Monday, August 4, 2014

do what you are

I've been watching a lot of cooking and food shows lately. I think because I've always found food soothing. Selecting it, the visceral act of touching something grown in the dark, moist earth. Slicing, chopping, cutting, peeling, pushing, pulling, squeezing, stirring, whisking, beating and resting. These things comfort me. Many chefs use such beautiful language when they speak about food, and the feelings evoked when they're cooking something. I'm drawn to these shows because I love the feelings cooking food provides, and I love the way other people who are passionate speak about it. I love watching them handle each item with such pride and love. It's art that nourishes.

Something I've heard said over and over and over from smiling chefs, their hands covered in sage and olive oil and fatty ground meats as they work up a recipe from simple, wholesome ingredients is this:

"It's so satisfying."

It recently dawned on me that I've never had a job where I felt that way. No matter how well I can create and manage systems and people, do office work, and send emails and interact with my team of people, sharing ideas and solving problems, it's never truly satisfying. Not like that. Not in the way that creative work is satisfying. Not in the way that I feel satisfied when I write something beautiful that I love, or roast a chicken and root vegetables on a Sunday, or in the way that a well planned trip feels satisfying and exciting when it's even better than you imagined it would be. Not in the way that making people happy is satisfying. Not int he way even little things like giving someone you love a gift is satisfying. I don't know what it feels like to find that in work.

I've worked in nonprofit direct service for nearly a decade. Knowing that I have a job where I help people who need it, that's always helped get me through. I've always felt that what I do matters to people, and I do believe that. But even that has lost its shine for me. It just feels empty. I've changed jobs and organizations and it still feels like I'm just in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. I've tried this and that thing, trying all the while to just pay the bills and years have passed this way. You get stuck living a life with all these expenses and cell phone bills and rent and car payments and the idea of trying to start over doing something new seems scary and daunting and frankly, impossible.

So we sit at desks doing jobs we don't love to pay for things we don't really want or need. Maybe it's entitled to think we shouldn't spend 40+ hours a week working somewhere that doesn't provide joy and meaning. I'm sure I should be grateful that I have a job in a nice office with smart, nice people who respect me. I am grateful. But I'm also miserable. I said this year would be the year of yes, and I'm realizing what I need to say yes to the most is myself. I've been working on trying to find a balance in my life. My instinct is to combat extreme behavior with the opposite extreme behavior. This is not balance. I want to listen to my body and my intuition and be kind to myself. Things that are comforting, like food and drink, can also be bad for us when we have too much of them.

The things that make me feel satisfied are simplicity, quality, deliberateness, quiet details, music, words - things you can experience with the senses. Touch. Taste. Smell. Sound. Sight.

I don't know what kind of job I need to have, but I know I need to know myself in order to find out. I know that I feel my best when I listen to my body, when I sleep well, when I move around, go outside, breathe in the air, when I'm still and alone, when I eat natural, unprocessed foods I make myself, and not too much. When I drink a hot, dark cup of coffee. I feel my best when I love people, and when I tell them, and I know they love me too. I feel my best when I'm watching an amazing film in a dark, cold theater. When I'm in a city that's not mine, on foot, lost on purpose.

We shouldn't live for weekends and vacations and holidays from our jobs to feel good and useful and alive. I want to find work that feels meaningful and that I can be proud of and that is not based on typing things and staring into screens all day every day. The August in Texas malaise is getting to me.

WHY AM I NOT A DJ THROWING PARTIES IN MUSEUMS SERVING AMAZING FOOD??? I obviously have delusions of grandeur. That's cool. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll figure everything in life out any minute now. I'll tell you as soon as that happens.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

always and never

Her

I watched Her again last week. It's such a poignant, beautiful film. That thing he says about never feeling anything new again... that's so desolate. It's haunting. That we've somehow reached critical mass on feelings. And that once you get to a certain point, that's it. You've felt it all, the whole range somehow, and that maybe the next time that feeling comes around, it will just be less. Fewer. I think it scares me because I think that sometimes. That's the thing that youth worship teaches us, that somehow as we grow older and gain the exquisite wisdom of experience, those experiences become duller and less shiny because we may have worn them before.

I think we get to choose how we look at the world. I've discovered recently that I have been living in a much more compartmentalized, black and white, all or nothing, always and never kind of world than I thought. I imagine myself to be open minded and malleable, but it's taken some real talk with myself to accept that I built up some very rigid belief systems over the last several years in order to survive and change and be the person I needed and wanted to be. I made this year The Year of Yes because I realized last fall that my whole life was based on saying no. That's evolving into questioning everything I think I know. When we are faced with tragedy and pain and loss, we adapt or we die. What was right for me in the past may not be right for me now or ten years from now. I like to think I can be that sure about everything in my life, but I can't and I'm not. I'm winging this shit, just like everyone. Who and what I thought or think I am is just an abstract construct I've created. It's a mask I wear. Just like you.

We have to make judgements and decisions to navigate our lives. I think for a very long time it was incredibly soothing and comforting to me to be able to tell myself that I knew my stance on this thing or that thing. For sure. Forever. I do like knowing and completion and certainty because it feels safe to me. I sought safety because I needed it. And I do like a good checklist. I like a calendar. I like a plan. I LIKE A PLAN. But I don't need one. Not all the time. Not forever.

I'm learning, now, that it's okay not to know things. It's okay to be content in uncertainty and live fully in the present as much as that is possible. It's okay not to have my whole life planned out. It's okay to be spontaneous and impulsive. It's okay to change my mind, even about things I may have been so certain would never, ever change. It's okay to change, because change is how we grow. Now, I want to live in the grey world, the real one. I want to be here, now, in flux. I don't need to know what's going to happen later this year. I'm working on a much bigger reality, which is being here in my life as it is right this second.

