on anniversaries and the moral bucket list

// Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Last week was a weird week for me, full of anniversaries and birthdays and histories. My boyfriend’s birthday was earlier in the week, which was lovely and wonderful and we spent Sunday up in Portland in celebration, wandering around in the sunshine (and finally seasonally appropriate warm weather!) and heading to Duckfat for the first time (might make a post about it soon: I know it’s not a ~new thing~ but man, it was good).

But then midweek, last week, was April 15th. On a personal note, that date is the anniversary of a personal matter that I haven’t figured out how to write about in this space yet: I probably will, eventually, but now is not that time. But it’s a day for me that has a huge spectrum of emotions, and it puts me in sort of a odd headspace. And on a much larger, much more emotionally complicated anniversary scale, April 15th is the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings. Boston is my home, in the broad sense. I’ve grown up (and spent my whole life so far) in Massachusetts, and I work in downtown Boston. And I was at work in downtown Boston two years ago – I work about a mile away from the finish line, and it’s a Day, for Boston and for Massachusetts and for the country. I’m lucky: I’ve only peripherally felt the effects, in that I know people who know people, but nothing happened to anyone in my immediate circle of family and friends. It still has impacted me, absolutely, but I’m lucky. At least, as of last Wednesday, Tsarnaev was found guilty on all counts in the Marathon Bombings. So that’s something. But regardless, April 15th is a Day.

And because of all that last week was, I’ve been out of sorts. I haven’t felt like writing, haven’t wanted to write, other than when I accidentally filled three journal pages writing about something that happened a million years ago, and even then, it was Facts versus Writing, just because I wanted to see if I could. I haven’t been writing the way I want to write, lately. I’ve been overthinking and overanalyzing, and even just on here, I’ve got a half dozen drafts in various states. None are where I want them to be: I can’t find the right words, can’t get the feeling right, can’t translate what I’m thinking in my head to words on a computer screen.

But the reason this post is coming out of drafts and into the world is this: I really want to write about the “The Moral Bucket List” by David Brooks, an excellent piece from last week’s Sunday Review section of the New York Times, which has been circling the internet some already, but I want it in this space, too. and it was exactly, precisely, what I needed to read. It’s long, but it’s worth it. If it weren’t bad form and a crappy internet thing to do, I’m pretty sure I’d just paste the entire article here. But it is bad form to do so, so as such, here are a couple parts of the article that really resonated with me:

But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.


Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

Their lives often follow a pattern of defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding — by keeping a journal or making art. As Paul Tillich put it, suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person you thought you were.

The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative. They are not really living for happiness, as it is conventionally defined. They see life as a moral drama and feel fulfilled only when they are enmeshed in a struggle on behalf of some ideal.


External ambitions are never satisfied because there’s always something more to achieve. But the stumblers occasionally experience moments of joy. There’s joy in freely chosen obedience to organizations, ideas and people. There’s joy in mutual stumbling. There’s an aesthetic joy we feel when we see morally good action, when we run across someone who is quiet and humble and good, when we see that however old we are, there’s lots to do ahead.

There’s lots to do ahead. And so many people fit into the “stumblers” category; we’re all just figuring out what works and what doesn’t and trying to find those moments of great joy, whether collective or personal. That’s what I want to focus on. That’s what I am focusing on. Because anniversaries and the memories and histories that go with them are easy to get lost in; but the fact of the matter is that the past is something to remember, not live in. And there are wonderful things in the future, even if a lot of the future, right now, is unknown and not fixed – but that, in and of itself, almost makes it more joyful, because the possibilities are endless, even the if the unknown is and can be frightening in the best of ways. This last week might have been difficult, yes, but, as above, those pieces of time are part of something bigger, a story that is and always will be unfolding, because there’s always another page to read, to live, to experience. And that’s the important thing.

Today, I’m drinking coffee out of a mug covered in hearts, literally, and that’s about where I’m at. Here’s to forward and futures.


// Saturday, February 7, 2015

I have a complicated relationship with winter. I love it, but I hate the cold and it doesn’t take me long until I am just 120% ready to be wearing shorts and sandals and dresses again. This winter has brought that out in me even more than other years, because it was stupid cold with no snow for a really long time, so it wasn’t even pretty, and now we’re buried in snow for the foreseeable future. Because currently my state and my city is buried under over three feet of snow. I’m over winter boots and wanting to wear tights under pants so I can stay warm on the way to work and keeping a spare pair of pants in my desk in case I fall in a snow bank or slip on ice.

Thing is, normally I love this season. When the first snow of the winter happens, I become, very much, Lorelai in Gilmore Girls (apologies for the terrible link; youtube is failing me re: the scene I’m thinking about – but in short: the first snow makes me nothing short of giddy). The snow quiets and blankets and soothes, and the world seems both new and inexplicably old. I love that; I really do.

