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WhyDid Wisdom: Paris 102, A Guide for the Intermediate

By |October 15th, 2017|WhyDid Wisdom|

kirsten smith paris france

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein…

I imagined myself penning some of my best work eating oysters and sipping muscadet at La Closerie de Lilas.  Instead, I write this in an airport lounge.

I’ve fallen in love many times.  Sometimes serious.  Sometimes fleeting.  Sometimes it was merely the love of an idea.  Sometimes it was truly and painfully to the core.  This time I had fallen in love with not a person, but a place.

paris perfect rentals

It had happened the first time three years ago as I’d wandered through the avenues and rues, across the Pont Nuef and traversed the Tuileries.  I’d never set foot in this city before, but I, a usually timid and overly cautious individual, had marched along like I owned the place.  It was like meeting someone who you felt you already knew.  Maybe in a past life, maybe on another plane.  Sure, it’s trite to say you fell in love with Paris.  Who hasn’t fallen in love with the city of lights?   Every young woman, poet, and romantic alike has been seduced by the city and the Seine.

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I fell in love with the dark meandering streets.  Quiet and empty always before two am, full of mystery of what “might be.”  Looking up at the windows of buildings still lit.  Imagining what the going’s on of the current occupants.  Wondering what their lives were like.

And I fell in love with the light– even on days the locals complained of grey, I was captivated by the way the Lutetian limestone buildings always managed to cast a golden glow.  Very different from the grey days in Manhattan where one can’t tell the difference between dusk or dawn.

I fell in love mostly with the discovery of something new at every turn.  A giant door propped open just enough so you could see the building tuckedbehind it.  An intricately carved column prettier than art in most museums.  A hidden garden held captive by ancient iron gates.  There was always something new to see and experience so long as you were open to it.  I felt like I had finally found a place, a city, a home.  Somewhere I was safe.  Somewhere I was understood.

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I fell in love with a man like this once.  I also had felt as if I’d known him long before the first time I looked into his brown eyes.  He was familiar to me though I hardly knew him.  It was the same sensation I’d experienced walking the streets of Paris.  I hadn’t needed a map.  And should I get lost, I didn’t mind.  I’d find my way back and enjoy the unexpected surprises as I did.  I immediately felt he understood me much the way Paris had.  I didn’t need to be anything different than I was.  Moody, romantic, daydreaming in a field of flowers.  He seemed as amused by me as the city, itself, had been amusing to me.

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But who hasn’t fallen in love?  It’s easy to fall in love with any new place be it Madrid or Marrakesh, Stefan or Stephanie.  There is mystery in the unfamiliar, so I decided to test my love.

Whizzing through museums packed with masterpieces only once seen in high school history books, eating at cafés where famed writers once took their afternoon apéros, gazing at the twinkling lights reflecting off the Seine.  Anything can feel romantic, special, and captivating in small doses.  Everything can feel like magic when it’s not your reality.

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So, I stayed.  I stayed much longer than I should have.

I spent time alone, writing in brasseries while I waited for the rain to stop, trying to make human connections where I hardly spoke the language.

I wanted to see what it was like once the magic wore off.  I wanted to know how I would feel in the morning when I woke up alone, realizing it all was only a partial reality.  You see, it’s quite simple and slightly selfish to think that something is special to us and only to us.  A city, a person, a song, a smell.

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What makes love of a city, a person, a song, a smell different to some than others is the willingness to stick things out.  To accept the rainy mornings, the sleepless nights, the frustrations, the setbacks, all after the magic has worn off.  Then and only then will you know– when the golden glow is gone, that you are in love.

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 Dress: Reformation, Apartment: Paris Perfect  

 

WhyDid’s Words: Wear Your Wounds

By |July 13th, 2017|WhyDid Wisdom|

wear your wounds

“I’m ok,” I said, brushing back a loose curl.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m totally fine,” forcing a smile to show just how “fine” I was.