The past is just a story we tell ourselves that shapes the dream of the future story we imagine is possible. The self that we imagine we actually are is really just a collection of moments and actions and experiences that happened to this body and this mind. It's very difficult for me to think about things that happened to me a long time ago and feel like it happened to the me I am right now. It's a story. Some of it was tragic, some of it was amazing. But now, it's just a story that changes every time we remember it. Being defined by the past, thinking nothing will ever be as good as it was then, that's the always or never talking. I want to live in the maybe moment. Sometimes. Occasionally. Perhaps. And most importantly, what if?

Right now, I'm happy and safe and healthy. Bad things happen to me, and sometimes life hurts, but I am not hurting myself. I don't need to do that because I like myself. I'm good. I may not do everything perfectly to the degree that I did at one time in my life, but I'm taking care to give myself a fucking break. I'm tired of being hard on myself because I don't fit into a box. Because I don't fit into the perfection fallacy I tried to mold myself into. I'm tired of feeling that I'm not good enough because my body isn't perfect or sometimes I just want to watch Peep Show and eat tacos instead of going to the gym for two hours. I want to allow myself joy in the simple things.

I like to think that the best part of my life is ahead of me. That I have years of new joy and sadness and laughter and tears and love and loss and visceral, gut ripping emotions stretching out in front of me until I finally collapse in a disheveled pile of guts and glory and blood and tears and feelings and love and die in a freak swooning accident at a Radiohead show. Because Thom Yorke is the last thing I ever want to hear and that is super for real. Do what you want. Trust yourself to know what's best. Fuck it. Your only obligation in life is to yourself.  Treat yourself with compassion. Seriously.




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the art of restraint

"I apply my personality in a paste."

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite films of my adult life. It's ten years old this year. I've seen it probably 20 times, and every time I watch it, I find something new to love about it. I've often had very emotional reactions to Charlie Kaufman's films... Synecdoche, New York left me so destroyed, I was sobbing, weeping in a shopping mall, in public, for an hour after I saw it. I was shattered.

This one though. It just gets to me in different ways with every viewing. There's just something about the idea of erasing someone from your memory that breaks my heart. And yet, it's such an easy, logical idea, to think we could go in and have a procedure and erase all the pain and hurt that losing someone has left us with. What would happen if this was a thing in real life? Would you do it? Would I?

I love that film because I relate to Clementine, and I, obviously, of course, love Joel. Introverted, brooding, thoughtful, beautiful, artist Joel. And like Clementine, I apply my personality in a paste. I'm just a fucked up girl looking for my own peace of mind. I've always wanted to be elegant and refined and dignified, but I'm not. I'm not classy and demure. I'm intense and messy and emotional and analytical about being intense and messy and emotional. I want to burn big and hold hands with you and go find the end of the rainbow. I love grand gestures and romance and magic and fireworks. I give all the fucks. When I decide to do it, I'm all in. I really, really care. I try. I'm like Spock with extra lady hormones. Actually, I'm just like a normal girl with lady hormones. LADY HORMONES WHYYYYYYYY?

I want to be logical, and I am a highly rational, intuitive woman, but I HAVE ALL THE FEELS. I dissect everything and obsess and study it until it's just pieces and atoms and molecules. What does that mean? What does this say about us? What will happen next? How will I know what to do? And could you please send me a calendar request? Thanks. I ascribe meaning to every minute gesture until I am sick of the sound of my own stupid voice, but then I realize it's me, in my mind, talking to myself, trying to figure this out, trying to understand, trying to learn whatever it is I'm supposed to learn. I'm exhausting. And I'm really, really hard on myself about being this way. This is why meditation works so well for me. Because it allows me to have the feels without giving them the power to take me to Crazy Town. But it's the first thing that goes when I get busy or lazy or have, in fact, already run for Mayor of Crazy Town.

The thing is, I am thoughtful and mindful and sincere. But I am so blind sometimes (fine... always) to the immense value of restraint. It's an art that I just haven't mastered. I don't really think there is such a thing as an addictive personality, but I do think I have a tendency toward excess in most things. More is more. That's why seeking balance in my life is so important to me. I have to work hard to find that. It's hard for me to do anything halfway, and really, really hard for me to to do nothing at all. I worked for so many years to fix myself through action, I fail to realize that sometimes the wisest action is inaction. Patience is not about waiting. It's about how you behave while you're waiting. It's about being positive and content with what is happening right now, and trusting that whatever comes next will be the right thing when it gets here.

Sometimes there's nothing to learn. Sometimes you just need to shut the fuck up and listen. Sometimes you need to go be alone and get out of your stupid head and realize not everything is about you all the time. Sometimes you just need to let go. Sometimes it's ok to not need everything all of the time. Sometimes you just need to be quiet and still and wait. Sometimes you just need to go to the movies and eat delicious food and live life and stop worrying so goddamn much.

This is ok.

I never learn not to give away my star. It's too much, too big, too bright for someone else to hold. You have to hold your own star. Always. I always want to share my star with everyone. I want to give it away because it makes me so happy. Because I feel beautiful and vibrant and warm and look how it glows! When you give someone else your star, if they have any doubts, even for a second, it will break. And then it's in pieces and the only person who can put it back together is me. The thing is, the best way to share yourself, your star, is to hold on to it and take care of it. That's how we shine. All of us.  

Spoilers.

My favorite, favorite thing about Eternal Sunshine is the end, when they meet for the first time. Again. When they hear each other on the Lacuna cassettes saying horrible, intimately mean things about each other. When they are mystified and horrified and saddened by the truth spilling out over the airwaves. And Clementine is trying to leave, but Joel asks her to just wait.

