readers to this one. I promise to be around more often.

Negative Space

It started with a bet, the way so many things in my life seem to begin lately. I lost. With aplomb this time, despite being terribly unused to losing bets. Were I to pinpoint it, I’d say my losing streak originated soon after I moved here, soon after my life expanded. And that life has grown and grown, greening and blooming, pushing me—until at moments, I find myself shoved out onto the front lawn of my own house, staring strangely at it. Is this happy house mine?

We bet that an Instagram-obsessed friend couldn’t go a week without posting. In shaking hands on it, I knew I wasn’t betting on solid ground—anyone can resist if he’s been dared enough—but I counted on habit to come in like the tide, take over. Instead, I lost.  The week closed its doors without a single snap appearing in his Instagram feed. I want to give up something else, he said with an odd glee, after it was all over.

We tackled Tumblr next. And this time, I gave it up, too. The ripples were small, carrying us to Sunday afternoon where after some discussion and pleading eye rolls, another friend joined us in giving up Twitter for the week.  We’re three deep in life without Twitter, and somehow, this has become something much bigger than what began as a teasing bet. 2012, we have decided, is going to be the Year We Quit Things.

This has nothing to do with Lent.

But I’m wondering if the notion of giving up—of abstaining—woos us so because we are generation of excess. We can’t escape ourselves. We are our own entertainment. Everything is so much, all the time. We are the overstimulated. I write this because I fear it. My brain on the Internet too often feels thick and dull, needing the constant twitch of change. Another picture. Another tweet. Another song playing in the background of another blog post.

My generation has turned life into a race. To keep up is to be exhausted, because we are expected to lead a highly-fulfilling offline life, while simultaneously living a full life online. Check check check check check. The internet is turning over every second, and we have been conditioned to interpret any change as important. The question that hums constantly now is what did I miss?  Why do we award so much prestige to being first? First to discover, first to blog, first to publish.

You really want to know what it is about 20-somethings? It’s this: we live longer now. But we also live less. It sounds hyperbolic, it sounds morbid, it sounds dramatic, but in choosing the internet I am choosing not to be a certain sort of alive. Days seem over before they even begin, and I have nothing to show for myself other than the anxious feeling that I now know just enough to engage in conversations I don’t care about. --Alice Gregory

So to voluntarily give this up—to step out of the pool and stand still, water streaming down our legs—is a temperature change. We are adjusting. The breeze passes over us. We deleted the Twitter app from our phones, so our fingers don’t wander there out of habit. And it’s habit denied that has made me realize the space Twitter occupies in my life. In absence, we see.

I love Twitter. I love it for how it expands my world, both intellectually and relationally. I love it for giving me a chance to snap word Polaroids of my life. When this week is over, I will tweet again, and I’ll probably keep tweeting for a long time. But Twitter as a time-filler, a distraction, a line killer, a validator, a reason to disconnect when I feel awkward in a real life situation---this I want to let go.

Part of the growing up process is sorting. Assigning value to the bits that make up our daily lives, deciding what we treasure and where it belongs.  Another word is balance. Every week, in carving something away, I think my life will grow a little lighter, clearer.

There’s a reason negative space feels so beautiful.

A Dramatic List of My Recent Failings

Sometimes I lie in my bed late at night, listening to weird music, and I write blog posts in my head. But I rarely post them, because they are scraps of things, or significant thoughts that haven’t been cut and processed and packaged for public consumption. Somewhere between 2007 and 2012, this blog lost a good deal of its vulnerability. And mostly, that’s a good thing. I had some maturing to do, and 2010-2011 screwed the hinges shut in the swinging door this blog used to be. And yet.

If this blog is (sort of) about learning to be a grown up, then where better to tell you how very decidedly I don’t feel like one lately? I did in 2010. I did in 2011. But here, in 2012, when I’m choosing zombie show marathons over sleep and weekend trips over new furniture, I’m not so sure. I have not arrived. (And maybe we never do?) This I understand. What I don’t know, however, is what I’m supposed to be doing in the meantime. Should I be paddling like mad? Should I drop my shoulders, for once in my life, and ride the current? Should I be taking pictures of the landscape flashing past me, or should I just blink more often, taking photos with my eyes, fingers, mouth?

