if anyone sees me dancing

My grandma was one of the best people I've ever known.

She died almost six years ago, now. I've tried to use the shape of her memory to guide me, particularly in times when I feel the most at sea. I'd like nothing more than to know that I am making her proud. I wish I could have called her when I started my PhD. It would have tickled her to know that I was going to be a 'doctor.' She would have told everyone, including the guy who made her Quizno's sandwich every Friday and her morning mall-walking friends. Some of my earliest memories are of her protecting me, keeping me safe. A few months after she and my grandfather passed, I got a tattoo in her honor. I wanted a constant reminder of what's most important in life, what I'd like to embody: always learning, always growing, always evolving towards light.

For a long time, a big part of the reason why I stopped writing in this space was because I didn't think I had anything new to say. I felt like a selfies-golden-retrievers-vulnerability-and-how-much-I-hate-running broken record. But maybe having access to years of oversharing writing is awesomely powerful, not for the wild array of all my weird faces but for how easy it is to identify patterns. Painfully sorting through your own echo chamber makes it unmistakable what is paramount. I value integrity, in myself and in others, more than anything. I value photography with a heavy hand on the 'dehaze' tool, stalking real estate listings in cities where I'd one day like to live, crazily-printed workout bikinis. Loyalty, humility, the same twelve adjectives and being on the bike every single damn day. I value the raw human experience, embracing failure, doing what is right instead of what is easy, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. I want to live a life that is genuine, virtuous and honest and real. I want to fill up my days with sunshine and song lyrics, shaking my groove thing while I cook my everymorning eggs, collapsing into giggles under a writhing pile of sneezing snorting licking barking doggies. I value tough workouts under the breaking dawn, long drives while the wind blows wild through the night, playing air piano with the Boomtown Rats (clapclap) or guitar with the Allman Brothers, cozy quiet evenings, scrunched-nose selfies, sips of wine and soft conversation and the exquisite (that's one of the twelve) elegance of comfortable, deep, authentic human connection.

I've been working on a project lately that examines the dissonance created when values - what we say is most important in life - and practices - what we actually do, our actions - don't align with each other. The research looks at it culturally, but as in all matters when combined with my penchant to overthink anything I can get my hands on, I've turned it inwards. It's easy to look back at decisions I've made and see this dissonance alive and breathing. And it results in unimaginable pain. The discomfort of internal friction, personal incongruence engendered by the twisted and sinister telltale heart of misalignment, it's intolerable. It makes me want to firebomb the planet to escape it. It never ends well, and I suppose it shouldn't. Because not being you, through and through, sparkling astonishing enchanting messy-but-aligned you, is what will destroy you.

Not wanting to talk about life out loud is a red flag that my values and actions are out of whack. I'm an imperfect human, I've never really shied away from owning up to my flaws, my awkward, ridiculous nonsense, where I'm weak, how I've failed. I've made loads of mistakes, I'm sure tomorrow alone I'll rush headlong into a dozen more. But I'm trying hard to dislodge myself from stuck, stuck is a shame cave that means I'm not operating from a place of consonance, and that's a big part of why I decided that I was going to show up here every week and talk to myself and the maybe two (million) friends I have that still click through see what the hell I'm yapping about now (hi). I've had to make some difficult decisions lately. I think - I hope - that when I look back on this time in my life, I'll be glad that I chose to do what was right instead of what was easy. I hope I'll still believe that my actions reflected my values. I hope I'll be at peace (I'll definitely be exhausted). I know that the moment you accept personal responsibility for every single goddamned thing in your life is the moment you capture the profoundly wicked ability to change anything in your life, and that's what I'm working so hard towards. And I know I'll be glad that it's all written down, tucked away in this tiny private corner of nowhere, awash in selfies and sass.

Everything fell apart, and there was nothing to do at first except try and shield my skull from the biggest rocks and wait for the storm to end. Now it has. I can see so clearly that there exists an incredible opportunity to reshape my future, to do the grueling work, to pick through the shrapnel and carry with me only the clean, essential pieces as I build forward into the life I want. I know that these big explosions reveal who we really are, that we are defined by these moments. I can choose consonance or I can choose dissonance, and it's reflected in what I do, not what I say. If I say that I value loyalty, then knife a friend between the ribs the moment her head is turned, throw her words back in her face or violate her trust, then I've shown that I'm a backstabbing bitch. If I say that I value integrity and then run, squealing like a stuck pig, when it's time to live that out loud, then I am quite simply, as my dearly departed grandfather used to say, full of shit (may he rest in peace). So, if what matters most to me is living a life that I can be proud of, then right now, in the wake of this cataclysm of trauma, I need to do everything I can to heal the things that are broken and kick my own ass back into forward motion, because the future is gonna mow me down, whether I'm ready or not.