Joel: I can't see anything that I don't like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.
Joel: Okay.
Clementine: [pauses] Okay. 

We always know that it will hurt and we will cry and show all our insecurities and neuroses and dark parts and mess to someone we never want to see those things. And just like Clementine and Joel, we choose to do it anyway. We say fuck it and we take a chance and we love each other anyway. We have to. Because other people are worth it. Love is worth it. It's the insanity that gives it all a reason.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

nobody knows what's going to happen

“The heart is something else. Nobody knows what's going to happen.” 
― Richard BrautiganIn Watermelon Sugar 

Hello there.  I'll save the excuses explaining my absence, other than to say that there are some things that can only ever belong to me. Sorry. I always come back though, don't I? Always.

Listen, I realize this may come as a bit of a shock to some of you, but just in case you thought otherwise, let me definitively state that I have no idea what I'm doing. I say this because it's an odd thing to have your own advice told back to you in varying similarity by people you love dearly, people who were listening to you the whole time with their ears and minds and hearts. I do know that I must give quite solid advice. I know because I said it once, and now you're saying it. And also because all of you are doing awesome in life. I mean, I'm not taking credit for that, but I don't hang out with jerks. My people are good, smart, kind, love-filled humans who live with gusto in their hearts. I should listen. I am listening. I hear you.

Here's the thing. I may have forgotten a little, because I've been here a while. Here, meaning not there, where I was, in the bad place where nothing was beautiful and everything hurt. It became so easy to be myself, happy, I forgot it's a way of choosing to be in this world.

How quickly we forget.

I was in a very good place with feelings of gratitude and the daily ritual of reminding myself how most people don't make it out alive like I did. And then, I just stopped reminding myself. Life things happened. I went off the rails a bit. I forgot how hard I worked. I stopped believing I had done anything worth anything. I let the mean voice in, and it got bigger and meaner. I forgot that staying there, content and happy and serene, takes a shitload of work. I forgot that I have to treat myself with compassion, always, and do all the self care things I know I have to do to feel like myself. I have to take care of my body and move it and sleep, sleep, sleep and cook and eat things that are healthy and delicious and read books and be mindful and meditate and be surrounded by walls of sound and do yoga and friend out with my people and yes, yes, yes, then, also, love. Always.

When I decided to not die and make all the massive life changes I made, I taught myself that it was ok to be selfish and that's how I survived. I stopped acting out of obligation. I put myself first, all the time. I said no. A lot. I learned rationality and reason and thoughtful consideration, and I gained control over the reckless abandon of my emotional abyss. I began to find that I was a person of integrity and character. I became a person that could be trusted. Responsible. Loyal. Honest. I became the person I always knew I was. I am. I am still learning patience. Still.

And even so, I've found that I still inherently have that thing where I will revert to old habits of being and give of myself until I have nothing left. I've done it in jobs and friendships and romances and pretty much everywhere in my life. I have to fight with it. I learned at a young age that love was something you had to earn, and I believed that if I did things for people and took care of them and supported them, especially at my own expense, that they would see how much I loved them, and they would love me back. I want to soar and sear and singe. Sometimes I think I want it to hurt, because that's the only way I've ever known how to do it.

That though, that's not how love works. Not the kind I want, anyway. You can earn someone's trust and their respect, but love is not a currency you have to earn. It is infinite and renewable and expandable and not greedy or jealous or selfish. It lifts up, and doesn't tear down. It is supportive and collaborative and communicative and open and free and honest. Love is not sorry.

It's incredibly hard to break those kinds of learned behaviors. Those old scars rip open and that emotional poison comes out and I just sit there, horrified, wondering, after EVERYTHING, how the hell I could still be dealing with this shit. And then I start to wonder what the point of anything is, because I never think I'm good enough for anything or anyone. The mean voice. I mean, everyone has self doubts. It happens. I'm not perfect. Not at this. Not at anything. But my mean voice is really fucking mean. I know.

And all the while, I'm missing the point of everything. I'm missing everything. I'm just standing in my own way, listening to the mean voice, letting it yell and carry on. But I know that really, all the million little things we worry ourselves with, the fears and insecurities and what ifs of the future and should haves of the past, all that is all complete bullshit. I step back, and do one thing. I regard myself with compassion. And instantly, immediately, the mean voice has nothing left to say at all.

I can only ever be what I am, only ever right now. And if I really step back from my insane neuroses and rationally look at my life and myself, I can see that so clearly. All the happiness and love I could ever need or want, I already have. I am infinite. I am love. I said yes. I will again. I promised. I promise.

My wonderful, big-hearted people love me, no matter what. And so do yours. So many. So much. It almost hurts, that's how lucky I am. How lucky we are. It's amazing to even think that biology has evolved over millions of years into allowing us to have feelings. Love is really just science, right? LOVE!?!? WHAT THE FUCK? Mind chemicals! Brain juice! Heart swells! Am I blowing your mind right now?

Here are some of the text messages I got just today from the nice/awesome/big-hearted advice givers of earlier.

"Have you thought to yourself "Sinclair is fucking awesome" yet today? Do it now! Believe it always!"

"You fucking rule, don't ever forget."

"I want to go to all the shows! And sit in the front, because you have ruined me."

"Your red dress is making a fabulous drag queen thrilled." (I mean, not totally on topic, but this is just obviously amazing, isn't it?)


