Sarah, Kat, Kim & I are continuing to host Reverb through 2016 as a way to share writing prompts and providing a space for writers via our Facebook group. Here’s August’s prompt. 

Nostalgia // Tell us about your favourite summer memories. As the summer winds down, tell us about your favourite summer memories from this year (or any year). We want to see your freckled faces and tanned skin. Show us your summer.

I had to retire my favourite summer dress recently.

It was a strapless dress, and I’d had it for over a decade, so it was beyond salvaging. It was just an old brown dress from Ron Herman that I’d picked up on a trip back to LA after I’d sat for the Bar. I’d taken it all over the world with me; worn it to all sorts of major life events.

I’m not sure it was even attractive, but I felt good in it.

There is something special about a favourite summer dress – mine; anyone’s. It seemed to absorb the smells of salt and sand and sunscreen over the years. The dress was constructed of a simple t-shirt fabric, and had resisted a decade-plus of spills, and tears, and subway grit, and New York City grime. I had used the dress’s length to cover up the nasty case of shingles I’d been surprised with one hot, late summer five years ago. I had sunburned the hell out of my chest while wearing it to my ex sister-in-law’s graduation. It was a sword; a shield. If you know me in person, you probably wouldn’t remember the dress offhand, but you probably have an image in your mind’s eye of me in it.

It had come with me to explore all of China, and jump fully clothed into the sea in Thailand; had travelled all over Chile and New Zealand. We had rung in the New Year in Australia together in 2012, and soaked in blue English nights over warm beer with good company.  I had worn it back to LA one warm late-winter to console my best friend after her house burned down. The dress had been my one constant over my whole tumultuous time in NYC – through husbands, and jobs; change and upheaval. No matter the circumstances or the hemisphere, I could count on slipping into my brown summer dress and feeling like myself.

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(After the fire)

A few weeks ago, I found it in the bottom of a drawer. I hadn’t been able to find it all summer, but I knew I had put somewhere last year to remind me to take it to the tailor to have the elastic around the top replaced. I obviously had tucked it away so well, it had avoided notice. The dress was getting on in years and it needed to be repaired; probably replaced, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to part with it just yet. I slipped it on anyway – wrinkled and sagging – on my way between running Summer Streets (my first outdoor run of the season!) and a hair appointment.

During the colouring process, the gown covering me slipped open, and my colourist dripped bleach on my dress. In all my years of being a bottle blonde, that has never happened. But it did, and I knew that it was the universe’s way of telling me that The Dress Was Done.

There is something funny about living in the past; about not merely breathing in the sweet summer smell of a t-shirt dress every year, but clinging to it. There’s something silly and maybe a little sad about patching up a dress that is clearly falling off your body and smells permanently of sunblock, perfume, and faintly of sweat. So when I arrived home from my hair appointment, I changed out of my dress and slipped into a different outfit before meeting some friends for Mostly Mozart that night.

I looked like myself, but different. Older, maybe.

Before I went out, I found my kitchen scissors and I quickly cut two swatches from the bottom of the dress, then binned it. I penned a letter to Jade in California, reminiscing on the night that I’d come to her house after the fire; wearing my off-season summer dress. Then I popped the note in the mail with a scrap of dress; headed off to Lincoln Center and never looked back.

In California, there is a bit of a love-hate relationship with fire. Every year, the wildfires rage and they burn the canyons near my parents’ old house; sometimes hopping the eight lanes of freeway and lapping dangerously near the pink stucco expanse of tract-homes on winding cul-de-sacs. The droughts and the ever-growing brush make this a constant threat. But farther north, the coniferous forests also need the fire to reproduce – some of the old-growth trees, like the Giant Sequoias, need fire to release their seeds from their cones. Fire is part of the renewal process. Other trees depend on periodic fires to clear the choking brush so they can grow.

Jade almost died in a fire about a decade ago; escaping at the last minute, woken up by her cat. A few years after, I dragged her into a brush fire in Yosemite Valley, deep into the Sequoia forests, to climb above the treeline; away from but still inside the inferno.

So it seemed like the right thing to do – to take the dress you wear to the water and you wore to the fire and send it back to where it came from in California.

Being a grown-up is funny, sometimes, isn’t it.

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This is the fifth in a brief series of posts. Here are the firstsecond, and third, and fourth.

