21st Century Woman, Sunday Sessions

Sunday Routines: How Ashley Lusk, sometimes writer, spends her Sundays

BRIGHT AND EARLY We’re early birds so I’m usually up around seven on the weekends. David is almost always up before me, immersed in his “digital meditation,” which is usually a video game, or time spent scrolling through Twitter on his phone. Meanwhile, I stumble into the kitchen and start the electric kettle.

COFFEE SNOB I’m thoughtful about coffee, and prefer to use a French press at home. I’ve spent this year rotating between different local bean purveyors. Right now I’m into Blanchard’s Columbia El Obreje, a roaster in nearby Richmond, Virginia.

READ AND RELAX Our Sunday routine is seasonal. We’re in late winter right now, so we’ll probably stay close to home. He may go to Starbucks for an hour or so to read the digital edition of the New York Times or catch up on more Twitter. I’ll stay home wrapped in blankets reading the Washington Post and scrolling through recipe blogs. My favorites are Joy the Baker, Smitten Kitchen, and Naturally Ella.

A SEASONAL MENU Brunch is probably our favorite meal of the week. Lately we’ll drive over to Ted’s Bulletin, which shows old movies and has a fun 40s diner vibe. They recently dropped several of my favorite brunch items, so we may have to reevaluate our “regular” status. If it was summer, we’d be first in line at the wood-fired oven pizza stand at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market begging them for a tomato, basil and mozzarella piadini. After picking up our produce for the week, we might stop by Kramer’s Books and browse.

WELL-PACKED BAGS Next we’ll walk a few blocks over to The Wydown and I’ll pick up a cappuccino. We’ll then go next door to the Trader Joe’s and fight our way through the crowds to do our grocery shopping for the week. I love watching the TJ’s staff pack the bags. My dad was a grocer, so I appreciate when it’s done without crushing the soft or delicate items.

CAT NAP We’ll head home, unpack the groceries, and then take a half hour nap. Sometimes it’s my best sleep all week. By mid-afternoon, we’ll head to the gym for an hour or so. David will hop on a bike or an elliptical. I’ll do some light free weights and then take a turn on the elliptical. Sometimes we’ll skip the gym and I’ll bake something instead.

WRITING TIME David’s incredibly disciplined—towards early evening, he’ll get his clothes and his work bag ready for the week. For me there is mostly the panic of realizing I should have worked all day instead of relaxing. If I’m especially avoiding a project, I might sit down and write a blog post for my site, or maybe a letter to a friend.

QUIET EVENING AT HOME I used to watch a lot of TV, but I’m trying to pull back on that a bit. On Sunday nights, we’ll probably have a simple dinner and listen to 60 Minutes or a favorite podcast while we prepare it. We mostly keep the TV off for the rest of the evening, unless there is a new PBS series or Game of Thrones. The more likely scenario is that we’re both in bed by 10.

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21st Century Woman

The List

2016 List

I ended 2015 feeling…off.

A few months ago, someone had asked me a simple question about my hobbies. I thought for a moment and struggled for an answer. I didn’t have hobbies anymore. I had work. I had television. I had sleep. It felt like my whole world had been condensed to this inane cycle of daily events.

I walked away feeling flummoxed. Okay, I have work, I have a job I like a lot, but what did I have outside of that? Sometimes I did yoga. Okay…but not with regularity. Ah, I read! A lot actually! But then I didn’t really spend much time meditating on what I what I learned or what it meant.

No, I realized I no longer had something that made my soul grow.

I considered a long list of things that I sort of did, maybe randomly, on an afternoon, or once out of a whole year. I sought out coffee shops, I occasionally cooked, I enjoyed exploring new restaurants, I had been traveling to new places, I often went to movies alone. But each of these things felt like they were on the fringes of my daily life—they were not endeavors that I dedicated myself to with any regularity.

I found myself envying friends with such clear dedication. Those who woke up every morning to write in a journal. Or run races. Or embrace new knitting projects. I didn’t have a single regular activity in my life, and it left me feeling a little empty.

