The Entry Where I Drop Mad Wisdom

I started this blog three or so years ago for a number of reasons, but mostly, it was because I was deeply, deeply unhappy, and I wanted to start a journey toward reclaiming the happy, carefree person I used to be. And I knew the struggles I was having with anger, impatience, frustration, impotence, rudeness, and anxiety weren't just my struggles---it's stuff we ALL struggle with in the Western world. Most of us (though definitely not all) don't have to worry about food or shelter, so we have the luxury to worry (and get angry about) all sorts of other things. The world is rife with perceived irritations. I think what we've become as a society and the current state of the world leave a lot of people with these exact emotions. We've become a nation of divided, entitled, and angry fist-shakers, and whether we realize it or not, that affects our psyches on a very personal level each and every day.

So these past few years, I've spent A LOT of time thinking about happiness---my own and society's. I've tried all the hippie, California, New Age shit---from hiring a life coach to individual AND couples' counseling to learning to meditate to reading spiritual books to going on silent retreats to quitting my miserable job---and still happiness eluded me.

And then, about a month ago, I went away into the woods for ten days. I had no devices, no TV, no booze, no friends, no Internet, no obligations. And I just sat. Sure, I read a bunch, and I cooked. I meditated. I wrote a little. But mainly I just sat and stared off into nothingness. At the fantastic advice of one of the above-mentioned shrinks, I didn't try to make a schedule for myself or make a to-do list or set any sort of life goals. I just let myself Be. And man, it was everything I thought it could be. Y'all should try this shit, for real.

Even corporations don't want us to live in the goddamned real world.

I don't know if it was the no distractions or the fact that I gave myself full permission to zen the fuck out, but I came back from those ten days utterly refreshed. Holy shit, it's almost like I have my old personality back, pre-pain, pre-depression, pre-everything. I felt calmer and more at peace. If there was an overarching message I came away with from my Waldenesque time, it's "don't make things so fucking hard." And it's been with that message in my mind that I have moved through the world this past month.

Which leaves me wondering: that after all of this struggle and soul-searching, can it really be that the secret to happiness is to stop chasing it so relentlessly? Because that feels like something I should have known already, and part of me is a little chafed that I didn't figure that out before this whole journey started and saved myself a lot of time and mental struggling.

Well shit though, that right there is a baby floating in some bathwater. It's not like nothing was accomplished on my little spiritual adventure. It's very Buddha-y to say "its not the destination, it's the journey," right? Turns out that chubby bastard was on to something. This journey has brought a deeper understanding of myself than I ever thought possible. It's given me time to contemplate the factors I felt were contributing to my unhappiness, which, in turn, has allowed me to better figure out how to manage those factors.

Which is how I got the idea for the series of entries I'm about to write. It's been a four-year struggle for me, just trying to get back to zero, and I'm not claiming to have unlocked the Secret of Life or anything, but I have figured out a number of things along the way that I feel like were factors in getting me to a place of relative calm. First of all, I've spent a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of why I'd become so unhappy, which will be the first entry in this series. Your mileage will vary, obviously, as the things you struggle with are likely not the things I struggle with.

Pain. The obvious factor in contributing to my misery has been the chronic pain. When I used to hear people say "He suffers from chronic pain," I would think "What the hell does that even mean? He has an ingrown toenail? What are we talking about here?" Well, I'm here to tell you that it means that that person is living with some form of pain each and every day, and that pain not only affects their body, but it's slowly rotting their brain too. Their brains are expending 90 percent of its energy recognizing and thinking about that pain and how they will make it through a normal work day, let alone ever doing the things that once brought them pleasure. There is no room left to let them be functioning, pleasant members of society, no room left for social expectations and niceties. They no longer recognize themselves. Who they are now---all they are---is their pain. It defines them. There's no room left for their old personality. Which can often lead to…

Depression. As I've mentioned before, my chronic pain and how it twisted my life in the course of the first years I experienced it, led me straight into a deep and dark depression. And, unfortunately, I didn't recognize for a very long time that I was depressed. I just kept beating myself up for not being able "to pull myself up by my own bootstraps" as society teaches us to do. I figured I was just being a pussy, wallowing, feeling sorry for myself. And if I just had a stronger character, I would rise up and get past this. But because I wasn't getting past it, it was some deep moral failing on my part. Fortunately, I found a very, very good shrink who explained to me that my rational, intelligent self was trying to figure out how to think my way out of this problem. She explained that depression doesn't work that way. No amount of logic and problem-solving can dig you out of that hole because it's not a moral failing, it's fucking biochemistry. But I'm not gonna lie to you---it took me years to accept that and to stop kicking my own ass for not being able to get myself un-depressed. Unfortunately, when you're depressed and in pain, doing the things you're supposed to do---eat right, socialize, exercise, meditate, etc.---are things you don't have the energy for. So you find other things to do besides stare at the ceiling, things that are easier to accomplish than making a fucking smoothie and hitting the gym. At this point in human history, that thing is typically spending hundreds of useless hours on the Internet.

Self-doubt? Check! Anxiety? Check! Depression? Check!
On a first-name basis with the counter guy at the nearest liquor store? Check!

The Internet. For me, specifically, that means Facebook. As my depression was drawing me more and more inward, social media was exploding. So as I'm pulling away from my spouse, my family, my friends, and the outside world in general, an app that was supplanting face-to-face contact and supporting arm's-length interaction was at the height of its popularity. Depression meant I found talking to people and making plans with my friends daunting, but suddenly this platform that still allowed me to be in the world (insert eye roll here) as my old funny, witty, caustic persona was at my disposal. How perfect for me! It allowed me to present a face to the world that was the polar opposite of what my brain was feeling on the inside. "Look at me! I'm still funny, edgy, interesting, and relevant!" I could lie to the world and no one would be the wiser. But what was really happening was that the pain and the depression had created a deep-seated fear in me---fear of the outside world (due, no doubt, to the steady diet of bad news the Internet handily provides); fear of telling the world how much pain I was in because they'd think I was making it up; fear of failure when even thinking about trying something new; fear people would judge me for my pain, depression, and lack of motivation; fear of exposing my inner workings to another person (even my wife); fear that I was withering away and not living up to my potential. And man, that fear was fucking crippling. So I pretended I was still in the world using the social media tools available to me. It was an ugly, vicious cycle that further contributed to my depression because I wasn't really connecting with my people; I was merely giving the illusion of doing so.

Don't let your phone become your prison, peoples! Rise up!

Don't become a prisoner in your own phone. Rise up! Look up! Be in the real world!

My Addictions. Frankly, they just weren't keeping me entertained the way they used to. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing guilt over the choices I was making. If my twenties and thirties had been my decades of careless hedonism---a time where I put anything and everything into my body in the name of Having a Good Time---my forties had shaped up to be the decade where I started to regret those choices. It's usually the time in a person's life where they find themselves musing "God, can you imagine if I'd saved every penny I've ever spent on booze, drugs, cigarettes, and general frivolity? I'd have like 2.3 million dollars by now…" It's the time when you're standing in front of the giant chasm that is the Second Half of Your Life, and you realize you have to find a greater purpose in life besides drinking and recreational drugging because those things don't look quite as cute as they used to. You've long ago developed an alarming "been there, done that" about all of your usual vices so you figure you'd better have a more purposeful reason to live than happy hour or else you might start getting curious about things that offer bigger thrills. Basically, I hit the point where I was sick of my own shit and all of the things my addictive personality was reaching for to fill an ever-growing void in my soul. I knew I needed to be honest about them, to do a cost-benefit analysis, to really examine how well they were serving me at this point.

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Even I'm bored with my own distractions at this point.

My Isolation. All of it---the pain, the depression, and my addictions to the Internet, my phone, my safe place, booze, drugs, etc.---caused me to isolate myself from E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. This is typical depressed and/or addict behavior. "I'm ashamed and embarrassed at how I've lost control of my mind and body, and I don't want anyone else to know what a mess I am…" is a common refrain of both depressed people and of addicts. When you're depressed, even responding to texts and emails about a night out with close friends becomes impossible. You've already fast-forwarded into the future and thought about how that night will play out, and how you're sure that, when that night arrives, you'll just come up with an excuse anyway so why bother? Friends start dropping off because you're a pain in the ass. Worse yet, you stop telling those closest to you, like your spouse or your parents or your best friends, what's happening in your head. You are pretty much panicked all the fucking time, and this is a source of constant shame for you. So you clam up, which is the last thing you should be doing when you need help. 

That this is a little slice of heaven is something on which can all agree...
but is it healthy for your messy head?

So yeah, those are MY five biggies that I wrestle with every damn day. Still. I know there are behaviors that can minimize the effects these bitches have on my life. On good days, I engage in those activities; many days I do not. I don’t like to refer to depression or life as a "battle" because a battle implies that you can be victorious which, as many of you know, often doesn’t apply to depression. In many cases, that shit will always be with you, even when you're feeling good. And bad things will happen to you in life, unless you're Prince George or some shit, so seeing it as a "battle" seems counterproductive to me. The bad stuff isn't the shit sandwich Life is throwing at you: it IS Life. You might as just roll with it. 

Anyway, point being, once I isolated the things that have been dragging me down these past few years, I started paying attention more to the things that worked for me as I struggled to "fix" them. Those things will be the focus of my next few entries. Again, I'm not claiming to have any special knowledge or be some guru; this is just shit I learned when I started paying attention again.

Stay tuned!

Is It Possible to Emit a Pheromone that Smells Like Cock?

I was 16 years old the first time a friend came out to me. He was the college roommate of my high-school boyfriend. Like many 14-year-old girls, I had a maturity more on par with, say, a 17-year-old boy, so I dated a senior when I was a freshman. He and I managed to stay together even after he set off for college, which was a minor miracle for a number of reasons, the main one being that he was capable of tolerating a lot of my shit.

One weekend, my junior year of high school, I managed to weave a believable and satisfying enough story to my parents that got me out from under their watchful gaze for a period of time long enough to drive up to my boyfriend's college, attend a kegger at his apartment, spend the night doing god-knows-what on his waterbed, and return home the next day. The parental units were none the wiser. And that's when Kevin told me, in a drunken, blurry conversation on my boyfriend's said waterbed.

Up until Kevin came out to me, I'd never met A Gay. Or so I thought, in that naïve way that teenagers who think they've seen it all really haven't seen shit. Like most kids, I'd spent my middle school and junior high years calling people "a fag" when they did something stupid. My mother, a scorching liberal, would glare at me when I did so, and correct me using the term of the time: "alternative lifestyle." I have a memory, extremely vivid, of watching MTV once with my dad, and Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" came on, which featured dozens of scantily-clad, bemuscled young twinks prancing around in unison. I remember my dad watching for a while before wryly turning to me and saying "Looks like old Elton's enjoying 'an alternative lifestyle' these days." (This was long before he officially came out.)

Point being, when Kevin came out to me, I instinctively knew that being freaked out by his sexuality would be uncool. To stop being friends with someone because they were gay was wrong. It wasn't even a question for me. Why should I care where he put his dick as long as he was a good person and a good friend? I thank my parents for instilling that value in me. That right there is parenting at its finest: teaching your child to judge someone based on merits that really matter---kindness, compassion, caring---and not on merits that had nothing to do with a person's character.

A couple of years after that, when I was in my freshman year of college, my best friend came to visit me. One drunken night in my dorm room, he, too, spilled the beans that he'd been keeping a huge secret from everyone. I remember that moment just as vividly, in spite of the fact that the room was spinning as it happened. We were both sitting in my dorm room on an old trunk of mine, just home from a frat party, drinking drinks we in no way needed at that point in the night, and he started stammering and saying he had something to tell me. Up until that moment, I had nary a clue that the guy I'd experienced most of my pivotal teen moments with was gay, but as we sat there in my dimly lit dorm room, and I watched his discomfort, it suddenly hit me like a lightning bolt. I saved him the trouble of having to say the words. "You're gay." I blurted out, pretty matter of factly. His shoulders slumped and he let out a giant sigh "Yes."

