My Favorite Thing

Thinking of my favorite thing is difficult. My no-brainer response is my violin. I’ve had it since my sophomore year of high school. I spent many nights and weekends were spent at McDonalds with my pores getting clogged with french fry grease and my patience growing thin with the trainees who couldn’t grasp the POS system.I can’t remember the exact cost, but I do know that I could have bought a fairly decent used car for the same price.

It’s been through a lot with me – a concerto competition, chair auditions, music festivals, youth symphony concerts, college auditions, college symphony concerts, quartet gigs, and lessons. But while I like my violin, I don’t always love it. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s more the operator’s fault than the instrument’s. My vibrato isn’t as loose as I’d like. I lost my bowhold four years ago and have been struggling to get it back ever since.

My second response might be my Kindle. That seems like a strange response because I’ve only had it for about 2 years now. I feel like an object that gets the title of My Favorite Thing needs to be owned for a significant amount of time. I got it for Valentine’s Day from my boyfriend at the time, Bill. He bought it the same day he gave it to me. I know because he asked to borrow my car. When he returned, he had a gift and a card. I sat on my bed and opened the gift. “Omigod, Bill! You got me a Kindle!”

“Yeah, it’s the one with the 3g access, so you’re able to get books without an internet connection.”

“Omigod. Thank you!” And I gave him a big hug. And a kiss. Lots of kisses too, I’m sure. I was thrilled. I was amazed how the screen looked like something I was supposed to peel off before using. When we went to bed that night, I crawled in next to him and read a Toni Morrison book by from the light of the street because I didn’t want to disturb him, though he told me I could turn a light on if my eyes were strained.

I’ve since used the thing to read a ton of books. I love that when I travel, it’s just one book instead of the three or four I’m usually reading at a time. It is always with me in case I find myself with an extra 10 or 15 minutes with which to read. I fall asleep reading and often wake up with it nestled under my pillow or tangled in my duvet, like an adoring mate. I love it.

There are other objects I could name, but there’s always an issue. My journal (Which one? I currently have two). The pearls Bill gave me for Christmas last year (I haven’t worn them in months and I have mixed feelings about clasping them around my neck). My copy of Lolita (It’s not the original – I lent that to a friend who lost it, then replaced it with an Everyman’s Library edition). My bed (how cliche). My wine glasses (I’ve only had them for a few months). My ipod (again, not my original. That was stolen and I inherited Bill’s. And it’s on its last leg now).

Many of the objects I think of have strong ties to other people. All of the things from Bill are pretty obvious. But even my copy of Lolita reminds me of another boyfriend. I bought it at a bookstore in Milwaukee because the cover intrigued me. I read it while we were fighting one week and it was able to completely transport me. My journals aren’t permanent things since over the last 8 years I’ve decided to get a new one every time something significant happens (a move, a breakup, a sudden realization that the $40 one at Barnes & Noble is prettier than the one I’m currently writing in).

Which brings me to the last thing I could think to name – a small gold necklace. My Aunt Laurie gave it to me my freshman year of college. She was cleaning out her jewelry box and asked if I would like anything. I don’t wear much jewelry – usually nothing other than earrings, and even those are usually just cubic zirconia studs. But the necklace stuck out to me. It was simple and delicate – very subtle. You might not even notice it unless you looked for it. That’s what I liked about it.

It’s like a little secret I carry with me, and only those closest to me get to see it. I’ve been wearing it on dates over a spritz of Chanel no.5, beneath a silky shirt and near my camisole. I’d like to think that men are interested in it. Why, I’m not sure. I imagine a man wants to kiss my collarbone where the minuscule chain rests. But it’s probably just a dumb curiosity: “What’s that shiny thing by her boobs?”

But other than attracting men to my neck, I just like the necklace. It came into my possession as a throwaway, but I still thank my aunt for giving it to me. It’s become mine in a way I hadn’t anticipated when I first got it. I’d never lend it to a friend. I take it off every night and hang it so the chain doesn’t tangle.

Unlike the other objects, it’s subtly me. My pearls make me feel like a Kennedy. My violin steals the show. My Kindle reflects nothing other than the fact that I love to read. My journals are often crass and full of things I don’t want to share with other people. And while Lolita has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read, I will never write like Nabokov.

I guess for me, at least, My Favorite Thing isn’t so much about pointing to some object and saying “I really, really love that thing”. It’s more about something that makes me feel like myself unadorned, even if it is a piece of jewelry.

A Million Little Pieces, Memoir, and Honesty

I was up at 6am today. Not as terrible as 5am, but on labor day, that’s still a pretty crappy time to be awake. I went for another run, followed by some yoga. Then I sat on my patio for a nice breakfast and reading session. I finished The Marriage Plot and was pretty disappointed. I had such high expectations after Middlesex, so my disappointment was inevitable.

I’m trying to find something to read next, which is sort of funny all on its own. About a quarter of the books on my shelf haven’t been read. A customer from the coffee shop I used to work at gave me the The Letters of Anton Chekhov. That seems like a nice thing to read, right? Meh. I went through a phase a few years ago when I was obsessed with Chekhov. I ripped through a collection of his short stories in a week (probably the same week the customer gave me the book), and haven’t picked up a story or play of his since. Had I read his letters right after those short stories, I probably would have gotten some insight into his life and personality, and I probably really would have appreciated it. Now? Nah. I also have the Norton Collection of Personal Essays that I found at a used book store for $7, but I’m trying to stay away from shorter works.