It is May.

An old friend comes to town and asks me to dinner. It is one week until my surgery date. You’re so calm about all this, my friend remarks.

I shrug. But I am glad my friend is here – this is a surprise; we have History dating back to the California Coast, and there is quite a lot unsaid between us. There is a lot of comfort in these Things Unspoken – those weird, unshakeable friendship ties that friends never have to talk about; the stuff that spans time zones, and continents. But maybe I am a bit shaken by the visit, too – always waiting for the next arrival or departure; always expecting the other shoe to drop.

I walk home in a still-cool New York night, happy and full, like an early Joni Mitchell song when her voice was still high and the melancholy was just an undertone. But then I take a phone call outside my own door that devastates and infuriates me; that throws me into a tailspin where I feel I must pretend to be my own twin sister for a week to make up for being rude to the doormen. At the time, this seems like an excellent solution to my behaviour, but in retrospect, perhaps I am not admitting that I am also unnerved by All The Things I Cannot Control.

Paul arrives into town a few days later, the weekend before my surgery, and we bicker about mundane things. It is nerves, I know, but he takes this to heart and I know I need to be better about this. Bickering has never bothered me – my parents are champion bickerers and love each other deeply. I have always seen coldness; neglect as signs of trouble in a relationship – not the day-to-day sniping. My parents say We Yell Because We Care, and I honestly think they believe it.

We arrive early at the Hospital for Special Surgery on the Monday morning – they take me back immediately to prepare me and they tell Paul they will bring him back shortly. I have done this every summer for three summers in a row, so I know what I am in for. But for Paul, this is his first time taking anyone in for a surgical procedure; this is his first time being solely responsible for another adult human’s well-being.

With this in mind, and in advance of my surgery date, I have called my best friend – my sister – Jade, who agrees without hesitation to come in from California to take care of me after the operation. It is not that my husband cannot take the time off of work. Rather, it is that I am stuck with the belief that no waspy woman worth her salt would have a man come man a sick room. This is simply Not a Done Thing. My belief is dated and sexist, but I know that while I love his company, my husband cannot do the basics without step-by-step instruction, and I Do Not Want the Hassle Right Now.

Is this wrong? Am I a bad person for this; am I anti-feminist – for asking a woman to do the work that women have always done? Or is it right and safe for a woman to ask another woman to care for her during an injury or illness?

The surgery is a success and I wake up quickly in the PACU.

After a few hours, I really really have to pee. But this surgery is performed under spinal anaesthesia and my legs are only barely awake. The nurse brings me a bed pan instead of taking me to the bathroom. I see Paul’s eyes go wide, as the nurse lifts me up and puts what appears to be a puppy pad beneath the bed pan. She then lifts me and moves my bandages out of the way as best she can, before setting the pan beneath me.

I’m, uh, gonna give you some privacy, Paul mumbles. I’m going to go get a coffee.

The nurse rolls her eyes, and I start to laugh. Paul has reached his limit.

They always do this, the nurse assures me after he is gone.

It’s better than my first husband, I tell her, I was in the ER at St. Vincent’s a lifetime ago, and the moment the doctor touched me, my ex passed out into the bed of the woman next to me. 

The nurse clucked approvingly, as if to suggest that a husband who walked away from a bed pan was definitely an upgrade from a husband who Simply Couldn’t Deal in the first place. I am inclined to agree, but in either event, I still know it was best to import Jade. That I maybe I am sexist, but I am not wrong.

Eventually, they let me leave the hospital and Paul leaves for the airport as soon as he gets me home. There is a gap between when Paul has left for the airport and when Jade arrives, so Strand and Sam and their dog, McGee come to babysit me. It is a month before their wedding; my house is a disaster because we are renovating a bathroom and the contractor is taking forever to finish; but Strand is familiar enough with Needing to Babysit Me When I Come Home From the Hospital that she seems unfazed by the whole thing.

She is a saint.

Thai food arrives in waves, because we have ordered it, and friends who live downtown have also Seamless’d an order to me. Everyone knows that I love Thai food. Jade arrives shortly after the Thai food comes, and walks in to find me surrounded by dogs, blondes, noodles and Pringles – the detritus of demolition and construction all around.

This is the third in a brief series of posts. Here are the first and second.

