I know writing is like running, and the pages are miles. If I just start again, a little bit a day, I’ll be back in shape in no time. It has just been safer to stay away from the computer altogether, than to sit here overwhelmed by the stillness of my fingers, and feel as though the most me part of me was dead. I wouldn’t have been able to run a marathon without a schedule, telling me each day how many miles, when to rest, when to cross-train, which days were for strength and which for speed. I just don’t have the same discipline when it comes to words. Or chocolate. That fucking guy from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, who dictated his life story by blinking one eye, could have written War and Peace in the time it takes me to type a sentence.
I am holding my breath until I die?
I am too sexy for my life support machines?
I am allergic to shellfish and you’re feeding me oyster puree through my feeding tube?
I am suffering from an uncontrollable eye tic and everything is meaningless!!!
I hate stories about the triumph of the human spirit. They make me feel so inadequate.
Even though I have all of me to work with—two hands, two eyes and 16 personalities–I still feel the claustrophobia of this body, how we die when we cannot express how much we want to die. When I can write, it kills me because I love it, love it more than baking vegan banana bread every fucking day, love it more than teaching books I hated at 13 and hate now, love it more than everything not-writing. Love it, but can’t live from it. When I can’t write, it kills me because that means everything has gone. My ability to read, to taste food, to sleep despite a whole-bodied exhaustion–to do anything but wake up, work, sleep, wake up, work, sleep, and suddenly weeks have gone by, and all I have to show for it is calloused kitchen hands and a very deep sense that I went missing.
I think, therefore I’m fucked.
Don’t make your pain pretty. - Ryan
But what if it is. Pretty. -Me
I write because I eat. And when you eat, you shit.
I write because it makes me feel like things are less terrifying, when I write–“I write because I eat. And when you eat, you shit”–someone says back, “Me too.”
I write because I still have hope that one day my words will feed me. I mean, only as much hope as that last morsel of caramel shared by one Jewish family in Schindler’s List. A few calories of empty hope that burn off the second I start dreaming.
I do not write because its cathartic—if I called it cathartic I was parroting other writers who compared writing to cutting, writing to purging, writing to anything that lets the fucked up parts of you out. Catharsis reduces a torrent of existential angst to a stomach bug. Catharsis is blowing your nose when you’re allergic to oxygen. Catharsis says, O pain, you little fucker you, come on out to the page and everything will be just fine.
I feel like life is a game of Candyland. Every turn I draw magenta, but there are no magenta squares, so no fucking shit I can’t move forward. I hate this magenta-less world.
A Buddhist monk once told me the other night at my house—“It is easier to control the body than the mind.” I can’t tell where I feel exhaustion first. I slept through a 10K. The old me would have never even questioned sleeping through a race. Who does that? I am trying bigger vitamins, trying liquid SAM-E which I occasionally confuse with my saline and get salt water in my mouth and one really happy left eye, trying more protein smoothies, trying Holy Basil, trying The Power of Now, trying to not be lazy in my sort-of vegetarianism and just eat three bowls of Frosted Mini-Wheats and soy milk a day instead of the much more sustaining raw beet salads, lentils, tofu scrambles. My tiredness thinks sugar is the zip lane back to normalcy. I hate being a vegetarian, because it takes so much effort, even when you do work at a heath food market, surrounded by red chard, golden beets, and other beautiful produce all day. But I can’t stand meat anymore. No matter how dismembered, how cleaned, how sauced and sauteed, it just seems too close to something living.
Can’t I just eat Chicken Stir Fry like a normal fucking carnivorous person?
You’re an asshole.
Let’s recap. Spring. Ryan turned 37. Mati turned into a triple-necked Shar Pei, as she’d rather I drag her fat furry prostrate body along concrete than walk without Ryan, Fat Sister, or Grandma. I don’t know when Mati became such a social walking bitch.
This spring we’ve had visitors, wonderful visitors. Visitors who snuck into our closet of a life* from around the world. Visitors who lived here and left. Amazing connections, because they were transitory, because those people weren’t here to stay, and now was the whole of our time together. We fit years into days, when days are all we have.
And climbing! Climbing with strangers! Lots of them! Strangers I hand my Gri Gri to, trusting they’re going to keep me alive. And they do, these strangers who become the wonderful friends I share a clean shard of my life with. A biweekly 7:00am sitcom, where we drive to the opposite side of the island, park next to an unmarked indentation in miles of super-weeds, and head straight up with a day’s worth of gear and conversation. Somehow, it’s always the best time ever. I love being the first ones up, love the post-climb Mate Lattes (Iced Yerba Mate with soymilk and honey! O Heaven!), love coming home and it’s Saturday night! Woot Woot! And I pass out before 9, waking up at 4:30am Sunday morning, working hard with my sister and favorite ‘Umeke peeps, a ten-hour blur of kale, quinoa and cookies. And yes, vegan banana bread. Yelling KNIFE and HOT PAN and MOVE IT FATTY. Every time my hand grabs a knife and my forearms burn from the crimpy 5.10 face that kicked my ass–I feel the tension of doing what I love and doing what I have to.
