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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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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One year

Zed and me at a Jazz game.Last summer I went to a party for a friend who was leaving town for a bit. I wasn’t planning on staying long. I just wanted to pop by say, “hey” and get home.

I walked in, said my hellos and was handed a beer. As I was catching up with Jess on all the gossip I had missed, this guy in black t-shirt kept interrupting us. I was kind of annoyed, but intrigued by this guy who could hold the attention of an entire room while making fun of himself. He was making jokes and taking the piss out of everyone.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

Without even noticing how it happened, he introduced himself, sat down and we suddenly we were bitching about Asian beer. I found out he taught English in China for a year or so, then he owned a bar, then he went sailing. We swapped travel stories for a bit. Then moved on to some more heavy stuff like God and religion. Despite the subject, we kept laughing. I thought he was the funniest, sweetest guy I had met in a long, long time. I couldn’t stop staring at his upper arm/chest area. (This is a seriously under-appreciated part of male anatomy.) He apparently also found me hilarious and likable. We talked so long every one else managed to make their way inside. The host had even gone to bed.

Finally I had to go home; it was way too late.

I was shocked he hadn’t asked for my number in the three hours we had been cracking each other up. So I told him my name again and asked him to find me. He said he would.

The next day he did.

It’s been a year now since that first beer and first laugh. He still makes me laugh every day; and I know a helluva lot more about beer now. 

I’m going to take a nap now

I posted earlier today that I regret nothing about my decision to stay up all night reading “Gone Girl.” It felt decadent sipping sangria and hanging onto every word Gillian Flynn wrote in the sadistic, suspenseful, painful novel.

The story is fucking mind blowing. Just like everyone says.

And I loved it. I am also exhausted to the point where thinking hurts, my eyes burn and a puppy might just die.

Seriously, it’s the best book I’ve read in what feels like forever. It was thrilling to stay up all night sucked into a fictional world like I haven’t since Harry Potter. Glorious. Nice. Nostalgic.

And terrifying.

I’m still stressed from Game of Thrones and now this? How do I know I’m not an Amy? Or a Nick? Can’t we all be? Just a little bit sometimes? Man, the lies, the manipulation, the deceit the insistence that it is all just a game even at the cost of life.

Blood chilling to think about and fascinating. Thankfully I’m a sound sleeper rarely troubled by dreams.

Let’s talk about…money

There’s been a dearth of season finales on TV lately and those always leave me mildly depressed. No more Nashville, why?

Star Trek: Into Darkness was a fun romp through space adventure time. However totally not worth the $10 ticket price in my opinion. (Movie goers, can you quiet down the talking while the movie is playing, please?!)

And while Benedict Cumberbatch performance as Khan was wonderful, I couldn’t stop thinking about the white washing of the film long enough to actually enjoy his deliciously evil villain. Thankfully I had no such trouble watching Zoe Saladana kick ass.

However mostly I’ve been thinking about money because it’s the end of the month, and I am poor. Bills are always a nice reminder of how little money I have. How nice of you, Visa card.

And then I saw today’s news about unemployment and growing gaps between rich and poor. It never helps to dwell on these things knowing I live in the state with the largest pay gap between men and women. (Oh, Utah, you are so patriarchal.)

First The New York Times tells me that women who are unemployed and uneducated are far more likely to have a short life. As upsetting as that bit of news is, it makes AlterNet’s report on the growing poverty population, roughly 47% of American owe more than they earn, all the more depressing.

Chances are if you do have money you’re working way more for it. So yay, for poorness, it might mean you have more free time. Maybe. Even Bloomberg Business is talking about work-life balance shiz, man.

Basically what I’m saying is spring season finale time in TV land left me depressed and the real world was no help at all. Time to binge on Arrested Development or move to Canada.

And let’s not forget that most tax breaks benefit the wealthiest 20% of Americans. 

Is someone stirring a martini for me, yet?

Christ.

Why you should get a puppy

Remember when I told Robb he shouldn’t get a puppy?

Please stop taking my photo, and let me sleep.

Please stop taking my photo, and let me sleep.

Well I did promise on Facebook and in the comments to talk about the pros of puppy-hood, and then I sat down to write it and it was hard. I have disdain for expressions of affection.

It hasn’t always been that way, but lately I don’t like, “honey,” “sweetie” or “babe.” There’s just no way to say them and not somehow come across as patronizing and condescending as though the person I am talking to, however dear to my heart they might be, is a small child.

So yes, I don’t usually use terms of endearment. Hell, I struggle to express positive emotions. I’m comfortable with anger, fear, regret, annoyances and negativity. But throw me some happiness; and fuck all if I know what to do except smile stupidly.

However I am endeavoring to change this with the cutest puppy in the universe with a face that just says, “baby talk is appreciated.” So after much struggles to get in touch with loving emotions, I bring you reasons to own a puppy. (Or other cute cuddly critter of your choice.)

He likes to lay on legs and feet when he's extra tired.

He likes to lay on legs and feet when he’s extra tired.

1. The snuggles

When Zed is not around, he has a replacement. The puppy!

Truthfully even when Zed is around Archer gets loved on an awful lot. He is great at cuddling and loves to nap with me. The best feeling in the world is watching TV with a dog curled up on my feet. So comfy, so cute!

There’s something super sweet about knowing every time I come home a little fur ball is excited to see me. (Even if it does mean he pees everywhere.) It’s nice to have something to take care of, to throw all my nurturing, mothering instincts on to all the time. And he can’t complain! I mean he probably thinks he’s freakin’ go it made what with the regular food, walks, play dates, snuggles and snacks, but as the giver it’s pretty satisfying to watch a little thing grow up.

