Morning Pages

Current Jam: “Distress Signal,” Tiger’s Jaw

Do you ever feel like, if you had fewer interests, your life would be so much easier to construct? If you could just narrow down the things you thought were cool, things that you wanted to try your hand at, you would be a more complete person?

I apologize in advance: this post will come off as manic stream-of-consciousness, much like an insane person blabbering at a cornhusk doll… or maybe a can opener. Since my brain is still technically on the a.m. side of things, I’m treating this post like a batch of morning pages, a la The Artist’s Way.

For a long time I’ve been having, for lack of a better description, a crisis of creativity. I’ve been super busy, not carving out enough time to nurture some self-discovery and imaginative exploration, but yatta yatta yatta – I’m always super busy. I heap commitment after commitment onto my schedule, until I feel like Stretch Armstrong, but on the verge of cracking because instead of staying limber, he’s been left in the blistering heat in the backseat of a black Toyota Camry in Orlando for three months. So it constantly catches up to me. I’m frequently anxious, stressed, unsatisfied, exhausted, and ultimately guilty because I do this to myself.

There isn’t enough time or space or energy to dive into all the things I find fascinating. What’s worse, the second I express a particular interest to someone, I’m usually met with a two-fold experience: 1) oh you are? Well what do you think about *insert commonly known or obscure – how would I know which is which? – practitioner of said craft*, and 2) judgment when I admit that no, I haven’t.

I was helping set up stuff for a local play the other night. I’m not an actor, not much of a live theater goer, but a lot of my friends here are, and why wouldn’t I support them? At one point, Ralph asked me if I was an “artsy” person… not only did I not know how to respond, but before I could stammer out an ineffective answer, Sheryl brightly dropped in, exclaiming that no! Of course I wasn’t! Ralph was simply fooled by my nerd specs and my beanie…

I know Sheryl. She doesn’t mean any harm when she makes comments like that. I think at worst she suffers from a head-mouth disconnect, her foot perpetually skirting her lips. I love her, she’s a great person. Now, with all that preamble shoved your way: what the hell, man??

Ok, ok, I know I’m really sensitive about that shit. I suffer from an insane amount of fragile, barely-held together, pride. But it really made me wonder what kind of facade I present to the outside world. I work at a fucking art museum, for chrissakes, yet I’m perceived as what?

And ok, ok, I shouldn’t give a good god damn what people think of me. Just because I don’t flaunt my poetry, my prose, my doodles, the various projects I undertake or burgeoning ideas for new ones, doesn’t mean I don’t wade in creative juices (…ew…). But, I *do* care what my friends think…. I care what my family, my amours, think. And often, I feel as though I’m surrounded with people who are smart as shit, confident, and simultaneously, incredibly judgmental. Which is messed up, man. Why would I show you anything I try to do? The act of creation is submitting to an intense level of vulnerability, and you’re gonna shower that tentativity (yes I just made up that word), with snarky commentary? Fuck that.

I post on here, but even that tenacity has wavered so much lately that I often consider the point of this thing. What’s its purpose, for me? It used to serve one, but I’m not sure that it does anymore. My albeit brief foray into online publishing (here and beyond) hasn’t yielded much in the self-affirmation department (though I suppose it has – ever so slightly – improved my vocabulary, grammar, and vernacular intent).

Sometimes I’m no better, either. I feel that inclination to judge, and not only do I struggle to quell it, but again I feel guilt because I try to be an empathetic person, and that combination? That critical predilection? It does not bravery make, it does not bravado inspire.

And then I think, there’s more to it than this, just this, this sense of imposteriness. It must be some manifestation of life’s regrets as I make the final lap in this decade (the big 3-0 is right around the corner, less than 3 weeks out). I regret not finding a niche when youth made failure (more) acceptable. Sometimes I look at the wrinkles encroaching on my plump, freckled, otherwise youthful visage and wonder if I’d been less lazy, less prone to fantasy (which seems to yield little tangible fruit), and more prone to action, to swagger, to unabashed self-confidence in the face of limited artistic skill, if I’d be happier, more fulfilled, less anxious. If I’d feel better equipped to lead the life I dream of (in which I’m generally like 5 inches taller and don breezy boho inspired frocks that don’t actually swallow my petiteness whole). If at some point I would have untapped a uniqueness.

Yeah yeah there’s time, 30 is not 40, is no 50, 60, and so on. Don’t worry I’m self-aware enough to recognize the absurdity of this wallowing prattle. There’s limitless hope-inspiring online fodder to quell my very un-unique, accomplishment-dawdling fears (here and here, for example). As always, I just needed to get it out of my head so that I could get on with my day, i.e. be distracted from the task(s) at hand by something else, for a change. (There’s your purpose, L’s!) Yeah… I’m not convinced. *closes laptop on a resigned shrug*

 

Struggles

I really like drinking, guys.

