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Best Cousin Ever

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

I met my friend Nicole several years ago at the wedding of mutual friends. We bonded over gin & tonics, and stuck close together since we didn’t know many other people there. In the four busy years since we met, we’ve managed to get together a few times a year for drinks and gossip – and for being someone I see so infrequently, she’s still one of my favorite people.

A few weeks ago, we were texting back and forth, just catching up on life. Nicole mentioned that she’s dating someone, that she’s had a recent career change, and that since I’m single and fabulous (obviously), she wanted to set me up with her cousin. I trust her judgment of men, so I gave her the green light. She said she’d make the introduction.

Fast forward to this weekend. Nicole and I had made plans to meet for brunch, and as we texted about the time and place, she mentioned, “I know Chris wants to meet you too. Can we work him into the plan?” So on Saturday morning, I walked to Sassafras to meet Nicole and her cousin.

Nicole is the kind of person who sets everyone at ease, and Chris immediately struck me as the same. Conversation between the three of us was easy and pleasant, and I had the thought, “Everyone in their family must be so nice.” Nicole told me that Chris had moved into her house, which sounded kind of fun – because as a woman, what better roommate to have than your male cousin? He could reach the top shelf in the closet and lift the heavy things. They even bought new couches together – a true sign of a combined life, probably because Nicole is sweet and generous and wants him to feel at home, I thought. Chris told me that ever since moving in with Nicole, he’s become a runner; Nicole and all of her friends are marathoners, and if he wanted to join that group, it made a lot of sense to me that he would take up the same hobby.

Admittedly, I had never known cousins this close. It sounded like they do everything together, which felt a little odd. But just because I’m not as tight with MY cousins doesn’t mean that others couldn’t be – so I just accepted the fact that they’re best friends and ate my eggs.

Chris was good looking and interesting and quick to smile and so, so nice. But I wasn’t really feeling any kind of vibe between us, which was fine since we were all just having a casual brunch anyway. I was happy to have found a new friend, if nothing else.

About an hour into conversation, I realized I hadn’t heard about Nicole’s boyfriend yet. So I turned to her and asked, “Hey, aren’t you dating someone?”

She looked at me blankly. “Dating?”

Pause. Wrinkled forehead.

And then, with a quick shake of her head, like she was trying to rattle her thoughts into place, she gestured to Chris and said, “I’m dating Chris. This is CHRIS.”

And in that moment, all of the air sucked out of the room.

I looked down at my plate. When I lifted my eyes, Chris and Nicole were staring at me completely flummoxed. There was no getting out of this one, no way to gracefully play it off. Time to face the music.

“I’m sorry, I’m so confused,” I awkwardly blubbered, the red creeping up my cheeks. “I… I…”

“Oh my…” Nicole broke in, eyes wide, the realization suddenly all over her face. “Did you think this was my cousin?”

And we all died. Right there in our chairs, every one of us died a thousand deaths. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so hard – while simultaneously wanting to, you know, crawl underneath the table. While Nicole had been introducing me to her boyfriend, now she knew I had been SCOPING HIM OUT FOR MYSELF. No wonder I wasn’t feeling a vibe – the only vibe at that table was between Chris and Nicole. Who are not cousins. I wanted the chef to hit me over the head with a frying pan; please put me out of my misery.

Revisiting Nicole’s text, I realized that she had never said her cousin was coming to brunch – she said Chris was coming to brunch. And isn’t it just like a girl to make that mean whatever she wants it to mean? We then relived every twist and turn of the conversation up to that point, all of which added up to a weirdly intertwined cousin relationship, including a trip to Mexico – which I assumed was a family vacation? We laughed so hard we cried. And maybe I just cried.

Chris and Nicole say they’re going to get T-shirts that say “Best Cousin Ever.” As for me? I’ll go with “Moron.”
best_cousin_ever

Girl, interrupted

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

… and we’re back.

I thought about making a video to give a glimpse into my life in November, but if I had, it would have been full of long, drawn out silences and artsy frames of my face staring off into nowhere.  Trust me, I respect you more than to put you through that. The month was fairly quiet, nothing exploded, and I crossed off each day in my calendar as it passed.

