Here’s The Thing About Doing The Thing You Want To Do

Today I feel like a leaky sugar bowl, like sweetness is coming out from between my jagged cracks and edges and softening them. I feel like a tired calendar that is ready to drop from the wall and rest.

Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

I’m on day three of my November poem-a-day challenge, and I am happy to say that I’ve written three terrible poems.

There are good bits in each one. One poem, about a terrible pearl, ends with the a reflection on nothing being left over except the work of living. Yesterday’s poem was about bivouacking, a new word I discovered. And today’s poem is about a sugar bowl that fell to the ground and shattered.

What I’m realizing is that things are more quickly coming to mind, things I never would have thought about had I not created this challenge for myself. Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to think this quickly if I hadn’t done the past month or so of daily writing on my blog.

And even though I’ve sent some pretty disappointing words onto the internet, I know I have so many more to go through. Like, probably years worth of awful writing before I get to the good stuff.

Which brings me to the point of today’s concise blog post:

In order to do the thing that you’ve wanted to do for so long, you have to do the thing.

And you have to be terrible at it, and you have to keep doing it anyways.

You have to look yourself in the eyes and say, yes, I am hungover and angry and drawing every blank in the world, but I must do this thing or else I cannot do this thing. And here’s the truth from someone who has been doing her thing every day for only 42 days: it’s awful. Some days it’s physically painful and you’ll sit at your desk and yell about how you don’t want to.

Those are the days that you just do whatever it takes to say you did it: even if the blog post is more whining, even if the poem is so abstract that a balloon wouldn’t bump into it.

I’m so, so sorry to tell you this. But if you aren’t doing the thing, then you aren’t doing the thing.

It’s something I’ve been told and every fiber of my being lashes out in defense and anger, but from where I stand right now it really is the truth.

There are so many days ahead of me that I will probably not do the thing. And there are deadbeat days ahead of me, but at least now I know that I am truly capable of handling the work, even at its worst.

Bad example: if you want to be a singer. Are you singing? It doesn’t have to be daily, but it helps if it is. Sing in the car, in the shower, in your designated singing room. Sing even if you’re hungover, and sing especially if you’re drunk. If you’re not singing even when you’re drunk, then you are somebody who wants to be a singer—you are not a singer. I am sorry.

I am, for all intents and purposes, a writer. I am not a good writer, but I write every day. I have been a writer for 45 days, but before then I was an aspiring writer. Before that, pretty much everything I wrote was emails, so I was an emailer.

Here’s the bottom line: if there’s something you want to do, do it. Sneak out of your day for a few minutes here and there and do the thing. Let yourself be devastatingly, embarrassingly bad at it, practice it, nurture it. And then get better.


November Goals For My Mind, Body, Spirit, And Relationships

Today I feel like each octagonal cell of my body is beating, pulsing to some autumn songs I will not remember in ten years. I feel yellow and mustard and ochre and marigold and canary and amber. A little burnt, but not badly. Cooler weather is here.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Tonight’s writing session will be short and sweet—it’s technically already November, although I’ll backdate this post so that it doesn’t look like I was up past midnight. I haven’t slept all the way through October yet, so I’ll take tonight as an opportunity to do some goal setting for this next month.

But first, a story:

I got a little kick in the pants this afternoon when I checked my personal email and found a newsletter from a poetry website that I never remember subscribing to (or even visiting). It was a call for contest submissions from new and emerging poets—with a deadline of the last day in November. I can’t help but feel like this is one of the loudest signs that I’m heading in the right direction.

So, at the end of the month, I am going to submit at least one poem to a literary magazine, with no expectations of outcomes or attachments to results. I’m just excited to do the thing that I’ve said, for years, that I was going to do.


Now onto my goals for the month. I’ve decided to batch them out into different facets of my life, not because I want to have a million goals, but because I want to stay balanced this month in all of these areas: mind, body, spirit, and relationships.

Mind

I really want to work on feeding myself healthy mental food. In November, I will finish reading This Side Of Paradise, and proceed to start reading a collection of poetry, maybe a collection of new American poetry.

I will also begin to limit my social media consumption without participation. That means that I can’t just scroll—I want to be posting, to be working a little bit for the rush. Stretching myself to take interesting photos or writing thoughtful captions will at least be a small step towards forming a more healthy relationship with Instagram. I know it sounds crazy, but my totally mindless consumption needs to chill out, and forcing my involvement will help me limit my time on the app.

Body

Yoga every damn day, as usual.

But I also want to work on my other physical activity. Other than my little walk to and from the studio and my commute to work, I don’t usually get out in the world. I want to remedy that with a handful of destinationless walks each week. My goal for November is two walks a week, outside of work and yoga. Totally doable.

And, to my body’s delight, I would like to also set the intention of drinking more water. I’ll work on drinking a full water bottle before I arrive at work (I found it’s easy for me to grab a few sips at each stop light on my commute), one at work, and one more in the evening. I usually drink a full bottle after my yoga practice, and am okay about drinking one other full bottle somewhere in the day, so I’m ⅔ of the way there. Just need to be drinking one more bottle’s worth of water. Again, doable.

