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I am so glad to be here.

Which is not to say things are perfectly easy. The other day I had a moment, and I thought, “I wish I could just sit down with someone who really knows me.”

I have it so good with this move, and I’ve been really aware of this the entire time. I know a lot of people for someone who landed here four weeks ago. Many friends have gone out of their way to include me. I haven’t had any problem getting enough social contact to not go completely insane with isolation. If anything, my first month has been the opposite; I’ve gone to so many events. So very many.

But we don’t really know each other yet, my Seattle friends and I. We’ve never lived in close proximity. And while I have a few friends who aren’t local with whom I talk regularly, I don’t have that many, and none of them live in Seattle. Most of my long-distance friends I talk with once in a while and then get really excited when I see them in person. We’ve built our friendships in fits and starts, often at high levels of intensity and low levels of sleep, bridged by Facebook and Twitter and probably this blog. We’re friends in spite of the plainly felt fact that there is never enough time.

Now there is more time, and we will get to know each other in a different way. We will slowly fill in the gaps of our knowledge and build more memories together and fall into comfortable friend routines. When I think of a particular friend I’d like to see, I’ll have some idea of what that person would like to do, instead of now when I’m often at something of a loss, which means I hesitate to issue invitations. I will get more one-on-one (or one-on-two) time with people, which is what I like best. (There is nothing like a full calendar of large group events to remind me how much I need this.) And some months from now, the landscape of my life will have shifted.

I remind myself of this. There will come a time when I can sit down with someone who really knows me. Here, in my new home. But that shift can’t be forced. It will happen when it happens.

In the meantime, I continue to make a home. I’m mostly unpacked. A friend is going to fix the computer table I’ve had since I was ten in the next month or so (it got smashed in the move). I have a new monitor I need to hook up. I need to hang up art. I need to go buy a new writing chair. And I have a special new addition to the apartment coming soon that I can’t wait to share once it’s here.

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On the whole everyone here is treating me so well. I have my boundaries up and ready to go, but it’s such a sweet relief to not have them being constantly battered against. It actually shocks me what a relief it is because I didn’t expect the contrast to be quite this striking. There have been a few small boundary issues, but only a few, and each time I’ve been able to respond immediately and pro-actively, advocating for my own well-being. Having a prolonged onslaught against my boundaries last fall and winter burned me out really badly, but now, here, I finally feel like I can come up for air.

Yes, I am so very glad to be here. I am so glad to be starting something new.

It’s a weird time to be writing a personal blog.

When I sit down to write these posts, I think about everything going on in the news: the black men killed by police, the shooting in Texas, the shooting in Florida, Brexit, the coup in Turkey, the American presidential election season, the shooting in Munich, the terrorist attack in Nice, and on. And on. And on.

I don’t think I’ve ever lived through times like these, I tell my friend on the phone. And she says some of her friends have compared what’s going on now to the 1950s and 60s with McCarthyism and the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t know how apt a comparison that is, but yes, it is well before my time.

And then I write a list on my blog about Seattle, and it does pretty decently as posts go, and another friend tells me after looking at so much bad and stressful news on his feed, he clicks on my post because it’s a relief to take a break from all that.

It’s weird because I’m very aware my life is the tiniest piece possible in a world that is quaking and breaking and changing and questioning in a hugely dramatic fashion.

Also when reading the presidential campaign news, I realize I’m much less of an idealist than I thought. You know what I’m not an idealist about? Money, politics, taxes, health care, and dysfunctional families. I’ve been playing the “choose the lesser evil, keep things afloat however possible” game in my personal life since I was eleven. I am very practiced in not getting what I want, in having to think about the longer term, and in exercising damage control. The very fact I believe change is possible makes me an idealist by some definitions, but I don’t think change is fast or easy or without scores of compromises you make along the way. But I also know how exhausting pragmatism can be over time. Of course, some of us can afford to discard prgamatism more than others.

So here I am writing a personal blog during Interesting Times, a pragmatic idealist (or practical free spirit!) and I am reminded of the small stories set against a larger backdrop in science fiction and fantasy. I’m talking about My Real Children by Jo Walton, or Life after Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson, or Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, or The Last Policeman by Ben Winters or The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke. These and the many other books like them are all intimate stories about individuals who don’t make a huge impact on the world around them. These are not Chosen Ones or heroes and anti-heroes whose actions save or ruin the entire world. They are smaller stories, quieter stories, stories of personal revelation, stories of one person searching for meaning in their more or less ordinary lives. Lives that are nonetheless affected and influenced by the worlds these characters inhabit.

And this is how a personal blog can fit into these times we are living in right now. I am often going to choose not to write about politics, not to write about all the wider tragedies we find ourselves facing. Alas, my strength as a writer is not in debate, nor is it in abruptly shaking people awake.

No, I mostly write the smaller stories. Here in this place I write my small story.  It is not the most important story, but it is what I have to tell. It is personal, but the context also matters. I look at the news, and I am heartbroken again and again. I am cognizant of the chaos that’s going on around me. I feel the injustice and the widespread fear down to my bones.

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Here is a photo of Nala looking particularly goofy. In case you need that today.

We live in Interesting Times, my friends. This blog is a drop in the ocean of the world. But I like to believe sometimes this blog may cause you to think about something in a new way. I do hope the small stories it tells can sometimes lift up, inspire, and soothe. Or at the very least, that me writing here can provide a small respite from the larger stories with which we must wrestle and agonize.

Perhaps it can serve as a reminder that we are all here, and we are all human, and that in spite of all the tragedy and all the deep rifts between us, there are also some things about us that are the same.

I am still enough of an idealist to believe empathy matters.

I had a particularly difficult night of insomnia last night, so I present to you: Amy’s Impressions of Seattle, as told through the filter of sleep deprivation.

  1. Everyone is really polite here. Especially drivers.
  2. The average road speed is much slower. I am often on roads that don’t have that many cars on them when it is not the middle of the night. I find this strange.
  3. Compared to the Bay Area, pretty much everything is cheaper here except for food. Maybe also movies and concerts? I don’t know, I haven’t been to any yet.
  4. When you haven’t gotten enough sleep, things seem harder and darker than they really are.
  5. I haven’t found my favorite sushi place yet, but I do not consider this to be a hardship.
  6. I gave away enough board games that my remaining games fit onto three shelves. I like to look at them.
  7. I now own seven throw blankets. Winter is coming.
  8. Nala is still not entirely convinced. But I like how many dogs seem to live here.
  9. My allergies are terrible here, and it is July. I think of springtime with a small shudder.
  10. There are so many writers here. SO MANY.
  11. They don’t charge for grocery bags here, so no one brings their reusable bags into stores. It feels strangely backwards to me, and it also takes me more trips to bring my groceries into the apartment. I think I might start using my reusable bags anyway.
  12. I can drive ten minutes to dinner and then walk down to the lake right afterwards. This blows my mind.
  13. Moving is expensive.
  14. My complex has an indoor hot tub. It is a great reason to live here.
  15. The lightrail is amazing. It is fast, efficient, cost-effective, temperature-controlled, and weirdly clean. Its only drawback is the limited number of stops.
  16. People smoke here. Where I can see them.
  17. If you spend a nice day indoors, people will act surprised. People here love being outside. They love being outside regardless of the weather.
  18. I learned what glamping is, and I am afraid kayaking will be hard but everyone does it here, and if I learn to kayak I can see otters.
  19. I know there must be bad traffic here because everyone tells me there is, but I keep not finding it. Meanwhile, people persist in believing that a 20-minute drive is far. It is baffling but not without its charms.
  20. I see something beautiful every day without trying.
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My new home.

  1. You write in an effervescent, breathless style that makes you think of tiny, tiny bubbles in champagne that tickles your nose. You know it tickles your nose because hundreds of writers have insisted this is so.
  2. You must repeat words. Especially adjectives. Especially simple yet descriptive adjectives like fresh and soft and tiny and smooth.
  3. Also fragments and short sentences. As many as you have the stomach for. A firm, taut stomach or a poochy, loveable stomach. Any kind of stomach. The type of stomach does not matter.
  4. Lists shine like chronicles of diamond brilliance. Everyone loves lists because NUMBERS and PERIODS. Even if you actually have no structure whatsoever, a list will make it seem like your mind works in an orderly yet quirky fashion.
  5. Irony oozes out of your articles like fresh, fresh honey. It hardens into impenetrable armor that allows you to say what you want with fewer repercussions because no one can entirely tell where the irony ends and the truth begins.
  6. Or fuck, you can also just swear a whole fucking lot so you sound like you have a goddamned edge, like maybe you’re a little angry but also you’re just so fucking cool that everyone should shut the fuck up and listen to what you have to say, which is good old-fashioned hard-nosed no-shit wisdom, y’know?
  7. But if you’ve already got some of the manic pixie dream girl vibe going on, then the gentle sarcasm-dripping flow of honey armour is definitely the way to go. People will love you. They will love you so much, they will share your article on Facebook without ever knowing your name. Eventually you can start the next Toast except named after a different breakfast food or maybe crème brûlée.
  8. Your irony is like a scythe if you’ve ever used a scythe. Otherwise it’s like the X-acto blade in sixth grade art class. You make long careful cuts against the grain of society’s bullshit. Long, smooth cuts. Long, incisive cuts. Long, insightful, sharp yet understanding cuts that are way healthier than the way physicians used to practice bloodletting on sick people via cupping or leaches.
  9. You can also use ridiculous metaphors and not-very-obscure historical and pop culture references that may or may not apply. Either way you will be creating sly but searing commentary. People will think you are clever.
  10. It also helps if you include a refined and artful graphic related in some way to the past. Here is an 18th century painting. Here is a bucolic landscape. Here is a brass lamp that is definitely more than ten years old. Even better if you can insert either a sweet sense of superiority or a relevant allusion to one of today’s societal woes.

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    Each one of these objects holds a profound yet subtle significance.

  11. Suddenly you know how to write tongue-in-cheek articles about Seattlites’ obsession with bridges, men’s urges to make a pass at you while you’re crying, Burners’ conviction that by not going to Burning Man, you are missing out on the greatest experience known to man, and the strange propensity to want others to admit you have it worse than them while simultaneously acknowledging your innate and glowing greatness.
  12. You also begin to plan the most ironic post on dating that has ever been conceived by a human mind. It will be scathing but human. Bitter but sweet. Absurd but relatable. Your single friends will read it and laugh. Your married friends will read it and polish their rings.
  13. Bubbles. Fresh. Fresh fresh bubbles. We all love bubbles and freshness and everything about this post that makes us remember that pleasant sensation of being too clever and fresh and laundered to breathe. Like a magazine ad. Like crisp ironed cotton. Like a blog post that has gone at least one list item too far.

Birthday time!

While I was moving, I missed talking about a few big milestones: my birthday and this blog’s birthday.

My birthday first, shall we? This is the first birthday I have not had a birthday party in…oh, maybe fourteen years, give or take. But throwing myself a party while moving would have been dicey at best, and in any case, I was more in the mood for some quality one-on-one time with close friends. I had birthday sushi, and birthday cake, and birthday chai, and birthday BBQ, and birthday pie, and birthday steak, and my friend took me to see one of my favorite musicals (Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, for those curious). And I got jammed and sung to at my regular weekly dance venue. From all this, we can divine that I really like food. And most importantly, I got to spend time with some of my closest friends.

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Taken on my birthday in an empty apartment.

That being said, all this birthday celebrating was doubling as farewell meals, and the farewell aspect often overshadowed the birthday aspect. So it was a weird birthday. And without its usual marking, it doesn’t entirely feel like it actually happened. I find myself hesitating an instant longer than usual before being able to answer the question of how old I am, because in my head, the number hasn’t completely flipped.

Last night someone suggested I throw a housewarming party, and that there could be cake at this party. Like a stand-in birthday cake. There’s no way I can pull anything like that off until the fall, but we shall see….

Meanwhile, while I was making the drive from California to Washington, this blog turned six years old. Yes, this is the 610th post on the Practical Free Spirit, and I’ve been posting here regularly since 2010. When I began, I had no idea what this blog would become or how it would change my life.