I am not drinking enough water. I am not returning emails in a timely fashion. Or Facebook messages. Or even texts. I am not planning my meals. I am not eating enough green things. I am not going to bed at a decent hour. I am not going to the gym I’m paying for. I am not writing enough. I am not hanging my clothes up. I am not sticking to anything. I am not making my bed. I am not focused. I am not burning with ambition anymore. I’m not on time.

But.

I am cooking for my friends. I am laughing more and harder than I have in a long time. I am starry-eyed. I am sleeping deeper and better. I am making memories. I'm collecting nicknames and wine stains. I am taking breaths and taking leaps. I am praying more. I am believing more. I’m eating so much brunch. I’m opening doors, even when they scare me. I’m having business meetings. I’m stargazing on mountaintops.

And it’s this constant wondering of what should I be doing? that pulls taut through all my days. Nobody tells you, of course, and so I swing wildly between feeling invincible and feeling tiny in the face of all I don’t know.

These are my dizzy twenties. Maybe you know what I mean.

What are you doing/not doing lately?

I sing the body electric.

I don’t exactly have the quintessential redheaded temper. But I am quite stubborn. And if you challenge me to something, I can’t walk away. (Unless it’s karaoke.) So when a far-away friend dared me to make a makeout playlist, I accepted the challenge. Until about three songs in, when I realized it was going to be much harder than I had anticipated. Here’s why: I’ve never made a generic makeout playlist before. Of all the kinds of mixtapes, the makeout is almost the most personal (second only to that first carefully crafted mixtape, you know, of the impress & woo variety).  I deliberated over my choices, wondering how to place them with no relationship to lend shape.

Context unknown.

It’s not, of course, that anyone pays much attention to lyrics, or even individual songs, in a makeout playlist. It’s background music at its best. But a playlist of this sort can meander or race or drift or gallop, and here, at the fork in the road, is where context would firmly turn the wheel in one of those directions. Since I’m making this no-hands, however, this mix wobbles through several of those turns—although there’s not much drifting. Pace, I discovered in the making, is highly personal.

The other thing we’re not talking about is the notion of creating a makeout playlist in the first place. Something about that seems odd. For me, the best “makeout music” has been  chance, a fortuitous discovery.  But maybe creating this mix (or, for you, downloading it) isn’t about scheduling or planning at all, but instead, opening the door to possibility.

And my, if this hasn’t taken an oddly inspirational turn.  I’ll stop here. Just download it. Test drive it. (I haven't.) Or test float it. Put it in your pocket for a rainy day. Download it here.

*Thanks to Phil Belger who designed the cover (and I am obsessed with it). **Note to anyone who catches the title reference without googling it: let's be friends. ***This isn’t my make-out mix, just so we’re all clear.

TRACK LIST:

The Zone // The Weeknd Video Games // Lana Del Rey Let's Get Lost // Bat for Lashes (ft. Beck) Be My Baby // DM Stith Montreal // The Weeknd Time to Pretend // Jonsi Tell Her No // Tennis There Is A Light that Never Goes Out // The Smiths Rock My Boat // Dntel We Looked Like Giants // Death Cab for Cutie We Don't Eat // Adventure Club Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) // Nancy Sinatra Don't You Think Someone Should Take You Home // Butch Walker Knotty Pine // Dirty Projectors Our Swords // Band of Horses Michicant // Bon Iver Northern Lights // Bowerbirds Novacane // Frank Ocean Infinity // The xx Anthems for A Seventeen Year Old // Broken Social Scene So Insane // Discovery All You Are Going to Want to Do Is Get Back There // Caretaker I Only Know What I Know Now // James Blake Crystalfilm // Little Dragon

Man Things

Late one summer night, with the windows open and the table set, we were talking. I took my seat giggling, and explained to him my list of things I felt every man should know how to do. Number one on my list? Make a dang good omelet. Then I asked him if he had a list like mine, only things every girl should know how to do. “Yeah,” he said. “Look pretty.”