It’s an odd thing we do, this virtual sharing of our lives. The internet is still a new frontier, and WE are the ones determining the etiquette – how much to tell, how vulnerable to be, what is meaningful, what isn’t. In real time, we are succeeding and failing and flying and flailing – and we’re often giving hundreds (if not thousands) of people a front row seat.

When it’s great, it’s really great. But when it’s not, it’s magnified.

As far as this blog is concerned, I’ve been playing it safe. Having once written from a very authentic place, I’ve been sharing less and less – and what I do share is surface-level, at best. I’ve wanted to maintain an image of having it all together – of being fine, even when I’m not. I’ve wanted to be cool and smart and witty; I’ve wanted you to like me. There, I said it.

I have spent years chasing excitement, adventure, and change – looking to validate my existence with various and sundry admirable feats. I’ve sought interruptions to the mundane, and solicited drama to avoid being bored with my life (or, more exactly, disappointed with my life).

But it turns out that what I’ve needed has not been an interruption of circumstances, but an interruption at the core of who I am.

These days, my sense of self is being torn apart in the best possible way. Oh, sure, it can feel like being put through a cheese grater, painful and terrifying, like the pieces could never possibly be put back together (unless they were melted in a microwave) (which doesn’t sound much better).

But it’s been SO GOOD, you guys. Humbling. Necessary. And it’s leading to good things.

In fact, Greta, who knows me better than just about anyone in the world, recently wrote to me, “I just feel like you’re leaving this very safe, very small, very familiar square of space and heading out into the biting air – and now you’re WALKING and FEELING and seeing things. I see you MOVING right now, more than you have in years.” What an encouragement to have someone who can recognize the things that we’re too close to see.

And how ironic that the acceptance of what I’ve historically thought of as an “ordinary” life could actually lead to much greater truths: freedom, clarity, peace.

I am still very much in process. I have jack-nothing figured out. But I am tired of holding my breath, hiding beneath the surface-level words posted in this space. I am ready to come up for air, no matter what it might look like, no matter who might see the inevitable thrashing (and you know there will be thrashing).

So thank you for being here, whoever you are. Your presence, even virtual, makes a difference to me. Our stories are meant to be shared – and I’m grateful to have a chance to share mine with you.

Why commitment equals freedom

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Something really remarkable has happened: I’ve stopped thinking about moving.

I know that this is probably foreign to some people, but I have entertained the idea of moving – no matter where I’ve lived – for at least the past 5 years.  When I was living in Seattle, I was thinking about moving to Nashville.  When I was living in Nashville, I was thinking about moving back to Seattle.  Then, in December of 2009, family circumstances took me to Denver – and every day, I was thinking about moving back to Nashville, or back to Seattle, or maybe to Portland, or there’s always Boston…

But I have not thought about moving since November.   For over two months, it hasn’t crossed my mind.  I live in Denver, and I’m not looking to leave anytime soon.

My new job commits me to this city.  And for as backward as it sounds, commitment equals freedom.  I am free from the questions, from the what ifs, from the grass-is-greener thoughts that accompanied having options.  Having options creates the illusion that one can do anything – which, while attractive in theory, can be alarmingly paralyzing.

There is something really good about having fewer options.  Having fewer options simplifies my thought life, and allows me to be present exactly where I am.  Having fewer options makes me say “yes” to all that’s right in front of me.  Having fewer options frees up my calendar, my bank account, and my heart.

Having fewer options actually gains us access to a wealth of experiences, relationships, and resources that are far from pipe dreams – no, in fact, they’re close enough to touch.

If you find yourself having your options whittled down, don’t freak out.  It might be the greatest thing that could happen.

What’s next

Friday, November 20th, 2009

I struggle with the question, “What am I doing with my life?”  I always have.  And with each passing day, week, year, I am no closer to finding the answer – I am learning to just take one day at a time.

However, even though I might not know what I am doing with my LIFE, I think that I will always know when it’s time to do what’s NEXT.  And once again, I’ve reached that pivotal point.  The doors have flung wide open in an undeniable way, and I am choosing to walk through them.

I am Denver-bound.

