Thursday, February 11, 2016

impermanence


I imagine this is called something like 'Under a Tree with Existential Dread'

"Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it." - David Foster Wallace

When I was a girl, I remember this M&M's commercial they'd play on Saturdays while I was watching  Punky Brewster and Smurfs cartoons and eating Mr. T cereal. It was always tweens hanging out at the mall, eating peanut M&M's, laughing, flirting, not being at school, wearing lots of acid wash denim, being nonchalantly cool, and having the best goddamn time of their lives. At the mall. With no adults. Where boys and lip gloss could freely intermingle in the dark arcade. Where $5 could get me a slice of pizza and a tiny bag of glittery stickers and temporary tattoos. Where we'd be left alone for hours on end, because nothing bad ever happened back then.

Now, when I get that giddy 'something amazing is about to happen' feeling, I sometimes remember that 'almost summer, just any day now' vibe I'd get the last few weeks of school when Mom would pick me and my friends up in the Jeep, having taken the top off and left the doors in the garage for the duration. There's nothing more exciting to a ten-year-old just out the door of elementary school than riding around in a convertible, wearing a pink miniskirt, listening to Purple Rain so all your friends can bask in your exquisite coolness. My Jeep driving mom was cool. I was cool. My friends were cool. We cursed and called radio stations and listened to rap music. We were about to summer the fuck out of some summer. There was going to be swimming and amusement parks and roller skating and all the books and music I could take in. Christopher Pike and George Michael. Judy Blume and Depeche Mode. Both Salt and Pepa. Summer camp. Boys. Ice cream.

Even then, I reveled in anticipation. I'd certainly enjoy a thing less if I didn't get to ramp myself up for it for weeks ahead of time. There's generally never a time when I haven't got several events lined up, a couple trips on the horizon, festivals, dinners, parties, plans plans plans. I'll plan you into next year. Anticipation is like anxiety for good. It's pretty much the main catalyst in sexual desire. It's standing on the edge of a feeling, imagining how amazing it will be when it happens. It's teasing yourself with all the possibilities, and ignoring the certain doom of what happens when it's over.

I'm sure he wasn't the first, but John Lennon is quoted as having said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."  So many of our life's memories are big moments, those special days that stand out at the peaks and troughs of joy and despair. We forget that most of our time is spent in between. Our days, most of our days, are rather unremarkable indeed. They stack upon one another like pages in a book, so that we may not remember them individually, but just as an essence. That was the year I began practicing yoga. That was the year my heart was broken. That was the month I fell in love. That was the year I got this job or moved into that house or when everything changed completely.

As we get further from those experiences, even the essence starts to fade. So as we grow older, the book starts to fall apart and we forget when those big things happened exactly.

When you start to look at the science of subjective time perception, it becomes fascinating and then horrifying as you realize what the long-term studies say around how we feel and experience time.

"If long-term time perception is based solely on the proportionality of a person's age, then the following four periods in life would appear to be quantitatively equal: age 5 to 10 (1x), age 10 to 20 (2x), age 20 to 40 (4x), age 40 to 80 (8x)."

So, by the time we're 40, the next 40 years FEELS the same length as the previous 20. Every month, every day, while sometimes longish seeming, flutter by like grains of sand in an hourglass of time. It's always running out, and going faster.

We blink, a year has passed. We're 21. We're 27. We're 30. We're 35. We're 38.

These normal every days slip through our fingers in minutes and seconds spent in teeth brushing, coffee ritual, sipping through a few hours of work and emails and quick chats with a friend about the weekend plans, heated up frozen lunch (that delightful winter soup from January), small talk with co-workers about their kids and spouses and obligations. Five. Drive. Perhaps a class, an hour away from screens, a short connection with the physical body, a practice, breath. Cooking. TV. Hobbies, perhaps a night out with a friend or someone new. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat. It's January. It's March. It's August. It's Christmas. Happy New Year.

This life is so unbelievably fucking short.

The other side of all that anticipation is the let down when the magical, special, memorable time comes to an end. Even when I was as young as five or six, on Sunday afternoons when my friends would leave and go home after our all-night Monopoly marathons fueled by Coca-Cola and Mr. Goodbars, I would be inconsolable. I never wanted the times with them to end. I knew in theory there would always be more sleepovers and I'd see them at school and we were friends, but I would get so sad. I was always alone again, and I did all my best work when I wasn't, it seemed.

Now, I still get sad when trips end, when the party is over, when the last band turns out the lights and everyone goes back home. I turn the routine back on and make the coffee and feel like a lonely five-year-old talking to her red stuffed elephant on a yellow and green shag carpet.

I know that doom gloom well. We can't stay in the twilight forever. Dawn always comes. The sun always rises. And I don't want to spend even one day moping around in dark rooms being sad over things I can't have, when I have have so much. I have the sun, and the air, and the sky and the stars and the moon, every day, I just have to go outside myself. So much of our suffering comes from wanting things to be other than they are.

The trick, I've learned, is to make your everyday life a robust, musical, enjoyable place to be. Make friends with your solitude. Be your own best friend and you are never truly alone. It's hard to be sad when you come home to a place you love. Whatever pain we encounter, whatever story we are trying to write, whoever's face is in our mind at night and in the mornings, those things don't define us.  Time is passing. We are getting older, and it's going to be okay. There is nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. When you stop trying to steer and just let go, you see that things are always just as they are meant to be. Whatever the next thing is that comes will reveal itself to you. You just have to go outside.





Thursday, January 21, 2016

colony collapse





Let go of the things that no longer serve you.

This is my 2016 mantra.

I run shit into the ground pretty hard, particularly things and people that turn out to be negative influences on me for a myriad of reasons. I just can't fathom giving up sometimes until whatever it is has gone so far off the rails that it might as well be dead. I need it to be dead. I'm driven by hope and possibility and probably an unfailing, naive optimism that people are their highest selves inside somewhere, and that I have some magical power to bring that out in them. What a narcissist.