He looked back for only a second, unconvinced, as he went through the door.  I waited for it to click behind him before I melted to the floor.  The rush of hot tears came without being called, leaving big wet polka dots on my silk turquoise robe.  They started off silently, but my sobs grew louder and more violent– noises that surely would have elicited concern from neighbors in any other city than New York.

I laid there for a while, allowing myself to feel all of the things that I was feeling and when I felt that there was no more, I slowly made my way to bed and prayed that the moonlight would be gentle with me.

This wasn’t my first heartbreak and it wasn’t my worst.  As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the first time I had found myself in a puddle of tears on an apartment floor.

why did wear your wounds

When I’d arrived back at our house in Sunnyvale to pack all of my things, I was surprised to see that he had already packed everything for me.  It was a fortress of brown cardboard boxes.  A literal wall of stuff separating us.  On one hand, I was relieved that the work was already done.  On the other, I couldn’t believe how relieved he was to be rid of me.  It was as though he was erasing me and all that we had shared for the past two years.  I never saw him again.  He only sent me a check six months later for the diamond earrings he’d bought me and later regifted to his new girlfriend.

When I later unpacked those same boxes in my West Village apartment with my mother, I found a garage door opener to our house, catnip that had belonged to his cat.

When she saw my face, she asked if I was okay.  I just smiled and said, “I’m fine.”  I probably cracked a joke.

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They say some people are like a drug.  I always thought that was terribly cliché (and he would too) until I met him.  I, a seemingly well adjusted individual, found myself staying up late, waiting for his calls.  What I once deemed late at 3am, was now considered early when I welcomed him home at 5am.  What used to anger me, merely became annoyances, and I watched as my boundaries slowly faded away.  He was both a man and a boy at the same time.  Part of me wanted to protect him, while the other part felt frightened by him.

After one particularly memorable meltdown in a motel somewhere outside of Newport, I swore I’d quit my habit cold turkey.  Like any junkie, it didn’t take long before I needed another fix.

Late into the next day, he got up abruptly and said he had to go.  He always had to go.  I never knew where.  And every time he walked out the door, I never knew when I would see him again.  I was sweating.  I didn’t know what he had given me the night before.  He asked me if I was okay.  I murmured, “I’m fine.”

After he left, I crawled to the bathroom where I spent the next three hours on the cold tile floor.

wear your wounds nyc

I walked into his office smiling.  I’d been to several doctors before for the same reason.  He didn’t smile back.

He said, “How are you feeling today?”

“I’m fine,” smiling again.

He asked me to briefly describe my symptoms: dry skin, fatigue, change in hair texture, bloating, weight gain- which I prefaced feeling guilty even saying because I was still considered small by “American standards” (he brushed this off).  After taking some notes and a brief pause, he asked me, “So, what’s stressing you out?” and motioned for his assistant to grab a box of tissues from the shelf.

I looked at him stunned for a moment then cocked my head.

He raised his eyebrows as if to signal for me to proceed.  I rattled off a few mundane details: delinquent clients, family drama, boy troubles.

“What is your addiction?”

“My addiction?”

“We all have an addiction.”

“Well, I think I probably drink too much wine.”

“No, that’s not it.”

“No?” I was both relieved that I could carry on with my wine habit but also puzzled.

“You’re a love addict.”

“A what?”

Love addict.  You really just want to be loved.”

I was silent.

His assistant handed me the tissues.

wear your wounds

“You know we would have never been friends if we’d just passed each other on the street, right?”

Christine had been cleaning my apartment for three months and in that time we had become very close.  I’m not sure how we started talking, but once we did, it was endless conversation spanning everything from religion to dating to the everyday drama of living in the city.  Two young women from two incredibly different backgrounds forging an improbable bond.  It was like a poorly scripted Lifetime movie.  She was from the Bronx and had three young children.  She was raising them on her own and had had a very tough childhood, growing up in foster homes and finding a way to stay close to her sisters when they were split apart.

I grew up in what appeared to be a picture perfect home with two loving parents and two older brothers in a beautiful home with all that I could have asked for from the outside looking in.

