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Make It Count

I am grateful for this pandemic. There. I said it. The one thing I never thought I’d hear myself say. For one thing, it has shown how truly fragile life is, just in case you didn’t already hear “life is short” a million times while growing up. For another, it has forced many of us to slow down, stop, and deeply analyze our lives. From. Every. Angle. It’s kind of like taking a good selfie. Kind of. There are big questions to ponder like who are my real friends? Am I doing what I really love or could I work towards doing something I truly love even more? But I think the biggest one is what happens after I go? Knowing that there is a possibility that your life may end sooner than you would like or thought forces you to think about what happens after you’re gone from this world. For some that brings joy and for others that thought is scary. Let’s not focus on that for a second though. Let’s focus on the living moment. You know how when you drink water you are helping your body eliminate toxins? I feel like this pandemic helped me to detox my life. I have thought about the kind of friend I want to be and the kind of friend I want to keep. As a result I have cut some friends out and re-connected with the ones I believe are worth having in my life. I have thought about everything I drink and eat. As a result I am kinder to my digestive system rather than abusing it. I have thought about getting over FOMO. As a result I have chosen hustling more over going out. I have many more examples, but my point is none of this would have happened so quickly for me if I hadn’t been forced to slow down due to this pandemic. So maybe I’m not necessarily grateful for this pandemic so much as I am grateful to be alive, to know that each day I get to open my eyes and get up is one more day I get the chance to become a better version of myself for the people around me.

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molting

It’s time to taste the wasabi. Get things moving along, motivated by the sting of spicy that burns. Bambi’s father wants you to get up off the ground before the fire chases you down. You are faster than this. Mufasa knew you are more than what you have become. You are better than this. Shang needs you to get down to business to defeat the Huns. You are stronger than this.

It’s time to taste the wasabi. Try something new. Be daring. Be bold. Be brave. Not yolo brave. Not that foolishness. That kind of brave will only get you into more trouble. You don’t want no beef. With anyone. Or anything. Make Mark Twain proud if he is the one who said that famous quote that everyone attributes to him or Abraham Lincoln. Spoiler alert: neither one said that quote.

It’s time to taste the wasabi. The taste has been acquired. You can let gravity do the work now and take you down the other side of the hill. You are almost there. The band aid can come off now. No squirrels in sight. The last rose petal has fallen just as Belle is able to turn you back into who you really are. Finally get that haircut and leave the tower that has held you back from living. The shoe fits and it has never felt better to be yourself again.

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you can’t always get what you want

Dear Heart,

Please stop liking unavailable guys. You are not quite ready for the intensity of a long-term truly committed relationship even though you think you are. I know you want to be, but right now just isn’t the time for it. You are fully capable of liking someone to the fullest of your capability so that’s why it’s dangerous for you to like the wrong guy. He may seem like the perfect guy for you, but he is not really if he’s unavailable. Liking him will only put you in an emotional attachment state you can’t get out of for an unknown length of time because you are the kind of girl who loves to a fault. You would give 110% of yourself into the relationship no matter who he turned out to be and that’s just not fair to yourself if you are putting in effort when the guy is unavailable. I know you don’t do that on purpose, but it happens as soon as you get into a state of emotional attachment. It’s like you meet one and as soon as you start talking to him he casts a spell on you. You end up continuing these talks until you can’t break the spell. This goes on until one day he breaks you. Even then the spell isn’t broken, just you are and you leave the pieces for me to put back together again. I know you need me, so I’m just asking you to stay away from the unavailable ones. I promise one day when you meet the right one for you, everything will come effortlessly. You will put in the effort and it will be reciprocated. He won’t leave you and he’ll be faithful to you. He won’t take you for granted and he’ll give you 110% back. Until then, don’t get emotionally involved. At all. Don’t beat faster when he’s around. Don’t get excited when he starts conversations with you. Don’t look into his eyes while talking to him and sense a connection when all he’s doing is talking to you. Don’t make me have fake conversations with him when he’s not around. In fact, don’t make me think about him when he’s not around. I know I say these things to you and you are only half listening. But that is why you have me here – to help you get through this mess you can only explain in a Rolling Stones song.

Love,

Brain

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last one

If I had to pick a final meal before getting a lethal injection I bet I would find it somewhere lost in my couch. Maybe it’ll be a piece of steak with a side of broccoli and a glass of sweet tea. I’ll need that steak cut up into very chewable pieces thank you very much. Wouldn’t want to choke to death before being put to death. Maybe it’ll be a gigantic buffalo chicken sandwich with a loaded baked potato and a glass of sweet tea. I know exactly where to find that and it’s definitely not in my couch. Or maybe it’ll be a homemade pasta in pomodoro sauce with exactly three beef meatballs, grated parmesan and olive oil drizzled on top. Or I’ll have rib and lotus root stew with a side of rib and seaweed stew and a plate of shredded spicy vinegar potatoes. Or how about some Kraft mac and cheese.

Obviously I can’t decide, but I do know my very last meal would be super delicious and most likely include meat and a glass of sweet tea. And it would be really nifty if I could literally find it lost in my couch somewhere. A girl can dream.

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the things you think at night

“Lights out at 10.” It’s been a long time since that’s happened. It’s my own fault really. I’d like it to be truly exactly 10:00 p.m. when I go to bed each night, especially on the weeknights, but it just doesn’t happen even though I know better. The problem is the alarm on my phone. I need it to wake me up because I haven’t gotten used to the alarm on my clock. You see, the time on my clock is a little faster than the accurate time on my phone so I don’t want to set an alarm on my clock. I end up relying on the alarm on my phone so I bring my phone to bed with me. That is a black hole of time right there when I should be catching some zzzz’s. I have this habit of checking my e-mails one last time, clearing out the junk folders, checking Twitter, and then heading over to YouTube to find a video that answers the question of the meaning of life. That usually include things like I wonder what avocado-based ice cream tastes like? Tom Brady likes that stuff and he is the master at keeping his body in shape so I must try that. I wonder what it would be like to be an emperor’s concubine? I don’t know if I could handle the pressures of being an emperor’s first wife. Man, God wouldn’t like to me have these thoughts! But it’s a part of my people’s history. I can’t just ignore it! I wonder if a crop top will go well with my new pants? Where would I wear a crop top anyway? I really need to find a better way to practice some of those high notes. I’ve got to stop being afraid of 5th position and beyond. I wonder if I could get the recipe for chocolate chip pancakes. There’s got to be some way to consume all those extra leftover chips.

I don’t even know why I do it as I’m pretty sure no YouTube video is ever going to answer that question for me, but it’s like I have to procrastinate sleeping so I can delay waking up so I can delay starting another work day or chore day, as if I can intentionally pause time before I start the next “hard” thing to do on my neverending list. Time moves on with or without me and I know this, yet I can’t resist the vampire apps on my phone. I must be insane because every time I do this, I know I’m going to have a hard time waking up on time and I’m going to be tired all day and find it hard to concentrate on anything I am working on. Yet I do it anyway. I don’t like the sleep-deprived feeling, yet it’s like I’m addicted to it. What I really need to do is go back to relying on the alarm on my clock and turn off all alarms on my phone. I may be up a little earlier than I had planned, but at least it’ll mean I won’t let my phone apps suck all my time away. A girl needs her beauty sleep or she’ll wake up a beast.

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Mark

The hardest part is knowing you will never walk through the Orchestra doors again to come give me a hug and ask how I’m doing, even more than it was for me to visit you in your home for the first and last time and see you in your skeletal state. I wanted to be positive or say something uplifting, but I lost it as soon as I saw you that night looking like my dad did right before he went. You comforted me when he went. You comforted me when I was having a hard time at work. You did stuff like that for anyone you got to know and helped any Orchestra member work on their craft with you if needed. You were that kind of music teacher, one who was not just a music teacher. And that was just with the musicians you knew. The next day I heard someone sobbing in my car on the way home after work. Your record was on. I wanted to comfort her, the one that was sobbing. But my ugly cry was clouding the road and I couldn’t stop the sobbing because life’s not fair when it comes to cancer. I laughed at no jokes at work. I spoke to no one unless I had to. Nothing was worse than realizing the sobbing was coming from me, the girl who hates to be sad, who hates it so much she has to listen to Britney Spears to get back in a better mood. In less than two weeks later you went. My sobbing had become uncontrollable at this point. Then those of us who could make it said good-bye to you on a Monday night. But it’s not really good-bye. It was a celebration of your life, the way you left your mark on this world. It’s not about the numbers, but when I looked around and saw so many people there, it was a testimony to the way you spread joy to everyone you came across and made friends wherever you went. You were that kind of follower of Jesus. I didn’t lose it until one of your best friends in the Orchestra went up to the podium to share your funnies. There were so many, laughter came shooting out of my belly like a dragon and that was the beginning of the end of my sobbing. It was like a switch turned it off because I finally got it. It’s not about being sad because you’re gone. We will see you again one day. It’s not even about the way you played your sax so beautifully and humbly. It’s about the fact you lived a full life with the time that you had. You prioritized your family and friends because life is meaningless if you don’t appreciate those around you. But it all comes down to your love of the Lord, which is what motivated everything you did on this Earth. Now if I have a bad habit I want to break I’m going to think of what you said at the music convention to the trombonist before I start something I will regret: “Don’t do it, man!”

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vanity times three

I have three Tommy Hilfiger items. One is a pair of jeans that is a collab with Gigi Hadid. I splurged on these back when I was working my old job when I wasn’t even sure I could afford them. I got them because her commercial made it look like a lot of fun could be had while wearing them. I knew that’s how all commercials make their products look, but I wanted these jeans anyway simply because they remind me of the kind the girls wore on “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” I haven’t had any magical sister-bonding experiences since wearing them, but I’ve gotten several compliments, so I guess that’s good. While getting them I promised myself I wouldn’t splurge on jeans this expensive anytime soon again. It’s been four years now and I’ve kept my word to myself.

Another is a baseball shirt that I got in high school because I always remembered that the prettiest most popular girl in my middle school would wear Tommy Hilfiger and I always wanted to own at least one Tommy Hilfiger item because of her. I didn’t wear it for long before I ended up getting two holes on one of the arms of the shirt during 10th grade chem lab when my lab partner accidentally spilled HCl on it and the acid ate through that part of the shirt. I don’t like to admit it, but I think I still hold onto the shirt as a clothing scar or something. It’s like I want people to see me wearing it at work or whatever and ask me about those holes so they can find out I still fit into clothes I wore at 15 years old and I survived HCl eating away my shirt.

The third is a black hoodie that I got at a Tommy Hilfiger outlet store. It keeps me warm in the winter, but whenever someone looks at it they think I paid full price for it. Nope. I just wanted something that would keep me warm in the winter. El fin.

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the purrfect spot

I remember you liked to take naps on the little bit of carpet on the stairs in the garage that leads to the back door of the house. I suppose you felt like you could hear your humans better and the carpet must be comfortable to lie on. Mom didn’t like the idea of you inside the house, so the unfinished basement it was, just for you to call a little home of your own. (I know it was a huge improvement from the CoMO apartment you lived in with me, as much as I missed my humble abode two hours away, or an hour and a half if I drive fast.) It’s been over a year since you’ve been gone, but I still avoid stepping on that spot as I see you curled up all cozy on the carpet, looking all peaceful like everything is fine in the world. I never wanted to ruin that little bit of Heaven for you. I’m so glad you missed all this virus craziness, though I’d imagine the only way it would have affected you is seeing me home more than usual. Looking at that spot now tugs at my heart and I know you could never be replaced, but I don’t want to ever fill that spot. That is yours, my black and white ball of fur. I’ll miss you for always, but I want it that way.  

