Just Another Evening Walk

The following is a conversation that happens regularly in our house:

Me: “Hey Thomas, I’m heading out for a short walk to get some fresh air, I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”

Thomas: “Ok, see you in an hour.”

Me: “No really, I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”

Thomas: “You say this every time, and I just don’t believe you anymore.”

*Me, one hour later, finding myself halfway across the city* “Fuck.”

But, besides instilling a lack of trust with my own husband – which, fine, is probably pretty important – I regret nothing about the hours I spend wandering around San Francisco. I am getting to know this city slowly, walk by meandering walk, giving myself time to get lost and take pictures and notice things I wouldn’t notice if I were speeding by on my bike or in a rush on my way to work.

There are so many wonderful things you’ll notice, so many streets and small houses with beautiful gardens you didn’t know existed, so many small displays of love between mothers and sons, partners out to dinner, children playing in parks.

I want to say that the more time I spend in this city, the more I love it… but that’s not quite true. It’s more like… the more time I spend in this city, the more I feel attached to it, the more I feel protective of it and its people.

Sometimes I think that if every tech bro (sorry, had to say it) got out of his door-to-door Uber from his office in FiDi to his house in the Marina once in a while, a lot of things about this city might change for the better.

Ah, crap, I’ve found myself ranting again. Anyway, here are some pictures of last evening’s walk:

An Ode to “Tim” From the Bike Shop

(I wrote this in my journal some time last year and was inspired to post it while riding the train to Palo Alto this morning. I used the name “Tim” to respect the employee’s privacy, but sent him an email asking if he wouldn’t mind if I share his real one.)

I drop my bike off most Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at the San Francisco train station and return to pick it up when I arrive back in the city later in the evening. The parking area is a part of a small shop with space for bike repairs and parts for purchase, and there are a few employees who park your bike on the racks and cover any repairs you might want done. Parking your bike in the shop requires filling out a paper tag that contains your name and phone number and attaching it to your bike before it’s carried over to a rack by one of the employees. There are few enough employees that I almost always know them by name, especially the ones who work shifts during the trains I usually catch.

I remember well what must have been Tim’s first or second day working in the shop; I hadn’t seen him there before, but as he was rolling my bike to the parking rack he noticed the phone number I’d written on the tag. “Ah, 203,” he said noting the area code with a big smile, “I grew up in Fairfield County!” He asked me which high school I’d gone to, and if I knew one of the teachers he’d had back in the day. I remember thinking to myself as I walked out of the shop how much brighter he’d made my morning with his genuineness.

Every day after that when I dropped my bike off during the hours Tim was working, he’d ask me if I was going to visit Connecticut any time soon. He’d always wish me a pleasant day, even when I rolled in at 7a.m. on a Monday morning with bags under my eyes, zombie-ish before that crucial first sip of coffee.

I watched each week as his sincerity and kindness was unfailingly extended to every person who walked through that bike shop door, no matter if they were part of the it’s-6:30a.m.-on-a-Monday-morning-don’t-talk-to-me-just-put-my-bike-away-quickly crowd, or the it’s-8p.m.-on-a-Friday-night-I-just-want-to-get-home-and-have-a-beer one when he’d be closing up the shop at the end of a long week. I never once saw him greet a customer other than with a smile and some sort of “how are you doing on this fine day?” and if you were any sort of regular he’d know you by name.

One morning I dropped my bike off for a tune-up and mentioned offhand to Tim that I’d be using the bike to ride in a race that weekend. I woke up the next morning to an email he’d sent me later than night after I’d gone to bed:

I saved this email as soon as I read it as a reminder of and testament to the people like Tim who make the world a better place. He has never owed me – or anyone who walks into that shop – anything, and yet he goes above and beyond to make our days better. He has single-handedly turned so many of my mornings around when I was stressed and hurried, or angry about some car that had almost hit me on my ride over. When I received bad news on my way home from work one day, and exited the train lost in self-pity and rumination, his smile changed my entire mood.

