Monday, September 16, 2013

The Best I've Got

I'm very much disappointed in myself. For reasons you'll soon understand. But for now, just know that that's where my head is.

Dreams are weird. Every night, whether or not you remember it, your brain is building somewhere around seven different worlds in an attempt to keep itself busy while your clumsy corporeal form gets the rest it requires. Your brain isn't tryna do that. Your brain is that kid everyone knew in college who never seemed to need sleep. Ever.


Detailed environments are invented and recalled. Things you're sure you'd long forgotten will rise to the surface. Absolute bananas nonsense things will happen, and you'll go along with it like it's normal as garbage stir fry dinner on a Tuesday night.


Then, of course, there's waking life. The moment you wake up, you've got feelings you need to deal with. Happy feelings - if you've just dreamt about your arms falling off. Sad feelings - if moments ago you were in your 4th year at Hogwarts. Paralyzing terror - if and when the sickest, deepest depths of your most sinister brain fold was in charge of dreams that night.


I've always been fascinated by dreams. More specifically, lucid dreams. In a lucid dream, you are completely aware of the fact that you are dreaming. It's rare. At least, for me it is. And I consider myself to be an exceptional being, so let's stick with rare. Is everyone good with that? Voiceless audience? Good.

There have been a handful of times in my life where there has been definite potential to turn my run-of-the-mill dream into a lucid one. When that thought comes into my head - are you dreaming right now? - one of three things will happen.

1.) I'll voice it, and the dream people around me will tell me that I'm an idiot. I will take the insult graciously, and go back to cutting whale hair.


2.) I'll voice it, I'll believe it, and I'll freak out. I'll do whatever it takes to wake myself up.


Waking myself up is priority. Terrible things will happen if I don't. My first instinct is always to jump off of buildings, because if I die, I wake up. Right? No. I learned that in order to wake up, I have to be mentally grounded. I have to tell myself truths. I'll say out loud, "My name is Kristin, I'm from Connecticut," and as soon as I say Connecticut, I'm awake. It works every time.

Of course once I wake up, I'm mad. Mad at my brain for not taking advantage of the opportunity.

3.) The third scenario is the most rare. I'll realize I'm dreaming, and I'll keep my shit together enough to understand - and this is the whole point - that I can do literally anything I want. There are no rules. Physics isn't a thing anymore. My imagination is the limit. Incidentally, that's the title of my new book. It's a book of recipes, and every ingredient is cheese.


I had a scenario three experience very recently. One of those extremely rare moments where I realize I'm dreaming, and I keep my shit together. It did not end well. I hesitate to even tell this story. My greatest shame. But oh, look. Here I go.

So in the dream, I'm on an airplane. A private jet, to be more specific. I'm with two unknowns, and we're going to some sort of awesome place. At this point I'm blissfully unaware that this is not my actual life. Completely oblivious to the fact that in reality, at that moment, I am sleeping spread-eagle without covers on my twin-sized bed, damp with sweaty dew because I'm trying to brave the rest of the summer without an air conditioner.


All of a sudden, we're all in a swamp. It's clear that the plane has crashed, because I can see the plane - looking like a broken toy - in the distance. No one is hurt. I'm confused, because I can't remember the crash, but everyone else is unconcerned. I reason that had I actually been in a plane crash, I would have been injured. At the very least, I would have remembered it.


At that moment, it clicks. I'm dreaming.


No, I didn't actually summon Joffrey. That would have been a good use of my omnipotence. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, guys.

Here's what I ended up doing. So overwhelmed with the possibilities, I did the first thing that came to mind. I stuck my bare hands into the mud I was standing in.


As soon as I thought it, an enormous, cavernous sinkhole appeared at my feet. I was thrilled. It was working. I was controlling the world around me, and I was lucid.


Do you want to know what I did next? Knowing full well that there were no limitations, no restrictions, and no consequences? Do you want to know what I did?

Lucid_17 Lucid_18

Moments later, I was a barista at the Starbucks I had created with my mind.


So what does this say about me? It says that in my wildest fantasies, I am a part-time employee at the only known Starbucks sinkhole location.

As soon as I made it happen, I understood that I had failed. I could have wiped the slate clean and started over. But I didn't deserve it. I sat on the floor, put my face in my hands, and told myself that my name is Kristin, and I'm from Connecticut.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I've Got a Problem

I didn't quite realize the severity of my problem until I attended my company's Christmas gathering last year. It wasn't a party, it was a gathering. It was perfectly nice, but it was a gathering. 4:00pm in the conference room. When the cubes of cheese were gone, and the plastic cups of wine were drained, people went back to work. It was a gathering.


I worked this particular job, at a small but well-known publishing house in Manhattan, for almost exactly three years. Which is weird to type out loud, because for a job I didn't much care for, three is a big chunk of my cumulative twenty-five. I'd lay some math on you at this point, but I don't math well, so I won't.

So back to Magic: The Gathering.


My office wasn't the type that would socialize. Or maybe they did, I don't know. I wasn't doing any socializing. There were two people in my department, including myself, and if the higher-ups looked hard enough at what we were doing every day, they'd realize that we could've easily been replaced by computers. Well - let's say robots. Robots are more glamorous.


So anyway, I'm standing in a corner, looking at people who I've worked with for upwards of three years, realizing that I don't know any of them, getting anxious about it, and sipping my merlot. Corner, people, anxious, sip. A cycle. Soon I'm tipsy, as is my wont.


At some point, one of the senior editors approached me directly. That or I was blocking the door frame, and I misinterpreted his "excuse me" as an invitation to start talking at him.


For a quick moment I was relieved that a conversation was happening. I remember that. I remember congratulating myself on all my accomplishments thus far. I was having a conversation at The Gathering. I had washed my hair that morning. The afternoon wasn't a total bust.

But as quickly as that feeling came, it left. It left me like Brad left Jennifer, the dog. All of a sudden I was extremely self-conscious. I started stressing about rules of basic human interaction.


We talked for a minute or so. About whatever. I was borderline drunk, and sweating profusely. I couldn't understand why I was having so much trouble holding up my end of the conversation, and the more I thought about it, the worse it became. Involuntarily I started tuning him out, so I could regroup in my drunk head and come out the other side with something interesting to say.

I could tell by his cadence that the sentence he'd been speaking was almost over, and that I'd need to give some sort of indication that I'd been listening. So I business laughed.


Business laughing isn't real laughing. It's a placeholder. But it didn't matter - it worked.

Here comes the part where I realize I've got a problem. Remember? The problem I have? I alluded to it in the first sentence. Try to keep up.

We finished business laughing, and he asked me a question that brought me out of my anxious tipsy haze.


At this point it should be reiterated that at that moment in time, I had been working full-time at that office for close to three years. And so had Tim.

Something shifted. I felt the anxiety fall away. I laughed. Loudly. And this was no business laugh.


I couldn't stop laughing. It was, and still is, ridiculous. He gave a genuine apology, and I genuinely accepted, still laughing. I laughed for a million years. We laughed together, and at some point, he left. Everyone left, and I was still laughing.

It wasn't until I went back to my cube and put my head on my desk that I realized I had a problem. That it wasn't Tim's responsibility to get to know every insignificant assistant on the company's payroll. That not only do I need to make an effort, but I need to be better at the efforts I actually end up making.


Eight minutes later I lifted my head up and watched a moth flap its stupid moth dust all over my inbox, which in that place was a physical box, with paper, like in the old movies. Two weeks later, I left that job forever.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Brushes with Death

If you're reading this right now, then you're alive. Congratulations. That, in and of itself, is a feat. Good on you. You're doing it. Some people aren't so lucky. They're either already dead, or they didn't win the sperm race to the egg and they're just bodiless, ignorant blobs somewhere. I don't know where they are, what they are, or if they are. I just know that they're not here. But I am, and you are too.

Take a second to appreciate how improbable it is that you even exist. Did you do it? Good. Now stop. Enough of that, who cares.

I've had a number of near-death experiences. Stories that would shake you to your very core. The things I've seen! Just layers and layers of perilous happenstances that have helped build this tough, turtle-shell exterior I'm so known for. Take, for example, the time I was treading water in an ocean off the coast of Massachusetts, when out of nowhere, a crab clamped down on my toe.


Did it hold on? No. Did it break the skin? No. Is it more likely that my kicking legs grazed the unsuspecting crab by accident? Maybe. The point is, in that moment, I believed that it was curtains for me. That's all it really takes to have a near-death experience. You just have to truly and earnestly believe that you are going to kick it, right then and there.

So, behold. A sampling of experiences in which I told the grim reaper to go suck a nut.


One time I came home very late without my key, and my roommate was extremely asleep. I was outside my apartment building, staring up at my second floor bedroom window, thinking about how close I was to my bed, and how cruel it was that I had no feasible way of accessing it. I buzzed and buzzed, but my roommate has a habit of sleeping through the decibel equivalent of one of those foghorns they use to keep boats from crashing into rocks.

So whiskey logic kicked in - I told myself that I still have my gymnast upper body strength (I don't), and reasoned that my roommate would be thrilled to see my face pressed up against her bedroom window at 3am (she wasn't).

I tried to climb up the fire escape without the ladder, and only as I was hanging almost completely upside-down over the spiked metal fence that houses our trash bins did I consider myself to be in any sort of immediate danger.