Once again, my mother proved to be ahead of her time. After Paul left to go back home, I immediately called her and said "Oh my god, Mom! Paul's gay!" To which she replied "Duh." I screamed into the phone "You knew?!?! Well why didn't you tell ME?!?!" "Because," my gentle and wise mother said into the phone, "it wasn't my news to tell."

Well shit, after that, it was a free for all. Every gay guy within a 400-mile radius seemed to make a pilgrimage to come out to me in the years that followed. By the time I'd graduated from college and moved back to Houston, I don't think I had a friend that was straight or female. Wherever I went, it was me and my Gaggle of Gays.

My early post-college years, I threw myself into volunteering for PFLAG and for the AIDS Foundation of Houston. I spent nearly every night with my friends in gay bars, and before long, I was a bona fide fag hag. I don’t know what the kids are calling this concept these days, but back then, a woman who spent most of her time with gay men and took on their mannerisms was called a "fag hag" or, perhaps a little more generously, "a fruit fly." And I was their poster child. I could bob my head and draw out a "guuuuurrrrrlllll" with the best of them.

Now during this time, I was straight. If anything, I identified as queer. Being queer doesn't necessarily mean sleeping with the gender the same as yours. It's more of a sensibility you carry around with you, a sense not only that you are gay-friendly and support equal rights for gay people, but also that you live your life outside of the mainstream---that you seek out the outsiders and the weirdos as your compadres. Post-college is when you're still very much trying to figure out who you are and what your adult life will look like and, consciously or unconsciously, I had decided that I wanted to surround myself with flamboyant, fun, dramatic people who are, in some form or another, outsiders.

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But at some point, I decided that spending all that time in gay bars wasn't doing much to further my cause of getting laid. So when I extricated myself from my long-term relationship and got fired from my job in one 24-hour period, I decided it was time for a big change: I decided to move to San Francisco.

The Gaggle squealed: "You wanna stop being a fag hag and you're moving to SAN FRANCISCO?!?! BWAHAHAHAHA!" To be fair, they made a good point. But I was determined to move to the city by the bay and NOT only hang out with gay men. I joked that I was no longer accepting new gays in my life.

And I mostly avoided being a fag hag from that point forward. Coming from Houston, where the community tended to be more insular out of necessity, I was pleasantly surprised that people here cared less about sexual orientation. Being gay was such a non-issue that you didn't define your circle based on who your friends were boinking. 

Still, it was a persona that has never left me entirely. I often joke that I must emit a pheromone that smells like cock because sometimes I will literally just be walking down Castro Street by myself, and gay men will be walking toward me and suddenly scream "Oh my god girl, you're FAAAAAAABULOUS!" and start fawning over me for no apparent reason. I know that sounds like I'm tooting my own horn, but ask my friends: they've seen that shit happen with their own damn eyes. 

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. One night, my above-mentioned friend Kevin (who now also lives in SF) and I were out at a bar in the Castro with a straight, female friend of ours who only knew me from my days in California, not the Texas me. Kevin was explaining to her how I'd been this huge fag hag back in Texas; she was flabbergasted. She said she couldn't see it. As we were leaving, they both went to the bathroom, and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. In the span of the four or five minutes they were still in the bar, I'd struck up a conversation outside with two random gay guys. By the time Kevin and my friend emerged, they walked up on me leaning against the building, coolly smoking a cigarette as each of the men firmly held each of my breasts in their hands and were fondling them as I boredly let them. It certainly wasn't the first time this had happened to me (gay men love boobies too, it turns out), so I was nonplussed. Kevin turned to my friend and said "SEE?!? WHAT DID I TELL YOU?!"

What I didn't realize, all the way back in 1986 when Kevin was first coming out to me, is that I was about to begin a lifelong journey that would result in me knowing and spending time with some of the wittiest, funniest, most outlandish people on the planet. And it suited my personality and augmented it. *I* became wittier, funnier, and more outlandish through the company I kept. And I became more open-minded, not only toward gay people, but also toward other groups of people who'd been marginalized or who were considered "outsiders" by the mainstream. It made me more empathetic toward people who didn't fit in because they had such different outlooks on life than I did. I became a more tolerant, accepting human being as a result of spending time with people other than straight, college-educated, white people.

And, honestly, it made me much more willing to give love with a girl a whirl when the opportunity presented itself. I'd never considered myself gay, much less bisexual, when I was growing up. I very much liked sleeping with men…like a lot. I still would, if not for the fact that my wife considers that a big no-no. ("If it wasn't in the vows, you can't change the rules now!") But a dozen or so years ago, when I was being courted by my lesbian roommate, whom I liked very much and, yeah, kinda in that way, my thoughts weren't as much "ewwwww eating pussy?!" but more of "I like THIS person…genitals seem such a stupid thing on which to base a long-term relationship if you're crazy about a person and see a future with her."

Don't get me wrong---it was still a huge leap for me---the sex part---but it was one I gave myself the permission to take instead of spending countless hours angsting over it. That I lived in a city that was queer-friendly, had incredible parents who would love me no matter what , and that I'd spent nearly a lifetime around interesting and funny gay friends, certainly made it that much easier to see myself with her, don't get me wrong. I was definitely in the right place at the right time in history to pull it off. 

It turns out I didn't have a future with that particular girl, thankfully. But through her, I met my wife. And I never would have found the person I want to grow old with had I not been willing to take that initial leap of faith. Do I miss sleeping with dudes? Sometimes. But this is a person with whom I've found an incredible compatibility, connection, and joy. Considering most of us spend our adult lives seeking someone we'll still want to talk to when we're 70, I count myself among most fortunate to have found her. Why on earth would it matter what she has between her legs if we've made a lifelong, unbreakable connection? Isn't THAT what life is supposed to be all about? Making connections?

Anyway, I'm digressing into human sexuality, and that's an entirely different kind of flying altogether. Point being, I have incredible, wonderful, funny, smart, compassionate friends. Most of the oldest and dearest of those friends happen to be gay, and those friends helped shaped me into the person I am today. They taught me how to be sharp-tongued, quick-thinking, witty, kind, open-minded, sarcastic, compassionate and, yes, even bitchy. And for all of it, I feel incredibly thankful. It started me on a very interesting journey in my life.

Unfortunately, they didn't teach me how to dress myself. I'm still a mess in that department. 

Adulting is a Hard and Thankless Task

"When did we get old? When did we go from doing stuff to yelling at
people for doing stuff?" ~Dan Connor

"For me, it was when I discussed the corns on my feet with a total stranger." ~Roseanne

*****

I've always had a hard time considering myself an adult. I find myself frequently saying things like "Why are there adults at this party?" or "You need to find an adult for that." I guess what I really mean is "find an Old Person." I just had my 46th birthday last week. By even the loosest standards, I'm an adult. 

Though, even at my "advanced age," this is a recent phenomenon. In 2012, we bought a house. When The Wife and I were signing approximately 256 pieces of paper that committed us to paying back large sums of money over the next 30 years, suddenly the Bullet Train of Adulthood hit me like a ton of bricks. I have a mortgage now. Holy shit, I'm an adult!

Since that time, I've found myself noticing the "adult moments" in my life.

You know you're an adult when you no longer look forward to the mail arriving at your house. It's just gonna be bills, property tax notices, catalogues containing a bunch of shit you can't afford anyway, and flyers for landscaping services that the Mexican yardmen leave because your yard looks like a crazy person lives there. 

You know you're an adult when you're watching a movie that involves teenagers and adults, and you find yourself siding with the adults in any conflict that arises. We recently watched all of Friday Night Lights, and any time an adult and a teenager were screaming at each other, I found myself thinking "Well of course Mrs. Taylor is right! Lila totally shouldn't do those drugs and smoke those cigarettes!" It's a far cry from the first time I saw Breakfast Club in the theater and thought all adults were buffoons.

You know you're an adult when someone suggests meeting for dinner or drinks at 9:00 p.m., and your first thought is "AT NIGHT?! Oh hell no, I'll be in bed by then." Suddenly, the concept of having a packed social calendar sounds daunting and exhausting. But you chide yourself that you're not 80, so if you're too tired to go out now, what will it be like 20 years from now? You'd better get your ass out there while you still can. So you make plans weeks out, then the night arrives and you find yourself making up excuses for why you can't possibly because you'd rather just be in bed watching TV on your laptop.

You know you're an adult when the music that sustained you through your childhood and teen years---the Bowies, the Springsteens, the Madonnas---are now branded as "classic rock" on the radio. "No, no, no," you say, "classic rock is Zeppelin, it's Floyd, it's Moody Blues for fuck's sake. It is NOT Kajagoogoo and Naked Eyes!" You harrumph indignantly.

You know you're just plain old when your wife gets you something called the TheraCane™ for Christmas.

You know you're an adult when you no longer buy the party drugs. And in the rare event that you do, it's so you can have the energy you require to clean your house.

You know you're an adult when you clean your house one day and all your muscles ache the following day.

You know you're an adult when you're cleaning your house in the first place.

You know you're an adult when you find yourself uttering the words "Yeah, but we really needed the rain" out loud when people are talking about the weather. You know you're an adult because you and the people around you are talking about the weather. 

You know you're an adult when you start doubting people's motives when they are, in fact, being sincere. It's because two extra decades of life has made you cynical and jaded and left you with the oppressive notion that the world and its denizens are cruel beyond measure. Possibly you wonder if there are any genuine and empathetic people left.

Speaking of empathy, you know you're an adult when you start having it. You stop walking through the world with swagger and absolute confidence in your world views. You gain the ability---whether you use it or not (and many people surely choose not to)---to see the world through others' eyes.

You know you're getting older when you see those inspirational phrases in your Facebook feed and don't automatically roll your eyes at every single one of them. Possibly you recognize that this means you're getting a little soft in your later years and you're wishing your didn't see the world with such cynical eyes. You know you're a true adult when you really want to believe that people are good and there is kindness in this universe instead of wearing those flippant, sarcastic glasses that make every knee-jerk reaction a caustic, crass one.

You know you're an adult when you finally buy a house and spend time and money acquiring things with which to fill it, then one day you look around and say "Why did I buy all this crap? I don't need any of this."

You know you're an adult when you suddenly start paying attention to politics and getting very angry at the hypocrisy in the system. You also know you're an adult when you can stop and see the hypocrisies you're carrying around within yourself and own up to them.

You know you're an adult when you're paying a mental-health professional to help you manage the vast catalogue of fuck-ups from your past, and you start genuinely working at not letting that past dominate your future.

As a woman, you know you're getting older when you have to start closely monitoring your chin for those inexplicable thick, black hairs that suddenly burst forth---seemingly growing inches overnight---from your chin. Perhaps you even start keeping tweezers in your car's console since you understand that sunlight is the best light for finding those fuckers.

You know you're getting older when you go to the convenience store sporting your pajama bottoms, house slippers, and disheveled hair because you realize that there are more important tragedies in this world than letting total strangers see you without makeup.

You know you're getting older when you're able to start removing the things that aren’t working in your life---friends, jobs, perhaps even spouses---because life is short and only getting shorter, so why put up with that bullshit? In fact, you find there is precious little you'll put up with as an adult. Often people will notice your lack of patience and comment on it. But it matters not because, like your grandma and mother---both of whom you used to mock for being so rigid and set in their ways---you have now found that mostly you give zero fucks about what people think. 

