The other day I was on the phone with Matt, talking about nothing relevant or interesting, and I said, “A year ago I was having an anorexia relapse, today I’m a fucking CrossFitter”— I don’t think there’s any better way to explain what a moving, wondrous year this has been.
On paper, I didn’t do a whole lot— in 2019, I took a breather from my usual preoccupation with work and career advancement, instead prioritizing the maintenance of a solid work/life balance, focusing on practical introspection and self-mastery.
Today, I feel settled inside myself for the very first time, like there is no disconnect between my brain, body and heart; they all move together easily, as one unit, and co-operate. Your body is a picture of your brain, I wrote late this summer, around the time when I started CrossFit, and by late December, I understand this better than I could have then. Every day I feel like a warrior, but am in no way compelled by the violence with which I’ve gotten used to inhabiting a body. What I like about you is that you’re not afraid to slow things down, one of the coaches at my gym told me, and I thought, “This is the first time in my life that sentence could have been true about me.” Time is our life to live inside, and this year, I used it wisely.
The first four months of my year were basically bullshit. In March, the restaurant I’d been managing for a year closed down. That job had been my everything, and I struggled to define myself without it. Life snuck memorably sweet moments into that otherwise uncomfortable chunk of time— in January, in Los Angeles, I lounged in the sunshine with Liz’s roommate’s dog Josko, content in the knowledge that I had evaded Toronto’s worst snowstorm of the year. At work, Maggie and I cultivated a deranged obsession with the dead blues singer Fats Domino, and entertained ourselves by poring over our restaurant’s menu, speculating as to what Fats might order, giggling to death. Drinking golden-Oreo-flavoured, Meunier-driven Champagne in Portland with Laura at a staggeringly uncool patisserie that boasted one of the world’s best Champagne lists, page after page tucked into laminate sleeves, presented in an ugly plastic binder. The whole place seemed like something that could exist only in a dream. At the airport, I called Matt and asked him if it was okay if I could use him, a skeleton in the rubble of our recently decimated relationship, as a punching bag for all the rage and anxiety I was feeling toward the current state of my life. He said, “I'll take it.”
The summer was golden and glistening. Every morning I lay in my backyard for an entire hour, wearing a swimsuit, suntanning and listening to dub records on my phone. My bartender complained about the heat, and I said “Well, why don’t you just move into an igloo in the middle of an ice rink?” and then laughed so hard at my own insane joke. The Raptors won the NBA Finals, and we processed Kawhi’s leaving using dating/relationship metaphors, which were funny, and soothing. In July I went on the best date of my life. We were making out in the backseat of a yellow taxi, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, and I pulled away to take stock of the situation, to remind us both how lucky we were, how rarely life allows itself to be so on-the-nose good. Nothing came of that date, which irritated me at first, but then I thought, “How lovely that we managed to squeeze an entire relationship into one night,” and “How novel, to carry out a relationship composed solely and completely of all the best parts.” A few weeks later, I started talking to Matt again— we’d barely been in touch all summer, having had a horrendous fight on the phone the night before my birthday. We both woke up at 6 in the morning and started having the same fight again the next day, which eventually deteriorated into the two of us, deliriously exhausted, discussing the breathing patterns of whales. We’d had similarly catastrophic fights in the past, but I usually felt unmoved by them. This one, however, put the fear of the Lord in me. I wanted to stay away.
Welcoming him back into my life months later, the whole thing felt new, reborn, surrounded by an unprecedented sense of calm. He made me laugh and smile, made my life only better. We’d hang up the phone, and I’d go back to living my day, everything the same, just a little bit peppier, remembering a joke he’d made. There was no anxiety, no fear. I saw him twice in autumn: the first time, I stayed in a place which had bunk beds, and I climbed up the ladder to the top bunk, daring him to chase me: I felt like a rambunctious asshole, my best self. The second time, I was recovering from a concussion, and we took it easy, ate pretzel chips from a bowl. I felt “chill.”
In 2019 I learned to respect my own boundaries, perhaps ruthlessly so. I felt freed from the pressure I’ve always put on myself to maintain friendships I’m disinterested in out of fear of karmic repercussions; I was, I’m afraid, a terrible friend this year. An unstable and incoherent texter-backer, deprioritizing my relationships to spend my time talking to my typewriter, and lifting heavy weights. A month or so ago, I drank three bottles of wine with a new friend and, over the course of doing so, remembered how to write, or rather, why to write. The next morning, I started writing, and haven’t stopped since. I couldn’t imagine anything making me happier than this: re-learning to write because I love it, not because I feel obliged.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, I did a workout at my gym. It was: one hundred weighted squats, fifty sit-ups, one hundred lunges, fifty push-ups, and one hundred kettlebell swings, each movement broken up by a set of single-unders, which is what we call skips, with a skipping rope. We were each allotted thirty minutes to complete the workout; this is the kind of thing I love best. Unbound by time, with no coach calling out Stop or Go, you are competing against nothing, no one, barely even yourself. Time, in these moments, disappears, and so do you: your own name, personality, relationships, family, holidays, work, anxiety, problems, everything. It’s all gone. You’re not Laura, you’re not a writer, nor a somm, just a heaving, sweating mass of cells, chanting numbers. “That was real Ego Death!” I realized later, delighted to have found it: “I’m a Lama, on a hill.”
PS: Also this year I met the love my life, NBA basketball player Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets:
PPS: I have literally never met him
Happy New Year & all the best vibes from Laura & Kyrie XOXOXOXOXO
LIZ'S THING OF THE YEAR: Dan Tana's linguini
-leaving Echo Park
-Brad Pitt pushing the luggage down the hallway at LAX
-the cheerleader-y gang-vocal part of "Wet" by Bibi Bourelly where all the girls shout GO THE FUCK OFF IF YOU'RE GONNA BE RICH ONE DAY
-here's a playlist of all my favorite songs that came out this year. It's mostly people I worked for
-eating linguini at Dan Tana's with my fave
-"Holy Mountain" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is my #1 love song
-meeting Noel Gallagher
-a roadside restaurant on the drive back from Georgia O'Keeffe's house where I ordered Frito pie and the waitress asked "Red chilis, green chilis, or Christmas?"
-Renée Elise Goldsberry's performance of Dee Dee in Original Cast Album: Co-Op
-all the bad skin in Her Smell
-"I wouldn't expect too much from that cat"
-a note in my Notes app that says:
antique wooden cribbage deck
woven-plastic chaise lounge poolside
gypsy skirt + Clash t-shirt
-when Lana set off fireworks at the end of "Venice Beach" at the Bowl
-the part in the "Summer Girl" video when Danielle sings into the New Beverly ticket booth microphone <3 <3 <3
JEN'S THING OF THE YEAR: Moomins, John Wick 3, etc.