KTHX KBYE 2020

For what it’s worth, I don’t want to take THAT much with me, anyway.

Just a few things.

The champagne bottle I didn’t know why I was packing in the first place. The way you squeezed my hand when in that one movie (that made me cry A LOT) the friends started talking up the main character’s writing skills. When I was crying on the floor and you paused cooking that really good pasta to kneel down with me. The moment “sipping rum” also became “dance-to-musical rum”. The way we both react every time Phantom Planet starts. The butterflies I got when I saw you’d left a cryptic voicemail. Gringos Locos on my beach towel as the best damn episodes of season three play. The way he insisted on taking the stairs instead of the ramp the last time I saw him. When you called to tell me the news. When I woke up to see you’d texted the news. When you texted me thinking I already knew the news. That fucking Brandi Carlile song. The way we ran around on the last night in Orlando. The tequila shots and the OKOKFINEIHADAFEWCIGARETTES at Ale House. Me finding out you referred to me as a, “once-in-a-lifetime-hire.” The time you FaceTimed me and I was thrilled to know exactly why. The way she chose me the night she didn’t get in. My ten pounds of free potatoes. The selfies all three of them sent with tears in their eyes, the “here’s to the next seven” card, and every single time they call late just to chat. The day we marched. The way she hugged me before I left that day and said I’d always be a part of their family. The day you braved The Things in Seuss. Trying to find the waterfall. The moment we found all the hidden white cheddar cheeto puffs. The way you had your arm around me when we watched the last episode of The Good Place. The way we snuck out of the lobby to get nachos and pina coladas without your mom even noticing. That stupid freaking country concert. Finding out you’d passed the test. The day we saw Barney. That first 80% week when I just sat outside all day and read. The gin night. Woof. All the days I woke up early to write. All the nights I stayed up late to write. The night you were having a great time. Our roadtrip to see them and our 5 hour virtual hangout when we?? started?? showing off all our books for no apparent reason??? The way she told the others about my gift. The freedom we felt running around on our tropical photoshoot. When you taught me how to wand my hair and use white eyeliner. The way I felt when you told me she’d said, “of course — we love Katie”. The way you both just let me be whatever I needed to be the day I found out. The chills I got when I saw what you’d sent. The ways they swooped in. The way she said, “is now the time I remind you that you have a mental disorder that makes you fixate on things?” in SUCH a savage way that I only loved her more. When she venmo’ed her to make sure I had tacos that day. The way you asked for a picture of me in my construction garb. The conversation where I knew had momentum toward something big. The power hour pool day I’ll never remember the details of. The shark attacks. When I made Lin grin. When I saw Barack speak. When I did the damn thing. “Is this fun.?” The days we biked. The days we parked. The days we front porched. The absolute joy of the day we rediscovered Moe’s. The, “wanna just hop in my WebEx?”es and the, “I’m free if you wanna call and vent”s. The time Hrishi unexpectedly was on ReplyAll and I couldn’t stop smiling about it. The drum circle in the park. The time you made eye contact and mouthed, “you OK?” when I was tidying up our table. The absolute freaking bliss we felt observing the older woman hit on the guitarist. The lady that practically collapsed with joy right in front of us. The couple that made small talk with us by the tree while their kid played. The way we danced at midnight on your birthday. “to katie with shingles” Getting letters in your handwriting. When she wrote to me about why she chose my name. The ways they learned me and learned how to love me and didn’t even make it seem like that hard of work. The way we figured it out. The way we didn’t let it slow us down. The way we decided we’d take it in stride, be for each other no matter what, and find any way possible to keep each other close.

Oh, and Succession. Dang that show is good.

Happy New Year.

Ketchup Residue

Every time I think about writing this one, I talk myself out of it because I know just writing again, just posting this to a blog another version of me wrote on, just coming out and saying something again after so long not — I know none of that actually changes anything. 

I used to be so certain that my words and my willingness to share them would change things. That Johnny Finkle would make people laugh, that I could share my hard-earned wisdom through Dolores, that the blogs I wrote about Jesus would resonate, that the features I wrote would honor, that somehow this thing I started doing with gel pens in the second grade could help someone somewhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ketchup residue lately. 

And by lately, I mean every night right before I fall asleep since quarantine started. My mind wanders to that little bit of ketchup that stays on the rim of the bottle and hardens if you don’t clean it up.

I hate ketchup residue. 

It is one of the small things my OCD-riddled mind has to constantly find a way to stop concerning itself with, especially right before I fall asleep. I know the residue is there, I know one more day not dealing with it will mean one more day worrying about it, but I also know it’s not really the ketchup residue I’m super concerned about. 

It’s all this. I mean, surely, you’ve noticed all this, right? I want all this to be as in my control as the ketchup residue is and it isn’t. ‘Cause if it was you better believe I’d get up and clean that fucking ketchup bottle. 

In three months I’ve lost three loved ones to some form of suicide. One was a years-long process of giving up on life, one was an oft-resisted urge caused by mental illness, and one was, as far as I can tell, a tragically-followed, spontaneous impulse. Three people who I had known and loved throughout most of my life decided — in different ways and with different sets of circumstances and with different time elapsed between decision and action — it was too much. And they decided to go.