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You know you're an adult when you're arguably living in what is one of the most desirable areas in the country, but all the nightlife, the glitz, the glamour, the activity, the restaurants that it offers aren't enough to distract you from the grit, the grime, the smells, the shitty parking, the growing number of homeless, the high costs, the piling of people upon people into the small, limited space that is San Francisco, the third time your car window gets smashed. Perhaps you start having fantasies about learning to garden and moving somewhere with a huge backyard and a third bedroom.

You know you're an adult when it finally sinks in, several years after your wedding, that marriage is not, in fact, all smiles and blow jobs. Rather, it's bickering and outright fighting over what is often stupid shit like who took out the trash last. But most importantly, you finally get that this is what marriage is. It's compromise on the largest of scales. It's not being able to tailor your own life exactly as you'd have it because you took a vow with this person you love above all others, and those vows mean that their dreams---like it or not---are your dreams now. You are inextricably intertwined, and if you truly love this person and want them to be happy, sometimes that means you are just not going to get your way. Being an adult is learning which sacrifices to make and which come at too great of a cost.

Being an adult means not being as willing to take public transportation because you did your time on MUNI in your twenties and thirties and you'll be good-goddamned if you're gonna spend one more minute sitting next to someone who has passed out and pissed themselves. The last time that happened to you, you watched with horror as a huge river of urine ran out from under your seatmate and was flowing freely down the aisle of the bus, every passenger warily watching the yellow stream as it pulsed back and forth each time the bus labored up or down San Francisco's famous hills.

Being an adult means having a financial advisor and dishes that match.

Being an adult means finally coming to the conclusion that the party that was your twenties (and even your thirties, if you're lucky) is over. From here on out, your body will begin to fail you, in small ways at first, then something more insidious. It's realizing that the odds of you writing that novel or climbing Everest are getting smaller every year, and then it's finding a way to deal with that---either by gaining the self-discipline to achieve the impossible goal or making peace with the fact that you never did.

Being an adult means all of those vices you meant to give up in your twenties but somehow never got around to are things you'll be forced to abandon soon enough based on the Advice of Your Doctor. 

Being an adult means realizing that just because you've done all the things you're "supposed" to do---going to college, getting a good job, working your way up the ladder, buying the house, having the children---you are still unfulfilled because you haven't done much to nurture your inner child during all those years, or you haven't done anything that truly soothes your soul during those decades. You were too busy just living. It's wanting to explore that aspect of life now---the soul-feeding stuff---and wanting to leave a legacy of kindness, empathy, good citizenship, compassion, and giving instead of being remembered as the first guy on your block to own a Tesla.

Being an adult means making a choice between being the type of person who flies into a rage at the smallest slights or being a person who can realize which battles are worth fighting and which are not. It means letting shit slide when you really want to point out the stupidity all around you.

Being an adult means realizing that the things that sustained you up until now might not be the things you need anymore, the things that are good for you anymore. It means understanding that when you're reaching for that drink, game controller, smartphone, cigarettes, weed, or cake, you're really just reaching for distractions because you're trying not to think about something---something you probably should be thinking about instead of burying those nagging thoughts under booze or drugs or the internet or Netflix.

But mostly, being an adult means finally realizing that the universe isn’t out to get you when tragedy befalls you. It means realizing the tragedies aren't some blip in life---they are life. Life is not punishing you; it's simply moving blithely along. It's learning not to take these crises as a personal affront. It's finally letting it sink in that you are not special and life doesn't owe you shit. It's realizing that life isn't the shit that happens to you; life is how you handle that shit. It's taking those hard times of struggle and grit and learning from them. It's being willing to sit with yourself through the hard times and the good and hopefully taking something beneficial away from those times of introspection.

But that's just, like, my opinion, Man. Your mileage may vary.

Like Buddha in a Forest

Howdy kiddos! I have returned from my journey into the forest, rested and relaxed and---no word of a lie---feeling utterly transformed. Me taking this time away from life caused no small amount of drama in my household. Many therapy sessions were had to discuss why I needed to get away from The Wife to Be Happy. She was not doing well with the notion that I was desperate to get away from her, which is how she saw it, and I was empathetic enough to understand that and to tread lightly with her emotions. Gradually, I came to make her understand that it wasn't that I needed to get away from her; it was that I needed to rediscover myself. Holy shit, that last sentence was very Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Sign me up for a EST class, stat.

Given our difficulties of late, I can now confess that, yes, at least part of this trip was to get away from her. I made the decision to do this immediately after we had a huge blow out so, initially at least, my need to flee was in reaction to that. But after I decided to go away and I really started thinking about it, I learned that what started out as a need to remove myself from a hostile situation morphed into an exciting opportunity for self reflection. I started thinking about how I would use the time and what I wanted to ponder while I was there.

I am the queen of distraction, a trait that's only gotten worse now that I don't have a job or deadlines or anyone telling me I have to do something. There is so much boredom in my life right now---I'm not working, I'm not hanging out with my friends, we don't have the money to go out or to go on vacation, I don’t have anything due, I'm not working toward anything. And because I seem to lack the gumption to self-start any of these great projects I've come up with, what that equals is a lot of free time.

And like most Americans, I'm not particularly good at sitting with my thoughts. The second I feel that boredom creeping in, I immediately search for my usual distractions; mainly, technology or mind-altering substances. Buddha teaches that we need to sit with our thoughts---even the shitty ones---because these thoughts, though painful, have something to teach us about ourselves in a transformative way. But like most of us, the advent of the internet, followed by the insidious invention of smartphones, has made it incredibly easy for us not to have to spend a minute with ourselves if we don't want to.

So in that half-second when I feel the boredom creep in, I start searching for anything and everything that will distract me from sitting with myself---I smoke weed, I go drinking, I lie in bed and watch hours of Netflix, I dick around on Facebook for an embarrassing amount of time each day. Hell, even when I'm not home---even when I'm just sitting on the bench outside my coffeeshop every morning having my first cigarette of the day---I can't be content to just sit and observe; I pull out my phone and check out what's happening in my virtual world.

My friend was nice enough to let me use his cabin up near Tahoe. So I decided: no television, no phone, no internet, no people, no booze, no pills, no sound. Just me and myself. For 10 days. I had absolutely no idea how my mind would take to these conditions, but I decided to just go and to sit with myself, utterly devoid of distractions, and see what I learned.

This is typically as much interaction with nature that I'm comfortable with. 

So I loaded up the car with a bunch of shit, headed three hours northeast, and hunkered down in a lovely house in the midst of a pine forest. And I sat. And the first day was a little hard. I'd sit down, smoke a cigarette and force myself to be present…for about .6 seconds. Then I found my mind immediately jumping, searching for my next distraction, wanting to grab a drink, smoke a bowl, jump on my phone, watch a mindless show. I started paying attention to what my brain does when it's "bored," and it made me realize just how many times a day it starts bouncing around like a pinball looking for whatever shiny object will distract me.

But by the second day, I'd eased into this whole doing-nothing thing. As I sat on the porch, stared at the rain dripping off the pine needles after a mid-afternoon rainy cloudburst, and listened to the cacophonous bullfrogs singing their endless song, I finally gave myself time to think about the biggies: What do I want my life to look like? What do I want for myself? Who am I and what do I stand for? What will be my legacy? What kind of a partner do I want to be from this point forward? How can I do Life better? In short, I guess I'm trying to find a way to live my life more meaningfully, and I don't know yet what that looks like. As someone who prides herself on being self aware, I seem to be woefully underdeveloped in my knowledge of who I really am and what I want from life.

Do others struggle with this notion? Or are most of us just so busy trying to make a living, find a job, buy a house, raise our kids, save for retirement, keep our marriages intact, get dinner on the table to worry about such ethereal things? Is my navel-gazing nothing more than simple self-indulgence, a luxury? Am I making things harder than they have to be? Should I just cave to the corporate job again? Accept the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, I certainly don't have it that bad? I have a loving wife, I have a solid roof over my head. I can afford to buy and have the time to make a variety of good food for myself and for those around me. No one is bombing me or raping me or shooting at me. We have clean water and indoor plumbing. We have a warm place to sleep at night.

I'm aware that these things already put me above 90 percent of the planet in terms of what can be called "an easy life." Then why do I continue to struggle so? What is it I need from myself? From those around me? From life? What is it that keeps me from examining my surroundings and saying "This. This is enough"? What happened to that blithe, easily contented young woman who sailed through her twenties and thirties without a care in the world? Is this sort of introspection something that comes with age (aka, the dreaded "midlife crisis")? Or am I unnecessarily complicating matters? Socratessaid (or maybe it was Plato---you'd think I would know by now, having dated two philosophers and being the daughter of one) "The unexamined life is not worth living." Is that true? Or is everyone else out there blissfully living life without a thought for the world and their place in it, happy and content in their lack of outer vision? Is ignorance truly bliss?

By the fourth day, I was in a groove. I'd already THREE BOOKS. And I was getting better at forcing myself to be present. I didn't just slap together dinner---I paid attention to the crisp, solid noise my chef's knife made as it sliced through dozens of Brussels sprouts or the aromatic masala rising up from the tea I made with Turkish black tea, coconut milk, star of anise, cinnamon, allspice, fennel, and cardamom.

Then the weekend came, and with it came the posse of gays who own the two houses on the property where I was staying, and my quietude was momentarily disrupted. The house was full of gay boys who, at the end of a long day on the slopes, stripped down nekkid, and threw themselves into the hot tub with reckless abandon. I had to laugh. Only I could go for a monkish retreat deep in the woods and have a gay hot-tub party break out. I was surprised to find the intrusion was more unwelcome than I thought it would be---I figured I'd be desperate for human interaction after four days of solitude, but by the time the houses emptied out again on Monday, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and welcomed the silence ricocheting off the lonely walls.

Additionally, I am happy to report that I missed my wife muchly. I was nervous that I'd get out there, plop down on the porch, light a cigarette, and think "Thank god, I've got some space." But nope, I missed the hell out of her. While I was enjoying long hours spent reading or soaking in the hot tub with a glass of wine or a joint, there was definitely a part of me that was sad I wasn't sharing it with her. She would have loved watching the herd of deer that wandered onto the property every night around dinnertime or having a moonlight soak in the tub.

Hard not to contemplate the meaning of life while relaxing in a hot tub surrounded by nature.

Oh dear...deer!

While I missed her, I wouldn't have traded by mini-vacay for the world. It has absolutely done what it was supposed to, which was to revitalize, recharge, and reset my balance point. Sometimes you gotta get away to break away. I can't believe how different I feel. I have come back feeling stronger, happier, and more ready to dive into whatever difficulties life might throw my way. Turns out my shrink was right: I am a person who needs this precious time alone to reset myself from time to time.

I dunno y'all, the concept of breaking away from all technology and spending time somewhere quiet is something we don't do enough of here. And I can report that if you are one of the people who doesn't do this from time to time, you should rethink that strategy. It allowed me to think about the shit that isn't working in my life, how my habits affect my ability to deal with those things, and to just sort of think "enough." Enough hand-wringing, navel-gazing, and making everything harder than it has to be. Less thinking; more doing.

To that end, I came home ready to be a better partner to The Wife and ready to Get Shit Done. We're having a massive garage sale with the neighbors in a couple of weeks. We've been talking for months about how we need to clean closets, kitchen cabinets, and the garage; yet, we've failed to actually get anything done. This weekend we knocked out the office closet and all of the kitchen cabinets. It's like a light switch has turned on, and I'm like "Right, this is what it's like to be a normal, functioning human again. I remember this." It's sort of incredible, and who am I to question it?

