Archive for July, 2011

How To Be A Recluse

Such a relief, I think, to realize that I’m not a person that needs to go out every weekend. Now I can be who I was meant to be all my life: a recluse! A never-going-out, holing-up-at-home-with-loved-ones, marathon-book-reading person. Despite my predilection for rambling walks, I don’t stalk the moors in a tempest of emotional broodiness, though. I’m not entirely sheltered from the world, lost in a reality of my own invention. (Okay, that’s not true: I kind of do exist in a parallel nether-reality often, but it’s in my own head since that is where my characters currently live.) I am in the world! I am living life! I read The New Yorker! I just do it all in a more eccentric, INFJ/P way. It is not normal, but it is more me.

But the notion of a recluse is strange these days, I admit, especially when everyone is so Internet-on and social-networked. Everyone is like, “Kat, what are you doing? Aren’t you going crazy? Where have you been?” To which I answer: I am here, I am doing things like writing books and making a living, and I have been to lots of places, but most of them are not bars, clubs, restaurants, or other socializing type of things. Life is still full and interesting, but it requires more effort, and a different set of rules. Hence:

You still must dress nice. It is too easy to just wear workout clothes, or yoga clothes, or just pajamas all the time. This is not right, especially when you have a closet full of nice things to wear. Dresses! Lipstick! Accoutrements of glamour! Of course, my notion of glamour is slightly off, and I’ve defaulted to a kind of punk-nerdish tomboyish style, with small anime touches of lipstick and accessories. Recluse status has made me fashion-lazy. There is also nothing to buy here. But my savings are beautiful!

You maybe shouldn’t be a recluse unless there’s a big thing you’re working on. In my case: a book. An endlessly-being-revised book. I HAVE to be a recluse to get this thing done. There is no other way right now. If I didn’t have a Big Project, what would I be doing with my time?

Being older is the best excuse to be reclusive. I have become one of those older humans who do not go out anymore. I like to think of it as rare public appearances. As in, “I’m making a rare appearance at the bowling alley tonight.” But also: energy and attention and time are my most valuable resources, and I must use them wisely.

You must still do fun things. In my case: winning money on riverboat casinos, riding horses, rocking “Straight Up” on Dance Central, making dinners, watching Jim Jarmusch movies, cooking things, partying with three-year-olds who are related to you. Never going out hasn’t blunted curiosity or a desire for new experiences, I just seek them in other ways.

You shouldn’t live in a city where a major part of its value is what’s outside your front door. This is partly why I knew I shouldn’t be living in NYC for the time being. Why am I paying near $1,000 in rent to stay inside my apartment all the time? It made no sense, and being a deeply practical Midwesterner on some level, this was not acceptable. Maybe this will change. Maybe this will not. It is hard to say right now. I know myself to know that my “phases” can last a few years, and then I phase out into something else for another few years.

The only thing is that I don’t see my friends as much. But my friends live everywhere: London, Lisbon, New York, Australia, Chicago, L.A., Abidjan, Montreal. It’s like IMPOSSIBLE to see them! But I have to confess that everyone’s lives feel so full as well, with babies and husbands and wives and families and careers and crises, that it feels OK to drop off someone’s To-Do list. It is almost the best thing I could do for them, because the last thing I want to do is be yet another obligation for someone to have to check off. Reclusivity as an act of love?

Strangely, I remember witnessing this pattern through my parents as a child. When I was quite young, I remember their circle of friends, the lively gatherings that began on Saturday afternoons and went into late nights, drinking beer on the porch as the various little ones played soccer in the yard and then watched kung-fu movies in the evening. But the little ones got bigger, and the parents got busier, and those gatherings became fewer and fewer.

It is an inverse of my 20s, where friends are your life and line. This is the thing about olderness: the “projects” get bigger, your arrows of your honor pull more weight and speed, and all that is not essential drops away. As I get deeper in my 30s, it is something else entirely: true passions, family, sense of purpose, edged with mortality and the soft sorrow that everything is so fleeting.

(Right now I’m writing this in the middle of a thunderstorm, with a mug of tea, and it feels so recluse-y!)


Just a few beautiful things lately: if you haven’t checked it out already, the lovely Erica L. Scheidt at Royal Quiet Deluxe interviewed me on my novel! If you want to know more about my book, please do check it out. I can’t wait for Erica’s own book to come out next year. I think it is going to be amazing; it is already picking up awards!