It is April.

It is at this point that I see my rheumatologist, and fill him in on the medical adventure I have been on. I have known my rheumatologist for 11 years, and we are neighbours. I used to work with his college roommate. We are close. So together we brainstorm some possibilities for what caused my odd injuries.

Are you very flexible? He asks suddenly.

Yes. I can do the splits all the way down. I can bend my thumbs all the way back, too. Do you want to see? I stand up, prepared to drop into a full split on his lineoleum floor in my paper gown.

 Yes, the thumbs. That’s part of the diagnostic criteria for something. Anything else?

I can bend my legs behind my head and turn myself into a fruit basket.

The last one I say in earnest – it does not occur to me how bizarre it sounds. He ignores the Fruit Basket Comment and suggests You may have a genetic connective tissue disorder – this could be why you keep getting injured so easily. Let’s refer you to a geneticist.

I go home to Google the diagnostic code on the invoice. I have spent my life with a variety of strange, seemingly unrelated ailments that would instead seem perfectly correlated with the diagnosis he has preliminarily given me.

I call the geneticist in the morning. He is booked for 18 months. I search NYC hospitals for another one. She has retired. Another  is booked for two years. I call the foundation dedicated to this disorder, and they tell me that their genetics centre has a waiting list of five years, but would I like to donate cash? At each of these hospitals, I am told that if I were pregnant, they would see me immediately, but since the testing is for me and not a foetus, no interventions can take place.

I do not know what interventions are, but this process seems Kafkaesque.

As a last resort, I consult Dr. Google again, who refers me to a genetics centre only loosely affiliated with a hospital in Boston. After some negotiation, they offer me an appointment two weeks later if I can send them my files ASAP.

The weather has turned sharply cold after a mild winter, and I am due in Boston on a rainy Thursday. On my way to Boston, I stop by Kat’s house to see her and the new baby. I wonder if I will ever have children; if I even want to have children. As I ponder this, Baby A spits out her paci and waves her tiny fists menacingly at me.

Kat wishes me Good luck as I leave. I wonder if I will need it.

There are still dirty piles of snow on the New England ground and the rain falls in sheets as my reliable Volkswagen cuts through the midmorning traffic. I arrive in Boston in good time, and the Doctor Will See Me Now. He is an older man; South African, with one of those lilting Afrikaaner accents that at once sounds Dutch, English, and vaguely Australian. He asks me a list of questions and throughout our chat, he rolls his eyes in a way where I cannot tell if he is impatient with me, or annoyed I have come.

He asks me at length about my family history and I am as prepared as I can be. I have checked birth and death records; I have grilled family members. I have pulled as many of my own files as possible.

Do you or does anyone in your family struggle to heal from surgery? the doctor asks me as the interview portion winds down.

My mother had a sister who died at six weeks old because the surgery to correct her oesophageal atresia failed completely. 

He looks up at me, sharply. Margaret’s condition itself was incredibly rare, and the genes involved might be associated with the syndrome my doctor thinks I have. The fact that her surgery did not “take” is one more important data point towards confirming my diagnosis, and by association, hers.

Finally, after over an hour, he slams his fist down on his cluttered desk.

How did your doctors miss this? This is a textbook case of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. 

He is irritated not with me, but with other people’s failures, it seems. I have taken on the yoke of those failures; been dismissed as a hypochondriac or presumed to be a pill-seeker. As it turns out, I am Textbook.

We proceed to a physical exam where he asks me to touch my thumb to my wrist and my hands to the floor while standing. I again blurt out the fruit basket thing, and he seems unfazed by it. Instead, he asks me what I do for a living.

 I’m a lawyer, I simplify.

I love lawyers, he tells me. He gestures to the photos on his walls, These are all lawyers. Famous lawyers. Do you recognise any of them?

I squint at the walls, which are covered with pictures of the doctor and friends, some of them with a distinctive 70s vibe.

That one is me and Justice Blackmun. Very important man. Great friend, especially to a geneticist.

He finishes his exam, takes my blood for genetic testing. He is certain I have EDS, but the genetic test is important to identify which of the subtypes I have. He tells me he will also test me for being a CF carrier and SMA in the event that I want children. He explains to me the risks of childbearing with my condition. He tells me that depending on which version of the bad collagen gene I have, I shouldn’t be dissuaded from having children, but that I should be selective.