*(In stories, it’s the monsters that hide in the small, dark spaces. In my life, I sprint-crawl into those spaces to get away from the monsters I see everywhere else, working mindlessly, possessing mindlessly, talking about bullshit that makes me wish their bullshit could be welded together to form a one-shot gun I could use to blow my brains out.)
(I have strong opinions on bullshit.)
(Even though everything I write is bullshit.)
We miss you Matt!
I feel in the midst of a constant identity crisis. And this crisis leaves no time for the important things in life, such as writing down my goals. There is constant struggle between my nerd and hippie selves, which apparently do not merge harmoniously in one body.
Nerd Evidence: I went to Harvard. I am obviously a fat nerd. I must conform to Harvard stereotypes and make something of myself for the sake of making something of myself. I will continue my well-rounded high school extracurricular habits into my 30s by balancing work, family, property ownership, soccer clubs, and responsible caretaking of the earth, because the universe is really, really big (and expanding!), and this planet and in particular my life are super important.
As we were told by the deans at graduation–if you’re not curing cancer, you ARE cancer.
I was in the Peace Corps. Peace Corps = government’s attempt to make productive use of hippies.
Nerd–I want to apply for MFA programs AGAIN. The people I respect the most don’t even have Bachelor’s Degrees. Fuck conformity in its super-tight asshole! Fuck Ivy League drinking nights. I’m a hippie! I want to live out of my car. I want worms to eat my compost and then use the nutrient-rich drippings to grow my own marijuana, which I will use for underground vegan baked goods in an attempt to make the world a more beautiful place. HIPPIE!
I hate my obsession with Patagonia, lululemon and overpriced athletic clothing. I am a poser of the active lifestyle! I exercise once a week! This is a toughie. Harvard with a touch of Hippie?
I think raw food is the manna-est of all manna. Tree-hugging Hippie with expensive tastes? I hate myself.
I hate being naked. I definitely went to Harvard.
I hate shaving. HIPPIE.
I am 87% vegan. This seems hippie, but I don’t do it for environmental reasons—meat disgusts me, and I believe dairy and other animal products makes me FAT. I don’t care if cows die, I care if my ass is disproportionate to the rest of my body. If I control what I eat, I can control my entire life. Harvard. So Harvard.
I heart kombucha.
I wake up and aspire, despite my best intentions not to.
Hi, Harvard called and wants its degree back.
Maybe I just need to take a Facebook quiz to find out which Lost character I am, and all my crises will be solved.
Breaking up is hard to do.
In case you haven’t noticed, we keep breaking up with the blog and getting back together for a random hook-up. It’s over, the magic we had, but the memories, the places we’ve traveled, our mutual friends—it’s hard to cut the cord. Forever. What if we run into each other at the Mai Tai bar and blog has a new girlfriend and she went to the same high school as me and was a slut then and is DEFINITELY a slut now? These are the conundrums that make the final break up with blog hard to do. So we keep coming back. Just to check. To make sure what we used to feel is the opposite now. We weren’t meant to be long-term. Choose Our Own Adventure is not marriage material. Maybe our next blog we can really settle down with. Start a family. Secretly resent each other for not being the kind of blog who likes to sing and dance in public. Say we support the blog in its nonconformist attitude and artistic desires, but simultaneously tell the blog to work on its resume, just in case.
Moving on means picking a new website, choosing a mission, and deciding whether it deserves a statement. It’s deciding whether to blog together (high five!) or blog apart (boo). It’s starting over from post one.
We made Choose Our Own Adventure to record our travels across the country, but when we stopped moving, for the most part, we stopped creating. I love this blog, love it like the child Ryan and I will never have, love its recording of our best and worst. It’s travel scrapbook meets someone’s really fucked up diaries. And that someone was us. Ryan, Matilda, and I.
A Moment with Kyann
Jenn: Hi Kyann, how’s school?
Kyann: I don’t know. How’s your fatness?
Jenn: Real fucking funny.
Kyann: Aims 4 year-old butt towards my face, farts, and uses hand to waft it in my direction.
That’s a gift for you.
Auntie Jenn: Aw, thanks. Do you know what I really want?
Auntie Jenn: A D-I-Y Tubal Kit.
Kyann: Farts conclusively.