We laughed after she said that.  I said, “Oh yea, you’d be like, ‘Look at this prissy white girl and her white dog!'”

She snorted and scooped up the dog, “No, I’d never make fun of Smitty.”

“Hey!”

We started laughing again.

Her phone rang and she asked if I it was okay to get it.  It was her sister.  I said of course and she went into the bathroom to take the call.

She came back a bit more somber and I asked her if everything was alright.  She said, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

I knew she wasn’t.  I knew her mannerisms by now and I knew that she always kept a strong facade for everyone else, but I didn’t want to push.  We were quiet for a bit and she went back to cleaning and then she started to sing.  She has the most beautiful voice.  Something like an angel. Part way through the song I heard her voice waver and I looked at her and I saw that she was crying.

I went to her and we sat down on the floor and I held her and we cried together.  I didn’t ask why.

wear your wounds new york

I woke up insecure and groggy.  I looked over half squinting.  The old “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me trick.”  My hair, a halo of golden curls like the ones I despised as an eight year old girl overtaking the white pillow.

“How did I get so lucky?” he said.

“What?”

“To wake up to someone so beautiful and booksmart?”

I smiled, “I look like a crazy person.”

“No, I love your hair like this.  You should never wear it straight again.  This is you.”

This was the same hair that I had battled as a child and was disappointed to see return recently along with all of my other recent symptoms.  I suddenly felt safe.

We got up and walked arm and arm to get coffee before he went to work.

“You gonna walk home?” he asked.

“Yep.”

He kissed me goodbye.

Who knew we’d end at the beginning of this story.

kirsten smith

I was talking to my dad one day because I couldn’t remember much from my childhood, which frightened me.  I told him that I really just remembered being a shy little girl hiding behind my mom’s skirt.  He audibly laughed.

“You?  You were the furthest thing from shy.  You had all the boys in the neighborhood including your older brothers following you around like puppies.  You were the ringleader.”

“What?”

“You’ve gotta be kidding.  You were the same little girl who used to stand at the top of the stairs and yell, ‘Catch me!’ and jump hoping somebody caught you– We always did, by the way.”

I hadn’t really ever thought of myself that way.  I’d engrained in my head, instead, that I was shy and awkward and I’ve lived a lot of my adult life as such– despite what my Instagram may suggest.

I started to wonder how such a brave little girl had become the scared, insecure, beaten down, self critical woman I am today.  And I realized that we (I) have created impossible standards for ourselves.

We say we are more connected than ever and that may be technically true, but I’ve never seen a society so disconnected.  People no longer know how to communicate.  No one bothers to strike up conversations with strangers– most likely because they don’t even see the stranger next to them since they’re looking down at their phone liking a photo of a stranger in Siam.  There is no real sense of community and there’s a reason why young people are incapable of commitments and IRL quality time.

We’ve become a culture of  “okay.”  When people ask how we are, we always answer “I’m fine.”  And in most cases, we are anything but fine.  We spend so much time making our digital lives look perfect that we forget to check in with ourselves and each other to see how we are really doing.  Heaven forbid we say, “You know what, I’m having a really bad day and I’m really struggling.  I need your help.  Plus, I have this pimple and that sucks too.”

So that’s how Wear Your Wounds was born.  I got sick of making myself physically sick trying to live up to the unachievable standard of perfection. WYW was created in the hope that we could all just be really honest about who we are, how we’re feeling, and what we are dealing with.  The more honest we are, the less scary it is to just be ourselves.  The more we are ourselves, the more we can see we are all the same.  I lived for years feeling like a fraud and worried that someone would “find me out,” but finally realized that I didn’t really care anymore.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not always “fine” and there were times I reached some very scary, very low points.  I was fortunate enough to have loving support to get me through those times and now it’s my turn to do that for you.

Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is be brave for someone else.

kirsten smithSHY Short Sleeve Tee 

Photos by Michael Stiegler

WhyDid Wisdom: Brand Identity, or Lack Thereof

By |December 7th, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

kirsten-smith-whydid

I spent most of yesterday asleep on my couch.  My sleep patterns have been less than stellar as of late.  Maybe I’m not used to having an actual bedroom to sleep in.  Maybe I’m not used to the simple yet priceless luxury of being able to see the sky from my bed rather than another building.  In any case, I rarely sleep through an entire night and even on a good streak, it’s not past the hour of 7am, which leaves me with lots of time to fight with myself, trying to force my body back into a slumber.  It’s the battle between the anxiety and the pressure of needing to get up and write and the yearning for just a little bit longer in the warmth and safety of my sheets.  In most instances, neither side wins and several hours of the early morning are wasted.

But yesterday, sleep won.  My body physically said, “Nope, not today.”  Minus a few menial tasks in the morning, returning emails, free therapy to friends, and making a breakfast bowl, progress into my grand future was not made.  I put on a guided meditation, placed my phone as far away from me as possible, and drifted into a soft sleep.  I woke up several hours later and considered continuing this rare hibernation well through the night and maybe into morning, but there were two black eyes staring at me and on came the shoes and off came the sleepy haze.

Now, here I am.  Sitting on the floor in front of my computer; candles lit, phone off, silence in my apartment, brain frozen.  Writing is a funny thing for me.  When I do it, I love it, but the trick is that in a subconscious way, I fear it- much like sleep.  It’s kind of like when you put your sneakers on to go for a run, but somehow find a million things to do in order to avoid going.  You know it’s good for you, yet you dread it.  You’re never disappointed when you’re done.

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A guy I went out with recently said to me within the first twenty minutes of meeting, “You don’t really like to be challenged.”  I hadn’t really ever thought about it, but he was right.  My whole life, I have gotten by simply by doing the status quo.  It’s not something that I’m proud of, but it’s a hard truth.  And if I can handle anything, it’s a hard truth.

I have always recalled telling myself stories in my head.  I’ve always had the best conversations with myself and just like we all wish we could “take pictures with our eyes,” I’ve always wished I could record the conversations in my head.  It seems I am never able to get them down on paper fast enough to recall them.  And so some of my best stories and revelations are lost just like dreams disappear in the early morning light.

The stories that ended up being written, the copy that was composed, therefore remained quite superficial; surface level.  Even when I read some of it back later, I roll my eyes at its immaturity.  You see, writing forces you to face your thoughts and arrange them into some sort of semblance and when you write something, you are putting yourself onto a silver platter for rejection and judgement.  Any therapist I’ve met, any intuitive who has “read me” has told me that writing will be what saves me, but still I eschew it.

So, why am I telling you any of this?  I wonder that sometimes too.  There are times I begin writing without any idea where it is going and sometimes I start somewhere and the path takes a detour from where I’d intended to go.

My objective was to wax poetic about the last nine years of WhyDid.  But I think, by now, we all know the story.  So, I started to think about why I have been having such a difficult time writing and where I am now, nine years later.  And that falls in line with me being unable to peel myself from my very uncomfortable couch yesterday.  While I am considered a “public persona,” and I do share quite a bit about my life whether through these posts or others on Instagram, I doubt most people know much about me at all.

The truth is I’ve spent a lot of my days in a place of not belonging.  I was never going to be the most popular Queen Bee, but I was captain of the cheerleading team and landed on Homecoming Court.  However, I didn’t have that cutthroat gene and could never really get into the social politics of it all.  On the other hand, I aced Economics, looked forward to French class, and relished sitting in the back of senior English reading all of the books that had been banned at other schools.  I was too “weird” for the cool kids.  Too “cool” for the weird kids.

Because I was never fully accepted by either side, my lunches were spent eating my sandwich in my guidance counselor/history teacher’s office, which is a whole other topic that will be discussed later, if ever, in a personal memoir.

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This pattern followed me well beyond the highschool cafeteria.  I’ve never been without friends and have been truly fortunate to make some of the ones that I still have.  Even so, it was very rare that I truly felt a sense of belonging, a sense of understanding.  At times, I can come across as impatient or critical because I find it frustrating that the way my brain works doesn’t always mesh with those around me.  And so I withdraw.