I also like being healthy.

I also like smoking cigarettes.

I also like being able to run a few miles without feeling like my lungs will explode.

….

These interests do not exactly conflate well. Since I moved, I’ve been pretty good… well… I *was* doing… good…. (sorry about that grammatical error but my desire for symmetry prevailed). And then I made friends.

Not that I’m ungrateful.

The group I’ve found has been welcoming and wonderful, and they make me feel as at-home as I could, while still being 5 states removed. They are hilarious, and creative, and delightful, and completely in-step with the kind of people I cherish most. The downside, is that ugly proclivity of mine has raised its head once again, like an unwelcome blemish on my self-control’s carefully curated facade. I spent the bulk of last week socializing, imbibing, and regretting the next morning as I struggled to re-hydrate, a task ultimately futile when you pour that next cocktail less than 24 hours after the last one. It’s a frustrating, constant battle for me, to keep that balance. I’d like to think that everyone has that problem, but somehow I reallllllyyyy don’t think that’s the case. And after 6 straight nights of drinking (my general goal is max 3), you’d think I’d be more than ready for a break. But it’s an enticing routine that is so hard to break once it’s established. At least for me. The first… 1-2 days intended as sober days are… they are more difficult to accomplish than I like to admit. And I know why, but I hate why. It’s because the change in my mood is positive, with alcohol. It always is. I equate it with a good time, however that manifests. Coming off of it, that inevitable drop in mood, is hard to deal with. Even when I recognize the pattern, it’s so hard to break…

Maybe I could chock it up to another “routine” of mine: For every 3 weeks that I’m on “good” behavior, I’ll have 2 weeks where I’m “bad.” These labels are completely self-ascribed and probably a little harsh, but I can’t seem to keep a lid on my discipline. It’s like an unruly teenager hellbent on getting laid in a 10-year old Honda Civic. Ugh. GOD. Case in point: last night. I couldn’t sleep, my insomnia most likely an aftereffect of a week’s worth of fermentation sliding through my system. I could have worked on my first ever conference presentation, I could have cleaned my shower, I could have finished this fucking blog post. What did I do instead? Said “FUCK IT,” took a bunch of shots of vodka and furiously danced around my apartment to Less Than Jake, growing more homesick with each passing Gainesvillian lyric, until I collapsed, finally spent. I awoke this morning, not with a hangover, but a head-bang-over… because once again my tolerance is creepin’ on up there, as my distending liver swells my omnipresent lil’ gut.

My friends back home used to joke that my catch phrase should be “don’t worry about it,” accompanied by a mischievous grin. I guess it’s still relevant though, since my friends here have finally discovered that I… I am the worst/best/worst again influence you will ever have. I’m almost thirty goddamn years old, and yet I still make the worst decisions sometimes. Jebus… at what point do you accept certain aspects of your personality, instead of vainly tilting at windmills, Don Quixote style?

Current Jam: “Overrated – Everything is” LTJ (classic rock is soooo outdated; though, in truth, I’ll *never* consider sex to be “overrated”)

And this…. because we’re allll just tryin’ to turn hard work into chicken nuggets, amiright?

BEST. WEEK. EVER. And Horoscope stuff – DEAL WITH IT.

Last week…. damn y’all, last week was fucking AWESOME. I had all the bases covered: feeling good, looking good. Kicking ass at work, social butterflying for days, making some money. Got lots of positive attention. The only downside is I’ve barely carved out any time to write… which sucks, because when I don’t do that I end up ADD as hell. My ability to focus is thrust into hyper-difficult-drive, and I can’t keep a thought in my head, let alone follow a conversation. So tonight, god dammit, I said to myself, “SELF. GO. GO WRITE NOW.” And here we are guyz…. ok so,

I know, I know, I’m new age-y and dumb. I *KNOW*, now let’s move on. I treat horoscopes kinda like Tarot: no, they don’t tell the future. Yes, they are incredibly, ridiculously vague. But they give me shit to think about. They provide entrees into brain trains, brain trains which force necessary introspection, and in my personal opinion introspection is a good thing. It fosters self-awareness, and occasionally, change. So. Two things:

1: My horoscope for today read like this: “Do you see yourself the same way others do? At today’s deceptive Sun-Neptune opposition, you may want to borrow someone else’s high opinion of you. Your so-called flaws can seem distorted and magnified—yet they are virtually invisible to others. So why the heck are you fixating on them, Pisces? Be stern with yourself and stop this time-wasting habit. It’s just a way of procrastinating so you don’t have to own your greatness. You’ve been busted. Now cut it out! The world needs your compassionate heart to shine.” (Aaaand obligatory plug: See yours here).

