30 November 2012

Fall and Winter: A Re-Joining of Family, Friends, and Self

The fall and winter teach us the most about ourselves. The weather gets cold and we squeeze into last year's coats and socks; the vegetables are gourds or roots and take longer to cook; the harvest lets us analyze our gains and losses of the year; the holidays let us analyze our gains and losses of our lifetime. There is something about coming together--as a family around a turkey, as a group of friends around a bottle of wine, as a person bundling into an oversized sweater and scarf--that makes us feel warm and tingly and yet a little heavy-hearted.

I. Family
I don't pretend my family is unique, but I can't exactly call us normal either. My family is small and crazy, mostly stemming from my mother and her odd little obsessions and phases, but the rest of us--me, my dad, the three cats, and the dog--are at fault as well. For the past few years, Thanksgiving has served as a strange breather, a reprieve from school and unbearable loneliness that college has brought me, and plunged me into an environment where sleeping in and forgetting to make my bed are my biggest sins, and watching months-worth of DVR'd TV programs in the living room with my family is a must.
Thanksgiving in our household is casual, as is Christmas, but Thanksgiving especially. I discovered some years ago, sometime after my grandma died, that Thanksgiving isn't a formal holiday. We don't run it by tradition or anything of the like. Our Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite day of the year. We do the usual things in the morning--my dad and I are guilted in to taking the poodle for a seven-mile walk by the beach and around the pier and back, we all shower and dress. Sometimes there's a morning matinee movie involved. Then we walk down the street to our oldest family friends' house, the Lawson's, where we gorge on two different types of turkey, two different types of stuffing, and a random assortment of other fine foods. There's always an assortment of pies from some fancy bakery in Santa Monica, and the conversation is always so inspiring. I've grown up with the Lawson family, and they are my family. We've been through heartbreak and laughter together. After we've stuffed ourselves, Luke, my first and oldest friend, and Chris, another guest at the feast, move into the living room where they have a keyboard and stand-up bass set up for a digestive blend of light jazz and blues. Usually by this point I'm on my third glass of wine and overflowing out of my lululemon leggings and it feels magical and something that only happens once a year.
My family doesn't shop on Black Friday. I did it once, then worked it three years in a row when I worked retail, and still have flashbacks. Maybe if I didn't work an $8.85/hr job and wasn't so in-between sizes right now, I might be inclined to wage the crowds. But what happens in our household the day after Thanksgiving is so much more heavenly than anything purchased at a sale could buy. My mom goes all out. Maybe because she didn't have to slave away in the kitchen the day before and she has all this energy to be in the kitchen all morning. She makes my favorite finger foods (most will sound foreign and possibly disgusting, but I swear they are like heaven): clam bread, her famous guacamole, stuffed cherry tomatoes, home-breaded chicken wings, and some sort of fruit bread for dessert. My dad and I get suckered in to walking the dog another seven miles, but when we return my uncle and his partner come over and we settle in for a Modern Family marathon. My mom puts the food out on the coffee table and we stuff our faces (two days in a row) while watching our favorite TV show.
We come together. We eat. We laugh. I love Thanksgiving most for these three reasons.

II. Friends
I don't have many friends here in Northern California. I have my boyfriend and the two friends that haven't yet left Chico, the small college town I've been living in for the past three years. It's tough living in a place that once was home to nearly all of my friends and they all graduated and moved back home and I'm still here.
But it also makes going home and seeing my friends all the more meaningful. I feel so loved coming back and my friends wanting to know how long I'm in town for. I cling to the moments when we sit across from each other and stuff our faces with sushi and laugh and cry and give each other strength. The fact that I miss my friends isn't the hard part--that's normal. The most difficult thing is not getting to take them with me, to have to leave them back at home when I go back to finish out the semester. They all seem to be so put together, my best friend has a job at UCLA, my other friend is in a serious, soon-to-be engaged relationship. I can't even go to the gym on a regular basis. But they love me anyway.
And despite all that separates us--500 miles, career and life choices, 30 pounds and serious relationships--we still come together and laugh and click in a way I fear I'll never find with anyone else in my adult life.
I read once that it's important to hold onto the select few who knew you when you were young, because as you get older you long for that deeper connection to your past. I get it. I get it. I feel like I've weeded out those who won't stay, and have kept the ones that were destined to stay with me. So we come together when it's cold out (or even warm, since it's LA and the weather is weird and there's global warming and chemtrails changing the atmosphere), and talk about life and I feel complete.

III. Self
And then there's me.
This past year has done a lot to me. I've gained 30 pounds, that's the biggest thing, that's the elephant in the room. I write that I've gained 30 pounds because it weighs heavy (no pun intended) on my brain everyday. A lot of things went into the making of these rolls--being in a grad program I hate, being put on drugs by a doctor who I trusted, and general unhappiness with myself.
But I'm not here to talk about the negatives, because this is a gratitude post.
Despite the shit storm that has happened this year, I recently rediscovered myself--and discovered that I'm still in love with myself. I still love her, the Cassandra that I am. I know the old me, the real me, is buried somewhere beneath all that keeps me from her.
And I think this is the most important part of the equation. Being in love with myself--being in love with yourself--not in an egotistical way, but in a way that allows you to support yourself, trust yourself, give yourself freedom, cut yourself some slack when you fuck up, and having faith in yourself that you can and you will reinvent yourself is everything. I know this is general and cliche and nothing new. I know I've said this before, and I know that I will say this again, many more times over and over.
But if you can't love yourself, turn to yourself, look yourself in the mirror, admit to yourself that you've led yourself astray, and promise yourself that you'll keep expanding your mind and opening your heart and giving yourself chances--then you don't live.
I'm quitting grad school, not because it's too hard, but because it doesn't grow me, it hasn't grown me. I want to learn, I want to expand my mind. I want to be inspired in life. And I'm just not. Admitting this was hard, the hardest part. In three weeks, the semester ends and I'm moving back to LA with my parents, quitting my job, moving away from my boyfriend, whom I love deeply. I'm leaving this life behind in the hope that I find something that inspires and challenges me.

May you find and give gratitude to all that moves you and grooves you and grows you and nurtures you.

1 comment :

  1. Love this post Cassandra. It shows insight and growth and fearlessness and trasnsformation. Now you are back on your path....... Be in the moment and aware, Fear not, Your life will unfold as it will...
    spage8... Scott


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