my favorite laugh.

When Evan finished his first semester of—official—nursing school, I did a little celebratory dance for the occasion.

And—of course—I watched the video over and over, because I’m addicted to that laugh. The beginning of this journey feels like so. long. ago. Because it’s been a really long journey—this whole Evan-in-Nursing-School thing. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has pulled multiple all-nighter to study, write, and make it all work academically. He has been there for me as a husband, friend, and teammate. I’m amazed and impressed. And SO PROUD.

So for the end of his LAST semester in nursing school, I had an idea. On a trip with Allison, I told her about my idea to lip-synch a mutually beloved Drake song for Evan. Her response: “Well, obviously, I should do the Nicki Minaj part.” [this—and many more reasons—is why I love her so.] So we proceeded to have a weekend in Jackson where I relived my best middle school sleepovers and recorded MANY music videos. [the best. the funniest.]

So we went for it. And then we thought, “Maybe this would be even MORE fun if we asked some of Evan’s friends to participate.”

Evan was officially done with classes on Thursday and we were both just so ecstatic. Ev had to work Friday night, so I set it all up. I wrote on our chalkboard, “YOU DID IT!” I left him a card…

omg_youre_done_2

…with a bottle of whisky. The card included the reference, “I want some whisky!” which was from the night Evan found out he was accepted to Montana State University’s accelerated nursing program. A bookend bottle of whisky. [note: that post ALSO includes a strong Drake reference.]

I tried to stay up and wait for Evan, surprise him with all this love and then surprise him with this video I had waiting.

But I fell asleep on the couch. And could not be awoken. It was a long day!

So the next morning, I was shakey and excited and nervous and just wanted to show Evan this video. This ah-mazing video that our friends made so incredible.

So we were drinking coffee and I said to Evan, “Ohhh noooo… shit! I just got some bad feedback on a video I’ve been working on for FIB.” [lies.] [also, FIB = First Interstate Bank… a regular client.]

He was bummed for me. [gotta love him.] I asked if he’d watch the video with me and tell me what he thought of it. He stopped working on bikes to gladly watch. I set up my computer to secretly record on the coffee table [black tape over the Photobooth light, brightness turned alllll the way down so the screen is black… you’re welcome].

Oh my goodness. That laugh. So much of that laugh. Worth all the late nights. All the hard weeks. All the shitty months. All the alone togetherness. All the tears. Worth it.

I love it. I love him. I love this laugh. I love this video. Don’t even try to make me stop watching it thousands of times over.

[and all I can say is…]

i need an answer.

Things have been hard. Other things, yes, but the election and days following have been very hard. A few days after the news, I received a group email from a strong, fired-up woman of a friend. It was addressed to several other strong, fired-up women. The email was titled “What the fuck?”

It was asking how we’re all doing and what we’re all doing. Replying to it was more therapeutic than I thought it would be. The woman who replied before me included that she was 2/3rds into a bottle of wine.

I want to share my reply to this email chain, this time, all of it:

“I’ll cheers to that… mostly the 2/3rds of a bottle of wine, you’re a glass ahead of me.

with all of this, I’ve got nothing. I feel empty and suffocated at the same time. I immediately felt oppressed as a woman. I keep saying over and over, “I don’t know.” or, “I’m just sad.” or, “I’m just tired.” but mostly, “I don’t know.” and then sometimes, “not great.”

Evan is in the poorest part of Montana right now—on an Indian Reservation six hours away. he’s there for a nursing school rotation, giving general care. he’s sleeping in teepees and going to sweat lodges and connecting with tribe members. I’m so jealous. it feels like that’s where all of America should be right now.

Saturday, after I finally got myself out of the house, I walked downtown and the sky was beautiful and the light was perfect and I kept repeating, “there is light. there is light.” on that same trip, I saw a man holding a sign that said, “LOVE EACH OTHER.” and then I saw two drunk frat guys approach him and accuse him of being someone “who voted for Hilary, huh?” then they “had words” for him, trying to start a fight. and I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t tell them to stop. I didn’t call the cops. I didn’t ask if that guy needed help. and I couldn’t figure out if there is light.

I feel a bit dead behind the eyes right now. hoping to not feel that way soon, but not really doing much to not feel that way. yesterday, I went as a mentor-esque figure to this event on campus. I wore a blazer and felt a million years old. two young women were talking to me about how it’s Ladies’ Night (some shopping discount thing downtown) and then there’s a Broad Comedy (all female comedy troupe) show this weekend.

Young Woman: It’s gonna be an awesome feminist weekend!

Me: Yeah, get it while you can.

they looked at me as confused optimists do and then I mumbled something about the election and then that Debbie Downer womp womp sound played and I excused myself to eat all the cheese they had on hand.

I am psyched to be on this chain, though. this conversation feels good. refreshing. needed. thank you for including me.

I am dead to mansplaining as well. “You know how money works, right?” was an actual question I’ve been asked in a client meeting. because of you and your re-upped efforts, I’ll make more of an effort myself. damn you and your inspiring words.

what I’m doing:

• listening to this on repeat: 

• crying a lot.

