How did the McAllen Book Festival go, you ask? Well, the panel discussion was INCREDIBLE. Man, those kids brought some fantastic questions. Speaking to them with two other authors was a highlight of my writing career. I hope the audience enjoyed the event as much as I did.
Work on Book III continues, though at a slower pace than Books I or II. This is the first book of the trilogy that I’m working on while holding down a full-time job. My first two books were written under a much more flexible freelancer’s schedule. So please be patient with me — things are going as fast and as well as they can!
So I’ve been especially busy lately. I miss taking long walks to alleviate my stress and see nature. But this late summer and autumn, I’ve noticed that nature seems to be coming to me.
This summer, I had the joy of seeing a house sparrow fledgling on my apartment driveway. I named him Walter because his fledgling bill reminded me of Walter Matthau. Later, I realized he was probably a she, and thus became Walterietta. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me the evening that the little bird hopped around my feet and cuddled next to my shoe. But a few days later, Raf (a.k.a. The Boyfriend) snapped some fantastic photos of the bird hiding under his car and, later, in a nearby shrub.
During fall migration, I went through a very sad phase at work where I kept finding dead birds outside of my office. The poor little things flew into windows, breaking their tiny necks. I found two Nashville warblers and a female hummingbird, two of which had just perished and one of which had died the previous day. It was awful.
But a few weeks ago, a coworker informed me that a live bird was outside and seemed confused, so I ran outside to try to stop the little guy from death-by-window. Sure enough, a tiny gray and yellow songbird — presumably another Nashville warbler — sat on the edge of a window near the restroom. Terrified that the bird would try to fly away with disastrous results if I tried to pick him up, I reached over nonetheless. To my surprise, the bird climbed right into my hand. His tiny eyes were closed, but as I talked to my coworker about the bird’s characteristic, the tiny feathered guy opened his eyes. His wee claws clung to my fingers. I tried to hide my excitement while I talked, not wanting to scare him. It had been years since I’d held a live bird — the last time was just before my freshman year at Harvard, when a house sparrow decided I was her new perch.
Since I didn’t have a box or something to place the warbler in while he recovered (more tips on what to do with a window-struck bird here), I intended to place him in a planter. But after I took a few steps, he flew out of my hand and on his merry little way.
Then, a few weeks after that, I found a butterfly on the ground next to the office’s doormat. His wings were a dusty shade of brown, camouflaging him almost perfectly with the ground and making him a prime candidate to get stepped on. I placed my hand next to him, and to my surprise, he climbed on — and hung on, refusing to crawl into any of the plants I tried to introduce him to. Eventually, he jumped from my hand to a plant, and I went back into work regretting that I couldn’t walk around with a butterfly on my hand as if it was a totally normal thing.
When I took a break a couple of hours later, I went outside and found he hadn’t moved. I offered my hand again, and he once again jumped on. This time, I did have my phone with me. After an impromptu photo session, I left him in the same plant. When I came back outside later that day, he was gone, hopefully on to another plant he liked even better.
The lesson from all this? Sadness can sneak up on you, but wonder and beauty are everywhere, too. You just have to keep your eyes open and be willing to help out a little creature in need.
Happy Thanksgiving, from this turkey to you.
Copyright 2015, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.
(NOTE: I updated this blog post on 10/21/15. Scroll down to read the updates.)
A week or so ago, I posted on Facebook that I needed nice, affordable pants for my awesome new office job. Difficulty level:
- Must fit on curvy figures. (I’m not going to give you my measurements, but I have a disproportionately small waist and disproportionately large thighs. The outer circumference of my thighs together is larger than my hips.)
- Must be reasonably priced.
- Preferably washable.
- Comfortable would be good, too.
I mentioned the Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants, asking if anyone had tried them. A couple of friends answered immediately that they love the pants and thought they were worth the money. They said the pants were flattering on curvy figures, washable, and oh so comfortable. As for price, $78 was WAY beyond what I wanted to pay. But when I looked at the website, I saw a 10% off coupon. “Maybe they’ll have a better coupon out soon,” I thought.
The next time I logged onto Facebook, I saw an ad labeled:
It was, quite literally, the sign I had been waiting for.
I figured I was a large, regular length. I bought the black boot cut pants because I wanted a bit of flare at the bottom of the pant leg to balance out my massive thighs.