I summoned the strength that mothers use in times of blind panic like when their kid is trapped under a car. It was the thought of being found in the morning - impaled and also sitting in garbage - that allowed me to forge on. I made it to Brittany's window and lived to tell the tale.


In 7th grade I was minding my own business in science class, probably wondering which pokemon episode they'd air when I got home from school, when the teacher called on me to read aloud from the textbook. Like a pro, I snapped back into it and found the paragraph he was referring to. I didn't mind reading aloud. Any opportunity to work on my diction.

Bottom line, I encountered the word "organism," and said "orgasm" instead. The teacher corrected me, and then later in the same paragraph I said it again. It felt like the end of days.


Against all odds, I survived!


Just last week I was leaving work via my building's notoriously slow elevator, and soon after we started descending, a well-fed man stepped into that already-packed space. The elevator gave a horrible jolt and we all exchanged shifty glances that seemed to say "I'm eating you first."


The whole thing lasted four seconds, but I had already pricked my finger in preparation of writing, in my own blood upon the wall, my manifesto and subsequent memoirs. They would be published posthumously to critical acclaim.


When I was eight my brother snuck up behind me in a pool and double fish-hooked me. He either didn't know his own strength, or he had legitimate malicious intent. Either way, I've yet to experience anything near that sort of pain.


He wasn't sorry.


On the hottest day of summer in 1998, I was wandering around an outdoor flea market. I was sick of looking at buckets of broken tools and hairless dolls, and I was furiously thirsty. I only had 50 cents left, and water was a dollar. So I bought a Ring Pop. You know - the lollipops that are awesome for a minute but then your hand is sticky forever. My logic was that it would be like sucking on an ice cube. It wasn't.


It made me exponentially thirstier, and I ended up drinking from an anonymous hose. I think there was fertilizer in it. BUT. Yet again, I had cheated death.


Two years ago, when I was told that my appendix needed to come out immediately, I broke the news to friends and family as if the offending appendix was a malignant tumor. I was told by a number of doctors and surgeons that this was the most common, most low-risk surgery they perform, but I was convinced they were sugar coating it. A nurse asked if I had enough pillows, and I took that to mean "get your affairs in order." The anesthesiologist told me to count backwards from ten, and I said the "last words" that I had picked out and rehearsed:


I woke up a few hours later, and praised - not the surgeon - but my will to survive.


I sat in a hot tub for a long time once and worried that it was cooking me.



In college I took a course on American playwrights and I procrastinated to the point where I ended up having to read eight Tennessee Williams plays in one night, in full.


My roommates found me the next morning, barely conscious, mumbling in a southern accent. Death by crazy? Not tonight.


I was in Amsterdam three years ago, and I was thoroughly confused by the wall outlet adapter I had purchased. All I wanted to do was charge my weird European phone. Long story short, I free-handed some loose metal into a live socket.


If you're looking for the long story, you can forget about it. Sticking metal in an outlet is still one of the dumbest ideas I've ever had, and I've all but repressed the details.


Oh and to get to Amsterdam, I flew in an airplane. I'm putting that on the list, because I don't understand how airplanes work and therefore I do not trust them.



I have a weird freckle on my right arm and every time I look at it, I hear that "Live Like You Were Dyin" country song in my head.


Unfortunately for me, "live like I'm dyin" means sitting in bed watching old episodes of The Office and ordering a veritable feast of the United Nations off of Seamless. Since I do that on the regular anyway, I can truly say that I am living life to the fullest. So that's sort of nice.


A few years ago I went up to Cape Cod with a few lady friends to celebrate ladyhood. It was soon after we graduated college, and the four of us stayed in a house on the water for a long weekend. We were all roommates senior year, and it was a reunion of sorts.

The last night we were there, we decided to stock up on wine and go out to the beach after dark. We bought a couple of nice bottles (nice meaning $11.99) and one magnum (cheap double bottle). We drank the nice bottles on the sand and talked about things like higher education and health care reform. When those were gone, we took the magnum up to the giant lifeguard's chair and talked about things like what types of hot dogs are best and how hilarious the term "pinky toe" is.

What I didn't realize, as we each took turns taking swigs from the magnum, was that at a certain point everyone else started taking minuscule sips. Despite the fact that I was the only one drinking in earnest, the magnum was empty by the time we headed back into the house. The last thing I remember doing was cueing up a song on my phone, sticking it in my sweatshirt front pocket, and screaming at the moon - "THE MUSIC IS COMING FROM MY BELLY."


I woke up the next morning feeling like the Gathering of the Juggalos was happening inside of my skull. Everything was loud, and nothing was clean.


As of now, three years later, I think I'm still dehydrated from that night.


I went to a zoo, once.




My kindle ran out of batteries on the subway when I was 94% done reading the last Harry Potter book.

Had I read it four times previously? Yes. That's not the point.

The point is - in the book's absence, my shitty brain tried to fill in the rest of the plot by memory. It was akin to Chinese water torture.



Whether or not I was in any real danger in any of these situations is beside the point. Ok? I'm brave. I'm the bravest.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Oh Here's Something

The problems I faced at age nine were - to my nine year old brain - more significant and daunting than any problems I'd faced so far, any problems I'd face in the future, and certainly any other problems other people were dealing with.


Sixteen years later, I wish I could say that I've gained some self-awareness, but I don't know. I can't.

What I have learned - is that regardless of age, your problems are always going to seem insurmountable. I've also learned that they rarely are.

That said, let's talk about the time I accidentally touched human poop.


I was nine, and like I said before, I had problems. I was a tiny runt of a child. None of the clothes at Limited Too fit me yet. I had a crippling fear of vomiting. Oftentimes waitresses wouldn't put enough cherries in my Shirley Temple. My mom overcooked broccoli 73% of the time. I was pretty sure I'd never meet the Backstreet Boys in person.


I know. It's hard to hear. But this was my life.

ALRIGHT - fine. I had a pretty cushy childhood. Whatever. There was always food on the table. I had parents that invested in my future. I had a car to drive in high school. I went to two Backstreet Boys concerts in middle school.

One childhood treat involved convincing my dad to take me to the nearby pool club, where they had both an indoor and an outdoor pool. This meant that theoretically any day of the year I could submerge myself in tepid stank-water, and I was happier for it.

I was in love with the pool. There was something about the way the chlorine made my scalp itch. I'll never forget it. The notion that you're just sitting in a big pot of stranger soup. Loved it.


Sometimes I'd bring a friend, but mostly I was content to spend hours alone, pushing the limits of my lung capacity. I'd doggy-paddle to where it was eight feet deep, and I'd go all the way under. I wouldn't take a deep breath first, though - I'd let it all out and then go limp. I learned early on that when you fill your lungs with air, you float - and when there's no air in your lungs, you sink.


So, goggles on, I'd sink. I'd sink until my butt hit tile, and I'd just sit there. It was immensely calming. All the daunting problems of my difficult life would linger on the water's surface, and there I was at the bottom, worry-free.


Worry-free, and also depriving my brain of oxygen. Which - I mean - I'm not a doctor, but I think brains need oxygen.

So I'd absorb the serenity of the stillness and silence until I couldn't take it anymore, and, head spinning, I'd shoot back up to the top.

My head would throb pleasantly, then I'd go back down. I'd repeat this sequence until my dad would appear at the surface after my 116th dive, asking if I'm kidding him with this right now.


I mostly stuck to eight feet. I was comfortable there. I was able to go decently deep while still having enough oxygen to appreciate the moment.

But there came a day when I said to myself, Kristin? You're nine now. Time to nut up and see what that drain is all about.

The drain was a grate at the bottom of the deep end. It was a mystery. I wanted to stare into its depths and find truth. I wanted Oprah's voice to come out of it and tell me how special I was. The problem was, the deep end was twelve feet deep. Unfathomable. Twelve feet was three of me. I'd avoided it for so long for lack of bravery but goddammit if I wasn't ready at the ripe old age of nine.

I got out of the pool and walked determinately to the far end. I avoided those gross puddles that accumulate around pools - you know, the ones that somehow end up filled with disintegrated toilet paper and rouge hair. The stuff of nightmares.


After mustering up all the courage I could locate, I lowered myself into the deep end and started to sink. I was in it for the long haul. I was a submarine captain, descending further and further into the unknown - in the name of science, and in the name of the United States of America. I missed my wife and kids, but I had a job to do.

Was that sexist? Assuming that only menfolk can command submarines? Well, I'm a lesbian in this scenario. So it's on you.


When I finally got to the bottom, I was too panicky to enjoy the zen moment, let alone the mystery of the grate. What I did notice, however, was something small and round near my foot. It sat there, unmoving. My immediate thought was that it was a dime.

You people are smart. You didn't forget that I Tarantino'd this story. From the beginning, you've known that I would inevitably be touching human poop at tale's end.

So, yes. What I thought was a dime ended up being a tiny, comically round nugget of poop. It was loose poop, and I had just touched it. I didn't just touch it, though. I grabbed it. It broke into a million poop particles, and I died. I died about it, right there.


I'd never pushed my lungs this far and when I finally made it to the surface I wanted everyone to know what I'd been through. Before I'd even taken a much-needed breath, I Paul-Revere'd the shit out of that place.


The lifeguard rolled his eyes and got the pool scooper.

And I, fanning myself while grasping the pool's ledge, lamented the loss of my life's one respite. The calming depths were forever tainted. Tainted by poop.