Book of the Month: The Opposite of Loneliness

oppositeloneliness

Maybe you have heard the story: Marina Keegan was an up-and-comer, a rising literary star. A graduate of Yale University. A writer with pieces published in The New Yorker online and the New York Times, who received multiple prestigious awards, and had a play she wrote produced in the New York International Fringe Festival. She had a job lined up at the New Yorker for after graduation.

And then she died.

5 days after graduating from Yale, Marina was in a fatal car accident. Her graduation essay, The Opposite of Loneliness, received nearly 2 million hits worldwide.

It is hard to separate out my feelings about this book from the fact that I know Marina died tragically young, most of her great potential still untapped. Would I love it so fiercely if I did not know about the circumstances of her life and death? I don’t know. I don’t know if it matters. Part of the reason why the titular essay received so much attention is because it is lyrical and hopeful and lovely, not just because she died. There is something of value in her words that transcends the fact of her death.

The book is comprised of both fiction and non-fiction, and while Marina’s voice carries over nicely to her non-fiction essays, I found that it was her fiction that really resonated with me. Each character, though similar, was also profoundly different, and I found that Marina had a way of describing things that cut right to the heart of reality. There is one story about a crew in a submarine that I am still thinking about, weeks later. There is a lot of hope and optimism to be found in Marina’s work, surrounded by all the muddy workings of regular life. It’s not a world made up of rainbows and puppy dogs, but a real, gritty hope that sat comfortably in my chest and is still there when I look for it now.

I don’t think it matters at all that Marina’s real fame came after her death. I think that her work stands on its own and deserves to be enjoyed, critiqued, devoured, and torn apart, because it is a wonderful and thought-provoking piece of literature. I highly recommend it.

Book of the Month: The Opposite of Loneliness

Greenifying Our Wedding

In the past few years, I have slowly become more and more interested in environmentalism, and ways that I can make my stay on earth a bit more earth-friendly. It has been a slow process: there are so many things in life that are great and convenient but not very green, and it has been a tough process to even begin to address them. I haven’t made nearly as much progress as I would like, but I do my best.

One big thing that can have a huge impact on the environment is a wedding. Think about it: all the disposable paper goods (invitations, save the dates, RSVP cards, programs, napkins, name plates, food labels, etc, etc); all of the travel; even the electricity required to keep a wedding going for however many hours are needed. One statistic I read put the average wedding at 62 TONS of carbon. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

When it came to our wedding, it was really important for us that we do our best to keep costs down, both fiscal and environmental. Here are a few ways that we are doing just that:

  1. Having it in a more central location. – We debated having a destination wedding, but ultimately wanted as much family as possible to be able to join us, and so we based it in a place where the average amount of travel required would be low.
  2. Paperless invitations. – When I first heard about paperless invitations, I knew it was something that I wanted to consider. I was a bit leery about how others would react to it, but we have had nothing but positivity. We used Glo, which has been working awesome. The only thing that I would change about it is that the design is a little bit behind the times; something more sleek and modern would be nice. Otherwise, it has been awesome to be able to email things out, and have people RSVP simply by going to our website. We did send out a few invitations for the Luddites (and our grandmas), but we just had them printed for cheap at Staples.
  3. Minimal disposable dinnerware. – No paper plates, plastic cups, or disposable utensils for us. Though it is costing us a bit more, we decided to rent these things along with our tables and chairs. I’m quite willing to pay the extra moolah in order to save some garbage!
  4. Minimal decorations. – We are avoiding too many paper decorations. We are planning on a few lanterns for the trees, a rented archway, and … that’s pretty much it. The great thing about having a backyard wedding is that the venue pretty much decorates itself!
  5. Having it during the day. – Daytime = less lighting required = less electricity.

Of course, there are some things that are unavoidable. Despite having a more central location, we do still have a lot of family that lives out of town or out of province, and there are going to be carbon emissions going along with them congregating here to celebrate with us. Not to mention our flights to San Francisco for our honeymoon. But I’m really pleased with the efforts that we have made to be more in line with our values, even if they do require a bit more effort – and money – on our part.

Don’t you think it’s worth it?

Greenifying Our Wedding

One Stripe

I remember my first pregnancy “scare.” It was scary; we have never yet been in a place in our lives where a baby would not mean near financial ruin and probably poverty, not to mention hitting pause on a whole lot of dreams we’ve got percolating. But it was more than that, too. It was a labyrinth of emotions, including fear, anxiety, tentative excitement, and a strangled kind of hope.

I walked around for several days in a haze of sick worry. I wrote a letter to the potential baby in my belly. I agonized.

I vividly recall the walk to the grocery store to buy a pregnancy test. The hot sun on my face, the weird unreality of the world around me, like that feeling when you’re a little buzzed and everything seems a little more like living inside a TV show rather than real life. I remember pacing anxiously, waiting for the three minutes to end. I remember the one stripe: not pregnant.

And I remember the crushing disappointment that flooded in after the relief.

This wasn’t just dodging a bullet, it was also the denial of something that I have always, always been sure I wanted. Now was not the time for a squirming infant with alien toes and unbearably soft hair and that indescribable baby smell. Now was not the time for sleepless nights and diaper changes and the entire restructuring of who I am and my place in the world. But being told that I wasn’t going to have that after half-believing I would was devastating in a way that I could barely comprehend.

I remember sobbing on Bryan’s shoulder, unable to control myself.

The desire to have children is something that I carry around in my chest every day, something that is sometimes so intense it’s suffocating. So intense it is a physical sensation of want. I don’t know where to put it. We are nowhere near ready to add children to our lives, and yet the want – the need – doesn’t fade with that logical knowledge. I can put it out of my mind for a while, but it always comes surging right back.