In the last week, though, we’ve gotten over three feet of snow in the city I live in, in the cities around the city I live in, in practically the whole state. There’s more forecasted for this weekend, and our subway system can’t even handle what we have, and people (like me!) are still going to (or trying to go to) work as usual. It’s a mess, and I’m just as frustrated with winter as everyone else. Commuting in and out of Boston over the last week has been nothing short of both nightmarish and cartoonish. And, from the sound of it, we can’t even expect it to improve anytime soon, as the MBTA is still warning people about future delays.

But here’s the (other) thing, the one that’s more important: on Monday, in the midst of a snow storm (Linus, as it hit the Boston area) and 2.5 hour commute (that normally takes half an hour), I walked through some of the neighborhoods and side streets around Harvard Square. And I was cold and tired and cranky and ready to be home, but I stopped. I looked around, and I took in the silence. I watched an elementary schooler help his dad shovel out their car. And I remembered: this is what winter is supposed to be. Sure, sometimes there are hell commutes and streets that are nearly impossible to drive on – or even walk on. But there’s something about the snowfall itself that’s magic. I don’t want to forget that.

Because it can be terrible, but it can also be beautiful, and wonderful, and look like this:
snowy street (b&w)

So tonight night, when it’s flurrying, and Sunday night, when it’s snowing again in the real sense, that’s what I’ll focus on. I’m not going to focus on the fact that we’re essentially having a four-day snow storm. I’ll curl up with excellent hot chocolate and a good book (a friend lent me The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which I haven’t started yet but am excited to read), and I’ll sit and watch the snow. Maybe work on taxes, if I’m feeling the need to be Responsible!Productive, and maybe work on a puzzle with my boyfriend, if I’m feeling Fun!Productive (because: brain exercise).

It’s all about perspective. I hope, if your weekends are snow-filled, that they are nothing short of magical.

on gratitude.

// Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Thanksgiving was nearly two weeks ago. I meant to write a post then, but instead I focused on time with family and friends and friends that are family. I was able to see so many people in such a short period of time; it was the most lovely. Two wonderful, wonderful friends were up visiting family for the weekend, and my time over the quote unquote holiday break was filled with good coffee and even better company, with laughter and wandering and some aimless leisurely shopping.

Work has been crazy busy lately, so I appreciated the four day weekend – and luckily, since my family is local, it wasn’t a problem for me that I was working regular hours on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. (And truthfully, I didn’t even really notice, because even in college when I worked at the library, I almost always worked the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, because the library was open even though no classes were held.)

This year, I’m grateful for so many things: my boyfriend, my friends, my family, the relative health of my family. The fact that I have a job that enables me to do many of the things I’d like to do – to travel and go on vacation within reason, to rent an apartment that I love, to save money while still going out occasionally. I have so many wonderful people in my life that I love, and this holiday – this season, really, between Thanksgiving and [UU, so more or less non-denominational, for me] Christmas – makes me more aware of that than anything. Not everything in my life is great, but even with all of the not so great things, and the complicated, worrisome things that sometimes keep me up at night, I’m okay. I’m more than okay; more than just surviving: by and large, I am wonderfully happy. And even on bad days, I try not to lose sight of the fact that I have an amazing support system, something for which I am incredibly grateful.

(If you are wondering, this post: all of the adverbs. I can’t avoid them, because, well, filled with gratitude. I’m like that emoji with heart eyes. But I think there are worse things to be, so I’m just going with it for now.)

I’ve been thinking lately – both independently and inspired by articles like this one in The Boston Globe about forgetting to say thank you – about how so much time is spent wishing for something better, or wanting, or just not seeing what’s in front of you and appreciating all of the good things. And I have a skewed perspective compared to some: since sixth grade, I’ve lost two close (adult) family friends – one suddenly and unexpectedly and one after months’ long battle with cancer, a high school teacher (who was only 32), and both of my paternal grandparents, both of whom had relatively long and emotionally trying battles. My dad had a brief but terrifying cancer scare and complications, which involved a decent amount of hospital time. My mom has/has had a number of health issues. Some people very close to me have/make barely enough money to survive. My point in listing this is not to wallow or present a ~woe is me~ picture; instead, I view it the opposite way: I have so much for which to be grateful. I learned early on the downsides of too many things, and gratitude is important. Appreciation for life is important, for the simple things such as laughing with friends over coffee and wasting time until you can have delightful cupcakes at 11 AM on Black Friday. For baking pie with T and attempting a new recipe on the night before Thanksgiving at 11 PM. For a cat that is family, a confidant and peer and child, who is getting on in age with a few issues but still happy, even though all of us – him included – know that eventually, we have to start thinking about what happens next.