Oh come on, you know what happens next. This is where I learn something profound and make changes and grow as a person. I woke up this morning, and for the first time in a long time, I felt fully like myself. Oh I'm getting it back, don't you worry. I'm my own cliche, and I love it. I will never stop deconstructing my fuckups for you and teaching you how not to do the dumb shit that I do. Here's a sweet mix of jams for you to listen to while you contemplate the fact that all the sciencey brain chemistry of love is yours, always and forever. Also, we're/you're literally made of stars.

You're goddamn welcome.





Sunday, March 9, 2014

sxsw 2014 picks

Hello my friends, it's been a while. I won't go into a lengthy explanation for my extended absence other than to say I moved, which was rather horrible, but I am now reaping the benefits of 12 foot ceilings and same day maintenance and a very large, very luxurious, adult IKEA sofa that I plan to live my entire life on once time permits. Seriously, this sofa is amazeballs.

Sadly, the day after I finally finished hanging the last piece of art, SXSW started. Oh Austin. Hold on to your tits, as I like to say. It's our annual ultramarathon of films and lines and panels and films and parties and amazing bands and parties and lines and awful bands and terrible eating and 16 coffees a day and Red Bull and all the booze ever made and destroyed shoes and broken everything and are we still walking and crying from exhaustion and inspiration and ideas and possibilities and celebrity and seeing old friends and making new ones and OH MY GOD WILL YOU PEOPLE GO THE FUCK HOME ALREADY? We love it. We hate it. But I assure you, it's here again. 

Yesterday, I got to see Tilda Swinton talk about cinema and the capacity of humans to change in a way that makes it seem like the world is simply a beautiful, magical place full of weird unicorns like her. She's elegant and intelligent and articulate in a very British way that I adore. Also, she was wearing this crisp, white button down shirt, with that one extra button undone, which is maybe one of the most weirdly erotic things ever. So not only was everyone in the room completely enthralled with her every word, but we also all wanted to kiss her on the mouth. Or maybe it was just me. 

Immediately following this, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson gave an Interactive keynote filled with astute observations like "Carbon is the slut of the periodic table." and "What if instead of 'Believe', we taught people to 'Question?" That man is a genius and I am so excited about the new COSMOS series. You know I love Carl Sagan. You know this. Carl lives on in Neil. FUCK YEAH SCIENCE!

SXSW is a thing we Austinites take for granted, and because it's so hard, it's easy to be angry about the inconvenience and hassle and arduous process of it all, and overlook the amazing opportunities for learning, inspiration and collaboration it brings to our city every year. And also, all the rocking out, which I plan to get into in a few days.

I think the most important thing about SXSW, whether you're armpit deep into the front lines or taking in the occasional film or band, is that there's no wrong way to do it. We sometimes still have to work at our real jobs, and do real life and find a place to park and eat something not in a taco. We have to sleep and breathe and step away sometimes. This is ok. Everything is ok, no matter how you choose to do it. You will never get to see everything, you will always miss out on some party or secret show or some surprise free pizzatacocronuts at an ultra-exclusive event you were never going to get into. SXSW is as much about keeping people out of things as it is about offering an unlimited array of events and activities so that you never have any excuse to be bored. Don't stand in lines. Go live your life. 

If I've learned anything over the years, it's that the most important thing is to do whatever you're doing surrounded by friends. The best experiences we have at this festival start with building relationships and friendships. I know that's true because all my people are scattered and/or working this year and it's way harder to do this alone. I also know that's true because Tilda Swinton said it was. 

For the first time in six years, there's no one living on my floor this week. Capsula couldn't make it this year, and EO is off on an adventure on the East coast, so really, I've been by myself most of the time so far. If you care to spend some quality time bar hopping for bands next week, let me know. I've got a platinum badge and I'm not afraid to try to use it... within the rules of how that works. HA. 

I've been rather remiss in my usual overplanning for the music festival this year. I don't even have a spreadsheet! What I do have is one robust playlist for you, and some sparse highlights of a few standouts that I really like. Here we go:

Actress
English electronic musician, which is kind of what I've been way into lately.



Blouse
Blouse are from Portland, our weird sister city to the northwest. Dancey, girl led dream pop with that 80s new wave nostalgic wisp I love so much. This makes me want to wear all black and talk on the telephone to boys all night.




We Were Promised Jetpacks
This is another one of those "if you don't know about this band already, I don't know what you're doing with your life" situations. They're Scottish and therefore amazing, obvs. I have seen them countless times at Southby, and they never disappoint. New album coming, which I cannot wait for. ALL THE SCOTS ALL THE TIME.



Savoir Adore
This is a wonderful indie-pop duo that makes music to fall in love to. Trust me on this. So so excited to see them. Don't hold it against them that they are from Brooklyn.




Hozier
Singer-songwriter acts are not usually my jam at all, but this Irishman is kind of making me swoon. He's got that Ray Lamontagne soulfulness that makes my knees weak. I fell in love with him in like one song. Also, he got his break on reddit. I mean, think what you want about that, but I kind of like it when the internet makes people famous. It's very populist. Right?




Soldout
Belgian. Electro. If you're looking for me, I'm probably somewhere in the dark, dancing to this. Also, I want to go to Brussels immediately.




Future Islands
Thanks to BTime, my hip, young friend with amazing taste, I saw this band at Red 7 under duress in late 2012, and it was incredibly memorable and emotional. They have so much energy and pizazz, and honestly, Sam Herring is just completely fucking amazing to watch. They just did Letterman, so prepare to get there early to see this one. It will be worth it.




INVSN
Come on. You know I love anything that sounds remotely like Joy Division. This Swedish band (pronounced Invasion) does that dark, dancey punk sound really well, and they look like fun. Let's go!




