This Matt Damon-narrated PSA about water, of all things, is actually all kinds of awesome. And also sort of terrifying!
It’s not often all I need is a PSA to fork over cash. But this one did the trick. Well-scripted, well-executed, and one clear message.
My dentist died.
I called the office to reschedule my semi-annual cleaning. I had put it on the calendar six months ago, and then realized I would be out of town.
The phone rang and rang. Eventually a recording came on that said the office was closed indefinitely due to the doctor’s illness.
And then on a plane today, I got an email saying my dentist died in February. It provided a referral to a dentist around the corner. But no details on the how, or the why.
I stared at my laptop screen for three minutes without moving.
I loved my dentist, though that might be a strong word for a man I met seven times over four years. He’d come in after the cleaning by my favorite hygienist, the Redskins-loving Carson, and poke around with his mirror. He never failed to tell me I had beautiful teeth, and that my dad’s money went to good use on that orthodontist when I was a kid.
He was friendly and good-natured. His staff clearly loved him. He organized a March Madness pool for his office. I remember the brackets hanging on the wall, but I can’t remember who he chose to win last year.
I searched Google, and the local papers, for an obituary, or any kind of explanation. I found nothing.
There’s been a lot of change happening around me lately. My boss left the company a week ago. My best friend is one month from delivering her first baby. My closest high school friend just got engaged.
And my dentist died.
One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received, though I didn’t realize it at the time, was from a older journalist on a press trip last year. After a week together with 10 other journalists, she told me she appreciated how adaptable I was. I could “go with the flow,” I could read the situation and know how to react, and I made people feel comfortable in uncertain circumstances. I felt surprised. No one had ever described me that way before.
As the change swirls, and I adjust to more responsibility at work, I watch as others respond to the change with resistance, and I realize that she may have been right. I appreciate that I can adapt, now more than ever.
But that doesn’t make change easier. I don’t want to go to a new dentist. I don’t want the lovely man who took good care of my teeth to be gone.
I think the scariest part about change is feeling left behind. It’s the loss of control, but it’s also the feeling that I’m not keeping pace, that I can’t keep up. It’s life’s race, and I am being passed by the other runners.
And then I stop and realize, my dentist died. His race ended. And so maybe I should look at all this change, what’s happening to me, and what’s happening to my friends, and I should savor that we are all still here, still running.
I ran 10 miles on Monday.
I don’t have a runner’s body. I have wide hips, and a butt, and my arms and legs always did better in water than on land. I’m not a weight that’s built for speed. I am far from aerodynamic.
But I ran farther than I ever thought I’d run yesterday. And in less than one month I’ll be running myself halfway to a marathon.
Five years ago I set out to climb a mountain in Tanzania. I wasn’t in great shape, I didn’t train hard enough. On the last day, two hours from the summit, exhaustion and altitude sickness set in, and I couldn’t go any further. I’ve never let myself live that down. I didn’t make it to the top, and therefore my brother, who stayed with me, didn’t summit. I failed myself, I failed him, and I felt miserable.
This time I’m training. And I will make it across the finish line if I have to crawl. I can’t fail. Too much around me is falling, too much that I have no control over. This is the one thing I know is all me. If I don’t make it, I’m the only one I can blame.
People say your failures are what defines you. Your failures teach you the most important life lessons. I believe that. My greatest defeats, my worst moments, are so much of what has defined me. But sometimes you can’t fail. Sometimes crossing the finish line is the only way you know you have some measure of control of how your life will turn out.
My best friend told me today that so much of life is just luck. She’s not wrong. But this one thing, this one goal, this one feat, it’s what I can control right now. It’s not luck that will push me to finish. It’s knowing in my soul that right now I have no other choice.Note: I did finish…twenty minutes faster than I thought I would. One of the best mornings of my life.
Treat yourself to this fantastic interview with Blackall by the one and only Debbie Millman.
Last time I was in New York, I snapped photos of these on my phone to remember to look up the artist. They are beautiful, elegant pieces to stare at on a crowded subway car.
There are kisses that are comfortable. There are kisses that call for a polite exit. There are carefree kisses that end with no hurt feelings.
And then there are kisses that change your life.
People, or this culture, put a lot of emphasis on the impact of sex. But with no kids yet (or STDs, fortunately), sex has never changed the course of my life. A few kisses have.
The first one was the night of the 2000 presidential election, Gore v. Bush. My dorm neighbor and I had been circling each other for weeks. There had been flirtatious exchanges in the laundry room, the hall, and eventually in his bedroom, where I pretended to be interested in Woody Allen movies. But that night, after hours of tension running high (between us, and because no one knew who the next president was), he found the courage to switch the light off, crawl into his bed next to me and kiss me like I had never been kissed before.
He would become my first real boyfriend, my first Valentine, the person I lost my virginity to, and the first man who told me he loved me.
After that kiss, came a kiss that changed the trajectory of my career. It was with a close friend and roommate, someone I thought I had not-so-secretly loved for years. The kiss was drunken, sloppy, and very public, but I didn’t care. It felt like I didn’t need to breathe as long as I could keep kissing him.
But that kind of kiss can drastically change the nature of your co-existence. I was living in a house with a person who could kiss me like that and be my friend, but couldn’t be my partner. The weight of consequence crushed me. I needed an escape route. I got into graduate school, and instead of choosing to stay on the West Coast, I boxed up the hurt, shoved it into a tiny corner of my heart, and went back East.
When I landed in D.C., I met the person who I shared the last kiss that truly mattered with. He walked into the first day of class after I had already grabbed a seat. He wore bad sandals, a t-shirt one size too big, and he had the most handsome face I’d ever seen.
Within weeks we were spending hours together. He was driven and had passion for what we were doing, but was also humble and kind. He saw the world differently than I did, but not in a bad way. He had things to teach me. He had big dreams. He laughed a lot. And I loved every moment I had his attention. But I convinced myself I was experiencing another instance of unrequited love.
I wasn’t. Eight months after the first day I saw his smiling eyes, he kissed me on an escalator. I wasn’t prepared and we bumped teeth. The kiss that ended up mattering happened ten minutes later in the entrance to my shared rowhouse. It was the kind of kiss you wait the whole movie to see. The kind of kiss that leads to true, deep love.
I spent half my 20s kissing that guy. No kiss was as exceptional as that first night in a dark hallway pressed against a cold wall. But there were hundreds of exceptional kisses, highlights of hundreds of good memories.
But life happened to us, ready or not. I lost the best version of myself trying to make my half fit into his. But he wasn’t ready to entangle his world with mine. And eventually I stopped being the girl he fell in love with. Good kisses weren’t enough anymore, for either of us.
Since the inevitable end of one great love, I have kissed my share of men. One in particular, on a sidewalk outside a gas station, I thought could be the next big kiss. A few months later, when we fizzled out, I discovered a series of promising kisses doesn’t always lead to love.
Kisses can give us hope. They can signal the hardest kind of good-bye. They can comfort us at our lowest point, or signal the start of the kind of high we only get a handful of times.
These kind of kisses are our reward for being brave. Because if a kiss can change your life, it’s not always something to take lightly. I think that’s why the best kind of kisses can be months, or years, in the making. They are the ones that one or both people know will change everything. To go for it, to put fear aside, means you realize whatever the end result, it’s time to see what happens.
I have regrets, but I don’t regret a single one of these kisses. I look back at them with a smile. I will always be grateful they happened with three good men.
Of all the perks of being single, I think my favorite might be that as long as I’m still alive, there’s a chance I’ll get at least one more of those life-changing, breathtaking, near-perfect moments with a person that might be the one I’ve been looking for.
at Rockefeller Center
"It’s everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance."
Pantone, the “authority on color” for over 50 years, has announced 2013’s color of the year: Emerald. PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald to be exact.
It’s the year of Emerald, which is my birthstone as well as one of my favorite colors. A good sign for 2013?
There’s a saying broken-hearted sports fans use frequently, “there’s always next year.”
It’s supposed to offer comfort to fellow fans, or to themselves.
A friend used the saying on his Facebook wall yesterday, and upon seeing it, I paused, and thought, no there isn’t.
There isn’t always a next year. Or a next day. There wasn’t for the victims at Newtown, or all the victims of gun violence this year. There wasn’t for my friend’s sister, who died a year ago.
And so, as I walked home from a third annual Christmas gift exchange dinner with a good friend, I started thinking about how often we take the years ahead for granted, the idea that we have more time.
I have big dreams, and I think about my future and I am filled with a sense of security and happiness, even if I’m not always secure and happy right now. But I think that sense comes from the assumption that I will have the time to make my dreams become reality. But, what if I don’t?
