Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Leap of FaithWhat decision did you make this year that was a leap of faith? Did it work out? Or not?

It began in the wee hours on Monday morning, 24th of November.

I’d gone to bed just after midnight, in my half-unpacked new apartment, due to leave for California for Thanksgiving that evening. I was missing my long-dead grandfather for no discernible reason. He had been gone for nine and a half years, and yet I was overcome with the desire to send him photos of Roo; to tell him about Paul; and, to tell him to his face: Look, your being dead has been highly inconvenient for me.

He would’ve laughed at that.

I went to sleep and woke up with a start around 2.30am. The house was silent, then I heard hysterical laughter. My grandfather’s distinctive laugh. And then it was quiet again.

I hadn’t heard Bop’s raucous laugh in a decade and still, there was no mistaking it. It was like the laughter was trying to tell me something, and I didn’t yet know what.

I flew to Los Angeles that night, and the next morning was getting ready to leave for the drive to Yosemite National Park, where my family spends Thanksgiving (and indeed, has spent the last 31 Thanksgivings.) I mentioned the story about Bop to my mother, who was a True Believer in the supernatural, so virtually nothing was too batshit for her. Whereas I was feeling marginally self-conscious about being the type of person who had just heard her dead grandfather laughing in the night, my mother was the type of person who whole-heartedly embraced that sort of thing.

Of course, my mother said, I’ve been feeling Bop nearby too.  As if what I had just told her was the most normal thing in the world.

There was nothing more I could say to that, so I began to blow-dry my hair and got ready for the long drive to Wawona.

Paul and I drove to Yosemite, and were planning for a Big Hike in Yosemite Valley the next morning. I thought nothing of this, because we’d discussed doing this the year prior, and hadn’t gotten ’round to it. But he was pushing the idea again this year, and asked me to plan it, so I did. (And if you have ever run a race or done a Sierras climb with me, you know that this is my specialty). We had initially settled on Half Dome, but after further consideration, decided upon Upper Yosemite Falls.

At 5.30am on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we set out for Yosemite Valley from Wawona, and embarked on a Big Hike.

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And so we climbed.

We didn’t talk much on that first mile up. It was early, and cold. And I was thinking a little on how Paul and I had met. It was the end of May 2013, and I had been in Scotland for the Edinburgh Half Marathon. I had been dating a Random Finance Guy, and the relationship clearly wasn’t going anywhere.

In the course of hanging out with a friend who was also in Edinburgh for racing; eating Mexican near the University (shockingly, not half bad); waiting in a hotel room for the northern sun to set around 10.30pm; and, running in the sunshine along the North Sea, I had sent a message to Random Finance Guy calling it quits. He wanted to be a senator, and had told me time and time again that I wasn’t senator’s wife material.

I didn’t want to be with someone for whom I wasn’t enough. Again.

After the race, I left Edinburgh and went back to London to see PG, and then flew back to New York. And I listened to my mother moan at me for breaking it off with Random Finance Guy because No one is just going to walk into your office and sweep you off your feet. You need to put yourself out there.

That following Friday, Paul walked into my office for a meeting.

We’d talked on the phone and by email for some time — his firm had done work with my company for years, and I’d worked with him on a few projects. But we’d never met. And he was looking to talk to me about some European directive, however, the conversation never got that far. Instead, we spent an hour or so talking about life and friends and California and how we’d both been to Easter Island.

At the end of the meeting, he said he was in town for the weekend, and asked for some suggestions on what he should do. I gave him some and wondered if he was asking me out.  But at the end of the meeting when no date was forthcoming, I shrugged it off.

I would later learn that Irish men are oblivious.

He emailed the following Monday, confessing his obliviousness, and asking me out. He booked a trip back to New York, and…on a leap of faith, I booked a trip to Dublin. From there, it wasn’t all smooth sailing (for instance, we didn’t really get along that first weekend), but we’d been together ever since.

