Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language -- it's from the Latin word cor, meaning heart -- and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others,because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection." - Brené Brown


I haven't really watched that many TED talks. Like, I want to be a person who watches a lot of TED talks, because smart, exciting, innovative people have lots of cool, groundbreaking, essential shit to say in them, right? Everything you need to learn about yourself, about anything, is on the internet. I could replace my Master's Degree ambitions with TED talks and Skillshare sessions and YouTube videos,  I know it. I have a million saved on my Netflix queue. I mean to watch them. I want to be well informed about space and physics and why stupid, idiotic humans continue being fucking stupid and idiotic and human. But I watched this one because my therapist told me it was my homework this week. And after seeing it, I am very, very confident that I picked the right therapist.

Maybe it's because Brené Brown is a left brained analytic, right brained emotional empath like me, and she explains things from a point of view of a researcher and an analyst and also a writer and a person who is super lost in her own head, that it makes sense to me. I knew in the first two minutes this lady was legit. Maybe it's because I needed to hear that vulnerability is the solution, not the problem. Maybe it's because she made me remember that compassion is the way to serenity. Especially compassion toward myself. I think my favorite line in that whole talk is when she says that the people she studied who were most fully living in gratitude and joy were the ones who accepted their imperfections. They stopped being what they thought they should be and embraced who they are.

So I listened. I laugh cried. I worked on my night cheese.

I'm not built for indifference. I'm emotionally high maintenance. I need a lot of attention and affection and reassurance. I give those things in abundance, freely. I don't think this means I'm not independent or confident or individual. I just place a high value on personal connections. And I tend to isolate myself from friends and family when something is wrong. I'm a nester, but I'm also avoidant and easily offended. I'm sensitive. I am a super feeler. I'm manipulative and passive aggressive and I have a script that I want to play out and when it doesn't, I get mortally wounded. Or maybe I'm just a delusional, insane narcissist.

Cynicism is so easy now. Because everything, absolutely everything, is fucking broken and scary and wrong and destroyed. That terrible post-apocalyptic future is coming. It's here. We may not feel it yet, really, but we all know it. We can feel it in our bones. It may not be The Walking Dead style Atlanta nightmare, but it's coming. We are incapable of fixing the environment, the racial and gender injustice, the fact that it's now essentially legal for a police officer to kill you for no reason and not be prosecuted, even if it's fully captured on video. If you are a female, you can be raped and no one will be punished. I am afraid to walk alone at night. We can't fix the poverty, the religious wars, the pollution, the disease. People are starving to death in Syria. People are losing their homes because of global warming and the fact that we value consumerism over prosperity. It's impossible to keep up the facade of a middle class standard of living in the cities we love. There are 7 billion of us, and it's hard to believe I will ever find another person on this earth who can understand me in the way I crave. We are more lonely, disconnected, high, numb, addicted, and checked out than ever before. It's not the best time to be alive really. Like, the writing is on the fucking wall. YOU ARE FUCKING DOING IT WRONG, HUMANS. For real. Optimism seems like a sad vestige of the 60s.

So my solution is to make my life smaller. I want to be in the streets protesting for the value of black lives. I feel that pain acutely, and I believe in that. I am ashamed of the white culture and privilege that perpetuates this state in our society. I am ashamed to be a white woman, A white feminist. A middle classish American. I benefit from the oppression of others. I am a part of it and yet I want to help change it. But I can't. I can't do anything but try to go to sleep on time and eat fairly well and exercise and love people and find some kind of respite. The best thing I can do is try to be a better person. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just shut the fuck up and listen and not take up space that belongs to the oppressed. A lot of times, being an ally means being silent.

I find myself being smothered and suffocated with the presence of the device. A device is in my hand from the moment I wake up until the last thing when I go to sleep. I used to remember times where I wouldn't even look at my phone until 11 am or later. Now, I can't finish a 250 page book because I can't put down the goddamn phone. I remember making a conscious decision not to have a TV in my bedroom. I used to have a "no screens in the bed" policy. But I break it. I let my partner break it. Because I am numbing myself to my vulnerability. Because then, we don't have to actually be present with each other. Ever. Or with ourselves. I want to find myself in stillness. I want to find a way to soothe without becoming hysterical. I want to stop holding resentment at the device against the people I love the most. I want to find a way to be okay and to love without being selfish. Sometimes loving that much is smothering. I want to let myself be alive and breathe and remember that I have the capacity for love and gratitude. That in my flawed, fucked up state, I am enough. I am not broken. A breakdown is just another term for having a spiritual awakening.

