reality · self-care · vulnerability

Vul-Hole

8-20-18-bad-hiding-under-box.jpgIn the storied flurry that was my late teens, I had a girl friend who got stuck in a K-hole.  For the uninitiated, a k-hole can result from taking Ketamine, a prescription drug meant for anesthesia but used recreationally for sedating fun (eek).  She related to me afterward that, for several hours, while everyone else simply saw her sitting on a couch unmoving, unresponsive to the world, she was locked inside her head.  She was trapped in a box on the side of a hill.  She was terrified, screaming, clawing her way out.  (Don’t do drugs, kids.)

When, yesterday, I shared my blog “A Teacher’s Prayer” with some select folks at work, I swandove headfirst into that box!  I compulsively refreshed my email while spiraling down into thoughts of: Oh g-d, why did I do that.  It’s not good, they won’t relate, no one will reply, I should have kept it to myself.  It’s too vulnerable, too honest to share.  This is work, what were you thinking?!

“You did a dumb thing,” in essence.

Then, finally, I stood up from my laptop, walked out of my kitchen, and began to talk to myself (occasionally aloud!):

Molly, you’re a good writer.  Molly, who cares what they think of it—it’s important to you.  Molly, you’re a 36-year old woman with a wealth of experience, and you’re on your way to a date.  You are a writer, singer, friend, teacher, human.  You are more than one emailed blog post!  Let it go.

Be in what’s happening right now.  You are not locked in a box on a hill with your negative swirling thoughts.  Don’t be an asshole to yourself.  Jeez.

And, so I did what I was taught: The next right thing.

The next right thing was to text my Goals Group ladies that I was feeling super vulnerable.  The next right thing was to shower, get dressed, and get out of the house.

Further, when I returned from the date and only two emails had come through, I booked a workout class for 20 minutes from then.  GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD!  Move your body to move your emotions!

Vul-Hole, you bugger.

Because here’s the final result: 6 hours after I emailed out that blog, my “big boss” replied to thank me deeply for my words … and then asked if I’d read it at today’s staff meeting.

Are you sh*tting me?!

The ultimate lesson however needs to have nothing to do with the result.  The fact that my boss, and several of the other faculty, emailed me to say they really appreciated my words has nothing to do with how I felt about it.

The true lesson here is about how I treat, and treated, myself while I was in a Vul-Hole.

Phase One: Feel elated, and kinda proud, at the courage it took to send it.

Phase Two: Feel deflated and self-immolating at what I’m now calling hubris, not courage.

Phase Three: BE IN MY DAY.  Don’t get mad/sad — Get Moving!

Phase Four:  Come back to my self.  Remember I’m a whole person with ups and downs, and that this event is one microscopic stitch in the tapestry of Time.

Phase Five: Feel pretty damn proud of myself for getting out of the Vul-Hole and acknowledge that my ability to do that is more than any accolades, likes, or dates could ever offer.

 

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action · career · progress · reality · theater

In the meantime, the in-between time…

I have an interview with a temp agency tomorrow. A resume out to a job working with Jewish kids I’d really love. I had a call with a mediator to ask his experience and will be following up some leads before I follow down that path. A call on Thursday with a grad school back east that I probably won’t take up, but, again, good for me to find out more. 
An appointment with a talent agent next week. A “we’re still making decisions” email from the musical I auditioned for last week. And plans to start rehearsing for another musical audition. 
I have an email from my landlord saying the work on the laundry room-cum-art studio should be done by March 1. A weekend wedding retreat for a dear friend coming up. 
Oh, and did I mention I’m ushering at the Billy Idol show later this month?
For someone who spends so much time languishing on her couch and in her head, I sure do a lot! (except, of course, for my dishes.)
Divine restlessness. Creative unrest. Cosmic dissatisfaction. !
But really, I just wanted to touch base to say, Yes, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, but I have to remember that doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything in the present. I tend to flagellate myself for my lack of action — then I actually write down what I’m doing!
It’s hard to acknowledge these points of progress or action in the midst of existential questioning, but I really must if I want to keep any perspective. 
So that’s what I’m giving myself today. I got up at 5am to do a work-trade shift at my gym to keep those free classes that I’m only using once a week at the moment. But, today, I worked out. 
I paid my COBRA bill, so I can go to Kaiser tomorrow on my day off and check out how my blood is doing and get that vague gnawing off my mind. 
Today, I’m taking public transit into work instead of driving, because I have the luxury of time when I wake up at 5am. 

