An eye peers out from under a Facebook zipper hoodie.

Delete

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of deleting myself. Of somehow magically and methodically removing all traces of myself from the internet. It started with the news that Facebook is as terrible as I always joked that it was. 

The company, and its leadership, are probably even more terrible than you already think billionaires are. Oh yeah, and they also own Instagram which has increasingly become a stream of ads for me. 

Then Tumblr announced that it was removing all adult content from their site. And like…what are we doing being so concerned about “female-presenting” nipples? That’s the most ridiculous line I’ve ever read and honestly, among some of the most revolting faux-inclusive language. Damn near gives religious folks a run for their money. 

And lest you think Twitter or Reddit are great alternatives. I’ll just throw in a reminder that both have ongoing and prevailing problems with bots, Nazis, and bigots. 

Immediately the calls for abandoning the platforms came. People who have long-since left or never joined bragged about their foresight. For my part I felt a twinge a jealousy over this ability of others to let go somehow. To just give up this connection to…something? 

I spend a lot of my time online. Much of that time is spent consuming content other folks put out. Not surprisingly, I’m a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines, short stories, and more. But I often find myself staring at a screen wondering what exactly am I doing clicking on the 56th picture of a golden doodle in an hour. What does this add to my life experience? Is this fleeting tiny moment of joy from this one photo actually worth my constant scrolling? 

There’s something that feels like it would be peaceful about a life without social media in it. 

It also feels like it might be lonely. For the most part, I communicate with folks in online spaces. Text and email are used minimally and even less do I talk on the phone. (Dear god, please let me see your face in-person and do not make me speak on the phone.) 

I think of the ways I feel pressured to participate in activities, not because they are fun, but because they photograph well. Or the way, I sometimes feel compelled to cook and plate a dish just so because I think I may want to Instagram it. Or the way that I regret taking no photos at Thanksgiving, not because I didn’t have a good time or enjoy having so much family so close to my heart, but because I couldn’t humblebrag about the meal Z and I put together. 

(We crushed it for first-timers.)

I think of the way teenagers are more depressed, suicidal, scared, and paranoid. I think about how hard it is to meet people. I think of all these things, and I think I need to free myself from this life of constant scrolling. 

I just don’t know how exactly. 

There’s the risk of loss of no longer possessing the ability to connect with folks in limited ways. But I think I’m moving towards this idea where I need to keep things to myself more than I have in the past. And maybe a way to do that is to shut down some of the distractions and focus instead on the things that I can control. 

I guess too I’m wondering if some kind of social media break in my life means I’ll have more time to actively be doing things. 

I love the phrase “consume less, create more.” But I am personally not great at doing such a thing. There is so much great STUFF out there and I want to see and enjoy all of it. But it does seem to come at the cost of not actually creating my own stuff. And I want to make stuff. I think I’m creative. I sometimes call myself a creator. I tell Z he’s a maker and aspiring Ron Swanson, but how can we make things when we’re so distracted by the glowing screens in our faces. 

Maybe it is time to say goodbye to the constant buzzing and remove myself. Actually, it’s not time right now. But it’s coming. The more I think about it. The more I find myself wanting to find a way to make my life online more manageable and peaceful with my real life. 

The internet isn’t fun anymore. At least, it isn’t for me. So in the New Year, I’ll be taking a step back at least for a short while to evaluate my life living it less publicly than before. 

I’ll still blog, but right now I plan to leave most* other platforms behind. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll miss it. Maybe I won’t. But at least briefly, I can brag about living minimally or some such shit while I pickle onions. 

 

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Thankful

As 2018 comes to a close, I’m opening up my home to family and friends in a way I have never had the luxury of experiencing before. That’s one of the perks I suppose of having your own place–and one that’s bigger than a shoe box–you can welcome more guests into your home and heart.

Slowly, I’m getting the hang of hosting these dinner parties, craft fests, fight nights, birthday parties, and bake-offs. I make mistakes. I don’t have quite enough dishes or furniture for most of these gatherings. I experiment with flavors when I shouldn’t. I don’t make quite enough food. I run out of time to change into clean clothes. I buy too much beer and drink too much wine.

It’s magic–connecting with the people who make up our community in our home. 

There are fewer brunches and bar crawls and instead more babies and baked goods. We squash too many bodies onto fur coated couches, we settle in around a narrow table. We have long conversations. We play card games and fight over dessert. 

The greatest moment is one that feels golden. It usually happens as things are winding down. Where there is a pause in the conversation, and everyone is comfortable, warm, and perhaps a wee bit tipsy. In that moment is love. 