I gave some serious thought to closing down the blog this spring. I simply wasn’t feeling it; the majority of the themes and issues I was thinking about at the time were not ones I wanted to write about, so I was left struggling to find things to write about that I felt were worthwhile. This was the first time since I started the blog that this had happened, and this combined with the conventional wisdom that blogging is dead and mostly irrelevant made me wonder whether it wasn’t time to close up shop and move on to something else.

Obviously that didn’t happen. I knew I was going to be moving, and I thought my continued blogging would help my California friends and I stay in touch. I also thought making such a big life change might potentially lead to some interesting topics to write about, in addition to some topics I already had in mind to write about in the future.

And finally, I know this blog occasionally makes a difference to someone, and that matters to me. I know people sometimes feel isolated. I know it sometimes helps when I write candidly about emotions, about trying to overcome the past, about grief, about things many of us are thinking about or experiencing but that we don’t always get to talk about. Normalizing these things is important work. It helps us process, work through feelings of loneliness and shame, and build empathy.  It helps us learn more about what it is to be human.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the future year brings, both for me and for the blog. Happy birthday to us!

A bumpy road….

Well, my stuff came on Thursday, and it was…not good. Nala hurt herself in the morning, and she really freaked out, which it made it seem like she might be a lot more seriously injured than she actually was. (She seems totally fine now.) I hit a wall dealing with bureaucracy and customer service representatives, and there’s just been so much of that over the last few weeks, along with stuff I can’t fix and problems with no optimal solution.

And then the actual move was not what I’d call smooth. Not by a long shot. When the movers finally left, I ran after them to give them their tips, which I’d almost forgotten, and then I came back upstairs, sat on my couch, and cried for half an hour. After which I didn’t really feel any better. And then the news of the shooting in Dallas rolled in, and I couldn’t get my new microwave to work, and all the stress and strain of the last few months caught up with me in a big way.

I am so very tired.

On the plus side, at least I’m no longer sitting on the floor.

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And like the grandfather in The Princess Bride, I will now reassure you that in spite of the seemingly dark situation of our heroine, all is not lost. She does not get eaten by the eels at this time.

Instead I am trying to sleep a lot and take it easy and not push as hard on…pretty much everything.

One interesting side effect of this exhaustion is that I can’t make as much social effort as I’m used to making. As in, I am literally incapable of it right now. I have trouble reaching out, I can’t really initiate plans, I can’t ask people to dance, I’m not tracking my friends as well as I normally do, I can’t be bothered with any situation that smacks of pressure or complicated scheduling. I am just too tired and using too many of my resources to recover from moving overwhelm.

What I can try to do is receive, respond, and show up. And it is very touching how much I am being offered right now. To be honest, I really need it, and for people to be so generously offering what I need, well, it is both humbling and inspiring.

A friend of mine texted me on Saturday to ask how everything was going, and I answered with the truth, that I had been having a rough few days. And he said, well, this was a big move, and big moves are difficult and extremely tiring. And I thought to myself, “Oh yeah. They are difficult, aren’t they?” And then we talked about some of the problems I had been having, and by the end of our conversation, I felt so much better. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference. Validation–oh yes, this is actually challenging–is golden.

Several friends have been checking in semi-regularly to see if I’m doing okay. And then they tell me what they’re up to, which I love hearing about. One friend lent me her toolbox. Some other friends offered to lend me some furniture before the truck came. Some new dance friends have been letting me know about other dances in the area. I’m being invited to parties and events, and then friends are watching out for me at those events. People invite me to dinner, and then they are the ones to figure out where we’re going. (By the by, that advice about making specific offers and invitations to people who need support? THAT IS SUCH GOOD ADVICE. It is so much easier to just say yes or no.)

One of the best things is when someone looks me in the eye and tells me how glad they are I moved here. It makes me feel like I’ll be able to find a place for myself here.

And slowly I continue the process of turning a place into a home.

Yay Stuff!

My moving truck is supposed to arrive sometime today, so by this evening I will theoretically have a REAL BED. And also a couch! And also places to put things! And more sweaters! And trash cans!

This is very exciting for me. I can’t wait to start nesting properly. I can’t wait to have a sock drawer again! I can’t wait to turn this into a real home.

Here, have a photo of Nala sunbathing:

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Yes, it turns out there is sun in Seattle. Once in a while, at least.😉

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