• writing a lot for this writing class I’m taking. writing about mammograms! and contraception! and addiction! and having a vagina! take that, Montana!

• drinking wine.

• doing a lot of Tarot card readings for myself. looking deeply at myself and deeply at the world around me.

• putting this shirt on my christmas list.

there’s a whole other—less self-involved—list of things I think/know I should be doing. but I don’t feel there yet. I am tired. I am sad. I don’t know. not great.

love y’all to the moon.

xxo,
ray.”

There have been other light times. There has been light.

Watching—with some kick-ass ladies—an all-women comedy troupe slay it on Friday.

Hearing my 16-year-old neighbor learning to play Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the piano. Hearing her fumble through the keys to find the right ones and then move on. Beautiful.

Being a part of a rally in Bozeman. Hearing our police chief say that the police are not apart from our community, they are a part of our community. It was powerful and wonderful.

And I really wish I hadn’t sold my Hamilton tickets.

So that’s where I am.

[be with the one that you love.]

checking the mailbox // a story + playlist.

Tonight, I had my first writing class of a series. We did some free writing. Get a prompt. Write for five minutes. Share.

The third prompt was “I remember…”

For unclear reasons lately, I’ve been thinking about mailboxes. What they mean for homes. What they mean for love. What they mean for communication. And in the instant the of the prompt, I remembered a mailbox. Here’s what I wrote…

I remember the mailbox. The mailbox so empty, every time. My heart so broken. Every time. I had no way of knowing it could feel this bad. I was 17. I was in love. And after two years together, he went off to spend a summer as a camp counselor. I was so sad… but we wrote each other all the time. I had to get my wisdom teeth out that summer. The feeling wasn’t pain. The feeling was life underwater. Slower because of the drugs. My head was light, but my mouth was heavy, full of gauze. He just so happened to be visiting home the day after my procedure. He looked at me. Me with my chipmunk cheeks. And he told me we were over. “Whaaad?” I asked, muffled and swollen and crumbling into the pain now. I don’t remember much after that. I just remember the weeks to come. Checking the mailbox every day. Feeling inside the empty tin. So hot. So empty. I wondered if I could climb in, shut the door, and be in that darkness instead.

I assured my classmates that I am happily married now.

Checking the mailbox. It means something different to me now—thank god. It means something, though. I’ve put together some of the songs—old and new—then and now—full and empty—in a playlist for sharing. I hope you enjoy the tunes.

checking_the_mailbox[click me.]

[hoping the hot tin burns.]

let’s make up dances.

I’m into defining my years. Naming them. Calling them out.

I’ve had the bad year: circa 2009.

bad_year

sad sketches of me from a friend. and the appropriate end to 2009.

Then there were fours years in between that escaped official titling. I was feverishly tornado-ing through life and the west, looking for purpose, creativity, love, adventures, paychecks, and more purpose. I picked Evan up on the way and we kept on spinning.

Then there was the year of survival: 2013.

surviving_year

so much scar maintenance.

Then the year of thriving: 2014.

thriving_year

lots of smiling. lots of winning.

And then there was 2015. Well, January 21, 2015 through January 20, 2016. [I go by my accident anniversary to ring in the new year.] So we’re coming up on the time to call it.

Evan and I recently came home from our honeymoon in Maui. It was so many wonderful things, but—maybe mostly—it was a gentle, invigorating, beautiful time for reflection.

van_window_ev_2

a quick snap when I went back to the van to get the camera. it’s not the best photo, but I love so much about this moment. love.

Relaxingly sitting on the beach or in this van was the best place for some 2015 reflection, because even thinking about the last year is exhausting.

So much happened. We made so much happen. I’ve figured out, it wasn’t the worst year, it wasn’t the best year [though some incredibly good things happened].

It was the year of change. Things changed.

And a lot of that change began on January 13, 2015. Today—a year ago today—I was offered a job at MERCURYcsc. We had made many a sneaky trip to Bozeman to interview and expand on the opportunity and on January 13th, the conversation of picking up and moving ended with an exclamation point… and then a question mark… and then a period.

This job is—hands down—the best thing I’ve done for my head in a long-ass time. The people, the work, the laughs, the opportunities, the learning. But we had to leave Missoula. We had to leave so many of the amazing friendships we had made. It sucked. It sucks.

The move wasn’t all good, it wasn’t all bad. Change.

And things were so crazy [exciting! devastating. surreal.] changing in the last year, that I didn’t even look hard at a lot of them. So that’s what I’m doing now.

In an effort to jump-start some of my resolutions [drink less! write more!], I will recount some of those changes, these things, for better or worse, on this here blahg.

Here we go. Let’s look at this change. Reflect. Write some things. Connect some ways. Look 2016 in the eyes and dance with it… no matter what song it sings… there’s a dance for every note…

[thank you, ashely, for the heads-up on the kanye song. on the pulse, as always.]

[let’s make up dances.]

 

 

to be counted present.

I was obsessed with #ALLMYMOVIES. In exactly the way you’d expect of me, I was obsessed—thought it was beautiful/brilliant.

shia_allmymovies

I watched it constantly and stared at Shia LaBeouf in a way I have never stared at him… or any celebrity… or maybe any human…

I stared at him like the emotional project that it was. I cried once when he cried. I laughed so hard when he laughed with the whole audience whilst watching The Even Stevens Movie. I took screenshots. [like the whole internet wouldn’t.] I kept one of my computer screens at work constantly streaming Shia. [sorry work internet.]

Imagining being there for the whole process—as Shia—was something I desperately dove into. How must he have been feeling? Was this just the most narcissistic thing ever? Is he okay? Is he not okay?

And then a friend sent this article about it all: http://www.ew.com/article/2015/11/16/shia-labeouf-all-my-movies-interview

“You just don’t want anyone to hate you. I walked out loving myself. Not in some grandiose, you’re f—ing awesome way, but in like, you’re a part of a community. You’re part of this human thing. You’re in this human thing.”

I loved these things he said about life, art, work. And the joy of being a part of a community. And the hilarity of looking back and feeling those times. And the darkness of life and shitty work and shitty art…

“When the movies started getting sh– and they knew that I felt it too, it was the shared secret that we all had… not just because I’m in it… I’m in the same boat as you, I’m a viewer in this and this is hard for me to watch too,” he said. “In fact, I’m gonna go take a nap cause I hate myself, not cause I’m tired, but because I’m dying right now. And nobody had a problem with that.”

How painful. How honest. It makes me look at my life and wonder how much of my work is for the Michael Bay’s of Montana. Not much, I believe. I could sit down and watch it all in a row and be proud of it… most of it.

And—honestly—most of it would have so much of me in it, as the star. Me or my better half. And I would watch on in the narcissistic way I do and [hopefully] love it. Find myself liked.

In looking for some kind of visual for all of this and found a comical outtake of a video that never [hasn’t yet?] happened. I set up a shot in our van [one you’ve seen many times before] and then proceeded to look at myself in the display, checking for how I looked. Evan caught me and started mocking me and I died. I love this. Because without Evan, I’d just be staring at myself in screens… and it wouldn’t be half as funny/joyful.

fixing_our_work

And in it all, with it all, making it all, sometimes my scars of damage show more than not. Sometimes it’s all commercial. Sometimes it’s ridiculous. Sometimes it’s from the heart. Sometimes it’s not. Sometime’s it’s exhausting. Sometime’s it’s exhausted.

But I want it to be there. I want to be able to sit in a room of people and watch my work, my life, and laugh/cry/pain-sleep/be embarrassed/be joyful/reflect. Because that means there is enough work, enough life, to be held accountable. To be counted present. You’re in this human thing.

And with that, an all-time favorite music video:

Strong work, Shia. I like you.

[this human thing.]

 

I know there’s gonna be good times.

If this here blahg is good for one thing, it’s to look back. And looking back is usually a bit embarrassing and demoralizing. Half of these links are broken! Why the hell can’t I listen to this playlist anymore?!

You had to be there. When we were there, things were unbroken in so many ways.

Life seems to find four year cycles with me. It’s easy to find similarities in where I am now to four years ago. Semi-new to a job I am over the moon over. A new mountain town that taps into a favorite part of myself. Finding friends all over again and missing the incredible ones only 3-4 hours away. Finding me again. Finding new step in my relationship with Evan. [we’re married now.] It’s all so familiar in such different ways.

I do still take photos of myself with computer cameras. Less, now. It used to be taking dozens upon dozens and posting them on this here blahg on the regular…

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.40.21 AM

From this post. Which was nothing! But something. Something that was acceptable for four years ago. Those posts were—honestly—grasps at something much lesser than relevance. Existence. It’s like I had to look into that Photobooth camera to make sure I was there. I exist. I’m here.

Now I take photos one at a time. Just one-offs. At my desk. Mainly to send text messages to Evan when I’m drinking at work…

success
Tonight, after driving to and fro Helena for a presentation and then many [many!] more hours in the office, I found myself texting Evan another photo taken from my computer. To describe where I was at. To show I was tired. To show I found work wine.

tired_happy_officing
And I could not get over how sad my eyes look! I sent it and immediately looked myself in the eyes. And as I was figuring out that I am not sad… I am tired… happy and tired… Evan texted me back…

– Your office is like a Highlights “Find These Objects” Illustration.

It made everything light. Happy and tired and smiling. Yes and yes. And then I put on so many Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync Battles and cranked out the rest of the work.

Playing this song on repeat helped as well:

Here we are. Four years later. Graduated from that time. Just in time for this time. These dance moves. These ridiculous computer-selfies.

Here we are.

[so there they were.]

just like it.

dinner_time leisure_time

a friend from jackson [and then missoula] visited our new home. we expect her to make the move to bozeman soon. it’s just so comfortable having her around. so familiar.

and then we listened to a new ratatat song and I missed the KHOL days desperately. oh, the morning scramble. I miss it.

how awesome is that video, too? dancing times galore.

it’s just like it. just like it was, but new.

beautiful times.