The joy of family and friends eating well in my home is a wonderful gift I’m thankful for. I have so much to grateful for in my life. Staggeringly, unbelievably so. I love so many and receive so much. I get to create every day. I get paid to write, which is a mind-boggling statement. I’m married to a wonderful human. But this year, the first year I lived in a house where dinner parties happen, I’m most grateful for those golden moments of contentment surrounded by family and friends.

Dreams of dying

Last night, I dreamed I died.

In the dream, my death felt real. My body slowly gave up as cancer at its way through me. At the diagnosis, I knew that this was the beginning of the final chapter in my life. I didn’t feel hurt or scared or even surprised. I never went through any treatment. I said I wanted to die at home.

I went from the doctor’s appointment to a celebration. Without preamble, I announced my coming death. I didn’t cry. Family and friends surrounded me.I felt loved, celebrated, and confident in the future ending.

The following days, weeks, months were beautiful and sorrowful. A dream sequence of living, like watching a life lived through water. Family and friends and celebrations marked the passage of the every day. This filtered world radiated warmth, kindness, and joy.

I died. But it was only dream.

I woke up surprised to find my cheeks tear-stained, my dog at my feet, my husband next to me, and I breathed another breath.

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The Spaces In Between

Please note that this is not a short story and is more of a meandering essay wandering about what it means to live in the moments of life between notable plot points in our own stories as I find myself quietly passing through the routine of day-to-day life. 

Recently, I was reading about ma. (It came up in this wonderful piece in The Paris Review by Nina MacLaughlin.) It’s a word and concept in Japan that doesn’t exactly translate. It’s a way to share the meaning of nothingness. I’ll reiterate the point in the essay linked above when I felt I understood ma. The word is made of the characters for door and moon. Ma is the crack that allows moonlight through the door.

At the moment, my life is streaming through that crack in the doorway. I’m not standing firmly on a stepping stone and instead am somewhere in the spaces in between the stones.

Professionally, I’m in a gray area. I’m writing every day–some days better than others–and I’m getting paid to do it. My work is sometimes (often) not good enough for clients. There’s less direction, higher expectations, and the ever present fear of rejection.

“It’s good to be afraid; it’s good to rewrite; it’s good to learn,” I tell myself as I hover in this area that’s not bad, but not good. It’s somewhere in between those two words. 

I hope I step on the next professional stone soon. I feel a little unmoored, not certain of what will happen day-to-day in a way that can feel unnerving, but is not entirely unpleasant.

Personally, I’m occupying a similar space that feels like it’s not quite solid just yet.

My life has suddenly lined up all these very grown up things. But it’s hard not to feel like I came late to this adult party. Here I am. Fully grown and suddenly surrounded by the trappings of adulthood: a loving partner, a sweet dog, full-time work, commuter car, starter home, and the consequent loans to go with it all.

I go to bed at the same time every night. I wake up at the same time every morning. I eat oatmeal and drink coffee. Then I go about my day. It’s weirdly, nicely, boringly adult.

But even here in this routine, I feel as though I’m hovering in the spaces in between.

We mostly remodeled our house, but are waiting to save up enough money to continue the work–moving onto bathrooms and then someday tackling a basement known as the “Mouth of Cthulhu.” 

It is somehow an airport of an existence. That feeling of waiting compounded by an inability to move far, somehow stripped of freedom while simultaneously having more freedom than moments before. It is both freeing and restricting. 

For a few weeks now, I’ve been telling people I’m on a “work vacation.” This may sound like I’m unemployed and not looking for work. That’s not true. I am employed, and I am always looking for freelance work. (Email me at kristamaesmith@gmail.com if you need a copywriter any ol’ time.) But between those two things, I am not stressed…?

It is atypical of my life experience to not be constantly in a state of near panic. I have spent most of my life living with a certain amount of anxiety. So now to suddenly be relieved of that stress it feels as though I am floating. 

I do not know how long it will last, so I’m trying to enjoy this luxury of a life where I have the emotional and mental capacity to do things other than work and sleep. 

This, too, feels like a space in between. Another crack for light to stream through.

I’m trying to lean into recognizing these moments. It’s weird to feel safe in these “in between” places. This time is emotionally meaningful and impactful just as the stepping stones are too I am learning. By now, most of my “in between” is a quiet calm rest. To be in between so many things and to have the time to contemplate them and what they mean is a privilege few are granted.

I am very lucky to have that time. I’m somehow living a much better life than I ever dared to imagine for myself.

Because I couldn’t ever imagine wanting this life–let alone having it–I can get too caught up in celebrating the milestones or mourning life’s sorrows to notice the joy of living in these spaces in between.

I forget that most of life passes in a similar fashion. In general, I’m moving towards the next step. I am not fully rooted to any step. And when I finally stand solidly there, that step is only a momentary respite before life moves on. Then life again enters a waiting room. 

