deprivation · abundance · authenticity

The Junk Man Cometh

6.17.18

When I moved into this apartment, I was a 28-year old, about-to-be-graduate student.  I came with a free-to-me mattress and boxspring that lived on the floor, and “night tables” that were actually cardboard boxes draped in colorful scarves.

The coffee table (dubbed the “Earthquake Table” for its seismic gyrations everytime you knock into it), the pull-out sofa (from craigslist with cat scratches down to the wood), and the kitchen table (with one sloping leaf) came with me.  Each piece was free.  They were “from the Universe,” they were “manifested”!  And they were junk.

Over the 8 years I’ve lived here, I’ve traded up a bit, but on the whole, much of the broken and battered that came with me is still here.

At one point while still in my SF apartment, a man/boy/living-on-the-floor-in-a-basement-literal-dumpster-diver (don’t ask) reflected as we ate dinner off my curb-find, chipped dishes: “I love how everything you own is in a state of decay.”

Good lord.  What am I doing with my life!?

The man/boy and the dishes had to go.

For a very long time, I’d identified with “Second-Hand Rose.”  I thrived on and cherished the idea that I was “getting away” with not spending money on what I could get for free!  (“The Universe is totally listening!”)  Or extremely cheap at a thrift store.  My thrift store plunges were always post-scripted with a breakdown to friends about how many pieces I got for such little cost!  I even made specific trips into San Francisco just to go to my favorite Good Will.

Now, believe me when I say that I still find nothing wrong with thrift, as an adjective or noun.  However, when a few years ago I was at my women’s new year’s retreat sharing about what my just-glued vision board meant to me, I began to well up at describing how I didn’t want to be Second-Hand Rose in Second-Hand Clothes anymore.  That yes, a core value of mine is still not to add more consumption to the machine, but did everything I own have to be in a state of decay??

It didn’t make me feel powerful or high on thrift anymore.  It made me feel less-than.  It made me feel like I didn’t value myself.  I wasn’t taking pride in the 5 dollar shirt anymore (with just one hole that no one could see).  I was feeling shame.  I was feeling like hiding.

While I am absolutely still a reusable item junkie (I just purchased organic cotton coffee filters that I can rinse & reuse when I’m in Amherst … as there will be NO COFFEE MAKER!  Cue song from How to Succeed.), I do not have to make a sacrifice for everything that I own, consume, or purchase.

Self-deprivation isn’t hot.  And I’m allowing the pendulum to swing a little closer to center, a little closer to balanced.  I can buy something that I’ll use for a long time.  I can buy at the trendier consignment (not thrift) shop.  I can sleep on a bed frame.  I can even continue to grab up street finds, though I am much more judicious in what comes into my home.

Every day I choose to make a purchase that aligns with my values — about the earth and about myself — I feel closer to who I truly am:  Not. A. Hider.

 

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authenticity · heartbreak · writing

But, it’s scary out there…

6.10.18

When I open a fresh Google tab, it suggests to me my most frequently visited sites.  Nestled between my bank and Netflix is WordPress.  Despite not having written here in nearly a month, the code of my computer remembers—and luckily so do my friends.

Friday on the phone with a friend, she declared that the times when I have been at my best, I have been creating.  Theater, Music, Writing.  Whatever.  It didn’t matter.  When I’ve been my optimal, on fire, most embodied self was when I was creating regularly.

The evening before that, I was standing in the glimmer of San Francisco light with a friend I don’t know all that well, but well enough that she should ask, “How’s your writing?”

I answered, “Actually, I haven’t been doing much lately; I’m sort of stalled out.  But last week at school, I read a graduation poem I’d written [adapted for my 8th grade students from the one I read at my own graduation…for an MFA in poetry], and got incredible feedback.  Several people said they teared up.  My boss even said I did what poetry is supposed to do: say so much in so few words.

I forget sometimes,” I said to my friend, “how much I love it—and that not everyone can do it.”

“Yeah,” she replied, thoughtfully, “I go into anorexia around my writing, too.”

Wait. What?

“I never thought of my not writing as anorexia…”

This idea has been haunting me.  As someone who identifies as an “underbe-er”—not living in my full potential or using my time to support and further my goals—I’ve long been aware of my “anorexia” around self-care.

But I’d never before considered writing an integral part of my self-care.  Or of creative expression as self-care.  I more think of it as washing my dishes or going to bed on time!

Yet, here it was, a lighting-bolt moment: I refrain from or deny engaging in something which brings me to life.  If that’s not anorexic, I don’t know what is.

As I’ve written before, I had the extraordinary privilege of growing up in a house that never used food as a weapon, a reward, an analgesic or a shaming vehicle.  Food was food.  It was enjoyed, or just eaten; around a table, or before a t.v.  But it was never much more than a nice thing or an ordinary thing.  And I am so grateful for that, as I know many people suffer(ed) from painful relationships with food.

But, anorexia for me has been about denying myself experiences or expressions of life.  Months without a forest, years without a museum.  Weeks without a song, days without laughter.

My friend on the phone Friday put me to the task of writing for 30 minutes every day for a week.  One week, just to see how it feels.  Whether that’s blog writing or personal writing or book writing–anything, just as long as I’m creating.

The truth is, I know why things have gone into a period of retraction lately.  The last time I wrote in my journal was a month ago, just two days before J. and I broke up for the truly final time, just eight days before he handed me the keys to my apartment where we’ve shared a home for 6 months, and a bed for 2 years.

The sadness, grief, guilt, hope, the cycle of them again and again.  The molasses way I walk to and from my car at work.  I know this is why I’ve distanced myself from creating.

But, here’s the stupid rub of emotional anorexia: I will never feel better by retraction.  I will never get fed by sealing myself off from experiences that feed me.  The healing that I seek from withdrawing is a lie and a delusion.

That doesn’t mean it’s still not my go-to.  But I am only to get a crow-bar’s worth of light in there if I acknowledge its falseness… and put pen to paper again.

 

abundance · authenticity · expansion

“Damn the Man, Save the Empire.”

2.27.18 captain-planet.jpg

I met with two women this Sunday to review my and their financial situations.  We meet about every 6 weeks to go over our “numbers” and to offer feedback or advice wherever the other person wants it.

We particularly focus on what is “pressuring” us — where do we feel out of balance or unclear, where do we need ideas or support, encouragement or caution.  And I brought up this idea of Stocks.

As you read a few weeks ago, I recently bought my very first share of stock (in Tesla) and the following week, I bought a few shares in Starbucks.  While this has been a pretty cool exercise, and I do like watching the numbers go up or down (as they will do!), as I look toward a next investment, I begin to feel stymied.

Despite my affinity for renewable energy and Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial style, Tesla mines an incredible amount of precious metals and minerals from the ground, and their batteries will only last a decade at max, at which point they’ll be trash.  Despite having installed a new executive board that is purported to be full of innovation and forward thinking, Starbucks produces a ton of waste per minute.

If you know me, you’ll know that I compost voraciously, I use handkerchiefs that I wash weekly, I carry reusable bags and bottles to the grocery store, I purchase consignment clothing, and I donate to organizations working to fight the conservation fight.  My values around conservation of the earth are virile.  So how can I rightly invest in companies that have such a harmful impact on the earth, even if, in Tesla’s case, the ecological benefits in the long run may outweigh the costs?

So, I brought this up to my financial group of ladies, as I’ve also known that the investment funds that support “eco” or moral entities do not perform well in the stock market.  It seems that in order to make money in the market, I cannot live by my values.

My ladies said: Yep.

One did suggest my looking up the sustainable investment bundles, just to check out their recent performance (which I’ve not done yet).  But the other woman said something that struck me even more brilliant:

Soon, I won’t need to invest in others’ ideas.  My own success will fund me.  My own ideas will fund my life.

This was a welcome thought: I do not have to play the game if I don’t like the rules.  To me, it had felt as though there were two options: profit from Earth-raping and the demise of the planet or don’t profit.

That there is a third way doesn’t surprise me — though at the moment of realization, it always does!  There seems always a third way; always a path I’ve not considered.

Consider that my own success, in whatever realm, will lead me to be financially prosperous and financially independent from corporate malfeasance?  Yes, please.

 

action · authenticity · friendship

All in.

2.5.18 caravaggio Tour_Cheat beter

With daylight still apparent after my hour-long commute home, I dashed into my apartment last week, threw on sneakers, and grabbed my phone.  I was in too much of a state of agitation and pent-up energy to listen to the tree sounds yet, so I opened the audiobook app and continued listening to Better Than Before, the habit-formation book by Gretchen Rubin.

She was talking about the strategy of “Pairing,” wherein we unite 2 things that need to be done (for example, treadmill desk at work).  As I continued stalking over to the park-like cemetery in my neighborhood (where many folks run and walk dogs; I swear, not creepy!), I stopped suddenly struck.

I could unite 2 things I want to do.  

For long, I’ve wanted to read more classical literature.  I am an English major, MFA, and teacher, after all, and an avid (near-penitential) reader.  And like many readers, I have on my shelf “aspirational books”: those that I’d love to have read, but struggle to actually read.  E.g. Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Iliad.

What thunderstruck me on my walk was this: I could listen to the audio versions of these classic books.  Perhaps that would not only help me to “read” them, but also to understand them.  First up?  Anna Karenina.  I have indeed attempted to read the paper and cardboard version of this novel, but have been stymied by the names — who are they talking about again??  The Russians love to use the full “Christian” names, the diminutive names, the LAST names, all interchangeably to the point where I’ve absolutely lost track of who the hell is Tolstoy talking about anyway?!

So, thusly, my brainwave led me to the ebook app where I discovered Maggie Gyllenhaal(!) would read me Anna Karenina.  Downloaded, earbuds in, I began to walk again in the falling light.

And folks, I UNDERSTOOD it!! I listened again on the slog-ride home yesterday, and I could actually recall portions of the plot and (for the most part) retain who was who!

I shared my discovery and attendant elation with a friend on the phone this past weekend.  And she, too, was elated — and suggested we start a book club.

Now, Gretchen Rubin is a book-club lover and, honestly, I thought I would jump at the idea — it has been hard for me to read these books on my own.  But with this new-found habit of listening to dense books rather than reading them (which I do plan to do once I hear it all), I’m not sure that I truly want to meet up and discuss them.  I talk about books all the time.

I recounted this conundrum to my therapist last night, and she asked if I actually wanted to be in a book club. … “Well, not really,” I replied.  “But what I would like is a regular poker night.”

Several years ago, I opened my apartment door to find an Amazon package on my welcome mat.  The package was addressed to me and the packing slip inside was as well.  But without a return address or orderee.  Inside the box was a slim, silver case, within which was a brand-new poker set.  Chips and cards, even dice and a disk with “Dealer” printed on it.  I’ve no idea from where it came, and have held onto it (in aspirational fashion) ever since.

I’ve lugged it to campsites, to winter cabins, but still the deck of cards remains sealed in its plastic sleeve.

“I’d love to have a regular girls’ poker night,” I said to her again.  “To gather and kibbitz; to have fun, because, in the end, it is a game.  But I’ve always been stymied by the fact that my apartment is too small… I’ve wanted a game night for years.”

And so, it seems, I’m going to have to enlist a few friends–maybe even a few new friends–to join me for blind betting, cut decks, and bowls of tortilla chips.

No, I don’t really know how to play — but I will.

 

 

authenticity · fear · truth

“Then that happened…”

This is what I said to my friend after I broke down on Friday night with the truth of how lost I’d been feeling. 
She said to me, You can’t do that. You can’t say something like what you shared, and then cover it up with a joke like it wasn’t important or true. 
And that’s what I want to do with today’s blog. I want to try to stem some of whatever reactions I believe you might have had to yesterday’s blog of anger and fear and isolation. Because no matter how I feel in a moment, I do need you greatly, and I want you to still like me and not to think that I’m a whiny, privileged person who’s lost perspective on the world. 
So, I’m going to try not to do that, to reverse any effects of what I said yesterday. And simply let it lie. 
I do know that my job is not scooping animal carcasses off the highway, or cleaning toilets, or any other job that many people have. I have friends who’ve lost children, husbands, gone bankrupt. I mean, I work at a high-end retailer in Union Square, not on a chain gang. And I’m going through cancer survivorship stuff, like I imagine and hope those of us who have to, do. 
I know, too, that in times like these, we all seem to lose some perspective, and I allow myself to have that for now, because I do know it will change. 
But, I guess I did need (or want) to put how I’ve been feeling out there, even in this impersonal forum, because it is the truth, and that’s what I tell here — with or without back-peddling. 

So, whatever reactions you might have had (because I can see from the stats page that many people did read that blog), I hope … well, I hope it’s okay I put the truth there. And I’m trying to let myself be okay with it, too.
“You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time.”
authenticity · family · fate · love

Retail Christmas: A Family Tale

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the store
not a creature was stirring, it was really a bore. 
But some time in the day as I walked back from lunch, 
a gentleman remarked, Gee you don’t hunch. 
What great posture you have, and a convo was struck 
as his wife later joined and we talked cardio stuff
He and I spoke of their trip from Vancouver,
his wife in a fight with their my-aged daughter
I listened and shared; it was strange to be sure
to stand in the racks of not-quite couture
and be talking about things that do really matter
and not prattle on with plastic-smiles, idle chatter.
I gave words of wisdom that were passed on to me
about just showing up and letting her be. 
We even talked of my dad, how things there are rotten;
he said try again, love is never forgotten. 
I have my own opinion and still question his advice
it was odd to talk about this, but somehow quite nice. 
Out came his wife, and we put things on hold,
I said a kind goodbye and to stay warm in the cold. 
But as the wife handed me her card and I entered her digits
She shared she and her daughter were really quite in it. 
I didn’t mention I knew, and just made the suggestion
Tell her you love her and are there to listen. 
We smiled, it was strange, and out of the norm
to be talking real life in this capitalist storm. 
A few hours later, my feet throbbing with pain,
I couldn’t wait to get out and back to the east bay. 
When a coworker said there’s someone looking for you,
around the corner came the wife & her husband, too. 
“I wanted to tell you,” she started to sob, 
“I took your advice while I tried on some bras.
“I texted my daughter I was hurt, but am here,
and, Look! She replied!” her face stained with tears.
I read from her phone, while her husband looked on
a bit happy and startled at her goings on.
“I wanted to tell you, I’m so glad we met,
I wouldn’t have been ready before what you said.”
We teared up, exchanged hugs in the DVF stacks,
a slice of what matters near a discount sale rack. 
They left that day a little lighter it seemed,
and I wondered if this is what ‘meant to be’ means. 
I don’t know why I’m there, in the overpriced store,
but for a minute I’m reminded what humanity’s for. 
And maybe it’s not to sell lots of clothes,
to perfect my eyeliner or hike up my hose. 
Instead I was given the gift of what’s real: 
On the day before Christmas, I helped a family heal. 
authenticity · career · generosity · love · work

God Shot

I suppose this could have been summarized as a facebook update, but I thought to write it instead. (On, yes, my very new [refurbished] MacBook Air, so generously given to me as a Chanukah gift from several contributors.
Yes, it’s materialistic [Ooh, shiny!], but yes, too, there are things that I couldn’t do with my old dinosaur that might come in handy — like if I wanted to work from home, Facetime my mom, or watch Netflix on something other than my cellphone!)
Yesterday, I had the day off from my retail job. I didn’t put this on Fbk either, but I had to take 3 days off last week after hobbling from my job mid-Tuesday to my chiropractor, my right ankle swollen and awful. The retail job is hard. The store itself is as large as a city block, and you’re standing most of the time, walking the length of the store others, and there’s no sitting. 
Now, I know when I quit my regular desk job, I said I didn’t want to sit at a desk 40 hours a week, but maybe something in the middle, eh?
And it was with this experience and knowledge, my feet still hurting, but apparently getting used to it, as my coworkers and dr said I would, that I went yesterday morning to a cafe to continue working on my holiday collage cards. 
I wanted to get out of the house, and I didn’t know if I’d get kicked out of the cafe as I spread cardstock, magazines, scissors and a glue stick out on the table. But, I wanted the human connection, too. 
And, lo, I did not get kicked out. I sat there at the large “handicap accessible” table (don’t worry, no wheelchairs rolled in), and I continued cutting and glueing, pasting and maneuvering images. Even used the alphabet letter stamps I’d bought 2 years ago and the ink I’d been given when I was sick. 
I sat there, content, enjoying, a little self-conscious and waiting to be scolded when a family with two daughters (I’d overheard) home from college for the winter break sat down next to me. One of the daughters tapped her family and looked over at what I was doing, and remarked, “Isn’t that cool?”
It was a sweet thing. I finished the card I was making and put it to the side of my over-large table, knowing I would hand that one to her when I left the cafe. 
A few minutes later, her mother turned and asked me what I was doing, if these were for sale or what? I replied, No, these are just holiday cards, my presents to my friends. For fun. And then I handed her the one set aside and said, “This is for your daughter.” 
She took it, surprised and grateful, and we exchanged names and shook hands. And I smiled at her daughter who’d admired my work. (“No one will ever believe I made this,” I heard the daughter say to her sister, amused.)
I smiled. I was glad to give her something. I was gratified that she’d admired something I consider so elementary and basic and fun for me. 
And then, as the family packed up on their way out of the cafe, the mom turned to me again and handed me an envelope with the words Happy Holidays written on the front. I thanked her, and wished them all well, and they left. 
In the envelope was a holiday card in which she’d written, “Thank you for your kindness to my daughter. Happy holidays.” And there was a twenty dollar bill. 
It was one generosity inspiring another. But it was more than that to me. 
I have felt so unmoored during this “job transition” time. Especially since I’ve taken on this retail job and can barely make it through a day with a breath to myself. I come home late, exhausted, and fall into bed. Chores are undone. Dishes unwashed. Groceries unbought. 
I cried Monday morning on the floor of my closet as I got ready for the day, exhausted from the long Sunday hours. I have felt so alien to myself with so little “me” time, so little time to think about or explore what could or should be next. 
I have felt lost, and a bit hopeless on the career/job horizon. 
And yesterday morning, I sat in a cafe, doing something I love to do because it’s fun and creative and easy and whimsical. Because I know people will enjoy them, if even for only a few weeks on their mantle. 
I sat there, and I was seen. My work was seen. And it was appreciated. 
I was an artist and I was rewarded, if that’s the word for it. I was in the world and I was given a “god shot” — a moment of, Moll, you’re on a path, we promise. This, arting, is one of them. Being in the world is one of them. 
Go out. Be seen. Create. Give. 
We see you. The Universe and those in it see me. 
It was one moment. One interaction. One family. But it meant more to me than they knew. As lost as I feel, it was a reminder that I’m not a total fool for not toeing the party line. 

This experience doesn’t point me in a direction, but it is a welcome dose of hope when I very much needed to know that what I can give to the world is indeed greater.