So all in all, a very successful ten days. My advice: get away from your normal life on the reg. It doesn't have to be some expensive Bahamian vacation. Just so long as you put down your devices, remove your other daily distractions, and sit quietly with yourself. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what you might learn. 

Sabbatical from My Sabbatical

I'm not gonna lie to y'all, 2016 has been some rough going so far. And not just because of Donald Trump and all of the celebrity deaths. (Jesus Christ, the "In Memoriam" portion of the Oscars will be a tearjerker next year.)

You guys, I'm stuck. All of it, just stuck. My life is sucking a giant fat one right now, and I'm have a pity party. A large part of this comes from the fact that I feel like a fucking deer in the headlights when it comes to figuring out what I'm doing with my life. I'm sitting in quicksand, unable to make any sort of moves. And I know that, at least in the interim, I need to be out hustling for some freelance work, and I have utterly zero desire to do so, even though I can see daily how my lack of financial contributions to the household are digging us into a deeper hole.

Me, emotionally and motivationally.

And then another large part of it is that The Wife and I are fucking struggling right now. I need to respect her privacy, so I can't be super open about what's going on, but we're in some deep shit right now and, honestly, for the first time since we got married, I'm not sure we'll make it out. I mean, I love her, but what I love right now is the idea of our past. I'm clinging to the idea that we have a future because I know how good we were in the past. I've seen how well we work together when it's good. But it's not good right now.

However, I made a decision for myself that has me feeling hopeful. I've decided to take a mini-retreat for a couple of weeks and disappear. I'm headed to a friend's cabin near Tahoe, where there is no Facebook, no internet, no Netflix, no news, no booze, no drugs, no friends, and no wife. Essentially, I'm removing myself from all of the distractions that I've felt unable to overcome to achieve the shit I'd like to achieve. For whatever reason, I feel like I need to break out of my current environment to figure out how I'm going to manage my loosely regulated life in a better way.

Me. Every damn day. 

Look, I'm well aware of what my shortcomings are right now. I'm leading a completely unstructured life, which sounds glorious, I know. But I'm not doing very well with it. I lack any sort of self-discipline so "I need to look for some freelance work today" becomes "I'll just take a break and watch Season 6 of Nurse Jackie and smoke this bowl." I feel in my bones how much I've failed to take advantage of this opportunity I've been given to figure out my life. And, of course, then I spend useless time beating myself up for that as well. Add it to the fucking list, man.

My shrink diagnosed me with ADHD, which I haven't really talked about here yet, mainly because it seems a little silly to be an adult finally being told there's been a reason for my spastic-ness all these years. But she had me take a couple of the standard tests for it, and she even had my mom and The Wife take questionnaires about me and my habits. I scored off the charts. Like in the 99.7 percentile. So it's not that I don't believe that my brain works differently, but so far, the knowledge hasn't helped me deal with it any better. I'm on Ritalin now, and mostly all I can tell is that, yes, it helps me focus. It helps me really, really focus on watching those Nurse Jackie episodes or surfing Facebook for hours now.

I'm pretty sure The Wife has this thought about me on the reg. 

As much as an old ex-cokehead like myself is enjoying the legal speed I've been given, in the long run, it's probably not the best idea for me and my addictive personality. And then throw some antidepressants on top of that, plus the weed I smoke for my foot pain, and right now I'm just feeling a little polluted. And distracted.

So I'm going away. I have a number of projects I've started and want to complete. I want to take some time and really think about what my goals for this blog and my podcast are. I want to write some articles and try to get them published to see if I can make a living as a writer. I want to polish a stand-up routine and get myself to a place where I can imagine standing up on a stage in front of strangers and deliver this monologue and expect people to laugh at it. I want to establish some inroads for future job assignments so I can bring in real money. And, yes, I want to spend some time away from The Wife so that I miss her again, so that I can appreciate her for the amazing person she is again. And I want to spend some time away from Ritalin and weed and booze and eat healthier so I can get my body as unpolluted as I hope to get my mind. I'm looking at the whole opportunity as a giant RESET button for my body and mind.

The Wife isn't crazy about this plan, obviously. Given the struggles we're having, she's having a hard time not seeing it as a "trial separation" from which I will return and announce that I'm leaving her. I can't blame her; I probably would see it that way too. She's frustrated that she's given me this time away from work, and I haven't used it all that well. "What will you accomplish in a cabin in the woods that you haven't been able to accomplish in the last nine months of not having a job here?" is sort of her (fair) question. I get it. And I get her hurt at my feelings of needing time away from her. I would be smarting over that if the situation were reversed.

But the difference I see here, as we wrestle through this situation, is that, for the first time in a long time, we're showing real empathy in the way we're interacting with one another now. Y'all know empathy is a big theme of mine. If there were more empathy in the world, we wouldn't have pollution, hunger, war, hate crimes, political shit-slinging, bullying, etc. Most of the world's biggest problems could be worked through if every side had empathy for the other side and understood where each was coming from.

Relationships are no different. I'm working hard to put myself in her shoes to understand all the emotions that this is throwing at her. And she's doing her best to overcome her feelings of anger, worry, fear, and betrayal to find the courage to say to me: "I just want you to be happy." That response alone makes me realize just how much I truly love this person and how much my happiness means to her. She doesn't understand my depression and why it's so hard for me to be happy because it's always been easy for her to be happy in the moment. But just because she doesn't understand it, doesn't mean she's condemning it, and that is enormously important to me. It makes me want to get my head right so that I can be a better partner to her, so that I can do the same for her when she next needs it. Because I know I did a lousy job of empathizing when she was starting the bar. I was too mired in my own depression and anxiety to care about what she must have been going through, and that must have truly sucked for her. I can see that now. And I want to be better for her during the next challenge that presents itself.

So yeah, there's a lotta shit happening now in the Struggling Buddha household right now. But the weird thing is that I feel really good about taking this trip. I've been so mired in inactivity and indecision for so long that making this decision feels YOOGE. Like I'm finally taking the bull by the horns and doing something proactive. Ugh, how's that for bad business-speak?

But the reality is that couples, mostly unintentionally, establish a dynamic in their relationships pretty early on, and The Wife and I have gotten into a dynamic where there are a lot of shit we don't say to one another because either the conversations will be too hard and painful and will either result in a huge, unproductive fight or will result in one of us getting our feelings hurt. So we don't tell the other what we need. What this means is that there's been a build up of a lot of unsaid shit between us, and that needs to stop. And I guess me standing up and saying "I need this" is something I see as being a first step toward that.

*****

In other news, remember how I told y'all The Wife bought me a Squatty Potty™ for Christmas? Remember how excited I was at the prospect of smooth poopin'? Yeah, well, like so many things in life, it's been a disappointment. I don't really feel like it's adding much to our quality of life, shall we say. I was lured in by the testimonials where people said "wiping is a thing of the past now!" Yeah, it's not. So, near as I can tell, all it's doing is making our bathroom look like an old person's, like we should also be sporting a shower chair to round out the elder-care look.

Elder care is alive and well at Chez Buddha

I've also been getting into cooking again. I went through a phase from about 2008 through 2012 where I was seriously into food and cooking. We had a Guzzling Gourmet club with another couple, and we always invited a third couple and the meal had a theme that everyone had to stick to. Sometimes it was that every ingredient had to come from within a 20-mile radius (locavore dinner); sometimes we picked a certain food and everyone prepared a dish with that ingredient (butternut squash, for example); sometimes we picked a spice, like anise, and everyone's dishes had to include that. And you had to pair a beverage with your dish as well. It was good fun that ended up boozily. We also did Sunday Suppers once a month with our core crew as a way for us all to catch up with each other.

But then life happened. People had kids or moved away, and the pain in my feet started interfering with how long I could stand and cook. And like everything else, I just stopped doing it. But we just watched Michael Pollan's Cooked on Netflix, and it was not only well-done, but it has inspired me again. I was reminded of a time when I didn't see cooking as a chore, but rather as an act of love, something I took pride in. I was cooking good and real food for the people I loved. And it wasn't tedious; it was meditative. Whether it was peeling and mincing 30 cloves of garlic or stirring risotto for an hour, I didn't mind. I was in the moment of it. Since watching that series, I've started to feel like that again. My friend came over and we cooked together, just drinking beer and hanging out in the kitchen. We made a beef stew that was the best I've ever eaten. I don't even really like beef stew, but this shit was good.

Well, I need to wrap this up, speaking of cooking. I'm making some granola for The Wife to feast on while I'm gone. I worry about her just eating a box of Kraft mac and cheese and drinking White Russians for dinner every night, so gotta make sure there are some healthier choices. The Wife, she doesn't do well when I'm gone, so I will worry.

Hope all of you are hanging in there. I know I've been slack-ass about writing here, and I promise, there will be more podcasts. Just tryna get my shit together over here. 

Ketchup

Time for some catch up letting y'all know what's been up in my world. 2016 had been a mixed bag so far. It started out positively, aggressively even. But then, as things do, it sorta fell to shit. I'm still tryna keep a positive outlook, but it's been challenging at times.

For one, I've had The Consumption that's been sweeping America this winter. That shit settled in the day after Christmas and hasn't ever really left. Of course, my health strategy of "drink away a cold/smoke away a flu" hasn't panned out as well as I thought.

Speaking of Christmas, did I tell you The Wife bought me a Squatty Potty™ for Christmas this year? For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, apparently Westerners have been pooping incorrectly for centuries, as is illustrated in the disgusting diagram of your poopshoot below.

So yeah, we sit upright and that's a cardinal sin in the realm of deuce-dropping, so this company invented a little stool that you prop your feet up while visiting Charlie and His Chocolate Factory, and it's supposed to open up your pooper and let everything just fly right on outta there. And when my friends and I first heard of this miracle invention, we went to Amazon to read the reviews, which are priceless. But what intrigued me most were the reviews that said things like "wiping is a thing of the past with the Squatty Potty!!" If there's anything I find utterly tedious, disgusting, and time-consuming, it's wiping my ass. Now you're telling me that someone has invented a device that means I never have to wipe again, and it's only $40?! Where do I sign up?!"

And then their amazing commercial came out, and I don't need to tell you that I was fully sold.

But, as with so many things in life, reality was more disappointing than the dream. I won't go so far as to say the Squatty Potty™ is the sea monkey of the 21st century, but I will say that the no-wiping claims are vastly overstated. In fact, it seems to have made it worse somehow. And it's clunky, and we have a small bathroom, making it easy for someone to trip over it.

On the other hand, The Wife also completed the Poo Package by getting me this, and it is miraculous. I haven't smelled The Wife's craps since Christmas morning, and it's been glorious. A real marriage-saver, take my word for it.

Speaking of The Wife, we have not had a banner 2016 as a couple either. We see a couples' counselor every other week, which we started doing back in 2014 when we were just gritting our teeth at one another, waiting to see who would say The D Word first. We love our shrink, in his little cardigans. And we mostly have worked through the issues that brought us there in the first place, but just when we think we're gonna take Couple of the Year, something else happens, and there we are again, sitting on his couch, calling each other vicious names, and pushing each other's buttons right and left.

So we're kinda in the shit right now, and we need to make some drastic changes in a number of areas of our lives. But we are our own worst enemies, alike in the ways that make us both look at these sweeping changes and say "Ugh, too hard. Let's have a drink instead." It makes it a little Days of Wine and Roses up in here though. I don't mean to be vague. If it were just about me, you know I'd >gobble gobble< get all up into it, but I have another person's privacy to respect. 

So there's that.