I’ve disappointed and delighted people on many occasions when they are surprised to find that I am much more complex than what they see on Instagram or who I externalize upon initial introduction.  Some say, “You’re much sweeter than I thought you would be,” while others are let down to realize that I’m not always all “bad b*tch” and Beyonce.  Sometimes I’m Fiona Apple and I just want to spend some time crying,  Alone.  In the shower.

The world felt as if it was telling me, “Pick one!”  I can’t be sexy if I want to be taken seriously.  I can’t be wickedly sarcastic and deeply charitable.  I can’t stay out all night dancing then wake up and go to yoga.  I felt pushed. I felt pulled.  But I never felt at peace.

But why can’t I be all of those things? Why must I choose one? Why do any of us have to choose?  I was blessed to have parents who allowed my brothers and me to be who we were, chase what we wanted, and wear whatever we pleased. Okay, there may have been some fights over bra straps at some point in high school but I’ve eradicated that problem by ditching bras all together.  But sometimes the freedom to choose whoever I wanted to be became burdensome.  It seemed it wasn’t okay to take ballet and listen to Tupac.  Identity didn’t present itself like a buffet– choose a little from here, a little from there.  It was more like a wedding reception: chicken or beef?

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And then I became a “brand.”  I had no intention of this ever becoming something I did for a living.  When I started writing WhyDid (WhyDidYouWearThat for all my veterans), I did so anonymously.  It wasn’t until people took a serious interest in the person behind the blog that I began to personalize the posts.  It’s a funny thing that happens when you allow yourself to be public.  People begin to believe they have access to you.  People begin to believe they know you.  They believe they have a right to have opinions about your life.  And in some capacity, they do.  You’ve given them an entry into your life.  Post one thing that is slightly left of center and the entire internet falls into a frenzy.  Sure, Kim K may have blown up the internet, but before that happened, all of Instagram lost its sh*t when I posted a photo from a bathtub in Paris (don’t search for it, it’s since been deleted).

But here’s the thing.  Even if you haven’t chosen a career that placed you into the public eye, you are a brand.  You’ve been made into a brand because society has encouraged us to choose identities from religion to sexual orientation to social circles — even gender.  You have to pick something and identify with that.  It’s much like picking teams and even as adults we continue living our lives like a highschool cliques in the lunch room.

We keep preaching “authenticity” when in reality, that is the opposite of what is happening.  It is a curated authenticity, which may be even worse.  It’s like the “no makeup” makeup look for personalities.  Look like you aren’t trying.  Look like this is natural.  Look like you’re too cool to care.  And it’s because people like to be able to size each other up and put them in categories, boxes.  It makes them feel safe.  And maybe even it makes us feel safe to be in a box too.  How many times have you heard yourself say, “That’s so not me.”  Maybe that is you.  Maybe you prefer yellow mustard over brown and like black olives on your pizza (okay, that’s me).  Maybe you don’t like reading Fitzgerald.  Maybe you don’t want to work a nine to five.  Maybe you’re not all of those things you were told you had to choose.

I met a guy once who dressed only in a very specific style, listened to only very specific music.  I found it to be the most curious thing.  Almost as if he was frightened that if he stepped outside of his image, even for one second, he might “lose himself.”  That maybe he might realize all the time he’d spent building this persona would be wasted if he found that there were other things he loved as well.  He’d built a wall around himself in the form of a character.  And maybe that’s how we get stuck and attached to these personas that are really ever changing, or at least they should be.  To remain the same means that there is no growth.  And if there is no growth, is there really any life?

Having sense of self is important, but it can be a slippery slope if you hold on to it too tightly.  You may miss out on becoming who you really are if you’re afraid of losing who you were. Or you may just remain status quo, eating your sandwich alone in your guidance counselor’s office.

But if you ever felt you didn’t belong, know you belong with me.