How do we thank people like Tim (besides writing silly posts they’ll never read)? And how do we become more like Tim? How can we do better express our care, concern, and interest in others? How can we make it habit to always offer a smile, to ask a question driven by genuine curiosity instead of formality, to help others and make their lives better in whatever small way we can?

Grilled Chicken & Ketchup

I was inspired to write this piece by my own series of tweets that I posted five minutes ago (thank you, Twitter Maddy, for always being a source of true inspiration):

I’ve been known to be extremely satisfied by meals (though “meals” might be a generous term) that others find “gross,” “questionable,” “disgusting.” For example, I routinely enjoy dipping grilled chicken strips in pools of ketchup, mixing canned tuna into anything and everything, using the microwave whenever possible (#SpeedOverSavoriness), and melting shredded cheese onto pieces of bread and proclaiming it a delicacy.

What’s even more confusing to people than this menu, however, is that I don’t eat this way out of necessity. Part of me is angered every time someone expresses their disgust at my canned fish: don’t you know that millions of people have to eat canned fish for economic reasons? What about those who can’t even afford canned fish? If you think canned fish or dipping things in ketchup for taste or beans are gross, take some serious time to think about everyone who is grateful to have those foods on the table.

Next, there are times when I don’t have the energy (physical, mental, or emotional) to cook. I came across this amazing thread on Twitter in March and can’t tell you how sane I felt while reading it:

Taking care of yourself – this includes cooking and eating well – can feel impossible if you’re stressed, anxious, or depressed. There’s a lot to be said for any form of nourishing yourself when it feels like an overwhelming task. And even when I’m not having extra difficulty finding the energy to shop or cook or clean, there are plenty of nights where I come home exhausted from work and eat whatever is quick and accessible because it is most certainly better than nothing (shout-out to Trader Joe’s frozen meals).

Those last two thoughts were tangential, but I think about them a lot. I originally started writing this post to say the following: I am not a foodie, and I am proud of it.

Me – a privileged, white millennial – not a foodie?! The horror!

I don’t think I’ve ever formally defined the term myself, so obviously I went to Wikipedia: “A foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food[1] and who eats food not only out of hunger but due to their interest or hobby … Typical foodie interests and activities include the food industrywineries and wine tasting, breweries and beer sampling, food science, following restaurant openings and closings and occasionally reopenings, food distribution, food fadshealth and nutrition, cooking classes, culinary tourism, and restaurant management.”

According to this definition, I’m not a foodie for the following reasons:

  1. I don’t want to dedicate my free time to making restaurant reservations, reading food magazines or blogs, waiting in line for trendy brunches, or observing the latest food fad.
  2. I also don’t want to spend my money on any of the above, especially when I personally don’t benefit from “finer” foods. I don’t always eat canned tuna because I have to, I eat it because it tastes totally fine to me and I wouldn’t gain an extra $25 of salivary enjoyment by eating seared ahi tuna. I feel the same way about making myself a big bowl of pasta at home: why would I pay an extra $20 to eat a bowl of pasta at a trendy restaurant if it tastes only slight better (P.S. they are probably just putting a ton of butter in there and you could, too, in the comfort of your own home)?
  3. If I see one more “foodie” blog or Instagram account or post tagged #foodporn, I might lose it. Unless you have something new or interesting to say (which a picture of a pile of waffles at a brunch place tagged #foodporn does not), I don’t want to see your content. In fact, I will even go so far as to say that the majority of those I know with food blogs or social media accounts suffer from disordered eating, and their “obsession with food” is nothing more than a thinly-veiled eating disorder. If I’m going to be brutally honest, that is my biggest source of frustration and anger with the rise of “foodie” culture. I’ve watched too many of my peers disguise their complicated relationship with food or their body in a “wellness” blog or by taking pictures of foods they’d never actually eat.