Sometimes I really gotta step back from my navel-gazing and notice that I still am engaging in the life I fought so hard to keep. 
adulthood · change · dreams · fear · fun · growth · reality · stagnating · theater

Baking a Life Worth Living.

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“It was the fantasy made so real that I teared up a few
times, wanted to pinch myself, and thought over and over and over, how is it
that I am here?
How did this happen?
And I can trace the arc of it and still be amazed to be
this woman[…]”
This is a quote from my friend Carmen’s blog today, or last
night actually, the woman who began inspiring me to write a blog at all, and
then a blog-a-day (or, almost a day. Self-care [aka sleep!] comes first during this month, sorry
avid readers!).
Our paths have been divergent but so parallel over these few
years, I once proposed we co-share a book based on our blogs: Her adventures in
Paris, having moved there for her 40th birthday, and her triumphs and struggles
there; My adventures in Cancer-land happening at the same time, as I turned 31, and the
strangely similar triumphs and struggles.
Today, was no different: She was visiting New York City for
the first time. I am in a musical for the first time as an adult.
Her words make me reflect and become present once again with
the amaze-ball nature of where my life and energies currently are.
But, I also was very keen when I first found out I was cast
about the words I used. I made sure to not say, “I can’t believe it.”
Sure, I couldn’t believe it! But, I wasn’t going to say
that. I believe in the Law of Attraction-style woo-woo stuff, and in my
readings on it, when you say things like, “I can’t believe this is happening to
me” or “This is impossible!” or “This can’t be happening” – even though they’re
amazing things – it’s my belief that the “Universe” hears that, that you hear that, and if that’s really your belief, then
they can fade or change to support your belief that these amazing things aren’t
actually happening.
Who knows? I don’t. But I’d rather be on the safer side of
things!
So, when I told my mom, I said simply, “I’m so excited. I’m so grateful.”
I do have to stop saying, “I’m so nervous.” SURE, I am nervous. I
had another voice lesson yesterday, and it’s helping me feel more comfortable
in the lower register of my voice, but I won’t yet say I’m confident. It still
feels like straining and yelling. But I’m getting more used to that
discomfort…which I guess is another way of saying, “Getting comfortable”!
I am astonished by and pleased with the woman I am and have become. And I also know the places where I strive to grow
and build and commit, and lay foundations for an even more “me” life.
I know progress is slow. My voice teacher said that it’s
about first finding a place to build the house, before you even begin to think
about what it looks like or furnishing it. You have to find the firm ground to
stand on before you can build anything on it.
And, I’m doing that, slowly.
It’s strange sometimes to be the age I’m at. About to be 33
next month, and feeling so much older than some, and so much younger than
others. Explaining to the 11-year old Pugsley what a revelation the cordless
phone was when I was a teen. Even my new co-worker, age 22, fresh out of
college, and so bristling with energy.
And then, there’s most of my friends, who are older than me,
who hear me talk about the brevity of life and how there’s so much more I want
to do, and give me the “You’re so young, you have so much time” face.
I get the feeling that this is the center (or the beginning
of the center) of adulthood. When you know you’re not a child, really learning
the world and who/how you want to be in it; and neither are you a middle-aged
person, knowing that you are pretty well set in your personhood for the rest of
your days.
It’s a period of final gelling that I feel. (Though I know
learning and growing and changing is a lifelong process.)
But I sort of feel like all the ingredients have been
gathered, have been mixed, and we’re waiting to see if what I’ve assembled is a
sourdough or cupcake batter.
I do hope it’s cupcakes.
I am the woman who knows she eats 90 eggs a month (yes, really). Who knows she
buys only Ultra Soft toilet paper, but the super eco-friendly paper towels. Who
knows how to pay her bills on time, and knows she still won’t do her dishes
until pressed by her own revulsion!
The woman I am looks for the hope, even in the desperate
times. She relies on friendships built during the “ingredient assemblage” time,
and knows they are in fact ingredients of this current and future life.
The woman I am struggles with self-doubt, and celebrates her
moments of self-encouragement. Falls short of ideals, and laughs about it when
she can, and shares about it when she can’t.
“How did this happen? How am I here?”
I don’t have to pinch myself. I don’t think this is a dream.
I do have to remind myself it’s a nuanced, challenging, changing, and ultimately
precious reality. 
And the woman I am looks eagerly forward to licking the icing. 

dreams · faith · fantasy · fear · hope · loneliness · love · reality · scarcity · vision

Mystery Man.

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There is a conceit that we can only have in our lives that which we can imagine. As the saying goes, “If you dream it, you can do it.”
But, what if you can’t dream it? What if your ability to
dream is hampered, and you can only see the smallest of your dreams, the tiny
parts of a big picture?
Because there’s also the phrase, “Beyond your wildest dreams.” So if something is beyond what we can conceive for ourselves, then the entire
point is that we can’t dream it. Right?
Yes, we’re getting a little metaphysical this morning.
Because, maybe a year ago, a friend sent me a link to the
Oprah and Deepak free 21-day meditation challenge. I’d seen others “sharing” it on
Facebook, and I thought, what the hell.
Since then, I’ve done these “challenges” on and off, and I
also continue to receive little “gift” meditations in my email here and there, like I did yesterday.
So, yesterday, I sat with one, and today, I searched back through my email to
find a different one to do, and I clicked on the one entitled, “Intentional
Me.”
We are asked to envision one of our dreams, in vivid
Technicolor, fleshing it out. I’ve written here before about this one I have of
me in a white kitchen, I’m like 50, there’s an art/music studio detached in the
back. It’s an open floor plan kind of place, that you can see the kitchen from
the living room.
What happened for me this morning was that I added an
11-year old boy to the picture. After yesterday’s birthday party for a friend’s
11-year old, I felt that desire. (In fact, I’ve been feeling more clearly a desire to spawn my own offspring, which surprises me as much as it worries me.) But, – I love boys that age. They’re feisty, but
still sort of willing to listen to authority. They’re not too pubescent to be
very unsure of themselves and therefore super defensive. They’re funny, sarcastic, and full of energy. I love
spending time with kids that age. In fact, I’d taught kids that age a few years ago at
Sunday school.
So, into my vision of my “dream” for myself, now there’s a
boy, a son, perhaps, perhopes.
And then I tried to envision the partner, because I do want that. My partner, my
husband, my beloved (gag). And I have a really hard time doing this. It was like a person flickering in my vision: sort of there, sort of not. I begin to remember my Dad and
my parents and how so very awkward their own interactions were. So forced and
strange.
I can’t keep a solid image of a man in the kitchen to help
me as I chop some vegetable at the center island. I can’t believe in a vision of a partner
for myself. Even in a daydream.
So, I have to wonder: Can I hold an intention for myself
that I can’t really see?
Or is there work to be done to allow myself to have that
kind of love and joy even in the confines of my brain?
Which I suppose, the answer is Yes.
I have very few models of happy married life, but I have two
that I thought hard about this morning, trying to see if I had any at all.
There was the family I babysat for down the block growing up. A married couple
who were symphony musicians, and their three sons. They seemed happy. Who
knows, but to me they arise as a model for familial contentment.
I mean, even last year, when I went with my brother to visit
our old house in New Jersey, there was the dad, older and grayer, but with the
same winning smile and generous spirit, installing a flower box via a
jerry-rigged pulley system with his youngest son. Who was about to go off to
college that Fall. I remember taking care of him when he was 6-weeks old.
But here they were. I heard about the other two, and this
one, about to go to school for musical theater in Texas. It was pleasant, this
whole scene. It felt nice and right, and they live in a small house on a
tree-shaded block in one of the most pleasant areas of the state.
The wife wasn’t there, because she was in New York, playing
with the Philharmonic. But his eyes told me they were happy, they were
satisfied with how their life was turning out. This was their vision.
The second couple are my mom’s friends from my growing up.
They’re sort of like my second parents in some ways, and we’ve become closer
the older I’ve become. Their life hasn’t been easy, but it has been happy on
the whole. And they love one another like … well, like we all hope to be loved.
So, I suppose I do have models for what I want for myself.
And it will be about remembering them fiercely in the face of “I don’t know,”
and “Not for me,” and “How can I?” that come up. In the face of scarcity and fear and
deprivation, I am going to have to be diligent about calling on these models
for hope and health and change.
Because I have some vegetables to chop, a partner to laugh
with, and a son to make faces at. 

community · death · faith · god · health · order · reality · recovery · spirituality

In Vain.

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God? G-d? Him, Her, It, We, They?
The Great What Is?
The tendency of all things toward progress, perhaps. Toward
health and order.
Cut your hand, and assuming all other things are right with
your body, it will heal itself. In a week or two, it will be good as new.
Sometimes scarred, but altogether, well.
In parallel, cut your spirit, your psyche, and the tendency
of them are toward healing and health. If we don’t hide away the wound, or habitually fiddle with it, we’re sort of compelled to heal. It’s the natural state of ourselves,
and it’s my experience and observation that the order of life will lead us
there.
In this, I can believe.
In benevolence, I have a harder time, these days.
I’m at the part in my personal work where I’m supposed to
think about “god” and my relationship to it, whatever I choose to define it as.
I’m at the part where I come to believe that it wants the best outcome for me
and all creatures. The part where I’m supposed to take a deep breath, open my
arms, and fall into the caring embrace of this power.
Balls.
Because here’s the part that snags my shirttail: sometimes
“god’s” plan includes the death of babies. Sometimes it includes the overdose of
a friend, the death of a parent before you’re old enough to know them. Sometimes “god’s plan” includes rape. And of course, sometimes it includes
cancer in a healthy 30 year old.
I will not stand with those who say it’s part of a plan. I
don’t think it is. I think you can take those experiences, and choose to
integrate them into a theology and a world-view that helps you get through
them. Mostly, you can choose to tell yourself, perhaps truthfully, that their
or your experience will benefit those around you. That others get to witness
how you struggled, railed, and got through it anyway. I do believe that we can
choose to turn our experiences into something valuable.

(Though I do have unresolved issues with being or using anyone as a goddamned touchstone on how to life your life more fully. “I could go at any time, just like him — I think I’ll learn from his pain & in homage and reverence, I’ll paint that portrait; become a doctor; take a trip.” Balls. F’ you, man. My life is not your feeding ground. — … unless of course, it is.)

But I will not say
that I believe that “god” puts these obstacles before us on purpose. I just don’t think it’s
that intelligent.

The intelligence in focusing all flowers toward the sun (or
moon, depending), the intelligence that makes all those little newborn turtles
scurry toward the ocean, the intelligence that turns felled trees into
compost: it’s order, it’s incredible, it’s inspiring, but it’s not benevolent,
necessarily, and it’s not because a force underlies all and declares some of those
turtles will be scooped up by predators in their first moments of life – that’s simply part of the order of
it.
Because here’s another side to the whole “God as
benevolence” thing: it means (or can mean) that we believe we have an ace in the hole. It means
wishful and fantastic thinking that “god didn’t take us this far to drop us on our ass” or “god is
slow but never late,” which translates to, if I hold out long enough, if I pray
hard enough, if I act well enough, I’ll be alright. And buddy, that just ain’t
true.
It’s not really about god at all. Being or becoming
“alright” has more to do with how we chose to interpret and incorporate out
life experiences. God isn’t gonna rescue me, reward me, or punish me. It just
doesn’t care like that. But I do. And you do. And together we can form a lattice of support
that feels bigger than ourselves, that carries us through and over those hard
times. Together, we are aimed toward health, and we connect to improve our
chances of getting there.
In that, I can
believe. I can believe in our collective desire toward joy. I can believe in my
desire to clear out the junk in my heart, so that I can help you
toward joy, too.
Is that “god”? Not really. Is it good? You bet. 