Lean in.


x
s



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

the path is a spiral



“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.” ― Hermann HesseSiddhartha

When I was like 14, I read The Hot Zone, and became immutably terrified forever of filoviruses like ebola that cause hemorrhagic fever. I, and basically every woman I know who is now in her 30s, became convinced that it was only a matter of time before some avian swine monkey sheep flu got on a plane in the rainforest and came to wipe us all out. Not just killing you quickly and mercifully, but making your organs liquify and blood shoot out of every orifice and pore. I was afraid of pandemics. I was afraid of AIDS. I was afraid of global warming and nuclear war and a meteor hitting the earth and killing everyone on it, because dinosaurs used to walk where I stand. DINOSAURS.   There used to be giant monster lizards roaming all over this shit and they're gasoline now. I mean, it doesn't look good, you know? So this summer, I watched in horror, paralyzed, as more and more people in West Africa became sick with ebola. Yep, this is it, I thought. This is what it's going to be. Zombies are real. We are all going to fucking die. 

But actually, I just wasn't that scared really. Like, I thought I should be scared, because some really scary shit went down this summer. But I wasn't. Not really. Not even when people in Dallas started to get ebola. I mean, I know the science behind contagions like this, and I think in the back of my mind, I believed the CDC could keep it under control, in spite of the massive failures of the healthcare system. 

But...Did I really believe that? 

Or am I just too numb to actually feel anything?

I cried at a Ryan Adams concert a couple weeks ago. My amazing, lovely friend who works at KLRU took me to his ACL taping, and a few songs in, I cried. Like real tears. I don't even like Ryan Adams. At all. Not really. I mean, there are worse things to listen to, but he's really not my jam at all. But I felt something. I was present. Because it was the first show I had been to in so long where no one, not a single person, was on their phone. There were no screens or Instagrams or Tweets or Facebooking. It was just a guy and a guitar and a roomful of quiet, attentive people. It FELT like one of the most amazing shows ever. I know that's not actually true, but it felt real, Like it used to. It made me remember that I used to like bands. 

I feel like I've awoken and found myself having retreated into a world of distraction, of endless clicks and likes and texts and messages and fewer and fewer real experiences with people. I don't write anymore because I have nothing to say. I am not here. And I am desperate for personal, meaningful, visceral human contact. I am quietly yearning to be ravaged by emotion and physical affection and just... anything. Everything. I used to feel special, like I knew myself, like I had everything planned out forever. But now I just feel like life is blowing by me at a pace I can't fathom and I am too busy clicking on another story to notice. 

Fuck Facebook. Seriously. Fuck it so hard. Stop fucking making us into idiot drones who watch two minute viral videos and click through 40 page slideshows of dumb gifs of cats and read celebrity gossip that tears people down and invades their privacy and rants on politics and on feminism which always turn into really being about racism and think that's what being alive is. Fuck politics and sports and pundits and Jezebel and basic bitches and award shows and stupid bullshit pop culture. I'm so tired of feeling like I live in Idiocracy. 

And yet... there's always that hopeless, reckless optimism inside me that just won't die no matter how hard I try to kill it. I'm trying to find my way out. I am back at the beginning, trying to get back on track with fitness and self care to maybe, somehow, pull myself out of the hole of apathy I fell into. When the path is a spiral, eventually you're going back up again. I want to be present with people in my life. I want to put down the phone and the laptop and be there. I want to create and grow and laugh and love. I want to go and do. I want to move and breathe and feel all the feelings there are. I want sunrises and fireworks and magic. I can still love. I know it. We are still so young. There is so much left to look forward to. 

This world, our now, is terrifying. It's dark and violent and dangerous and chaotic. Everything falls apart, and sometimes it comes back together, and then it falls apart again. All we have is each other. All we have is today. We have to go outside and listen and look at each other and hug and laugh and kiss and fuck and sweat and cry and scream and dance and run and play and do it now. This computer is not life. It's not. 

This is all over the goddamn place, but it's something. Who knows, maybe I'll write something else in a few days. Rinse. Repeat. 

x

                                                                   

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.