How Something Really Bad Can Turn Into Something Really Good–Oh, and Holy Shit, I Met Maxwell!

9 Jun

Maxwell GAP ad

Maxwell in an ad for The GAP

Last week I was racing across the street in flip-flops when, before I could stop it, my left foot landed on a pulverized rat. This was upsetting. Standing on the curb taking deep breaths, I decided to turn around and take a second look. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

Closer inspection revealed that I did indeed just step in rat guts with nothing more than a thin flip-flopped sole between me and them. Trying to stifle my gag reflex, I peered down at what had once been a rat but was now just a flattened layer of mush pressed into the concrete, a tail and one foot the only discernible features that remained.

Walking away, I tried to convince myself that this was not a big deal. Maybe I’d actually only grazed a sliver of the rat, or missed it entirely. A few blocks later I gathered the courage to look at the bottom of my shoe. There was black gunk on the upper left corner, and some reaching up along the left side of my shoe, centimeters from my bare pinky toe.

Not a big deal, not a big deal, I thought as I practiced Lamaze breathing. But I knew that there was no amount of scrubbing and disinfecting I could do that would make me feel OK about stepping foot back into my apartment in these shoes. However microscopic, I would never step soundly again knowing there could be rat entrails on my floor.

I looked down at my flip-flops. I loved these flip-flops. I’d gotten them at The GAP last summer so they probably didn’t carry them anymore. They were super-comfortable and the perfect neutral shade to go with everything. And I was super-broke and not excited about shelling out money for any unanticipated expenses. But the ratty flip-flops had to go.

On my way to meet a friend for coffee, I thought about cancelling and immediately heading to The GAP for my replacement. But he was going through a hard time and needed my help so I felt like I had to show up. I spent an hour with my friend, silently praying that I wasn’t at that very moment contracting the Bubonic plague. I’d planned to go to an event afterwards, but there was no way I could sit through even another five minutes with this rat on my foot, so I changed my plan and walked in the opposite direction towards the closest GAP.

Why does this shit always happen to me? I thought. Who the fuck ever steps in a smooshed rat?!? It wasn’t enough to feel sorry for myself on my own, so I called a friend.

“I’m on the way to buy new shoes,” I said. “Because I just stepped in a fucking rat!!!”

Which was when I walked past a guy who looked a lot like my favorite singer, Maxwell, but it was kind of hard to tell because he had a full beard and was wearing a baseball cap. I smiled, and he smiled back.

I kept walking, but I had to take one more look to make sure so I turned around. He was looking at me (checking me out?), AND IT WAS TOTALLY HIM!

“Gotta go, bye!” I said to my friend, hanging up. She texted me right away, “Feel better, the Universe just wants you to have new shoes!”

“The Universe just wants me to meet Maxwell!” I wanted to text back, but I had more pressing things to attend to first.

“Maxwell?” I asked, and he nodded yes.

“This is so crazy. I was just buying shoes,” he said, nodding at the shopping bags in his hands. “I can’t believe you recognized me.”

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!

“I’m Max,” he said, reaching out his hand.

Holyshitholyshitholyshit!

“I’m Jen,” I said, shaking his hand.

Let me semi-digress for a moment here to say that if I could meet one person in the whole entire world, it would be Maxwell. That I’ve been very vocal about my love for him for a long time (as evidenced in this, this, and this blog post), and went through a brief period in 2009 where I proactively hoped I’d meet him.

I was shaking and totally overwhelmed so I said, “I can’t believe this! I’m shaking! I’m so overwhelmed!”

He stood there smiling as I traced my love for him through the years, beginning when my first roommate in New York City introduced to me to Urban Hang Suite in 1998 to the present. Some highlights included when I took a half-vacation day from work three years ago to see him perform on a morning television show and told my boss I was taking a “Maxwell Half-Day;” how I went to see him in concert at Madison Square Garden by myself because none of my friends would go with me, and in the elevator at home that night I ran into my neighbor who was coming back from that same concert and I discovered that another die-hard Maxwell fan lived a mere four doors down from me; and how I listened to his music in my cube so much at an old job that whenever I came back from being on vacation, if an issue of TIME or People Magazine had come out while I was gone with an article about Maxwell in it, my boss and coworkers would leave a copy of it on my chair. I talk fast, so I was able to cover 14 years’ worth of stories in a relatively short period of time.