Even if it is just a dog. Conveniently I am way more comfortable with rolling with the punches when small children are around now. As an exercise in patience, raising a puppy has done more to calm me down than any other life activity.

Although I still struggle with calm, patience and routine, the pup is a good reminder of why it’s nice.

How can you resist this face?

How can you resist this face?

2. The people 

I don’t know what exactly it is about a dog that makes people better. (Or makes me like people more.) On our walks, Archer is the harbinger of conversations.

“Oh, look at that puppy!”

“Can I take a picture?”

“What kind of dog is she?” (They always think the boy is a girl. It’s white fur, peeps, not genitalia.)

Strangers are pretty comfortable with trying to pet him, even though his default is to hide behind me. At the dog park, waiting for a light to change, hustling him to finish his business, it really doesn’t’ matter where my dog is or what he is doing, people want to talk to him.

But dogs can’t talk, so they are stuck talking to me.

And dare I say, it’s…nice. I’ve met many more of my neighbors since I’ve started dragging Archer around. I’ve met a lot more dogs too. For the most part, it’s a positive experience, the chats bring a little moment of human connection. While I’m slightly embarrassed by Archer’s shyness, I’m thankful for the opportunity to just talk to other people. For the most part, they’re pretty nice guys and gals with their own dog stories to share.

When you put the phone down, can we run?!

When you put the phone down, can we run?!

3. The activity

I am not by nature a particularly healthy person. I’ve been blessed with skinny genes and high metabolism. Occasionally I do yoga, Pilates or go for a run, but none of it is regular activity. Even now I’m doing my best to devour a pound of pretzels as I type this.

However a dog that must be walked means a human must walk, too. I do my damned best to make sure we don’t do much more physical activity than the minimum required, but just being outside more often is invigorating. I love the discovery of the neighborhood and the city our wanderings have taken us too. Without a pup, I wouldn’t know how close I live to Memory Grove, City Creek Canyon or the Children’s Museum.

(I also wouldn’t have a chance to keep tabs on the neighborhood real estate which is a slightly different obsession.)

I totally get why dogs are an outdoor persons’ thing now. And I think my 40-pound pooch was a nice compromise for my inner couch potato who needs an ass kicking out-of-doors every once in a while. And maybe someday, he’ll be well enough trained we can even try some off leash adventures.

Scratch! Go? Scratch! Go?!

Scratch! Go? Scratch! Go?!

4. The structure

There is something nicely reassuring about knowing each day the dog will wake up with the dawn and need to wee, walk and eat all before the sun is fully over the Wasatch Mountains.

It’s not as though I can’t live with routine, but the dog has forced me to figure out a schedule. It keeps him happier (and asleep at night) and keeps me more productive. Although I can’t control a lot of aspects of my day to day, like when sources can interview, just having a bookend to each day is really nice. Our morning routine and bedtime routine are pretty set by now. I honestly think the morning and evening walks make it easier for me to take care of myself.

Maybe that’s silly or immature or whatever, but I’ve always struggled to stick to a schedule on my own, with a dog around it’s easier for me to heft the responsibility of regularity.

As I said the cost of loving Archer and living with him is extremely high and sometimes much more difficult than I anticipated, but I’m not ready to trade him in. I love my monster.

I mean look at those goddamned ears! And that face! It’s like a bat, cat, doggie baby that just needs to be squeed over!

You are totally missing the people watching!

You are totally missing the people watching!

Isn’t that just the crux of human-ness though, “Fuck all logic, it feels nice to have this thing to take care of, so I will.” Well played evolution, well played.

Keep calm and carry on

Not so much my style, WWII propganda poster.

I want to go every where, see everything and do everything.

Well, nearly everything.

Most things. Anything new. different. exciting. Something I hadn’t done before or never imagined I would do. Write? Yes. Bunjee jump? Yes. Fall in love? Yes.

I wanted to do it all and have it all.

But lately it feels like I’m stuck. I’m doing few of the things I wanted to do. The universe of my life felt so big immediately after graduation, and three years later it feels so tiny. All the people I know could fit into my one bedroom apartment, and the people who would actually show up? Well one couch and a chair is more than enough furniture for all of us.

It’s not a bad life. I love the closeness I share with the few friends I have. It’s a much more stable life than being friends with everyone.

I’m just not patient. I never have been. And I’ve struggled to learn that apparent virtue. It feels an awful lot like neutral to me. I’m waiting I just don’t know what for. Every day I have to remind myself that this is good, this kind of quiet same-ness taking place. It’s okay to just be. 

God, I don’t want to sound like too much of a hippie, but that’s all I can think of when I’m anxiously tapping my foot waiting for the next adventure to begin.

I’ve never been one to sit still, or even to stay in place. It’s hard. I know all of my neighbors’ names, their dogs, their troubles, their life stories. It’s nice. But annoying. It’s a routine now to meet in the backyard at 10 a.m. drink coffee and bitch about the early risers with the other stay-at-homers. When did this happen? I like my neighbors well enough. But who am I?

I usually feel a bit more like this. Thank you very much.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to wake up at the same time each day, eat the same breakfast, drink the same coffee, have the same conversations and go through the same motions.

It’s so damn boring.

Maybe that’s what’s bothering me. The routine has become rote, I could make it through most days blindfolded. Also t’s a Monday and news stories aren’t happening. (That is generally a good thing for the world, but bad for my malaise.) Thanks, holidays.

P.S. If you read anything online today, it should be this. It’s a great article from “Dominion of New York” by Ben Becker on the origins of Memorial Day, which was actually meant as a day to celebrate black men who fought for emancipation.