creativity · fantasy · love · painting · reality · relationships

“If I were a painter…” ~ Norah Jones

The earliest I can remember is drawing with sidewalk chalk
on the dresser in my childhood bedroom. I was probably 14 or 15, beginning
to assert a level of artistry and self-expression, and I decided to draw a
chalk moon on one of the hutch doors above the dresser, and a sun on the other.
Senior year of college, much to my housemates’ chagrin, I
began drawing on the walls. In my rented room, there was a walled up doorframe,
which we’d left white when me, The Cousin, my best friend and her guy, A.,
painted two walls lavender and the opposite two a mint
green.
This white moulding begged to become a frame, and when I
was envisioning getting my first tattoo, I thought it reasonable to draw the
image on my wall, so that I could live with it for a few months on my wall
before permanently living with it on my body.
It was a sun again. Four feet of elaborate, vaporous rays that twisted,
and in the center of the sun, I drew the infinity symbol, but shaded it to be
three-dimensional, like a Mobius strip, looping infinitely. Eventually, I
decided that the black & white kohl drawing was not enough, and spent a
good deal of inebriated time coloring in the drawing with various nail
polishes.
Unfortunately, the place I decided to get this tattooed was
the inside of my left wrist, which is not a large canvas, and thus it lives, much
simplified, on my skin. I was otherwise engaged at the time of “move-out” from
that house, and so my father and brother had to clear out my room, and paint it
all back to white, and over this artwork. My father asked incredulously what I
must have drawn it with, since it took three coats to cover.
Living, later, in South Korea, in a rented studio apartment,
I got the itch again. In those studios (which we would call junior studios),
the refrigerator lives in the same room as your very small dining table and
your bed, and so from the vantage point of my bed, I stared at this beige-ing
plastic door, and decided it needed embellishment.
I used my acrylic paints to create huge designs, one in
color on the top freezer half, one in black on the bottom. It was just abstract
design, but it was playful, and certainly more interesting.
Eventually, my lover the painter came over one night, and
together, naked, we painted the stainless steel panel that housed the water
heater in my bathroom, which we could also see from the bed. Naked, inebriated,
painted.
To complete the effect of living in a colored, effusive,
manic wonderland, I painted the cabinets over my sink and small range stove.
Purple and green again, like in college.
I’m sure to their dismay, shock, and irritation, my landlord
discovered all this “improvement” to their apartment after I’d left the country
when my contract ended.
And finally, when I was living in San Francisco in Cole
Valley, the enormous expanse of my white kitchen cabinets called to my paint
brush again, and I embellished them with a few outsized spheres and swirls, using the same colors that adorned that refrigerator in Seoul.
When A., my college room painter, was passing through San Francisco and came to visit, he noted upon seeing the cabinets, “Now, this looks
like you.”
And yes, I owed a penny or two from my security deposit when
I left that apartment, having every intention of painting the cabinets back to
white, but just never getting around to it.
This morning, as I heated up my coffee and glanced around my
kitchen, my vase of paint brushes caught my eye. Specifically a set that I keep in its original plastic case: these are good
brushes, those. They were a gift from my Korean-years’ roommates during my
first contract year there. I wondered to myself this morning when I’d last used
them. Remarked that it’s been too long, much too long. Each of them, like pens,
or a piano, or a piece you want to choreograph to, is potential. Each of them
vibrates with the eventuality of what you can do with them, create with them,
manipulate from them into being. They are possibility incarnate.
There was a time when I was still in conversation with The
Cousin (not my cousin, fyi) when I remarked
to him that it would be so easy for me to fall into the painting of our life together.
Just fall into the frame, like something out of
Mary Poppins, just tip over the
gilding and onto the lawn with the white picket fence, the blue, cloud-flecked
sky, and the ivy growing up the side of the house we live in together.
How easy it is to imagine that things are and were as easy
as just stepping into an alternate reality, the one we’ve created for ourselves
in our minds and mutual enchantment. A “reality” without mortgage payments or
property tax on that ivy-laced house; without paychecks to support it; without
the stymieing banality of pulling the garbage can to and from that picket fence.
Painting something doesn’t make it true. Imagining doesn’t
make it easy. And desire doesn’t make it destiny.
It’s been a while since I’ve painted on my walls, but
right now, the ones in my mind are devoutly Technicolor. 

abundance · adulthood · integrity · maturity · progress · reality · recovery · responsibility · San Francisco · synchronicity · work

Breathing Room.

