Poetry

Dear 4AM

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Dear 4AM
Your moon is a little too bright, can you take it down a notch?
The wine disappeared hours ago
And a lie-in requires equal parts
Cool air
Nice sheets
And darkness.
You’re supposed to be bringing that last one to the party.

Dear 4AM
You’re tossing and turning.
We’re not supposed to be up for hours
Much less itching
For something more stimulating than sheep.
You can be the big spoon or the little spoon
I’m not picky.
Just let me close my eyes with you.

Dear 4AM
There’s time enough for art
When the sun comes up and breakfast is ready.
Your song is more siren than sweet to my fingers
And it is distracting me from my perfect pillow.
I promise that we will do 101 things
In just a few more hours, so darling,
Please lie back down.

Dear 4AM
I’m not even mad, how could I be?
It’s as fruitless as yelling at the owl for hooting at midnight
Or the raccoon for slinking away from the sun.
I’ll get the coffee, you get the satisfaction.
We’ll see what else is waiting.

Self Dare, Uncategorized

Don’t be a Lemming

I bet when you started reading this post, you were thinking, “Ah yes. Here we go. A diatribe about being yourself and not going with the crowd, yadda yadda yadda.” Although those are great things you should already know, this is much more mind-blowing.

Did you know that the popularized “fact” that lemmings will commit mass suicides is a complete farce? Although many will remember seeing the depictions of this “behavior” in Disney’s “White Wilderness” (which won an Academy Award, people) it was a fabrication.

Let that sink in for a second.

And thus, I want you to heed a more true lesson from these cute little fuzzballs: don’t let anyone tell your story for you. Do you think right now those lemmings are losing sleep, pondering over the fact that people believe they are getting ready to fling themselves out into the void? Do you think they are looking into their little lemming mirrors, saying, “Why do people think I’m such a conformist?” No. They are way too busy living life to the fullest. And sure, that life may basically be “eat, sleep, run around, repeat” but it’s not one that’s being wasted concerning one’s self over the misconceptions of others.

Defy expectation. Break every standard and stereotype. You do you. Follow the crowd if you want. Make your mark every day. And question every single documentary. I dare you.

Poetry

Mongrel

The muse is a mongrel
And if you try to exert your force on her,
She will hate you for it.
You don’t want a muse that sits outside on a line
Because too long and you’ll find she’s hung herself with it.
None of your guilt will save her.
It will end in a hole
And whether it’s her or you in it
Doesn’t really matter.

You have to want her there.

If you keep her by your side, if you make the time,
If you give her the things she likes —
Wet words to chew on, lots of space to play in,
She will love you. She will grant you every year she has in her,
And on the days that you’re empty,
She will at least stay beside you.

She will want to be there.

But keep the door open
For nights when the moon is full and a wind is coming in
Make sure you have a broom and a dust pan
For days when sandstorms come in
Because she will need to go out into the thick of it
And drag you with her
For no reason but to run in circles
And you’ll hate it
But the richness it will add to your stories
Will be nothing compared to the wonder that will be reflected
In your waking hours.

mental health, Uncategorized

Existential Crisis: The Battle Plan

How to Survive an Existential Crisis

It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? An emergency situation. Red, flashing lights. Sirens. Fire. Murder!

When you’re not in the middle of it, it seems like some serious #firstworldproblems. And even when you are experiencing it, there’s this nagging voice in the back of your head going, “You know, somewhere in the world, people are experiencing crises too. For food. In wars. Families trying to make their lives manageable. And you are getting stressed out because you don’t feel…what? Happy? Satisfied? Get over it!” And isn’t it funny how that voice always sounds like the parent trying to get you to eat brussel sprouts? Those starving kids, right?

In the American work culture that walks an uneasy line between “live your dream” and “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s easy to feel conflicted when you are trying to deal with struggles of self. I speak from experience. Here is a simple guide to getting through these really awful feels.

1. Journal about it: write down everything that’s sticking in your head. Don’t think too much about it. Just take a few deep breaths and write it all out. The plus side to this is that you have it down so you can come back to it later. Often times, you will find later that you’re not really sure what the big deal was. Or, on the other side of that, you can assure yourself that you have in fact felt this way before about something and start making decisions on how to change it.

2. Talk to someone: make sure that you let them know which you are looking for – an attentive ear or actual advice. Give them a heads up beforehand that you are going to share things that may seem self-involved, petty, etc. I know you may be thinking “why would I have to do that with a real friend?” but sometimes it actually serves to open them up more to getting your struggles. Because you’re saying that you’re trusting them.

3. Understand that this is happening and give yourself a break: a lot of times existential crises will spiral into shame trips. Don’t let them. You are having this moment, so accept it as it is. Be okay with the fact that you are going through this, even if you’re not okay with the feelings themselves. Think of them like weather or traffic or illness; you don’t have to like it, but it’s here for now, so just relax.

4. Give yourself a solid 60 seconds: freak out. Scream into a pillow. Hyperventilate a little bit. But just for that minute. Then, you need to go do something else.

5. Be present: I say this a lot, but it’s an important aspect of dealing with things like this. A lot of times, even though it’s called “existential,” a lot of the mulling over we do involves the past and the future. Fuggedaboutem. Think about what you’re doing right now. Focus on that thing, even if it’s just sitting at your computer, reading comics. Be 100% in that.

You can handle this. I dare you.

Art, Personal, Writing

Mischief and Hives

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My husband and I are sitting on the couch, watching Food Network Star. Meanwhile, I’ve taken our rat, Oreo, out of his cage. I try to keep him on a little blue pillow on my lap, but he’ll have none of it. He climbs up to my shoulder, his little claws digging into my skin, and he licks my face. It makes me squeal with delight.

If left to their own devices, our rats would gladly hitch a ride on our shoulders all day. They love to be near us and are more affectionate than most give them credit to be. Unlike mice or guinea pigs, rats are social animals. They want you to be a part of their mischief (literally and figuratively, since that’s what you call a group of rats).

After a little bit of playtime, I hand him off to my husband. I watch as he walks back to the cage, a rat tail drooping over his shoulder, and when he holds his arm out straight, Oreo happily scampers down to the door. I take several deep breaths — I’m starting to feel winded. There’s a sensation on my skin where Oreo was rubbing, and I can still feel where his claws were.

When Josh sits down, I stretch my neck up. “Did he get me?” I run my hand across my skin, feeling where it has started to rise.

My husband – love of my life, partner of 4 years, friend of more than 10 – makes a horrible face and recoils. “Oh God.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Oh God, Katie. It’s ghoulish.”

I head upstairs and into the bathroom. Sure enough, my neck looks like it’s just watched the first ten minutes of Up. Puffy, red, swollen. I take an allergy pill, go downstairs, and we keep watching TV.

The things that we love are never awesome all the time – I think that’s why so many people set themselves up for failure when they get this image in their head of the perfect life, the flawless version of themselves. Even if you could do exactly what you want all the time, you could still have things happen that are outside of your control.

Writing is like that too. Sometimes, you love it — the words blossom before you, you hit the zone, you’re in love with the keyboard. But sometimes? You get a rash. There’s this itch – to do anything else – and you can’t scratch it.

But I love rats. And I love writing. Neither are perfect and sometimes I need medication, but it’s worth it at the end of the day.

Self Dare, Uncategorized

Guilty Pleasures are for Weenies

There. I said it.

Tonight, I went to the gym for the first time in…a while. We’ll just round up and say “a big, long while.” And it kicked my butt. On my way home, as I’m trying to ignore the sweat soaking into my carseat and the shakiness in my muscles, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten came on the radio.