Maybe that last point was all I really wanted to say. I’ve suffered from eating disorders in the past, and so for me to watch my peers demonstrate their own issues by proclaiming themselves a foodie is really, really, really hard to watch. There are pieces on this topic that are much more well-written (my most favorite is “Opinion: Smash the Wellness Industry”) but I hope that my candidness in sharing these thoughts and feelings inspires some others to take a closer look at what’s fueling this “foodie” movement. If I think about what I did in the height of my disordered eating, a lot of it is scarily similar to behaviors now attributed to “loving food!” I spent time looking at pictures of food that I wouldn’t allow myself to eat; other times I’d binge on something you’d probably see as #foodporn or #cheatdayeats. I’d spend valuable time thinking about food, weight, and nutrition when I could have been spending time with friends, or writing, or making music, or enjoying my life.

I’m not accusing all foodies of having underlying issues, but I am hoping that those who do take a step back and evaluate if their “food obsession” is coming from a healthy and helpful place. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with not enjoying “finer” foods and, in fact, it’s saved me time and money to embrace that about myself. I’d rather share a meal with those I love than spend money going to a dimly-lit restaurant where I can’t even see their faces… just sayin’.

 

An Evening in the City

I have exactly 45 unfinished posts sitting in the draft folder of this blog, and most of them are about events or topics that I’ve spent countless hours thinking about. They never feel quite “good” or “right” enough to post, and I get overwhelmed by how badly I want to express my thoughts or opinions in the most perfect way.

Ironically, this post – my first in a while – is something I’m typing as I head home from work on the train, and I intend to publish it as soon as I finish rambling on my keyboard. I was scrolling through the recent photos on my phone and came across a few I’d taken last Thursday evening, during an otherwise inconsequential moment that for whatever reason felt special. If you take a look at my camera roll, you’d probably have a hard time understanding why half the photos are there; they’re not scenic, or cute selfies (don’t worry, I have plenty of those in the other half), or captured on momentous occasions. They’re mostly just photos I’ve taken randomly, without expecting to, when a place or a certain light or a group of people captures my imagination and makes me feel a certain way. These photos are a way of remembering those moments, without having to explain them or put them into words.

Anyway, here are the photos I took the other night, as I was walking home from a bar in the Mission, the air chilly in the best, refreshing way. They aren’t great shots, or taken with a professional camera, or even meant to have some deep representational meaning, they’re just kind of… my love for San Francisco.

 

 

The Point of Life: An Extremely Non-Exhaustive List

Here’s what I came up with at 6:30am this morning  while enjoying a delicious pastry (pictured) at Neighborhood Bakeshop:

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The reason I say “extremely non-exhaustive” is because this is actually just a list of things that happened to me this morning. But, at the end of the day, these little things are the point of life, right? I wish I could say that those monumental moments, such as graduations or weddings, are the point, or the wonderful places to which I’ve had the opportunity to travel and explore, but (for better or worse) those aren’t the moments that make up the majority of my life. And to be honest, if I were living every day just waiting for or reminiscing about those bigger moments, I’m not sure that would be enough for me to want to live. That’s not to say I don’t often find myself in those moments – in a beautiful landscape in Austria, for example – and think to myself, “Wow, I’m so incredibly thankful to be alive to experience this moment,” but it’s hard to keep going through more “routine” days without smaller moments of happiness and relief along the way.

Or maybe the point of life is both of these things at the same time: having big, important moments of ecstasy and joy that you can carry with you always, and smaller and briefer moments of quiet fulfillment and gratitude. (Or maybe the point of life is none of the above, and I’ll come to figure it out when I’m older and wiser. Or maybe there is no point, in which case… well, I don’t want to think about that.)

Regardless, here I am, sitting outdoors at a coffee shop at 8am on a misty San Francisco morning, and feeling very grateful. I’m also feeling like I wish I were good at drawing (or any art, really) since this doodle looks like a pretty sorry depiction of the images I was trying to capture. (Maybe the point of life is to slowly improve your drawing skills until you die???)

