Ultima, at last.

A little over four years ago, the job I had required a lot of travel to desolate and depressing parts Arizona. It was a short stint, but one that often left me lonely and disconnected.

On one such journey to the town of Safford, an eight square-mile dust bowl of fast-food chains and hardware stores, I was surprised when my hotel offered me a free novel. Part of a well intentioned attempt to make a Comfort Inn more comfortable, I suppose. I received a paperback copy of Bless Me, Ultima when I checked in and didn’t think much of it.

I kept the book on my shelves for years, but never read it. I recognized the title, assuming it had garnered acclaim for something, but I had little interest in actually exploring it.

Fast forward to today, when I took my little sister to see the recent, on-screen version. After all this time, I only recently donated my copy of the book, but always felt guilty that I hadn’t read it. Like it had come into my life for a reason that I chose to snub.

The movie was good, well done and pleasantly simple. The story was narrated throughout different scenes, reminding me that it was based on a novel. I like when movies have narration – probably because of how much I was read to as a child.

There are likely lots of lessons one could dissect from the storyline, but I think these quotes sum up my favorite parts:

“It is because good is always stronger than evil. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant.”

“I made strength from everything that had happened to me, so that in the end even the final tragedy could not defeat me. And that is what Ultima tried to teach me, that the tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart.”

“Understanding comes with life. As a man grows he sees life and death, he is happy and sad, he works, plays, meets people – sometimes it takes a lifetime to acquire understanding, because in the end understanding simply means having sympathy for people. ”

Will my life will change significantly by closing the loop on this? Not likely. But it’s nice to know how the story ends.

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hysterical and amazing and terrifying

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always craved the feeling of being safe and secure above anything else. Wrapped up tightly and sheltered from the world. I find this in quality hugs, sleeping bags or in my bed with the covers pulled over my head*

*An automatic response to my alarm clock.

I’m not sure what this says about my upbringing (can one be over swaddled?) but even as an adult, it’s heaven for me to be somewhere cozy and quiet at the end of a long day or if I’m upset. It’s actually the reason I look forward to winter every year – so that I have a multitude of opportunities to snuggle and be snuggled. I think I was a stuffed animal in a prior life.

I assume this is normal … or at least not entirely abnormal, but the amount of sheer joy I find at having alone time in a quiet place is probably a little weird. I guess it’s part of being a introvert. The more I socialize, the more solo time I need to re-energize.

Right now I’m sitting atop a magnificent bed in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. I’m just now sitting upright after spending 20 minutes laying on my back and studying the ceiling, while texting, instagraming and talking to my mom. There’s crazy intricate crown molding up there, and I couldn’t tear myself away. If there’s anything I like to stare at (besides Ryan Gosling) it’s antique molding. True story.

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This room can only be described as a perfect. I feel like a little girl in a princess suite, where everything is lacy and white, wonderful and serene. They – the magical staff – left me slippers, chocolates, cookies and classical music while I was out this evening. You complete me, dear hotel. I told my husband tonight that I want to stay here for a week and never.leave.the.room.

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This wasn’t supposed to be a post about swaddling withdrawals or hotels though. I actually sat down – well – sat up to write after pondering how absurd it is that I am where I am at the moment.

I’m by myself in the nation’s Capitol. I just had an inspiring dinner conversation with a colleague I hardly knew before today. Tomorrow I’ll attend an event at the Chamber of Commerce addressing potential connections between education and careers for young adults.

It’s one of those moments where I have to pause and remember that I’m no longer 15 and am, in fact, playing the role of an adult in this week’s episode of life. I’m very aware that I’ve been alive and mostly conscious for the greater part of everyday of my life, but where did the the time go? How does this happen? One day I’m looking for a prom dress and pleading for a later curfew, and then somehow I’m transported through time to be on the cusp of my 30th birthday traveling the country alone, for work. Work where I wear pantsuits, no less. That’s a punchline waiting to happen.

It’s hysterical and amazing and terrifying. But mostly amazing.

I feel so lucky to have this life, full of incredible people, places and problems. It’s not just the big trips and milestones that make life so fulfilling, but the everyday things, too. There’s a well known analogy about this – something with a vase and rocks and sand – am I right? Big rocks can’t completely fill up a vase without the sand to slide into empty spaces and make it truly full.

At any rate, I’m making a more concerted effort to write about what I think and feel everyday, even when mundane, and this is what spewed out tonight, from my fingertips to your eyeballs.

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the shpilkes

I have a really hard time sitting still. Be it my DNA or my personality, I lack any sort of ability to stop thinking about what my next move will be. As soon as I lose interest in something, my mind is rapidly moving onto a new task, that undoubtedly will also lose my attention in a matter of minutes. I grew up hearing this type of energy referred to in Yiddish, as shpilkes. Loosely translated, it means you’ve got ants in your pants. Or, you are a spaz, or a millennial.

It’s rare that anything keeps my complete focus, but I actually think this is a strength. I’m never complacent, I never stop learning and I always have new interests. The only time it gets really challenging is when I’m watching a movie I don’t like, and subsequently want to do anything but keep watching it, or if I’m forced to sit still without reading material. Then the shpilkes set in with a vengeance.