Anyone grieving suicide, I have to imagine, has that same guttural instinct right out of the gate that there was something they could have done. I had forgotten to text her this Mother’s Day like I usually do. I definitely could have kept up more after I moved out. I can’t actually remember if I sent a thank you card or not. 

The guilt feels noble enough, I s’pose, but it’s actually more this thing that we do in lots of areas of life. Grasping for some semblance of control. Or, I don’t know, it is for me at least.

Because if it was something I actually did wrong, I can make sure I never ever do it again. If it was my fault, I can take the blame and the rest of you can move along. If it was on me, I can make the adjustment and you’ll want me around again, right? If it was my mere existence that caused this, my absence would surely fix it, so, I’ll leave you all be. I gotta believe if I had done things differently, this would have gone differently, so I will always always always make sure I do things differently. 

I’ll do all the right precautions and then no one I know will get sick. I’ll listen to all the right podcasts, read the right books, sign the right petitions, attend the right rallies — c’mon, I can stop this injustice, I know I can. Put me in, coach. 

On the day of the third suicide, before I’d known it happened, I was training to make phone calls with an organization that fights for gun control. Mere hours after someone I loved took their life with a gun. 

I don’t really have a point for that one, I suppose it’s just something I’m attempting to find meaning in.

I crave control. If I am in control, so my mind thinks, we might all just end up OK, so I better do these little tasks and get that glorious hit of feeling in control.

I am absolutely addicted to cleaning the ketchup bottle and, as of yet, doing so isn’t fixing a single damn thing. 

So. Here’s what I have a feeling may be true and what I will do my best to believe as I fall asleep tonight. 

My sphere of control is incredibly, ridiculously small. And that is very good news. For me, for you, for him, for her, for them. I couldn’t have stopped those suicides. I cannot end this pandemic (though, I did wish for it every time I blew out candles last week). Things are so ludicrously out of my control and that is so freeing I quite literally just felt my shoulders relax. 

For some of you, this is far from brand new information. And to you I’d say congratulations on being born with logic. I hope you enjoy the money you save on therapy and prescribed medication.

I, however, just learned a year ago that I don’t cause national tragedies with my mind. Magical thinking is a hell of a thing and logic very rarely comes easily to me.

Here’s what is in my itty bitty sphere of control. My own willingness to wear a mask, my ability to hire Black writers, my time calling voters, my time voting, my overly verbose words of encouragement when I think someone could use them, my healthy decision-making, my presence, my empathy, my turns-of-phrase, my ins-on-the-jokes, my words, my love, my hope, my understanding, my celebrating. I can do all those. And I’d like to.

Perhaps my little sphere of control has an even more minuscule sphere of influence. I’m not sure. But on the off-chance something that is in my control can make even one single part of all this just a little bit lighter for literally one someone else?

Yeah, I’m gonna clean the ketchup bottle. I know there’s more residue coming, but, for now, maybe a clean ketchup bottle is just what we need to have something to be grateful for before sleep.

Repulsive

I sat in my car for about 20 minutes and tried to think of all the best excuses I could. And all of the ones that I thought up would’ve worked really well on everyone involved except for me and I knew it and I knew that’s why I would suck it up and do it. Because if there’s one thing that’s gonna drive me somewhere I really don’t want to go, it’s the voice in my head saying “You really can’t hack this? You’re really that fragile?” Continue reading →

On Overcoming

 

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A few months ago, I posted the above picture of Stephen King’s book “On Writing” resting on my new West Elm comforter. The caption implied that I was taking my lunch break to “brush up on the basics” by crawling back in bed and reading. Now. I did crawl back in bed that day and read. But I was actually reading a book that I wasn’t sure I liked yet and that had a dumb cover that I knew I didn’t like. So I popped in my library and grabbed a book I hadn’t even read yet that I thought people would see and think, “gosh she’s cool. And that West Elm comforter rules too. She’s the best.” and I posted something that was kinda true, but kinda not.

I did this because of, what I like to believe is, a semi-healthy blend of millennial-status and an all-too-near history of pathological lying. To put it plainly—sometimes I just can’t convince myself that the truth is as important as how people perceive me.

Let’s put a pin in this for a second, ‘cause we’re getting uncomfortably close to honesty and I’m getting a little jittery. We’ll come back to here. I promise, and with all I can muster, I mean that promise.


Continue reading →

What I’d Tell Her If She Heard


You would hate the sounds of the sirens and helicopters. Don’t worry about it though- I don’t like them much either.

You would absolutely freak if you heard that noise that sounded just like a gun going off in the corner of the office today- a little faint, sure and probably a Nerf gun if I had to guess. But you would definitely run to the bathroom as fast as you could and shake with anxiety and without stopping because you were never great at convincing yourself that it wasn’t your greatest nightmare. Don’t stress it- I did the same thing.

You definitely will want to avoid big groups after you hear the news, so you’ll probably go ahead and skip the school dance. That’s okay- I’m already thinking of ways to avoid my next trip to the grocery store.

You’d hear Orlando, Florida and think to yourself “I just can’t believe it’s getting closer to home.” You have no idea that someday you’ll think of Orlando, Florida as home.

You wouldn’t do well this week. I hate to tell you that- I know you want to hear that you’re doing better, but you still have a lot of counseling up ahead. I think a lot of us do. Continue reading →