It turns out that my mom’s cancer is more serious than originally thought – and I need and want to be there throughout her treatment (another surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation).  The worst feeling in the world was getting that dreaded phone call, and being 1200 miles away.  I cannot rest in that reality.  My mom is my “person,” and I need to be close.

I am in the incredibly fortunate position to work for a company that does not see their employees as a commodity, but as humans with real lives – leading the “powers that be” to be gracious and supportive in the midst of crises.  Emma has a small Colorado office, and is willing to let me work from Denver on an open-ended basis.  I am heading west around Christmastime.

I am not calling it “moving.”  I am leaving my stuff in storage here in Nashville, and “temporarily relocating for the indefinite future.”  I don’t know what will happen, or where this will lead – it’s impossible to know what the coming months will bring.  But I just know that it feels too early – too sudden – to close the door on my Nashlife.  That may or may not wind up being relevant.  But it’s how I feel right now.

I am hoping to rent a room in Denver, or house-hop for a bit – giving me a place to sleep during the week, and leaving me free to spend my weekends in Colorado Springs with my parents.  So if you happen to live in Denver and know of any options, please let me know – because I don’t want to live under a bridge.

Obviously, there are still details to work out.  But I do know that this is “what’s next.”  Until then, you will find me crying most days, snuggling with Julie and Mel most nights, praying for my mom, and hoping that God knows what he’s doing.

On forgiveness

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

It’s amazing how quickly I, an alleged full-grown woman, can revert back to feeling like I did with other girls in elementary school: insecure, timid, and small.  Recently, a moment leapt out of nowhere and grabbed me by the throat, reducing me to those irrepressible tears that leave me shaky and sick to my stomach – because my feelings got hurt.

I am naturally a sensitive person, but I’m also fairly rational.  I don’t get my feelings hurt all that often – mainly because I am largely surrounded by pretty tremendous humans who rarely do or say mean-spirited things.

But when it does happen, it makes me feel so sad, and shocked, and ultimately, rejected.

How could I NOT cry?

But here is the difference between 9-year old Annie and today’s Annie: to forgive is to not let those feelings take root – even when they are justified.  To forgive is to deflect any feelings of insecurity catalyzed by those initial words.  To forgive is to let go of what is right, reasonable, and defensible – in favor of something entirely unsensible.

It’s hard work, forgiveness… but then again, isn’t it our very best option?  Isn’t it the easiest, most freeing thing we could possibly do – to simply let it go?

No one ever loses if no one is keeping score.

Good for the soul

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

There is only one thing that would be enticing enough to make me skip “Lost” and pay $36 to go on a date with myself, by myself.

I mean, barring an NSYNC reunion tour.  Obviously.

Last night, I came home from work and changed my clothes.  I reapplied makeup.  I fluffed my hair, and wore my cute shoes, and took myself down to the Belcourt Theater.  I ordered a glass of wine, found a seat toward the middle, and proceeded to wait for the show to start.

If I’m going to take myself on a date, I am definitely going to be punctual.  Excessively punctual.  BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT!  (I might have been an hour early.)

But the show was worth the wait.  Matraca Berg (wrote a little ditty called “Strawberry Wine”), Gretchen Peters (wrote a little something called “Independence Day”), and Suzy Bogguss (looks as good today as she did in 1995) played a round.  Matraca is coming out with her first album in 10 years, and she played some of her new material; it was heart-stopping.  Suzy’s voice was effortless, strong, and true.  And Gretchen… well, in recent days, Gretchen has been my favorite writer (a position continually jockeyed for between Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna and Matraca and Gretchen).  When she sang “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” I couldn’t breathe – and didn’t realize it until the end when I finally exhaled.

Songs like these are my heart and soul – moments of definition in my often nebulous life.  Per Heather’s recommendation, I watched this fascinating piece, and loved hearing that “the mind of God is music resonating” (“…through 10-dimensional hyperspace,” but let’s not pretend that I know what that means).

It reminded me of this, which I had totally forgotten that I ever wrote.

I hope that you can do something that you love today.