Yeah: despite coming off a stellar week, I felt a little low today, a little off. I was distracted, frustrated that I was so distracted, and I felt anxious… and since I’ve successfully kept that anxiety at bay since I’ve been in PA (like a victorious lion tamer, giddily keeping that lion (Baby?) in the corner (oh wait no, I’m not supposed to do that)), I felt even more anxious. I was scared it was coming back… but eventually it passed. Running helps. I guess that’s something I’ll just have to continue to deal with. Like any stubborn disease it may never ever truly go away… Ugh, anyways…

2: For all you with way better things to do than read up on astrology stuff, Venus has been in retrograde lately (specifically, from July 25 through September 8). Ok so, what the eff does that mean, L’s? Well, you can read extensively about it here, but the gist is this: Venus retrogrades, supposedly, are periods of intense reflection, specifically regarding the worth of your relationships, past, present, even new ones. As my buddy Fran would argue, this can cause exes to come back in droves, for better or worse. Everyone’s wrapped up in their own shit, re-analyzing how they’ve acted, how they’re acting, and sometimes that manifests in people from your past making a re-appearance, even ones you never thought you’d hear from again.

And so, tonight I got an apology… one that I needed. One that I had been waiting for, for a very, very long time. Tears ran down my cheeks before I was finished reading it… because… well, because that particular person hurt me so badly… and I had resigned myself to never, ever getting closure. I had finally, finally, released that aching need. And now, here it was, completely unexpected and without any pretense, no preamble. I won’t relay the entirety of the convo, out of respect for privacy, but the one line that stuck with me was, “I hope you find a really cool person, because you were really that cool.”

*Takes bow.*

Thanks, man. I hope so, too.

Current Quote: “Everything will be ok, whether you like it or not.”  -My new PA uncle, Chip

Current Jam: “Whatcha got?” Red City Radio

Oh, and this: (Because my friends have the best senses of humor)

IMG_5875 (1)

Today was weird

I just got off the phone with a friend. The conversation was good, but she could tell I was distracted. She asked me how my day went: Not too bad at all. Had RAMP training for the new job at a hard cider bar (check it out here). Then we went out back, grilled up some grub on the open fire wood grill, I learned what a mountain pie was, and I helped transfer some cider to its new barrel-y home. I came home, made some strawberry sorbet, and watched a great documentary on Tig Notaro. But sometimes, there’s this disquiet in my internal monologue; at moments throughout the day I noticed it. It never fails to mildly unnerve me, because normally my mind never stops.

Her insightful compliment on my last blog post fell on deaf ears, and so she asked me, what was up?

I couldn’t really explain it all that well to her. Afterwards,the more I thought about it, the more I realized it boiled down to one word, a word that has inserted itself into my lexicon of late: timing. I can’t say it’s been on a right or wrong side lately. It’s just been present. Perhaps what’s bothering me about it is it’s insistence, it’s determination to be a component for the foreseeable future. It affects my intuition and makes me second guess my choices, where I (dis)place my energy, and then I obsess over how all the minutia may end up compounding.

Maybe the solidification of a work schedule reified the idea that, for a while, this is permanent. Maybe it’s just the dregs left over from two days of imbibing (which, now that I recall, do affect me more when I don’t drink regularly). I dunno. Maybe I was just a little home sick today… that phone call thrust into harsh light how much I miss certain people. I generally appreciate the state of technology, the ubiquity of social media and its ability to keep us all connected, no matter the distance. But it also makes the lack of physical contact that much more tangible…. hmm. The phrase “wish you were here” isn’t cutting it today, and I doubt it’ll cut it tomorrow.

Current Jam: “Stolen Dance” Milky Chance

Time to grow the fuck up

I jokingly said that to a neighbor at my going-away dinner. We were talking about the impending move, and how I was actually excited (mostly), to get outta town. I’d been wading in immaturity for too long, and it was time to move on…

I thought about that today as I looked back at the changes I’ve fostered since I’ve been in PA: my drinking and smoking have dropped substantially, I’m exercising at a pre-graduate school level, and I’m eating pretty damn healthy. I’m engaged in my health at an unparalleled level. I joke with my friends that the culprit is ennui: I have nothing better to do! Not enough work, no friends here, what else but perfect my smoothie game and craft those abs I haven’t had since 22? (and! so far so good: I got into a pair of shorts that have been a liiiiiittle too tight for about 2 years… and gasp! This time, they *weren’t*! WOOT!)