So fast forward a year and a half or so to the present day, there we were, climbing the trickling falls above Yosemite Valley in the place nearest and dearest to my heart. It was the place I sought shelter in times of trouble. It was the place I went to feel triumphant.

Look at that view, Paul remarked, a couple of hours into the climb.

Gosh, it’s gorgeous.

I pulled out my phone and snapped the view. I had been taking photos all the way up, but this particular vista seemed especially breathtaking.

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When I turned back around to him on the trail, he was, down on one knee, asking me to marry him.

Of course, I said yes.

And then I knew immediately why I’d heard that laughing in the night earlier in the week.

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To borrow a cliché, they say that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. But I don’t necessarily look at it that way. I would say that I waited my whole life to meet someone who I don’t have to explain myself to; who is perfectly receptive to my batshit suggestions like Let’s go to Japan, and then doing it; who knew my heart so well that he proposed in the Sierras halfway through a strenuous hike, with Half Dome in view.

I would say that this is the sum of experience and a hopeful willingness to look stupid with someone.

One might even call it a leap of faith.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

The PlankIt has been said that you must learn to take care of yourself before you can be effective at taking care of others.  How did you take care of yourself in 2014?  How will you take care of yourself in 2015?

This year has been a lot of…surviving. In fact, I’m breathlessly surprised it’s December again, because I’ve been living Lord, just get me through this day! for enough days that it’s a bit odd to wake up on the cusp of another year turning over.

And I haven’t been good at taking care of myself. In fact, I slept for 12 hours on Saturday night, and I knew it was the only sleep I’d get all week. I hadn’t slept more than four hours a night before that, and I haven’t since. I could give the excuse of Too Much To Do, but that’s a rookie excuse.

Too Busy is, in my view, the stuff of amateurs who can’t budget their time appropriately. But if that’s the excuse I’m giving to myself, then I’ve become one of those people who doesn’t know how to prioritise. Who can’t tell the difference between what can be delegated or outsourced; what can be put off; what needs to be Done.

The truth is that I’m anxious; I’m thinking about too much. I can’t focus on any one task for long enough to get it done, so everything takes longer than it should. I’m tired, so everything takes longer anyway. And an additional truth is that sometimes life is just that way.

I’m an optimistic and joyful person in real life, but I’m not going to lie to you or to myself: Sometimes this whole middle-part of being an adult is…a slog. Marriages, and divorces, and babies, and pregnancies, and fertility treatments, and jobs, and job loss, and meetings in cities nobody ever wants to travel to, and parties where everyone is sitting around moaning about mortgages and school fees, and all of this punctuated occasionally with death, and destruction, and chronic illness, and baby loss, and everyone’s parents getting older.

True, the middle bit beats the alternative, but it’s still a weird emotional Thing when just moments ago you were some lithe little girl who didn’t think twice about your age or attractiveness whilst standing on line for an event or nightclub, and then one morning you wake up to a hurricane, grey hair, and a cancer diagnosis, all the while hobbling around on a hip that needs fixing.

Oh no. Even having this discussion is becoming the world’s biggest cliché.

So what have I done to take care of myself in the middle of this perfect storm?

Probably not as much as I should.

However, I’ve learned a lot.

So what will I do next year?

Talk with friends more. Ask for more help. Create more sacred spaces. Read more. Spend more time with Roo. Practise yoga twice a week. Write more letters. Get massages. Continue to order delivery via Seamless and care not at all whether anyone judges my domestic skills. Not buy a crock pot. Cut fewer corners with my health. Spend more hours on the people that matter, and give less time to the bloody irritating people who try to wish me a blessed day and try to give advice on things that are frankly, none of their business.

Develop a thicker skin.

I spent many, many years being less. Trying to disappear into myself. I am okay now with taking up the space to which I am entitled; being loved; being…more.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

HeroWho was your hero this year? Tell us why. What makes a hero in your eyes?

I tried to define this term, so like any human living in the 21st century, I googled it, and came up with this:

he·ro
ˈhirō/
noun
noun: hero; plural noun: heroes; noun: hero sandwich; plural noun: hero sandwiches
  1.  
    a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
    “a war hero”
    • (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends; the chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
  2.  
    North American
    another term for submarine sandwich.