This year I made an effort to say the things I didn’t want to leave unsaid. I removed myself from situations where I was being hurt. I tried to fight for others, even if I didn’t always win. I followed my gut instinct, mostly, and the times when I didn’t led to decisions I regretted.
But I wished for things to be different, a lot. I spent a lot of time pushing for change, and not enough time appreciating the life I lead now.
I’m going to go into the holidays appreciating (almost) every moment I have with my family. Because there isn’t always a next Christmas, and on behalf of everyone who won’t be able to celebrate this one, I’m going to try to spend 2013 remembering that.
There’s this moment at the end of a great love, when someone declares it’s over, or both people realize it can’t go on any longer. It’s a moment both people dread. It can be months of dreading, or days, but at the time you can’t imagine the dread will be worse than that moment, so you keep on dreading.
And then you can’t take anymore. The end is hanging there in front of you and it begins to take over everything in your life. You can’t be in the same room as the person without the weight of the decision bearing down on your shoulders through to your lungs.
So you say the words. And then the moment happens. You can’t let each other go. The words hang there in the air.
You don’t know what to do next. Because when one of you gets up and leaves, it means it’s really done.
Eventually the one who has to leave heads towards a door. And you stand there, staring at each other, maybe holding each other. You say good-bye, and you wish the words “good” and “bye” could take five minutes to say instead of two seconds. You exchange a kiss, maybe on the lips, or just on the cheek. And you watch the person you love walk away or you walk away from the one you love.
Soon after someone will tell you it will be alright. But it’s not true. You know that, or you don’t, either way, it’s not alright, and it won’t be alright, not for a long time.
I haven’t thought about that moment in a long time. It’s not something I like to go back to. But lately a handful of friends are going through all that comes before and after that moment.
One is enduring the painful days that follow, when texting each other becomes the one remaining line of communication and represents the last gasps of hope. Another just found out the person she loved started dating someone new. Now she endures a punch in the gut every time she thinks of him kissing his new love.
And the amazing thing is, as I revisit my own past while giving any advice I can think of and offering any comfort I can, I realize I’m through. I made it to “alright.” I have some things I need to figure out, but none of them have do with that particular good-bye to that particular great love. The memory of that moment, the pain of it, is gone now. And if I think of him and his now not-so-new love, it passes through me. I can turn it off.
I didn’t always do it well or do it right. But I made it. And that moment, the awful one, feels very far away. So I can tell the truth when I look at my friends and say that some day it will be alright, even if they won’t believe me. And I can tell them it takes time, and know that it’s true. And when they make mistakes, I will convince them to forgive themselves and keep going. I can tell the ones who haven’t had that moment yet, but need to, that it will be painful and awful and all the bad things they imagine it will be. But it will be better than living with dread. Because you can’t figure out what comes next, how big your life can be, until you endure that moment.
The men of the U.K. resurfaced a part of me that had been missing for a long time.
Within the span of three days this month, I met a Swiss-Greek entrepreneur, a South African urban geographer, and a rugby-playing Kiwi.
The entrepreneur gave me hope, and ideas, over a delicious cup of espresso on the top floor of a book shop in Piccadelly Circus.
While we wandered the streets of London, the geographer asked me questions about what’s next that no one else had asked.
The Kiwi held my hand for most of 24 hours, kissed me in front of Edinburgh Castle, and reminded me that I was worthy of being wooed by a handsome, amazing person.
And they all saw through to the lady who believed she was capable of achieving anything.
I got the wind knocked out of me a few times the last five years. And it made me start to doubt the girl with all that spirit inside of her. But in Europe, I found that part of me again, and I knew she was back for good the day after I returned to the U.S., when she hadn’t gone away.
I walked into my therapist’s office the day before Thanksgiving, and for the first time in two years, I didn’t have anything to talk through. My family is healthy and happy. My friends are going through big life changes, but not the bad kind. They are having babies, and meeting their life partners, and thriving as adults. And they all love me and support me, and have started to understand that it’s okay for me to dream big again.
I knew I needed to leave and go somewhere far from home to find some answers. I told myself that when I booked an expensive plane ticket at the start of fall. It was the best money I spent all year. It may turn out be the best money I spent in the last five.
I am grateful to those three worldly gents who helped me find this feeling again. And I love that it wasn’t because any of them had anything to do with finding a boyfriend. It was about me, remembering that girl who showed up in D.C. seven years ago ready to redefine herself, ready to take on the world.