Anything Broken?

My love for the dearly-departed Party Down is well-documented – last year, on the eve of its cancellation, I wrote a post about I thought it was one of the most honest television shows about the disconnect between expectations and reality in your 20s.  Beyond that, its a show that consistently and repeatedly makes me laugh out loud, even when watching episodes I’ve seen a dozen times.

Which is how I happened upon one of my favorite scenes, pictured below.  I’m in a very different place than I was at this time last year – I’m in a new city with a full-time job and a very different life – and yet, I still find myself relating to Henry’s cynicism and self-defensive misanthropy.  I may not be popping pain-killers on the job, but much like Henry, I find solace in a stiff drink when I start to look too closely at all the ways life seems a little incomplete.  It’s not that anything is broken, but sometimes I feel the cracks in the foundation.

Are we having fun yet?

Music Monday: Mumford & Sons

Ah, it’s Monday again.  I’m coming off a relaxing and rewarding weekend as well as a transcendent music experience last Thursday, which proves you find blog inspiration in the most unlikely events.

Last spring, as you may recall, I became unemployed.  At the time, I was in the midst of a three week dog/house sitting gig for two friends who have impeccable taste in music, especially in the bluegrass/Americana/folk/foot-stomping genres.  On the first day after it happened, in the midst of a whirlwind emotion, I cracked open a breakfast beer and popped in the CD that was sitting atop their sound system – Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons.  It was a perfect example of the right album for the right emotional state – I was instantly swept up in the songs of hopelessness, confession, yearning, and redemption.

Inevitably, the band blew up.  The boys started playing the big festivals, the singles were popping up on Top 40 radio stations, the album charted at #2 in February of this year, and the boys even sang with Dylan at the Grammys.  Somewhere during that trajectory, I tuned out.  I still enjoyed the band but as I worked through my unemployed state of mind, I outgrew the music.

Until last Thursday, that is.  Last week was a scorcher in the District and I wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of baking in 100 degree heat to hear a band play the single album I’d heard many times before.  I hadn’t slept well the night before and had troubles, both my own and others, on my mind.  When we arrived at Merriweather Post Pavilion, I was hoping to be able to sweat and unwind in peace.  Instead, as soon as we settled in for the open act, the skies opened up.

This was not a light drizzle and a quick deluge followed by sunny skies.  This was 20 minutes of a never-ending water ride, with waves of icy cold rain pounding down in every possible direction.  We had no choice but to sit there and let the rains wash over us.  Rain quickly turned to hail – which led me to quip that I was “in hail” – and eventually abated to a light rain.  Also abated?  All my anxieties and frustrations and fears and worries from the last couple weeks.  I don’t put a lot of stock into religious experiences, but there’s something to be said for the act of baptism.

While we briefly considered bailing on the show at the height of the storm, I’m relieved we stuck it out because when Mumford & Sons came on, it was incredible.  I felt like I was hearing each song for the first time and although so much has changed in the last year, there was comfort in the familiar words that meant so much during a difficult time for me.

The boys put on an amazing show and although they played several new songs (each better than the next!), I figured I’d leave you with one of my old favorite songs.  Happy Monday!

Winter Winds (Live on WXPN) – Mumford & Sons


Size Matters

I’m from Texas.  We do things big.  Big hair, big cities, big personalities, big scandals, and big budgets.  I was always raised to be willing to take big leaps and big risks.

Last summer was a summer of big steps for me.  My roommate and I made a relatively big move, in terms of getting a more “adult” place.  I went on a big, 3-day river trip – which may not seem like a big deal until you realize that you’re committing to spending three full days with one person (the same person!)  I made some big changes in my personal life and took some big risks in terms of dating.  I went to big concerts, big festivals, big games, and big parties.  It’s easy for me to look back at the summer of 2009 and see major change happening in my life.

The summer of 2010 isn’t over yet but I was starting to get worried that there weren’t enough big changes.  I haven’t taken any major trips, I haven’t necessarily formed any major new friendships, or made any big decisions.  I found myself unable to sleep the other night feeling as if I was wasting this summer, this summer of my vita abundantior.

But yesterday, when I received a text message from a new friend, I realized that there have been changes, albeit ones of a smaller nature.  New friendships have started to blossom, in the same slow fashion as our long-suffering garden.  There have been tiny shifts in existing relationships – no major additions or subtractions but a subtle reshuffling as people grow and change.  A small email rekindled a friendship.  A passing introduction suddenly turned into a new favorite person.  A simple night at the lake made me laugh so much my sides still hurt the next day.  Making a small decision to forgo a wasteful expenditure or make the effort to dig the accidentally-trashed recyclable is reminding me that change can happen in small ways, in incremental steps.

I’m not, by nature, a small person.  I’ve always had a tendency to overlook the smaller things, the details, the tiny moments.  Summer 2010 has been a time of tremendous growth, change, and discovery for me – exactly that spirit of vita abundantior I’ve been hoping to channel.  It’s just happened in a tiny way.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.

What’s the Point?

Have many times have you asked yourself that question?  Whether it’s procrastinating on a job application or deciding whether to give the bummer first date guy a second chance, rarely a day goes by where I don’t think what’s the point?

My dear friend [and former temporary roommate] Abernathy has an idea: that there’s always a point. Whether it’s the hot girl [or boy, if that’s your thing] you meet at a club or fighting a lawn infestation, there’s a point to all of life’s great stories.  She chronicles these stories and their life lessons in a witty and wonderful blog, aptly titled The Point.

I love the concept – to look at life’s struggles, its simple pleasures, its disappointments, and find the point.  Plus, when it’s written in a funny and relatable way, I’m totally sold.

[Full disclosure:  I thought Abernathy was awesome before this blog.  In my opinion, it’s her natural awesomeness put into blog form.  Check it out.]

Simple Pleasures

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” −Robert Brault

A dear friend and recent college grad recently emailed me about this blog endeavor.  It was a lengthy message, as we are alumnae of the same school but had fallen out of contact (something I wish didn’t happen as much as it does.)  Of course, the conversation that followed reminded me how wise and wonderful she had always been.

In particular, she wrote:  It’s impossible to know how the actions we take today are going to affect our lives tomorrow.  We can listen to the advice of people smarter than us, we can pay attention to the people around us who succeed or fail and make note of what to do or not do, and we can hope/pray/wish for the best.  I’m just trying to get through each day by enjoying life’s little pleasures.  With any luck, it will lead to a pleasurable life.

Of course, on an intellectual, I know this is good advice but sometimes, it’s easier said than done.  It’s refreshing to receive an email or a phone call or a postcard or a smoke signal to remind us.

A few of life’s simple pleasures I plan to appreciate fully this week:

  • Ice cold Diet Coke on a hot day
  • Petting an adorable (if not clinically insane) dog
  • Making another person laugh
  • Emails from old friends
  • $2 calamari on my favorite patio
  • Porch sitting with cold beers on a hot night
  • The wonders of what a Google search can yield you [see opening quotation]

Need a little help with your simple pleasures?  Whenever I need a good laugh, I pop over to 1,000 Awesome Things – it reminds you that starting the lawn mower on the first pull or snagging the perfect nacho off  your friend’s plate are legitimate reasons to get excited about life.