(Source: Google)

Hmmm. None of this sounds correct.  The chief male character? A submarine sandwich?

Please.

One of the interesting, lasting effects of a couple of bad relationships in my 20s is that I have a lot of female friends. I’d spent my teens hanging out with boys — mostly because I felt alienated by the high school politics of Mean Girls. But after dating a couple of jealous guys (then marrying one), it got to the point where having friendships with men became…challenging. And less important to me.

This is not to say I don’t have close relationships with my male friends — because I have those relationships, and they’re great. But I’ve spent the last decade or so cultivating friendships with other women, and sometimes I’m sad to think of what I missed out on in my youth because I didn’t actively nurture these sorts of things.

My girlfriends are amazing. From all angles, these women blow my mind. Athletes, writers, artists, musicians, parents — they are all genuinely beautiful souls. My friends have crossed marathon finish lines with me; they have battled terrible travel circumstances while pregnant to be in the hospital with me while I had cancer surgery; they have taken care of my dog while I’ve had to travel to advance my career (or simply to allow me to face the sometimes challenging circumstances that come with having a job like mine); they have supported me when I have insisted that I totally knew what I was doing and that it was a great idea to chase married men; they have tended to my wounds, and nursed my broken heart, and listened to my endless rants about my favourite thing to whine about that I’ve been ranting about for 3.5 years.

But aside from who they are and how they are in relation to me, each one of these women contributes to this world so meaningfully, it breaks my heart with beauty. Whether it is how she manages charitable grants, or how she donates time and money to the communities in which she works/lives, or how she raises her children, or how she creates art, or how she has turned immeasurable loss into an opportunity to give, each of these ladies is a meaningful example to me of who and how I want to be.

I am surrounded by women who show up; who raise me up; who create things. Sometimes this makes me absolutely furious with jealousy because I love them so much, I want to be the things that they are.

I suppose that’s what a hero is, isn’t it?  Not somebody’s lunch, or the sympathetic guy in the story. It’s the person who makes you better than you think you are; it’s the thing that keeps you striving for better; it’s the part of the story where the going gets good. And in my life, that role is played by a bunch of bad-ass (mostly) blondes.

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Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December, SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.  

At the Start | Where did you start 2014?  Give us some background on this year.

It was prophetic.

It was also a Category 3 Hurricane.

Paul and I went to La Reunion, in the Indian Ocean, for the New Year, because some travel agent had convinced us that nothing else was available, and wouldn’t a tropical paradise off the coast of Africa be lovely? Said travel agent had conveniently failed to mention that this was also the shark attack capital of the world, and that the island had been hit dead-on by hurricanes three of the last four (now four of the last five) years.

I had been preoccupied with health issues, and hadn’t bothered to do a lot of research on the place before we went. And Paul had assumed that since we were headed to a full-service resort, we wouldn’t have to do a lot of studying the island before arrival.

That was…one of many mistakes we made.

Upon landing in Saint-Denis and discovering that basically all activities on La Reunion were cancelled in the short term, and non, there were no cars available for hire for us to explore on our own…it began to sink in just how screwed we were. It was then and only then, that someone even bothered to tell us about the sharks and the impending cyclone.

It was at that point that I demanded we leave.

But we were trapped.  Trapped like rats, in a resort teeming with cats (?!?!?!) and the French. Unable to leave; unable to see the sights; unable to even go out for a proper dinner because we hadn’t been able to hire a car…we were forced to eat pre-packaged resort pizzas and stare longingly at the beautiful water we couldn’t even dip a toe into because it was swimming with sharks.

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(False advertising.)

Needless to say, I continued to demand that we leave.

Needless to say, Paul and I were basically at each other’s throats, with a serious storm bearing down on us.  A storm that neither we, nor the resort, were prepared to handle. And it wasn’t just that — before I left New York for Dublin, and Dublin for Paris, and Paris for La Reunion, I had been told that I needed to have some surgery. That my inflammation levels were high, and all the testing had come back extremely suspicious, and I couldn’t get into the surgeon till the 10th day of January to confirm whether or not I had cancer.

In other words, I was sitting on an island in the Indian Ocean surrounded by sharks, a hurricane, and cancer, and Paul couldn’t figure out why I was so tense. And I couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t see that after I’d just lived through Hurricane Sandy the year prior, and was due for surgery for what seemed like an inevitable diagnosis, I couldn’t put on a happy face and shut up about the sharks, and the cats, and the insufferable Frenchman who kept pacing by our patio in his Saint James stripes and his electronic pipe.

(I still have irrational anger every time I think about that electronic pipe.)

So we were on the cusp of a new year, and we were at an impasse.  Not even an impasse. We were actively not speaking to each other.

Which presented even more of a challenge, because we were basically the only two fluent English-speakers in that whole damn place.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, we had to go to a fancy dinner with all the other resort guests who were stuck there because there were no flights out. We were just going to ride out the storm. It had an element of watching the dance band play as the Titanic went down; a weird solidarity of people eating a fancy dinner while the early stages of a cyclone made landfall.

But the travel agent had screwed up our reservation, and they’d left my name off. We were just M & Mme Paul’s Last Name. And we sort-of had to laugh, for the first time in days, because through all that had divided us, something was finally uniting us.

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(At the time, it was so striking, I took a photo of it!)

Sometime in the wee hours of the New Year, the hurricane began battering the island. At first, Paul thought it was kind of cool, but when the food and water ran out, I think he began to realise it wasn’t so great. And when we were finally able to leave the island, and the trip to the airport took something like six hours because the roads were all blocked or destroyed, I think he began to grasp that what we’d just lived through had been a bit of a narrow scrape.

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But we made it out.

And our relationship survived.

I guess it’s easy to go through life with no sharks, no surgeries, no tropical storms, no differences of opinion about safety and comfort. And it’s funny now, even just a year out, to look back on that trip and go: Man, never again!

Which is why it was all the more amusing and prophetic that the card at dinner on New Year’s Eve suggested that we shared a last name, since Paul proposed last week (more on this story to come, I promise!). But in the short term, I suppose the moral of this story is…there are happy endings even when the story begins under the most dire of circumstances; even when the year has a most inauspicious start.

I find myself in a series of situations where I have to sit through a lot of complex feelings — quickly — to restore the status quo.  Not just restore order — I must Get Excited.

Would that the heart and head could be so cooperative.  I am finding this whole thing…Difficult.

Paul and I are buying an apartment, and while this should be an occasion for champagne and celebration, I am Freaking The F*CK OUT.  Having now lived by myself for five years, I know I should be excited about How Great This Is, and I am.  Also, I am Terrified. I am scared of the quotidian struggles that destroy relationships.  I fear the burden and expectations of others looking in and saying, WHAT DOES THIS NEXT STEP MEAN?!?!  (Ans: It means we are buying an apartment.) I am even afraid of picking the wrong paint colours and window treatments. 

My problem, really, is that I am terrified of being tied down; stuck. Like tonsils, or an appendix, the only purpose this fear serves is to become infected and engorged — becoming bigger, heavier, and harder to bear than it needs to be.

I have always been light on my feet.  Because what if I suck at whatever comes next?  Better to make a quick and graceful exit than be caught flat-footed like a fool.

Right? 

Because what if I have to be a Real Girl, Living a Real Life? My entire life for the past few years has been a 1990s romantic comedy. You may get that impression from some of my writing, but in reality it has been more like a Nora Ephron written-and-directed-film-starring-America’s-Former-Sweetheart-Meg-Ryan than you may actually believe.

I have been taking Adventure Travel Towards Self Realisation, and have swooned over the Wrong Men in the lobbies of the World’s Finest Hotels. I have had the kind of romances that most women only dream of, but these men — they’ve always left me at the doorstep.  And now, now I’m going All The Way, with someone who might actually be The Right Guy.  Now we’re opening the door; we’re buying the house, we’re going through the threshold and building the future and doing it together…

And I’m scared.

About paint, and walls, and curtains.  And, for that matter, what if I’m no longer Interesting if I am suddenly so tied down and boring and solid and staid and … I am making all of the silly excuses that serve to prevent the real thing from happening. I am stalling. I am buying time.

I’ve always been good about being good. I’ve always been a know it all; I’ve long been obsessed with being right, and preventing myself from getting hurt. I’ve protected myself from some of the More Bad decisions I might’ve made.

But this has kept me from some of the More Good.

Tonsils and an appendix can easily be removed by a surgeon. My own fearful ego is not so easily excised. At this stage of my life, I just need to get out of my own way.

#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Transition | Transition of seasons; from single to couple; from couple to parents; from one to many.  It’s that time of year when the high summer sun starts to sink, and we all start to long for long sleeves.  How is your life changing.  How are YOU changing?

Almost ten years ago, my blogger friend Cara sent me this questionnaire to complete, and I posted it on my (old) blog. At the time, it was A Thing that people were doing. At the time, I was a relative newly-wed; a newcomer to New York City; I was transitioning from being a law student to working full time and going to graduate school. My body was doing weird things, and I was in the process of being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Everything was changing.  In mostly good ways — I was figuring stuff out.

Last weekend, almost immediately after coming back home from a week in London for work, my computer broke.  And I had to clear all the files off so the Geniuses at Apple could repair the logic board.  In doing so, I came across my answers to this quiz from nearly a decade back, and thought that the best way to measure transition would be to take the quiz again.

Where am I now? I’ve spent the last decade continuing to figure stuff out, in vastly different ways than before.  But I am mostly the same.  Though now, I am fundamentally a New Yorker; I am safe in my own skin. I am okay in my identity as a professional; as a woman. I don’t look at myself in reference to others anymore.

What I am saying is that I’ve faced some scary personal and professional stuff in the intervening years, but I was somewhat relieved to find that, at the heart of things, I still leave wet towels on the bed; I’m still heavily focused on making out with James Bond; and, my snacks of choice are still mainly sweets & salty carbohydrates.

I have edited the old answers for space, but otherwise, here are my answers from then and now.

Then:

10 Years Ago: I was in high school.  I think ten years ago was also the last time my hair was this long, and this blonde.  I wore it curly all the time.  I was dating the drum major, who later left me for a dude named Jeff.

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(2014 note: Matt, I love you always, and I still marvel that we thought it was a good idea to go as Juan and Eva Peron to Prom. Not sure our conservative California town was ready for us, then or now.)

Five Years Ago: I was in college; dating my most recent ex-boyfriend.  He was the stereotypical fraternity boy.  At that time in my life, I just wanted to be like everyone else. 

One Year Ago: I was finishing law school; doing a legal clinic. I was spending 60-70 hours a week working on comments to the FCC on female and minority broadcast ownership.  I was insanely depressed about the status of my life and career.

Yesterday: I went to lunch with my father in law.  And it was totally weird.  It really seemed like he wanted to get to know me.  It was really nice.  Then I came home, and built a china cabinet. Which came with terrible instructions.

Five Snacks I Enjoy:  1) Jordan almonds, 2) naan with mango chutney, 3) honey Teddy Grahams, 4) soft pretzels, 5) saltwater taffy

Five Songs I Know All the Words To: 1) Los Angelenos–Billy Joel, 2) Dry Cleaner from Des Moines–Joni Mitchell, 3) Make Your Own Kind of Music–Cass Elliot, 4) Don’t Sleep in the Subway–Petula Clark, 5) Bless the Broken Road–Rascal Flatts

Five Things I Would Do With 100 Million Dollars: 1) pay off my law school loans, 2) buy Andrew a new car and pay to garage it (btw, to garage a car in Manhattan, it would cost more than some of my friends pay in rent in Los Angeles), 3) re-do my parents hideous kitchen which they have been dragging their feet on redoing since the 1994 earthquake, 4) take extensive lessons in the cooking of all different Asian cuisines, 5) create a veterinary school scholarship and establish a fund to provide veterinary care for people who can’t afford it.

Five Places I would Run Away To: 1) Mendocino County, CA, 2) Newport, RI, 3) Nassau, Bahamas…eh, I’m out of places.  Everywhere I go, I find people I know, so I am safest in the comfort of my apartment.

Five Bad Habits: 1) leaving wet towels anywhere they fall, 2) buying too many fancy conditioners, 3) ordering take-out too often, 4) begging for a dog too often, 5) being a hermit

Five Biggest Joys: 1) my loving, wonderful marriage, 2) pedicures, 3) my relationship with my parents, 4) my new iPod, 5) the glimmer of hope I feel about my career prospects and my life from this point on

Five Fictional Characters I would Date: 1) Thomas Crown (of “The Thomas Crown Affair”), 2) Indiana Jones, 3) James Bond (in any incarnation)…that’s about it. 

Today:

Ten Years Ago: I got conned into going to Disneyworld with my then-fiance after a rough summer. We were within an hour’s drive of my grandparents, but didn’t go see them. I knew my grandfather would’ve talked me out of marrying Andrew and Andrew didn’t really want to make the drive anyway. I never saw my grandfather alive again. I have almost no regrets in my life. That I didn’t make that stupid drive is probably my only one.

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Five years ago: I had just signed my separation papers; I was free. I’d left my husband and I was on my way to spend several months with a client on the California coast. It was fitting, because at every transitional point in my life, I’ve fled for the Pacific.

One year ago: I was in Canada, at Bethany’s nuptials. She was the first of the WoW’s to let hope triumph over experience. I was grateful to be even a small part of that day; blessed beyond measure to have officiated the service. Bethany is one of my nearest and dearest, and I admire her and respect her so much.

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Yesterday: I was furious with Paul because he keeps his phone on silent all the time. I know it; I expect it; and 99.999% of the time, I am nonplussed by it. But I needed his input on something important and he was unreachable, and if I could’ve reached through the phone and throttled him, I would’ve.

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(Photo was snapped in Japan last year; I was equally annoyed yesterday)

Five snacks I enjoy: 1) Salty carbs; 2) String Cheese; 3) Spicy Lemonade; 4) Strawberries with cream; 5) Sundry other sweet & savouries beginning with the letter “s,” (I swear, I didn’t do that on purpose).

Five songs I know all the words to: 1) Flicker, Rosi Golan; 2) Hearts & Bones, Paul Simon; 3) Make Your Own Kind of Music, Cass Elliott; 4) World on Fire, Sarah MacLachlan; 5) To Love Somebody, the BeeGees.

 Five Things I would do with 100 Million Dollars: Invest it wisely.  Five times over.

Five places I would run away to: No use. Trouble follows. 

Five bad habits: 1) Leaving wet towels on the bed; 2) buying too many fancy wrinkle creams; 3) ordering take-out too often; 4) buying too many clothes I don’t need; 5) being a hermit. 

Five biggest joys: 1) running; 2) writing letters; 3) solo travel; 4) vanilla milkshakes; 5) long phone calls with friends. (This is a non-exhaustive list, these are just a few that are on my mind today!)

Five fictional characters I would date: Only one. James Bond. It’s always hard for me to choose between the Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan iterations, though.  If you know me, you shouldn’t read too deeply into that.

Sean Connery as James Bond

I know a man/he came from my hometown/
he wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown
He said “Dolores, I live in fear/my love for you’s so overpowering, I’m afraid that I may disappear.”

- Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away

Here are the things that I am afraid of:

1) Ebola

2) Financial regulators (global)

3) Little people, and the various television shows about them (this is an irrational fear, but we are being honest, here)

4) Living without passion

5) Never being loved the way that he loves Dolores