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:

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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:

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.

Friday, February 7, 2014


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.


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


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
contentment in solitude
compassion for myself and others
meaningful work
friends thicker than blood
laughing and laughing and laughing some more
my brother
my mom
saying yes to life
the ability to physically kick the shit out of working out
feeling genuinely good about my appearance
fashion as a subtle art
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?)
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?

Friday, November 22, 2013

musical journey

My Musical Journey Mandala
Hello there.

As you may have noticed, I've been away for a while. A lot has happened since I last wrote, and I'm writing to you today compelled by gratitude, on the other side of a profound and transformational experience that came to be through synchronicity, as these things tend to unfold. I've chosen today to come back here to honor the creative drive within myself to do, make, say, think. And because I've missed you.

As those of you who have read this blog regularly over the last five years know, I've had some pretty intense emotional experiences since I began sharing here about my life. There have been times where writing in this blog was the only thing I knew how to do to process what was happening with me. It was here that I gave back parts of myself so that I might help someone else. I thought that if someone who was struggling with addiction or motivation or who was just looking for a way through an impossible situation found this blog, they might read some of my writing, and listen to some of my musical selections, and find inspiration, hope, compassion, and understanding. It was my way of giving back, because I have so much to be thankful for in my life.

I got sober, and a greater task and journey appeared before me. I have conquered the mountain. I thought that was the point. I made it. But still, I struggled. I was very unhappy working in a job that drained my emotional, physical and mental energy. Every day. I woke up and felt lost. I felt like I was drifting through my life with no purpose, and I tried everything to get out and find out what I was supposed to be doing. But mostly I was hypnotized to sleepwalk through the mundane tasks that made up my days for the last two years. I had brief glimpses of my true self when I would travel or take time away from work to attend SXSW. Through shared musical experiences, I would connect with my people, and with myself. I learned that I had the ability to go on these journeys alone, and began going to many shows by myself, which five years ago would have been unheard of for me. It's now the rule rather than the exception. Seeking out music, art, and theater experiences has come to dominate my free time, and I only feel that this will continue. It's part of who I am.

But back to the whole "being in the wrong job" thing.

This summer, I met my bestie EO in New York City for a few days. She moved out of Austin in April and that event had me even more unsure of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing. When the people closest to you do big things in life like get married or have babies or move to the east coast, it kind of makes you question everything. For months, years even, I've considered that maybe I shouldn't be here. And when I was on that trip, I decided then that I wanted to leave Austin and go live in the big city. I started planning, researching, and investigating how to make this a reality. It gave me a new motivation to get up every day. It got me through the summer, and I started looking into going back to school. I made long term and short term plans, prioritizing getting my proverbial ducks in a row so that I could afford to leave. I also realized that those immediate goals would actually enable me the freedom to do a lot more than move to a new city. Getting out of debt and making good financial decisions would enable me to buy a house, travel, and afford to do all the things I want to do in the future. It was an end in itself, and once I figured this out, I felt really good about sticking to the plan.

In the meantime, I had also identified that getting out of my previous work situation was a top priority. Even if it meant I couldn't move to New York for another year or two. I spent the summer applying for any job in my field I thought I could tolerate. I went on interviews. I went on more interviews. I took time off work and wore pencils skirts and smart blazers and met important business people and board members and CEOs and Directors. And every time I got a call from another employer telling me I was their second choice or just not the right fit, I felt helpless and hopeless. It was just like the rejection I had experienced with dating, but almost worse, because this was my career. I knew that I had a wealth of experience and varied skill set that was atrophying due to being in the wrong place and not engaging my strengths in the job I was in. I had compassion fatigue. I was close to giving up. I thought about getting certified in TESL and moving to Brazil. I was done.

And then, at the last possible moment, something magical happened. I applied for a job at a nonprofit drug and alcohol recovery treatment center. I said, "This is the last job I'm applying for in Austin." I meant it. And they called me and I had an interview scheduled for two days after I returned from Philly in September, which is where we pick up on the blog. I had just celebrated my two year sobriety birthday. I went into the interview thinking I wouldn't get the job, and maybe not worrying about it so much, which allowed me to be completely honest and genuine in a way I think is really hard to do when there's a lot at stake and you need a job.

