Cleaning has always been my tool of procrastination. My mother raised us to value productivity. She woke us up early to go to the gym; she made us complete chore charts; she didn’t let us watch television.
These days, when I can’t bring myself to finish the task at hand or I’m bored, I clean. I rearrange my furniture. I workout.
This year, I’ve been cleaning a lot.
I’ve worked from home many, many days this year. I sit on my couch, computer lap top, avoiding eye contact with the blank document screen, glancing into the corners, spotting the shadows cast by the small tufts of dog fur piled against this wall or that.
And I clean the old fashioned way. Sweeping and mopping the floor. Scrubbing the bathroom on my hands and knees with Ajax. Even so, my apartment never really gets clean enough.
If it’s time spent, that’s really what comprised this year. Scrubbing in avoidance. Last year, in the midst of a quarter life crisis, I was dwelling on the concept of vulnerability — of inhabiting my emotions. But life is an endless rotation of cycles. I’m leaving 2017 avoiding questions of what I do or don’t believe.
I want to believe we’re headed toward equity. I want to believe we’re headed toward parity. I want to believe that we believe Black Lives Matter. I want to believe we’re headed toward equal pay. I want to believe in equality. I want to believe in basic human goodness. I want to believe in institutions. I want to believe in leadership. I want to believe in democracy. I want to believe that police officers are mostly good. I want to believe in middle America. I want to believe in white men. I want to believe in karma. I want to believe in past lives. I want to believe that when I’m talking to my dog she understands me. I want to believe in home ownership. I want to believe that having children is a beautiful thing. I want to believe that there’s nothing wrong with telling your kids Santa Claus is real. I want to believe there’s nothing wrong with telling your kids Jesus is real. I want to believe Jesus is real. (You know, the died and rose again and eternal salvation kind of real.) I want to believe in monogamy. I want to believe in marriage. I want to believe in falling in love. I want to believe in retirement. I want to believe in art. I want to believe in the person who sits next to me at the bar. A parent, a sibling, a friend, a lover. And I think at the end of 2017, I just really want to believe in myself.
And so I clean. I clean until I’ve bleached my inner conflict. I clean until it’s an hour before a deadline and I can’t put it off anymore. I clean until my dog nudges me in the way she only does when it’s really time to go for a walk, which means I have to put on pants. I clean until I can dissect a situation down to its emotionless facts. I clean until I decide maybe not what I believe in but what idea or thought or story is damn close to some kind of capital-T truth. I clean until a friend or a sibling or boyfriend calls and says it’s time to go to dinner. And then we sit at a bar and talk for hours about what we don’t believe in.
Maybe, leaving 2017 I should do this instead.
I believe in young people. For nearly 15 months straight, I’ve been surrounding by sub-22-year-olds from across the region and the country and they are more globalized and issue-oriented than I was then.
I believe in my family. We’re fierce supporters of each other, even in the worst of times.
I believe in the human capacity for friendship. I’ve never been good at holding onto friends, but this year I’ve been able to hold tightly to people.
I believe in the expansive definition and power of love. “Whenever the lover utters the phrase ‘I love you,’ its meaning must be renewed by each use.”
I believe in my toothy, derpy dog. She has patiently let me try on fostering dogs, which is an exercise in masochistic, ephemeral love.
I believe in women. Thanks in no small part to the insane exercise that was Women Galore last year and the bright, evolving future of this feminist festival.
I believe in not taking things personally. This is the first year of my life where I’m able to listen to, receive and implement sometimes very harsh critical feedback. Sometimes the implementation is simply, “No thanks.”
I believe in gentleness and eye contact in human interaction. And asking more questions than I answer.
All in all, 2017 wasn’t such a bad year in my book. In no particular order:
Ladybird, Greta Gerwig
All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg
Collaborating with one of my best friends.
Roni Horn, Nasher Sculpture Center
love of my life.
New full-time job
Abandon Me, Melissa Febos
Storytellers Without Borders
Sneaking into Zoe Keating at the Kessler
Vital Fitness Studio
A summer of pooltime and late nights with Kristin
The Shape of Water
Doug Aitken: Electric Earth at The Modern
The Wild Detectives
Speaking of which, here are some of the women they let me invite to Dallas this year: Chris Kraus, Ann Friedman, Morgan Parker, Jessa Crispin, Liz Silver, Deb Olin Unferth, Amelia Gray, Melissa Febos, Jami Attenberg, among others.
Oh, and this guy.
A Ghost Story, David Lowery
Marfa Intensives: Making theater with old friends and new.
lunes con Vicky, my new friend and collaborator
Teaching a writing class to middleschoolers at The Modern
Universal Harvester, John Darnielle
Galveston with grandma.
Panels on Panels (mostly about feminism, journalism and theater)
Collaborations with Christopher Blay