I rolled my eyes, and laughed, and we finished the omelets he had managed to create from the sparse contents of my nearly empty refrigerator. He was joking, but I wasn’t. A friend once said that I love lists more than anyone he knows. That’s probably true. So because it’s Thursday, I present a partial and incomplete list of my requirements to call yourself a man:

Make an omelet. An omelet is a man’s dish. There’s no arguing about that. Even if you can do nothing else in the kitchen, you should master this art of creating something from nothing, of wielding a whisk and a skillet, of looking so entirely, charmingly capable.

Tie a tie. And I don’t just mean fumble your way into some semblance of a knot. You should be able to deftly tie a crisp knot, finishing with a small, confident tug. Make sure you know the process well enough to teach a girl, when she asks you. Isn’t that the beauty of it? Bonus if you know more than one kind of knot. (Windsor, anyone?)

Own some tools. You don’t need a shed full or anything, but you should definitely own more than I do (which currently means if you’ve got more than a hammer and a couple screwdrivers, you’re set). Learn how to use them. And please, acquire a drill. Girls always need to borrow a drill for some reason or the other. If you lend us a drill, you’ll usually get dinner out of it. At least at my house you will.

Turn the wheel with the palm of one hand. Preferably as you’re reversing the car. That fluid, spinning motion seems to come naturally to you, and I think it says something subtle about confidence and command. Also, it’s sexy.

Teach me something. Who cares what it is: the history of punk, how to make crepes, the complicated league divisions of international soccer, literary theory. Just have deep knowledge about something, so I can ask you questions, learn something, and be duly fascinated.

Walk on the outside of the sidewalk.  Perhaps this is antiquated, but I guarantee you that we notice when you do. I don't care if I’m your girlfriend, sister, mom, coworker, friend, or crush – walking street side is just plain nice. Do it.

Know how to throw a punch.  Doesn’t mean you have to—in fact, I hope you won’t—but I like to know you can handle yourself if things got weird.

Read. You don’t have to consume the entire New York Times bestseller list, but set aside time to read occasionally. It’s good for your brain and good for your conversation. If I ask you about your favorite book or your favorite author—have an answer. Don’t know? Start with Hemingway, if you like classics, or try DeLillo or Didion for contemporary with a punch.

How to walk by a girl. Oh yes, this is terribly vague and perhaps a little odd, but if you fancy a girl, pay attention to how you walk by her in passing. Do it right, and turn yourself into a magnet. (I think maybe the secret is in your glances.)

Get a good haircut. I have a theory about boys and haircuts. They seem incapable of grasping the concept of a trim. So they let their hair grow past optimal length, and then overcorrect by chopping it all off.  You can avoid this. Timing is everything.

How to waltz. If you can walk, you can waltz. Or foxtrot, or rhumba. The best (and worst) thing about life is not knowing what comes next—so if the day arrives when you have to step on the dance floor, at least have a faint idea of what you’re doing.

The Glenn Highway

When I lived in Alaska, we spent our two precious breaks in Homer, a romantic little fishing town on the Kenai Peninsula. The long, winding road from Wasilla to Homer remains the most beautiful ride I’ve ever taken.  Also, the most dangerous, according to Alaska Highway Patrol. How can I tell you about the sheer magnificence of the mountains, of the mud flats, if you haven’t seen them? It’s a lot like being love. Love is agreeing to a type of isolation. It is the ready willingness to defend what you know to be fact. Love—to be in a room with a view that no one else can see, to swear to the beauty of the world and beg for understanding, understanding yourself, all along, that no one can. In love, you mimic Frost, saying to all you see: “You come, too.”

That road followed the curve of the mountains, left and right, sending us out over the vast mud flats and drawing us back tightly to the mountain. Every turn felt monumental, like the whole of my previous life dropped off behind me, and the new stretch of road was all I knew or wanted.  In a very serious relationship, those turns come – sometimes at lightning speed. Perspective shifts. What becomes important is the good of two, the good of him, the good of your together future. It’s normal and healthy. I felt that shift once; I watched friends slide sparkly rings on their fingers and make that turn, too.

A steady relationship with the Lord is marked by those turns. Sometimes, in the midst of careening through an ever-changing landscape, He turns me, and the beauty of that sudden turn is seeing my future for the first time all over again. The other things—the music I was blaring, the conversation I was having, the mountains I was seeing—fade in light of the road He calls me down.