What else can I tell you besides pooping and marital discord stories? I am still jobless. I haven't been trying, but one thing that has become crystal clear in the course of all of this screaming during counseling is that The Wife is ready for me to start Earning My Keep again. My two long-term(ish) prospects both fell through. One for reasons unknown (she seemed ready to hire me on the spot, but I fear my rate might have been too high) and the other because I'm pretty sure the guy who wanted to hire me was a cokehead, and now he's on probation at his job and can't greenlight any new projects. Freelancing means being at the whim of other people's shit.

Anyway, I know it's stressing The Wife out, and it's not that I don't care that I'm worrying her, but I've still been contributing to the household finances (however meagerly), and I just don't fucking want to yet. I mean, 10-15 hours of work a week would be cool, but I'm just not ready to do The Corporate Thing again. But the one thing I will concede is that I need to Get Out There, as in, the world, life, etc. I need to start trying all kinds of crazy shit since I'm in this time where I'm supposed to be "finding my passion." Hard to find my passion when I'm being reclusive AF.

Oh and I came out this morning to find my driver's side front window smashed. They didn't even try to break into the car; they just simply caused $170 worth of damage to my car for the fuck of it. I saw some other piles of shattered window glass (called "Oakland diamonds" in these parts), so it was clearly just some destructive assface wreaking havoc. Fucking people.

To the human fucktard who did this: I hope, as you're walking down the street today,
you step in a homeless man's feces. And that he ate corn last night.

Other than that, I got nothing. Poop, marriage, general thuggery. That's about what's happening with me these days. Whatchoo got?

Fat Urban Girl Hiking

Look, I'm not outdoorsy, okay? And because our mothers have imprinted the need for us to "go outside and play…it's a beautiful day," and because society and REI make being outdoorsy so sexy, I've always had a complex about not being an outdoor-sporty type. Plus, I live in the land of the Nalgene Set---everyone in California, and especially the Bay Area, is so fucking fit and into some sort of extreme recreating that it's enough to give this sofa diva a complex. Here I am, smack dab in the middle of these kayaking, rock-climbing, snow-camping motherfuckers, and I don't own a single piece of clothing that wicks.

And it always sounds nice when friends are like "We're going on a hike this Saturday…would you like to join us?" And I think of redwood groves, babbling brooks, sweeping vistas, and waterfalls, and think "Well, maybe…" Then I imagine the reality. Which is me bringing up the rear, sweaty, puffing, and my feet screaming at me because no one has managed to invent a pain med that actually dulls all of the pain but that also allows you to be upright, let alone hike. And I'm slow and cranky and ruin the day for everyone. So I politely decline, and I just satisfy whatever miniscule yearly nature cravings I have by smoking a joint and watching Planet Earth in surround sound. It's much less sweaty and itchy that way.

But listen, I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone. And since I spent most of the last two weeks in a funk and binge-watching Nurse Jackie, I thought "Jesus, do something with yourself today."

The East Bay Regional Parks system is enormous. I've lived in the Bay Area 20 years, and finally just looked at a map of the East Bay about four years ago when we moved to Oakland and was blown away by the enormous swaths of green on the map. So I picked a hike that the internet hiker-people deemed "easy" and decided to go.

You know how people who are really outdoorsy always talk about how calm and peaceful they are when they're in nature? How it makes them contemplative and how it connects them to the planet? How it's a massive recharge from the grind of urban living? Yeah, I just don't fucking get it. I went on the hike, and I'm glad I did, but what follows below is just a sampling of my train of thought as I was "enjoying nature."

*****

Wow, this is supposed to be an "easy" hike? I'm already breathing too much. Okay there's some dude walking down the path toward me. Make sure you've got your pepper spray in the front pocket of your hoodie. I mean, it's hiking, for fuck's sake. People get raped and murdered doing this kind of shit all the time. And when it happens, I think "Well, that wouldn't have happened to that poor girl if she'd been home on her couch watching Orange is the New Black." I mean, not that I'm victim blaming, but honestly, what's the worst that would have happened to her if she'd been lazy like me? She might have choked on a popcorn kernel.

Shit, people also get eaten by mountain lions and shit out here. Does pepper spray work on mountain lions and bears? We really shouldn't be encroaching on nature like this. Why do humans suck so much?  Okay, if a mountain lion attacks me, I'm just gonna spray the shit out of that thing. I mean, I love animals but let's face it, if it ate me, they would just find the thing and kill it, so by spraying it, I'd really be doing it a favor.

Crap, where is this "Inspiration Point" everyone keeps talking about? I think the website said this hike was like two miles, but I probably should have looked at that map back at the trailhead at least. I thought this was a loop, but is it a loop? Maybe it just keeps going on forever, and I'm supposed to turn around at some point. Did I just get passed up by two women pushing giant strollers? Jesus, slow it down, Lululemon. No need to show off. Man, other than the yoga moms, it's just me and The Olds on this trail, and they look like they are much hardier than I. I need to get me some of them walking sticks.

Oh look, a bench! With an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge! And a homeless guy doing a heroin nod on it! Why does he get the best bench when he's just gonna sleep anyway? Speaking of benches, it would be nice if they had some little groves off the main trail with benches so I could pop outta sight and smoke a bowl . For better Nature enjoyment. I wonder if you're allowed to smoke cigarettes in the park? Probably not. With my luck, I'd be that asshole that burned down the entire park. Okay, but when I get back to the car, imma spark that joint and hotbox the shit out of the car. Heh heh heh…I said "hotbox."

"Just gonna shoot up some drugs and have a little nap here, don't mind me."

No seriously, I wonder if this is a loop that takes me back to the parking lot or if I should turn around. Well, at least my feet don't hurt yet. Go New Balance! I'm getting a little tired, but look at that woman in front of me. She's much heavier than I am. If she can do it, I can. Ugh, don't think that kind of shit! How rude. It's not a contest…except that I just passed her, and now I'm totally winning.

Oh look, a hawk! Right, I need to be present while I'm doing this. I'm supposed to be enjoying Nature-with-a-capital-N. I'm actually enjoying the feeling of sweating and the light breeze on my face and in my hair. I'm happy to feel my feet touching the ground, doing what feet are supposed to do for once. Except now they do kinda hurt. Fucking feet. But imma keep going. They're not too bad. Damn, that view of the Golden Gate Bridge is pretty amazing. Plus, there are these giant power grids and lines. That definitely makes me feel rugged.

Nature sure is pretty

Those old lesbians I just passed on the trail were totally just gossiping about someone not present. Why is it funnier when old people gossip? Why is it that lesbians of that generation are such a cliché in the way they look and dress? That "P.E. Coach Look" is just not flattering. But god bless 'em. If not for those sturdy women, where would I be right now?

I wonder if my phone's GPS works here. I need to find out if this is a loop because I already feel like I've walked two miles. Oh wait, here's a marker that says "1 mi." I dunno, is this a loop? Should I just turn around? How have I managed to get lost on a paved hiking trail? Oh, there's Inspiration Point…all the way up that giant fucking mountain. Are you kidding me with your "easy" rating, East Bay Regional Parks District? Fuck off. Easy if you have crampons, maybe. How do I know about crampons? What a weird thing for me to know about. Remember that dude I dated that wanted to take me snow camping? Who the fuck goes snow camping. Unless you can fashion a Barcalounger, a working TV, and a roaring fire within your snow igloo, I ain't got time for that. No surprise he and I broke up.

Look! Nature! Flying over that mountain they deemed to be an "easy" hike. Lying liarmouths.

Okay, fuck it. I'm turning around. My feet officially are at the walking-on-hot-coals level of pain. I should have thought about that before I went so far. Yeah, because one mile is so extreme. I'm nothing if not extreme when it comes to recreating. Hey, I did remember to bring a water bottle at least. I'm starving. Does this two-mile hike justify the pint of coconut chocolate chip ice cream I'm gonna shove in my facehole tonight? I'm sure it does. Plus, I should get whiskey shots or something too.

That's the problem with this damn winding trail---I always think the trailhead is just around this next curve, but it never is. They'll find me out here, on this paved trail, dehydrated, starving, and clinging to life. I'll have to be medivac'd out…or at least to the parking lot…which, I swear, is around this next curve…holy shit! There it is! The trailhead! My god, I made it! Lewis and Clark, my ass. How 'bout some serious props to me for making it out of this dangerous wilderness? God, I feel like I could eat a mountain lion, I'm so hungry. And I for sure need a drink. I wonder if there's a bar in this forest? 

Well, that was relaxing AF. Let's do this again soon, no really. I think there's a bar just outside the park entrance. I might need to stop for re-fortification. At last, I'll be recreating the way god intended---with shot glasses and cigarettes. Smell ya later, Mother Nature. 

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Punk-Rock Johnny Cash

Sometimes there are people who, when they die, leave the world a noticeably darker place. We feel a disproportionate sadness when they pass---even though we might not have known them very well or even known them at all---because we know that the earth has lost someone beautiful, a bright, shining star in a dim world. And even though we didn't see them every day, or even every year, everything feels a little heavier knowing that person is no longer with us. Robin Williams, David Bowie, Katharine Hepburn, to name a few. But some of these angels are closer to home, people you actually encountered in your life, and when you find that they're gone it's like a medicine ball to the gut.

I'm gonna tell you a story about one of those people.

My wife and I are no different than any straight couple---we hooked up in a bar, like Jesus intended. The bar in question is called Zeitgeist, and it is one of San Francisco's more famous bars. It used be known as a no-nonsense bar for bike messengers, bikers, druggies, and hard-drinkin' folk. Now, like everything else in my former town, the landscape has changed, and yuppies, Marina folks, and techbros flock to the legendary establishment. It's been on Bourdain, surely the kiss of death (even though the back of my head actually made it into a shot for the show; see below) and, as such, has ceased to be as relevant as it once was. But back in 2006, Zeit was still clinging to its dirty cred, and I found myself there one night, drinking myself into oblivion. That wasn't terribly unusual. I could often be found at the Zeit drinking myself into oblivion---it's what the place was built for.

A still shot from the episode of Anthony Bourdain's Layover episode where he went to Zeitgeist. See the
silver-haired gent that the arrow is pointing to? I'm his date in the red shirt. 

But on this particular night, I was three weeks into a scorched-earth breakup that left me reeling. I was in bad shape, y'all. The girlfriend had fled, inelegantly, and I was nursing some serious wounds. Friends were taking turns taking me out every night and listening to me cry into my Jack and Cokes, patting my back, telling me there were other fish in the sea, yadda, yadda. This night, it was my friend Jen's turn. And in a weird twist of events, the person who would end up becoming my wife but who, then, was barely an acquaintance, tagged along as well. This was a little awkward since I'd met her through the ex-girlfriend I was now bemoaning. 

I will fast forward through the first six or so hours of the night, where I consumed eleventy-million Jack and Cokes and was a ranting madwoman about my ex, who I'd now started referring to as The Goiter. It was late, and we'd moved inside because even all that whiskey couldn't prevent us from eventually realizing that it was freezing outside. The jukebox was loud and my head was fuzzy, and what transpired next was some highly ill-advised, friend-on-friend making out. This was during a strange time when all of my straight, married, female friends went through a phase where we were all making out with each other "to see who is the best kisser." Thankfully, it was short-lived, and we all got over it quickly; however, this particular evening fell during that time period. And The (Eventual) Wife, as a bona fide, dyed-in-the-wool, butch dyke, was puzzled as to why all my straight friends were making out with each other as well. But, like any good Lady Who Loves Ladies, she was also delighted since it resulted in her making out with a lot of pretty girls during that time.

Anyway---and please forgive me for the fuzziness of my memory about this drunken night nearly 10 years ago---we started up the conversation about who was the best kisser…again. As was apparently our M.O. for the time, Jen and I promptly started making out. Then Jen and The (Eventual) Wife made out and, predictably, it was then my turn to make out with The (Eventual) Wife.