The pants shipped astonishingly quickly. I had them in hand by Friday. But once I got them out of the bag (which, by the way, is decorated with a line drawing that bears a striking resemblance to Mordhaus), I had my doubts. That button and faux fly weren’t going to fool anyone. These were pull-up stretch pants. Not even yoga pants — stretch pants, with the giant wide elastic waist and everything. The material was definitely thick and wrinkle-free, but was it appropriate for the workplace?
I tried them on. “I think they’re too tight around the back of the thighs,” I told The Boyfriend. “Look how the fabric is puckering and wrinkling.”
“Your butt looks so great in them,” he replied.
So I kept them. And I ordered a second pair that night using the same secret sale coupon.
By Monday morning, they were washed and ready to go. Here’s pretty much what happened that day:
8 a.m.: Feel extremely self-conscious as I walk to the office break room. The pants are lower than I expected, and they get a little lower with every step. My button-down shirt isn’t quite long enough to hide my side and back tattoo, and I don’t want to spend the day hitching the pants up.
9 a.m.: Spill coffee on pants. No stain. Still no wrinkles. Feeling more confident about my pants-buying decision.
10 a.m.: E-mail one of the friends who recommend the pants. I tell her, “OMG! These are amazing! Do you have them in any other color? I think the glen plaid might look nice on me, but the stripes might stretch or look zig-zag over my thighs.” Alas, she only has the solids for the same reason. She is happy I like the pants.
11 a.m.: Go to restroom. Admire my reflection. Yeah, these pants are WAY tighter than anything I’d normally wear. But most of my work wardrobe is 10+ years old. Hell, I bought the shirt I had on in 2002. I don’t have any leggings or skinny jeans. Is it so terrible that I have something kind of fun and trendy and young? Especially if it’s washable!
1 p.m.: Feeling bloated from a surprisingly small lunch. The pants are feeling less comfy and more constrictive. I am not sure why I thought these were comfortable. I miss actual yoga pants, which still slide down over the top of your butt as the day goes on, but which also don’t make you feel like you’re wearing a girdle.
2 p.m.: Man, these pants have no give whatsoever. Maybe I am too old for this sh*t.
3 p.m.: Meeting!
4 p.m.: My thighs are starting to tingle, and I don’t mean that in a sexytime kind of way.
5 p.m.: I call Betabrand and cancel my second order.
In summation, I’m glad I tried the Dress Pant Yoga Pants, and I’m okay with keeping the one pair I have. Soon it’ll be cold, and since I don’t wear jeans, I’ll wear them out of desperation on the more frigid casual Fridays. At least I have washable pants now, even if they’re too tight to look professional.
But they don’t look professional, at least not on my body. They’re simply too snug around the thighs to look appropriate in an office. Plus, The Boyfriend might be the only person who thinks I look good in them.
In truth, I could probably get away with wearing them to work. It’s a pretty conservative place, but the pants aren’t exactly inappropriate (though I would prefer to wear a longer shirt next time). But I don’t feel confident in them. Regardless of what other people think, I think they’re not that flattering and definitely not polished enough for my role and my responsibilities. I can look better. I can do better. So I will. (At least from Monday to Thursday.)
And in the meantime, feel free to suggest other places to get pants (or non-static-y tights) to me, and I’ll keep on living my dress life.
UPDATE, 10/21/15: The second time I wore my Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants, they were a lot more comfortable. Perhaps they’d stretched out? Or a second wash broke them in more? Regardless, they didn’t cause my thighs to feel strangled, so I bought not one but two more pairs (also on sale). The gray pants arrived far longer than the black ones, but a little extra drying time fixed most of that.
The glen plaid pants, however, fit terribly. The legs were roughly the same as the black pants, but the waist was 3-4 inches wider. They’re made of different fabric, too — but that shouldn’t affect the sizing. So those went back, of course. But I’m still pretty happy with the black and gray pants. The cost is a little ridiculous, but I’d rather pay more up front for something that will cost less money and hassle to clean in the long run, especially if it’s made in the USA.