I got an offer that same day.

I was so surprised and scared of what was happening, I actually turned them down a couple of times before agreeing to negotiate and actually being pursued in a way that has never happened to me professionally before. These lovely people had met me for two hours and decided that they would do whatever it took to get me to say yes. They saw something in me, a potential, but also they believed in me in a way that I didn't believe in myself. They recognized me as one of their own.

And so, I said yes. I said yes and I was terrified.

I quit the job I hated and left the organization I had worked at for more than 7 and a half years. I took a role in an area that is fairly new to me, and I started learning. Every day, I spent my time going to meetings and talking to counselors, support staff, administrators, and alumni about how this place works and what my role is supposed to be. And because my position is new, I get to build it from the ground up, and make it what I think it needs to be. They are trusting me to do this work, and have invested time and effort into giving me the tools and training to make it happen. The last month has been the most professionally fulfilling of my life. It's amazing how finding a job you love can change absolutely everything.

Let me explain. Today, myself and two colleagues got paid to spend the day with an amazing experiential therapist embarking on a Musical Journey. Musical Journey is a therapy that our clients go through, and staff is encouraged to participate in as many different kinds of programs and therapy sessions as we can, so that we understand what it's like to be a client in treatment, and we experience what their treatment plans include.

From our website description:
"It's an hour of evocative music without words facilitated by cyclic breathing designed to put the participant in a meditative state of consciousness. The breathing combines with the musical pattern is designed to invoke emotions often blocked by more cognitive or protective processes of the brain. Musical Journey allows repressed emotions and memories to surface and be felt, rather than simply being discussed.  This expression is most often described as cathartic and speeds the healing process, often dramatically. Oftentimes, addicts and alcoholics have spent much of their lives using to keep a particular memory or set of events out of their consciousness. By being able to bring these memories up, experience them and release them, many of our clients find a clearer path to recovery."
And let me tell you, it was intense. It was actually the single most transformative therapeutic experience I have ever had in such a short amount of time. The photo at the top is of the mandala art I made right after the experience. I knew taking this job would force me to think about addiction and my own personal experience more than I might be comfortable with. It was one of the reasons I initially was afraid to take the job. But today, I really began to understand that kicking drugs and alcohol to the curb was not the end of my journey. Getting and staying sober is not the point of recovery. It's only the beginning. I am only now free to connect to my higher self and pursue those greater ideals and aspirations of self that are blocked when you are addicted. It's so exciting and the opportunities I feel presenting themselves to me are boundless. I feel a renewed sense of belonging and purpose that I have never experienced. If I sound stoked, it's because I am. I love the work I'm doing. I no longer feel that urge to pack up and leave. In fact, I want to build a nest. Everything is the best!

I did most of my hard work on my own. I thought I was alone. I didn't know how badly I craved the companionship of others who understand addiction. I didn't know that working in this field would give me such a sense of purpose, belonging, and gratitude for every single day.

I finally found my tribe.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

731 days


Today, I have been sober for 731 days.

That's one regular year, and one leap year if you're counting.

I am celebrating my second sober birthday by visiting my best friend in Philadelphia and taking her to an Atoms for Peace show, where I will shimmy and shake it and  dance it out with Thom Yorke and Flea and Nigel and I will sing along and smile as Thom dances that way he does. And Erin will laugh at my ridiculous love for all things Thom, and he will sing and I will be fully present, and my heart will go to that place it goes when I get to be in the same room with that voice. I will do these things with my full faculties intact, a clear head, and a vivacious heart.

I am grateful and humbled and amazed that I have made it here. It took a really long time. It was a big mountain. 

There was a time in my life when I was unable to attend a show, or any social function, including a casual dinner at a friend's house, without booze. Let's be honest, any excuse, especially a band playing, was a fine occasion for boozing it up. I have always loved live music, but as time went on, my ability to show up at gigs was often more for the drink, rather than the music or performance I claimed to want to see. By the time the main attraction came on, I was usually four or five drinks in, and well on my way to being checked out. I actually thought being drunk enhanced my enjoyment of music. That's kind of the biggest lie ever. Although, I suppose it can feel good at the time, as much as being completely out of control of yourself, as much as total oblivion, can feel good. When you're in that state of living, it's hard to know that you're really hurting, because you can't feel anything.