Last week, without a motivation or a reason, I opened a Google doc and began typing. At first, it was a list of books that I hoped to pick up from the library that week. Then, I added a recipe I wanted to try the following day. And then the name of a wine I had enjoyed.

Slowly, the list has begun to fill out: a new restaurant we visited, a coffee that spoke to me, a television show I marathoned and had thoughts about.

Something about the list feels good. There are no bullets—I’m not trying to push through anything—but the list notes the substance of my days. It reminds me to revisit things that brought me joy, to leave behind the things that caused me worry.

And really, that’s the very best I can hope for in 2016.

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21st Century Woman, Intention

The (Gun Control) Problem

This is one of the things I’m afraid of.  The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away.  But what will follow?  Just this apathy, this dead flatness?  Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal?  Does grief finally subside into boredom tinged by faint nausea? – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I’ve heard it said that Hemingway (and many other writers, for that matter), sat down, without fail, to write every single day. Most weeks, it feels like a lot to just sit down on Sunday and offer something to this blog.

Last weekend, I simply couldn’t. I had watched something horrific unfold, and it shook me to my depths. I walked through that day, that week, in a haze. On Sunday, I thought that I should write something, but I sat in front of my computer and just felt sadness and fear and rage.

I woke up every day that week, trying to understand how I should feel next and what I should do. Some part of me thought I should quiet my reaction—time has taught me to see reactionaries as ignorant, uncouth, ridiculous. Other moments, I chastised myself for not being reactionary enough. Where was the petition I could sign? The think-piece I could hold up as some articulate declaration for change? No matter how many I read, I was not soothed, they did not correctly confirm my rage.

And so I was left to sit with myself.

I turned off the TV.

I closed my Twitter feed.

I seethed.

Then I mourned.

Then I realized this tiny piece of me would not be quieted. Ever.

I don’t have the answer to what happens next. There are motivated people and organizations who have been chipping away at this problem for a long time. For now, I’m just trying to find my own way to chip away at the problem too.

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21st Century Woman, Intention

This is 31.

I don’t know what I imagined 31, or 41, or 51 would look like. When you’re young—really young—you just imagine that you will always be exactly as you are then. Or at least I did. And maybe that’s why I’m not surprised by 31. I really had no expectations about what it would, or could, be.

Probably around 23, I began to understand what aging meant. That my metabolism would slow to a crawl. That sleep would become more crucial. That one day I would inevitably take on the characteristics of the other women in my family. This is the same moment when you start to realize they didn’t always look like they do now—and that soon I wouldn’t either. Little wrinkles have begun to emerge.

31, in many ways, is miraculous. To feel accomplished and productive. To have carved out a place for myself. To have built a home on my own time and with my own rules.

I’m better at spotting inauthenticity. I’m wary of people and projects that wear me down without filling me up. I’m cautious, but not jaded. I still want to do the most good.

I don’t know what 31 was supposed to look like, but from where I sit, 31 feels just fine.

Bae Day

#BaeDay

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21st Century Woman

Overexposed

Do you ever have those days where you just feel completely raw? Where a slight or a wrong look leave you feeling sensitive and exposed? That was today. Hell, that was this week. 

So, I did what any good person would do and I retreated. I downloaded the Medium and This. apps and spent some quality time reading. I cleaned out whole sections of my Feedly account. I scanned Twitter as myself, not as one of my clients. I finished off this book, and made my way further into this and this.

In the midst of my great hibernation, I came across some very good things.

I like literary magazines, especially when they’re digital. Say hello to The OffingSpeaking of literary magazines, my beloved Esquire has been home to some of our generation’s most prolific writers. That’s why I’m absolutely giddy to see that they’ve re-released their classics all.in.one.place.

It was painfully recognizable to hear Lena Dunham describe the pressures she felt to just get the proposal. Despite feeling pretty certain I would never play into soul-crushing traditions, I still found myself sucked into the wedding industrial complex. I’m licking my wounds by reading about Wonder Woman and utopian feminism. Also, laughing because this dude only ate food marketed to women for two weeks, and guess what? He was still hungry. Like, all of the time.

