While the world burns.
Yesterday was Blue Monday, otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year. The day is a calculation of a number of factors, including the weather, days since the holidays, aggregate debt levels, time since Christmas and time since we failed our resolutions. It is also the day where people feel the loneliest. It also marks the beginning of Obama’s last week as president, the week our hope came to die, the beginning of the rise of our very own Reich. It is the week before major meetings I am running in London and a week after returning from another long haul to SF. Needless to say, yesterday was the culmination of a very intense week. All of this to say I apologize for my absence.
I wanted to write today about something that has been on my mind this weekend, and that is the concept of feeling known.
Two years ago, I was going through a catastrophic time at work – a massive initiative I had built with my own hands was unapologetically torn out of my hands and handed to a colleague with an uncomfortably close relationship with our CEO. I had to stand on stage before the entire company and peacefully transition it to her; needless to say I had never felt more humiliated, distraught or betrayed in my entire life. Everyone around me tried and failed at their sympathy; they would never know what it felt like to have something torn from your because you were seen as too defiant, too vocal, too much of an individual working in what amounted to a dictatorship. I did the only thing I could do and booked tickets to spend a week in Dubai with my dearest friends. And over dinner there as I was recounting what had happened and my utter despair, my friend J turned to me, surprised. “Your intelligence and your career are the least defining things about you,” he said, which was a revelation to me. “The people in your life love you because you are full of life- always easy to laugh and eager to explore and eager to dance and enjoy. And that energy is electric and addictive to those around you. That is what you need to remember.” And I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks through the smiles- the thank yous- because I always reduce myself to the most common denominator. I don’t see who I am or how my friends or family view me, and it is more often than not the cause of my despair. I don’t have to be the smartest all the time, and no one cares if I am anyway. That was incredibly freeing for me.
Another moment that I will never forget in my entire life was my best friend’s speech at our Rehearsal Dinner this August. She spoke of my contradictions- my old soul and young heart, my love for classical music and Kanye, celebrated literature and celebrity gossip alike, my love for travel and home, my adoration to my nieces and nephews and my cutting words and enveloping hugs. I was blown away by her ability to describe me; she made me feel more known than I ever have in my life. To a child who grows up as a “Third Culture Kid”- always straddling two countries, two value systems, two cultures and sets of expectations and never fitting into one or the other, having someone understand and appreciate your contradictions and embrace them is the ultimate validation.
I am reflecting on these instances because this weekend the opposite happened. I was having dinner with someone very close to me, and we were talking about regrets. And I told him one of my largest regrets- an instance I think about all the time despite its seeming insignificance- involving my Father and an umbrella. My father was visiting me in New York, and it was raining out, and he was trying to open one of the cheap bodega umbrellas I had available. And after what seemed to me an interminable amount of time struggling with it (realistically perhaps only a few moments) I yanked it out of his hand, just in time for its sharp edge to slice his finger. I beat myself up about this instance all the time – how could I disrespect my father like this and have caused him pain? I recounted this story to this person with tears in my eyes, so deep was my self disgust. And he replied “Well, you’re always like that.” And something inside of me died a little. Because for all of my good moments, for the innumerable times I showed my parents and friends and colleagues deference and respect, it was this instance that defined me. My impatience, my brutality, my disregard for others. That’s all he could see; maybe all he ever would ever see. And I felt deeply lost and out to sea in that moment, and I couldn’t recover. I am a terrible person after all, I thought. A cruel person, entitled, a failure. If this person who is so close to me feels that way, it is unequivocally true.
And that’s the state I went into yesterday in. I took myself uptown to the D. Porthault sale, and surrounded by Upper East Side wives fighting over 1200 sets of hand-wash-only sheets, I cried. I dumped my haul and ran, took myself to lunch at Bloomingdales, surrounded by old women- all alone, all eating their salads in silence. That will be me, I thought. That is me, today. A sea of unknowns. Of souls yearning to be held and understood, of ones whose time had passed. Maybe in the next life, I thought.
Today is a new day, and though I never though that work would provide a welcome respite from anything, lately it has been the case, whether I am escaping politics or anything, and I am supremely grateful for it. It is something I can dive into that is mine, that has of late been such a wonderful thing full of opportunity and kind recognition, and I’m happy to have this thing to lean on. Maybe I can allow it to define me when I am tired of being defined wrongly.