Spirit

After a bit of thought, I believe this is the proper category for my writing challenge. I’ve found that my daily writing habit has certainly helped my mind, but it’s done even more for my heart. I’ve felt such a drive and regained a sense of self control throughout the past several weeks, even on nights where I write begrudgingly. At the end of this month, as I mentioned, I'll take the new and terrifying leap of submitting a poem for publishing consideration.

Other than writing a poem each day for 30 days, I want to work on discovering new ways to love myself. I’ve been so okay with disliking myself for so long (don’t we all do this?) that it’s definitely time for me to drop it all and just friggin’ love the crap out of me. This isn’t really a tangible goal, but I just wanted to share it out into the world so I can read this in a few weeks and remember to check in on myself. Maybe this is a reminder for you, too: you don’t have to hate yourself so much. In fact (and it is a fact), you don’t have to hate yourself at all—give yourself a little hug, because you’ve come all this way in life and I mean, come on, just look at you. You’re cool.

Relationships

This one has been on my mind all summer and fall—I want to cultivate my relationship with my husband a little better, especially with the colder, darker months coming up. In November, I will spend one evening each week playing a few board or card games (I should probably tell him this). I feel like we’ve just been two ships passing in the night all summer long, and it’s time for us to drop anchor and chill for a bit. More yoga together, more board games, more coffee dates.

I want to touch base with all of my closest friends in November as well. It’s tough to keep in touch, and I’ve had much greater success with slow, sustainable communication versus a forced schedule. So I’ll set a goal to speak to one friend each week for an hour. This is a typical cadence for me, but I want to work a little harder to initiate calls and texts, since I could actually go for months without saying hello to some of my dearest people. That’s bad, I know. But I never stop loving them like crazy!

There you have it! What are your goals for November?


Debt Doesn't Have To Be An Emergency

Today I feel like booming airwave of relief rushing through the my veins, tracing through my body like city streets. I feel like traffic has finally dissipated and all the stoplights are slowly turning green, welcoming me back to the free roads.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

On Borrowed Dime

I’ve debated about writing about debt today, because it feels almost more personal than mental health. I think it’s because of the level of apparent control a person has—although, I could argue that both have elements beyond our grasp. Both mental health and debt have helpful and detrimental habits, they can both go on indefinitely, and they both require a healthy environment and a huge investment of personal work to get free of. They’re more similar in the amount of personal influence than I realized.

But that’s not the point. Another reason I debated writing about it was because it’s been a notoriously emotional issue for me. I can get so worked up about it so quickly, and worrying about money has ruined many a good weekend. But I feel pretty level about it right now thanks to a few new mental shifts that have helped ease my mind immensely.

To our credit...

My husband and I have a moderate load of student loans between the two of us, and while we have no car payment, we do have a pretty penny’s worth of credit card debt.

Call it irresponsible if you will, but much of it just got beyond our control faster than we could keep up. There’s such a stigma about people in credit card debt spending lavishly and thoughtlessly, but for so many people it can be a lifesaver. It was a lifesaver for our rabbits.

Most of our credit card debt has risen from vet bills for both of our rabbits. They’re a mess. (Have I reminded you to not get rabbits yet? Just kidding, you should. Just prepare yourself for more commitment than a dog.) We’ve relied on it for car issues, airplane tickets (although we have set foot on only one plane in two years), and improv classes (which is the reason we’re in Los Angeles, so it has become a non-negotiable).

None of these things I would take back, especially every single cent I've ever spent on the rabbits. I feel beholden to them, and if the health issues aren't inherently fatal, I will address them with all the money I can find.

It can be disheartening to realize that you’re living on “tomorrows,” and some days I just feel so paralyzed by those devastating numbers. I used to find myself often saying things like “I just wish we could do fun things” and the classic “I just want a fucking day off, that’s all”. I still say those things sometimes, but there’s been a shift:

I am no longer viewing my debt as an emergency.

I’m not a financial genius. In fact, I may very well be reckless. But in the grand scheme of things, I realized that I was wasting that precious life energy being angry and sad about something I couldn’t fix overnight.

Once I realized it would be a long-haul effort, I started to loosen up. I still try to be careful with money, but if I wake up on a Saturday craving a solid brunch with some good coffee, I don’t beat myself up for that desire. It's okay to be a human person.

Sometimes I even spring for it—because I’m more than happy to spend a couple hours of my work life in order to get a couple of hours of a positive and productive date with my husband.

When I viewed debt as an emergency, I saw every purchase as a pain. Now, I acknowledge the pain but have created space for myself to consider the benefits of each purchase. Will it make my life easier? Will it bring me joy—like, will I genuinely be happy to see it in my home for years to come? I’m giving a little more to myself nowadays, because I’ve poured so much energy and time into working and worrying about debt that now it’s time to go a little easier on myself.

I’ve also slowed way down on my student loan crusade from a couple of years ago—the interest rates aren’t the lowest, but we’re making our minimum monthly payment on time each month (which, for anyone who bitches about Millennials and our avocado toast affections, our monthly payments add up to $450).