This NYT article about urban aging is a fucking gut punch. It’s time to get to know my neighbors.

My 31st birthday is next week and I generally prefer experiences over tactile gifts. Still, everyone enjoys shredding a little wrapping paper now and then. Hint, hint.

I’m giving myself some time to mentally prepare for next week, by listening to this guided meditation on repeat: “Those bitches can’t get under your skin. Breathe in strength, breathe out bullshit.”

 

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21st Century Woman

That Time I Re-watched Felicity

Felicity

Image Courtesy of Tumblr

For a little while, I’ve felt a bit out of the grasp of those sneaky marketers. I haven’t been part of the MTV generation for awhile. I’m not quite AARP-status.

I knew something was changing, however, what with the Honda mini-van commercials using Weezer to remind me I was quickly approaching a new demographic.

But then they had to go and do it, friends. Nick-at-Night, once home to shows my parents loved, now plays reruns of TGIF shows—shows of my youth. Even Hulu now features Seinfeld, Ally McBeal and Clarissa Explains It All.

It’s painful, this knowledge. As painful as seeing those tiny crows-feet appear out of nowhere.

I’ve long had a rule that it’s not a good idea to revisit things you’ve loved as a child—they almost never hold up to whatever pedestal you put them on once upon a time (see: Neverending Story).

Still, the nostalgia crept in—hard.

Before I knew it, I found myself watching the pilot episode of Clarissa, then Ally. I stopped both before I reached the end. It just wasn’t right.

Then I clicked “play” on the first episode of Felicity.

Friends, in so many ways Felicity is a product of a by-gone era. It’s a reflection of those terrible years when grunge and prep had battled it out, and something much more bland and baggy took its place.

I was in middle school and high school during its broadcast, a hopeless romantic thriving on some unknown element of teenage hormones. I was ardently #TeamNoel—his only competition being Dawson. I fell deep and hard for nerds, and romantic nerds at that, and he came to represent so much of the “nice guy” I wanted in a boyfriend.

I didn’t have my own television, so I watched the show in our living room with my mom, making my teenage longings for the boy on the TV squishy and uncomfortable. I dreamed of college, of attending a school like NYU, of studying literature and having sophisticated, complicated friends.

Watching Felicity as an adult has been interesting. It’s directed and co-created by J.J. Abrams, who would later gain fame as the co-creator of Lost (among many other things). The show’s portrayal of relationships and friendships is sweet, but rife with unnecessary drama. It’s depiction of college is largely unrealistic—including the massive dorm rooms with full-size beds—though they get a lot of credit for having hard conversations about money, credit cards and loans. At least three of the characters have jobs to help pay for college. It lacks any real diversity beyond a token black character, from a feminist lens, the show hardly passes the Bechdel test.

My issue with Felicity is the central relationships between Ben, Noel and Felicity. As David points out, Noel exists to whine, his neediness is unbearable. Ben’s insecurities and blatant stupidity make him uninteresting; he doesn’t fall into these problems so much as dive in, head first.

And Felicity? Well, I have to admit I find her rather vanilla.

Yet, in the end there is something I still find comforting in their stories. When I was 13, the idea of college was as foreign as a place called Northern Virginia. I was a girl growing up in a world that felt all wrong for my aspirations, and Felicity was a window to the future, a future where I could be as quietly ambitious as its main character.

As I finish out the first season, I’m grateful for this little window back in time. To remember what it felt like to be a young girl, hopelessly optimistic about the future, untethered by heartbreak, expectant that with hard work and enough luck, my world could look like theirs one day. And to be an adult who would learn that all of those things were true.

I never saw the last season of Felicity, and I don’t plan to watch it now, either. I remember at some point the story fell flat and I lost interest, replacing it with whatever new show was on the CW that week. I never learned if she went for Ben or Noel; teenage me would have surely hoped for the latter. But adult me? Adult me hopes that maybe, instead, she found that being with herself was exactly enough.

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