Holy Esque
I found these Glaswegians at the British Music Embassy last year, and they blew me away. I can imagine with another year of touring under their belts, they've grown into themselves even more. Lots of dark, fuzzy guitars and melodic riffs to shake it to. Also, I love his quivery, quavery voice. Meow.




POLICA
The story of how this test tube band was created is fascinating, but even more so is how much it completely works in spite of its lack of an organic origin. I've been wanting to experience this live for a while. Her voice is haunting.




La Femme
Oh France, you sexy bitch. This is French pop at it's best, with a very 60s cinema vibe about it. If you like Yelle, and/or the films of Jean-Luc Godard, you will dig this band.




Aloe Blacc
This guy is actually the fucking man. You can tell everybody. He's got all the answers to your questions. His voice is like real turbinado sugar in a strong cup of coffee. Love.




Semi Precious Weapons
This band can't pay their rent, but they're fucking gorgeous. A festival favorite of mine and EO's for years, their shows are so much fun. We're alive alive! Also, Justin wears high heeled boots and does Rockette kicks like some kind of amazing androgynous goddess. I love them. They are playing at Rusty's at an unofficial showcase on Wednesday night.
RSVP here:   http://2014.do512.com/craveonlinemediasx2014



Honestly, I could go on fairly indefinitely, but my internet is jammy and I want to leave the house today and go see some movies. I'll leave you with a poorly researched Spotify playlist and you can decide for yourself what to do. Part of the fun of SXSW is accidentally finding that awesome band you've never heard of. If you're totally lost, go to Red 7 or Mohawk. Rainey Street is a good bet this year as well, especially because Stony's pizza truck is over there now. Something awesome will be happening everywhere. I promise.

I'll be adding to this over the next couple of days, so follow it to stay updated. Have fun, practice self care and do all the things! Go live your life! Let's hang out!



Love you, mean it.
s

Friday, February 7, 2014

imperfection


Beyoncé - Pretty Hurts (OFFICIAL VIDEO) [HD 720p]

We have a disease in this country, in this world - the disease of perfection. I suffer from it myself. I've spent the majority of my female life, since I was 9 years old and went on my first diet, believing there is something wrong with my body, with my size, with my shape. Women in particular, we spend so much energy and time and money battling against the feeling of being less than. We tell ourselves we are not good enough, that we are never good enough. We feel as if we don't deserve love, especially romantic love, because we don't have supermodel bodies. We stare in the mirror and curse our cellulite, our thick thighs, our round bellies, our fleshy asses. We compete with each other for the attention of men and other women. We are crushed with advertising and media messages thousands of times daily that say we need weight loss, makeup, fitness, health products, clothes and food that will make us closer to the ideal. We binge. We purge. We starve. We exercise our time away to feel one step closer to perfect. We live outside ourselves, never happy in the moment, always reaching for an unattainable future where we will, finally, be small and therefore, happy.

We yearn for an ideal that was made in a shiny office, on a computer, out of pixels on a screen. Our perfection ideal is a fallacy created by Photoshop.

I didn't necessarily start working out in pursuit of perfection, but it was certainly a factor. When I was finally able to get into a regular fitness regime, it was because I stopped worrying about my weight for a hot second and just decided to focus on my health and feeling better. It worked, and now, fitness is just a part of my life. January and February at the gym are an exercise in patience, perseverance and sheer force of will. It's so crowded with new year's resolutioners, it's almost impossible to even get in the door. It's so disruptive to my routine, and I basically hate it. This is my fourth year at the same gym, and for some reason this year, it's worse than ever. I've been at least three times and not gotten into classes that I go to all the time. It's making me slightly crazy. I need that physical release to feel normal now. When I don't get it, I'm never quite myself.

It's hard to hate on people who are really trying to make good changes in their lives through fitness. I remember in my early days of working out, I saw a woman in class one day who was a bit bigger than I am now, and I was like, "That. Her. I want to look like her." She was fit, shapely, beautiful. I have that now. I am that woman, and have been for a while now. And it's STILL NOT ENOUGH. I still feel like I'm not small enough. I've lost 60 pounds, and I still think I need to lose 20 more. Why is it never good enough? Why can't I see how far I've come?

There's this young woman at my gym - this beautiful, fit, strong woman. I've seen her in my weights classes, lifting heroic amounts of weight, with perfect form and well-defined, lean muscles. She's stunningly beautiful. Her body is amazing. AMAZING. She's nice, and cute and funny. And earlier this week in spinning class, I overheard her talking about how she is desperate to lose 10 pounds for her wedding. I was stunned that a woman who looks to me to have a perfect body thinks there is something wrong with her. I'm not surprised in the least. I know exactly what that feels like. And if I were her size, I would still feel the same way. It's a societal sickness.

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?

Last night, I finally got around to watching some of the videos from Beyonce's new self-titled album, and saw 'Pretty Hurts.'

Beyonce is a fucking goddess. I've had a photo of her up in my kitchen for two years, just so I can look at her and feel like it's ok to be fit and strong and not super skinny. When I hear Beyonce talking about feeling inadequate, about how hard it is for her, I kind of don't know how to feel. If BEYONCE feels shitty about herself, what are the rest of us mere mortals supposed to feel like? Her new album is about as perfect as pop can get, but more importantly, it's about finding the beauty of our own imperfection. It's about letting go of the lie of perfection and living in the moments of our lives. It's about being happy just as you are, about growth and strength and connecting with other human beings with love.

I'm tired of feeling bad about myself because of the way I look. It's exhausting and I'm just not going to do it anymore. Life is too short to expend energy on this bullshit for another minute. I have worked so hard on myself in every possible arena. I've come so far and changed so much for the better. My body has transformed, along with my mind. Isn't it ok to just stop, take a look at how far I've come, and just enjoy it?  I want to celebrate my beauty and health and the human body and our capacity to change ourselves. I want to be naked and not be ashamed of my round belly and my massive, strong girlie thighs. I reject perfection. Perfection is boring. The good parts, the jazz, the skronky bits. That's where the magic is.