Instead of being irritated at my natural compassion and huge threshold for pain, I try to frame my relentless exposure to patterns of self-sabotage as some kind of samsara of gaining knowledge and tools so I can climb higher. I choose to believe life gives me what I need to have, even if sometimes that's painful. Seemingly pointlessly so.

I value closure, resolution, and hard stops. Completion. I like things to be finished and know the whys and hows. I want a bow around it, and I want to know I did everything in my power to save it. I will analyze and turn things over in my mind until they are just abstract concepts, as if thinking obsessively could somehow will things into being as if by magic. I will stay awake at night trying to decipher someone's cryptic motivation for an action that generally has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. The new trend of ghosting and just dropping off the face of the earth, or just never talking about the things you really should be talking about, this everyone is disposable world... it's unconscionable.

I am probably going to actually die from being ignored.

I try to live my life in a way that doesn't hurt people. I want to be kind and fun and dependable and someone with character that can be trusted. I want to be present and available and helpful and loving. I strive for honesty and truth in my relationships. I tell people the things I need to tell them. I'd say by looking around my life at the people in it, I'm doing a good job of being a decent human person. But there are always going to be those times where someone just decides they don't care to be in my sphere. Be it romance, or friendship, or work. Not everyone is going to like you all the time. Life fact. I know. It's the worst. I am totally a sweet, dumb dog in a world full of nonchalant cats.


ACCEPT MY LOVE, CAT.
Accepting this, the idea that I could have done some unknown horror to someone I care about and never know that I did it, is almost impossible to bear. I have to really work at it, as there's a quagmire of fear, hurt, and rejection that sucks me in and tries to swallow me. We empaths have to accept that not everything needs to be talked about and analyzed forever. Not everyone needs to hash things out in this way until there is a resounding solution. Some problems never get solved. Some relationships never happen. Some things just are as they are, there is no why.

We must respect boundaries, even when, especially when we don't understand why they are there. Especially when they are not the same as ours. Not everyone has the ability or desire to say what they really want to all the time. Some people don't need that. They just need space and time and distance. We must learn to really hear the silence, and take that as a resounding and clear signal that our time is done. Sometimes the colony collapses and leaves the queen alone and she never knows why.

So how do we let go?

Fire up your internal spotlight. Chances are, you already know what needs to go. You've got a closet full of emotional bullshit you've been meaning to take to the charity shop, but you're holding on to that party dress  just in case full body sequins come back this year. And if you're not sure, ask yourself, in the words of the illustrious Janet Jackson, "What has he done for me lately?" Or, you know, it. What has it done? Whatever. My point is, people show you who they are. Trust that. Get inside your head and heart and figure out what's giving you that anxious feeling and get rid of it. (I'm speaking metaphorically. You always look good though. For real.)

Be here now. Clinging on to some old place and time or the hope of a future that may not come to be is futile and takes your energy away from the present. What and who do you have in your life this instant that makes you feel your best? Form a protective circle with those things and set up camp in the middle of it.

Say goodbye. It may sound cheesy and silly, but releasing rituals really do help. This can be as simple as just saying goodbye in a letter or note, even one you never send. It can be gratitude toward the purpose that was served in your life by this person or thing. It can be whatever symbolic act makes you feel good. Here are some I like: (because fire, come on.)  

Start where you are. Someone quoted this to me once from the deeply wise Pema Chödrön and it remains one of my most cherished spiritual ideas. We tend to manifest what we need in life, right where we are. In fact, she says it so well...
“WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”
Dance it out. Because all my life advice begins and ends with getting your jive on with your body and music and breath and life and your protective circle. Do it up.



Friday, January 15, 2016

the man who fell to earth: a tribute to david bowie


The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1976

I'm sure everyone has reached Peak Bowie by now, but it took me some days to wrap myself around the idea that David Bowie is Dead. Like forever. Permanently. Being dead means he was a human, just like the rest of us. Not invincible. Not able to beat cancer or outlive us all and explode into a whole planet with giant rings the many colors of his Ziggy lightning bolt. He was so human, and yet death has proven him immortal just the same.

There have been so many beautiful, heartbreaking, intimate things written about David Bowie over the last several days. Not only by artists, actors, musicians (Brian Eno's is my favorite,) celebrities, and friends who knew him, but by so many people across my network of friends. It seems as though everyone had a special David Bowie shaped hole in their hearts that he filled up with his music and film and art and fashion. Each of us found him in a different space, a different life phase, and we each have our own unique Bowie experience. The genuine love and loss people have expressed makes me happy to be part of a music-centric community that loves and respects this artist, this legend, this alien chameleon. And more importantly, it makes me happy to be human and alive. In an age where the daily media onslaught feels toxic and dangerous, seeing the world come together to honor and mourn the loss of one of the greatest artists in history feels like hope.

I have adored hearing your stories about how David Bowie changed your life, inspired you, and gave you the courage to let your inner freak out. No words I can muster will do the Starman justice, but this is mine.

My David Bowie genesis story is Labyrinth. I was just a kid when this film came out, but I was obsessed with it for most of my teen years, then later when I got into psychedelics in my 20s, and remain so even now. Labyrinth, like many of my favorite films from childhood, is very dark and oddly adult oriented. This man, Jareth, this Goblin King, he made me feel something exciting and nervy, even as a pre-pubescent tween figuring out my body and navigating being more grown up than all the other girls in school.


This explains so much about everything in my life. 

I didn't know why I liked him, but I really, really liked him. I liked his androgynous face and body, and his delicious accent, and his dominating presence, and his leather gloves and riding crop, and his laid back freaky muppet party style. I liked him so much that I found myself getting angry at Sarah for not staying in the castle with him. The masquerade ball is probably still my all time dream fantasy of life. I still want to shake her and tell her to forget about that noisy, irritating baby. I would stop watching the end all together after a few years because WTF STAY WITH DAVID BOWIE. Can you see what he's doing with those glass orbs? Look at his pants, because something is going on in them. Hello?!?!

I'm pretty sure lots of girls who grew up with Labyrinth feel the same way. I'm sure there are some who would shame me for having shared the inner workings of a young girl's mind, especially related to sexuality, but come on. Let's not pretend that we have zero idea what sex is until we're 18. That would be pretty Republican of us, wouldn't it? Also, I have zero shame in having my first of many androgynous/dominant/foreign accented crushes on David Bowie. First of many. I have a type, let's be real.

80s David Bowie was my first foray into his musical genius, and I went sort of chronologically backward as I got older. I didn't get super into his 70s music until my early 20s when I started taking creative writing my last semester of college. I was doing a lot of chemically enhanced spiritual exploration at the time and was obsessed with the idea of floating alone in space, and had gained some kind of concept of how minuscule the Earth is and how long infinity is, and that we essentially know absolutely nothing. I had recently stopped believing in god, so I found Space Oddity and Life on Mars to be right what I needed at the time. I read things like Slaughterhouse-Five and Player Piano and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The collected arts of knowledge seemed to reveal themselves like a shipwreck full of treasure waiting for me to find it and pillage. David Bowie was my lighthouse.

I can't even look at your adorable, mischievous face.

As I got older, he became important to me as a fashion and film icon. Another obsession of mine is Velvet Goldmine, and while not starring him directly, is quite obviously loosely based on the glam days of Iggy/Lou/David. Even now, I have a pair of silver glitter knee high boots in my closet that purposely were acquired as my "David Bowie Boots." Every time I glam out for a party or night out, I try to channel a little DB in the 70s way. Always put more Bowie into your look. The man was an absolute star, and his brilliant, often subtle film work and fashion statements have been as much of a delight and influence for me as his music.










Probably my favorite and most special David Bowie connection began in 2008 when I met Capsula at SXSW. Not only are they amazing, beautiful humans, but they are outrageously talented musicians, and they LOVE David Bowie. I can say with fair certainty that without him, Capsula would not exist. That would be a loss I couldn't bear, because they are made of magic. In fact, they recorded a version of Ziggy Stardust that will rock your stupid face off. Buy all their records!




And then, finally, we have Blackstar. What a heroic, expansive, crowning achievement of a record. Even in death, a gift. The truth is, in this record, we feel and see that our David Bowie was not young. He was not without pain or suffering. He was not kept in the womb of his glamorous, decadent youth. He got old. He got sick. And then he died. Like we all will. This hurts because if anyone seemed invincible it was David Bowie. Unbreakable. Unkillable.



We are so lucky to have been here at the same time as this space alien rockstar queen. The best we can do is to stay hungry and inspired and young at heart. Keep making and creating until we have no more breath. He won't be the last of our heroes to leave us. Rest in peace, beautiful man.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

obligation zero

Alberto Oliveira

“For fear you will be alone
you do so many things
that aren’t you at all.” 




A year and four days ago, I found myself painfully hungover, stumbling through the aisles of Red's Indoor Range, waiting for my turn to pick up a gun and shoot it into the dark metal ether. I'm sure there were targets. There were men. Men and tension. It was packed to the gills.  

Guns. This is a great idea. Guns will make you feel better. Shooting guns will somehow make leaving the person you desperately loved stop hurting. Right? For fuck's sake, try something new! 

I stared at rows of men with three, four, five different kinds of guns each. Rifles. Handguns. Scary military tactical shit I don't even know the names for. They owned these guns. They owned multiple, many, myriad guns. They had more guns at home. They wore gun guy clothes and had gun guy faces. They were happy and I was dead.

If someone told me a year before that I'd spend my next New Year's Day recovering from a sobbing whiskey bender in a gun range, I'd have laughed them out the door. Are you insane? Don't be ridiculous. That would never happen. Not ever. 

It occurred to me to retrace my steps. The irony of my being there was not lost on me, and I clearly didn't belong. Hey everyone! Look! Liberal Feminist Nonbeliever in a Gun Shop! It was like that scene in The Game where Michael Douglas wakes up in a cemetery in Mexico. He's been drugged and all his rich guy Wall Street money is just gone. All he has are the clothes on his back.   "WHO THE FUCK AM I AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY REAL LIFE?" I was not myself. I had not been myself for a year. I had reverted to a prior release and it was all glitched up and full of bugs. Crashing.  

It was finally our turn, and we walked through the sound room in our headphones to the actual range. There were ten or so stalls where men and a couple women were firing their weapons, and as we walked about two feet behind them, someone shot off a round. 

I jumped violently, instinctively and froze. I looked behind me into the face of my friend wearing the same expression as I was. FUCK THIS SO HARD. 

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Nope. Absolutely, completely, and utterly no. Not ever. Fuck guns, fuck this place, fuck these insane people and fuck everything in this zip code and this city and the world, get me the hell out of here right this minute before I completely freak out and collapse into nothing.

***

At the end of 2013, I wrote a post called The Year of Yes. I was trying to come out of my solitude bubble and do more things with people since I had finally learned to do life without boozing and I missed being adventurous and spontaneous the way I thought was when I drank a lot. (I wasn't, that's just an illusion where alcohol makes you think you are those things, but really you're just drunk and reckless.) I wanted to say yes to things and people and fun and love and life. 

And so I did. For a year, I said yes. I said it over and over and over. I said it when I knew I should be questioning, when I was pushed past my boundaries, when my feelings were destroyed and I was going against what I knew in my deepest heart to be true and good for myself. I sacrificed myself for an idea I had, an expectation that wasn't real. I forgot all the things I had learned and thought if I just said yes it would be enough. 

The best, most fulfilling, most happy life is built on balance. Being our best, highest selves is only possible when we are our own highest priority. People act like being selfish is bad. That you should sacrifice for your family, for your kids, and your spouse, and your partner, and your pets, and your job. You should give up your time and your money and your health and your love to these things. Our culture teaches us to be martyrs. We are meant to fulfill our responsibilities by putting ourselves last. 

Ideally, we should aspire to be good humans first and foremost. And the only way we can be good people to each other is to be as selfish as possible when it comes to our health and our mental well being and our needs as living, breathing humans. If you are run down, exhausted, stressed out, tired, abused, brokenhearted, addicted, sleep deprived, unhappy, and angry, you cannot be the person you need to be for the people who love you. You cannot be there for yourself. You become diluted, transparent, and you find yourself shooting guns into the darkness of your heart wondering where your years went. 

Our health is not a given. Our mental acuity is not guaranteed. We could all wake up tomorrow and it be our last day. We will lose everything we care about and then we will die. Maybe not in that order. When you start thinking about life in terms of gratitude and time and love, if we stop acting like we have forever to do the things we want to do, then we see very clearly what is important. 

Checklist for Living with Zero Obligation:

1.  Stop buying shit you don't need.
Every time I get right with one facet of myself,  I have other bad habits just waiting to creep right in and undermine my whole game plan. Saying no to things we don't need and making financial decisions that get us where we need to be are the foundation of being able to let go of our other toxic obligations like unfulfilling jobs and bad relationships. Get a budget, stick to it. Sometimes you have to say no to fun. It sucks. We're adults. Sometimes life sucks. Get over it. Stuff won't make you happy.

2. Don't say yes to things in the future you wouldn't do right this minute. 
I don't mean stop going to work and being someone's mom for the day or whatever, but just stop saying yes when you should say no. Don't friend that person on Facebook. Don't go to that party for that dude you don't like. Skip your work happy hour. Don't overcommit yourself to obligatory bullshit you hate when you should be cultivating a hobby or hanging out with your cute boyfriend. Stop having coffee with strangers from the internet who bore you to death. Do things you actually want to do. Spend time with people you like doing things that are valuable. 

3. Don't stay in bad relationships. 
Don't make exceptions for people who deserve to get kicked the fuck out of your life. Friends, lovers, even parents. Cut the ties. Say goodbye, feel terrible and sad and die a little, love them still, but leave. Now. You know when it's wrong. Get out. There is always someone else. Stop choosing people based on if they like you, make sure you like them and they deserve to be with you. Being alone is good for you. Try it. You're not obligated to sacrifice your own happiness for someone else. You deserve to be happy and so do they. Find people you love and who love you, then you can move mountains together. 

4. Say no to things that make you feel bad, no matter what people think. 
It's okay not to drink, or not take drugs, or not to have sex when you don't want to. It's okay not to smoke weed or cigarettes or eat things that make your insides feel like death. It doesn't matter why if it feels bad. It's okay to go to bed early and go to yoga in the morning instead of staying at the club until 3am. FOMO is bullshit. You know what's cool? Being healthy and fit and feeling awesome. Go to bed. 

5. Don't stay in a job you hate doing things you find unethical. 
Let's not rage quit with a brick through the glass tomorrow, but find a way out. If you're not doing what you want to be doing, find a way to get there. Make time. If you're bored, if you're sluggish, if you're depressed when you wake up, you need a new career. Stop saying yes to dumb shit and get your life together so you can wake up everyday and be happy to get to work. It doesn't matter if it takes a year or five years. You've got a long life left yet, make it happen. You can do it. 

6. Live where you need to live. 
This one is harder, but it's just about prioritizing.  For me, location is more important than space, but quiet and quality is more important than money. If you need to move cities or cross an ocean to be happy, doing 1-5 can help you get what you need in #6

7. Say yes to what you love. 
Sometimes we are so buried in obligation it's hard to know what we even like anymore.  For me, it's travel and music and food and culture and fulfilling, creative work, and those things braided up together in every possible way with amazing people who I love next to me. Every rule for me leads back to this. My goal is to have the maximum time and money and flexibility and freedom to do this as much as possible. Find out what you love and then go get it.

8. Break these rules when you should.
There is no night out you haven't had before unless you are in a city that requires a passport or perhaps if it is March in Austin. In that case, you say yes and you dance all night and watch the sunrise. Sometimes the consequences are worth it. Nothing is absolute. Sort yourself out and start at the beginning. Balance is about finding the middle way and allowing yourself to say yes when the time is right. 

***

The gun shop wasn't my last heartbroken hangover. It wasn't the last dumb thing I said yes to because I was searching for something to fill that void inside myself. It wasn't the end of my yearning for distraction, for time or excitement or newness to tantalize me out of dealing with my sadness and pain. It won't be the last crazy thing I do that feels wrong. Learning to return to the center, getting back to self care above all else, this is a map thats seared into my heart now. I am that happy, positive, optimistic, exuberant girl I always was. I like myself and everything is awesome. I just know how to say no now. No guilt, no regrets. 

x












Tuesday, December 22, 2015

solstice

"I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars." - Og Mandino


I like to think I learn things, both through the experience, and then processing and writing about it later. This has been my tried and true method for years, so much so that when I decided to stop writing here, I felt like a vital part of me was just gone. Evaporated. Journaling just isn't the same. There's some kind of validation I get from confessing my flaws and my powers to the great information void, even in relative obscurity and anonymity. I need it, and I always come back here. It's part of my being now. I don't know if it will always be in this format, but for me, writing and music and wisdom come to me together in a unified trifecta.

It was brought to my attention recently that I write about the same themes over and over. That maybe whatever I'm doing isn't working. Is it really progress if I have to keep revisiting, rehashing, rediscovering the same lessons I should have learned already?

Yeah.

The thing about me is that I'm the tortoise. I'm the mountain climber and the mountains are endless. I climb and I fall off the side. I start over. Again. And again. And again. It takes years of practice to really make progress as an adult. As a human. I don't just pay lip service to ideas, I wake up every day and try to figure them out and then I come here and tell you so that maybe you can think about your own life in a new way. Maybe you can forgive yourself or love yourself or choose something different this time. Maybe you take a chance and do something bold. Maybe you are inspired or moved or maybe you find some new music you like.  Even if it's just one of you. Even if it's only just me.

However slow, however many times I fall into a dark valley, however much it hurts this time, I keep getting up. Fall down five times, stand up six.

I mean, that's really the theme of this entire seven year project so far. Just keep going. Success or knowledge or growth doesn't just happen instantly, easily. Becoming whole is a process that is inherently 90% failure. Everything I know about myself, the real, honest, true things, I learned from pain and suffering and massively fucking up something or someone, usually in spite of knowing I shouldn't do it. I have stayed and fought for love when any sane person would have left months or years before. And I learned how grand my capacity is for caring about other people. I learned over and over and over that there is no one who will ever be enough to fill my infinity. I fill it myself. That is when I am my most majestic. The more times I can find compassion for myself instead of reaching for something "other" like booze or sex or people who are bad for me, the more I move closer to being my best, kindest, highest self.

I'm not perfect. I'm not even close. People still fuck my head up, I still trust when I should run, I still care too much too fast and get hurt, and that's okay. That's who I am. But when I think back to my life ten years ago, and how unhealthy and broken I was, and where I am now, there's absolutely no question in my mind that I am living right. Everything is magical as soon as you decide it is.

Things I Am Fairly Certain About At This Point: 

1. Someone is always going to be an asshole. Don't let that be you. Be sweet.
2. If someone tells you something, but acts in a way that is contrary to that, believe the action, not the words. People show you who they are.
3. Listen to your intuition. You already know the answer.
4. Make doing what's best for you when it's the most painful, hardest thing ever the first option, not the last.
5. Don't procrastinate your life.There is never a good time for pain, especially when you know it's inevitable. Don't drag your shit into next week or next year.
6. No matter how shitty you feel, you will feel amazing again. You will feel better than amazing. You will look back and think, what the actual fuck was I doing? Why did I wait so long? You will always heal stronger.
7. When you feel sad, treat yourself like a little kid. Eat grilled cheese and call yourself "Little Buddy" and sleep and walk and cry.
8. Stop hanging out with emotional vampires and toxic people who make you feel sad, unsafe, crazy, or make you cry. This world is full of people who are made of light. Find them. Those are your people.
9. Life will give you what you need when you need it. Sometimes that is a bullet in the heart.
10. You are capable of incredible emotional depth and connection. Never stop opening up and taking chances on loving people. It is always worth it, even if it hurts. Someday it won't.
11. Stop fighting. Don't be afraid.
12. It is impossible to regret exercise and not drinking.
13. Nothing is forever. Nothing.
14. Love your body. It is the only one you have and it is spectacular.
15. Always go outside.
16. You are beautiful and wonderful and amazing and lovable and smart and funny and cute and sweet and delightful and magical.  You are everything all of the time.
17. It is going to be okay no matter what.
18. Gratitude is the highest form of thought.
19. There is always someone else.


Happy solstice. x







Wednesday, December 9, 2015

in permanent ink


Heart of the Dragon: Socotra, Yemen 2010. Dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnabar)
'Glimpsing the dragon's blood trees that mantle the Haghier Mountains, one can imagine that this is what the world looked like millions of years ago. Living up to 500 years, these bizarre trees are unique to the island of Socotra. Growing in severe conditions, they have raised their branches upward over time in an effort to obtain moisture from the highland mists - hence the distinct appearance of their canopies, like an umbrella blown inside out. ' 

Round 1
After a couple years of imagining and fantasizing and planning, I finally sat down on Sunday with the brilliantly talented Rachel Kolar at True Blue Tattoo in Austin and got to work on my left arm sleeve. This is my second piece with Rachel, and after getting my right arm done in 2011, I knew I had found my artistic, inky siren. She has always been able to take my collage of images and concepts and ideas and hopes and turn them into something magical. She just gets me, and that is rare and amazing.

Like most of my favorite things in life, my tattoo creation experiences are big, messy, beautiful, organic processes that take time, creativity, patience, and trust. They are the ultimate union of self love, communication, aftercare, and human connection. This piece is, for me, the pinnacle to end a year of recovery, rebirth, and finding my way back to honoring the highest and best in myself. It's about being totally in love with my body for the first time in my life. It's about self awareness, gratitude, Gaia, Ganesha, and always, always knowing that I have everything I need, right now, inside myself. It's about my pact with the sea and the stars. It's about trips to outer space. It's about the deep circles of life that are ancient and infinite. It's about the moon being in love with the sun. It's about manifestation, and being present, and always, always, it is about love.

So yes, getting tattooed hurts like fuck all - before - at the root, on the inside, the shattered, tied up, healed up heart -at the time - deeply, intensely, deeper and longer and weirder than you imagine, where your leg twitches and your ears burn and you have to go inside and take Donato Dozzy with you to get through - and after - while you heal, and burn, and ache, and itch. 

Your power and your pain merge and fuse. And then, finally, beautifully, you are new.

A woman I will kindly allow to remain anonymous asked me today, with a squinty look of disapproval as she eyed my fresh outline, "So did you used to cut yourself or something?"

I stared at her. "Yes. Yes I did." Are you scared? Disgusted? Appalled? 

It's okay. Try to pay attention to the next part. 

People get tattooed for lots of reasons, some of which are way different than mine, so I certainly don't claim to speak for anyone but myself. There's no way to accurately convey the motivation or burning desire to adorn yourself in permanent color so everyone can see your power and your pain to people who don't get it, who think it's trashy, or immoral, or can't possibly understand how something so arduous and painful and serious would be necessary or enjoyable. They can't understand that without this expression, you are not yourself. How do you explain transcendence and metamorphosis to someone who can only experience a limited range of emotional depth?  

You can't. You're just judged. And that's totally okay. I welcome your questions and your judgement. I know who I am. And I want you to see. I need to see. It's there in front of me because I am made how I am supposed to be through the needle. A reminder. My heart is on my sleeve, right there, where everyone can see it. 

Tattoos are a sacred, intensely spiritual and meaningful choice. They are a lifestyle. Tattoos are art. Tattoos are recognition and acceptance of the impermanence of life and flesh and everything we know. I am part of a tribe of people who feel their bodies and lives and hearts are not complete without these words and pictures on our skin. We get tattooed to express on the outside who we need to be, who we are on the inside. We find an artist who can make us whole in this way, and we trust her to write love on our arms. We find people and jobs who understand we need this, who see our beauty, who accept and admire and understand. And these works of art and love and tears become as familiar as our eyes and faces and arms and legs. You stop seeing a stereotype, and see a whole person, just as they should be. 

How do you know what gets written in flesh? What do your tattoos mean to you? What do you listen to? Where do you go? Tell me. Tattoo worship is a go. 




Monday, November 23, 2015

give up the ghost



People always ask me if I have a favorite Radiohead song, and I usually say "Yes, all of them." While that's mostly true (I can't pick one favorite, don't be insane) I have a very serious, special soft spot for Weird Fishes/Arpeggi. This song. This song is everything. When I am sad or lonely or hopeless or depressed or despondent and shattered over something, someone, some loss or broken fantasy or dashed hope, this. When I've followed another phantom to the end of the Earth, when I fall off, this is what I listen to. This is how I get home. This song brings me back to myself.

In the deepest ocean
The bottom of the sea
Your eyes
They turn me
Why should I stay here
Why should I stay
I'd be crazy not to follow
Follow where you lead
Your eyes
They turn me
Turn me on to phantoms
I follow to the end of the Earth
And fall off

I'm struggling lately with things being thrilling and fast and exciting and happy and terrifying and overwhelming simultaneously. I suppose that's the nature of change and growth. When the things you fear come to pass, then the fear is smaller and behind you and suddenly, eventually, it's powerless and everything is different. Everything is okay, and it's good. Somehow, after everything, I made it to the place I want to go, or I can see it, and I'm inside the gates. Life is manifesting the things and people I need and want, and I am anxious and nervous about what happens then? What do you do when the struggle is over and you win?

You keep going.

It's never over. You fight to stay alert and hungry and positive and open. Your new battle is with apathy and complacency and the idea that somehow you don't deserve to have the things you need. You find the people who deserve to be inside your sphere and you bypass those who don't. You go inside and trust yourself the most. There is already nothing missing. Nothing has ever been missing, because you are whole and complete as you are. Right now. In this world, where you are real.

I am discovering that the things I thought were true about my understanding of love and romance and needs and desires are not the same as what they used to be, or what I expected they should be. Everything changes instantly and I can only say yes. I am done fighting for a perfection that doesn't exist. I am not afraid of the dark. I am fully in control of my choices and faculties and life, and when I go off the rails, it's on purpose because I chose to go. The dark is where my power lies. I know what happens next, so what will I choose? How do we navigate in the dark? How do we let go of guilt and fear and shame and trust that we always get what we need? How do we always love ourselves the most and never submit that? Not for anyone.

We let go. We give up the ghost. We move forward.

I can feel my brain adapting and changing and learning every day. We are evolving at a rate that is palpable. The plasticity is tangible, these microfuzz dopamine buzzes coming in over and over and over. We are electric. Notifications make us little rabbits, running from app to app to app to site to site, refresh, renew, push the button and get the pellet. Someone new has new electricity, different danger, unknown secrets.

More. Again. Show me.

We hide and then overexpose because it's taboo and indulgent and that love drug our brains make is really good. We elaborate and invent and pose and fabricate. Isolation and connection, trust and betrayal, attention and disappearance. Games and theory. We are all ghosts, chasing a perfection we will never have or be. We are desperate for connection and safety and controlled demolitions. The pendulum swings from addiction to obsession to clarity to gratitude. Around and around and around. Burn me down, blow me up, take me apart. Put me back together.

It's never the worst though. Nothing will ever be so bad. Not the worst things. Not with these scars. This edge is familiar, because this is where I have always lived. Out here, walking the line but not going over. Wrapped in ropes in case I fall, and because that's where I am safe to push the edge. The world can disappear, sideways, backwards, and I will survive and grow and be stronger, because that's what I do. I am built to withstand nuclear fallout. The edge is wide and deep and underground leads to my secret room. There are so many secret rooms, but this one is mine. You've got one too. We all do. How far inside can you go?

Ghosts only haunt you if you let them. There is always someone else.  Find another door. And bury your fucking phone in a hole and set it on fire, then run directly into the sea and feel alive.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

epically fuckable

Queen of Sheba, Mark Gertler

Oh boy, y'all. Mama is riled up.  I have something to say about being the tortoise who works so hard to gain self acceptance and live in her own reality. Sometimes other people are casually cruel and mean and give you no credit because they only live in their shallow world of traditional, generic beauty. Sometimes, what you have done, what you are, your journey, is still not quite inside the borders of what society drills into us as acceptable and lovable and fuckable.

Age and physical beauty are huge, dark hurdles women must come up against every day. We fight ourselves, the voices we have inside ourselves that say we aren't good enough to be loved. The truth is that even if you get closer to "ideal", when you are flying and feeling your highest, best self, someone will always try to knock you down. Someone will look at your heart and body and mind and only see the outside and find you squishy and soft and instead of knowing your strong, infinite softness is sexy and unlimited in it's ability to receive care and give comfort and pleasure, he will find it off-putting and foreign and feel like he has an ownership of your self worth. He will offer to engage with you in spite of your deep, ancient beauty instead of because of it.

And to this, we say no.

NO.

We, the soft, curvy, strong, voluptuous, Rubenesque-bodied goddesses, we epically fuckable women, decry your modern aversion to our pulsing, aching, fleshy hotness. We refuse your mansplained ideas of what feels good and looks good and tastes good. Because, shallow, boring men, you don't have a fucking clue how to really please and satisfy our dark desires. You mistakenly believe that somehow when your attention is lavished on us, that you are doing us a favor, because we are alone and needy and desperate for your crumbs of attention.

Let me set the record straight: We don't want to fuck you. The curvy, dark, slutty, vixen contingent says an easy "No thanks, ignorant friend." We don't have time for your bullshit ideas about beauty and sex because we are too busy loving our bodies, delighting in living inside them, and giving ourselves intimately, intellectually, emotionally, completely, to souls who gaze upon us with the adoration and expertise we require. We are worshipped by those who know that pleasure and ecstasy and intimacy are built in the mind and electrified in the skin, that there is no perfect physical "type" that can fulfill true romantic and sexual oblivion. Those who know, they receive the gift of our adoration because they find us delicious in every way, flawless, and therefore we cannot help ourselves. Because they deserve it. And more so because we do.

If you want to be adored by women, put her in a soft cocoon of your adoration and love. Stop trying to make us all the same, and stop imagining that some impossible body will make you more of a man. Accept her as she accepts herself. Love her without condition. Your reward will be that you will ride on the wings of a butterfly, if she chooses to let you.

You're fucking welcome.






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

help me lose my mind


Humans have always sought out oblivion. We're wired to push the limits, and then to pull back, to rest, to reflect, to restrain, to tune out. Even sleep is a result of that need, to function and process and then disintegrate into the ether of our subconscious dreams. Magic, ritual, and religion have been bound together by this primal urge since we began walking upright in the jungles and started trying out what nature had to offer. Psychotropic plants, for example. "This one made Mary see the heavens!" "Oh, this one killed Bill, better not." You know, on repeat, for billions of years. It took our ancestral psychonauts a long time to get us here.

Since the evolution of consciousness, of deliberate thought, of awareness of the self, we've sought ways and means to escape ourselves and turn it off. Religion itself seems to have sprung from this mystical desire to know the beginning and end of everything, while still simultaneously holding the ripcord, hand hovering on the escape hatch lever. We want in and we want out, always. We want there to be a reason for this life, for yours and mine, for all the lives, for this planet, this space, this time. For us.

We want to know the why, and sometimes we can't handle it. Sometimes the mundane, the repetition, the certain rush toward the inevitable end becomes too much. Ignorance IS bliss. What if there's nothing else? What if there is? What if this is a dream? What if I missed my chance? What if my chance never comes? What if this barrage of self-doubt never ends? What if rejection keeps playing on repeat? What if this is me killing it and I don't even know it? What if it never gets better? What if it does? What if I get everything I want? Then what? What if the best time in my life is over? What if it isn't?

Luckily, modern life has an exceptional array of paths to escape the normal flow of consciousness, probably more are available now than ever at any other time in human history. Most of us use at least a few every day, and some days we use a lot of different ones. We use things like caffeine and music and food to comfort, stimulate, and satisfy every day. A lot of us use alcohol and drugs and sex and exercise to escape regularly, ideally occasionally, but honestly, often desperately.  We do this, day in, day out, for years. This is where we start getting into that grey area where the things we use to soothe and salve can start making sores themselves. What felt fun and healing now feels like a scary, powerful vice we can't get out from underneath. The problem solver becomes the problem.

Deep down we all know getting altered doesn't solve anything but blacking you out of time. Everything is always right where you left it.  Sometimes, often, bigger and blacker than before because you've got an addiction or a habitual ritual screaming in your ear as well. It's a pause button at best. So you have to decide how many times you want to get kicked out of paradisaical bliss and back into your reality and problem mountain.

It's okay to want to let go. It's okay to want to check out. It's okay to want relief and respite. It's okay to crave silence and ego loss and the calm tranquility of ocean inside our heavy, bleeding hearts. So how can we achieve this release, this catharsis, with the least amount of permanent damage to ourselves? How can we build a reality that is wonderful and fulfilling so that we don't need to run away from it or ourselves? How can we run into the feelings instead of away from them?

The short answer: Try a new drug.

Listen. You know what hurts you and what heals you. Chances are that when the escape you seek is causing pain and suffering, there's another way to get what you want and need, a better way, a more natural way that brings out your best, highest self. Find what serves you, and jettison the rest.

This is where mindfulness comes into play. When I first started learning about it, I assumed it was solely about finding ways to be more present in the moment (it is), but my understanding has grown to include a much wider realm of what we are truly seeking when we talk about mindfulness.

That oblivion instinct kicks in for a lot of us when we are trying to cope with something painful or hard. Rejection, disappointment, loss, grief, sadness, stress. It doesn't have to be a massive thing, and is often the habits of daily life that wear us down. Those scripts we run work on autopilot. So if you train your brain to seek solace in a bottle of whiskey or a fast food burger bag, and you do that enough times, you will automatically reach for those things in times of stress and trouble, without even thinking. This is mindless habit. We do this with food and booze and TV and life, we choose once and forget it and let the script run.

We give up everything to the bliss of forgetting. Because it seems easier. (It's not. Not really.)

Eventually, some of these oblivious escapes become destructive to our health, our mental clarity, our physical well being, and our rich emotional lives. Being sedated hurts because we become unable to feel the wonder of our lives. Simple human connection becomes terrifying and we live inside a bubble of fear.

We want to stop, but we don't know how because we are on autopilot. We feel stuck in a pattern of behavior that seems like we have no control over it. But we do. We always have a choice, and it just takes practice to retrain yourself to choose to run the program that heals instead of hurts. Our minds work best and we are most efficient when we don't have to spend precious resources like willpower on making choices about whether or not we drink or eat or go to the gym. If you have to think about something all the time, you turn it over and over and examine every possibility, the chance of you getting to your desired behavior is much more difficult than if you take that choice away.

So what's the trick? Well, add in little things. Instead of quitting bad behaviors, create some new good ones. Meditation and yoga and walking are all places where you can learn how to choose a different adventure. Choose once, and follow the script. Repeat. After a month or so, it becomes a new habit. Then, while you may sometimes try on that old set of clothes, it doesn't feel right anymore. You have successfully created a new coping mechanism. This is especially effective with negative and habitual behaviors or ways of reacting to situations or people. You can learn to spend your time in more fulfilling ways. You can go deeper and try new things you've never experienced. This may mean facing pain and discomfort straight on, but it also means you'll get that catharsis that comes from enduring something and growing. You just don't walk out of a class at the gym full of regret.

For me, I got tired of fighting with myself and dulling out,so I decided to learn to own my intense ability to feel. Vulnerability is now my superpower. I had to process many old, lingering and painful realities to get through to the other side. Now, I am able to choose to open myself to feeling and connection and experience. I befriended my body and began to love it intensely, so that it offers me endless pleasure and capability, and enables me to be in the world in a way I am grateful for every day. I take care of it and I listen to it. I know when I'm straying outside of where I want to be and I adjust. I breathe. I am able to choose new edges to push and explore that awaken me rather than dull me to my life experience.

What else is out there to feel? What will I get to do next? Who will show me?

The best way to really lose your mind is by finding it.




Thursday, October 22, 2015

all the way

“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. If you're going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. Go all the way. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. Do it. Do it. Do it. All the way. All the way. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”
― Charles BukowskiFactotum

Making drastic life changes is a dicey process with countless twists and turns and stops and starts. At the beginning, trails are welcoming, wide and flat and winding, paved with optimism and good intentions and hope. The dark forest paths are tree-lined with time and space for conversation and dialogue and consideration of things like obligation and loyalty and how it's always been. How you've always been. It's slow, the change. Gradual. You start to break a sweat. What if what I'm doing upsets other people? What if my trip hurts your ideas or feelings about me? What if some people don't like the way I change?

Slowly, eventually,  you realize you are completely and utterly lost. You have to double back and start again in a different direction. Is it this way? No, maybe this way? Is that the sun? OH MY GOD I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE SUN IS! AM I DEAD? DO YOU HAVE SNACKS? WHY AM I YELLING? You waste time walking in circles talking to yourself, cursing this stupid, gigantic, epic mountain. You get angry, frustrated, anxious. You scream and yell at the trees for not helping you. You curse the sky and the earth. You drink too much coffee. You stay up all night. You keep going. You don't want to be in this part. This part is hard. You try to be patient. You try to remember that you will get through this. You try to make the best of it. You think you are making the best of it.

Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, you get attacked by a vicious goddamn grizzly bear who wants to make sure you know who is in charge of the forest. The bear scares you, surprises you, and makes you cry. Perhaps you've got some bear scratches that are bleeding. You become defensive and angry and wonder if the bear is right. Maybe you are not behaving the way you should be.  Maybe you're never getting out of here. Maybe this mountain is inside a zoo and you're going to be trapped here until you die alone with a bunch of zebras and giraffes that eat all your carrots and don't even let you play with them.

Look, you can't blame a bear for being a bear. Bears only know how to bear. That dumb bear doesn't know shit about you and your mountain climbing skills. Or this forest and who is the boss of it. Or the world outside this little enclave. That bear doesn't have the deep life experience you have. She doesn't know how hard you fight to show up to life every day and be a better human being than you were the day before. That bear doesn't know how many times you've chosen to be your best self over your base self, how hard you work to be kind and empathetic and friendly and helpful and smart and compassionate to others, but mostly to yourself. That bear doesn't know anything about why you are on this godforsaken mountain. She can't fathom not being a bear, or that maybe you actually  aren't a fucking bear yourself, maybe you want to be a lioness or a pterodactyl or some kind of flying phoenix pegasus dragon that gives zero fucks about what's happening inside this sad little bear cave.

You're just passing through, and nothing that's happening here - these things, this waiting that seems so hard and unbearable - is going to last.

Today is the day. Now is when you choose what happens next. How bad do you want to make a change? How much do you want to see the top of this mountain?  You could decide to let the bear rip you apart. You could sit down and cry and give up. You could run back down the mountain with hurt feelings and just stay still and build a little hut in a valley and hope the bear stays in her stupid cave and leaves you alone. Or, you could ignore the negative, bullshit-slinging bear and remember your goals. You are going to the top. All the way. Do it.

Do it.

The thing about climbing mountains is that the higher you go, the better and stronger you get, the narrower the path becomes.The more people tell you you can't keep going. It gets harder. Steeper. Sometimes, it's only wide enough for one at a time. The more times you fall down and scrape your knees, the more bear attacks your survive, the better you learn about how to cope in the future. The more time you spend working on your forward motion, the more you befriend yourself. You discover all the things you are carrying that you don't need.You begin to drop weight.

You begin to forgive yourself. You let go of things and people that don't serve you. You identify toxicity in environments and you plan your escape.

You heal up from an aggressive attack and realize that's about them, not you. You learn what's worth fighting for and what's worth ignoring. You stop caring about what insignificant people think about your choices and actions. You know you are honoring the highest and best in yourself when you are climbing.

You drop expectations and you climb higher.

You begin to realize your only obligation, your only loyalty, is to yourself. Fuck what anyone thinks. You know how strong you've become, how much you can take. How much you have to give and what you can create and share.

You reject limitations and climb faster.

You have time to reflect on your progress, the entire journey up to the bottom of the mountain. You are empowered. You have overcome so much. SO MUCH. Broken pieces stop shattering and you start reforming like T-1000  in Terminator. Liquid metal. Unbreakable. Unstoppable. You are nimble. Determined. You are going all the way to the top. There is no going back to the beginning. There is only forward. There is only sky. You can only get to the top and fly. You are a magical fucking flying tortoise.

Bears. Give me a fucking break.