I think, sometimes, about the story I'm going to leave behind me. I don't give a twit about being famous, or rich, or everyone knowing my name (it's Katie), that's not what I mean. There's an imprint that I'd like to leave on the earth, maybe only to a few, but one that says, I was here. I was fierce, loyal, fearless, I rode like a bat out of hell, ablaze with laughter, through a dazzling and radiant world. I never gave up, I always had your fucking back, and I knew that love mattered most. Sure, it'll probably also say, I took too many selfies and ate too many potato chips and used too many commas and never really combed my hair, but that's not the shit that counts. Nassim Taleb says, the longer your CV, the less you'll be remembered. I believe that. Living an extraordinary life means giving up all the stupid bullshit that is part of a normal life. I work hard, because learning and hard work are things that I value and I'd like to be good at my job someday, but I'd set aside a rockstar career in a heartbeat if it meant that my life could instead be something beautiful, something real. Not everyone feels this way. That's okay. I'm not worried about anyone else. When the end comes, I want to be incredibly proud of who I was, of what I did, of the lives I touched with the kindness and strength and passion and energy and brilliance that I had to give. And it begins with resonance, with alignment, with an existence that lands somewhere joyfully, gracefully, in the middle.

Everything is heavy now, and that's okay, too. I'll come full circle. I could talk about my week in generic terms with snarky commentary, about the half-dozen job interviews I've had over the last four days and how bone weary I am of my own face after sixty-eight hours in a row of Zoom calls. I could write about writing, I sat in my green office chair for fourteen hours on Monday getting nowhere on a paper that is nearly giving me a brain tumor trying to unclog the frustrating tangle of logic. I got to smash myself in the pool, literally 24 hours after I said I had finally wised up and stopped smashing myself in the pool. One of my favorite swim partners turned up in the lane next to me well before sunrise, a guy who almost a decade later will still holler, holy shit, you got hot! from the other side of the deck just to make me laugh and knows exactly how fast to swim so his feet are out of reach but his bubbles are not. I could say even more about how good it feels to feel so good in the water, leaning on the gas just a little, the low growl of downshifting into second to accelerate through the curve, Ben Rector on repeat (that music video is rad as hell and if it doesn't make you want to come dance with me then your soul is made of granite), like when I close my eyes and don't even care if anyone sees me dancing. It snowed sixteen inches which everyone that owns a bicycle is taking really personally, I went hiking with Annie and she rolled in a dead...something, and after dinner tonight I plopped down on my grey couch, like I always do, and clapped on my fat black headphones, like I always do, and vomited words onto a page, like I always do. The house is silent, peaceful. I'm wearing my favorite old sweatshirt and Graham is snoring on my feet. I could write about all of this instead of the oppressive weight of trying to heal my pain, and probably someday soon I will. But for now, I'm working through my shit. It's not interesting. It's exhausting and infuriating and I'm (thankfully) tiring of it (this is from a practice round; no, I did not give a job talk in my Fairfax Four Miler hoodie from 2009 but yes, I did introduce fifty-plus people to my herd of puppies).

I have another tattoo, one that I can't see but everyone else can and sometimes old ladies in the locker room get uncomfortably close to my behind trying to figure out what it says. I got it at another tough time in my life. It's a reminder to be thankful, no matter how black the world may seem, to be true to what I believe in, to cull the miracles from the hideous wrappings in which they are sometimes delivered, to let the alignment of my actions and my values give me the steel in my spine I need to accept the hand I've been dealt. It awakens something in me that remembers, from the midst of incredible darkness, that it's okay to lean again into motion, unafraid, to delight in an hour of joy in the water, to open my heart back towards the things in life that make me feel ferociously, breathtakingly alive, like a heartbeat skip, like an open page, like a one-way trip on an aeroplane. The words are carved into my skin so I never forget to honor my heritage, the legacy of those that came before me, to make my grandma proud, to burn onwards into a future vibrant with hope. Hope. It always comes back to the sensual richness of hope, and that's because hope is everything. Hope is a lionhearted fighter, hope is a disheveled screamer (hope sounds like a tricky toddler, I'm so fucked), but hope is why and how I can still see the best in a caddywompus world, in everyone else, and even sometimes, in myself. e.e. cummings, the first poet I ever loved, forever stamped on the small of my back. i thank You, God, for most this amazing day.