Some day.

Some day.

One Stripe

Let It Go

No, this is not a post about Frozen, but I’ll forgive you for thinking that.

This is a post about how freaking hard it is to let things go: people, places, things that no longer, or never did, serve you.

It’s hard to know when things are no longer working. And when you know it, sometimes it’s hard to admit it. Especially when it comes to people. It is incredibly difficult to know when a relationship is truly no longer serving you, and when it is just going through a bit of a rough patch and will be back on track with some patience and effort.

I have moved around a lot. In the past 7 years, I have moved ten times (and that’s just moving cities, not apartments). I have a bit of a nomadic spirit, and I am learning to accept that about myself. But even so, I have a really hard time letting go of how things were, or where we used to live. Every time we gear up to go somewhere new, I cling like a koala to the old. Even when it’s a place that I never wanted to stay. Even when it’s somewhere that I actively campaigned to leave behind. Suddenly, with the prospect of change on the horizon, I can’t deal. (Which, I’d like to note, is insane because I thrive on change.)

All of a sudden, I am in love with all of the tiny things that I couldn’t stand before. All of a sudden, I’m tearing up at the thought of never having my feet stick to the crappy linoleum floor again. All of a sudden, I’m experiencing chest tightness over actually doing the one thing that we have been dreaming about doing all along.

It is never easy to let go. It is never easy to leave something behind, especially when it is something that has offered so much to you. Calgary has been a generally good experience to us. It’s not the place for us, but it has been good to us over the past year. We’ve had some great experiences, met some great people, made some big changes. I’m going to miss the view from our apartment window, and our hipster neighborhood, and even my far-inferior-to-Edmonton-river-valley runs. I’m going to miss the proximity to the mountains. I’m going to miss being in such a prime location for visiting all of our families.

It’s a mixed bag. There are always going to be things that you miss. The art of letting go is acknowledging them, being grateful for them, and then looking forwards to the new and wonderful things that are going to happen next.

If you ever figure out how to do that with grace and no chest tightness, please let me know.

And now, of course. You knew it was coming:

Let It Go

I Have to Stop Running

I run from words.

I live for them, too, but mostly I run from them. I run from the stories that live inside of me and beg for escape. I run from what I feel called to do. I fear failure. And success. I fear losing the love that I have for writing, like if I submerge myself in the deep end, get really messy, really try, and succeed, I won’t love it anymore. Like it will be tarnished somehow. But even if that’s true, how is this constant shying away any better? This constant excuse-making and distraction-seeking? This constant ache in my chest that knows I am capable of more. That I owe myself more.

Ashlee Gadd once told me, “Be generous with your gift. Unfortunately, since getting that email, I have gone the route of fear and hoarded my gift instead. I’ve barely written anything. I’ve let my blog lapse. I’ve backed away at warp speed from my professional aspirations. I feel like something inside of me has started to rat and fester. Probably my dreams.

I’m not going to live forever. Sometimes I think that I have all the time in the world to decide to pursue my dreams. But I’m reading Marina Keegan’s book right now. She was an incredibly mature writer for 22. Her stories in particular are beautiful. She had a buttload of potential, and she was on her path, and then she died, and not a single one of us knows how much time we have left. The thought of dying with all of my words still inside me makes me sick with fear.

So I have started noticing that tug of resistance that means I want to write but I’m finding excuses not to. I had just sat down with Marina’s book, in fact, when these thoughts swirled inside my head and my hand itched to hold a pen, and I nearly cracked the book anyway, but I forced myself to write instead. Because how will I ever know if I can make something of this passion of mine if I don’t lean into the fear and actually do it?

I have to stop running from the words.

I Have to Stop Running

Snapshots: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

Canada Day found Bryan and I in the mood for a wander. Originally, we thought that we would head out to Canmore, but as we approached the town, something pinged in my head. My dad had mentioned going to Lake Louise, and I said, “Hey, I’ve never been to Lake Louise before, why don’t we just keep going?” Both of us had already been to Canmore on a number of occasions, whereas Lake Louise was a new adventure. Given that Lake Louise wasn’t much further along, we went for it.

There is something about the mountains that soothes me in a way that nothing else I have ever experienced. Any little hairline fracture in my soul seems to heal when I am surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, and as we drove through the towering peaks, I felt my whole body expanding into the immensity around me. We had lunch at the Lake Louise Station Restaurant, which was pretty pricey, but the food was yummy and they were kind enough to offer us vegetarian options from their dinner menu even though it was only lunch. From there, we decided to head up to Moraine Lake, which we had both seen pictures of and wanted to see in person. The road up there is about two minutes outside of Lake Louise, and it is windy and steep and lacks a guardrail – the exact kind of mountain roads that I set my heart to pounding and my anxiety into high alert. But we made it safely to the top, and were greeted with some of the most incredible mountain beauty I have ever experienced.

We wandered around the lake for more than two hours, laughing and snapping photos and breathing in the freedom of being surrounded by nature. It was pretty busy, it being Canada Day and all, but the crowds were never bothersome in the slightest. We all just seemed to peacefully coexist. Maybe it was the magic of the mountains. 🙂

After , we headed back to the town to actually make our way to the eponymous lake and the famous Chateau. It was beautiful there, too, but not nearly as impressive as the green-blue gorgeousness of Moraine Lake! On our way back, we stopped for dinner in Banff, at a little restaurant called Coyotes that we had eaten at the last time we were in town. I was so happy that we found it again, because the food is great. We had the most delicious wildberry crumble sour cream pie for dessert, then headed home, completely sated.

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What did you do for Canada Day?

Snapshots: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise