(Via Sarah) Let it go! What unfinished projects are on your to-do list for 2015? Are you going to finish them before 2015 ends, punt them to 2016, or just let them go?

We bought our apartment a year ago, and promptly undertook all the renovations that did not require permits. Those were completed within ten days. I then contacted the required people (my architect; the building’s architect; my contractor; the condo board; etc.) to complete the rest of the renovations (they are minor – it is a question of moving a washer/dryer and installing some additional plumbing).

That was in February.

Ten months and thousands of dollars later, I am no closer to having the bathroom renovation completed. I also still live in an apartment with no drawers.

I am frustrated.

Have you ever had to deal with the New York City Department of Buildings? I used to joke that it was run by the mob, but the longer I deal with them, I am not so sure that I am joking. Have you ever had to deal with a condo board? That is a separate, horrible fiefdom that I am struggling to navigate – wherein the lord of the manor, in this case, happens to be a dentist. I’m not an anti-dentite, per se, but there seems to be a certain kind of personality drawn to the dental arts. Unfortunately for me, those types also seem to be drawn to condo board presidencies.

I envy people whose to-do lists are entirely within their control. Oh, you read Marie Kondo’s book and your unfinished project is to Kon-Mari your closets? That’s nice. Gee, you want to make sure you implement a daily gym routine and stick to it? Get on that! Wow, your to-do for 2015 was to buy a house, get married, settle down, and have a baby? Better get busy in these last few weeks of the year, sport.

I am at the mercy of the most inefficient bureaucracy known to mankind, and a bloody dentist. I look forward to using my renovated bathroom some time in 2037.

As the year ends, and we look back at the joys, achievements and disappointments of the past twelve months, it’s worth taking some time to recognise what our efforts have demanded of us and where our resources have been depleted. Whether you have spent 2015 bringing some long-cherished project to fruition or simply trying to keep your head above water, it’s likely that this has come at some cost to you. How can you replenish your (physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional) resources? What do you need most of all at this moment?

I have written before about how intense the last few years have been, and how I love the bit in the Sermon on the Mount about how one should understand the importance of taking the plank out of one’s own eye before trying to get the speck of sawdust out of one’s brother’s. How, if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot survive this crazy life. I love that bit so much that, even as a seasoned traveller, I still listen when they tell you on the plane that you should put your oxygen mask on first because obviously, it’s the Word of Our Lord. 

It was not until about mid-November that the plank-sawdust-oxygen mask thing really became a non-anecdotal, real-life thing for me, though. You see, I can summarise my life into neat little Life Lessons on the Internet. But I am not as good at understanding those lessons when I am actually hitting a wall and need to replenish my energy in Real Life.

The best analogy/simile I have for this is that of my 1999 Honda Civic. (Yes, I am going to frontload all of my literary devices, why do you ask?) I used to drive a Honda with a floating fuel gauge that would tell me I had a third or a fourth of a tank of gas left when I really had only fumes. So I would believe I had ample time to find a service station, and instead, my car would sputter to a halt on an interstate exit ramp. So while in my head, I am a state-of-the-art jetliner with sophisticated gauges and sensors and I carry enough fuel to circumnavigate the globe and beyond; in reality, I am much more like a 1999 Honda Civic with absolutely no clue when I am about to run out of gas.

With all of this in mind, in mid-November, I found myself on one of those exhausting multi-city business trips. By the time I finally arrived in Dublin at the end of it, I was completely, utterly worn out. Worse, I was so knackered, I had no clue how dangerously wrecked I really was.

I spent an ordinary-but-exhausting weekend in Ireland, and headed back to NY (via London) that Sunday. In Dublin Airport, however, things got weird. An airline employee mistook me for another passenger and grabbed my bag out of my hand, ripping it completely open. My stuff went everywhere. I stood for a moment – frozen – and then began to yell at her; she began to yell back. In the midst of this, my flight began to board.

So I scooped up my stuff, and moved with the throbbing masses towards the boarding zone with a large Eastern European woman trailing me, screaming. When I arrived at the gate and proffered my passport and boarding card, the woman’s colleague informed me that I would have to check my bag – not because her colleague had ripped it open – but because the bag was “too big.”

It was at that point that I lost my mind.

Have you ever lost your mind in public? I don’t recommend doing it in an airport, especially since, after a few minutes of back-and-forth, the gate agent appeared to radio for the police.

Ultimately, I gave up and got on the plane. I looked forlornly up at my bag on the platform as I trudged down the the jetway, hissing to myself about the injustice of it all as the gardai arrived to speak with the gate agent. As I sank into my airline seat I knew two things for certain: 1) I was very, very lucky that my tantrum hadn’t gotten me arrested, and 2) there was absolutely no way in hell my bag was going to arrive in New York that night.

Predictably, I arrived at JFK without bags. The next morning, no bag came to my house, either. I finally had to call someone at the airline’s customer service hotline, at which point, I lost my jetlagged mind again, and threatened to go to some guy’s house if he didn’t give me the number to reach a live person at the baggage counter at JFK.

Madam, you cannot talk to me that way. Madam, I am in India you cannot come to my house.

When I finally reached a live person at JFK, I rushed out an apology as I explained the circumstances (leaving out the part where I had threatened to go to Bangalore to beat up a guy) and begged for my luggage. Don’t worry, the woman said, It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. I have your bag in hand and I will send it out tonight.

Within an hour of that call, my bag had arrived.

The point is: Admitting to yourself that you are more like a 1999 Honda Civic and not Boeing 787 Dreamliner in terms of your energy resources and long-range capacity is only the first step in learning to care for yourself. The second step is taking the plank out of your own eye; putting your oxygen mask on first; not letting yourself become so depleted in the first place…lest you become a raving lunatic nearly taken into police custody in the middle of Dublin Airport.

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During The Worst Trip to La Reunion Ever, I became addicted to a game called “Bubble Bricker.”  It’s like Tetris, except slightly more addictive.

Since I have been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to “take it easy” and “recovery from surgery,” I have been again at it with the Bubble Bricker.  For some reason, playing this Tetris-like game is jogging unconscious memories of my ex-husband, who was a Tetris whiz.  We used to be very competitive about the Tetris.  And as a result, I have been waking up at 4.30am each day to the sound of my own screams as I keep dreaming that some Governmental-Regulatory-Body-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named has sentenced me to 20 years locked in a room with my ex for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Except as we are to be locked up, he has brought a 20 year-long to-do list, and 20 years’ worth of books to read, and I show up for incarceration with a couple of Smiths CDs and a single first-edition of To The Lighthouse.  Each time I have this rotten dream, I wake up screaming at the point that my former spouse looks at me and my single book disapprovingly and tsk-tsks, saying: Semper Paratus, Meredith Ann.  Semper Paratus.

This is all very unfortunate because I really like this silly Tetris game.  And I would really just like to listen to the Smiths, and read Virginia Woolf, and play Bubble Bricker in peace.

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(via This Charming Charlie)

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.
– C.S. Lewis

I am hard on myself.

I find it easier to forgive others, but hard to forgive myself.  But if I can’t forgive myself, am I really forgiving anyone?

What sort of bullshit system do I have going here?  What sort of false piousness is this?

This time of year, I see a lot of posts on Facebook and on Twitter — self congratulatory posts — about paying it forward.  People who write statuses and tweets about the times that they give unto others.

I paid for lunch for a blind, one-legged 127 year old WWI veteran today.  He was so grateful!  Brought tears to my eyes when he thanked me!  Remember to pay it forward!

I cannot forgive myself for the time I didn’t do X or Y for someone close to me, and then she died, so now I always do X or Y for strangers in our community.  Remember to always to X!

I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, by the way, so this isn’t me passing judgment — it’s more of an observation.  I talk about the money I donate, and the fundraising I do, and the volunteering I undertake.  I want you to know about it.  I want you to think I am a good person.

Why do I want you to think I am a good person?  Because I think I’m a bad one.  Because I can’t forgive myself for the major and minor trespasses I’ve committed.  Because I was a jerk to someone this morning, or did something imperfectly, or tried and failed and failed again, and so I have to tell myself — by telling everyone — that I cannot possibly be a Real Jerk because I do these good things for other people; because I practice kind actions, and I pay it forward; and I actively forgive.

But what I have found, in my limited experience in thirtysomething years as a human, is that it is infinitely easier to be less of a jerk to others when I am nicer to myself.  I have found that I do not have to run around, bumbling, fumbling, frantically pay for others’ drinks and brag about it on social media to compensate for my bumbles and fumbles, when I am just a little kinder to me.

It’s not just about the false piousness, though.  Failing to forgive means continuing to resent.

I don’t really want to be resentful anymore.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a well-known pop-culture cliché. The term was coined by critic Nathan Rabin in his review of 2005’s Elizabethtown to describe the cheerful, bubbly flight attendant played by Kirsten Dunst. Since then, this character type has been analyzed everywhere, from XoJane to Slate to the Guardian. A list of film examples of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” includes roles played by everyone from Barbra Streisand to Natalie Portman to both Hepburns (Audrey and Katharine). Rabin claimed that the MPDG “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries.”
– Hugo Schwyzer, “The Real World Consequences of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Cliche”

Can the Pixie retire? Is the Pixie self-aware? Did the Pixie get the joke all along?