It's weird to think about being that person now.

I've had the pleasure of seeing so many performances over the last two years, shows that painted vivid memories in my mind of the emotions I experienced, the people I was with, and of the music.  I saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for the first time ever, packed with a thousand happy hippies in the rain and mud at Austin Psych Fest. I watched my dear friends Capsula play a sunny afternoon set on the same stage and saw hundreds of people falling in love with them in the span of a half hour. It was a magical thing to behold.

In 2012, I saw Radiohead play four times in one week, and somehow managed to get a ticket to their taping of Austin City Limits. I even remember that I was wearing my red and purple dress with the flowers, my red Doc Marten boots, and that I overflowed the gas pump on the way to the show I was so excited to be going. I was shaking with joy.

I stood on the front row of Red 7 with tears running down my face and let Caspian make my heart explode inside my chest. I've rocked out in Dallas with Frightened Rabbit, stood transfixed on the front row while We Were Promised Jetpacks played the last show of SXSW, watched a four hour set by Leonard Cohen with six encores at Bass Concert Hall, been transfigured by Sigur Ros, swooned with The xx, laughed my face off at Louis CK, seen Alan Cumming naked in his one man Macbeth on Broadway, and flown across the country to see The Boxer Rebellion play in New York City.

I cried when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played "Ten Thousand Hours" outside at the old Emo's. And when Semi Precious Weapons played "Aviation High" at our last SXSW before Erin moved to Philly. I watched Sarah Jaffe play an acoustic set in a Mad Men living room, danced my face off at a Chvrches show at Mohawk and The Black Angels put me into a serious trance at their Austin City Limits taping last month.

Seeing music I love sober is one of the greatest things about my life. It actually hurts to think about all the years I went and dulled myself to the magical shit that was happening on the stage in front of me. I was never capable of making that kind of emotional connection when I was drinking. Not with music, not with anyone. But now, I listen. I have been purely engulfed in the moment at countless shows these last two years with nothing more than a dollar in my pocket, a friend and a smile. Again and again, I look to the stage and feel complete. I am here. I am with you. All is not lost.

Russell Brand wrote an article for The Guardian a few months ago, My Life Without Drugs, that I have been saving to read until today. Russell has been clean and sober for ten years, and in addition to being a pretty irreverent and sexy Cockney ragamuffin, he's actually quite the insightful, eloquent writer. While our journeys back from the brink of addiction are different, I think this essay in particular is a beautiful explanation of what it's like being a recovered addict and alcohol abuser.

Reading that article, I feel lucky. Lucky that I don't have to think about not using heroin everyday like Russell does. Lucky that my battles with my alcohol demons are fairly few and far between these days. Like Russell, I follow the inevitable train of thought when I fantasize about getting a drink. I let my mind wander through that first, refreshing sip of a cold martini or Jameson. And I roll on through to the next drink, and the next, and the next, where I feel looser, more crass, more sexualized and careless and rowdy and sloppy. Where I start to not like the way I am behaving. Where I forget where I am and who I am with. Where I start not to care who I am. Where I stop being me and the monster takes over.

Well, I'll let Russell tell you what that's like.
"I will relinquish all else to ride that buzz to oblivion. Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce's yacht, it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house. I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me; unchecked, the call of the wild is too strong. I still survey streets for signs of the subterranean escapes that used to provide my sanctuary. I still eye the shuffling subclass of junkies and dealers, invisibly gliding between doorways through the gutters. I see that dereliction can survive in opulence; the abundantly wealthy with destitution in their stare."
My reality is this: The euphoric recall of enthused days full of bliss and carefree, drunken afternoons getting bombed and snorting lines are a lie. The reality is a woebegone nightmare, pissing your pants, spending all your money, and waking up covered in vomit with someone you don't remember. Or worse, waking up alone after a few reckless days on the white mountain and deciding killing yourself would be easier than coming off the ride again. It always struck me as ironic, how suicide seems like such a gift when you're in that much pain. People think that suicide hurts the one who does it, but it doesn't. By design, the only people who hurt are the ones who are left behind.