Tangled

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Back in March, I went to Kansas to sort through my childhood things and help my parents get their house ready to sell.  While I was there, I found an old jewelry box full of various plastic beaded bracelets, butterfly rings, earrings with no mates, and many, many necklaces whose thin gold chains were knotted and tangled into a solid mass.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not get those knots untangled.  There was no way to decipher where the problem began, and with every link that I would tug, the knot would get tighter.  The mess would get worse.

Sometimes, I feel like those gold chains.

Sometimes, I feel like such a complicated jumble, there could never be hope for a solution.  I cannot see where certain issues end, and where others begin.  I am confused by my emotions, by my tendencies – and have no more understanding of myself than I do the infinite galaxies.

Last night in church, I found myself praying, “God, forgive me for… just… all that I am.”  I didn’t even know where to begin, because I cannot pinpoint a beginning.  All that I know is that a lot of the time, I’m a tangled, muddled mess – and I don’t know why.

Will it ever be resolved?  Will I ever be resolved?

But then, I felt God press on my heart: “I know what you’re made of, and it is good.”

I see the mess.  He sees the gold.

I see the knot.  He sees a straight line.

I see the confusion.  He sees the solution.

One day, the chains will fall loose.  Everything will make sense.  Everything will be made right.  I believe it.

Because if I can be victorious in untangling a mass of gold necklaces using olive oil and a needle, then surely the God of the universe has a creative solution for the complexities of you and me.

Kristy girl

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Sometimes, someone you’ve never met can give you the biggest gift.

Kristy Behrs of Wreckless Photography has been a second soul to me. She lives far, far away in California, and although we’ve never met face to face, I feel that we have a bond – an understanding – a trippy connection that bridges the distance. I am continually in awe of her eye, her sensitivity, and her genuine spirit. She recently solicited the ideas of friends and strangers and admirers to spark her creativity; she got some fabulous suggestions and challenges (definitely read through them!) and, with eyes wide open, has been on a hunt.

I’m honored to be first.

challenge_courage

Permission

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I might always run a little late in the mornings. I might always love Whitney Houston key changes. I might always color-code my closet. I might always get annoyed when people open a new box of crackers / gallon of milk / bottle of mustard before they’ve finished the old one. I might always hate my legs. I might always be self-critical. I might always fall behind on returning phone calls. I might always be a little bit particular. I might always withdraw when I feel overwhelmed. I might always smudge my nail polish. I might always feel a tiny bit sad. I might always crave peanut M&M’s. I might always be afraid of swimming. I might always feel like people who drive stick shifts are superior. I might always hate the summertime. I might always be tempted to roll my eyes at girls who I am actually envious of. I might always be tempted to roll my eyes at guys who actually have hurt me. I might always wonder a little bit. I might always worry a little bit.

These things may never change.

And it’s okay.

And those things about you that have been there from the beginning – the things that you are continually calling into question – the things that you feel like you should change and you’re wondering why you can’t? They might never change either.

And that’s okay, too.

Defining

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Last night, I had a job interview that lasted an hour and a half. This potential employer and I talked spiritedly and candidly about everything from music to the environment to Telluride to writing to disappointment to, strangely, even Jesus. It was surreal, and wonderful, and stimulating. The job is something that I could excel at, and it might potentially lead to some cool perks. This man seemed impressed by me, calling me a “Renaissance Woman,” which is a very cool thing to be thought of as. It was clear that we had a likely chance at developing a great rapport, and working well together.

But he and I both hesitated. Something just didn’t feel right, and we both acknowledged it.

This job could have been a very cool thing. I mean, seriously cool. Like, hanging out with Keith and Nicole cool. But is that what I want? Is that what I want my life to be about? Is glamour what I am aiming for? In the case of my far-too-slow-growing mop of hair, absolutely. But when it comes down to what makes my heart beat, I realize that it’s not about the perks. It’s not about the bright lights and the fabulous people and the free drinks. It’s not about the tinsel.

I really want to write. And at this point in my life, I am not willing to sacrifice the time and space and flexibility that make writing possible. I want to see where the words and melodies and harmonies and expression might lead.

The decision to pass on the position wound up being far easier than I anticipated. And after a long spell of uncertainty, it feels good to be so sure of what I want.