 

Photos by Michael Stiegler

WhyDid Wisdom: Moving On

By |November 23rd, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

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In the last decade, I have lived in ten apartments and homes, moving a grand total of eleven times.  Until recently, I hadn’t lived in a place for longer than a year.  Usually, not even making it a full year before some sort of dramatic uprooting and domestic chaos ensued.  Whether it be a breakup, the sale of a condo I was renting, or a rent increase enough to make Drake call his accountant, there was always a reason to hop on StreetEasy and search for a new home.  While the majority of my moves remained local, there was that one time I moved to California…

Most of my friends spent this summer vacationing and tanning in tropical locations, I spent my summer scouring the internet for an apartment.   And while I’m fairly certain it was equally hot and humid here, it was much less sexy and did not require a passport.  I can’t quite be certain the exact moment the seed was planted (and more than one person would like to take credit), but after I’d made my mind up that I’d be vacating my current apartment– a place I’d lived for the last four years, a record by any account– the unthinkable happened.

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Once known to be a bit of a neighborhood snob, I’ve been quoted as saying, “I don’t do the east side,” no one would have ever thought that I’d consider moving above 23rd street, let alone another borough.  And I don’t think my highschool best friend will soon let me forget that I never once visited him in the seven years he lived in Windsor Terrace.  But alas, having ventured to look at apartments in Fort Greene with a good girlfriend, she’d swung me to the other side by the end of the afternoon.  Seeing that I could get a lot more for my money (a bedroom!!!) and a complete change of scenery was reason enough to consider swapping subway lines.  Either that or the copious amounts of rosé generously served to us at Madiba completed my conversion.

But Brooklyn was like a foreign country to me.  I had always lived in Manhattan and truth be told, I still get mixed up when exiting the train in the city.  And anything below Houston?  Forget about it.  I don’t know up from down and I’m the least desirable candidate for co-pilot, unless you’re willing to credit me for my skills as a DJ and ability to make a game out of anything to pass the time on a stretch of rural highway.  In any case, deciding to move to Brooklyn presented me with the process of exploring all of the neighborhoods to try and figure out which one felt most like me.  But who am I?

My entire New York life, I have been associated with the west side and was lumped into the West Village stereotype, which varies dependent upon who you ask.  Billy Joel never wrote a song to explain it.  I really didn’t know where I belonged.  I just knew that it was time to move on.  I was sick of the frat parties happening bi weekly down the hall, if you asked me where I wanted to eat I couldn’t name a place within a five block radius, there was a general feeling of unease and restlessness, and I just knew I no longer felt at home.

I spent my days wandering Brooklyn and even rented a bike one day with a friend who lived in Crown Heights so she could show me how the neighborhoods connected and I could get a feel for each of them, something that a man I was dating at the time could hardly believe as I’d stared at him open mouthed on our first date when he informed me he’d ridden his bike… from Brooklyn.

When I make decisions, which often takes me a while, I become fixated on them.  I like to pick something and put on the blinders.  Some would call that steadfastness others insouciance.  Just like I don’t like to say goodbye at airports or linger too long over multiple choice answers.  For someone as emotional as I, I can also be quite binary.  Once I have finally come to a verdict, that’s all there is, no turning back.  Unfortunately, this time wasn’t quite as cut and dry as most situations.  There were several times where the doubts began to creep in and the cold sweats consumed my sleep.  I wondered if my friends would ever come and see me.  Would I be cool enough to hang with the makeup free beauties and man bun babes?  Did I have to stop being so “city”?  What the hell is the G train?  Do I need another tattoo?  And why is everyone looking at my tiny hoodie wearing dog like a freak?  Almost up until the day I signed my lease, I was still scoping out apartments in NoLita and SoHo, wondering if it was too late to back out.  Did I really want to cross the East River to a land of unknowns?  I then pondered, why didn’t I just keep going east until I landed in Paris?