At the beginning of the year, I decided I was going to stop obsessing over my food intake and fitness regime and just listen to my body. I pledged to be mindful of what I put into my body, and I promised to take myself to yoga and meditation and try to get in touch with my natural rhythms. I decided to focus on eating real, wholesome foods in satisfying proportions. I pay attention to how things make me feel when I eat and drink them. I want to honor my body for everything it has given me. It's the only one I have, and I refuse to spend another moment of my life hating it. And it's working. I look in the mirror and I feel really, really good about what I see. I love getting dressed every day. I'm not self-conscious or wishing I were someone else who is smaller and prettier and more perfect. And I feel, really for the first time in my life, that I am beautiful. And I'm also going to eat that corner brownie. Thanks.

Go look in the mirror today and love yourself. You are a hot, foxy mama, and don't you let anyone, particularly yourself, tell you otherwise.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. I know, because Beyonce said so. And Beyonce is never wrong.

x

Friday, January 31, 2014

be here now

From Be Here Now by Ram Dass

Gratitude and patience. These are the things that life tries to teach me over and over again. I have been here before. I will be again. Somehow I've learned to weave in an unrelenting optimism, like a fine silver thread that sparkles when the light hits it. Like glass in the road, shiny and reflective little mirrors that blind you temporarily, again and again and again.

I find myself getting caught up in this and that stress. Work, traffic (are you fucking serious, Austin? get your life together...) external forces I have absolutely no control over. Things happening in general that I don't always plan for or expect or like. Opening myself up to The Year of Yes means I have to learn how to compromise and share and be aware of other people and their needs and wants. I have to honor the process by which other people live. I have to validate their feelings and I have to admit that I am not always right. (I mean, I know.) As a person who has been focused on self-preservation for such a long time, stepping out of that "How does this affect just me?" mindset is difficult. But I'm doing it, and I'm growing. I'm making space. I don't even have to try, because it's just happening. Every day, just because I said yes.

It's so easy to spin out and live inside problems and anxiety and stress. We live in a world filled with tragedy and loss and pain and suffering and anger. It's easy to exist there, wound up, because that's what we've always done, how we've always reacted. We're wired for it. The hard thing is stopping that. Stepping back, away from our instinct to freak out and overreact and stew inside the problem. We have to take a rational, logical look at any stressful situation and remember... this is not the end of the world. Not matter what it is. This is not anything, really. Breathe in. Breathe out. There's always a solution, and I don't have to react to situations the way I have in the past. I am not a broken record. Just because something happened, even multiple times before, every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around. I know that profound changes are possible in any human being, because I climbed that mountain myself.

One of the most groundbreaking, life changing things I learned in early therapy was "You are not your thoughts." Wait, what? I am not my thoughts. What does that even mean? It means that all that noise in my head, the self-doubt and negativity and that voice that says I'm not ever good enough... it means THAT IS NOT WHO I AM. It means that you can think something, anything, about yourself and that doesn't make it reality. It means you make your own reality. I used to tell myself I was a fat, worthless, drunken mess and I would never be able to be anything other than that. Today, because I learned to separate myself from my thoughts, and honor the highest and best in myself by always acting with compassion, I am the best me I have ever been. Right now. This minute. I am infinite and wise and kind. This is my reality.

Around the time I learned about the magic of disengaging from my thoughts and watching them float by with no judgement, I started meditating. These things go hand in hand. At first, I used mp3s I found on the internet. There are lots of podcasts and tracks you can buy. I prefer to meditate with some kind of guidance or at the least some music or other nature sounds. I also really love meditating in groups, and I do that usually at Eastside Yoga in Austin. It was in these meditation classes where I was able to work through, and ultimately let go of a lot of the pain and anguish I experienced in the year that my father died. I have experienced moments in meditation of real, true self awareness, of loss of ego, of self acceptance and physical relief of pain that I have trouble articulating. And we all know how much I like to talk about my feelings. I've come to realize over the last months and weeks that meditation is truly a secret to finding and maintaining a very real, healing inner light. I want that, and I'm going to practice.

There are lots of options here for finding a practice to attend in public with others, but more importantly, we should strive to set aside time and space for meditation in every day life. Even as little as 10 minutes a day can make a transformative change in our lives. I went to a workshop last weekend about how to begin a regular meditation practice. Steven at Eastside Yoga is so super awesome when it comes to helping his students get into yoga and meditation. I seriously love that place so much. It was the first place I went to care for my body when I was at my highest weight ever, and I keep returning, even after being away, because it's so peaceful, tranquil and special. They have lots of amazing meditation and yoga workshops coming up in the next few months, and I am always keen for a buddy to go to this stuff with me. Yes, I mean you.

In my own life, I'm about to do one of the most stressful things we do in modern society, which is move everything I own into a new place. Right before SXSW. Which incidentally has, after all these years, found an innovative new way to infiltrate my entire world, because my amazing, wonderful, all the superlatives boyfriend programs their films. You should follow him on Twitter, by the way, because he's brilliant at all things cinematic. Moving is the worst, but of course, I have a plan. I'm throwing money at the problem whenever possible, and my new place is going to be a Rooster-and-Viking-child-free sanctuary with modern appliances and grown up things like a washer and dryer and a fireplace and lots of natural light. I can't wait.