It is not until I leave the office and I get into the car to drive home that it dawns on me that Justice Blackmun authored the opinion in Roe v. Wade. I finally realise what the doctor means by selective; intervention.

More importantly, I begin to realise that none of this is my fault. This isn’t happening because I am a shitty runner or because I ran too many races trying to work out some deep childhood pain. None of it is my mother’s fault, and none of it was her mother’s fault, either.

All of this angst; all of this complex grief; all of this damage was done by a simple quirk of DNA. I do not know whether to be angry or relieved. All those years of therapy suddenly seem like a huge, expensive waste.

So…I got married.

We got married.

The wedding was beautiful, and perfect, and everything I had hoped it would be. All the excellent parts were better than I had dreamed, and nothing was disappointing because I had mapped out all the potential for All That in advance.

Is that weird?

Before you judge me for saying that out loud, try managing your expectations before some big event. (Hint: The holidays are coming). Try not expecting a drop more from people than they typically produce, just because it’s a Big Occasion, and They Should Be On Their Best Behaviour.

For instance, if the average orange yields 3oz of juice on an ordinary day, than there is absolutely no reason to believe people will be Extraordinary Oranges on special occasions. Rather, people will be nervous, or petulant, or self-interested, or any number of other things that will impair their juice production. At best, they will produce the same amount of juice as usual. But you’re definitely not getting a half-gallon out of them simply because you’re the one getting married – it’s against the laws of nature!

For example:

My brother is not…an experienced traveller. He was booked on an 7:00am flight out of LAX the day before our wedding, which he missed. I had fully prepared for this – in part, because Matthew is a poor traveller. But also because that’s my brother. Before he left, I had inputted his flight details into an app I use to track travel simply because it spits out “Alternative Flight Options” in the event he missed his plane.

Which he did.

Which was how I wound up spending hours on the phone with American Airlines the day before my wedding and not writing my toast or vows.

Which is not to say I expected any different, rather, it is to say that the whole endeavour took up slightly more time than budgeted towards “Matthew’s Potential/Likely Screw Ups.” Save for my own lack of foresight in time-budgeting, the entire weekend was perfect. And I did (eventually) find time to write the vows.

But when the moment came for me to give the toast, which I’d decided to give cold, the best man and wedding planner came to me with the microphone and I looked around the room – this ancient farmhouse filled with everyone I love, and decorated with roses, and thistles, and reminders of the Sierras – I realised I didn’t need to say anything more.

And what I am further saying is this:

When I was a very little girl, I loved this movie called Pete’s Dragon. If you’re a child of the 70s or 80s, you probably know it well. In fact, I still love Pete’s Dragon.

If you know the film, you know that there are several stories within the main story – one of them being that Nora, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, is holding out hope that the sailor she loves will one day return home. He has presumably been shipwrecked and lost at sea. I watched that film throughout my whole childhood and adolescence, holding out hope that I too would find someone worthy of a ballad like the one Helen Reddy belts from the lighthouse.

Before Paul and I got married, I read through my old journals – partly out of curiosity, and partly out of wondering what my marital hopes and dreams had once been many years ago, and how accurate my predictions for myself might have turned out to be. Until then, I had mostly forgotten about my youthful obsession with Pete’s Dragon; I had even somehow forgotten that Nora had been holding out hope for a seemingly impossible to find Paul.

And I had not realised that I had once written: I wonder if I will ever love anyone like that. I wonder if I will spend my life searching for my own Paul and if I will ever find him. Or if I will be disappointed.

I had found him. And that was really all that mattered, wasn’t it?

As I looked around the room at the moment I didn’t give my toast, on that one, perfect Autumn day, it was if I had finally accepted that I had never had to be perfect and Paul would still be waiting. My family and friends would have been there no matter what.

And it dawned on me that maybe it’s true that you’re not guaranteed great results simply because you’re planning a special occasion. Maybe the result you get from people is a direct product of the love you put in.

I was lucky then, on our wedding day, to be blessed like a California girl might hope to be: Surrounded by Extraordinary Oranges.

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This is the 15th in a series of posts about New York – a re-post of an essay I wrote about four years ago. The original post is reprinted here with no editing.

When I used to live in Tribeca, non-New Yorkers would ask me “Oh, you run?  I bet you love running in Central Park!”  Back then it would irk me, even though their geographic ignorance was not their fault.

“No,” I’d say sweetly, “I prefer to run along the Hudson.”  Which was, and is still a fact, even now living only a few blocks off the Park and running it frequently; racing it most weekends.

New York, as you probably know or have surmised, is ferociously neighbourhoody, not merely in the borough-to-borough sense.  Each neighbourhood has a distinct personality, evolved and evolving over time.  Nothing is static: growth, rot, gentrification, construction — all constants.

One other thing that remains constant, and perhaps is a neighbourhood in and of itself is Central Park.

Central Park has not always existed.  It is, by historical standards, a relatively recent phenomenon.  New York traces its founding to 1624.  It wasn’t until 1844 that American poet William Cullen Bryant began to romanticise the need for a public park in New York City.  Perhaps Bryan’s words were not so much “publicity,” rather a reflection of public sentiment — by then New Yorkers had resorted to using cemeteries as public parks because there were so few green spaces left in the growing city.  In 1857, the City approved the development of a 700 acre public park, and in 1858, Frederic Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux were selected to design the space.

In 1873, Central Park (originally dubbed “the Greensward Project”) was completed.  For the first 60 years of the Park’s existence, largely due to the City’s demographics and politics, there was little interest in using the Park for its intended purpose.  But in 1934, newly-elected Republican Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia tasked Robert Moses with cleaning up the park — an effort that was, all things considered, a success.

Throughout the 20th century, the Park was not immune from the upheaval that City experienced.  The Park was opened to events in the 1960s — drawing crowds; protests; concerts — but the City lacked the expertise, budget, and general wearwithall to manage the impact.  Despite being named an historical landmark in 1963, the Park fell into serious disrepair once again, which continued throughout the late 1970s.

In 1980, the Park informally came into the managerial hands of the Central Park Conservancy — a public-private partnership that formalised their management agreement over the park in 1998 and manages the Park to this day.  (And does a fantastic job!).  The Central Park Conservancy began restoring the Park in the early 1980s, and today, the Park is the most visited urban park in the country.

Perhaps I am not alone in saying my feelings on the Park change with the seasons.

In the Winter, the Park is a tundra — the Reservoir frozen over; the surface crackled and full of mystery like an ancient skin.  The horse-drawn carriages ferry blanketed passengers like it’s something romantic, and I suppose it is in a way.  But the dirt and grime and smell of horse-shit and other people who have used those blankets make the idea very unromantic to me.

Spring has rolled directly into Summer in Manhattan the last few years but during the few Spring days, one can practically see the cartoon steam lines rising out of moist lawns.  The Spring growth brings itchy eyes and pollenshowers from every tree.  Then comes Summer with its lazy picnics and sunsoaked Saturdays with sangria secreted in under cover of Gatorade jugs.  We play games of catch until we’re too dizzy from the wine.  But beware the young couples necking; petting; going through the rituals of love behind boulders, trees.  Every Summer seems a Summer of Love — sweet, gentle love — but only until Dusk.  Because everyone knows that after dark, the Park is still the Park.

In the Fall, the Park is magical: the trees are a canopy of fire!  I used to — don’t laugh — have my hair done at the salon at Bergdorf’s and sometimes I felt like asking the stylist for silence so I could drink in the view.  (That salon was another life; is another post.)  Walking in the Park under the Autumn trees may be life’s greatest pleasure — the heady, sneezy smell of maples, elms; the peaty smell of dying grass.

November brings my favourite day of the year — Marathon Sunday.  There is no more welcome or glorious sight than Central Park on that day.  The air is crisp; the leaves are fireworks of celebration; my fellow New Yorkers are screaming my name and carrying me to the finish.  Even in the late afternoon shade, as the sun sinks into the Hudson on the other side of town, the Park glows golden that day.

Central Park, like all of New York, is glamourous, dangerous, ever changing.  It is a place where the robber barons and beggars mingle with ease.  It is perhaps not where all New Yorkers feel at home — even the most seasoned City-dwellers among us — but it is a place that is uniquely our own.

Sources: Central Park Conservancy; NYC.gov; Wikipedia: Central Park

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.