We were not wearing our sober pants that night.

I was attracted to her, absolutely. But even in my haziest, booze-soaked memories, I can remember also thinking "I hope this gets back to The Goiter." I mean, they were still friends, right? I had met The (Eventual) Wife through The Goiter, so technically she was The Goiter's friend, and she and I shouldn't even still be hanging out. So of course, stinging from getting my heart shat upon, I had the ulterior motive of wanting the gossip to get back to The Goiter that The (Eventual) Wife and I had made out. In your face, bitch. Do you see how everyone likes me better than they like you? Even your friends? You were stupid to let me go. No, seriously, I'm glad I took a pocketknife and whittled down your dildos until they were the size of toothpicks!

And so I leaned off my barstool and into The (Eventual) Wife and closed my eyes. Two things I remember about that kiss:

  1. Well that was soft and lovely and electric...more please
  2. Holy fuck, we just made out at Zeitgeist to Johnny Cash playing on the jukebox!

Since you all know she is now my wife, I will skip all of the details of how we eventually ended up hooking up, but at the end of 2007, she got down on one knee and proposed to me. And if we thought we'd have time to plan a leisurely wedding, we were shown otherwise by the entire Prop 8 furor that erupted a few months later. The State of California made same-sex marriage legal in May 2008, but then a bunch of hateful homophobes (i.e., the "Christian Right," which is neither Christian nor right, but don't get me started) decided it was okay to single out one group of citizens and create a ballot measure to ensure that group did not have the same civil rights as everyone else in the state. This measure, Prop 8, would be voted on in November 2008, during the presidential election. It was becoming apparent that if Prop 8 passed, same-sex marriage would again be illegal in the State of California. But most experts were saying that the vote would not extend to people who had gotten married in the window between May and November when it was legal (i.e., the ruling could not annul your marriage; your marriage may not be recognized by the federal government, but the State would continue to recognize it as a legal marriage).

So, suddenly, the wedding with the 263 people on our initial guest list became a small, intimate affair. There was no way we could pull together the money to afford a circus-level wedding in such a short time, and none of our parents was in a position to help financially. So we rented a cool house with a great backyard in Potrero Hill and invited just our parents and the smallest handful of friends. I still remember that day vividly---being mildly hungover and fairly nauseated and lying around in the big plush master bedroom with my two best friends trying to read them my vows without crying, wondering how I would get through them at the altar.

And I remember The (Soon-to-Be) Wife coming up the stairs with a neatly wrapped box. She was ridiculously proud of herself because someone had told her it was customary that the two people getting married exchange gifts on their wedding day. And so she'd gotten me a gift. We sat together, on the end of that big, fluffy bed (our "wedding night" bed!), huddled together like co-conspirators, as she explained that this was her gift to me to thank me for agreeing to spend the rest of my life with her then gently placed the box in my lap for me to unwrap.

I remember my carefully crafted response: "What?!? We're supposed to get each other gifts?!? No one told me that! I didn't get you anything!" Oddly, she seemed more pleased by this, as though she were proud that she knew something about all this girlie wedding shit that I didn't know. I unwrapped a beautiful silver flask, etched with the words "My Girl" along the bottom. It was beautiful and very us. The flask fit perfectly into my cowboy boot.

*****

Let me take a step back to mention that The Wife, while being a big ol' butch, is also the sappiest human being on the planet. When we first got together, I was constantly shocked at the crazy, sappy shit that fell out of her mouth on the reg. My response was always "Wait…really? Did you just say that? I mean…awwwwww…but also, really honey? That was totally gay."

And one of the ways her sappiness manifested itself was how butthurt she was that she and I didn't have "a song." You know how, when you fell in love with your first girlfriend or boyfriend in high school, you guys always had "a song?" Usually, it was something tragic like Bryan Adams crooning the horrible and interminable "Everything I Do, I Do It for You" or, if you're as old as I am, Bryan Adams crapping out "Heaven." Either way, we all sort of cringe when Bryan Adams comes on the radio now for a variety of reasons.

But now, here I was, approaching 40, being chastised by The (Eventual) Wife because we didn't have a song. She'd sigh and say "Funny how every time a love song comes on, you're all like 'Oh, this was mine and Robert's song…' or 'This was mine and Mitch's song…' Yet you and I don't have a song!" At the age of 38, let's just say I was more worried about identifying suspicious moles on my backside than I was worried about picking out a song. This became a running joke between us. I'd hear some Ozzy song on the radio and say "This should be our song!" And she would sigh and roll her eyes and say something about how I must not be as important to her as my past boyfriends.

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Hey honey, how about "All Hail Satan" as our song?

*****

The other part you need to know about this story is that, during this time---in the mid-to-late 2000s---there was a particular busker who regularly played in the 24th Street/Mission BART station. He was known as the "punk-rock Johnny Cash" because, while his safety-pinned leather jacket, neck tattoos, and red Mohawk indicated that he was all punk and nothing but the punk, when he started strumming his guitar and opened his mouth to sing, the kid sounded just like---and I mean, JUST LIKE---Johnny Cash. It was fucking uncanny. So uncanny that everyone in SF at the time knew about the Johnny Cash Guy. He was a local legend, back when the city still had those not so very long ago. 

The Man in Black and Jesse Morris (aka Punk-Rock Johnny Cash)

He'd stand there, most mornings, right at the turnstiles---as people were rushed and harried and pushing their way angrily to work---strumming his acoustic guitar and serenading commuters with "Folsom Prison Blues" or "A Boy Named Sue." And people actually stopped and listened to him sing, and that shit never happened in BART stations. At 8:00 a.m., it's all about getting from Point A to Point B with your headphones on and your face buried in your book so that your brush with the public is as minimal as possible. He was unbelievably talented, to be sure, but I also think half the reason he did so well for himself as a busker was the simple juxtaposition of his voice and his appearance. Who wouldn't be floored---at 7:00 in the morning, no less---by a fierce, Sid-Vicious-looking motherfucker crooning "Ring of Fire" like the Man in Black himself?

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I wasn't used to being intimidated by people, but the Johnny Cash Guy was intimidating as fuck. The scowl, the sheer number of tats, the nose ring, the crazy hair. He made me and my 9-to-5 existence seem trite and conformist. But as our wedding day approached, I would nervously listen for him each morning as I hit the BART escalator, ears straining for the notes of his guitar to see if he was there, knowing what I wanted to do but always lacking, at the last minute, the fortitude to do it.

And then one day, as I shoved my ticket into the machine, prepared to keep walking past him as usual, but I suddenly stopped and said "Hey, so um, I have a question for you… Got a minute?"

I have no idea why I found this dude intimidating.

*****

The ceremony was amazing. Our best friend married us. I managed to make it through my vows without crying, mainly because The (Extremely-Soon-to-Be) Wife and the aforementioned best friend were both blubbering messes up on the altar, and someone had to hold their shit together.

Since the wedding was low-key, we were doing all of the music on our iPod. We'd chosen the songs we each wanted to walk down the aisle to before we said our vows, and we'd chosen Queen's "You're My Best Friend" to walk back down the aisle after Cindy had pronounced us wife and wife. The Wife had put her brother in charge of manning the iPod, starting and stopping each of the songs at the appropriate moment.

As we turned away from Cindy and toward our friends and family as she pronounced us married, it was silent. The (New) Wife squeezed my hand, and I knew she was thinking "What the fuck, Dave? All you had to do was press 'Play' and 'Stop' on three songs…why hasn't Queen started yet?! We're just standing up here like fools…any time now, Bro."

And just as I felt her palm break a sweat, the strains of a guitar could be heard from inside the house. It got closer, louder, stronger, and soon there was no doubt that a real person was playing, and it was not Queen. And just as I saw The Wife's brow furrow, out stepped the Johnny Cash Guy, in all of his tattooed, leathered-up, flamboyant glory, his voice, clear as a bell, belting out "I Walk the Line." He sauntered down the aisle as he played, ending up right in front of us: "Because you're mine/I walk the line/Because you're mine…" My father-in-law, who had his back to him when he started singing, said "It was so spot-on that I thought it was a CD of Johnny Cash that you were playing. I had no idea it was a real person!"

After he finished playing "I Walk the Line," all the wedding guests cheered, and
Jesse said "Fuck Prop 8! Y'all have a great life together."

I studied my new wife's face as the full realization of what was happening sunk into her face. I squeezed back and whispered "This is my wedding gift to you." She squeezed my hand then threw her arms around me. "You got me THE JOHNNY CASH GUY as a wedding present?!?!" She exclaimed with glee. I kissed her happy little face and said "I did more than that. I got us A Song. This is now officially Our Song, okay?"

It was, honestly, a movie moment. One of those moments that happen at the end of stupid-ass rom-coms, the very same movies that The (Butch) Wife always cries at as I sit next to her and roll my eyes. And how often do you get those in life? How often are you able to give those moments to another person you care about deeply?

And they lived happily ever after...

*****

So that made it all the more personal when The Wife and I found out, in 2011, along with the rest of San Francisco, that Jesse Morris, aka "The Johnny Cash Guy," took his own life at the age of 27. Morris was diagnosed as bipolar at an early age and suffered from panic attacks. He had checked himself in and out of hospitals and rehab since he was a teen when he was off his meds and self-medicating. He had attempted suicide just two months before his final attempt resulted in his death. He was mourned by thousands, my wife and I among them. Tributes to what an amazing human and musician he had been started pouring in. For a good article about Jesse, start with this one. Also, his YouTube video of Folsom Prison Blues can be found here. Like the rest of the Bay Area, we grieved for the loss of this tortured, but incredibly kind and gifted, soul. It broke my heart to think I'd never again hear his voice ricocheting off the walls of the subway as I ascended the escalator after a long day. That voice was silent now. 

“He could mimic anybody,” [band member] Dean said.
He had a voice like “honey on tits.
He could do me better than me,
he could do Cash better than Cash.”

It's coming up on five years since his passing, but I bet not a week has gone by in those years that I haven't thought of Jesse. He wasn't a friend. Technically, he was just a dude I hired to play a single song at my wedding. I certainly didn't know the pain he was in. I didn't know anything about him, other than he had a brother who was transitioning to becoming his sister, and he thought the Prop 8 mess "was fucking bullshit, man." But he had a gift, and he brought that gift to our wedding and laid it down, literally, at our altar. He gave us an indelible memory that made our special day even more unique.

Rest in Peace, Jesse

I don't know why I was in the mind to write about Jesse today. It's not the anniversary of his death or anything. I just finally wanted to sit down and write about some guy that was beautiful and he meant something to me. And the world, for me, sucks a little harder knowing he's no longer out there in it, doing his thing, making his music, fighting the good fight.

Rest in peace, Jesse. "The world wasn't meant for one as beautiful as you."

 

 

Hero's Sendoff

The death of David Bowie earlier this week left me, like most folks, utterly gobsmacked. My feed was brimming with videos, song lyrics, and photos of Mr. Bowie. But what jumped out at me almost immediately was how, for every post talking about what a gifted musician he was, there were just as many posts talking about how he was the Patron Saint for All Misfits and Outcasts. So many stories about how people who felt isolated, alone, and weird in high school found themselves in Ziggy Stardust or in any of Bowie's other androgynous personae.

They saw a man in glitter makeup, outlandish wigs, and leotards (leotards, for chrissakes!) prancing around on stage bigger than life, not ashamed, telling them it was okay to be queer, a fag, a fairy, to dress up in whatever way felt most true to them. He taught a generation of kids that there's nothing wrong with you in the least if you're a boy and wanna throw on some eyeshadow before heading out on a Friday night. He spoke to the freaks, the dweebs, the gays, the bullied, the goths, and any other misfit who wasn't wearing a letter jacket and spending their Fridays night cheering on the jocks on the football field.