How do I combat this affliction? Yoga helps, massages and exercise. Oh, and keeping my mind stimulated – that’s the unbeatable cure. Needless to say, it’s rare that I’m able to really relax, but last week I experienced a moment of pure tranquility.

On my flight home from Denver, I lucked out in a window seat with an empty seat to my left. I could hardly keep my eyes open as we took off, until I caught a glimpse of the sunset out the window. I couldn’t help but stare, it was unbelievable – unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Deep shades of blue and indigo blending into electric orange, spanning as far as I could see in either direction.

The way the plane traveled, I had a perfect view of the horizon, and I swear the display lasted twice as long as a typical sunset. For a minute I wondered if I was on some sort of weird trajectory to Hogwart’s where time was frozen and I was entering an alternate universe. At any rate, it was mesmerizing.

I had my iPod on, and found myself in an almost trance-like state as I listened to music and watched the sky. I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment, just sitting and staring, and it dawned on me that I was feeling completely happy.

I know that sounds trite, but it was a really strange realization. To just sit and feel absolutely happy. All by myself, just sitting.

It made me think about the way people grow to feel happiness, and how often it’s associated with doing or having something, and rarely on just the feeling itself. We’re constantly buying things and going places to make ourselves feel good, despite an underlying knowledge that the best things in life aren’t things.

I’ll be the first to admit that I live a charmed life, but it had been a long time since I could remember feeling so happy. I felt like whatever happened in that moment was equal parts energizing and soothing, and frankly I wish it was available for purchase.

I took a picture that really doesn’t give any justice to what it actually looked like:

Shortly after I snapped this picture, we entered the most turbulent 20 minutes of flight I’ve ever experienced. My moment of serenity was cut short, and replaced with a feeling that made me want to throw up and cry at the same time.

Fortunately, we landed safely shortly thereafter. I don’t know if I’ll ever have this kind of tranquility on public transportation again, but for what it’s worth, it was a great feeling to experience and a good reminder that slowing down every once in a while can be as productive as going full tilt.

45 Hours in San Francisco

I spent almost two days in San Fran last week and while I’ve been there a few times, this was my first chance to stay in the heart of the city. I was largely overwhelmed by everything happening around me, at all times, but had fun getting to explore a bit while visiting our SF office. A top 10 list is a requirement:

1. The massive Occupy anniversary parade/protest/spectacle.

2. Trying, unsuccessfully, to hail a cab with my boss at rush hour for 30 minutes, before ultimately walking to our hotel.

3. Dinner and a walking tour with my buddy Casey – that included a tour of the Bleacher Report offices which made me insanely jealous of his job.

4. Creating a Starbucks alias. I have never liked Starbucks and I probably never will, but it felt like the cool urban thing to do.

5. Visiting an Old Navy flagship store. OMG.

6. Enjoying the scenery by taxi. (I did not, however, enjoy when the trunk of a taxi closed on my hand as I took my luggage out. It’s still bruised.)

7. Learning about how my SF coworkers get to and from work which sounds like the Urban version of the Olympics. Absolute madness. Check this out.

8. The portabella mushroom soup at this restaurant was life-changing.

9. The smorgasbord of cereal and flavored sparkling water at the office.

10. Using Jim’s iPad to Facetime with Bruno.

28 Hours in Colorado

I found out at 10 a.m. on Wednesday that I would be flying to Denver at 9 the following morning. While I’m generally an obsessive planner, my OCD tendencies have fortunately never applied to travel. It was a speedy visit but here are my top 10 highlights:

1. Getting to spend two hours with my best friend at her brand new house with her brand new dog and semi-new husband.

2. My rental car. I selected ‘standard sedan’ but ended up with this!

3. Being in non-humid and non-sweltering weather.

4. Watching Seinfeld.

5. Eating Arby’s curly fries. Does anything beat curly fries, really??

6. Getting completely lost driving to the campus I was visiting…not necessarily a highlight, but hysterical in retrospect. I circled the airport for about 30 minutes like a hamster on a wheel before figuring out how to escape.

7. Being completely energized and inspired by a new group of coworkers who are so passionate about what we do.

8. Taking part in a covert TSA line-waiting operation.

9. Eating a chocolate croissant and French onion soup for lunch at the airport.

10. The absolute coolest, trendiest and most IKEA-esque hotel suite ever.

brain yoga

I went to Tucson on Saturday, came home Sunday and went straight to the airport to fly to San Fran. Got home last night, went to a 12-hour offsite today, and leave for Denver tomorrow morning. It’s all been exciting, but a little tiring.

What’s comical is that I’m sitting on the couch right now, inadvertently absorbed with A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, instead of packing, doing laundry, printing a boarding pass or preparing for tomorrow. I should be vacuuming the dog hair off the floor, finishing a freelance project or ordering shower gifts.

There’s a lot I could be doing, but this terrible movie has sucked what remained of my attention span, so here I sit, useless. I guess my brain is doing yoga and downward dogging back to reality.