And although I chose a different path out, and don't participate in traditional recovery support groups, I had more than two years of extensive therapy that allowed me to learn how to cope with a new reality that did not include alcohol. For me, reliving my mistakes and fighting my addiction one day at a time wasn't going to work long term. I needed a solution that gave me back my choice and control and allowed me to accept the full responsibility of my behavioral choices. It gave me my power back. I needed to be able to go through hell, and still not pick up a drink. And I did. Over and over. My father went to prison, and then he died, and still I did not drink. Tragedy was my remedy. I can't thank my therapist enough for giving me the tools to get my life back. Howard, you are the best, and I owe you all the gratitude in the world.

I also could not have done it without my support system. Although I'm not calling a sponsor at 4am to help talk me down from the brink of scoring crack from a homeless man on the sidewalk, I do have a hardcore team of supporters who I know would come drag that bottle out of my hand and help me for any reason if I asked. In fact, I don't even have to ask. These people are just there for me. That's how badass these ladies are. Erin, Liz, Sara, Sam. Thank you. You are truly wonderful, lifelong friends.

No matter how we get to the sober place, the thing that matters is that we stay. We just don't pick up, as Russell says. I may daydream about having a glass of wine in a cafe in Paris someday, but I know I never will. I don't need to or want to take that chance. My desire for drink has mostly gone, because I have changed the reality I live in. I like it here. I don't need to cope with the horrors of daily life, because there's nothing wrong that I can't handle now. France is so amazing on its own, I don't want to miss a moment of that being inebriated. Sometimes I do get in that "listen to Morrissey or die" headspace and have a pity party for my lonely heart. But even then, I never lose hope. I remember the way I was, and I am grateful. I regret nothing, because I am the sum of my experiences and choices that led me to this moment.

I'm in a body that I love and care for relentlessly. I'm 60 pounds lighter and a hundred years younger. I'm comfortable, compassionate, rational, responsible, and reasonable. Instead of pure survival, I am faced with the problem figuring out what I want the rest of my life to be about, what kind of career I want, where I want to live, and who I want to spend my time with. I live inside the luxury of being faced with living up to my own potential and following my dreams.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drugs, there is a way out. I am a willing resource to help, and I know how you feel. Get in touch, no matter who you are. I will listen. I will understand. I will never judge you. Not ever.

(Two years sober! BOOM! And I will also remember with vigor the time EO and I saw Atoms for Peace play and no one wore shirts. BEST DAY EVER.)

731 Days on Spotify

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

remember who you are and go be that

Remember the time when you thought you could do anything? When you thought you knew who and what you wanted to be? Remember when you felt inspired? Alive? When was the last time? When did we forget? When did we accept we couldn't do the thing we want most? We did we give up?

I've been censoring myself on this blog. I won't write about politics because I'm afraid someone might read it and see that I said that I'm angry and sad that I live in a state that doesn't value women or trust us to make our own healthcare choices. That I believe that abortion should be safe, fully accessible and without apology. I'm afraid that they might find out I have tattoos and used to drink a lot a long time ago and this might make them not want to give me a job someday. They might not like that I use colorful language and talk a lot of shit because that's just how I write this blog.  I've been stifling my writing, and dancing around the topics I really want to talk about, because I'm afraid I might offend someone sitting in an office with my resume in front of them, someone who has Googled me, and that maybe they might not want to give me a chance. I don't write about my current job, which would be pretty ridiculous, hilarious and awesome (in the vein of because I'd like to keep that job until I find another one. I've worried the wrong person might read this blog. They might read this blog and think they know me.

Well, I'm here to say... Fuck that noise. No one reads this flipping blog. And I just don't care to work for anyone who thinks the Penis Hand Tattoo story is not a work of art. If you read this blog and you don't think I'm totally amazing, then you're an idiot. Sorry. That's how we're playing it now.