Important Things, Like Love and Flowers

Wow, it’s been a while! Sorry for keeping you all on the edge of your seats waiting for new #content. Just kidding, I know no one actually reads this crap. I have been doing lots of writing, however, but primarily in my various journals and diaries (not to mention random scraps of paper and Post-It Notes). Now might be a relevant time to reference a tweet by which I felt personally victimized:

I’ve also spent a good amount of time painting homemade birthday and Mother’s Day gifts/cards for my Mom, as part of my elaborate 3049623784027835-step plan to overtake my youngest brother as mom’s favorite child (I’ll keep you all apprised of my progress after this round of Mother’s Day gifts). I’m only kidding. Kind of. But I do make an effort to at the very least always make homemade cards for my parents’ birthdays or holidays because I’m a big believer in the Zadie Smith quote: “Time is how you spend your love.” When it comes to my parents in particular, there’s no possible way I’ll ever be able to repay them (monetarily at least) for the life and opportunity and happiness and support and love they’ve given me, so buying something in a store always feels silly and futile. I suppose my homemade cards are an attempt at conveying that no matter how busy I am with work, or appointments, or other stressful little things, I will always, always make time for the people I love, whether that be in person or by taking the time to write a nice handwritten note.

Speaking of love — I was thinking about how love manifests itself in different, and sometimes weird and subtle, ways over time. I spent a lot of time this week in particular thinking about how my love for Thomas has changed over the course of our relationship, a reflection heavily induced by his absence as he’s been away visiting his parents in Atlanta.

I remember when we first started dating: he was living in New York, and then Boston, while I was still at school out here in California. We’d see each other once every two months or so, with either him flying out to see me or me going to meet him on the east coast. Each time I took the cross-country flight I’d get butterflies thinking about getting to see him, and I felt the same as I’d wait anxiously at the airport for him to land at SFO. Of course those butterflies don’t happen with the same intensity anymore, but I hate the idea that I now might sometimes take his presence and our relationship for granted. I never, ever want to take the moment each day when he walks through the door after coming home from work (or from working out at the gym, in which case he’ll be drenched in sweat and make a bee-line for whatever sugar is readily available in the kitchen), especially after we spent so long apart at the beginning of our relationship.

I started to think about the ways in which my love for him manifests itself these days:

–When he is away and I’m at home alone at night, I keep all the lights on in the house because it makes me feel less lonely and afraid. Turns out just knowing he’s around makes me feel better about everything.

–When we are together at home, my favorite moments are often the ones in which we are just sitting side by side on the couch, one of us watching a TV show while the other works or reads (or watches an entirely different TV show, since we can never agree on one we both enjoy), because the people I feel closest to are the ones who I can sit with in total silence and feel safe and calm and happy.

–Even when I’m annoyed at him for whatever reason (usually a trivial one, sure), I still check his location on the “Find My Friends” app around the time he’s supposed to be commuting home from work because it makes me smile to see his little dot moving towards our house.

All of the above reasons are pretty sappy, though – except for the last one, which could arguably be categorized as “creepy” – and he hates sappy things (including rom coms, which is pretty devastating for me). So I’ll finish this post up with some other slightly less sappy ways in which my love manifests itself these days:

–I bring home an extra donut for him when we have them at work.

–I attempt (keyword: attempt) to change out of sweatpants every so often, and into outfits that I genuinely think he would like.

–I’ve started watching Game of Thrones… yes, folks, you read that right! As of this evening I’m on… Season 1, Episode 2. Let’s goooooooo.

–I always restock the toilet paper. Just kidding, this isn’t a manifestation of love, this is a subtle way of saying, “I ALWAYS FREAKING REMEMBER TO BUY THE TOILET PAPER WHEN WE RUN OUT.”

Friday Vibes

*Disclaimer: I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase “vibes,” and am not sure whether or not it’s used ironically in this title.