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Then came moving day.  My landlord had already allowed me begrudgingly to extend my lease by a couple of months.  My boxes were packed.  My keys in hand.  The movers came.  I watched them carry out boxes of books, piles of pillows, container after container of stuff.  And I wasn’t sad at all until I sat in my windowsill after the last box had been moved.  I was alone in this big rectangle of a room.  It looked so much smaller.  And I felt a bit nostalgic for all that had happened there.  This was my first apartment back in New York after a fairly dark period in my life.  I remember when I moved in, I thought that I was going to write my first book there.  My building manager assured me I’d meet my soulmate.  My friends were certain this is where Kirsten would get her groove back.  But none of those things happened.  And when I thought about what I was holding onto, I realized it was nothing that I needed.

Just like when we become attached to a perception of ourselves, we can become quite attached to physical things as well.  I never thought I had that much stuff.  I’d waited to pack completely until a few days before.  It wouldn’t take me that long.  Suddenly, what had fit comfortably in four closets, looked like an amassing of a hoarder of forty years.  I found a presidential Barbie doll from 2012 and a book by Trump given to me as a gift when I’d first started in real estate, a garage remote from our house in California, and a faux Christmas tree my mom had sent me several years ago.  How do we collect so much stuff?  At that moment, I wished I had taken my friends up on their offers to help, but my dad reminded me, “You don’t have any friends when you’re moving.”  There was a moment towards the end while packing my dishes that I just considered laying down on the tiled kitchen floor and giving up.  But that’s not my style.  I may come across as delicate at times, but I am from West by God Virginia afterall, and I know how to dig in and get things done.

And so then the sadness hit me again after the last box had been delivered to my new home.  A place that had felt far larger than my last when it was empty now seemed cluttered and cramped.  The crowning glory and probably what sealed the deal for me walk-in closet was completely full from top to bottom, side to side.  How had I not left more of this behind?  The melancholy feeling reminded me of a similar phenomenon when I’d moved to LA.  Having too much stuff makes me sad.   A space that was clearly large enough to be shared was completely crowded with all of my old stuff.  And it struck me that it was an analogy for life, namely mine.  I’d moved, but I’d brought the past with me.  How much can we fully make a change if we aren’t willing to really let go?

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The first couple of weeks in my new apartment and new neighborhood was like a honeymoon.  I was quite pleased with myself and my decision.  I’d get up every day excited to explore and generally just get shit done.  The people at the plant store know me by name, my coffee order can be recited on sight, I met my  handsome neighbor, and I was settling in quite nicely.  Then old habits started to reemerge.  Staying out a little too late, sleeping in a little bit longer, the laziness crept in… I’d convinced myself the “bad juju” in my old apartment and that brick wall most definitely covered in some sort of energy zapping dust were the culprits for all of my past problems.  Moving was the answer to all of my restlessness.

I was half right.  Letting go of my perceived persona and comfort zone was the right decision, but I hadn’t fully committed.  I’d physically moved, but not mentally.  Much like getting a new toy only to soon grow bored, the excitement will wear off anything superficial.  My pillows were perfectly arranged and my closet color coded, but my brain still looked like that of the hoarders.  Moving can be a great catalyst for change, but only if you are willing to truly leave things behind,  because moving old boxes of stuff from one place to another isn’t really moving at all.

 

 

WhyDid Wisdom: Overshare and Tell

By |October 15th, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

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“Ugh, Kirsten, shut the f*ck up!” I mutter to myself for the four hundred billionth time in my life.  Yet again, I have surprised myself with something that has passed between my lips- an internal musing that was never meant for public consumption has now taken its place right at center stage of conversation.   There are times I wish I could capture my own surprise, which no doubt, mirrors that of my listeners.  It’s really a wonder I didn’t go into PR as I have spent countless hours cleaning up my own messes.  Even BP would be impressed with my ability to casually diffuse an incredibly awkward situation.  Extra details from bad dates, physical ailments none would ever admit to, feelings most prefer to keep at bay.  When it comes to personal plight, my ability to keep quiet is reminiscent of the beating heart in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.   If backpedaling was a sport, I’d qualify for the Olympics.  But alas, I live by the mantra, “Mean what you say.  Say what you mean,” and for better or worse, one must own his words.