I wandered over to Carissa’s shelves today and found A Million Little Pieces. I don’t know much about the book other than it claimed to be a memoir and ended up being false. Also, something about drugs. And Oprah.

When this book blew up, I wasn’t interested in memoir. I sort of regarded it as a lame fad: just uncreative and self-indulgent people who wanted to write but couldn’t write fiction. I was a Fiction Writer, interested in the construction of character and plot. Then I took a memoir-writing class at UW-Milwaukee and that changed. I realized that my fiction elitism was unwarranted since I was an unrealized memoirist at heart, what with my incessant journaling (I did more digging, my journaling slowed most during my junior and senior years of college). Then I started reading memoirs and essays and found that I loved how truth could be stranger than fiction.

So I have mixed feelings about A Million Little Pieces. Now that I write memoir I’m aware that I have an obligation to be honest. I had a few autobiographical fiction assignments in college, and I was so confused about them. I allowed myself fictional retribution – ending a relationship when I should have, dumping beer on his belongings, wildly advertising his infidelity, slapping him more than just the one time, etc – but it felt sort of dirty. I was telling a story that had its roots in reality, but then ended it falsely. If my ex were to read it, he would surely point out all the fiction, expose me as a fraud, humiliate me, etc. And I would know he was right.  I would face similar consequences if I paraded the story as fiction, only in a weirder inverted way.

If I were to ever share those pieces, I think I would need to preface them with a disclaimer: “The following events are based in reality, though I’ve taken the liberty of replacing certain details and/or the ending with ones preferable to me.” And really, who cares then? The truth probably offers a better story than the one I give anyway. Maybe I’ll clean one up and share it later this week, then you can tell me what you think.

Anyway, reading a fictionalized memoir is going to be an interesting experience. I’m going to have to tell myself it’s a novel if I don’t to feel completely cheated by the end of it.

Sunday Morning Jog

I had what you might call a bout of insomnia this morning. It’s probably not fair to call it insomnia since it started at 5am. But come on. It’s Sunday. On a three day weekend. I should be sleeping in till at least 10:30 like a normal 20-something, right? My body was not having it though. Naturally, I tweeted about it. You know, like people used to do in the 90s when they wanted to broadcast something nobody else actually cared about.

Twitter InsomniaMy friend Logan replied and said “No. Just get up and go running.”  I scowled, knowing he was right. To be honest, the idea of sitting in bed waiting for sleep to come repulsed me. Eventually I would have probably dozed off and fallen asleep for 20  minutes or so, then I would have spent the rest of the day in a sloth-like state. So I updated my ipod shuffle with a Hood Internet mixtape and went on my way.

I normally only jog about a mile, but I decided to combine two of my normal routes, making it a 3-mile loop. I’ve been thinking of training for a 5k. But just that – thinking about it. Right now it seems like a sort of nice thing to imagine myself doing. “Yeah,” I think. “That would be really cool to be the sort of person who runs 5ks.” I realize that 5ks are not very impressive. Especially when there are people who run marathons. Or do triathlons. A measly 3.1 miles seems like nothing.

The hardest part is the mental block. I don’t know how people have the willpower to run 24 miles.

I’ve tried several things:

  • Reminding myself that if I run faster, it’ll be over sooner. Yeah, I don’t care so much when it’s done. In that moment, I hate running and I don’t care if I have to crabwalk home, I just want to stop moving my limbs like that.
  • Imagining fitting into that silk origami dress that’s been sitting in my closet since 2009. I wore it to a wedding once and haven’t touch it since then. In that moment, I don’t care about the dress. It’s not that cute anyway and I’m okay with wearing non-constricting yoga pants until I cross into muumuu territory.
  • Reminding myself that nobody likes a fat girl in skinny jeans. In that moment, I vow to wear bootleg or wide-leg jeans, ignoring the redundancy of the latter. Any flowy tops that necessitate skinny jeans will be donated to make room for muumuus.
  • Remembering what I look like naked and how I don’t want anybody to see it. In that moment, my lack of physical intimacy ceases to be a problem and I’m suddenly thrilled that I won’t be having sex for the foreseeable future. Also, muumuus.

Today, I was able to push through it by paying attention to the beat of my music (it was just in time with my pace) , but towards the end I felt like I was going to hurl, so I ended up walking for about a block to recover. It doesn’t matter if I run one or five miles, once I get back to my apartment and I finish stretching, I look in the mirror and know I could have done more. In that moment, I’m tempted to go back outside and run another mile.

Normally when I jog, I pass a few other people working on their fitness. The only creatures I encountered this morning  was a flock of geese, and I was glad to find that they weren’t as violent as the ones who used to chase me through the park in Oshkosh. It made the morning seem like a sort of a sort of blessing, which made my run feel like a meditation (done to mashups of hiphop and indie songs). I knew I wouldn’t regret getting out of bed, but the quietness of my neighborhood at 6:30 was as much a reward as anything else. I cooled down with a little yoga in my sunny living room before having breakfast and coffee on my patio.

I love my sleep as much as anybody else, but this was a great way to start my day. However, I won’t be surprised if my bed calls me for a nap this afternoon.