And the novel: I’m reworking the beginning. I keep meaning to release the first chapter or two, but it’s “just not there” in the way I want it. I worked so hard on the 2nd half of the book that now I have to get the beginning up to scratch. But it’s coming!

Diversions and detours

Snack shack.Beach towels.At the water park.

This past weekend was an archetypal summerific one, full of pools and water parks, shaved ice the color of crayons, midnight rides with wind in the air. I submerged myself in ice-cold water and memories of my first major crush on a lifeguard at the local pool, who looked like a teenaged Lorenzo Lamas from “Falcon Crest.” Oh, the glory of the 80s, indeed. Even the music was similar, the water park blasting Duran Duran at regular intervals as we waited in line to ride crazily convoluted water slides that encapsulated fear and thrill in one twisting ride.

The book is being written, and re-written, and then written again. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever stop writing itself. Just as the end is in sight, gasp, sigh, there’s something new to be reworked. In this case, the beginning, always the beginning, right? It’s been almost a year since I seriously started writing this baby. And it is a baby, kicking and screaming and demanding its own self in the world. Naturally realizations happen just when I think it is all done. I’m starting to think this is my own last-bit-before-the-third-act, that acceleration of plot and climax. I hope it is! Or is this just the writer’s version of stage fright?

Things I Know, Things I Love, Things I Need to Learn (Part I)

This magic wand will make all my birthday wishes come true!

It was my birthday on Monday! It was a lovely day: I had dinner with loved ones, was gifted a funny little cake with a tiara and a magic wand on it to make wishes come true (the whipped frosting was also delicious), and then we lit sparklers and fireworks at night. (This is the best thing about having a birthday near the 4th of July: rampant sparkler lighting.)

At the end of the day — smelling of a hot bath with lavender, sleepy-eyed and reflective — I thought about everything I have learned in life, everything I have come to love and everything I need to learn. These are some of the thoughts. Not one for each year, but a lifetime can be found in one pearl. This is my Tiny Guide to Life, I suppose.

YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL — BUT MAYBE NOT ALL AT ONCE. When I’m faced with planning a day in which I can do a million different things, I choose the one I will savor the most and not worry so hard about the rest of it. And why would you want to cram it all in? It’s like a delicious meal: why shovel it all in your mouth and miss out on the exquisiteness of each flavor? Everything has its own season. Choose your lovers, words, To-Do list items, friends, moments, projects, sensations wisely, and savor them well. Time — its limits, its generosity — is the best teacher.

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” It seems so true, considering the direction I’m going in my work, that something from Harry Potter would become part of my Tiny Guide to Life. The best things in life need cultivating, and things like love, friendship, true work and home benefit best from steady attention and affection — you can’t take anything for granted. Just a little bit everyday. The garden approach versus the heroic gesture. This is also the best writing advice I have ever gotten as well: a little bit each day can grow into something beautiful.

SEE WITH YOUR HEART, NOT JUST WITH YOUR EYES. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” — from The Little Prince.

COMMIT TO QUALITY AND IT WILL COMMIT TO YOU. What is true of closets is also true of romance, of friendship, of life. If you do not insist for the best for yourself, then how can anyone else insist upon it for you? You must be your own champion.

IT IS WORTH IT TO FILL OCEANS WITH GRATITUDE, LAUGHTER, GLAMOUR AND THANKS. The practice of enumerating your blessings and making them beautiful will change your life. This isn’t just “positivity,” but always being aware of what gifts have been bestowed upon you or earned by you, even in the middle of self-pity, self-loathing, true sadness and minor yet persistent angst. What will you fill the sea with? It is yours to fill.

And the one piece of consumer advice that has stuck with me (because I am practical on some level after all):

YOU CAN HAVE THINGS FAST, CHEAP OR HIGH QUALITY, BUT YOU CAN ONLY TRULY HAVE TWO OUT OF THREE. Three, of course, is the dream, but that never works out, really. You can something fast or cheap, but it won’t be high quality; cheap and high-quality, but it won’t be fast; high-quality and fast, but it won’t be cheap. Anyone selling you something that is all three is most likely a charlatan, or there is some serious exploitation going on. I actually learned this in a film production class during grad school about buying and renting goods and services, and I’ve found it to be incredibly true and helpful going forward in life in terms of “stuff” in general. And now I pass it onto you.

More musings on loved things and learning things to come (it takes such a long time to muse!), but until then, have a sparkling weekend!
xo k.