(Laurie Penny’s take on this is insightful.  In her piece for the The New Statesman titled “I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, she observes: Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s.)

Is the first step in retirement discovering or admitting that one is, indeed, a manic pixie dream girl?  And what happens upon such discovery?  Can one become a different sort of film heroine?

More importantly, how does this end?

In the film version, the camera follows the young man’s story of transformation, so we never really know what happens to The Girl.  I suppose the point is really that she’s not A Real Girl.  She’s just a construct; a means to an end.

As am I.

I have been A Coming Out Party.  The Thirteenth Step.  A Starter Wife.  A Midlife Crisis.

The arc of the story is always a bit different, but the underlying tale is the same each time.  There are adventures along the way; cinematic kisses in unexpected locations all over the world.  There are long drives, and beach bonfires, and romantic dinners, and starry nights, and goodbyes on the jetway like it’s still the era before the terrorists won.

But TL;DR — here’s the plot summary: He learns to let go, and so he lets go of me.  He becomes The Man He Should Be – for himself, for the Right Woman, Plain and Tall. The End.

And so…I’m a fun, quirky, pint-sized cliché.  In so many ways, this is — or has been — me.

I am not saying anything new, or adding anything to the discourse around this topic.  This brief piece adds absolutely nothing to the feminist, or literary, or film criticism out there picking apart the construct.  In my case, it’s merely a case of Identifying A Thing, and Dismissing A Thing.

But the Thing about Things is this:

You can’t do anything about them unless you know they exist.

Which I do.

I think there are two types of people in this world:

People who run marathons, and people who do not.

I do not think you actually have to run or have run a marathon to be the type of person to run a marathon.  You simply have to be the type who believes in the possibility of going the distance.  You must have stamina; endurance; a belief in things greater than yourself.  You must have faith.

This isn’t to say that non-marathoners do not have any of the above, but they maybe don’t have the fearless willingness to perform bodily functions in public, or the ironheaded drive to undertake the relentless and single-minded pursuit of a piece of tacky jewellery.

I am a marathoner.  I am unafraid of peeing in public.  In fact, that once almost got me arrested in Scotland.

With all that in mind (the marathoning, not the peeing), I’ve had a spate of bad days, and I’ve discovered that there are 2 ways to address these sorts of things:

1) Accept a bad day on its face;

2) Accept a bad day on its face; then go out and run out the ick with sub-8 minute miles down First Avenue and up on to the Bridge; run hill repeats up and over the Queensboro Bridge; vomit extravagantly off the top and into the East River from the effort; go home and celebrate with Kasey, Strand and a bottle of prosecco before going out to dinner still covered in salt and without having changed out out of running clothes.

Admittedly, it was my first *real* run-puke.  And there was something special about the fact that it was because of the sub-8s; something magical about it being at the top of the Bridge.

That I have just described vomiting off the side of the Queensboro Bridge as “magical” should probably tell you Quite A Lot about me.  That I have admitted to using prosecco as a “recovery drink” should probably tell you Quite A Lot more.

But the running is a journey; the mileage is an adventure.  These hills are here for a reason, and I am going to attack them.  I am going to give them my all; I am going to conquer them; I will take them on hard and fast and wholeheartedly — even if it means barfing at the top, through a chain-link fence, into the river below.

Yesterday morning, I was walking to the subway, when a child, whose umbrella was at the level of my face, smacked me full-on with his wet raingear.  Involuntarily, I let out a surprised noise, and a Whoah!  I had, after all, just been hit in the face with a piece of damp nylon.

His mother turned on her heel.  Did you just hit my child?

Um, no.  Your child just hit me with his umbrella. I said, But it’s fine. It’s a wet day.  We’re all just trying to get to where we’re going.

And I started to walk away.

She then unleashed a profanity-laced tirade upon me, the likes of which I had not previously heard from the mouth of a mother in the company of her child.  The likes of which I had never heard before 8 o’clock in the morning, on a week day, on a public street, where neither life nor limb nor new luxury car was at stake.

Wait a minute, I said, He hit me in the mouth with his umbrella.  I didn’t do anything.  And we’re cool, right?  I looked down, made eye contact with the kid, and then walked on.

Only in New York.

Only on my street, which is lined with some of the best public and private schools on the East Side.

I’ve lived in both New York, and Los Angeles.  And I’ve lived in both for long enough periods of time to feel comfortable saying that in Los Angeles, the minute there’s even the suggestion of rain, everyone forgets how to drive.  But in New York, at the mere sign of drizzle, everyone forgets how to walk.

The jury is still out as to which I find more irritating.

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(Throughout the month of June, I’ll be writing a series of New York-related posts, and/or inviting some friends to guest post about their New York experiences, to celebrate my eight years in New York City.)