Anniversary Celebration, Reading, Listening, Resolution

This post was going to be about my anniversary weekend and my wedding dress, and it will be, but in-between celebrations, I went on solo dates to listen to authors read their work, and I was inspired by several things they had to say. It stirred something inside me that I thought I'd put aside for good, so this will be about that too.

On Friday evening, Jake and I went to Vast for dinner. It was beautiful. We waited to call for reservations of the day of because we honestly hadn't planned on doing anything the day of our anniversary, but our friends, Ashleigh and Andrew, kindly volunteered to watch the girls, so we made a plan. Vast is a restaurant on the 49th floor of the Devon Tower - the tallest building in Oklahoma City. When we called for a reservation, there were only two times, 5 and 9:15, we chose the earlier time. I thought 5 was a funny time to start an evening out, but it ended up being perfect. We got to watch the sun set, and see the city go from day to night.

It reminded me of the many, many evenings I spent at my Think Spot at the base of the Superstition Mountains. It was on the far east end of the Phoenix Metro, and I loved watching the face of the mountain out do the sunset in color changes, and then the magic of seeing the entire valley below light up for miles and miles. I felt like Douglas Spaulding in the first chapter of Dandelion Wine, though I didn't know it because I hadn't yet read Dandelion Wine. The book was given to me by a dear friend, and honestly, my biggest crush in high school.

I was always teetering on a line of him being a friend I could [and did] tell everything to, and being completely head over heels for him. It was his red hair. And the stories he would tell about his first years as an undergrad at NYU, like when he was eating a cupcake and a woman, a complete stranger, licked some stray frosting from his face. Or how he made me dream of attending trapeze school. Or how he walked home after the second WTC tower fell, crying and laughing in disbelief at what was going on. He gave me Dandelion Wine, and told me to read it in the summer, and I have read it every summer since he handed it over. The book is a treasure, and while I'm not old, it reminds me what it feels like to be young.

After the amazing food and experience at Vast, we looked to see if there was anything nearby that we could go do. We'd look in advance, but there wasn't much of anything happening. Jake happened to remember The Paramount, a local cafe with a screening room. We looked it up, and they were showing Grapes of Wrath - one of our favorites! We drove the few blocks, went into a sweet little theatre, and enjoyed that surprise gift. We left, went out for some dessert, and came home in a sugar coma. It was one of the best nights of my married life. It had the perfect amount of structure and spontaneity.

When we got home, we looked to see what upcoming films/events would be happening at The Paramount. I saw that one of my favorite Oklahoma authors was going to be reading the next night. Joy Harjo was who I went for, but Laura Moriarty was wonderful as well. I enjoyed the readings from both books, and I actually picked both books up from the library this evening. Harjo's is her memoir called Crazy Brave, and Moriarty's The Chaperone is a novel about the woman who accompanied Louise Brooks to New York when she was fifteen.

After the readings, there was a Q&A between members of the audience and the authors. One of the members asked, "What advice would you give to a budding author." [This seems to be a good time to say that the reading was put on by Oklahoma City University's Red Earth MFA program, so there were many writing students present.] Their advice was good. Moriarty said to give it time, like actually dedicate time. She shared that she started out as a pre-med major, but she really wanted to be a doctor (think white coat "prestige") more than she wanted to practice medicine. She said she's also met many students who really want to be writers, but don't sit down and write. You can't just say you want to do it, you have to actually do it - and not be miserable in the process.

Harjo's advice, at first, came off much simpler: "Listen." She expanded on that by saying to spend time without the computer, without the phone, with less distractions. Pay attention to what's happening around you - to the story behind the story. This hit something deep inside. I've always had this sort of freakishly good memory. Not photogenic or anything like that, but I used to be able to remember everything any one ever told me, or any situation I had been in. And not just that it happened, but how it all took place. Nearly verbatim conversations. I've even sometimes pretended like I've forgotten things just because I think it would seem weird to anyone but me that I remember things in the detail that I do.

When Harjo was giving her advice, I realized how much I'd turned off my listening self. I don't think it's that I have a freakishly good memory, I'm just uber-observant - and maybe that makes things stick a little bit. I feel like this part of me has been shutting down over the last several years. A kind of coping mechanism, I guess. I don't ever write anymore. Ever. I keep this blog, and I enjoy it, but I don't sit down and just get lost in writing. It became upsetting to try. Let's face it, if I can go more than ten minutes without being interrupted, it's kind of a miracle. I used to get really frustrated when I would be in the middle of a consuming thought and Jake would just start talking to me about all of the details of his day. I spent a long time being frustrated, and then I didn't want to be frustrated by my family, so I started avoiding that which was frustrating - trying to be alone with my thoughts long enough to see ideas through. I stopped trying. This is totally insane because, as weird as it sounds, thinking is my favorite thing to do. "What's your hobby?"


And writing is how I express what comes of all of that thinking. I created a very bad habit when I stopped trying to find the time to think and write, I started mindlessly checking-out via endless searches, huge wastes of time like scrolling through Facebook, checking the weather like fifty million times a day, etc. It has become a way to zone out. To be alone, which I crave - it's just part of who I am. I idle away my time doing unimportant things so I do have to go through the frustration of being interrupted. Me and a screen. And at the end of the day, I might be able to remember a portion of one thing I came across. My memory is gone. I'm not "listening." I'm not observing. Nothing is important enough to stick.

I have one resolution this year. I'm going to listen. And I'm going to try my best to record what I hear in ways that don't feel frustrating. Mothers can't avoid interruptions, and I don't want to be bitter when those interruptions happen. I'm expecting something sort of fantastic to happen: the more real, fully present time I give to my children - the more I listen to them - the more fanciful thoughts I'll entertain. I am a mother and I am an artist, and I want those two parts of me to embrace and grow stronger because they have each other.

(I hope this will not throw my anxiety into a tailspin, but I also think that part of my anxiety has been letting go of how I let myself think and process my thoughts, even though that creation process constantly being interrupted was also a source of anxiety. I don't think there's a quick fix, but giving up entirely hasn't helped either.)

Since this is still/also about our anniversary celebration - On Sunday night, the girls went with Jake's parents to a Thunder game, and Jake and I went to see Saving Mr. Banks. It was worth the wait. Then we went and stuffed our faces with food. We braved the bitterly cold temperatures running all over Bricktown. I committed a major fashion disaster when we were leaving the restaurant to go back to our car. I was wearing flats, but I slipped on some super neon socks that were still in my purse from when we went family anniversary bowling on Friday afternoon. Super stylish.

This weekend was a dream. I loved every little bit of it, and discovered some great new places in my city. Tonight I went to another reading at Urban Roots. I've been really excited about what goes on there since it opened, but haven't ever been. It's a great space. I can't wait for Jake and I to have many more movie nights at The Paramount. When we were walking from the elevators to the atrium of the Devon Tower after leaving Vast, my heart was pounding with happy and excited, and I looked at Jake and told him I was madly in-love with him. Those moments, rich with emotion, are so good for the soul.

PS: I pulled my wedding dress out of a box today to try it on. I need help getting into it, which I will have tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure it will not fit. When I saw the waist on the skirt (my wedding dress was really a skirt and top), I couldn't believe that I ever fit in it. More on that later...


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