This season – maybe more than I have in past years – the good is what I’m focused on: the happiness I have that stems from the wonderful people around me. The fact that I am able to and do get out of bed every day and almost always leave my apartment at least once. Because, perspective. Because so much is fleeting and complicated, but so much too is permanent in its own way and easy and simple, and not only simple but beautiful in its simplicity.

This season is hard for me. It always is. But this year I’m focusing on the good. I’m seeing Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker tonight with my oldest best friend, for a hilarious reason I’ll document later, but I’m seeing it tonight for the first time in at least fifteen years I think, and I am the most excited to be seeing it with her and to be seeing it again in general. So, yeah. Focusing on the good.

Just. I am grateful for so many things. Happy (first official post of the) holiday season.

vote today!

// Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Facebook might be kind of terrible much of the time, but I really appreciate the fact that they emphasize Election Day and encourage participation through both the app and the website by displaying an alert banner link to the 2014 Voting [Poll] Information, which is easy to use and informative. The site is described as “a collaborative project supported by leading technology companies in order to make sure all registered voters in the United States have the information they need to Get to the Polls on November 4th.” I’m a fan.

If you have yet to vote today, go vote. I can be as cynical about politics as the next person, but on a certain level, I’m entitled to my approval/disapproval of how certain issues are handled because I voted and therefore took action in a way that has the power to shape how events unfold. I vote because I care; and even if the election results aren’t the ones I want, at least I tangibly expressed my opinion in a meaningful way.

The Massachusetts Secretary of State website has a wealth of information available. If you use their handy poll-finding tool (wheredoivotema.com), once you fill it out and view your results, there’s a link at the top to view the specific state election ballot for your city/ward/precinct. All relevant MA 2014 State Election information can be found in this 2014 Election Information pdf posted on the MA SOS website (if you’re cool like me and miss the days that hard copies were mailed out, you can also obtain a hard copy from your local public library, which is something I may or may not have done). Also, a decent overview of statewide candidates, etc., in Massachusetts can be found on BostonGlobe.com in this Voters’ guide to the Mass. general election.

There are four important ballot questions this election (again, in Massachusetts). (Behind the cut, because if you’re not a MA voter, there are a lot of words not specifically relevant to you.) But seriously: go out and vote. It matters. It’s your civic duty, and a privilege/right we are lucky to have.

Read More: MA Ballot Questions Information

on appreciating the quiet, and a milestone

// Friday, October 24, 2014

This weekend, I’m headed down to the Cape with my boyfriend, my mom, and my grandmother, and as odd of a combination as that sounds like, I think it will be wonderful. My grandma sold her house on the Cape last year, and she hasn’t been back since (nor have I). The house she moved out of was one she’d built with my grandfather over fifty years ago, and I grew up spending weeks every summer in Dennis. I learned how to swim on the steps of her pool; I took tennis and swimming lessons at the same places my mom had taken them as a teenager. Cape Cod is an extension of home for me, even though I had only gone once or twice a year since graduating high school. T has never been to Cape Cod, and I’m excited to show him around an area that feels like home, especially in the fall. Late October and early November at a quiet, non-touristy beachside community feels poetic and peaceful; the quiet seeps into my bones in a way it can’t in the city. My thoughts are clearer and language flows into me in a way that’s hard to put into words properly. I’m looking forward to walking the beach and taking pictures and drinking coffee in the quiet. (I’m excited to post about the trip when I get back. Published posts don’t show it yet, but purchasing a domain has been good for me. I have a lot of things I’m in the midst of writing. Writing again is wonderful.)

I turned twenty-five last Sunday: the weekend was low-key and wonderful, filled with loved ones and friends, almost in spite of my lack of planning anything. It was lovely and exactly what I needed. 24 was a wonderful, strange year, filled with all of the things. I grew a lot as a person; I started speaking up more; I learned I can deal with a helluva lot more than I thought I could, which is saying something (eventually, maybe, that will be a post; or a memoir; or a novel; but not right now). I am excited, in the deep-seated real way, to see what this next year brings. I survived my ~quarter life crisis~ without experiencing any sort of a crisis, so I think I’m doing well. I have many, many things for which I am grateful. Added bonus of being twenty-five: I can rent a car, should I need to, without ridiculous surcharges. (On that note, my car is part of the recall brought on by airbags that can spontaneously explode and shoot metal (also informative is this earlier New York Times article), so that’s something fun I need to get fixed ASAP.) Yay, adulthood?

Here’s to continually growing and moving forward; here’s to another twenty-five good years and starting the second “quarter” of my life. (Also, on the subject of growing and goals: I think, but am not 100% certain, that I am going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I tried once before, but this year, I am determined to – at the very least – make a solid effort and dent into 50,000 words.) Life is good.


Birthday churros are the best churros.
(photo credit: Caitlin)