Since it’s after work on a Friday, and my ability to string together coherent thoughts is nowhere to be found, I’m just going to hit you with a list-ish of incredibly miscellaneous thoughts I had today:

  • This cover of the 1975’s “Give Yourself a Try” is an absolute BANGER, and I’m disappointed no one shared this information with me earlier
  • Should I start watching Game of Thrones? (This is entirely a rhetorical question, by the way, as I will probably not start watching. I only briefly reconsidered this week when my therapist referenced the TV show.)
  • Does everyone hate me?
  • Jack Dorsey (read: the physical manifestation of the worst things about Silicon Valley/San Francisco) sucks
  • The “writing prompts” thread on Reddit is full of really, really bad and prompts
  • It’s all fun and games and nature and trails until you get poison oak. I am currently swollen up like one of those kids in the old Fruit Gushers’ commercials:
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  • Happy Friday, y’all. If you need me, I’ll probably be unwrapping the foil of a phatttttttttt Mission burrito

Poison Oak

A few days ago I came across a picture I took while running in Phillip Burton Wilderness last year, and was inspired to paint it because I could remember the exact thoughts and feelings I had while taking the picture. I had stopped in the middle of the trail for no reason other than to take in my surroundings (Thomas often asks me why it takes three hours for me to go on what should hypothetically be a one hour run, this is why) and was so overcome by the way – from exactly where I was standing – the trees showcased the sky perfectly, as if to simultaneously protect me and open up to me the vastness of the world beyond my little patch of dirt.

Philosophical and metaphysical thoughts aside — I came home from this run and had – obviously – contracted poison oak. It seems that every time I’m out on in the trails in Northern California (which, for better or worse, is a lot of the time) I manage to get poison oak, despite my best efforts to avoid all poison-oak-looking vegetation. The ironic thing is that, as I sat at my desk painting this image, I keep having to pause to apply “extra-strength” hydrocortisone cream to various parts of body because – guess what! – I have awful poison oak. Is this… a coincidence? Or is it fate?!?!??!?! Either way, let me know @God how I can stop contracting this awful itchy rash (besides avoiding nature, of course, in which case I’ll suck it up and smell like aloe for the rest of my life).

Feelin’ Sketchy

This post title is inspired by one of my favorite puns of all time:BYcDtHMCcAAb5D-

You’ll also notice two small orange smudges on the paper, brought to you by my dirty-ass fingers eating cheddar puffs while drawing.

More importantly– the sketch itself was inspired by a summer evening a few years ago at the house of one of my best friends (bonus points if you can guess whose, which also doubles as a test to see if any of my friends actually read this).

I remember being in the kitchen on this late July afternoon, admiring the flowers in their vase next to my perspiring glass of rosé, and thinking to myself, “Life does not get any better than this.” Whenever I try to conjure up images of perfect days, this one often comes to mind: best friends making zucchini bread in the kitchen, a welcome evening breeze delivering moments of relief from the heat and humidity, the neon green of the grass, and the sounds of crickets and laughter.

Summer shandy and best friends forever, baby!

And if you happen to be reading this, please send me funny things from the internet and/or book recommendations since I’m in need of laughter and good books.

Marin ft. Maddy’s Meditations

Marin 🙂

Ah, yes, 4/20/2019: the day on which I jogged through Dolores Park and asked myself why it was so crowded on a relatively chilly and windy day, only to realize at 9pm that it was, in fact, the day of “cannabis-oriented celebrations that take place annually on April 20” (Wikipedia, 2019).

And so I write this from my couch, having just finished my painting (finished is a strong word, it would be more accurate to say “got frustrated because it looked bad and called it done”) and enjoying a nice pint of ice cream, feeling unfit to live in San Francisco because it went totally over my head that it was 4/20. You may now be asking yourselves, “Maddy, if you didn’t spend your day participating in cannabis-oriented celebrations, what did you do today?”

So glad you asked! I happen to be reading Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neuroscience. I was intrigued from the moment I read the book’s title; not only do Buddhism and neuroscience interest me as topics independent of one another, but I love any conversation that explores the relationship between science and religion and maintains that the two are not mutually exclusive.

One of my favorite passages reads:

“Modern conventional education does not focus on transforming the mind and cultivating basic human qualities such as loving kindness and mindfulness… Buddhist contemplative science has many things in common with cognitive therapies, in particular with those using mindfulness as a foundation for remedying mental imbalance.”

Another insight Matthieu Ricard, one of the book’s co-authors, struck me as so powerful and obvious that I spent the next 20 minutes wondering why I hadn’t come to this conclusion myself based on personal experience. When Ricard is asked if “rumination [is] the opposite of what you do during meditation,” Ricard responds, “Totally opposite. It is also well known that constant rumination is one of the main symptoms of depression. What we need is to gain freedom from the mental chain reactions that rumination endlessly perpetuates. One should learn to let thoughts arise and be freed to go as soon as they arise, instead of letting them invade one’s mind. In the freshness of the present moment, the past is gone, the future is not yet born, and if one remains in pure mindfulness and freedom, potentially disturbing thoughts arise and go without leaving a trace.”

How could I – after years of rumination!!!! – not have already ruminated my way to this obvious conclusion?!?!?! Ricard’s juxtaposition of rumination and meditation is the most convincing argument I’ve read thus far for why I should practice more meditation. I will… meditate on that.

The Best Part of My Day

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I drew this cartoon (does it count as a cartoon? Not sure what the definition is there) quickly on the train as I was commuting from San Francisco to Palo Alto, and after finishing it I smushed it into my backpack, hence the “crumpled” effect of the paper (it’s an artistic technique).

I titled it “The Best Part of My Day,” since I often find myself thinking that it’s the little things that keep me going in an otherwise stressful and chaotic day. They often present themselves to me as moments of humor; I’m not joking when I say that a funny tweet has the power to turn my day around. Laughing is definitely one of the best feelings in the world, and if you can make me laugh, I’ll want to be your friend. That being said, if one of the millions of people who reads this blog (ho, ho, ho) happens to be the man who sarcastically delivered this utterly hysterical line on the train, please send me an email.

“My Soul is from Elsewhere”

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there…”

 

I’ve spent more time than usual over the past few weeks reminiscing about the gap year I took during college. My life right now feels so stable in a way that it hasn’t since high school: I’ve been working (relatively) the same job since I graduated ~2.5 years ago, I’ve been living in the same house (and paying the same price in rent, thanks to my wonderful landlords!), and have been married to the same man (phew!), so my hypothesis is that these thoughts are a subconscious reaction to this weird stability. I don’t use the word “stability” in the negative sense by any stretch of the imagination: all of its contributing factors are amazing and I feel so grateful for each of them every day. Anyone who knows me knows that stability, and by extension routine, have generally positive impacts on my overall wellbeing.

But something I loved about traveling that year was the feeling of freedom it gave me. I don’t mean the feeling of freedom I’d necessarily have in any given moment (though it was exhilarating to stand in a new city, know absolutely no one, and have no plan), but the feeling that at any moment I could change the direction of my life entirely without serious consequence. This is of course a dramatic and hyperbolized feeling, since any action I took would have consequence, so maybe a better way to describe how I felt in those moments was “unattached”: I had no attachments to any person, place, or job. The decisions I made could be selfish and impetuous; as long as I wasn’t harming anyone else, I was free to do whatever I wanted. I can’t deny it scares me that I’m now bound to so many people, places, and obligations, though my guess is that it’s stemming less from a desire for “freedom” and more from a fear of letting those people and obligations down. (Upon further reflection, I seem to be describing a fear of responsibility… guess I’m an adult now, ha!)

Anyway- I went back and read some of the writing I did during my travels, and stumbled upon a few of my favorite photos from a remote bay in Thailand. My art skills still leave a lot to be desired, but I attempted to capture just a fraction of the emotion I felt surrounded by this landscape that evening:

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I wrote in my journal (almost four years ago today!) and included some more photos of the village:

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Pretty wild how life changes so quickly. When I think about everything that’s happened between then and now… well, I’m pretty sure 2015 Maddy would never have expected a lot of what was to come. I started this entry with one of my favorite stanzas from a translated Rumi poem, which I will now read in its entirety before bed…