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February 4, 2019

A (Nearly) Comprehensive List of Things I Don’t Know

I don’t know how people cook so many different types of meals. For some reason, when I get to the grocery store, the only foods I can possibly remember that I know how to eat are chicken, rice and vegetables. I stand in those aisles surrounded by food and poor lighting and Michelle Branch’s hits from 2001 and all I can remember, with every ounce in me, is that I should get some rice, and chicken. And maybe a few vegetables. One time I was feeling particularly adventurous and bought chicken broth and then I had chicken and rice and vegetable soup.  That was a day. People keep saying I need to look a recipe up online, and I understand how, hypothetically, that could add some diversity to the meal prep game. But what these people don’t understand is that’s assuming I’m going to walk into my local Safeway with my head filled with less than words and work and women’s rights and the government shutdown and gas prices, and gather enough headspace to buy the ingredients I have half-heartedly typed in the notes section of my phone. That’s all before panicking about the amount I will get back on my tax returns if I am going to buy “fish sauce” which cost six dollars for a meal I am going to make once. I will confirm all of your suspicions: I’m not a great cook. I really don’t know what I am doing in there.

I also don’t know how to save something for later (please reference the fish sauce.) I read a book by Zadie Smith where a character thought the Lord was coming back to earth at any moment, so she would always only put two dollars of gas in her gas tank, and buy enough food for one more day, and give everyone a very intense goodbye when she left them for the night. I’m not quite that bad, I will fill the tank up most of the way if it’s not too cold out or if the sky looks good and I forget to watch the numbers on the gas meter spin. But impatience is my lifelong battle and I give Christmas presents as soon as I buy them and tell lovers I love them as soon as I love them and drink the entire French press each morning, even after the coffee shakes have started. Once a psychic told me I died too young in a past life and I felt the need to leave no loose ends in this life, just in case that happens again. Maybe that’s true, I haven’t completely dismissed it. Maybe I just want ice cream before dinner most nights.

I don’t know how to let hard things flow through me without getting them stopped in somewhere inside my arms or my heart or my throat. I used to work at a restaurant and one night after close, when I was mopping up, I spilled the entire bucket of milky gray mop water (the kind that’s a mix of dirt and beer and French fries) on my canvas shoes. I sloshed home that night and with sticky feet and sloshy Vans and instantly threw them in the washing machine (the shoes, not the feet) and washed with hot water and soap. But my shoes never felt the same way again. They took on a grayish hue, and always had the slightest scent of mop water. I know I am different than canvas shoes, I get that. But when I have been caught in the deluge of life’s mop water, I tend to absorb it, to allow it sink into my pores and change the fibers that create me. Things don’t roll off of my back, they never have. It’s probably because I died too young in a past life and I have never gotten over it. But I don’t know how to make my humanity less porous. I don’t know how to see things and feel things and not let them into my bones. I haven’t figured out how to be waterproof yet.

I don’t know what you are supposed to do if you ever stop loving someone. Are supposed to tell your brain to keep loving them, even if your heart disagrees? Are you are supposed to be honest right away and hope that it wasn’t just a feeling, a bad month, a strange taste in your mouth from the bitter and the sweet and the sour memories that life force-fed you with anything but a silver spoon?  I don’t know if loving comes in waves and I am not sure if there are times where those overwhelming feelings of love don’t wash over you and the white caps don’t come. If you have been on a surfboard before, you know that waves come in sets. And when the ocean seems clear and glassy, and the water stays still, you can sit up, rub the salt from your eyes and let your feet dangle in the depths and wonder what’s below. And you can shine your face up towards the sun, because the sun needs light sometimes, too. That stillness can be peace if you let it. Are we supposed to treat love the same way, salty patience, until the waves start up again? I don’t know if I am being too hopeful.

I don’t understand bitcoin. I don’t think you do either.

I don’t know what I would do if I actually won a game of Bingo. Because Lord knows I am not yelling “Bingo” to a group of stamp-happy strangers. I’m too shy and too quiet for that type of success. Same goes for the Kiss-cam at baseball games. And the podium of a race. And writing competitions. And book publications. And magazine interviews. And dream jobs. Success is truly the most nauseating thing an introvert can think of. I don’t know of anyone else that feels that way, because no one has said it.

I don’t know why we keep trying to make friends the way we do: where we show only how competent and well versed we are in life, and beg for connection from others because of what we know. One of my best friends told me that when she travelled for long periods, the best way to make friends was to find someone as confused and lost as she was. It makes sense. As brilliant and complex as humans are, we are significantly more confused and lost. It created a relationship, more than knowing the way ever would. And yet, we stand day after day on a platform of every place we have been and every accomplishment we have achieved and every single thing we know and we call it our story. In real life, in honest life, not knowing is a story and it is connection. I don’t know why I am lonely today and I don’t know where I will be next year. I don’t know why we stopped wearing flare jeans but it’s easier to ride bikes now. I don’t know how you are feeling, but I believe you. I don’t know, but I’m brave.  I don’t know, but I’m here.

You know that old adage about looking out for a yellow car? If someone tells you to keep your eye out for a yellow car, you suddenly see them everywhere, the streets are over run with them like its New York City, and you can’t believe that there are so many damn yellow cars on the day specifically that you were told to look for them. I laid outside the other night when the lights were low and the sky was black and stared at the stars with sleep filled eyes, determined to see a shooting star before I went to bed. And that night I swear I saw fifteen shooting stars all with the same brief ferocity of a wish and a flash and the realization of something so intrinsically unknown could be so beautiful. I don’t know why I am telling you this. It just felt important.




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