Regarding aforementioned boyfriend situation: Everything is literally the best ever. Look up at space and try to wrap your mind around infinity, and then maybe you might get an inkling. Rainbows and music are shooting out of my heart every minute of the day. It's so easy and fun. It's totally ridiculous and impossible and actually happening. I am exactly where I want to be right now. Right here. With you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

superlative



Penny in the air.

I've known for a long time that you can make your own future, your own best life. In the long term, when you look at big goals, making real, permanent life changes that will result in becoming your best self - it seems rather impossible. We are designed for instant gratification, for filling the void, for ignoring the present. We live in the past and hope for a different future. We avoid conflict, confrontation and change. Because usually, when we stop to examine ourselves, we find we don't like what we've become in some way.

Five years ago, I was lost. Broken. I was so far off the path of my life, I couldn't even see it anymore. I tried to change my life and I failed. Over and over and over again. Finally, I surrendered to the wisdom of my inner self. I gave in to compassion. I stopped talking and started listening. I took one step, then another. I just kept breaking things down, taking them apart, and making life small. Tiny. I wanted to live inside each day and just do the right thing for myself in the present moment as often as possible. Some days, all I could do was treat myself with compassion. Others, I failed at even doing that. It was hard. I thought about words like integrity, respect, character, reliability, trust, love. I wanted to be a person other people can count on.

I filled the pages of my life with an honest, deliberate examination of the person I was, and a plan to become the person I knew I could be began to form. I learned that I am so much better at having fun and being myself sober than I ever was drinking. I did the thing I thought I could not do. My body changed. I got healthy. I went places. I made friends. I went on a lot of dates. I cried. I found a new job. I paid off my debt.

I realized I was, I am, right now, so incredibly happy with my life. I rolled into December feeling like 2014 was going to give me some big chances, and I decided in advance that I would Say Yes. I decided to go on an adventure.

And yet. And yet. There was still that one thing missing. I think it's pretty natural for most people to want to share their lives with a partner. I'm kind of a hopeless romantic, so for me to just write off that part of my life was a bit sad. It was lonely and I kind of thought I would never find anyone else on the planet who actually gets me. I thought that maybe I had already had my chance at that life, and maybe it was gone. I had myself after all, which is pretty fucking awesome. I would have lived probably.

Two weeks ago, I turned my online dating profile back on. I just clicked a button and waited to see what would happen. I can't even believe I am saying this, but I take back every negative thing I ever said about OKCupid. In fact, I should send them some money right now. Or a cake. A massive cake and maybe some of those fancy salted oat cookies from Quacks. Because that's where I met the most amazing man ever to share a Nutella cookie with anyone in the history of the world.

You heard me. The Magical Duplex Dream LIVES.

Yes, it's been exactly six days since we met. I'm writing about him because I can't not write about him. Because I've been hit by a freight train. Because it's always been him. It was always going to be. How can I be so sure? Because I know exactly who I am. Because he knows who he is. Because this doesn't happen. This synchronicity and congruence and electricity. This long now. Because I've been standing on the edge, waiting for him. And just like that, he found me, and everything is different forever. We found each other. It's effortless and easy and everything is lovely and amazing. Fireworks and magic and music. The whole world is singing the song of us. I am the most annoying person on the planet and I TOTALLY DON'T CARE.

So yeah. I have a boyfriend. Try not to lose your goddamn minds.

Penny drops. 







Tuesday, January 7, 2014

happiness is an invincible summer



Another new year is upon us, and although I've not made a lengthy list of resolutions this year, I'm taking stock, as it seems we all do in this season. I'm a little older, a little wiser, a little bit better. Years ago, January was a time of regret for all the failures of another year passing, and nothing to show for it. An impending birthday, the tick-tock of time running out. That annual reminder that I was still in a cage of my own making. Here and now, long out of the cage, I find myself with the want to measure intangibles. For example, what does happiness look like? 

How to quantify something so ethereal? Is it even possible? The idea of happiness is the most true in our minds when we are living outside it. When we crave it so badly, our teeth chatter with the ache of the desire to live a more fulfilled life. Happiness seems more real when it's a fantasy. We know it by knowing exactly what it is not. It is a word defined most by it's opposite. The binary of pain or not pain. Is the absence of pain happiness? I used to think the idea of something was almost always better than the thing itself. I know now that fantasies only perpetuate assured disappointment. Is there anything more boring than the pursuit of perfection? It's a goal trap, y'all. Listen, we talked about this. Failing at goals is where the magic happens.  Remember that. Relish the flaws in your fellow humans. Those are the best bits, those quirks and awkward parts. That dancing I do alone in my living room. I'm keeping that forever.

What I want to do really, rather than quantify happiness and hold on to it, is to be mindful of the fact that right now, this moment, and increasingly so over the last year and a half or so... I. AM. HAPPY. For a lot of reasons. But mainly, because of patience and persistent belief in the idea that I deserve to be. Because I choose to be. We make our own reality by the things and people we surround ourselves with. I like the person I am, and my swirling webs of friends and loved ones. To count it down...

Happiness is...
confidence in myself
a sober mind
a healthy body
balance
contentment in solitude
self-reliance
compassion for myself and others
meaningful work
friends thicker than blood
laughing and laughing and laughing some more
my brother
my mom
physicality
curiosity
optimism
saying yes to life
the ability to physically kick the shit out of working out
feeling genuinely good about my appearance
writing
art
creating
mindfulness
fashion as a subtle art
music
learning to accept sadness and loss and tragedy as temporary and sitting still inside it until it flies away (Feeling all the feelings, am I right?)
dancing
natural highs
smiling constantly because of a boy*
long hair (yes! I made it!)
all my teeth still being attached
becoming, finally, my true self
the anticipation of everything that comes after this

*This list is not in any particular order, obviously.

