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On The Importance of Social Time

I’ll admit it, this hasn’t been one of my best weekends. Or my most productive. Well, that’s kind of every weekend, but this weekend I focused a little bit more on the snoozing and socializing aspect of it. I caught up on sleep, and I enjoyed a good amount of social time as well, including last night.

Last night was one of those “I wish I were an undergrad again” nights, with the game and everything. I went to the Union with Kelly and some other folks to cheer on the Badgers and was, of course, disappointed at the outcome – we all know what happened – but I’m glad I can say that I was there, rather than squirreled away doing work or perusing BuzzFeed. When I walked home, I was suddenly glad to be a grad student again, passing some firemen hosing down a small fire on the sidewalk on Langdon. It was only 10:30, but I was more than happy to spend the remainder of the night sitting at home and maybe trying to get some work done, or at least get in bed early.

And then Carly texted me that she was with Alex, Jonathan, and Gideon over at the piano bar, and that was the end of that plan.

So, after Weekend Update (which was not that impressive this week, Kate McKinnon’s Angela Merkel impression notwithstanding), I headed out to meet up with the gang. Carly is one of those truly wonderful, welcoming people who is always inviting me to join her on social activities. It feels good to be part of “the group,” and I’m rarely one to pass up an invite, which is why I’m sad that she isn’t in Madison full-time anymore. But she returned this weekend for the game, and when Carly’s in town, that can only mean good things and fun times. After a quick Cabin Cooler at the bar next door to get my ticket, I joined the group, which had expanded to include Meir, inside the bar. Initially, I was only going to stay for a little bit, but if you know me at all, that usually means I end up closing the bar. I hadn’t been to the piano bar before, and it was a little cheesy but just the right amount of fun, and with a good group of people, gave me a little squeeze of love that I’d needed; it felt so natural, like I could just be myself, let my guard down a little, and not have to impress anyone. I was, by no means, drunk, but as the crowd thinned and we got a table up at the front near the pianos, I really got into the music and was singing and shimmying along, because it’s a Saturday night in Madison. I actually exchanged looks with a blonde girl whose group was at the table next to ours, and when they started “Lean on Me,” we maintained eye contact and sang to each other. A Celine Dion song came up soon after, and we two were out of our seats, gesticulating to each other, and laughing hysterically, even getting some cheers from the crowd. At 1:45 AM I decided to call it a night, and said goodbye to Carly and the group and my new impromptu overly-dramatic singing partner, telling her I’d see her next weekend. Which maybe I will.

When the social activity becomes so impromptu and apropos, that’s when the fluttery, butterfly feeling sets in.

And sometimes accompanying “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” with a stranger on a Saturday night, complete with animated gestures and exaggerating quasi-flirting is all I need to get me through things.

Thank you for being silly with me. I hope we can be silly together again sometime.

Oh, and welcome to my first visitor from Solomon Islands; not a country I expected to see show up so soon, but all the same, glad you came.

Also…wow, I just now realized what “social butterfly” refers to. SO META.

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Breakfast with Friends/Friends with Breakfast

Today I had a friend over for breakfast.

Well, technically, he came over last night to hang out, spent the night on my couch, and then I made us breakfast when we woke up, but it still counts. It’s been really tough for me lately. My friend came over last night to talk, to listen, and to help me deal with some issues, and even though I thanked him for coming over, I don’t know if he knows how grateful I actually am that he not only came over, but stayed the night to see that I was OK in the morning. It felt really nice to have a friend who would do that for me.

We woke up around the same time (where I discovered I had visitors from two new countries, Angola and Costa Rica…hey y’all!), and I offered to make breakfast. I was standing at the stove, tending to some boiling eggs as we talked about different ways to prepare eggs, then all of a sudden – BOOM – a glass dish that was sitting near the stove exploded. No, I am not making this up. I don’t know exactly what happened – maybe the counter got too hot – but the dish was empty, and thank goodness no one was hurt. I can’t say that the breaking of the glass was cathartic in any way, and now I have one less glass dish, but I cleaned it up right away, and resumed cooking eggs, which we enjoyed with some toasted wheat bread with raisins, and I just felt better. Like, yeah, bad things happen, but you clean them up and then move on with your life. And it led to me just having a really enjoyable breakfast, sitting at the real table, eating real food off real plates, just like they do in Friends.

When I was a child I loved those little moments that made me feel like a grown-up. Being a grown-up and having those moments with friends you love – just sitting at the table, eating a homemade breakfast, talking a little, enjoying each others’ company – sometimes that’s all you need, in that moment in time, to feel calm, safe, relaxed…happy.

I’ll take breakfast, with a side of friends, please.

That reminds me…I need to buy another glass dish tomorrow.

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Happy Places

Getting in bed late last night, I was trying to calm myself down after a hectic day (well, mostly a hectic three hours’ worth of throwing a six-page paper together), and decided to travel to my happy place.

What is a happy place?

A “happy place” is something that I first heard on Friends, in the episode where Phoebe is trying to calm Monica down by asking her to access her happy place. Monica admits she doesn’t have one, so Phoebe lends her her own happy place, but admonishes her friend “…but please don’t move anything.” Phoebe then goes on to describe the happy place, which includes a waterfall. This fails to make Monica calm down, but does make her want to pee. Actually, I kind of have to pee now too, but I’ll finish writing first.

Probably not a great idea, but we’ll see what happens.