Here it is if you haven’t heard it:

I had a few feels in those moments: there was the feel of “Glad I turned on this radio station at this time.” There was the feel of tears running down my face, because I can’t listen to the whole thing without choking up. And there was one feel I’m not proud of. It was the feel of “I’m so glad that no one is around – ie my husband, some of my friends, coworkers, etc – to see me listening to this song.” And as soon as I realized the voice in my head saying that, I got really mad.

And you know what? Fuck that feel.

Guilty pleasures are pointless. Guilty pleasures are, by their definition, based on the idea that you owe some explanation for things that give you pleasure. Guilty pleasures make the things that you like, that touch your heart, something that others can scrutinize and judge you on. And we’re not talking about anything huge or that affects others. We’re looking at music and food and books and movies.

You do not have to defend things you like. They are not guilty pleasures. They are just pleasures. And anybody who attacks you or talks down to you about your pleasures is just insecure about themselves.

The next time someone tries to say something disparaging about something you enjoy, take one of the following actions:

a) Walk away. Screw that guy.
b) Tell them all the reasons you like that thing. At length. In detail.
c) Ask them what they like. Not in a snarky away – no matter how much you may want to – but just like, “Oh, okay, Well, what’s a comedy/musician/performance artist you like?” And then talk about how that thing relates to your thing. BOOM. Connection.

Go live life and don’t feel bad about it. I dare you.

5 Things, How to Have a Day Job

How to Have a Day Job: Monday, Monday

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Every week, that iconic song by the Mamas and the Papas plays in my head. Which, while it’s a softer tone, isn’t too much better than the saccharine Office Space voice saying, “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” And then there’s the manic Monday, the rainy day Monday, the I-don’t-like Monday (tell me more!). Think Monday and you get doom, gloom, short tempers and wailing grievers, bemoaning the loss of those sacred seconds in Saturday and Sunday.

When was it that the world decided to hate Monday? How did Monday get the short end of the stick? What high school told Monday that it was the Least Likely to Succeed? What bus drove through a puddle and soaked Monday in front of all his coworkers? Well, I’m sick of seeing Monday eating lunch alone every day. It’s time to flip the script with this. Life is way too short to begin each week with resentment, immediately counting down to the end of it. I say no more to that!

Here are 5 ways you can make Monday more awesome:

  1. Start something new: have you been meaning to start a new book but just haven’t made the time? Maybe you want to go for a walk every afternoon, or cook more, or create a better cleaning schedule. Mondays have historically been seen as an auspicious day for good habits. It’s a clean start. Give it a try!
  2. Eat that frog: if you’re dreading a certain item on your To Do list, Monday is a great time to knock it out. You’ll get a kick of encouragement and motivation that will set you on a success streak for the rest of the week.
  3. Meditate: I love alliteration, and the gentle m’s of Monday put me in the mood for some mellowing out. Take 15 minutes out of your day, find a quiet space, and take long, deep breaths. Focus on the feeling of each inhalation (7 seconds) and exhalation (11 seconds). Clear your mind and refresh your core.
  4. Begin with the best: Monday is also a great day for assessing your morning ritual. Get a good breakfast, do a few stretches, fill up a water bottle. Leave your house a little early so you don’t have to worry about running to your desk. Load up your phone or iPod with some good music, books, or podcasts. Sit in your car and drink in the morning.
  5. Recognize Momentum or Management: There’s that glorious ‘m’ again! You don’t know how your Monday is going to go until it’s over. If it’s good, you can ride the momentum and let it supercharge the rest of your week. If it’s not, take a step back and try to figure out what you can manage. Did something happen that was outside of your control? Let it go. Did something occur that you can learn from? Make a note for the future. Stay in the moment rather than dwelling on what’s in the past. Tuesday is right around the corner! Just make sure Monday doesn’t feel ignored…

What do you do to work through the beginning of your week?

essays, Personal, Uncategorized

On Walking Away

I used to love drama.

Not the awesome spoken word kind, or plays about people kind, or even the crazy Greek ones that had weirder sex than Game of Thrones. No, I used to love hearing all the scoop, all the kerfuffle, all the flibbertigibbet. I was the undercover scandalmonger, who would just happen to be around when the most chaotic people would appear, obviously full of angst about someone else. “You can talk to me about it,” I’d say, “you can get it out.” And I wouldn’t just drink it all up. I would gulp it. I would gorge myself on it.

This only got bigger and stronger with my increasing online presence after college. The Internet is a lot like an adorable card and gift shop. You can walk around forever and ever and keep finding things to pick up and marvel at. Comments sections of news articles about things I already didn’t agree with were the best. Lists of all the things guys find wrong with women? Sign me up. Articles about how awful things I love are? Yes, please!

And I always found these things through my best friends, the people who think like me, the people who go, “This is so messed up” and “Am I crazy to think that this person doing this is not okay?” so that I could join the loud, cheerful choir of “Yes! That is the worst! It’s all awful and we are such better people for not agreeing with that garbage!” Because who doesn’t want to have that with their friends?

At some point, though, I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying this feeling. I would start getting angrier, and I would seethe and look for any place to release all the fire I thought was building up in my stomach. I got into angry fights with people I had never met, and I would rip them apart. And despite the fact that, sure, most of the causes were pretty justified, I found that a few truths were becoming clear:

  • Many of these things were either outside my control or distant to my circle of experience.
  • A lot of it was pointless anger and frustration.
  • There wasn’t anything I was doing about whatever I was feeling not good about.
  • Most importantly, when I came back to the screeds later, I really didn’t like the person I was seeing online.

This step back also brought a lot of other things on the Internet into focus. I saw how often I just complained and griped. I saw how I would rant about these things that seemed like nothing a few days later. Mountains, molehills, anthills. It became very clear to me how negative I was, and I really didn’t like that. I also realized it wasn’t just on the Internet, that this was affecting the Real Life Me. I had started hiding away when I was angry instead of confronting people close to me. I would seethe and snarl in private, backstab, hurt under a cover of darkness. I had been for a while but now I knew that I was not being a good person. That is something that still haunts me.

So the first thing I did was decide that I was going to stop being utterly negative, both online in social media and in life. I started to recognize when I was repeatedly complaining without taking action. On Facebook and Twitter, instead of posting about how bad my day was, I’d share a cute video that made me smile. Instead of talking about how much something sucked, I would bring up something that I really enjoyed. I used the Internet as a force of good – literally, good things, good news, good times. I felt a lot better.

Recently, it’s become much more apparent that there is a part of the web that is what I call a Hateful Shame Machine. A lot of people use it as not a vehicle for their anger but more like a remote-controlled car they can run into people’s lives. They capitalize on the safety of distance and anonymity to respond in a way that doesn’t directly impact them and hurts the subject of their disdain. But, like with a remote-controlled car, they think what they are doing is only annoying at most and couldn’t actually do any lasting damage.

Have you ever imagined what could happen to a single person being struck by a hundred remote-controlled cars? A thousand? A million?

I’m not saying that it isn’t okay to be mad or to react to something unjust. But once you realize that what you’re doing is not only making you feel toxic but is raising a red flag in your subconscious that says, “This really isn’t good, is it?” it’s time to take a step back. Are you making a difference, or are you just adding to the screaming? Are you being the person online that you are in your heart, or are you wearing a mask? Are you treating everyone the way you would to their face, or are you exploiting the fact that you can attack them without attaching yourself to it?

Most importantly, though, you can stop. You can change. Get some distance. Unplug. Go do something by yourself and clear your head. Forgive yourself. Say you’re sorry, if it isn’t too late. Understand that you deserve love and comfort and every human is cracked and flawed. And if you are the victim, these things all apply to you, tenfold.

I dare you to walk away. It’s never too late.