Me and Maxwell“You made my day, you made my day,” Maxwell kept saying, and hugging me. Multiple times. Needless to say, I no longer cared that I was standing in rat.

“I put your songs on so many uplifting playlists!” I said, clutching my heart. “Your music has brought me so much joy!”

“You made my day,” he said, and hugged me. Again.

After Max and I parted ways, I found my way to The GAP in my post-Maxwell haze. I couldn’t believe that they had the exact same style and color as my beloved flip-flops, circa 2011–the second miracle of the night! Unfortunately, they didn’t have my size, so they directed me to the GAP on 5th Avenue which allegedly would.

Walking into the second store, I pointed to my feet. “Where are these flip-flips?” I asked a woman who worked there.

“We don’t have those,” she said.

“But the GAP I just went to said you’d have them in stock here.”

“This is Bebe,” she said.

“Oh! I’m so sorry! I just met Maxwell!” I said, by way of explanation.

“I LOVE MAXWELL!!!!” she squealed. “I walked by him once but I would have had to leave my little brother in the middle of the street in oncoming traffic to say hi to him so…I didn’t,” she said, with a look of remorse that conveyed this had been a difficult decision, and she wasn’t sure she’d made the right choice.

“He’s my husband!” she exclaimed.

“Mine, too!”

Our sisterhood cemented, we hugged goodbye and she wished me luck finding my shoes.

Then I stumbled into the actual GAP a few doors down, and while they didn’t have my size either, they assured me that their Chelsea location would. That was the next stop on my shoe mission, and I found flip-flops in the exact color, style, and size to replicate my beloved pair. And–miracle number three!–they were on sale for only ten dollars! I put them on right away, and tossed my contaminated pair in the nearest trash can.

As soon as I got home, I called a friend to give her the play-by-play of my night.

“The best part of that story is the rat!” she said laughing.

Having lived through it, I was pretty sure the best part was Maxwell.

“We give thanks for the rat who gave his life,” she said solemnly.

“–so that I could meet Maxwell,” I finished.

*******************************

Stepping in a pulverized rat on a New York City street is an unbelievably crazy bad thing that is almost statistically impossible. Running into Maxwell on a New York City street is an unbelievably crazy good thing that is almost statistically impossible. Which just goes to show you, sometimes a terrible thing can change your course and put you in exactly the right place for a wonderful thing that you would have never experienced had you not had rat guts on your foot.

The catch is, to fully experience the miracles that can unfold and surprise you in life, you can’t get attached and expect them. You just have to be present to what is, present enough to notice when you walk by Maxwell in a full beard and a baseball cap. And not get attached to the bad things either, feeling sorry for yourself and lamenting why they happened. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle,” and I’d amend that to be, “Don’t give up five minutes before you meet Maxwell.”

So sometimes, when an unbelievably terrible thing happens, an unbelievably amazing thing could be right around the corner if you just keep your head up, and keep walking.

Going Home

31 May

Train station

I went home to visit my parents in the small suburban town I grew up in this past weekend. On Sunday, my Mom and I planned to go out to lunch at a tiny cafe on one of the two streets that comprise the downtown area. She told me that the Memorial Day Parade was going to be going on, and I was annoyed.

“I don’t want to get trapped downtown,” I said, worrying that the parade and its blocked off roads would mean her car would get stuck in its parking spot. “Trapped” may have been extreme and “downtown” an exaggeration given that it was only a five-minute walk from her house, but I had an agenda and I didn’t want to waste time: it was lunch with my Mom, then a quick dash to a nearby town for a mandatory Starbucks run, and then dinner at my Dad and Stepmom’s. Also, I was taking advantage of the luxury of suburban home washer/dryers and wanted to squeeze in a couple loads of laundry in between Starbucks and dinner.

While we were eating lunch, the parade started to go by in front of the restaurant we were at, and I kind of half paid attention and half didn’t. Afterwards, as we walked outside and were heading to her car, a group of bagpipers and drummers marched by. Entranced by the music and the beat of the drums, I told my Mom to stop, and that I wanted to stay and watch the parade for a little while. It was mesmerizing, looking the musicians and then the people driving by in convertibles and fire engines, honking and waving, and I got caught up in it, cheering for the police and firemen. We saw the father of one of the kids from my toddler playgroup who I grew up with standing at the side of the road, and said hi.

“The parade used to be bigger,” my Mom remarked, “and there used to be more of a crowd.”

I glanced around at the sparse bystanders and remembered being a little kid, and the Memorial Day Parade being a huge deal. I remembered the year it was the biggest deal of all, when I was four-years-old and in the parade with two of my nursery school buddies, wearing a brown dress with flowers on it and a floppy matching bonnet, drifting down the street in a baby blue convertible with a Co-Op Nursery School sign hanging over the side, smiling and waving to the crowd.

And other years, watching the cheerleaders and dance team march by to the beat of the high school band, wearing the coolest short shorts ever with yellow jackets, the school mascot, embroidered on the butt. Dreaming of the day I’d be a cheerleader, or on the dance team, marching in the parade in my own yellow jacket short shorts.

“Jenny Garam!” someone yelled, and I snapped back into today to see one of the firemen in the parade waving at me. It was a guy I went to high school with who was a few years older than me, and I smiled and waved back. I felt at home, and comforted by being from a small town where even though I hadn’t lived here for almost 20 years, someone in the parade still knew who I was, shouted my name, and waved.

It reminded me that I’m more than who I think I am right now. I’m bigger and more expansive than my worries, disappointments, struggles, and fears–worries about being broke and what actions I should take, disappointments from all the personal and professional rejections and life not turning out how I’d hoped or planned or assumed it would for me, struggles to make ends meet, pursue a creative path, cope with my obsessive thoughts, grasp onto shreds of serenity, and fears about what’s going to happen (or go wrong) next. I have this whole history, and memories, and hopes and dreams from when I was a child and teenager that are still alive in me somewhere, as much as they get drowned out in my day-to-day, 36-year-old, Brooklyn life.

I have all these other experiences and stories that look very different from my life now. As the fireman walked by waving, memories of when I knew him 20 years ago flashed into my mind. How daring I used to be, the crazy parties I went to and all the drinking I did. These days my life is a lot tamer, and usually too tame–I rarely drink which isn’t a problem, but I barely go out, which is. And I’m never the last person at the bar with the craziest stories of all anymore; I’m the first person to go home who hears about the stories the next day.

Thinking back to who I used to be, I remembered hanging out in the firehouse late one night with a group of guys, some of whom were volunteer firefighters, when one of them accidentally set off the fire alarm. The big, loud one. I remembered a substitute teacher from my high school who lived next door rushing in, angry and appalled. I remembered how soon afterwards, I learned that my town’s Fire Chief called a fire department meeting to address “the underage girl drinking in the firehouse,” and how I was mostly mortified, but also a little bit proud of my infamy.

I have this storyline that I was unpopular in high school, cast out, rejected, and alone. That I was invisible and didn’t matter. This is part of a larger narrative that goes, I’m still invisible, I still don’t matter. Except it wasn’t true when I was growing up; for most of my life my inner reality has been very different from my outer reality, and I can’t seem to make them match up. The fireman I went to high school with, shouting my name from the ranks of the parade, reminded me that I wasn’t invisible then. And that reminded me that my overarching storyline isn’t true today either–I’m actually not invisible now, and I do matter.

After the parade, I went to Starbucks. On the drive home, I wound my way through the hilly streets, past the house I grew up in that my Mom moved out of 14 years ago, past my high school best friends’ houses, past my high school, the parks, and the homes I used to walk by every day. I skipped doing laundry and relaxed, opting for a Real Housewives marathon instead. I hopped off my speeding agenda, and slowed down. I can do this when I go home in ways that I can never even come close to in grown-up life, in Brooklyn.

Every time I go home, I feel like I’m on some kind of excavation mission, unearthing shiny parts of myself that got covered up and clouded over with rushing and stressing and loss. Going home, I feel, finally, separate from the things that weigh me down daily. I feel at home and, at last, like me.

I Want to Believe Again, Or Why I’m Ready to Go Back to Self-Help

15 May

Self-help books

I used to believe. Like really believe. In self-help. I read self-help books, took classes and seminars, recited affirmations, wrote daily gratitude lists, made and listened to inspirational playlists, and much, much more. Until, one fateful October night two and half years ago, I overdosed on self-help and had a total meltdown.

I joke with a friend that this was what my life used to be like: me, crying in heap on my floor, wearing ripped pajamas and surrounded by self-help books. But it’s not so much of a joke; that kind of actually is what my life used to be like. I worked really really really hard via every self-help avenue available to me to improve my life. But after years, I was still a broke, date-less, depressed administrative assistant, plus I was exhausted from compulsively reading about how everyone else was rising up out of their Dark Nights of the Soul to transform their lives and achieve greatness, and depleted from all the exercises and activities that were supposed to help me do the same. Except I seemed to be permanently stuck in my Dark Night of the Soul.

Sick of lying in a crying heap on my floor, I did the only thing I could–I shunned the self-help that had done me so wrong. I stopped perusing the Self Improvement section at Barnes & Noble, and if I accidentally caught a glimpse of some stylish, smiling, smug self-proclaimed guru who had it alllllllll together on the cover of some cheerful book promising me 5 easy steps to a new, improved me, I shuddered and turned away as fast as possible.

My gratitude lists had become an exercise in OCD and Compare and Despair. At the height of my gratitude, I wrote out 40-50 things I was grateful for a day, emailed my list to about 40 women, and received daily lists back from most of them. While I desperately wanted to be not-single, not-broke, not living in a studio apartment, and not an administrative assistant, I’d read others’ gratitude lists about the thoughtful things their husbands did for them, or how much they were enjoying a new duplex or phenomenal career success, and get plunged into a deep depression about how much of a failure I was. As part of my self-help detox, I gratefully abstained from writing and reading gratitude lists.

Earlier this year, someone invited me to join an email gratitude group. I had to decline, and explain my gratitude list trauma. Last month a friend told me that she was thinking of throwing a vision board party and asked if I’d be interested in going.

“Thanks for asking,” I replied, “but I’m recovering from an addiction to self-help so I can’t really collage.”

But here’s the thing. Before self-help failed me so miserably, it used to work. That’s why I believed in it. And it felt so good and hopeful to believe. Before my gratitude lists spiraled out of control, they brought me joy, and made me feel connected to and supported by the women I exchanged them with. To acknowledge what I was grateful for, to hope that things can be different, better, not always so hard, to have a vision and believe that it can come true, is an amazing thing. Before self-help made me feel like a complete failure as a human being for not being further along, having this kind of belief and hope had initially helped me enjoy my life as it was, and also brought more good things to me, which then made me feel even more hopeful and joyful.

After my self-help overdose, I threw the baby out with the bath water. I became so averse to all things self-help, and the expansiveness I used to have, pre-meltdown, contracted into cynicism and thinking that everything was nauseating bullshit. But now, two and half years later, I’m ready to shed that cynicism. I’ve been craving the hope and possibility that belief brings.

I recently picked up a scrapbook I made seven years ago during my self-help heyday. It was overflowing with my lists and visions and collages and dreams. Tentatively, I flipped through the pages. Some things in my vision had miraculously come true, like being a writer who writes for websites and magazines about the exact topics I write about today: dating, yoga, and spirituality. Some of the things in my vision had not (see: husband, child, brownstone, abundant bank account balance). In all fairness, though, it was a 10 year vision; I still have three years left to manifest the rest, so check back with me in 2015.

Page after page, whether they contained parts of my vision that have materialized or pieces of it that went by the wayside, my 29-year-old enthusiasm, hope, and belief leapt out at me at every turn. Holding the book in my lap, I felt like even though that hopeful girl may have been lost for the past several years, she still existed somewhere within me and I could find her again.

I also felt like parts of the scrapbook were somewhat hyper and manic. If I resurrect the me who believes in self-help, I’d have to do it differently today, with some discernment. Maybe I lost the all-encompassing, absolute belief of my younger days, but that’s what led me into destructive magical thinking. Instead, now I’d want to have a belief that’s more grounded and stable, that won’t mutate into desperation and despair, that won’t leave me crying in a heap on my floor.

Last month, after a long period (years?) of constantly ruminating about everything that did or would go wrong and stewing in catastrophic thinking, I felt compelled to start focusing on things I was grateful for. In list form. I started small, taking a baby step back into gratitude, sending my daily list of only about 10 things I’m grateful for to one friend who sends me her list in return. It felt so good to sit at my computer first thing in the morning and write my list. Like returning to an old friend. Who’d I’d forgiven for betraying me. No hard feelings. Maybe I’ll expand my list to include more things or more people, but for now, this feels right.

Last week, my friend who’d mentioned her vision board party sent out an email confirming the date. And I said yes! I even volunteered to make the inspirational playlist for the party! This feels good and right, too. After being so skittish about self-help for so long, I can’t believe I’m actually going to be collaging my vision again, and I really can’t believe how excited I am about the party and my playlist (I’m accepting any song suggestions in the comments below).

There are still some things about self-help that make me want to barf. Like those books with their extravagant promises (provided you do all the exercises and follow all the tips) that convey the message that you’re not good enough as you are and have to DO this, that, and the other thing to have more and be better. Like the stylish, smiling, smug self-proclaimed gurus raving about how AMAZING their lives are and that (for several thousand dollars), yours can be, too!

But I don’t have to throw it all out. Because other things about self-help, like the hope, enthusiasm, energy, and optimism it can provide, bring me joy. I’m finally ready, in my own grounded way, to welcome it back into my life. To write gratitude lists. To collage. To make the playlists and read the books. I’m finally ready to believe again.

Release Obstacles WRITE NOW Writing Workshop on June 9th!

7 May

I’m teaching a Writeous Chicks one-day writing workshop for women on Saturday, June 9th! Release Obstacles WRITE NOW! will take place from 1:00pm – 4:30pm in Midtown Manhattan, and I am offering an Early Chick Registration Discount if you sign up before May 23rd. This workshop will focus on breaking through blocks in your writing and your life, using your obstacles to spark your creativity, and finding your voice.

Click here for more information.

Saying I’m a Writer

30 Apr

Nine years ago, I wrote one of my first published articles about a musician for a major magazine, and I was invited to the photo shoot. Sitting there, I excitedly watched the glamorous goings-on and chatted with other people on set when someone asked me what I did. I wrote the article. That the photos were being taken for. That’s why I was there. But instead of saying, “I wrote this article,” or even, “I’m a writer,” I said, “I wait tables. And I temp.”

“Why couldn’t I say, ‘I wrote the article!’?” I lamented to my therapist that week. And I knew this was something I had to work on.

Over the next several years, I worked as an administrative assistant in publishing as my day job while I continued to write on the side, and then I started my own business teaching writing classes. So I wrote, and I taught, and when people asked me what I did–or when my students asked me what I did–I could sometimes say, “I’m a writer and teacher.” Sometimes. But when I did, I felt like I was lying. So sometimes I bit my tongue and just forced myself to leave it at that. And other times I felt like I had to say, “But really I’m an administrative assistant.”

After years of living the parallel lives of assistant by day, writer and teacher by night, my careers finally collided and I got my first job as an editor. I’d been in the publishing industry for so long, but had always felt like I was on the sidelines. Instead of filing expenses reports and making copies, I’d longed to be an editor, to go to edit meetings, to sit around a table drinking coffee and discussing editorial ideas. I was finally doing it, and it felt like a dream come true.

By then, I had a different therapist, but she was well-versed in my insecurities. When I got this job, she told me I had to go places where people would ask me what I do so I could say, “I’m a writer and editor.”

A few weeks into my new job, I was at Pret on my lunch break. As I was perusing the sandwiches and trying to decide which one to buy, I ran into a woman I knew from high school and a woman I knew from college who happened to know each other and be having lunch together at Pret. They told me that they were lawyers and worked at the same firm, and asked me what I did.

“I work next door,” I said, nodding towards the publishing building. And left it at that.

“I missed my chance!” I said to my therapist that week. “‘I work next door??? That could mean anything! Doing what–washing windows?!”

Soon after, I was writing a freelance article for my favorite website one Sunday, and decided to take a break and get a cheeseburger at my favorite neighborhood burger joint. I usually chatted with the manager when I was there, and on this particular day she happened to ask me, “What do you do?”

Since I was spending the day writing an article I said, “I’m a writer,” and then, for practice, threw in, “And an editor.”

“That’s so cool!” she exclaimed. “What are you writing?”

“Today I’m writing an article for my favorite website,” I said.

“SO COOL!” she replied.

Yeah. It is, isn’t it?

So now, NINE YEARS AFTER my first published article, I can say, happily, proudly, “I’m a writer.” I can say it and not feel like I’m lying. I can say it and leave it at that. I can say it know that it’s true. That I belong–at the photo shoots, in the edit meetings–because that’s what I do. I write. I’m a writer.

Are you a writer but can’t say it? Why do you think it’s so hard to say, “I’m a writer”?

Don’t Water It Down

10 Oct

Water glass
When I write something, I usually don’t publish it right away. I sit with it for a little bit, during which time I edit it, and generally try to make it better. And also: I feel afraid and worry. In the uncensored writing of my first draft, did I express any particularly strong opinions? Did I take a stand for or against something? Possibly come off as sarcastic, harsh or worst of all, angry or mean? Say anything that could potentially offend anyone I’ve ever known or could one day meet?

Then, during my process of adding commas and correcting misspellings, I go about diluting strong opinions that slipped in. I soften rough edges. I add very balanced and diplomatic explanations of comments that could be perceived as me being for or against something. I take out parts that seem sarcastic, harsh, angry and/or mean, and replace them with things that make me sound nice, cute, and likeable, so that everyone will like me.

Predictably, what all this watering down does, is weaken my writing. So then, with my stomach twisted into knots, I proceed to go over the piece again and drain the water, adding back what I took out, strengthening my opinions and sharpening up the edges. Because really, I’m not writing to hide who I am behind balanced, diplomatic, couldn’t-possibly-offend-anyone-ever-for-all-time diluted words, and to worry about what other people I may or may not know think of me. I’m writing to show who I am, really. To express what I think and feel. And to actually say something. Which is, a lot of the time, pretty terrifying.

So once my writing is returned to it’s straight up version, I take a deep breath. And then I click Publish.

My Hurricane Irene Recap

28 Aug

Post-Hurricane Irene in BrooklynI didn’t feel the earthquake last week, and I was completely ignoring everything about Hurricane Irene. I just thought that by the time it hit New York, all it would amount to was heavy-ish wind and rain. I was even planning to go to yoga in Manhattan on Sunday, thinking that it would be cozy to be inside in class as the rain and wind swirled outside. And so, I totally tuned out all news of all things Irene.

Until Friday morning. When I was leaving my apartment I ran into my neighbor who told me that our local Key Food was sold out of water. Then at work, I started seeing pictures of the storm system and how big it was, and heard that it was “the size of Arizona.” And my co-worker who is from Florida told me that the reason you need gallons of water is so you can flush the toilet if your water supply goes out. So I made plans to do some hurricane preparation shopping after work.

First, I stopped at the Duane Reade near my office, assuming that Manhattan stores would be better stocked than the ones in Brooklyn. They still had plenty of water, but they were already sold out of flashlight batteries. Then I headed home to Brooklyn to get rain boots. Another co-worker had pointed out, “If there’s a hurricane, boots aren’t going to help you,” but I was more thinking that if the streets remained flooded afterwards, I didn’t want to be stranded in my apartment for days with nothing more waterproof than Converse.

I was hoping that the bigger Key Food farther away from where I lived wouldn’t be sold out like the one near me, so that was my next stop. But when I arrived, Hurricane Irene seemed like even more serious of a threat. I got the last grocery cart, which two people then tried to wrestle away from me. The bread shelf was totally empty. There was no more skim milk. And they, too, were sold out of batteries. I got non-perishable food and the Glade candle that smelled the least bad and stood on line, when a voice came over the loudspeaker, “Cashiers, thanks for rocking it today! It’s been busy and you’ve been doing a great job, and we’re gonna keep it going ’til the break of dawn!” which united all the customers in laughter, who had only moments before been trying to steal grocery carts from each other (me). Trudging home, I sustained hurricane injuries 24 hours before the storm was due to hit from carrying heavy grocery bags so much farther than usual: a muscle that felt pulled in my left arm, and big bruises on both legs where the bags hit with every step.

The only thing I hadn’t been able to find was batteries, and when I got to my building, a neighbor I’d never seen before was in the lobby. Like a battery angel, she asked me if I needed some, and gave me her extras.

My last stop was Starbucks to get decaf coffee beans ground because I did not want to go through forced withdrawal during a natural disaster. Since they were going to be closed for two days they were giving away tons of free food, and I got enough reduced-fat coffee cake to last a week.

On Saturday, my uncle called to say that he wasn’t worried about me surviving the storm, he was worried about me surviving Starbucks being closed for the weekend. Then I made one last trip to a (non-corporate) coffee shop, and hunkered down for the duration.

Despite my plans to watch the Netflix I’ve had out for eight months and organize my finances (perhaps cancelling Netflix would be a sound financial decision), I got sucked into watching six hours of hurricane coverage. The last news I saw at 11pm before going to sleep was to brace for the storm which would arrive overnight, the worst would hit between 8am and 10am, and it was slow-moving so it would be over us all day. When I woke up in the morning, it was all over.

Hurricane Irene was a lot like I remember Hurricane Gloria: a lot of hype, watching hours of hurricane coverage on the news with my family (though this time I was watching it while on the phone with them), and then it passed without much fanfare. After Hurricane Gloria, I walked around my yard taking pictures of fallen tree branches for my fifth grade photography class, and today I walked around my neighborhood taking pictures of fallen tree branches for my blog. After Hurricane Gloria was over I went to the birthday party of a girl in my class, and today I ventured out to find an open coffee shop (which I did!), and without subway service to Manhattan, went to a Brooklyn post-hurricane yoga class that was much-needed, since I’m still sore from carrying hurricane supplies and sitting in front of the TV for so many hours.

Today I have more canned food on my shelves than I would care to eat, a really stinky Glade candle smelling up my apartment, enough water to flush a toilet, and I have to put my AC back in, because I figured that having it in was like having your window open during a hurricane. But I’m from Westchester and I heard from my Dad that the Hudson River overflowed and there is a lot of damage in his town, not to mention all the other places that were severely impacted. So while I don’t know how long I can eat canned tuna and I’m questioning the practicality of my radio battery purchase, I’m thankful that I was prepared but didn’t need to be, and only faced minor inconvenience and not major devastation.