Like most people’s best qualities, my openness, and frankness, is also one of my worst.  I have no problem putting it out there– from my outfits to my emotions– and while some find that refreshing, others find it revolting.  To know me well is to know that nothing I say (for the most part) is out of malice.  I love hard and feel deeply.   Unfortunately, I keep a fairly close circle, so my average audience is likely to be experiencing this word vomit for the first time.  Hi, it’s nice to meet you, I snore when I sleep.

In many cultures, people share meals in order to relate to one another.  Other cultures wash and braid each other’s hair.  For me, telling stories, and sharing my own woes is the way in which I bond with others.  I see it as a way to say, “See, I have those scars too.” “I’m afraid of the same things.”  “Look how bad I messed up.”  “We’re all human, welcome to the sh*t show that we call life.”  And indirectly, it is probably a way for me to look to others and ask if what I’ve been through is “okay” too.

Throughout history from the Bible to Greek mythology all the way back to ancient hieroglyphics (the original emojis), storytelling has been an important way for history to be remembered, lessons to be taught, and used as a portal for people to connect to their roots.  And while it is a truly beautiful thing to be able to share pieces of yourself with others when they may need it, Hemingway said it best, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” there is such a thing as oversharing.  You can also be too rich and too thin.

In school, we are taught from an early age that sharing is the right thing to do.  Tommy can have all of our blocks if he’d like them.  Don’t be so selfish.  But when does sharing your stories out of genuine generosity and encouragement of enlightenment become uncomfortable oversharing and an introduction to indecision?

The problem with oversharing is two fold- beyond the obvious potential of offending the general population.  First, people begin to feel comfortable weighing in on your problems, solicited or not.  I’ve found myself frustrated, foiled, and sometimes even angry when I’m telling a story and others begin to pipe in with what I should do or where I made my biggest blunder.  I’m very self aware and already know the catastrophic state of my mistakes, but when you’ve made a habit of inviting everyone in to watch things unfold on the main stage, and unless your name is Kanye you can’t kick them out mid performance.  Take a bow, my, friend,  this is a little something people like to call “boundaries” and while we don’t want to build a wall in Mexico, we do need personal boundaries.

Next, you forget how to make your own decisions and/or you get lazy.  When you stop sharing out of acquired wisdom and instead share in order to gain acceptance, you begin to lose track of yourself and rely too heavily on others’ opinions.  This, again, opens you up to a public forum for your problems and while most are weighing in with hopes to help, more likely than not, despite the best of intentions, they’re bringing their own experiences into the mix and this can be a catalyst for confusion.  I’ve said it before, no one knows what the f*ck he is doing and one would hope we’re all doing the best we can.  No one is an actual expert on anything– except math.  You might be an expert in arithmetic. Much like a muscle can atrophy, when your intuition isn’t used, it becomes weak and all of a sudden you can’t distinguish your gut feelings from your inclination to react from past experiences, yours or otherwise.  It’s like a ship lost at sea with no land in sight.  You can no longer make your own judgement calls without weighing in first.

But stories are important and they will always be a noble way for humans to relate to one another.  There are times when I’ve been caught by a passage in a book I’m reading and finally feel understood.  Articles written by people who have conquered some of my same quandries have given me hope.  And let’s not forget that music is one of the greatest ways to tell a story.  There’s a reason there are so many songs about heartbreak and we all know I love a good cry in the shower (or at least now you do).  It is important to be open to others and to find ways wherein we can relate to everyone from the Queen of England to the man who hosed down the sidewalk this morning.  The key comes in finding the balance and distinguishing what you are sharing and your reasons for sharing it.  It is a matter of telling your story without asking for approval.  Jesus certainly wasn’t asking his disciples whether or not he should confront the Pharisees.  Sure, every day is a new chapter and you have the option to rewrite your ending in any way you choose, but masterpieces are printed in ink, not etched in pencil.  Your story is your own and you can share it whenever and with whomever you choose. Just remember, there will always be critics, ask the New York Times, and know that not everything is always a best seller.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something– a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things– which you had thought special and particular to you.  Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead.  And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

Alan Bennett