So, back in bed last night, I was attempting to find my own happy places, and realized that I don’t have that many. Then I really took a good long flip through my memories, and found that there are plenty of happy places for me – I just fail to recognize them as what they are. For a place to count as a happy place, it must be a concrete memory, and not just “the beach” or “in a garden.” It’s gotta be personal.

I’ve been short on stories lately, so here’s a list of random memories of times and place where I felt best, my true “happy places.”

Childhood

  • Not in my memory, but a picture of myself sitting on a brown blanket at the park near Wellwood Elementary, with my family. There are two pictures of that day that conjure up only happiness in my mind. In the first, I am a chubby toddler in a striped shirt and tan shorts, laughing and looking slightly south of the camera. In the picture, it’s just me, and for a moment, I am just happy with myself, by myself, just enjoying life. The second picture is one from that same day that my dad probably took. I am sitting on my mom’s lap at a picnic table. I know it’s from the same day because I’m in the same outfit. She’s bouncing me on her knee, and I’m laughing, and she’s looking down at me and laughing. In that frame, there’s no worry, anger, anxiety, or stress, just happiness.
  • Evenings spent sitting by my mother as she graded her third graders’ work. She sat, as my dad says “like a deer, on her haunches” on the blue bedroom carpet by the heater with her work in very specific piles around her, and usually me among them, talking to her or just sitting and reading or watching whatever channel my dad has decided on for the moment. Being situated between my parents was comforting, and such a familiar scene helps me feel like I’m right at home, in an easy part of my childhood.
  • Riding in the car with my mom, wherever, whenever, but listening to good oldies music. It seems like many of my childhood happy places seem to be close to my mother. I wasn’t really close with my father until I entered adolescence, really. Also, no school memories come to mind at all.

Adolescence/Teenage Years

  • Spending a peaceful Shabbat at home, usually involving a rotation between the couch, the brown chair in the basement, the plaid chair in the living room, my parents’ bed, and my bed. Extra happy if I got to finish at least one or two books.
  • Spending Shabbat in Ocean City. I’m not as huge on sitting on the beach reading as my dad is, usually because it’s cold, but coming with a suitcase of books and between the beach, the deck, the couch, the chairs, my bed, my parents’ bed, and my parents’ deck, worming my way both around the house and through several books could only be described as happy.

Amherst Years

  • Being lost in a bookstore. Any bookstore. Food for Thought, the big one on Pleasant St., the one in the mall in Northampton, some of the little ones in NoHo. Brattleboro, Vermont? Even better. A warm cup of something from Postcard Cafe, or Sylvester’s, (or Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro), and a quick duck into Acme Surplus, just celebrating my freedom by hopping between stores.
  • Friday nights with any arrangement of Daniel, Goldie, Nora, Neta, Sarah, Cory, Kelsey, and Zippy on the couches at the Hillel windows for our weekly entertainment: cars getting towed on Phillips Street with their owners absent, standing by, or the best kind – running shoeless and coatless from a frat/sorority house only to watch their ride leaving without them – literally; or, watching guys pee in our parking lot, banging on the window and catching them midstream, and seeing their reactions. Pure fun with pure friends.

Israel

  • Midnight to 2 AM in the Nahum Lifshitz apartment, watching marathons of Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, and Lizzie McGuire with Rael (and later, Adina). The routine: I get home from whatever I’m doing that night at the theatre or at the gym; if it’s the theatre, I put on the pasta and make the salads. If it’s the gym, I get out the veggies, put on the pasta, and leave the door unlocked for Rael so she can let herself in to check on the pasta in case I’m not out of the shower yet. In either scenario, at this point I take out my pasta and bring it to the table, as well as our salads and beverages. We watch show number one while Rael’s pasta continues to cook (she likes it stringy and mushy – I still don’t understand why, but whatever suits her appetite) and usually by the time show one is over, her pasta is ready and I focus on my salad or eyeball whatever dessert Rael has brought. The company, the conversation…man those were happy times. I can’t believe we’re so far away now. We did the midnight walks through Jerusalem as well…okay, this is bordering on tear-worthy nostalgia…
  • Being busy at the theatre. The busier, the better – I’m in control, I feel alive, and I’m in a million places at once, doing it all as hard as I can. Dedication, commitment, and in spare moments, a sweet garden to lounge in, or my insanely large office with the couch that served as a nap spot for myself and numerous others. Everyone comes to Jacob’s office.
  • Sunny days off, wandering around Jerusalem. Old City, New City, a different neighborhood anytime. The Old City’s the best though, the shuk, the Western Wall, getting lost and meeting locals and tourists, on the precipice of both myself. So fab. And in my happy place, I can have less acne.
  • Sitting by the sea in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus, with the whole sea to myself. Sketching, reading, white wine, Mediterranean breeze – it was just one afternoon but it couldn’t have been more perfect. A language I don’t understand? Perfect for zoning out and being in the moment.

Houston Years

  • Hanging out in the apartment. Just knowing that I have this luxurious nest that I can go to and just lie on the couch watching TV, sit on the porch, or holing up in bed.
  • Studying at the Julia Ideson Library in downtown Houston. Leather couches and chairs, Greek statues, old bookshelves, roomy tables, free wifi, picture window views of Houston. Usually alone –  Houston’s hidden gem. Sometimes I just couldn’t sit still and got up and danced around the room – quietly, of course.

Bonus Happy Place: Vacation

  • Prague. A bench along the Vltava. A sunny Saturday. Getting lost in a book – but then looking up and seeing the most beautiful picture postcard in the world. And not only can I see it, I can feel it, I can touch it, it’s all there. I could sit on that bench forever.