Before there was "Just Jack" on the groundbreaking show Will & Grace. Before there was Madonna in all of her costumed glory. Before there was Gaga. Before all of this, there was Bowie. And it got me thinking about the importance of these celebrities to kids as they come up. There have been a zillion articles, written by people more informed than I, regarding the importance of seeing role models in movies, on TV, on stage, on the playing field, that are representative of all kids, not just the straight, white, middle-class ones. Any number of African-America actors will cite the first time they saw Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek as a defining moment for them. She wasn't someone's maid or slave; she was a Starfleet officer! And that made an enormous difference to a whole lot of black kids coming up during that time. "If she can do that, why can't I?"

And now there's a whole generation of African-American kids that will grow up thinking "You know what? If I bust my ass in school and work hard, one day I could even be President of the United States."

Seeing people that are representative of who you are is enormously important during child development. Not only can a gay kid in Midlothian, Texas, see Neil Patrick Harris with his thriving acting career and have hope for his own future, but also, it subtly reaffirms ideas such as: "You are not abnormal," "there is nothing wrong with you," and "see, there are many others out there like you."

And now we have people like the lovely and amazing Laverne Cox, helping transgender kids everywhere come to grips with what's going on inside their heads and bodies.

While it may piss off a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, we are a diverse country full of black, white, brown, straight, gay, weirdoes, transgender, queer-positive, atheist, Muslim, Christian, hippy people. And, in 2016, it appears as though the people who are cast into visible roles, either through music, acting, politics, and even sports, are finally catching up to that fact. Bowie was one of a small handful of people who led that charge in the '70s and, for that, we owe him an un-repayable debt. There are other pioneers, of course: Cher, Boy George, Iggy, to name a few. But Bowie never bowed to pressure to conform, and that message was heard by a generation of people, some of whom took it to mean, "Hey, maybe it is okay to let my freak flag fly just a little bit."

So to you, Mr. Bowie, Mystical Beast of All Things Outlandish and Strange, I say rest in peace. As someone who started or influenced at least four different musical genres; starred in incredibly provocative films; heavily impacted the art scene, as well as the fashion scene; and who was a guardian angel for freaks and weirdoes everywhere, you are arguably one of the most prominent and influential people of the latter half of the 20th century. I'm glad that, until the very end, you did things your way and taught us all to be proud of who we were on the inside and to live our lives on our own terms. Never settle.

What an amazing legacy for an amazing artist, performer, and human being.

 

Postscript: Was just finishing this post when I heard about Alan Rickman. My heart breaks. He was, literally, the star of every movie he was in. What another awful loss. British? Sixty-nine years old? Cancer? Death happens in threes? I hope Tim Curry's handlers are keeping a very close eye on him. Sending out good, healthy thoughts for Tim, please. #CurryWatch2016

 

 

No, I Haven't Found Jesus. And Yes, I Looked Behind the Couch

I'm butthurt right now, y'all. I've got a beef, and I'm gonna write about it here. And I suppose I should add the disclaimer here that I understand that I'm not talking about the Christian majority here; just that small group of twits who insist on proselytizing to all of us heathens. Please understand, I know that there are millions of kind, caring, selfless Christians out there who are fantastic folks. This entry is not directed at you.

A friend of mine posted a beautiful video of Freddy Mercury and David Bowie recording "Under Pressure" on her Facebook page with a comment about Bowie's "angelic voice." Like many of us, she was grieving at the loss of such an amazing and talented human being. Like many of us, she understood that when the planet loses certain people, we are all worse off for it.

But then, but then…some fucking asshole posts a comment on the thread about how there was nothing angelic about Bowie because he "never kept God in his heart" and how he "certainly isn't in Heaven" (the capital "H" hers, of course). This fuckwit didn't stop there though. Not only was this woman announcing that she herself was so omniscient that she knew what was in David Bowie's heart and where he would spend eternity, but then she went on to attack my friend's faith: "If you can read that article and still wonder where David Bowie's heart lies then I would begin to do some searching in your own heart."

WHAT IN THE FRESH EVER-LOVING FUCK, PEOPLE?!?!?!

Look, I'm an atheist (or a secular humanist, since I don't believe in a god, but I do believe in just being good to other humans and that we all deserve the same rights). And I'll be the first to admit, I'm working to overcome my knee-jerk reaction to people when they tell me they are religious, which is to automatically think "Oh, and I thought you were smart." I have come to accept that there are many different reasons people choose to become religious. Yes, some are indoctrinated by their parents and their parents' church from birth, and fuck those people for merely drinking the Kool-Aid and not thinking for themselves. But some find faith later in life for a variety of understandable reasons. And I can even accept the fact that faith brings an enormous amount of comfort to many people in times of duress. Hey, if that's what floats your boat and you can keep that shit to yourself, more power to you.

It's when the proselytizing starts that I take HUGE ISSUE with your bullshit. Just as with any other religion, Christianity is no exception, you are free to practice it privately, but once you start waving that shit in my face, I will challenge you. Is it not enough that you are living your own life according to your faith and your principles? Why do so many Christians insist that the rest of us live by their credos? Why do so many Christians insist on trying to insert their narrow, ridiculously exclusionary beliefs into our government, for fuck's sake…even though every major doctrine on which this country was founded implicitly states that this shall remain a secular nation? Why are so many Christians concerned by what kind of sex other people are having? Or what movies they watch? Or music they listen to?

Why do you insist that we all must agree on this? Why is it so hard to see that the world need not agree with YOUR set of beliefs and that it's okay if people want to worship Buddha or Mohammed or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Or even---GASP!---not worship any mystical god at all? Why does this so offend you? You might like eggplant, where many others despise it. Do you go around shouting about aubergines and shoving them down everyone's throats? I mean, honestly, enough. Leave the rest of us in peace. So we assholes are doomed to spend eternity in some hell that we don't even believe in. Isn't that just good riddance for you?

It's fucking maddening, people, and it needs to stop. I mean, damn, all this friend of mine was trying to do was express sadness for a loss she felt, and here comes this religious bully onto her Facebook page, telling her she needs to reexamine her heart because she's mourning the passing of a human being who spread joy on this planet? That's what it is: bullying. "MY GOD BE THE ONE GOD, AND HE WILL KICK YOUR ASS IF YOU DON'T TOE THE LINE!" And on a post that had NOTHING to do with religion? The fuck is that nonsense?

For chrissakes, there have been over 6,000 religions started and practiced by human beings since the dawn of time, but you're telling us that YOUR god is the ONE god, and the rest of us will burn in a fiery pit of "hell" and will not enjoy the spoils of "heaven" if we don't behave the way YOU think we should behave? The fucking arrogance on display here! I have Tang in my cupboard, but I don't ask you to believe that I'm a fucking astronaut, lady. If you want to believe that some mythical sky beast is going to whisk you away to a magic eternal kingdom just because you sat your ass in a pew every Sunday, that is your right, but don't foist that voodoo on the rest of us and expect us to swallow it.

I mean, if you're such a shitty Christian that you don't understand some of Christianity's major tenants like "Judge not lest ye be judged" and "Christ is love" then, I'm sorry, you are missing the point. When others on the thread pointed out that her comments on the post were misplaced, she posted some quote about not judging...when she was the only person on the thread doing any judging!! It's that level of hypocrisy amongst the rabid Christians that drives me batty, y'all. There is no concept of logic or of simply treating people humanely because it's the right thing to do. No, you need a god, apparently, to do that. But not only that, if you're not "doing it right" or if you're not being as holy as the next guy, then it still doesn't count. Make no mistake: you are a bully and, frankly, we all just tune out your arrogant loud mouth at that point.

And yes, y'all, I know #NotAllChristians, so please don't think this is a blanket attack on those who choose to practice their faith and worship their god in their hearts…quietly, like it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, the millions of good Christians who do "get" the message of Christianity and spend their time behaving kindly toward all people and doing good things in their communities are not the Christians that get the press. I'm aware of that. So normally I wouldn't write a rant like this here about it because it's just giving more time to a small segment of one religion. Much like "all Muslims are not terrorists," all Christians are not sanctimonious shitbags. But when I encounter it first-hand like that, I just see red. Against my better judgment, I went off on this nitwit. In the end, my friend deleted my scathing comment directed at this human shame-spiral, which is her prerogative. Her page, her stage. And I'm not the least bit mad that she did. But never one to sit back silently when someone uses religion, race, economic status, gender, or sexual proclivities as a bullying tool, I just had to get this rant out.

If you are a person of faith, good for you. It works for you. You receive comfort from it. But don't be so presumptuous as to assume it will work for everyone. Kindly keep your preaching to yourself and stop trying to strong-arm people into your nonsense. You are a blight on humanity.

 

Hedonism: Then and Now

One of the things I heard consistently from older people as I was in my twenties and thirties was that by the time you hit your forties, you feel comfortable in your own skin. You're still young enough to enjoy life, old enough to have a little money to do things with a bit more style, and finally have some wisdom as to who you are and what you stand for.

Well? I'm waiting.

I seem to have done it backwards. I had oodles of confidence in my twenties and thirties; I was bursting with it. So, naturally, I couldn't wait until I was in my forties to see what they held. But then came a whole lotta unexplainable pain and the corresponding depression, and those two things, teamed up together, flattened me. I found myself rudderless. I suddenly had no idea who I was and where I was going.

The person I'd been up to then was larger than life. Brash, crass, fearless, bold, uncensored, mighty---the person who fills up the room at a party. But sometime around 40, when I'd already been in pain for a couple of years and the depression was just starting to settle in (but I hadn't yet identified it as such), I noticed I no longer had the energy to be That Girl. But beyond that, I was questioning my existence up to that point. That my life had been a whirlwind of hedonistic excess with some incredible experiences didn't register pride in my soul like it once did. Instead, I felt empty when I looked back, like I'd wasted all those prime years partying my nuts off and had nothing to show for it. To out it more bluntly: Can you imagine the kind of money I'd have if I had taken everything I'd spent on cigarettes, booze, and drugs in my life and had put it into the bank instead?

That that kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking doesn't do anyone any good was lost on me. But more than wallowing in my past, I was now looking at my future with a newfound terror. Beyond pain and depression, I also simply recognized the fact that this lifestyle wouldn't be pragmatic heading into the second half of my life. Nothing sadder than a 60-year-old cokehead who's still hanging out with an ever-rotating cast of twentysomethings so they can surround themselves with people who still party like they do. I know a few of those people, and I most decidedly did not want to be that. No, I needed to find a new raison d'etre for my back 40.

And part of this blog, my podcast, my photo-taking, my constant quest to find happiness and happy people…it's all part of this continued search to Find My Passion. It's maddening at times, truly. Mostly because while I say I no longer wanna be "that girl," part of me misses it terribly. Why wouldn't I? I was Amy Schumer before Amy was Amy---loud-mouthed and crass; a bit mannish yet with a ravenous propensity for cock and more than happy to talk about it; saying things that most people didn't expect women to say; drinking, drugging, and bursting in on parties with verve; turning my whiskey-heated tongue on anything I felt deserved my scathing commentary. All those cigarettes and whiskey shots---while I can't say I remember them all---I can say that I enjoyed them immensely at the time.