Sort of makes me wonder if there’s a room somewhere where
all people do is breathe? Maybe that’s called a meditation center. Or a
hospital.
In any case… yesterday, the interior design company I’ve
been temping with these last few weeks (and on and off during the last year)
asked me if I’d like to come on with them for a temp gig for a full, firm 6
weeks (possibly 2 months, but 6 weeks firm)?
Of course, I said yes. !
This gives me 6 weeks to really have the mental space to
look for permanent work, while not freaking out about bills being paid or not.
I know, now, that I not only will have July rent paid (HUZZAH!), but I will
have August rent paid. I haven’t known if I’d have two months’ rent in a row in
a long time. I can’t tell you what a relief this is.
I noticed how much more I was breathing after I was asked
and after I accepted. I have a tendency to hold my breath, or breathe
shallowly, when I’m stressed out. Most people do, I think. I realize it’s not
only then though. Sometimes the muscles of my stomach are in contraction even
when I’m sitting by myself at this computer writing this – or at my breakfast
nook, writing my morning pages. Why on earth would I hold my breath, or be all
tied up when there’s nothing to stress about? I dunno.
But, I recall what was said at a meditation I went to a few
weeks ago, where the facilitator suggested we allow ourselves to have “abs of
jello.” People snickered, because really, we all probably are holding (well,
not maybe ALL) some sort of tension
around with us.
The way that I walked into work yesterday, and the way I walked out of
it were two vastly different ways of
being. I was angry – as you might have learned from yesterday’s blog – and all
bolted up in worry and fear. I did also leave the building at noon to head downtown to meet up with a group of folks for an hour, which was unbelievably helpful – and I
began to notice, then, the whole tightness of my belly thing – the not properly
breathing thing. I hadn’t been asked to stay on yet, but I began to notice that
I didn’t have to hold my body in freak-out mode.
When I was asked to stay on, if you could visualize that
metal bib they put on you at the dentist as a cape, and watch it fall to the
floor with a thud, then you’d know how I
felt. I felt acres lighter. It’s huge. It’s a big thing.
And… it means even more that I have to show up for this
position for what I’m being paid to do. It means getting to work on time,
basically, and not hanging out online that much. That’s cool. I mean, I set my
alarm for 6am yesterday in an attempt to get to work earlier (aka “on time”),
but didn’t make that. I snoozed til 6:30. So, this morning, I tried again. And
up at 6am as I was this morning, I might have to wake up earlier still to
ensure that I have the…breathing room… to do everything that I do in the
morning with more ease and less stress – a constant look at the clock – even in my
meditation feeling crushed by my awareness that it’s ten minutes I “don’t
have.”
Although I cringe at the thought of anything earlier than
6am, it’s really not that big a deal. I’ll gripe about it some – but the
benefits will be way worth it. I won’t hold my gut in as I write this in the
morning, or as I’m cooking my ubiquitous eggs.
It’s hard to not imagine that some of the work that I’m
doing around money isn’t related to this sudden
“windfall.” I’ve been in a limbo of not knowing whether I have work from week
to week and day to day for the last few months. And now, “suddenly,” I’m asked
to stay on for 6 weeks – 6 STABLE weeks?
I sent out those letters last week to former employers (see:
Bollocks) letting them know that I was a lousy employee and that I was trying
to do better. And in the intervening week, I have been trying to do better –
and think I’m progressing along those lines.
Also, it’s hard to imagine that my work of freeing myself
from “wrong” sources of power and validation (see: yesterday, and the entire
history of my life…) aren’t in some way influencing the curvature of this road.
Sure, it could all be “coincidence.” Nothing to do with
anything, but I don’t believe that, personally. But. Nor do I believe that I am
“rewarded” for “good” behavior (and thusly, punished for bad). I rather believe that as I let go of behaviors
which aren’t serving me, I’m more available for the good things the world has
to offer. Usually those things were available all along, but I’ve been too busy
peering down the dry well, begging it to be water, that I miss the river.
Whatever the cause and effect, or lack thereof, I’m
grateful. Hugely. I bought a (cute, but) cheapy new notebook for my morning
pages yesterday. I intend to take another look at how I planned to distribute
my funds this month. Because the truth is, even though I hadn’t planned or had
money in the item lines of entertainment, or notebooks, or toiletries – the
reality is that I spent money in them anyway.
Last night, I found a note from February when I was meeting with some
money folk, and there’s a huge note-to-self that says to be honest about my needs, so
that I don’t overspend.
This month, instead of having been honest about what I
really need, I wrote up a meager, scarce, and skeletal spending plan, and of
course I haven’t stuck to it. Be honest about my needs. They’re not
overwhelming, they’re not indulgent, they just are what they are.
And I can allow myself to own and take care of them, while I breathe into my abs of jello.