Posts in Old Friend from Far Away
On Structure, and Sharing It

"I could tell you what water is made of: two parts hydrogen, one of oxygen. I could describe what it feels like to dive into a lake on a hot summer day or the briny feel of sand and salt at the beach, but the task here is to find your own pool of liquid and give it shape...

You have to find your own dynamic structure, one that fits your story and what you personally have to share.

...You can't tell every minute of your life--or put in every darling experience. You can't eat everything on the table. You choose a portion, some fruit...and put it on your plate. You choose a time, a subject, a place, you give a shape to what is unruly. You lend it a form. The form is not a trick. It develops out of what you want to say and how you want to say it.

--Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away

I came back from Salt Lake City feeling a little overwhelmed by all the things I want to do and how far I feel I still have to go. I often find myself wanting to share every part of my life while simultaneously treasuring the long, slow brunch I shared with my husband in a dark tavern on a lazy Sunday afternoon; or the hot cup of coffee I drank while I sat down to talk to a new friend for the first time in my favorite coffee shop. The hour-long walks I sometimes take by myself or the quiet cups of tea I often drink in the afternoon sunlight of my living room. They don't make it to my Instagram feed and yet they are valuable moments in my life.

Last year I felt like I was almost "there" in some way (but what does that even mean, really?), and this year, though I've come so far in so many ways, it feels as though there has never been a longer road ahead of me. Do our standards get higher as we go on? There is so much that I want to create, write, or share and I haven't even begun yet. And then there are the things that I might never let you read, that will stay typed out on old pieces of paper stapled together through old writing workshops, or scribbled quickly and furiously onto the pages of a leather-bound notebook in the drawer of my bedside table.

2015 is quickly becoming for me the year of less is more, or rather, do less with more. More effort, more intention, more love. More creativity and more practice. More thought. More laughter and more adventure. And, somehow, more structure. I will stretch myself but not too thinly. And I will be truer to myself in the process.

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Dreams and Notes and Letting Go

Sometimes I send myself emails before I fall asleep. Or I'll ask my night owl husband to text me. Things I want to remember or think about or write about the next day. "Rob," I'll mumble sleepily, "text me and say 'ear piercing, sleeping on opposite side for back scratches, and new bed.'" It's probably obvious that the next day I sometimes struggle to put the pieces together, but I figure it's worth a try.

This morning I woke up to a relatively vague, but perfectly clear thought that's been on my mind all week. You can't force anything.

Because it's true. Whatever it is, you can't force it. You can do your best and you can wish and dream and pray, but friendships and book deals and epiphanies don't always just fall out of the sky. And sometimes, as much as you might want or need something to be immediate, things can take time. Even letting go can be a process.

Simple as that. And, simultaneously, totally complicated.

This post is in response to the following prompt: "Tell me about a time something dawned on you, a realization, words came together or simply you saw a lightning bolt on a mountain." (From Old Friend from Far Away, page 66.) If you write a response of your own, please share a link below in the comments! For a list of some previous prompt, you can check out this post (or just search the Old Friend from Far Away category below).

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I was never very good on a bike as a child. I learned how to ride one kind of late in my childhood--we lived on a really steep hill so there was never a good place to start. We would drive to a big open area or go a few streets over where it was flat, and my dad would set me up, giving me a little push, and I would fall down or just kind of lean to the side when I got overwhelmed with the movement and lack of control of it all.

I finally got it one day, suddenly, when the bike was on the ground in the driveway and a neighbor mentioned my inability out loud for what was maybe the first time. I picked it up, hopped on, and rode away with her.

I've always had this fantasy of living somewhere that allowed me to bike everywhere. Minneapolis was probably that place, but I didn't know the area too well and we lived really close to a highway and the winter is long and icy. When I lived in downtown Roanoke as a graduate student, I would hop on my bike, books in the basket, and ride to the coffee shop to work on a paper. Those nights always felt really magical.

When I was in college, I dated a boy who rode a bicycle but never really understood me. When I was anxious or sad, he'd ask me to be calmer or happier, thinking it was helpful, but it always felt so impatient to me. His mom served whole grain bread and overcooked pork chops and listened to church sermon podcasts in the kitchen. She was kind and I loved her so much but I just didn't fit with her son. Maybe she knew. It took him a while to figure it out. I think I always knew, but I kind of held my breath and hoped that no one would catch on. We shared just enough things in common to confuse ourselves into thinking that we were right for each other--among them a love of running, J.Crew sweaters, and political values that I later abandoned.

I really never think about him, but I am grateful for some of the things he shared with me--mainly his Regina Spektor collection, but also the things you learn when someone you really love breaks your heart. How to be on your own. How to love yourself despite feeling shitty. How to give cyclists enough room on the roads when you're in your car. How to move on; how to look back years later and smile.

This post is in response to the following prompt: "Tell me a memory associated with a bicycle." (From Old Friend from Far Away, page 67.) If you write a response of your own, please share a link below in the comments! For a list of some previous prompt, you can check out this post (or just search the Old Friend from Far Away category below).

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