In 2014, may you have faith in your worth and act with wisdom. Whatever that thing is that you've always wanted to do, this is your year to do it. While I'm sticking to my promise of not making "set crazy goals I can never accomplish" my way of life this year, I am serious about the "Say Yes" intention. I will not be afraid. I will dive deep and swim far. I will say yes. I've found within me, an invincible summer.

Monday, December 16, 2013

music monday: the year of yes


I don't really believe in New Year's Resolutions. Too much pressure. Like one day you're just supposed to magically change into a better version of yourself with no flaws. At least that's always what I expected of myself when I used to set resolutions. I'm not kidding, I would get ridiculous.

One year, I did 14 day juice fast, where after about three days, I felt like some kind of ancient organic fruit goddess in tune with all animals and plants on Earth. Instead of pizza and nachos, I was dreaming about eating steamed broccoli with lemon and drinking cucumber water. I took epsom salt baths every night and journaled about my starvation induced enlightenment. On Day 11, I cracked up and huddled like a feral kitten over a sad box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

I had failed. Again. I was obviously destined to spend another year as a fat, miserable, drunk smoker made of pizza. I gave up immediately. By Day 18, I was on an epic booze bender that culminated in a massive weeklong cocaine binge, and possibly my falling down in the bathroom of Kenichi at my own birthday party. I was pretty banged up, I obviously don't remember too well, because, you know, cocaine. There was definitely falling, but it could have been the street. Ho ho ho. Oh boy. Clumsy bastard! Have I mentioned how awesome it is to be sober lately? Ha!

My point is, New Year's Resolutions set you up for that kind of spectacular failure that only the new year can. So I don't do it. I've actually realized this year that I kind of hate goal-based living. I know, I'm always talking about goals, calm down. I'm not saying you shouldn't have goals. I just think that becoming purely goal-focused completely takes away the pleasure of the moment and being in the journey of getting to wherever you're going. So many times, I have learned what I needed to learn by NOT reaching the goal. In fact, I should have reversed my goals to "failing at goals" because that's where all the magic happens. When you fuck up and fail and epically disappoint yourself. That's where you learn how to do everything.

Once I started thinking about it like that, I realized that goal-based living is just another way for me to feel bad about not being further along in life. Not being closer to my "goal weight" or my goal of buying a house or all these other societal milestones that I actually don't even know if I want. Goals mean that 90% of the time, you're trying to get somewhere and not enjoying where you are. The day you hit the goal is awesome, but then what? I don't want to chase the carrot forever. Give me the fucking carrot! CARROT CAKE FOR EVERYONE.

As I've been figuring this dislike of goals out, I've made some pretty amazing progress. I stopped doing Weight Watchers almost a month ago, and I am trying to relearn how to listen to my body and eat real food in quantities that are satisfying. I haven't felt this good about food and my attitude towards my body in over a year. I am listening to the seasons of my body, and if I don't feel like working out five days a week, I shoot for three. I don't beat myself up about it. I'm going to yoga again, and doing less strenuous cardio. I know when it gets warmer, I'll want to get more active in different ways. I like the idea of being able to listen to my body and rest if I need it. Even if that lasts for a few weeks or a whole season.

When I changed jobs recently, I had a 401k that was just sitting there. I read tons of advice books and articles about why you shouldn't cash out your 401k, because "nest egg" and "retirement savings" and Suze Orman was shaming me through the internet for even considering it. But all I could do was think about how I was spending hundreds of dollars on credit card debt that was not shrinking, and that was making me its slave to those payments. And there was this pile of money that I had earned that would erase it all in one swoop. One night, I woke up at 3am and knew the right thing to do was cash it out. Today, I paid off 100% of my credit card debt. I bought my freedom with my savings, and it is the best thing ever. Suze Orman can kiss my grits, because I am taking my debt free ass to Brazil.

I think what I've figured out about success is that it doesn't happen by setting insane, giant goals and honing in on that while everything else in your life is ignored. Success is about getting into the process that happens inch by inch inside your daily habits and choices. It's hacking your operating system to be more efficient in a way that works for you. Changing one or two habits at a time makes a huge difference when you do it repeatedly. If it can become automatic, you will see results and you won't even feel like you did anything. This goes for anything: sleep, exercise, money, work performance, creating art.  Everything.

Willpower is a reserve that you need to use in emergencies, for big stuff. If you spend your life depriving yourself of even the smallest things, you'll burn yourself out and then when you really need it, instead of practicing self care and restraint, you'll end up saying "What the fuck?" and find yourself doing blow with a bunch of strippers in the back of a motorhome.

No. This is dumb. Use your head. 
So, no resolutions. No big, unattainable goals. Instead, I'm setting intentions. This year, my intention is simple: Say yes. Go on adventures.

Here are some examples of when I would say yes:

Do you want to go to a party?
Will you do this thing at work that might seem intimidating?
Do you want to take a class with me?
Do you want some olives?
Will you volunteer for Wendy Davis?
Will you go to France with me?

I mean, these are just some examples. Anything is on the table for a possible yes. Except pet sitting. That is a firm no. Sorry.

I spent the last few years becoming comfortable with myself in my sober life, and that meant spending a lot of time alone. I really enjoy being alone and need to be alone most definitely. But sometimes I just say no to things because I am used to doing it (and might have some residual anxiety about being in social situations with no alcoholic lubricant.) I almost always have fun and rarely regret doing anything with people. And it's just something that I am determined to say yes to next year. 2013 was such a stellar year for me, and I want to surround myself with even more awesome, positive, kick ass people to go on adventures with. #yes

What's your intention for 2014?