Which brings me to my one gripe, not mentioned in the last post: Betabrand brags that these pants are made in San Francisco — this very blog post touts that “Dress Pant Yoga Pants are on sale for $79. They’re made in San Francisco and available only at Betabrand.com.” But I went to check just now, and the tag on one of MY black pants clearly says, “Made in China,” while the other black pants and the gray pants state, “Made in Thailand.” That pisses me off. I’m willing to pay more for stuff made in the USA, but the fact that these pants made the usual oceanic journey to get to me makes them overpriced — and makes me feel deceived. So while I take back some of my complaints about the pants’ look and fit, my new gripe might prevent me from buying from Betabrand again.
Copyright 2015, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.
It’s no secret that I draw — mostly sassy birds and dogs — and that I’ve learned everything I know from the great Pat Falconer. Her “Draw Your Dog” and “Bird Illustration for Beginners” classes turned me from someone who could barely draw a stick figure into someone who could do a cheesy yet occasionally amusing comic strip. Her drawing classes even helped my writing.
And now, thanks to Pat, I’ve been invited to be part of a gallery showing! Stop by Jerry’s Artarama before July 30 to view the Consider Colored Pencil! exhibit. I have three works up: “Zelda,” “Johnny the Outsider Woodpecker,” and “T.S. Qualiot.” All the works in the show are fantastic, and I’m honored to be a part of this!
Copyright 2015, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.
HEY, YOU GUYS! What’s going on? It’s been such a long time!
I’ve meant to write an update for a while, but, well, there weren’t many updates from January through March. Just work, flamenco classes, my dog, and life.
But things picked up in April. To my honor and delight, I was invited to speak at three college classes (two Children’s and Adolescent Literature classes and one Creative Writing for Young Adults class) at the University of Texas – Pan American. The next day, I spoke at two high school English classes and one Literary Magazine class at the International Baccalaureate Academy in McAllen — classes that were taught by my high school English teacher! What an incredible experience.
And those students BROUGHT IT, you guys. I got questions so good and so sharp, I was almost caught off guard for a moment. I left each class excited, invigorated, and psyched for the future of the Rio Grande Valley. Kids this smart and intellectually curious are going to do great things one day.
Getting to the Valley to speak, though…that was a bit of an adventure.
I started off on a Sunday afternoon soaring down Highway 130 (going the speed limit, of course), gazing at fields of bluebonnets under the gorgeous spring sun, a perfect cerulean sky overhead, and thinking how much I love Texas.
Then I took a wrong turn, had to get back onto 130…and that’s when it all went very, very wrong.
The short version: my car’s transmission was destroyed. Which I wouldn’t find out until the next day, in between speaking engagements. All I knew at the time was that my car had a terrifying-looking red warning light — an angry red exclamation point surrounded by a wheel — and I was somewhere near Seguin. Complicating matters: I knew the car might not turn on again, so I parked next to an IHOP so I could at least use the restroom — and it was closed.
Eventually, I found a tow truck company that would take Oliver and me to the closest dealership / service center, which was in San Antonio. I then had to get a rental and drive to the RGV ASAP, since I was speaking at 8 a.m. the next day.
In summation: I was going to be in McAllen, my now-undrivable car was going to be in San Antonio, and I needed to somehow get both of us to Austin.
It was a bit frustrating, to say the least.
But not nearly as frustrating as when I learned the transmission repair would cost more than the car was even worth.
“You’ll need another car,” my mom and stepdad told me.
“I know,” I sighed.
“What are you looking for?”
I said I wanted a Mini. But I knew that I probably couldn’t afford one outright, and I was bound and determined to not have a car payment. “Maybe I can find something red,” I said hopefully. “Something with a sunroof.”
They reminded me to be reasonable — i.e., to lower my expectations.
I spoke to the college classes on Monday. I spoke to the high school classes on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I had to get back to work (which, fortunately, I could do remotely). Before work, though, I went to the local Honda dealership. I went straight to the used section.
And that’s where I saw a 2012 pre-owned certified Civic with less than 30,000 miles on it. And it was dark red. AND it had a sunroof.
I’d be lying if I said it was the car of my dreams. But it was the solution to my nightmare.
My stepfather and I negotiated the price over my lunch break. After work, I went back to the dealership, signed a bunch of papers, wrote a check, and drove the car to my mom and stepdad’s house.
My new car is named Calvin, partially because Civic starts with C and partially because the first song I heard after deciding to buy him was “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre and Calvin Broadus Jr. (also known as Snoop Dogg). He is not nearly as fast or as strong as Oliver. He doesn’t have the Harmon Kardon speakers; I really miss hearing bass through sweet-ass subwoofers. And I miss the beautiful, ridiculously posh monstrosity that was my giant red 2006 BMW 330i. I will always miss it. I will never have another car like that (well, not at least until the Helen of Hollingsworth movie trilogy takes off).
But Calvin gets superb gas mileage. And he is mine. All mine. Oh, and he has an extended warranty, including transmission coverage — which is good, because apparently that sh*t is expensive.
Sometimes we have to make tough decisions. Sometimes those decisions involve selling an item we loved very, very much, and being thankful that we found someone to give us money for it at all (and I am thankful that I did find a buyer for Oliver, very much so). Sometimes those decisions involve most of our savings, spent via personal check over our lunch break. Such is life. And when we have the savings to make those decisions, we are very thankful indeed.
So: life continues. Work. Flamenco lessons. Hopefully more speaking engagements one day (especially since I have a reliable car now). And more work on Book III very soon. I’m now planning to release it before the end of 2016. I can’t wait.
So, to celebrate a tentative release date, let’s have a look at the cover!!!
AAAHHHHH DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT
It’s been an exciting spring, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings. Since I really want to get Book III done and released earlier in 2016 rather than later, I probably won’t have a lot of blog updates. But I will update y’all as progress is made.
Ever forward, my dear sweet readers. Ever forward.
(Oh yeah, one more thing: I saw Rush on their R40 Austin stop. It was amazing. Of course.)
Copyright 2015, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.
“Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father,
Run for your children, for your sisters and your brothers.
Leave all your love and your longing behind;
You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive.”
–Florence and the Machine, “Dog Days Are Over”
When I started writing the What We Found in the Divorce posts, I had no idea that they would resonate with so many people. The messages and comments I’ve received about them have amazed me. I worry sometimes that I’ve overshared, but all I’ve ever wanted to do with my writing is make people feel like they’re not alone — like someone else understands them and is articulating what they’re going through. And it sounds like this series has done that for some of you. And that means the world to me.
As you can imagine, though, these posts have kind of wiped me out. Between the emotional expense, the time they take to write, and the impending holidays, I’m going to take a hiatus from blogging until 2015. I hope to have a new series of posts for you then about my yearlong obsession with birds, which — if all goes according to plan — will end just in time for me to speak at Testify in February. Work and life might get in the way; but, as always, we’ll do the best we can.
But first, some final thoughts on WWFITD:
Like many people, I fell head over heels for the song “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine. Unlike many people, I didn’t hear it until the summer of 2011. But it washed over me like an ocean wave in the summer, crisp and sparkling and joyfully familiar. I loved it. I lurved it.
But in 2011, Alzheimer’s disease began claiming my grandmother. After she died in 2012 (there’s an abbreviated version of the funeral post here), I pretty much stopped being a person for over a year. I stopped listening to new music. I stopped watching new movies. I missed everything that came out in pop culture during that time. Even now, someone will mention a film or a song that came out in 2012 or 2013, and I just shake my head. Eventually, Kendrick Lamar’s album good kid, m.A.A.d city brought me back to life, but that’s another blog post for another time.
During 2012 and 2013, I clung to Rush, Johnny Cash, and Florence and the Machine, especially Ceremonials (as mentioned in the funeral post) and Lungs: The B-Sides. At times, the most important phrases in my life were “Drive On,” from Cash’s song of the same name, and “Run Fast,” echoed over and over again in the Yeasayer remix of “Dog Days” from Lungs: The B-Sides. All I wanted to do was move forward, out of this hell of mourning and alienation. All I wanted to do was drive on and run fast.
When I left this summer, I thought of one line over and over: “Leave all your love and your longing behind.” I was carrying too much pain to survive. So I gave away tons of stuff. I shed my belongings, accumulated over an almost seven-year marriage and an almost thirteen-year relationship, like a snake shedding its skin. That would help, for a little while. And then the fear and panic and sadness would come rushing back.
But my heart is a pack rat. I could’ve given stuff away until the apartment was bare, but my heart refused to let go of anything. My friends, obviously, it clung to the hardest. My family — even the family members who’d hurt me once upon a time — it embraced and welcomed back. It even worried about my ex, who I still care about (in a platonic way).
What ultimately helped my heart the most (in addition to exercise and meditation), and what I’ve tried to do more and more every day, is to celebrate my victories. Every single one of them, no matter how small. If I take the dog out without crying, that’s a victory. If I eat a salad for dinner — hell, if I eat anything at all — victory. Three hours of sleep in a row instead of two? VICTORY. You have to celebrate your victories, because they’re proof that you’re moving forward. They’re proof that your life is shifting from survival mode to peace and possibility, one little victory at a time.
So when it comes down to it, I think the chorus of “Dog Days” is wrong, at least for me. You should run fast, but you should run fast for yourself, not for anyone else. And you don’t have to leave all of your love and your longing behind. You can carry at least some of it with you — you need to in order to survive.
I chose to leave not to make a few months of my life worse, but to make the rest of my life better. I was running from something hurtful and real and certain; and what I was running toward was only a possibility, not a reality. But I was still running toward something. And every day, that possibility — the possibility of a better, happier life — gets closer. I just have to keep running toward it, as fast as I can.
From November 29:
“Do things that make you uncomfortable,” she used to tell me, she being one of those friends who gave tough but incredibly good advice. “If something scares you, do it. Then it won’t have power over you.”
Which is why I went shopping at a mall and an art bazaar the day after Black Friday.
I had to return something at the Domain ($98 dollar pants from Athleta, which I bought in a moment of weakness and low temperatures, and which didn’t even fit right!). What was supposed to be a mid-morning, as-soon-as-they-opened trip slid into a midday trip, but I wore a vintage-style dress and super cute lacy cardigan with flamingos embroidered onto it, so at least I looked good (if odd among the world’s skinny jeans and hoodies).
Sure enough, it was ridonkulously crowded. Yet I returned my item without waiting in line. And, to my surprise, the Steeping Room was able to seat me right away. Party of one sometimes has its advantages.
At the table, I pulled out my copy of Stitches by Anne Lamott — which I had not been enjoying as much as Help, Thanks, Wow until the other night, when the words stopped meandering around and became poignantly, perfectly, almost alarmingly relevant to my life — and read while I waited for lunch. Soon, I was sniffling. (Have you read Anne Lamott’s work? If so, then you understand.) The words on the pages grew blurry through my tears. Ugh. EMOTIONS.
I pulled a tissue out of my purse and dabbed at my eyes, trying to be subtle about my waterworks. I’m sure the older couple next to me talking about what scone to get next were a little off-put, as were the teenagers on my other side. But I didn’t mind. At least it guaranteed that no one would try to talk to me.
What surprised me later when I thought about the incident was the power found in juxtaposing two apparent opposites. The odd strength in odder dualities. Dabbing at my eyes in a crowded restaurant made me vulnerable, but it also made me strong. I may have looked uncomfortable, but that was because I was so moved by what I was reading. I was confident in my sadness, comforted by my emotional turbulence.
Have I told you guys about The Savage Girl by Alex Shakar? It’s one of my favorite books ever. It’s a wry dystopian take on the future of advertising. At one point, the narrator points out how the most successful commercials combine things that are total opposites. Think of the average coffee commercial: a calm breakfast nook scene, and a coffee drinker being revitalized. Relaxation meets energy. Ever since reading that, I’ve become obsessed with working the concept of duality into my writing. Just look at Choose Your Weapon; the whole thing is one duality after another. A fantasy world vs. the real world. The kids’ friendships vs. their cliques and social order. Helen’s home life vs. her school life. Helen’s concept of who she is vs. how the world wants to see her.
After lunch (and even before it, to be honest), I felt like my vulnerability made me stronger. Centered. As comfortably invincible as I needed to be. I moved through the crowds without feeling jostled, or worried about being jostled. I went to the Blue Genie Art Bazaar — for the first time since 2008! — and didn’t get antsy over the sheer number of people around me. I looked at lovely things that moved me (like a notecard of a bird driving a car, and of a robot holding hands with a dog), and at kind-of-lovely things that were way overpriced (too many to list). And I laughed way too loudly when someone’s child looked at the Rory Skagen stocking stuffer display and asked, “Mommy, what are merkins?” Small tidings of comfort and joy, but they were comforting and joyful nonetheless (even if one of them was at some poor kid’s expense).
Sometimes I wish life had those epic movie moments where you rise up and conquer all. You are George McFly finally punching Biff. You are Kaffee in A Few Good Men telling Jessup, “You’re under arrest, you son of a bitch.” You are Mrs. Brisby with The Sparkly, Romy and Michelle leaving their reunion victorious, Prince Phillip slaying the dragon Maleficent, The Bride slaying everyone. But most of the time, we don’t get to kick the villain’s ass or save the kingdom. Most of the time, our victories are small but palpable, if only to us. They aren’t epic; they’re incremental.
But they are victories nonetheless. And we have earned the hell out of them.
This Christmas and beyond, that is my advice to you, dear reader. Celebrate your victories. All of them. And celebrate your friends’ and loved ones’ victories, too.
And if you ever find that you have to run — from anything, not just a toxic relationship — I have three hopes for you:
May you always run fast.
May you run for yourself above all else.
And may you run not just from something terrible, but toward something wonderful.
Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.
“‘Cause you’ve got time,’
He keeps telling me.
‘You’ve got time.’
But I don’t believe him.”
“In time, I
Will fade away.
In time, I
Won’t care what you say.
But time takes time, you know.”
After I left my now-ex-husband, the most popular thing I heard from the people close to me was, “Give yourself time.” Everyone who said it meant well. And maybe hearing it works for some people. Maybe some people find enough comfort in the knowledge that this, too, shall pass.
I am not one of those people. Every time I heard those words, I felt like Sergeant Al Powell in Die Hard, yelling, “I need backup assistance now! NOW, GOD DAMN IT, NOW!”
I am not someone who can just wait out pain. I have to do something about it. Anything about it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I took long walks in a park that I loved. I hung out with friends constantly. I threw myself wholeheartedly, whole-everything-ly, into work and writing. I couldn’t even sit down and watch a TV show end-to-end, much less a movie, because I literally had to keep moving. The thought that I just had to wait out my unhappiness was almost unbearable.
I’ve never, ever given myself time. I’ve never felt like I had time. After my father died in 1996, at the end of my freshman year at Harvard (two days before my last final, which I took anyway), I was determined to be over it and moving on by the end of the summer. I gave myself three months to mourn and heal. By September, I told myself I was fine. I wasn’t, but there was too much else to worry about. Classes. Boys. The idea that I, too, could be yanked out of existence by accident and without warning. I lived every day like it was my last day, because I truly believed it could be.
Time is not my friend.
Which does not explain why I had a giant clock tattooed on my back in 2011.
I wrote a huge blog post about it at the time, but here’s the short version about what it means to me now:
In 2010, I left full-time work at a nonprofit because people were getting laid off left and right. Back in 2008, I’d started writing fiction for the first time in a decade, but now I was intent on writing something worth publishing. This gave me a lot of time to stand face-to-face with my own inadequacy. I was a terrible writer. I could be a better one, but I didn’t know how to become one. Hopelessness took root and grew, pervasive and toxic and all-consuming.
Then, through a series of events — starting with “Rock Band” and getting obsessed with “Tom Sawyer” (the hardest song in the catalogue; as a perfectionist, I was determined to master it), then seeing Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and culminating with seeing the Time Machine Tour in San Antonio on September 23, 2010 — I found something that had been long absent in my life: hope. Rush had been around for almost four decades at that point, and I was just finding out about them. Surely, I told myself, there were other wonderful things in the world worth discovering. I just had to wait and find them.
So I got the album cover for the CD single of “Caravan” — the chorus of which goes, “In a world where I feel so small / I can’t stop thinking big” — on my back, to remember that there is great possibility in the future. And six months later, I got the opening notes for “The Spirit of Radio” tattooed around my ankle — the first notes from the first song I ever heard Rush play live — to celebrate the beautiful moments of the past.
So maybe time is my friend. It just takes a hell of a long time to show up.
In flamenco, there is a dance move called recoge. Literally translated, the word means “collect,” “gather,” “retrieve,” or “pick up.” In flamenco, it’s basically when you take a few steps back and, in a sense, pull yourself together before your next dance. After a particularly rough night, I realized that my whole life was recoge. I was pulling myself back together before the next move.
After realizing that, I felt a lot better. Because recoge isn’t just sitting around, waiting for the pain to stop. It’s part of the dance, too.
From November 13:
“I think the heat’s broken in my apartment,” I tell the front office.
A maintenance guy arrives within five minutes. “It’s these sliding glass doors,” he says, gesturing at the second-floor balcony, which takes up much of the exterior wall. “All the cold air comes through the windows. They have no insulation. If you want to get a blanket or a thick curtain or something, I can help you tape it up around the window. That will help.”
“I’ll think about it,” I lie.
It’s so cold on the second floor of the townhouse-style apartment that I finally rethink my previous decision not to go walking tonight. I already need a coat inside. Might as well wear one outside for a while. So I lock up Verona in her crate with two huge blankets, and I set out for the frigid tundra of Austin’s outdoors.
The trail is empty. I stay where there are lights, strolling on the other side of the pretty little houses, my gloved hands shoved into my wool coat pockets. I walk at a cheerful pace under the night sky, relieved to not be crying for a few minutes. I cry every day now. Sometimes it’s because the days feel bleak. Sometimes it’s because the days feel like a sparkling mixture of bleak and joyful. I cry because I’m happy. I cry — I absolutely weep — when I’m sad. I cry because I’m terrified of the future and overcome with pain from the past. I cry because I am grateful that the house is selling, but I have no idea how to find a place and a life that feels like Home. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, hoping I end up Home eventually.
Last night, I lay awake in the blissfully warm third-floor bedroom of my otherwise freezing apartment, comfortable and content — until I started wondering if I could survive if I was suddenly transformed into a puffin. A marvelous example of what it’s like to have anxiety and a huge imagination and a perpetual desire to have an emergency plan for All Possible Things. You might do the same thing once in a while: you’ll wonder if you could survive if, say, you were somehow instantly dropped into a rainforest. Or left in Antarctica with inadequate cold weather gear. Or transformed into an Arctic seabird.
Of course I couldn’t survive as a puffin. I can barely handle walking around in a 60-degree living room; swimming on the north Atlantic during winter would annihilate me within minutes.
Then again, I told myself as I turned a corner, a puffin probably couldn’t survive as a Sarah. It would take them forever to learn content management systems. Especially if they had to type with those wings.
I walk past one of my favorite buildings and think about how, despite all the crying, I have become so much better about accepting myself. I know what I am, and I know what I’d like to work on, but the rest of it is just How It Is. I’m an oversharer; hello, this status update is a perfect example. I’m highly sensitive: to words, to alcohol, to the damn cold weather. I have the heart of a baby animal — a giant baby animal — that avoids most of the world, but oh, the few people it imprints onto, it will follow them anywhere. Which means it gets injured. A lot. But still, it feels and it loves, with all the enthusiasm and sweetness and lack of intelligence of a cartoon character. Maybe I’m actually Dumbo, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the words “giant baby animal.” Deep down inside, I do believe that if I just found the right feather, I could hold onto it and fly. Plus, my ears are pretty big.
I start down the home stretch of my walk, still not crying. Feeling no desire to cry, in fact. I think of my new mantra about myself: “Soul of a Veyron; heart of a field mouse.” I wonder if I can get someone to design a logo for the blog using those phrases.
I think of going back to the apartment, and my heart sinks a little. I don’t want to shiver on that miserably cold second floor anymore, and winter just started. But nothing lasts forever. Soon, it will be summer again. And then, the third floor will be miserably overheated and unable to fully cool.
But maybe I won’t even be in this apartment by next summer. Maybe I’ll have a different place. Somewhere that cools and heats a little more evenly. Somewhere that feels like, well, if not like Home, then at least closer to it than where I am now.
As I saunter between the houses, I smell dryer sheets in the air. Their comforting florals overpower the crisp winter scent of burning mesquite. All around me, people are in their safe little houses, doing laundry and living their lives. They are Home. They are putting down roots. And I walk between them, warm despite the cold, unsure of where I’m ultimately going to settle, but just putting one foot in front of the other, ever forward, until I get there.
I pass a little garden flag shaped like a turkey. “Be Thankful,” it says.
And I am. I truly am.
(In lieu of adding a photo to this post, I am sharing a video from the Rush concert tour that changed my life. It’s not from that fateful night in San Antonio, but it’s close enough. This version of this song is one of the greatest things I never thought I would discover: insanely difficult prog rock mixed with polka. And while I am thankful for many things, I am especially thankful to whoever took this video, so I can relive this moment again and again.)
Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.