letters to myself

I never got around to watching the movie about a letter a girl wrote to older self, as much as I was in love with the sentiment. And the Radiohead song, "A Reminder," about not getting old, and remembering "the night where we kissed and I really meant it," while it brings a tear to my eye, didn't motivate me when my ex-girlfriend played it for me and told me how much I'd changed. I had changed, and I was glad of it. I love the sentiment, the "now is the best time of our lives" feeling. But I can't get behind it. I'm not afraid of the future, I'm excited. I am afraid of my past.

Tonight I almost wrote a letter to my past self, warning me to avoid all of those pitfalls--the lost love, the ruined plans. I want to tell myself to be more adventurous, more confident, more determined. I want to give myself a cheat sheet for life.

I sat down to start writing and thought about all of the mistakes. The stupid way I handled my relationships, how certain I was that my plans were my future. All the lost sleep, the arguments, the fear, the depression, how all of that culminated in my impulsive decision to go the opposite way I'd planned, and how from there everything looked so much brighter and clearer. "Mistakes," a writer once penned, "aren't always regrets." I could tell my past self that I shouldn't be afraid of mistakes, because it always ends up okay, but I've learned that now. I'm okay.

Perhaps I'll still write a letter to my future self. Maybe I'll even remember it.


so far from home

Three thousand miles from home, I've fallen for someone six hundred miles from here--about four hundred further than my first love, who was in Portland when I was in Seattle. We would drive about ninety miles when we wanted to meet halfway, almost two hundred when we wanted to visit for the weekend. The distance never bothered me. I always said I'd drive twelve hours just to see her for thirty minutes.

Distance has never been insurmountable. Three thousand miles is a few days of driving or a few hours on a plane, then a bus or a rented car from SeaTac and dinner in familiar places, visiting old friends. Then it's ten minutes almost anywhere, thirty by bus. They'll be snowbound right now. It never really was when I was home, except for once just before dawn, when the sky was blue, and the streetlights were yellow and it was beautiful and ethereal and foreign and I never captured it in words, though I tried many times.

From six hundred miles away, I can only see snapshots, but in them everything is perfect. From here, I have no influence. I keep up the same way I do with my home: with blogs, conversations. I'm not there anymore, and when I am, I'm a guest. Ultimately I'm expected to leave. It's ephemeral.

So she is outside of my five mile sphere of influence--she will always be six hundred miles away, her life lived through snapshots of perfection, something I will never be able to sully or experience.



I lost power to the ice storm that hit New England the other day. Just one of another million poor, cold souls--somehow I never felt so faceless. My girlfriend and I drove to the grocery store to find chaos. No more bread. No more bottled water. The store lost its frozen foods and its cold goods. We walked around and bought something so at least there would be some sustenance.

It was lucky I had firewood left. We lit a fire (it took some convincing but we managed) and huddled around it. It was the only light and the only warmth. No power, no gas--just me, her, the fire, and the vague certainty that we would get power back eventually, and we probably had enough food to last until then, maybe.

It was the work of a few minutes to find all of our blankets and winter clothes. I don't have a flashlight and there were only a few candles, so it was dark and there wasn't much to do--my laptop's battery was dead, she was conserving hers in case we needed it for something. We used our cell phones as illumination as we built a little stockpile in front of the fire.

We didn't say much. There wasn't much to say. We got a few phone calls and text messages, asking if we were okay. We always said yes, asked if there was news. They didn't know.

She fell asleep and I kept up, making sure the fire kept going. I was sure that was important.


home in the rain

I am reminded lately of a time not long ago when it was rainy and windy, but warm. I had a few miles to walk, and I had a jacket--but it was nice out. I didn't want to hide from the rain and be miserable, so I let it drench me and walked with my head up. It was a singularly marvelous experience.

On the way home I kept imagining what people would say when they saw me. Conversations danced around in my head. I wanted them to become captivated by this excellent joie de vivre I was demonstrating. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying myself--but I wanted other people to know I was having fun. I'm exciting and live in the moment. I planned for everyone to see.

I got home and nobody was there. I still had hopes that someone would come home, but nobody ever did. I sat on the couch reading the newspaper (which was a little bit soggy but only in places). The cold was getting uncomfortable. I started shivering, water dripping down my face, clothes soaked, the blankets not entirely helping.


a quiet sort of problem

"I didn't want to say anything" has become my mantra recently. "It's okay, really." "I don't want to get in the way."

Sometimes there aren't any problems. I'm always polite and people generally think well of me--quiet but thoughtful, or something like that. But then there's the shouting, the fighting, me in the corner reading. Me on the couch writing. Sometimes it's in the next room, but their voices are raised and I can hear it. Sometimes they pretend I'm not there. But I never say anything. I smile sometimes. I leave sometimes. Then they apologize and it's always "don't worry about it." "It happens." "We all have off days."

I try occasionally, usually when I'm feeling confident or optimistic, sometimes when I feel trapped. But then they think I'm choosing sides. They tell me I should stay out of it. They apologize but say this is important. They wish they could do something but they can't this time--they are trying to be reasonable.

And of course I have to understand. I smile. I tell them things will be all right. I always, always remain calm. I just hope someone notices.



I've been hiding behind cars at street corners lately, or occasionally parking and hiding in one. I'm always worried someone will notice but nobody seems to. It's sort of a people-watching experiment. The one I really like at night is not far from my house, and at night the neon lights give the street a dull purple light to them.

I was hiding under a delivery van last night and this couple was walking along and stopped in the purple light. I couldn't hear what he said to her but he dropped to one knee like he was proposing. They embraced for a long moment and kissed briefly and then walked their separate ways.