Someone has said that the more you learn to love the Lord, the more and more often you repent. And having been in love before—the kind that nearly swallows you with its glittering immensity—this makes sense to me. In love, you are hyper aware of the one you love. When he comes in a room, you feel it. When he tilts his head a certain way during conversation with someone else, you know the thoughts that prompted it. You wear prettier things. You say different things. It is your delight to bring him joy.

Too often, I miss God’s nudging for a turn because I’m busy driving. Usually full speed ahead, with music blaring and six different conversations spread out across my various networks.  But if He’s dedicated to romancing me, even in the little things — a bouquet of constellations, a tiny prayer answered — I hope my love for Him shows up in the little things, too.

So I’m looking closer at the minute trajectory of my days. My tweets. My casual conversations. My serious conversations. My thoughts. My spending. My dreaming. My either/or choices. My plans. I want them to bring Him joy.

If I’m starry-eyed lately, it’s because of Him.

The Best of It

I can make breakfast, she offered. I’ll make coffee, he said in answer.

She was wearing his baby blue tee shirt. Wearing it innocently (she had arrived that morning dressed too warmly for a fall that wasn’t yet fall).  Pale, bare legs. Cherry red toenails to match her fingers. A first. How do you feel about French toast, she called up to him.

The bread’s by the stove, he said.

She took a skillet out of the cabinet, set it on the stove, humming. The small joys of domesticity. Here, all the fine hairs on her forearms lay down in rest; her double time heart steadied.  In cooking, she could order the world. She could create something from nothing. She gathered eggs, a bowl, a whisk. There was no vanilla. There was no cinnamon. And the bread was white bread, stiff and somehow not quite real in its plastic wrapper.

She had never made French toast like this before.

The skillet sizzled with butter. She beat eggs and sugar to a frothy marriage.  She dipped cardboard slices of bread into the mixture, becoming alternately frustrated by its refusal to absorb and then, its instant sogginess. When she was finished, she stacked forlorn-looking slices on two mismatched plates.

Come and eat, she said, handing him a plate with an apology. They sat down together, the day before them. They talked about sports, a book they were reading. He was a little distracted.  She said his name, said it again.

Sorry, he said. What did you say?

What about tomorrow? she asked, nervous.

I don’t know, he smiled. His smile was a shrug, a leather jacket sliding down his shoulders. It depends, he finished.

The coffee was weak. She drowned the toast in syrup.

Try this.

Fact: two bizarre phrases INEXPLICABLY run through my head all the time.1)    “Love in the time of cholera…” 2)    “Ladies and gentleplums!’

I have no explanation for you, but, Ladies and Gentleplums, I do have a few suggestions. The weekend is upon us. My nails are freshly blue. In honor of all the good things the weekend brings to us, I’d like to offer you a Kat Recommends list (in the style of the always-spot-on McSweeney’s):

Showers in the dark Do you guys do this already? It’s the perfect season for it. That marvelous forgetting of the world that happens when you step under the spray only intensifies if the bathroom is warm and dark.

Baked eggs (Or, ouefs en cocotte. Say it in French. Feel fancier.) If there’s one area of grown-up life where I’m miserably failing, it’s managing to get out of bed the first time my alarm goes off.  Miraculously, I always end up waking back up in just enough time to have a cup of coffee, get ready, and concoct a (sometimes) interesting outfit—but I sacrifice my time with Jesus and my time with my journal and my time with a good breakfast. Three things that have the power to totally change the shape of my day. These little babies, however, are persuading me to get up on the first try, and they’re easy enough to make on a workday, when you’re still sleepdrunk in the pre-seven-am blackness. I promise you this: eating your breakfast from a cute little ramekin is bound to make life feel luxurious, workday or not.

The Walking Dead Yeah, I’m behind the times. And yeah, generally I’m no fan of zombies and I find all the “zombie apocalypse” jokes terribly tired. But, this show is excellent. If you can round up a bunch of friends to start the show with, even better. And if you all happen to watch four episodes in a row, nobody’s judging.

Bralettes A makes-me-feel-stupid-saying-it kind of name for a makes-me-feel-wonderful-wearing-it kind of thing. Don’t banish these comfy little bits of cotton and lace to weekends only. It’s thick sweater season and layers season, which means you can get away with wearing whatever you please underneath.

SelfControl The app, not merely the discipline, although that’s always good, too. But let’s be real—when you’re facing an intimidating or otherwise unpleasant task, it’s so much easier to keep distracting yourself with the Internet. Install this, set a time limit to lock yourself out of your distractions, and watch your productivity soar.

Not going to the same place you always go. You know it’s true. You and your friends have a spot. It’s your default, which means out of sheer inability to decide on another option, you never branch out. While there is a certain appeal to having your very own MacLaren’s, you’re probably ignoring a hundred cool spots in your city. Next weekend, try somewhere new, somewhere random. See what happens.

All Get Out Feeling angsty?  Need something to listen to (while maintaining your quality standards, of course)? Give All Get Out’s 2011 record, The Season, a spin.

Nude + glitter nail polish. So elegant. So subtle. And maybe a little too satisfying when you catch a glimpse of your sparkly fingernails typing away during work.

The poetry of Richard Brautigan Visceral and startling.

Arnold Palmers So what it's January? A mason jar full of the signature half sweet tea, half lemonade is a guaranteed way to brighten a grey day. Gather some friends, deal some cards, and pour APs all around.

listsKathryn DavéComment
Say yes.

There's still glitter on my nails. (Really, could there be anything cheerier?) It's because I danced my way into 2012. Not surprisingly, or maybe surprisingly, this mix from December turned out to be awfully danceable. There were parties, of course, but beyond that, I just moved in December. I stopped worrying so much about what's next. I write about this all the time because I'm not very good at it. But somewhere around the first week of December, I let anxiety slide off my shoulders. On that anxiety—the twenties are such a strange, marvelous decade. At 23, you could be married, with children. Or you could be trudging through your fifth year of college, living with your parents. Most of us are somewhere in between, but the sheer range of what we could be doing makes us question what we should be doing. If I know what my dream job is but I’m not yet pursuing it, should I feel guilty? Should I be doing whatever it takes to travel right now? In light of the Kingdom, does what I’m doing with my life really matter? How do I answer their questions when I don’t know the answer? Should I know? And, perhaps, the biggest question of all: what if I regret this?

Maybe these questions (or some version of them) bug you too. Questions for your morning commute to work, or late at night when your text message cursor blinks steadily, waiting for you to make up your mind.

In December, I let all this go. It happened unintentionally. I just stopped making plans for tomorrow because I was so overwhelmed by the joy of now. I trusted God more. I was happy shiny all month long.

This mix is about dancing. Dance with your friends, dance at your desk, dance in the shower. It’s about laughing, about energy crackling through your body, about anticipation, and mostly, about surprises. I hope you listen to it and say yes, yes, yes in 2012. Download it here.

*I’m lucky to have a passel of friends who are talented designers. Jivan Davé designed the art for this mix (thanks, Jivan!). Go look at his newest photo blog, Inner Travels. **There is a Rihanna song on my mix. Yep. Somebody document this.

TRACK LIST:

Don’t Move // Phantogram 1966 // Moon Tides Aminals // Baths Niggas in Paris // Jay-Z & Kanye West Amanaemonesia // Chairlift Black Mags // The Cool Kids Hello // Martin Solveig Little Boxes // Regina Spektor Friends Make Garbage (Good Friends Take It Out) // Low Roar Hello Sadness // Los Campesinos! Window Bird // Stars Title and Registration // Death Cab for Cutie Cassettes // Inkships Look Around // Ponchos Santa Fe // Beirut Crave You (Adventure Club Dubstep Remix) // Flight Facilities On Your Way // Alabama Shakes Take It In // Wye Oak Your Love (The Outfield cover) // Bon Iver Last Night at the Jetty // Panda Bear Year of Silence // Crystal Castles Bad Things // Cults A Rush and A Push and The Land Is Ours // The Smiths Santa Maria De Feira // Devendra Banhart We Found Love // Rihanna