The slippery slope

All that being said, I realize that I have a dangerous “treat yo self” side as well (again, so many of us humans do). With all this scarcity mindset, I find myself putting more things into my Amazon shopping cart, scouring Pinterest for pricey home decor ideas, and suddenly having a wonderful taste for nice beers on draft.

It’s a constant game of (literal) checks and balances, and I’m working on asking myself about how much of my life energy something is worth. This Saturday’s brunch with my hubby? Totally worth it. That shower curtain that’s in my Amazon cart? Not so much. It might be worth it down the road when my life’s energy is rolling in dough, but now is not the right time.

So forgive me as I remain in debt just a few weeks or months longer because I love my rabbits, because I wanted a nice cup of simple black coffee one time last week, or because I need to pay my internet or health insurance bills.

Take a look at the finances that are driving you nuts right now—either way, you’ll be broke, so maybe be a broke person who goes out and enjoys a satisfying brunch once a month or so. Don’t punish yourself and ignore your heart because you want to get out of debt a few minutes earlier.

Am I way off? Or is it okay to tap the brakes on paying down debt so that I can (a la Bon Jovi) “live while I’m alive”?


A Reminder For Structure And For Being Open To Changing Directions

Today I feel like a C on an otherwise brilliant report card, like a first detention. The vehicle of my day took a hard left in the middle of an afternoon joyride, and I’ve been trying to pull it out of the swamp it’s become mired in.

Photo by beasty . on Unsplash

Photo by beasty . on Unsplash

I’m not very intentional about planning my weekends that work for my mind and body. A typical weekend looks like me sleeping in, sitting around for the first half of the day, panicking and trying to work for a few hours, going to the latest available yoga class and then dinner and watching movies and TV for the rest of the evening.

To say this type of weekend is unhealthy for me is an understatement. I’ve known it for a while, but usually by the end of the week I’m ready to stop thinking about anything and just go on autopilot for a few days.

Yesterday was the picture of pallid perfection as far as my standard Saturday goes, but I had some time-sensitive work to do today (and my husband was out), so my day was already feeling disrupted. The good news is that I got plenty of work done and avoided feeling too much like I hadn’t done enough. The bad news?

I started to head out to yoga for the 5:45 class. But muddled work-minded Emily forgot that the last class on Saturdays and Sundays starts at 5:30, and I had already missed the start of class. In less than a minute, my grand plans for a good sweat session after a rigorous work day were completely foiled, and my evening derailed from there.

So what do you do when your plans are a nonstarter?

Well, in my case, you sit scrolling through Instagram for a half an hour and zone out as Hello, Darkness My Old Friend plays on loop in your mind. I curled myself up into a tiny ball and sat with my back to the wall in our tiny hallway, trying to find funny memes to bring me a smile.

After I realized that I had spent over half of what would have been my yoga class just sitting in the darkening hallway, I finally pulled myself off the floor. If only you could have seen me—it was pretty dismal.

The rest of the evening has been a struggle to get back up to that productive feeling I had earlier today, because I haven’t known what to do with myself. But I did find something that helped:

I switched gears completely.

I had puttered around with some cleaning earlier in the day, but after my mind had melted like bad cheese on bad bread, I decided to dive into some deep cleaning that’s been on my mind.

I didn’t push myself to get back to work or to write or to dive right into a home yoga practice, and instead just started slowly scouring strange things in my apartment. I vacuumed under the couch (and all the upholstery that’s gathered bunny fur along the bottom edges). I took apart our living room box fan and scrubbed the blades clear of dust and fur, I vacuumed the air filter and the intake for our air conditioner. I vacuumed the blades of our ceiling fan and the only thing keeping me from taking apart our other box fan was a lack of the proper Philip’s head screwdriver.

I lit candles everywhere and diffused essential oils in the bedroom. I threw every knickknack that didn’t have a proper home into a box (that box now lives on my dining table and I’ll maybe get to it tomorrow).

I found a rug that I love on Amazon, and threw a handful of shower curtains into my shopping cart to show Victor when he got home. I actually threw quite a few things into our Amazon shopping cart without buying them—it just felt nice to feel like I had a little control.

I still didn’t have any structure in my evening, but I worked my way through, going from one action to another without any forethought or expectation. Basically I just cleaned the first things that I saw. I’m thrilled to say that the infamous pile of unsorted things in my room has disappeared thanks to today’s hard shift in my mood. I basically worked to use my unfocused mind and lack of structure to my advantage, instead of fighting against it.

Not quite a perfect ten

I’ve been feeling so well lately that this felt like a few aggrieved steps backwards, but I’m working on remembering how much I’ve appreciated the past week or two of feeling like a normal person for the first time in many moons.

Since I've been feeling a bit more levelheaded, I was also able to contemplate creating a shorthand way of telling my husband what to expect when he comes home to me in this bummer of a state.

I wonder if it would be helpful to have a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is fine and 10 is a full blown meltdown. I figured today was about a 5 or 6 on the sad/anxious scale, and that number made me feel better too. I don’t have to act like I’m perfectly fine, but I can also allow myself the grace of nuance. Plus, a 5 or 6 is manageable. The only answer to a 10 is putting myself to bed, and I’m fortunate to have only had a couple of those this year.

I think we could all use a little allowance for nuance in our lives—we can be functional at a 5 without ignoring ourselves. We don't have to be at a 9 or 10 to give ourselves proper attention. It’s a little tiny check in.

After a full evening of shifting my rusty gears, I feel myself slowly floating back down into a 3 or 4, and I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep to dispel the lingering blues.

Just another manic Monday

I’m wrapping up this Sunday evening with lead-heavy eyelids and a half-clean apartment, and I know that I’ll face many of these same challenges tomorrow. Because Mondays, my work from home days, are a wild card. And it’s usually a rough wild card.

After doing some quiet yoga, I’m going to snuggle up in my bed with a huge mug of Sleepytime tea and my planner and set a few goals for tomorrow. A handful of expectations help keep this girl in check, and I’m getting better about setting reasonable ones for myself. I just have to set them beforehand, because flying by the seat of my pants usually ends up with my pants not leaving my desk chair.

(I stepped outside to take the trash out tonight, just as the sun was setting, and those 60 seconds were my only contact with the outside world today. Tomorrow I’ll set an easy goal of leaving the house for yoga and for one other small adventure—even if it’s to the grocery store or just a walk around the block, I know that will help me stay grounded.)

I hope you get a chance to do something that grounds you tomorrow, something that makes you feel accomplished and satisfied. I can’t wish enough grace for you, and for any day you’re anything but a 1 on that scale, I hope you listen to yourself and love yourself thoroughly.

I’m always a work in progress, and I’m glad that I’m back in working condition after today’s derailment. Sweet, sweet dreams my majestic friends.


Letting Go Of The Energy That Does Not Suit You

Today I feel as sweet as bubblegum pop from the aughts. I feel like stretching out on my belly and lipsyncing into a corded pink phone. Twisting my hair up into pigtails and calling it a vintage look. The kids will think it’s cool.

Photo by Lui Peng on Unsplash

Photo by Lui Peng on Unsplash

It’s time to let it go.

I was at a beautiful party last night, and got to chat with new and wonderful people. One woman was engrossed in listening to what I’m doing in my career, and then asked me a question I think we should all ask one another: “what have you done in the last few months that has really brought you joy?”

Oh! I love it! A chance to talk about things that light me up outside of careers, a chance to explore my value and interests outside of my job title. Well, of course, I dove into talking about hot yoga.

The woman immediately shut down. After I told her it was yoga in a 98-100 degree room, she excused herself from my table and went to one only a handful of feet away—to talk to other people about how hot yoga was a terrible idea within obvious earshot. To make fun of it, and to ask everyone around her if anyone in their right mind would do it.

Before she left my table, she even had the nerve to say to me, sarcastically and mockingly, “oh right, I bet it’s TRANSFORMED your life.” Bitch, please. Don’t make me feel bad for being a person who’s found something that has literally saved me from my worst self.

Building outwards, not upwards

It sparked a long conversation between my husband and I about how we hope we can approach beliefs and energies that challenge our own set ideas. So many people create a base for themselves and continue to build upwards on those ideas, and never think to sprawl a bit into other territories.

I wasn’t asking her to try hot yoga, or preaching to her how it would change her life, I was talking about my own experience with it. But when you only build upwards off of your experience, you put up all the defenses when a wandering idea sets foot in the outskirts of your mind’s little town. Instead of welcoming it into the fold and putting it nicely within your city limits or setting it off into the rural areas, you waste your energy on reacting aggressively.

And that’s what Victor and I talked about. We spoke about how much of a waste of energy it is to be close-minded. You wind up being angry and defensive, letting the actions and beliefs of other seep in under your skin. It’s such a waste.

There’s a much more easeful approach. If you don’t think hot yoga is for you, let it go. Let the conversation flow onward. I will not judge you, and we can all have a good time. By holding on to your personal negativity about something, you’re draining yourself of the only resources you truly have: time and energy.

On my end

All that being said, I’ve spent a bit of time since that conversation dwelling on it. But I’ve been working on making it constructive—thinking more about what I can do to combat that mindset in my own life or how I can protect my own heart from sabotages like that.

I’ve come up with a couple of things. First, a proactive approach to avoiding that pointless drainage, I will work on staying open. One of the things that we practice in yoga (hah, if you’re not tired of me talking about it yet) is to let thoughts happen, and to not cling to any of them. Don’t resist, don’t force, just let them flow through your consciousness without grasping on.

We can use this when we’re faced with beliefs that challenge us. Be thoughtful about them; don’t shut out new ideas, because there might be something that can advance your knowledge about the world around you. Let new words resonate in your mental caverns and maybe they’ll leave a few residual bits of useful information. Maybe they won’t, but at least you let them in.

There’s so much defensiveness with the political climate nowadays, and no one seems to even be listening to each other. If we were able to have a conversation, we’d find that plenty of us want the same things: freedom, safety, the right to the pursuit of happiness. Instead, we resort to attacking each other based on sweeping generalizations and weaponized notions about one another and building our walls even higher so no new ideas can come in and shape our mental landscape.

If I could boil this down into one sentence it would be this: Be a student, always.

Know thyself.

I guarantee you will run into the proverbial hot yoga-mocker at some point in your life. Maybe he or she mocks your haircut, or your taste in music, or your religious beliefs, or your choice of pet without giving you the grace of an interactive conversation.

Unfortunately, you will have to spend some of your own energy to protect yourself from this. However, the more you’ve worked to know who you are and what works for you, the less energy you’ll have to waste on these pointless attacks. I know that I love my short hair, so I’ve become impervious to offensive and ignorant comments about how the length of my hair reflects on my worth as a woman.

If they refuse to hear you out, let that person be miserable or angry or jealous or an ignorant turd. That is their energy, and they’ll have to reckon with that turbulence when they see a new wrinkle popping up or when they’ve worked themselves up into a chaotic rush of negativity and can’t sleep at night. They’ll try to bring fire into your life, so don’t offer them your candles. Let them burn themselves.

All this being said, there are people you need to fight. I’m mostly talking about people who give you shit for liking something as crazy as hot yoga, but those who would willingly and gleefully do harm to others must be dealt with. Speak with them, arm yourself with knowledge and fight them, report them, cut them out of your life. This is worth your energy because it will lead to a better world for all of us.

So go ahead, be yourself. Love yourself. And don’t let anyone else dim your light.


Wishes I Have For My Friends Who Are (And Who Will Be) Mothers

Today I feel like a happy email sitting patiently in the drafts folder. Like a I feel like a small boat on a laughing sea.

Photo by Sebastien Hamel on Unsplash

I don’t have children, and jury’s still out on whether I want to have them or not. Some days I feel a tiny spark of desire to be a mother, but most days I’m perfectly happy being a support of the mothers around me without joining their ranks. I feel happy for others who have families, and I feel happy for myself with my two bunnies and small apartment, city-dwelling life.

I’ve been carefully observing the mothers in my life—the new ones, the old ones, the ones on TV and in movies, the ones on Instagram—and I always have a handful of wishes that I want to send them.

You are in charge.

As boss-mama, you are in charge of what you name your children, what they eat, when you cut their hair, when you give them “the talk” (about Santa, of course), where they go to school, how much technology they have in their lives, etc. What I’m trying to say is you are in charge of all of it.

Even if it’s your own parents who are disagreeing with your parenting decisions, I wish you all the strength in the world to stand your ground against that resistance and do what is best for your family. I’m assuming that once a child comes into the picture, it’s not as difficult to set boundaries and say “no”, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Feed them carrots, feed them candy, all I wish for you is the strength to be unapologetic about your decisions.

You are still a whole person.

Again, I’ve never been a parent so I don't know what it feels like. But I hope that you don’t lose sight of your amazing self—mother is just one of your many sparkling facets, my sweet gem. You are passionate about things beyond the diapers, and I hope you always know it. When you’re knee deep in spit-up and don’t have a moment to indulge in some self care, I hope you still remember who you are.

I always think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s commentary on mothers as martyrs (mothers who give up everything in their life, including their aspirations, in order to raise children). I think it was in a podcast episode of Big Magic, but she talks about creative martyrdom in an excellent blog post here if you want to read more. She reminds listeners that “martyrs will raise martyrs,” and I think that’s such a wonderful way of thinking about it.

If I have children, I hope I can raise them to be strong and uncompromising when following their dreams, so according to this logic I must be the same. Celebrate your whole self, so that your beautiful children can celebrate themselves too.

Make the small things count.

When it comes to self care, I know that children can throw a wrench in the Instagram-perfect vision of sleeping in, drinking an artisanal latte, painting your toenails and reading some pretty magazine. So I hope you can squeeze tiny moments of self-appreciation into your day in new and interesting ways.

Get the fanciest soap you can find for your 2-minute shower. Diffuse essential oils while you change diapers. Get nice coffee beans or coffee creamer, or add a special coffee mug to your cart during your next Target run. Maybe two, in case little Billy breaks the first one.

It’s okay to ask for help.

Don’t feel like you must subscribe to the supermom mindset, because it’s not possible. And it’s not healthy—doing all the things, all the time is going to lead to a heckuva burnout.

I wish I could send you a few moments of my own time so that you could take a shower or drink just one sip of coffee without interruption. If you find yourself feeling depressed, I wish you all the strength in the world to seek people who support you and love you and don’t disregard your feelings.

I sometimes think about what my own experience might be postpartum, and I fear the depression that so often goes along with it. I’m saying this now: I will probably need help, and I know how hard it can be to ask for it. Add in the toxic idea that you should be SO happy as a new mom, and I can’t imagine the strength it takes to get the help you need.

If you need help, call me. If you need someone who will believe you and support you 100%, I will be that person.

Teach your kids cool stuff.

Whether you have a boy or girl, I hope you teach them to be a balm to this hurting world. Teach them to stand up for people who are being bullied because they’re different—to speak up for and with women, people of color, people with different sexual orientations and gender identifications.

Teach your children to be respectful when respect is deserved, and to expect respect when they’re deserving. Teach them to be open and curious and to ask questions about the world around them. Give them confidence and offer them your heart as a safe place to confide in. Teach them to be themselves, unique and unashamed, and to always understand their intrinsic value as a human.

And just as importantly, gently teach yourselves these same things. Take this time to see the world again as a child and welcome the daily lessons with open arms. Be a student once more alongside your babe, and see what dusty knowledge you have that could use a little polishing. The world is a different place today than it was even a handful of years ago, and I think we all need a little re-education sometimes. I know I need it.

Mostly, I hope you see yourself, continuously, as a goddess. No matter how you birthed (or didn’t physically birth) your child, you are a magnificent guardian for a human who will be coming into themselves under your guidance. I hope you know that you are magic, whether you accomplish everything on your to-do list or not.

You are magnificent, no matter what your hair looks like or what your house looks like or what anyone, ever says to you or about you. You rock, mama.

 

A Wedding Poem About Knives

Today I feel like dusty cinnamon whose top has popped off in a breakfast frenzy. I can smell everything, see everything, read letters of languages I’ve never noticed. I’m permeating outside of myself and finding space in cobwebby corners of the world.

Photo by Ivan Jevtic on Unsplash

Photo by Ivan Jevtic on Unsplash

As I was cleaning the kitchen, I spent a few cents of gratitude for our knives - nothing special, more form than perfect function - but they serve us daily. I even made a mental note to tell any of my future marriageable friends to ask for a good set of knives on their gift registry.

And just like that, I squelched some detergent into the dishwasher, whipped it closed and let it get around to ultimate scrubbing as I pounded out a poem on the nearest laptop. Inspiration is just like that. It’s the pesky neighbor that knocks on your door and won’t go away because she knows you’re in there and she needs you to help her take a giant vat of soup to the cab. You can answer the call, or you can hide for fifteen minutes until someone else has risen to the occasion.

Now, the poem has a little form and also functions properly as far as words on a page go, so I’m pleased. It’s a bit of a downer, but I’m excited about it being one of only two poems I’ve written in the past five years.

I feel like sharing this one. Not because I think it’s particularly excellent, but because I’m happy I wrote it, instead of writing out a blog post about what I think real-world couples should register for: 15 Must-Haves On Your Wedding Registry That Guarantee A Happy Life Together!

So here’s what I did instead of that, all its unedited, unrefined glory:


The Good Set

First, you’ll want a good set of knives.
Pick your vows, edit but don’t add.
Don’t promise too much, unless death
is imminent (which it is). Part
your lips just a little for the kiss, for the kids.
Keep it PG. Coo at the flowergirl,
watch the turbulent ring bearer
“bearers will be bears will be boys”

Spill out of your dress and into a box
that you’ve neatly checked.
Clamp your hands over your modest belly
and say your somedays and your soons.
Boom into bridehood in a brave and beautiful
sadness. Always remember to sharpen
your knives and don’t let them sit
(as you do) in long soapy baths.

Bubble yourself in iridescent lace curtains
and fine, carefully-counted cotton sheets.
Until the day it all comes, piercing
up through your thigh and into
the cavern between your rib bones,
and it’s not the supper onions begging for tears,
but your years of dulling. Don’t burst.
At least you got a good set of knives.


Obviously, it shouldn't need to be said that not all poems are based in autobiographical truths. This poem is about a person I have constructed in my head, and for whom I feel devastated. (Oooh, whom?! Whom does fancy Emily think she is?!)

Tonight has been an interesting lesson in noticing: there’s poetry everywhere, seeping through the cracks in the cupboards, leaking out from under the sink, in that forbidden space between your oven and your countertops, if you just root around a bit for it. Same goes for anything you’re looking for - there are flavors, colors, smells, and shapes everywhere that can inspire your next project.

Pay attention, and inspiration will begin to rise out of the earth like a dinky weed. Pay more attention, and it’ll be a fucking tree.

So here I am, just paying attention. Not hoping to be told the answers, but just noticing the patterns of questions that float up and down on the breeze, like the warm up scales of a  musician.

Pardon me as I sink into the desire to wear scarves and drink black coffee in grungy coffee shops, wearing fake glasses and staring out of the window at imagined rain. Humans are weird, right? We write one poem one time and become friggin' Emily Dickinson. (With regards to Emily, thank you for your work.) We take a leisurely walk on one wooded trail and suddenly we’re shopping for a Camelback for our trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. Is it just me?

How would you write a story or a poem around the line “you’ll want a good set of knives”? I challenge you to write your own poem about knives, if you’re up for it. Or, make an effort while you’re cleaning your (dirty, dirty) home to open yourself to receiving inspiration from weird places.

Either way, stay sharp.


PoWriMo: My Personal Writing Challenge For November

Today I feel like a statue with a sweet smile carved upon my face. I feel strong yet impermanent, graceful yet adolescent. Ease has arrived in my life like a toasted breeze rustling the autumn leaves, and I am shaken.

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

I’ve decided what my next step is: I’m sidelining the novel idea, and instead I am going to write a poem every day in the month of November. Call it NaPoWriMo, if you will, although there’s nothing national about it. So just PoWriMo?

I wanted to take a few moments tonight to write out my “plan” (they’re more like guidelines anyway) so we all know what to expect on this blog in the coming month. It’s important that I include myself because too-high expectations fling me into the burnout zone faster than a hand can honk a car horn in Los Angeles.

Gathering poems that inspire me

First, I’ll be gathering poems that have been important or memorable to me in my writing journey. Poems like When Death Comes and Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, Contre Qui, Rose and Archaic Torso of Apollo by Rilke, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop, The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, Late Wife (a collection of poems—this one is great) by Claudia Emerson, Parsley by Rita Dove.

Over the next couple of weeks and throughout the month of November, I’ll be working on reading as much as I can! Poems, short stories, novels. I want to finish This Side Of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and then maybe scour the shelves at the library for any poetry collections that look interesting. I want to have as many poems in my toolbelt as possible, so that if you come to me with a burning need for a good poem, I’ll have one at the ready.

The daily goal

I’ll still try to keep writing for an hour each day, but I’ll also set a low bar for completion since this one will be more mentally taxing than freewriting. My daily poems need to be a minimum of 10 lines, but other than that I won’t set any requirements for rhyme structure, meter, or form.

I’d like to try my hand at a few different forms when the mood strikes, like a sonnet, a villanelle, a ghazal (forgot about that one!), and even a series of limericks.

I won't spend any time going back and editing during the month once I have "completed" a poem for the day. I'll save that for the end of the month, so that I can just focus on shaking all those rattling crappy words out of my earholes.

What will become of my daily posts?

I’m not going to force a daily goal of publishing to the blog. I’m a little anxious to say that because I’ve really enjoyed my rhythm of hitting “publish” every day. Plus, that little hit of dopamine doesn’t hurt.

But at the end of the day, my writing isn’t going anywhere. I may share a few tidbits of poetry on here (or any must-read poems!). Heck, I might even post every draft to this blog if I'm feeling extra brave. But at the end of the month, I want to have 30 poems total so that I can ditch 20 of them, edit 10 of them, and end up with one poem that I can be proud of. It may go better, it may go worse.

When I was in college, my habit was to get an assignment, write a poem, workshop it and then halfway edit it. As the years went on, I rarely wrote extra pieces outside of class, and so my skills haven’t advanced at a rate I could write home about. This is my attempt at regaining my footing and accelerating my writing skills once again.

Until November starts, I’ll still be blogging every day, so you can look forward to my late-night ramblings for at least another week. In the meantime, if you have any tips for how I should proceed with this challenge, let me know!


30 Things I Want To Do Before I’m 30, And 30 Happy Things I Have Already Done

Today I feel smooth like seaglass. I feel the ease of a breeze under my gull wings, and all my sadnesses are distant crashes of a tide that’s finally gone back out to sea.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I have about four more months until I turn 28, and I’ve been thinking a lot about 30 lately. Mostly I’ve been thinking that it’s not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be. I see plenty of people in their 30’s and 40’s here in Los Angeles who still feel vibrant and young, and it reminds me that age is just a pesky number

It’s different back in Indiana—there are a lot more expectations of what 30 looks like, and now I’m excited to unlearn all of those “rules”.

As I’ve been writing this list, I’m happy about what I’ve done in my life and what I still hope to have time to do. I encourage you to try this too, it’s a really great check-in and gives you all the warm fuzzies when you look back at all the happiest moments of your life.

Without further ado, here are 30 happy things I’ve done in my first (almost) 28 years of my life:

  1. Been published in an arts magazine

  2. Completed in a 30 day hot yoga challenge

  3. Got rid of nearly everything I’ve ever owned and moved across the country

  4. Gotten married

  5. Made a content marketing presentation to people at IBM about cloud computing

  6. Met Josh Groban

  7. Competed in a ballroom dance competition (and got to see Arnold Schwarzenegger)

  8. Gone to a Los Angeles fashion show as Press

  9. Sewn a dress for myself

  10. Dyed my hair a handful of colors (once with Kool Aid), and cut it all off to a pixie cut two separate times

  11. Interned at a literary magazine

  12. Learned how to play two instruments, with a vague understanding of three more

  13. Changed my education/career path eight times. (fashion design, then interior design, then creative writing, then graphic design, then social media marketing, then content marketing/PR, then data management, then consulted for a tech startup, and now editorial)

  14. Shattered a double-pane sliding glass door (hey, the door locked behind us somehow and it was late on a very cold night)

  15. Danced on a table

  16. Seen Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj front row at a concert

  17. Developed a writing habit (heyo, this one’s fresh & meta)

  18. Lived alone

  19. Been interviewed for a podcast

  20. Won a cross country race

  21. Climbed mountains in Canada

  22. Been class president

  23. Composed an original song and performed it at an open mic night (I believe it was called “Saltwater Coffee”)

  24. Learned how to do a crow pose in yoga

  25. Been a skating carhop at a drive-in diner

  26. Been to concerts at The Greek and The Dolby Theater

  27. Made paper, and worked at a handmade paper company. Almost bought said paper company

  28. Created a blog with a couple thousand followers and over 40,000 visitors in a year

  29. Taken initiative to ask for antidepressants, then decided they weren’t for me

  30. Been a caregiver of and friend to three magnificent rabbits


And here are 30 things I would like to do by the time I’m 30!

  1. Do an unassisted handstand

  2. Dye my hair pink or strawberry blonde

  3. Create a chapbook of poetry

  4. Get a piece published in a literary magazine

  5. Get out of credit card debt

  6. Travel abroad

  7. Have a regular doctor

  8. Have a guest bedroom (or even just a pull out couch for the love of all things holy)

  9. Go to Vegas

  10. Go on vacation with friends

  11. See a Broadway show and explore New York City

  12. Have a solid grasp on my physical health (especially women's health, if ya know what I mean)

  13. Make a YouTube channel

  14. Take an improv class

  15. Go to a fancy LA party or club

  16. Have a beach vacation (maybe try suring!)

  17. Paint my apartment

  18. Get a newer, safer car

  19. Send actual gifts (not gift cards) to my nephews, siblings, and parents for birthdays and Christmas

  20. Have a financial plan, and invest and donate regularly

  21. Play a musical instrument regularly

  22. Spend a weekend in San Diego

  23. Go on a yoga retreat

  24. Have a regular organization/cleaning habit

  25. Have a few pieces of unique art in my home that I love

  26. Meet every baby my friends have/are having

  27. Write a novel

  28. Have a Los Angeles-based girlfriend who I can be weird with and go on adventures with

  29. Be out of my personal student loan debt

  30. Run a half marathon

 

What do you want to accomplish in the next couple of years?


Why We Need Everything To Go Horribly Wrong Once In A While

Today I feel like an old bell tower, harsh against the cement sky, ringing out a discordant hallelujah. I feel the energy between the clashing notes and the peace of a quiet campus on an early winter dawn. I feel like a voice is cooing, soft and resolute, into each chamber of my heart, "we have made it".

Photo by Nikola Radojcic on Unsplash

I got to speak with one of the most beautiful humans I know today, and we had an energetic talk about how much control we have over our own realities. Sometimes we talk about periods, sometimes we talk about mental health, often we talk about our pets, and on occasion will dive into some existential discussions. Typical.

We discussed the victim mindset, where a person truly believes he or she is out of control of their own life, and maybe even that negative things are targeting them. I’ve felt it, and I’ve felt it often. But the truth is that, while we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react. It’s a painful saying to hear when you’re in the throes of difficulty, but it’s true.

Then we discussed what we’ve both been learning over the past year:

Sometimes you need everything to go wrong.

We’ve both been walking a path full of deep ruts, interspersed with interruptions and last-minute turns. Job changes, health issues, moves—all these things can change your life instantly. Things like car troubles, foul weather, even a road closed on your route to work can interrupt your flow to great frustration.

These things may look like giant stains on the canvas of your life, but when you step back and look at the big picture, they make up some of the most interesting and vibrant moments of your wild life.

We get so stuck thinking that things are, and will be, a certain way indefinitely. Which isn’t wrong—humans are creatures of habit and we do love a good routine. But there’s something else about us that we don't realize until we're put to the test:

We are master improvisers

Every day, no matter how calculated you are, you’re required to improvise in some way. A conversation with a coworker, a detour, an email. If you’re like me, you have to come up with things like breakfast and what to wear, right there on the spot with minutes to spare.

And this improvisational muscle thrives the more it’s exercised. Think about balancing on one leg. You may waver, but it’s the wavering today that will make it easier for you to balance tomorrow.

The more you stretch yourself to do new and challenging improvisational things, the better you’ll be when the next disruption comes along. I know it’s not easy to welcome things like unexpected job changes, moves, or health issues, but they’re often for the better. Or at least leave a lasting lesson that makes you the multifaceted and enchanting individual that you are.

Practicing non-attachment

Something that has helped me deal with disruptions and painful moments in my life has been the oh-so-yoga idea of practicing non-attachment. Which means not holding any moment too closely—negative or positive. Knowing that everything is impermanent has helped me take a more objective look at trials and to feel more gratitude towards happy moments.

Moments where everything goes wrong are moments that our non-attachment is tested the greatest. We want to curl up, to feel like we’re being attacked, to blame the world and its injustices. But letting the fury and spite take a tour of our minds and bodies but not carve out a home for themselves is one of the greatest acts of self love we do for ourselves.

When everything is going wrong, don’t let anger or resentment seep into your gentle marrow. No one benefits from their storage. Allow the emotion, feel the feelings, but then let them go with an exhale.

When everything is going wrong, breathe. You will always have control over your unconquerable soul.

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.