It's no fun to try to write posts about bullshit like online dating or whatever other fluffy, vague crap I've been posting about (Oh my god, I would rather gouge out both my eyes with a No. 2 pencil than go on another online date just so I can have something to write about. Seriously you guys, I mean it. OKCupid can suck a dick in hell.) But I know that I want to keep writing, and keep sharing with you, and to just keep going. And I have to be able to talk about what's going on in my life or what's the point? Right? I just want to be able to come here and say stuff without having to have a big master plan or some kind of secret code that you have to decipher.

So, what's going on is, I've ruled out selling everything I own and moving to Brazil to teach English. But that was seriously considered. I'm not quite ready to leave the comforts of home behind, even for a year, to go live on the beach somewhere. Frankly, I like my bed too much. I'm interested in downsizing and sacrificing certain aspects of my life to live in a different place, but that bed, it stays with me. I'm super serious about luxurious bedding.

What is happening: I made a promise to myself in June that I would give myself a year to find either a job or a person to keep me in Austin. I wanted to make sure that any job I took would be one that I could commit to for a minimum of a year, preferably two to three. I'm serious about my commitments to the people I work for, and I would never agree to take a job if I thought I would be leaving in a few months. I've been hitting it hard for months now. And here it is September, and still I haven't found that next opportunity. I'm not dating on purpose, because I don't want an excuse to stay. I'm starting to realize that the reason I can't find the next thing is because it's just not here. My life, my future, is not going to happen here. It's scary to admit that. But it's true. I know it. I've known it for a while. It's going to be time to go soon.

So the truth is, I'm not sure what this blog is about anymore, because I'm trying to understand what I'm about. That's the exquisite tragedy of solving all your life problems. Then you have to actually confront what you're capable of and go do it. The only thing I know for sure is that I am only capable of being fully myself, expressing myself, and being confident in who that person is. I hope you'll stick around. I promise there will be jams.

Monday, August 19, 2013

music monday: restless

Well shit, everything just falls apart, doesn't it?

God, last week sucked. I got robbed by some very sophisticated Canadian debit card thieves, I had to get a scary health test that also hurt, and I didn't get a job I was sure I was going to get. (Runner up now for the fourth time.) I've been watching so much TV lately to cope with the combination of random unsavory life circumstances + trying to be fiscally responsible + trying not go outside too much because it's 100+ degrees. I feel like I'm half vampire, half fairy, and I have a raging urge to cook some meth and pass some legislation for the Bartlet administration.

I think my brain has just rotted right out of my head.

Ever since I got back from New York, I feel listless. Restless. I'm twitchy. I'm back in that not sleeping well, tired at work, over caffeinated, drained from doing an unfulfilling job all day state of mind. Oh sure, I'd love to go to the gym after a long, mind numbing day at work and go sweat my already sweaty face off doing really difficult physical activities for an hour. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A GODDAMN BLAST. I think I'd rather just sit on my couch eating Taco Bell Mexican Pizzas and watching Walter White turn into the devil. Seriously, Walter though, amirite?

The summers in Texas drain my energy and make me depressed, because I have no motivation to do life things like socialize with other humans or wear pants. I have the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have Heat Induced Apathy. HIA gives zero fucks. It doesn't even care it's not an acronym. It doesn't even need to explain itself, because in the Texas summer, if you have it, you know. HIA. Because fuck you, that's why.

August seriously, you are my least favorite month. You are the month in which I wishfully order leather jackets and boots on Amazon because WINTER IS COMING. PS - Thanks for making me blow my amazing summer budgeting, jerk.

Also, this blog redesign. Ugh. I don't know if I like it. The formatting is driving me crazy. It takes me twice as long to post as it used to. I miss the Blogger functionality. That's what happens when you trade in something that works just fine for a new fancy model that looks perfect. Looks aren't everything. I miss my smart, easy going, cool girl blog. This one is so fancy and nice looking, I feel like I need to buy it dinner. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE EVERYTHING IS THE WORST.

At least I'll have an awesome leather jacket soon. No pants, leather jacket. Brilliant.