It is in those “in between” moments that most of living happens for most of us. Only now, I am in a place where I can appreciate the stillness and calm of these moments in between the highs and lows of life.

It’s less like sitting in hard chairs under fluorescent lights surrounded by strangers and much more like standing in the sun with family and friends than I thought it would be.

I am learning to embraces these moments in between.  

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Reincarnation

Death swallowed. Slowly things began shifting, imperceptible changes, minuscule moments where the world slid out of focus just a bit. Hair grew, falling down her back, holding her body down. Fingers lengthened, skin tightened, eyes widened, cheeks sunk. The body stretched like taffy roped between two paddles. Clothes stretched to fit the lengthened legs and torso. Layers and layers wrapped to keep this thin new body warm. There was never enough. The blinks slowly grew, time stretching out in the way her body did. A strange reflection and mimicry of the change. Until the blinks of world spinning blurred minutes were longer than the moments of focus–sharp, harsh, juxtapositions swirled with grayed edges. Everything spun out and together again. With a blink, the world would snap back into focus. Her body felt lighter than air. One morning her arms stretched into new space–sudden and heavy–pushing into the sky. Where there had been hair before now there were feathers. Toes now talons tripped over the tough turf. The air blew hot, loud, and furious, pushing, pushing, pushing away. And then she flew. Free. Here’s that strange spooky little story I promised for Halloween. If you like my work, buy me Ko-fi. As always, I would love to hear what you think.   If you’re looking for a more worthwhile to give, the National Eating Disorder Association is a great org to support.     

The World Ends With A Bang

The phones lit up.

“National Alert: This is an emergency notification. A missile attack has launched. Take shelter immediately.”

I felt deaf to the noise and shouts around me. Robotically, I turned off my laptop, unplugged my phone, and packed my purse as though it were 6 p.m., not just after noon on a Tuesday. Briskly, I walked out the back door and through the parking lot. A stream of office workers, cooks, servers, baristas, students, and people of all kinds were winding their way to cars and trucks in the flat dull light.

“What’s happening?” A woman I saw almost every day asked me. She was wrapped in layers of sweaters and flannel standing next to a shopping cart filled with suitcases.

“Missiles are coming,” I said. “We’re supposed to…” my voice drifted away. I shook my head, waved at her, and continued walking.

I unlocked my car and slid into the driver’s seat. I tried to call–nothing connected. Cars, vans, and trucks crowded onto the streets and drove across the sidewalks and medians in a rush to get home.

Haze filled my vision. Tears tracked down my cheeks. The run-down homes and businesses I passed looked the same as they had the day before. A car slammed to a stop in front of me. I swerved, but it wasn’t enough. The headlight smashed, and glass blew out onto the street.

A man jumped out. Our eyes locked as I stood up.

“I…I don’t care.” The words left him like a question. I shook my head.

“I know,” I whispered. “Can you still drive home?”

He nodded.

“Me too.”

I smiled.

“Let’s get out of here.”

We moved our cars apart and continued. The engine clunked, but it wasn’t far.

Finally, in a moment that felt like a minute and an eternity, I stood in the doorway of my home. The house we had bought 10 years ago and spent three years remodeling. A rage I’d forgotten I had filled me. We worked so hard to make this work, to live a life here, and now it was ending, without our input, without our meaning, without us. I flipped the lights on out of habit from years of walking home in the dark.

“Hello?” I called.

“Babe! Is that you?” A voice drifted up the stairs sounding just as strained. I ran to the basement. A gasp of a sigh escaped me. I couldn’t stop staring at him. The crinkled brown eyes, the upturned nose, the small mouth I loved so well.

“You’re beautiful,” I breathed in as he crushed me to his chest. We collapsed on the bed in the guest room by unspoken agreement. The corner basement room had just one window. It looked out into the backyard and revealed yellow brown grass, hard packed dirt, and a sky filled with dust.

We lay there holding each other, softly touching arms and hair, looking for our final moments of comfort.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” we chanted the words as if in prayer.

The room grew darker, and then there was light.

If you like what you read, buy me a Ko-fi to help me continue turning coffee into copy. 

A happy home

“We’ll take it,” I said to the realtor. We had only cleared the entry into the lobby of the building.

“Are you sure?” He paused. “I mean not that I’m not happy you want it. It’s just…usually people want to see it….” The end of the sentence stuttered off into silence.

“Yes, I’m sure. I know it’s fast, but well..we need a place now.”

The rain slashed against the windows while the TV blared a sitcom across the living room. The bare windows revealed the run down apartment in the lower left corner of the building as a home to an old brown couch that sagged in the middle at odds with the width and resolution of the TV screen.

I smiled as the realtor unlocked the door.