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I don’t measure the temperature outside based on a thermometer reading. I measure based on how many layers I have to put on to feel warm. It was so cold this week I wore 4-5 layers underneath a hoodie to work each day. Plus leg warmers underneath jeans. And my big thick winter boots. I forgot my beanie though. I shall remember that for next week. Our office manager said the heating in the office was turned up as high as it could possibly go. Yet just about everyone in the office still felt frozen and lacking feeling in their toes. I don’t blame the heating system in our building. I wouldn’t want to work on really freezing days like these either. But apparently I do anyway. The sad thing is I’m sure this is not the coldest it has ever been anywhere. I’m a girl in moderation. I don’t get along very well on either extreme side of the thermometer. I like having four seasons, but I don’t like dealing with snow and ice on the roads. Snow is pretty to look at on bare tree branches, but not fun to look at when the sun is shining on it. I suppose if I had to pick, I’d rather go with the heat than the cold. Taking layers off seems like stripping down humanity to the Adam and Eve days. I like the idea of going back to basics.

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to all the yous

I could have stayed while you helped me find a job near you in the city, but I chose not to, moved back home and left a possible heartache waiting to happen. But then again, you have never stopped being my friend completely and I have always felt safe and comfortable around you, so there’s that.

Our lives mirror each other, with mine copying yours right after, but this time I didn’t have a baby right after you did. Now your boy’s growing up and there will always be a part of me that really wants to re-connect with you again, but my heart stops me right before I reach out to you. The beating in my chest knows like a little hummingbird that I wouldn’t be able to talk long before I had to leave again.

You said you liked the feel of the big ones. You wanted me to try a cig at a frat party once after our big split, but instead I spitted out some words from my research on secondhand smoke and lung cancer then tried to put a positive spin on it when I saw the look on your face and the look on the guy’s face, your flavor of the week.

You said your parents compared you to me and you resented me for that. I felt terrible knowing this was happening to you, but still you wanted to stay with me for spring break as you introduced me to your boyfriend and friends at university and then never talk to me again. You didn’t plan it that way, but it just happened. Now all I can think about is all your sexy stories you told me during that time.

I miss everything about you, even that time in fifth grade when I tried teaching you how we could walk through walls one day just because of It. It was meditation because what else would it be? You always remembered my birthday and it’s a quality I’m going to miss in future yous from now on.

I should have made it clear I understood you have no intentions with me and I accept you for who you are, even while you have trouble sharing with your family who you are, but I didn’t. Now I just miss you while you live states away, but you did buy a copy of my book and come support me at my very first author outing, so there’s that.

Every time I see your posts on Facebook, I know you’re going to make me smile because that’s what you do. You made me smile big while we were at university together and I was going through my darkest time. I don’t know how to thank you for that, but I do enjoy your cooking and painting and baby pictures. Mmm mmm good.

I still have the image of you smiling with a 2-liter bottle of Surge dancing on your head in my mind. We had just come back from “Titanic” and going to the movies is one of your most favorite things to do. Now you are out there saving lives and I hope to God you are doing okay.

We write letters now because I randomly reached out to you one time. You’re like a daughter to me as well and I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished so far. Now you have an actual daughter with the most loving husband anyone can ask for and I’m loving the pictures you are sending me of her.

I can summarize us in one word: AIM. You loved that thing and you would probably still be on that thing now if AOL hadn’t shut it down. That thing is how we bonded and grew and became so close later on post-elementary school. You told me you want me to look in the mirror every day and say, “Any guy would be damn lucky to have me.” It’s because of you that I believe this and am grateful for you pushing me to see the things about me I never saw just for not trying.