I’m making an unprecedented effort at my mental health too. It helps that I’m not (as) bat-shit crazy, but beyond that milestone, I’ve thrust all those creative or self-fulfilling pursuits I’ve felt too busy to pursue – wanting to read more, to write more, to practice photography more, to (finally) learn another instrument – to the front of the priority line (second fiddle only to finding that second job). I still get a bit scatterbrained when the evening arrives, when I’ve exercised and eaten, and then… well… then what? I still have to take a breath, and remind myself that there is no rush to pick up one c(h)ord or another. I have nothing but time… at least for the time being… ha. I’ve become preoccupied with a self-betterment program (I literally just started calling it that, at this moment), because I realized I was neglecting those parts of myself for so long, mostly because I was trying to find that satisfaction in other people and things.

The exclamation recurred to me yet again while I was perusing my email this morning and came across a message from my lovely grad school wifey, V. She was forwarding me an article called, “How to Spot an Emotional Grown-up.” Her synopsis read thusly:

“Sometimes I read goop, even though it is often pointless and/or classist. But I like this article on emotional maturity in relationships. It made me think of relationship bingo and my upcoming blog post on tinder messaging.” (Coming soon, gentle readers).

I had some time to kill… literally, I was in a waiting room, so I took a gander. The hosting interface and the debate over it’s intrinsic value aside, this piece was well written, informative, and thoughtful. Naturally it gave me stuff to ponder, an additional level-up on the emotional health: it made me aware that I was very emotionally immature until just recently (I hope and pray). I spent too long agonizing over my breakups, picking them apart like carrion. I was a pendulum of extreme reactions. I would swing from a self-deprecating “it was all my fault” melancholy, to enraged, bitter, shoving all the blame onto them. They weren’t blameless, exactly, but neither was I. I participated in a level of behavior that I abhor in other people: refusing to acknowledge when you’re wrong. And, according to this article, “emotional grown ups own their shit.” So I’m trying to do that these days…

All in all, there were several components to this article that I had gleaned already: EGU’s use language thoughtfully (learned that one from watching my parents: they always fought fair. There was no name calling, no keeping score, no hitting below the belt), EGU’s have empathy for others (I seriously don’t understand people that can’t do this. It’s like, the first thing you learn in kindergarten, the golden fuckin’ rule, ya know?), and there were some nuggets that I needed reminding of, specifically, EGU’s love and care for themselves:

“In the end, people need to be responsible for their own well-being.” Historically I have been pretty selfless, and pretty needy in my romantic relationships. I blame it on a constantly wavering sense of self-worth and a fear of feeling lonely… I think I will always battle with those emotional landmines. I will always struggle a little bit, navigating my social needs with self-preservation, reminding myself that I am worthy of a committed relationship, that I deserve unconditional love. But one of the things that PA has done for me is forcing me to be independent again, and to be content with my own company. The journey began before I got here, but my routine has really solidified it lately. I have a hard time getting myself out there, not being reclusive. I’m not sure why. I like going out and doing shit. I think, sometimes going out and doing shit, though, amplifies the thought that I am alone, and that, right now, I have no one to share those experiences with. And that kind of sucks.

The silver lining, is these days the healthy mind and body changes keep me stable, and they keep things in perspective for me. I kind of look at it like, by devoting this time period to myself, I’m effectively distancing myself from those emotional immaturities. It’s like weening off an addiction; sometimes you gotta go cold turkey. Plus, (and I don’t think this belies my previous statement) I think of it as making myself that much better, that much more deserving, for the next relationship, whenever it comes about…. ‘Cause, ya know, I can’t have a healthy, adult relationship until… well… until I grow the fuck up.

On a lighter, warm and happy note, here’s a whimsical nugget of an article I came across the other day, that made my heart smile: “I Want to be Single – But With You,” by Isabelle Tessier. I felt like it was the heart to the previous article’s head approach to an emotionally healthy relationship. Love and logic, two sides of the same coin.

 

Current Jam: Still obsessed with new Death Cab: “No Room in Frame” (and still “Little Wanderer,” let’s be real).

Working through some stuff as usual.

I’m working through a potential article for Thought Catalog, y’all. Writing an article for an external site is a bit different than a blog post, as I’m sure many of you already understand. Unlike the ability to bounce nimbly-pimbly from thought tree to thought tree, I take a core concept or question and create an arc of exploration, usually through the guise of a personal experience, from which I glean some kind of insight, like a concluding thought (or something like that). Question -> Evidence -> conclusion(s). This time around, I’m actually working on a larger arc, across more than one article. I’m completing what I think is the resolution to two previous articles I wrote for TC, both regarding Mr. Red. Beginning, middle, end. Nothing uniquely special, by any means.

I’ve been meaning to verbally catalog that glorious moment when you finally realize that you’re over it. Over the whole goddamn thing. Like, finally, truly, over it. It took much longer than I wanted and required a certain kind of catalyst to come to fruition, but in a split second I found myself laughing, and it was as if this ankle weight had lifted itself, not from my ankle (because then the metaphor would make sense), but from my heart.

It doesn’t come with a giant fanfare, confetti falling from the ceiling and a busty blond bursting from a cake. It’s funny how the moments, the changes that feel the most profound, happen almost instantaneously. But I suppose they don’t happen so quickly, exactly. All the subtle shifts happen below the surface. Even when it feels like you can’t get through 10 minutes without thinking of them directly or indirectly, really you’re going through the motions of moving on without them. The cord connecting you to them is fraying even when you think it’s an impossible knot. And then, in an instant, the life preserver-turned-suffocating cage around your heart deflates, and it’s like you can breath again. You can like things, people, again, in ways you thought you had forgotten. You can be optimistic again. You can believe the best in people again. The problem is, or it was for me, at least, is that I craved that instant like an impatient child. I fought the idea of having to wade through that pain, lugging my barely floating heart behind me, because that “life preserver,” aka the pockets of emotional air you put up to protect yourself from receiving any more of that pain so freshly incurred, quickly becomes a burden. Its weight slowly increases until the burden is no longer the pain but the baggage attached to the shell of that pain. But, like that fraying cord, you don’t notice it until it sloughs off like dead skin. And that sensation, of feeling somehow lighter, makes me giddy.

I just wish there was a shortcut; a foolproof equation to get you to the other side as quickly as possible… but there isn’t one. And now I see some people I was involved with, and how their suffering seems to have renewed itself, and I feel for them. Because I’ve been there. There’s no pain like it, and it sucks. I wish I could help them, but I can’t. Because they are the only ones that can get themselves through it. You can’t ask anyone else to lug that burden for you; you gotta get over the hill yourself…

As much as it feels like I should end there…. I can’t find it in myself to do that. Because if I had read that in the midst of my pain puddle, I would have felt so helpless. So, let me offer a few silver linings:

1. You are not incapable of a meaningful relationship during this tumultuous period. That being said, this is a period of transition, of great change, and you may be a different person when the change comes to fruition. That doesn’t mean you can’t connect with someone, but that connection may prove fleeting.

2. If you are lucky, you have people who, while they can’t carry the burden for you, they can encourage you through the marathon of grief, and finally across the finish line. Never shy away from contact with the outside world, or of talking about what you’re going through. Even if you’re worried about airing your grievances, remember that it helps. Besides, like Dr. Seuss so aptly observed, “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

And 3, because this cannot be stated enough: Social media is not your friend. You hear me?! It’s not your fucking friend!! Resist the temptation at every post, especially if a bottle of wine and Morrissey are involved. It will most likely come off melodramatic (even to you, eventually), and you will facepalm yourself later.

But, if (hah, let’s be honest, when) you fuck up, forgive yourself. Please, forgive yourself. Because the world isn’t ending. You’re gonna be okay. Just give it time. I know that’s infuriating, but that’s what it takes. That’s all it takes… time.

Current Jam: “Precarity Rules” Worriers

A small piece of advice

Little known nugget of wisdom:

Top 3 times you should ask a woman if she’s wearing makeup in public:

….

……..

…………

Exactly. There isn’t one. That question simultaneously infuriates me and cuts me deep, because of the intentionality behind it. It defies tact. It blithely attempts to hide beneath the upturned timbre indicative of an innocent query. But it’s not innocent, at all. It’s manipulative, it’s backhanded, and it’s mean. You don’t really want to know if she’s wearing makeup; you don’t actually genuinely care about the answer, who would? You want to expose something by commenting on it.

I think for many women, our makeup is our war paint. We use it for enhancement, true. We use to feel better about ourselves, true. But we also use it as a protective façade. We cannot escape the reality that we are inherently judged and valued by our appearance. Aphrodite wasn’t desired for her quick wit or sick discus throw. She was loved because she was hot.

Don’t get me wrong, men suffer the same injustice. We live in a hyper-visual society. Those six pack abs or perfectly thick beard you crave can be just as unattainable as the large doe eyes or mop of gorgeously curly tendrils I secretly fancy. So why not fight the dual spheres of judgment in solidarity? Or at least in silence, damn…

Current Jam: