Practicing "Yes"

I consider myself a pretty controlled and calculating person. There's very little that I do or say without a shit ton of research and thoughtful planning in advance. This behavior bleeds into the way I perceive and react to everything - like if I'm frustrated about something or feel that someone's slighted me, I'll sit down and write out every possible angle that could explain why I'm having such a strong emotional reaction or that analyzes what the other person's perspective in the situation could be. Basically what I'm saying is I overthink fucking everything. 

But there have been several times in my life where I've felt unsteady or in flux where I've thought - fuck it - and spontaneously said "yes" to invitations without much extra thought or planning. These invitations have led to some of my most memorable experiences. 

When I studied abroad in Spain, I said "yes" when my friends decided to go to the apartment of a group of young Italians we'd met that night at a club, and though none of them spoke English, we bonded over our shared interests in alcohol and dancing. Back in 2010 after a Fake Blood show in SF, I said "yes" when another group of friends decided to hop in a stranger's limo and head to a mansion in Pac Heights owned by one of the cofounders of PayPal, where we saw the beginnings of an orgy before deciding to make a very well-timed exit. Saying "yes" led me to adopting Jojo without even meeting him, and in the past year, saying "yes" has taken me on a date with a 47-year old to an underground salsa club, to my first dance hall class, to Austin, to another memorable first date at the free concert series at Santa Monica Pier, and now, to Paris and Berlin, a trip I booked less than a month in advance and which I leave for in a few hours.

I know I've basically been this emoji --> 😩  in recent entries, but the reason I haven't written in two weeks is because I've been busy not being depressed and living my life and shit, and I've actually been doing well. Writing, for me, is like vomiting after drinking - once I get it out of my system, I immediately feel better. I've also been doing a lot of yoga, taking daily meditative walks, and telling my life story to anyone with the patience to listen to it (thanks, friends!), and all of this has helped me recenter myself and find perspective/peace when it comes to the variety of shit that's been stressing me recently.

I still have moments where I question what the fuck I'm doing, but the good news is that I feel like I've had a productive last few weeks crystallizing an idea of who I want to be and what I want my future to look like. It won't be easy - of course it won't - but I at least now have a renewed enthusiasm to embrace the unknown and to settle into the uncomfortable, despite how much doing so goes against my nature. 

I just don't have time to be scared or to feel unsure of myself. Who does? Saying "yes" has gotten me this far, and so far I've enjoyed a pretty successful career, long, loving relationships, and enough memories to fill hundreds of pages.

I'm looking forward to more "yes" experiences. 

Special Thanks to My Badass Network of Friends

I had a whole blog here and it was almost done, twice, and then the copy was inexplicably deleted, twice, as I was writing it, so now I just fucking give up. 

Basically what it said was thank you to everyone who's reached out to me over the past couple of weeks - family members, close friends, friends I used to be close to but fell out of touch with, friends I never talk to but always have a blast with whenever we happen to be drinking at the same place, friends I met once, like, 7 years ago and haven't spoken to since, and everyone in between. Not sure what I did to deserve such beautiful people in my life, but I appreciate the fact that you're in it. 

And if you ever need someone to talk to - you, whoever's reading this - I'd love to return the favor. If you feel like shit and need someone to talk to, I'm your girl. If you want to rant about an ex, I live for that shit. Or if you just feel weird and unhappy and don't really know why and don't know how to talk about it but feel like you should do something about it but don't really know what, hit me up. We don't even have to know each other that well. Because there's nothing I love more than asking people uncomfortable questions and prying into their histories and getting them to tell me all of their secrets. It sounds creepy, but trust me, you want to get that shit out and you'll find no judgment here. Because I'm a fucking weirdo and absolutely nothing phases me. 

So yeah, thanks. Thanks for your kindness, for letting me sob into your ear, and for helping me avoid paying for therapy. Because I'm on Obamacare and I'm not 100% that shit is even covered.

You guys are great, A+ human beings and I love you. 

A Stranger's Eyes

I could feel the coldness wafting off of you as I walked through the door. The warmth I'd grown accustomed to was suddenly absent from your skin. You may have thought I didn't notice the way you almost imperceptibly recoiled when I reached out to touch you, but it was in that moment that I knew what would soon come. 

During the night we walked side-by-side, but not hand-in-hand or arm-over-shoulder. With your hands in your pockets, your posture mirrored our conversation, stiff and formal. Again I could sense that my invitation to your body had been rescinded, could feel the possibility that this might be the last time I'd see you.  

At the end of the night I wondered, are these your eyes looking back at me or are they a stranger's? Where is the person who would hold me tightly and leave trails of kisses along my shoulders? Where is the person who would search for any excuse to make contact with my skin - delicate fingers through my hair and heavy palms on my hip bones? Where is the person I thought I knew? 

Even while standing directly in front of me you were so far away, the look in your eyes giving away your distance. You were unrecognizable, cold and unfeeling, a closed door that was once so open and inviting. When you walked away mid-conversation, the outline of your back in the dark an implicit goodbye, I felt my heart split and sink into my stomach. I choked on so many words that night that only the worst of them came out. 

It's difficult to remember the look on your face, the way it felt when you looked at me with a stranger's eyes. To have that image be the one imprinted on my memory, instead of your slow, sneaky smile, your tenderness, your softness. And what I must have looked like to you, looking back at you with such incredulity and fury, the pitch of my voice getting higher, icier.  

As I reflect on the events that led up to that moment, I wonder if I had said something differently, approached you differently, could have forced myself to feel differently, perhaps you wouldn't have been such a stranger that night. Perhaps warmth would have continued to roll off of you and fill the space between us with heat, perhaps we would not have met that night with you already so tired and weary (of me). 

In the meantime, I am filled to the brim with sadness; I overflow, my eyes like dams, swollen and bursting. And as tempting as it is to hole up into myself, to bury my sadness deep within, I'm allowing myself to feel this, to cry, to grieve, to process. The guilt, the grief, the fear, the remorse - I feel all of it in heavy waves that lift me up and bring me crashing back to shore. 

I'm devastated about what's been lost, but I know over time the sadness will ebb away, as will the guilt and the grief. And what will remain is a better version of myself, perhaps a little more weathered and ravaged by love, but nevertheless more open and committed and resilient. 

I wish you nothing but the same. 

True Life: I'm Fucking Depressed and This is How I Deal With It

I'm going to be honest, I've had kind of a shitty past couple of weeks since getting back from San Francisco. Not a day has gone by where I haven't had to choke back tears for one reason or another - because of the state of my relationships, because of the uncertainty of my future, because of Humans of New York, etc. - almost everything has been triggering, even the small, mundane moments of everyday life.

This has been a common trend in my life since moving to LA. Every time I go to San Francisco I'm reminded that I have friends, that I have a full life, that I have interests and hobbies and people who love me, and I feel great. But then I return to LA and slink into this sneaky depression where I don't leave my apartment, don't put on makeup, and don't talk to other humans IRL for days at a time.

I've written about my depression a few times before - here and here and here. It's just something that I struggle with from time to time and is often triggered by a return trip from San Francisco back to LA. But it's strange, because unlike how I felt a year or two ago, I actually don't hate LA anymore. I have friends (I just counted on my fingers and it's at least 10!), I'm no longer terrified of driving in traffic or parallel parking, and I have a pretty solid grasp on the makeup of LA and what neighborhoods I love and what neighborhoods to avoid. I'm even a regular at a few places! So it catches me off guard when I find myself falling into old habits of feeling sorry for myself.  

While my natural equilibrium errs on the sadder, introspective side, generally speaking I'm also a pretty overconfident asshole. And because I would much rather spend my time thinking highly of myself than sorry for myself, I've gotten better when it comes to identifying the stages of my depression and taking active measures to keep it from escalating. Today is the first day in weeks where I've felt a bit of lightness, so I thought I'd share some of the activities that help me combat my depression when it arises.

Find new ways to feel productive.

A year ago for me this meant making my bed first thing in the morning. Today it means getting out of bed before 7:30 and going to a cafe to work before noon. Cleaning my room, purging my closet, taking Jojo on walks, cooking and spending a little time on my hobbies every week (like blogging!) also help me feel productive. I still have my bad days where I don't get out of bed until 10 and sit on my couch pretending to work while actually dicking around on the internet until I notice it's almost 5pm and my Fitbit says I've only taken 1,000 steps and where did my fucking day go, but those days also have the unintended effect of signaling when I'm slipping. So they serve a purpose in my life - and that purpose is to push me to get the fuck up and out of my apartment. 

I've mentioned this before, but I've also started volunteering weekly for a literacy nonprofit called 826LA. Tutoring terrifies me - mostly because teenagers terrify me, I've never tutored before, and because I worry that I'm accidentally going to say some variation of the word "fuck" to a 12-year old, but I'm now 2 weeks in and have found the experience extremely rewarding. Yesterday I participated in an in-school volunteering session where I gave feedback to 10th graders on their personal narrative first drafts, and it was awesome hearing these kids' stories and remembering what it was like to be 15 and discovering your writing voice.

Not having a conventional full-time job sometimes makes it difficult for me to feel like I'm accomplishing something tangible everyday, but having these tutoring sessions to look forward to and working with these kids has helped me feel like I'm contributing something to the world, however small. 


Get to the gym.

In addition to going to yoga regularly, I've also started lifting weights on a regular basis, which has been a pretty cool addition to my exercise routine. Aside from the obvious benefit that exercise releases dopamine aka happy thoughts, working out gives me a satisfying sense of accomplishment when I outdo myself - whether by holding a challenging yoga arm balance better than I did before or doing more assisted chin-ups. Something about competing against myself (and ok let's just be real, competing against others too - told you I'm an asshole) helps me get out of my own head and focus on my achievements instead of feeling sad about the things that are absent from my life. 


Don't underestimate the power of human interaction (and attention).

I've always prided myself on my independence and ability to enjoy time alone, but if I go more than 2 or 3 days without having a real life face-to-face conversation with another person, I'm almost guaranteed to go into full depression mode. One thing that I've learned since working remotely is that it's surprisingly easy to feel totally invisible when you're not required to go into an office everyday. And when you feel invisible, you feel like nothing fucking matters because no one's paying attention to you and who cares if you waste hours playing Minesweeper and don't shower for 3 days because no one will know anyway. It's not the best kind of existence to live. 

Last year one of my New Year's resolutions was to be better at following through, and as a result I've since learned how to nurture new and old friendships more effectively than before. These friendships have been essential at maintaining my happiness levels and sanity post breakup and post leaving my cushy job that conveniently brought me to San Francisco on a monthly basis, and it would be remiss to not credit my amazing, wonderful friends for bringing me out of the throes of depression, whether they know that they're even doing so or not. 

On a smaller level, it's also great working out of cafes if only for the brief conversations I have with a cashier or the chance encounters with other patrons. These small interactions are impactful at reminding me that yes, I'm still here. Yes, people still see me. And no, I'm not a troll living under a bridge, despite how I may feel on my more haggard days. 


Go outside and walk it off.

One of the advantages of having a dog is that it forces me to get outside at least a few times a day. Walking Jojo is almost meditative - there's just something therapeutic about breathing in the crisp, morning air, feeling the sun on my skin, and walking without any predetermined destination in mind. It also disconnects me from my phone and my life, however briefly. 


Talk about it. 

Despite the many inspirational think pieces out there refuting the idea that emotions are signs of weakness, for some reason people are still hardwired to believe that confidence and happiness are the only acceptable emotions to express. And with social media curating only the best parts of our lives, it can be easy to feel like you're the only person in your network who doesn't have their shit together. 

But you are allowed to feel the way you feel. Too often we allow ourselves to bottle everything up, expecting these feelings to one day dissipate and resolve themselves, which of course never happens. Instead they take root, until you eventually internalize all of this negative energy and assume it as your identity. i.e. I feel shitty because I'm a shitty person doing shit with my life.

I've found that the more honest I am with myself and with others about how I'm feeling, the better equipped we all are at supporting each other in our times of need. I no longer say I'm ok when friends ask how I've been and I haven't been ok. I keep it real now. And I've been pleased to discover that more often than not, people will return blunt honesty with honesty. I can't tell you how many times I've told someone that I've been feeling shitty and sad and have had them respond something to the effect of, "omg me too I don't know what I'm doing with my life we should hang out more," and I'm like cool ok and boom, nurture the shit out of that friendship. 

No one is immune to feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty and depression. They're feelings we all suffer, but often more quietly than I think is necessary.

Consider this my commitment to continue being honest with myself, and with you. The last couple of weeks have been challenging for me, but I'm slowly doing better and know this too shall pass.