Yes, I make $11/hour and shop at lululemon. Don’t ask me how this is possible—it isn’t. But, as my lululemon bag says: “Do one thing a day that scares you.” Well—shopping at lululemon. That counts.
Buying one glorious clothing item at lululemon is worth a week’s worth of hard-earned pennies—because what lululemon luon pants do for my ass is truly magical. I can go from 2008 Oprah to 1997 Tyra in 30 seconds.
I love you, lulu.
Sometimes, I’ll say, “Ryan, I don’t want to talk about death.” And he’ll say, “Well, Jenn, what do you want to talk about?” And I’ll say, “Jonathan Safran Foer.” And he’ll say, “Jonathan Safran Foer is death. Everything is about death. There’s nothing you can talk about where you’re not talking about death.” Then I get really tired, like the computer when I’m trying to run ten programs at once, and it smells like it’s burning up inside. I don’t have any good thoughts, I just feel like I’ve taken a double dose of Ambien, and my screen is frozen and needs force quitting, unsaved changes may be lost, and I don’t have the answers, and I don’t think I’ll ever get past page 19 of Infinite Jest, and when will I ever write something funny again? I just want to be smart, really smart, smart enough to have THE answer that everything is not about death, even though I know it is, because I find a loophole, a trick, a trap door down a rabbit hole–and deliver this answer to Ryan with gusto, charm, and Ha-Ha Motherfucker brilliance, like Uma in Kill Bill, but with sharp logic instead of a Hattori Hanzo katana. I want to never run out of words. But I do. I run out of words because I don’t want to say empty things, like “It’ll get better.”
(All words are empty things. We fill them up like balloons, and the more inflated they become, the more likely they are to take off and disappear past the places we can see. We never know how far they travel, only that once they leave our mouths, they are not the same.)
Once I let go of my words, I can’t footnote what I really meant. I can’t jump in front of your thoughts and say, “No, it’s not like that, I’m not the poor girlfriend, I understand wanting to tag death and scream, ‘YOU’RE IT DEATH!’ and then run, run as fast as I can until he catches me, and I lose, but secretly I win, and because I’m free, free from a world that makes me feel not good enough, free from having to wake up only to seek freedom from having to wake up. It’s true–everything is about death, whether by freeway or side streets–how we live every moment is guided by our gauzy mortality. Most of us set up our lives for living 60, 70, 90 years–just in case. Just in case we have to live that long. We tell ourselves we want to live that long, because quantity is quality. We can do more, in time. We’ll have children, and when these children play too loud or cry for no reason, we’ll yell at them. We’ll scribble all over their blank slates with our permanent markered dreams, pass on lies we were told about Santa Claus and god. We’ll have a million causes, knowing for every race we run (down with leukemia!), or fundraisers we attend (feed hungry children orphaned by flood/earthquake/war!)–they’ll be a million more problems. It’s an impossible ratio. I think saving the planet is a ridiculous fight. It’s a planet. We can’t cure depression, but we think we can save the planet? The motherfucking planet? Everyone thinks it’s cool to be green. I think it’s cool to be BLACK. Black makes my brain look SKINNY.
(This whole blog is the reason I don’t write anymore. Because I feel so fatalistic. Because I feel toxic in the presence of optimistic company. Because I’ve said all this before and it doesn’t matter. I’m here. I’ve got one foot in this life. I lied. I have my big toe. I am unsteady, trying to figure out what the fuck comes next.)
What Comes Next
May we never become two people who wonder why we ever. Why we ever fell in love with each other over everyone else. Why we ever left behind our fractions of selves to create one life, as a redefinition of math, as 1/4 + 1/4 = 1. May we never ask how. How we could touch one another and feel yes. How we could spend every living hour together and it wasn’t enough. How we could write cliched lines like, “How we could spend every living hour together and it wasn’t enough,” and mean it. How we thought we could save me. And you. May we never ask what. What desperate circumstances forced us to seek shelter under each other’s half-roofed shanties. (We know the desperate circumstances—life, just life.) May we never ask if we were really in love. If it was more or less love. May you never be the part in my brain I want erased Eternal Sunshine stylee because you hurt me or I hurt you or we hurt. Let’s be pillows for each other. Let’s not give up on love, because love isn’t real. I am someone who looks back on old love and wonders why and how I ever. And as love as our love is, one day I will change, or someone else will be wow for you, and will fill the parts I do not fill. When love leaves us, may we not revise what happened. May we read our love like a favorite book, and shelve it next to all great love stories. Let’s always tell the world that yes, yes I loved that book. And while I won’t remember every plot change, the minor characters, the conflicts and resolutions–I’ll remember that our love moved my heart to another part of my body. If you put your ear to my ear, you’ll hear it there still, skipping like a broken record.