My shrink, who is a total wise badass (or a bad wiseass, a little of both), pointed out that it was certainly infeasible to expect to sustain the level of energy that that persona requires. It takes an enormous amount of energy to be that "on" all the time. That I could still be expected to summon those levels of energy when I'm simultaneously battling the enemies of age, pain, and depression is unrealistic. That makes a lot of sense to me, even if I don't know what I'm gonna be next. It has allowed me to look back on my years of 16 to 40 with more fondness. Being that girl and chasing those experiences has made me the person I am now.

And, yes, I know that being a Fun Party Girl can seem vapid and shallow to many, but I would also argue that being a drinker and smoker got me places I wouldn't have gone to had I been a "good girl." For example, when I was traveling by myself for six months through 15 foreign countries, there were many, many times I was swallowed in loneliness. I was three weeks into my trip when 9/11 happened, so when my fellow countrymen were going through trauma, upheaval, and uncertainty, I was by myself, say, on a bleak and rainy day in Budapest, feeling very isolated and lonely and cut off.

And each and every time I felt like that, I went to a bar. Not to drown my sorrows, but because bars were a place where I felt at home. The bar universe was a universe I understood; I understood its etiquette, its norms, its social mores. And every single time I plopped my ass on a bar stool, ordered a drink, and lit a cigarette (oh how I miss the days where you could still smoke in bars), I met someone. I inevitably ended up striking up a conversation with a local or even other tourists, and I learned much. Whether it resulted in new adventures with my new bar friend(s) or resulted in a good tidbit of travel advice that I ended up following, I connected with people; I had a new and exciting adventure.

And being a drinker and smoker has also made me an excellent study of people. One of my strongest traits is my ability to read a person, people, or a situation and adapt accordingly. Had I not spent so much of my life in crazy situations around so many different types of people, I don't think that skill would be as finely tuned.

So here I am, a few months from 46, and I still haven't found my grand passion; I still haven't figured out "what I want to be when I grow up." And so I keep pushing. But while my "what next?" journey seems interminable, I have at least started to make peace with my past. I no longer look back on those hedonistic years as wasted time. Those years made me who I am now, put me on the path I'm on now, opened my heart and mind, and gave me some unbelievable stories for my dotage. My shrink thinks I need to start telling some of these tales from my past and that will help me let go of that old me with a little more peace and grace. Which means, you all might get to read stories of how I shat my pants in Istanbul, or broke my leg in Cappadocia, or partied with a Frank Sinatra impersonator one rainy night in SF, or held the hand of a guy who'd just lost his leg in a motorcycle accident while he laid bleeding in the middle of the road, or threw a drink on a guy's face in a crowded restaurant.

In the end, it really is about feeling comfortable in your own skin. These days, I mostly am. I'm not nearly as comfortable as I used to be, but I also have a little more self-awareness than I had then. I worry more about what people will think when I say something truly outrageous. I still say the outrageous things, mind you; it's just now I might inwardly wince and wonder if I just pissed someone off. It's just that now, that booze-soaked tongue comes with perhaps a little empathy for others as well. 

Maybe that's the definition of happiness: feeling utterly and completely comfortable in your own skin. I was happy before, largely because I rarely questioned myself. With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes questioning. Is there a way for me to question my place in the world and my actions and STILL be one-hundred percent comfortable with who I am and what I'm doing? Maybe if I achieve that balance, I will be happy? Who knows? But I'm not giving up on the quest. None of us should. It's how we grow.


2016, I Am in You!

Happy New Year, my little Buddhafaces! This is the first time I've woken up on January 1 and either not been still drunk or wildly hungover since at least the mid-eighties! I'm treating this as an auspicious beginning instead of beating myself up for being lame and crawling into bed at 9:30. 

I can't explain why I'm feeling so fucking positive, but ours is not to question. I'm rolling with it, kiddos. I am inexplicably feeling as though the coming year holds promise and that I can accomplish anything. I have no idea where this sudden burst of optimism is coming from since typically my outlook is so bleak I could talk Elmo into jumping off the ledge if you gave me 20 minutes with that little red fucknugget.

I also gave myself permission to bask in 2015's accomplishments, which is something I never do. Usually my attitude is "Well, that's done…on to the next thing…" But I'm actually taking a moment to take stock of the 2015, which is disappearing in the rearview mirror faster than roadkill on a West Texas highway. After 2013 and 2014, really the year had nowhere to go but up. But look, yo, I did some shit:

1.

I QUIT MY MOTHERFUCKING SHITTY-ASS JOB AND NEVER LOOKED BACK. Can I get an AMEN? I started out last year, in an entry much like this, talking about how I wanted to become more fearless and lead more of a life of general badassery. If quitting a corporate career of 16 years because you're sick of your once-decent-but rapidly-becoming-a-cesspool company and your sleazy bosses' sleazy bullshit isn't taking a leap of faith, I don't know what is. I wanted to be the kind of girl I used to be---the girl who sold all of her shit at the age of 25 and got herself all the way to San Francisco, California to start a new life. Quitting a job I hated but stayed at because it was easy and safe is a good start.

And now here I am. Granted, I'm self-aware enough to tell you I haven't necessarily used my downtime wisely. There has been some day-drinkin', pot smokin', and general slothery. But shit, for the first six months, whether I was aware or not, I was slowly decompressing. Then one day I woke up and realized I was living life like Peter from Office Space---cruising through life with relaxed shoulders and a smile on my face.

Granted, I have a safety net in my wife now. She is bringing home the bacon for a while and allowing me the luxury of venturing out on a new, hopefully happier, path. I would never be able to do this without her, which brings me to a second thing I am proud of accomplishing in 2015.

2.

Salvaging my marriage. The Wife and I worked our collective asses off to get ourselves back to a place of stability. We dutifully showed up twice a month to pick off the unsavory scabs of our marriage so that they could heal in the open. And it wasn't easy. I said things that were mean and hard; she said things that were hateful and unpleasant. But both of us came together with a clear understanding that it needed to be done.

We're never going back to the first five years of our relationship---the heady days of staying out all night; doing drugs and drinking to excess with our friends; watching the sun come up; eating a greasy diner breakfast on the way home; falling into bed for languid, slow, sensual sex before crashing into a deep sleep so we could wake up and do it all over again that night. Nope, those days are over. We are adults now with adult things to do, like figuring out how to pay property taxes, running a small business, and worrying about whether my crown will fall out before my dental insurance kicks in. 

I spent a long time mourning the end of that period in our relationship. Who wouldn't? Having daily sex, stuffing your facehole with drink and drugs, and delaying adulthood is FUCKING FUN---don't let anyone tell you any different---but I'm sick of feeling shitty because we're no longer the younger, more carefree versions of ourselves. It is what it is. I will be forty-fucking-six years old in 2016. I managed to put off real responsibility and boring adult shit until I was 42 years old. (For some reason, I have a very clear vision of the first time in my life I ever truly felt adult, and it was the day we got the keys to our house in 2012, so I guess I officially became an adult at 42.) Forty-two years of unbridled hedonism. That's an impressive run.

We were young and wild and free.

The Wife and I haven't always---and often still don't---see eye-to-eye about this phase we're moving into. She's a little younger than I am and not as ready to let that go as quickly. It's caused a lot of problems in our marriage in the last few years, but our gritty work during counseling got me to a place where I trusted her again, where I had faith in her, where I could at least see a future with her again. And, ultimately, THAT'S why I was able to quit my job---because she told me it would be all right, that we would figure out the next phase together, that we would make it work, that it was my turn---and I believed her when she said it. If I didn't have that faith in her due to what we'd accomplished together in therapy, I never would have been able to take that next leap of faith that I could give up my steady source of income to "find myself" like a goddamned hippie.

3.

I STARTED MY DAMNED PODCAST ALREADY! FINALLY! I don't even know how long I've been talking about bringing my babble to the airwaves, and this year it finally happened! This never, ever would have happened---in any way, shape, or form---without my dear friend and producer, Thor. Thor has been like a hulking guardian angel in my life this year---pushing me, nudging me, cajoling me ever-nearer to my goal---a gentle man who saw something in my vision when I was telling him about it. Who understood what my flaws and weaknesses were and stepped in to pick up the slack so that I could focus on what I am good at: connecting with people; telling a good story, telling their stories, telling my stories; trying to find a little slice of happiness we can all enjoy; creating a little community of folks who, like me, are just tryna navigate their lives in an increasingly complicated world too and might appreciate hearing funny stories about depression, pain, life's bullshit, marriage, nudity, drugs, therapy, and general mayhem. He thought my message was valuable, and so he gave of his time and energy to help me get this up and running. And so I also consider that one of 2015's triumphs: finding a friend who believed in me who was also a friend who was so generous and kind. I'm glad we've gotten to know each other better this year, Thor. I owe you bigtime, baby! I'm looking forward to 2016 and what adventures we'll have!

"I am here because you broke something." 
My boy, Thor.

God, I have so much more I want to say, but no one reads anymore and this entry is already too long. I've been thinking about---NOT RESOLUTIONS, DON'T CALL THEM RESOLUTIONS---for 2016. I find that as I age, my R-words get more and more ethereal each year. Less of "lose 25 pounds" and more "work on developing my empathy." Adulthood changes you in ways that are never mentioned in Buzzfeed listicles mocking how, after a certain age, you never want to leave your house or get out of your pajamas or make plans. What those lists don't mention is that those are but the outward displays of what's really going on, which is that adulthood makes you turn inward a little, become more introspective, settle into your own skin a little deeper, want to know yourself even better, and resolve to be kinder to the people who are important to you (and even those who are not) in an ever-crueler world. I don't give a fresh fuck if I don't get my ass squeezed into a smaller jean size by 2017. But I do care about who I am, what I stand for, what my mark will be, and how well I will love and be loved.

Here's to loving and living full-throttle in 2016. 

The Tie That Binds

Marriage is, without a doubt, the single hardest thing I've ever done in my life. The thing is, when you're young, no one ever sits you down and tells you this. I mean, maybe you've gleaned this knowledge over the years, especially if you are the child of divorce; you probably have a lot of firsthand knowledge that prepares you for life in the trenches with another person. But, if you're like me and had two parents that stayed together for 45 years until one of them died, you don't give it much thought when you're coming up, unless your parents mostly screamed at each other for those 45 years. (Mine did not.)

And I'm married to someone that is probably the most agreeable person since Mother Teresa. If my wife were a dog, she'd be a golden retriever. If she were a poker hand, she'd be aces. If she were a natural wonder, she'd be the Grand Canyon. She's the goddamned Tigger of the known world, with endless enthusiasm and energy for life, a ball of positivity. And it's still the fucking hardest thing I've done. Can you imagine if I'd married someone as contentious as I?

Listen, I'm not here to step on the institution of marriage. It was a hard-won privilege for my wife and I to be considered a legal couple, and sometimes---as any married person can attest---the only thing holding you together is that little piece of paper. And as hard as it's been, it's also been the most rewarding. I'm married to someone who still never tires of trying to get to know what makes me tick, works with me to make me a better communicator and a more intimate partner, intuits my moods by the slightest twitch of my face. She frequently shows me what selfless is, and she makes me want to be a better version of myself. She's put in almost a decade of picking, scratching, and rubbing beneath the surface to get to my soft, chewy center. She has, unequivocally, always had my back.

She has nursed me back to health when I've been sick. She has held me in her arms while I've had crying jag after hot, messy crying jag over my pain. She has comforted me when the depression was threatening to swallow me whole. She has covered our house in flowers to cheer me up. She has gone to doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment with me, wanting as desperately as I to find out what was causing my pain. She has pulled an Aurora in Terms of Endearment and screamed at a pharmacist who screwed up my pain prescription FIVE TIMES, and I simply couldn't deal with the imbecile behind the counter one more time. She has dropped everything and raced with me to Sacramento or Chico when my dad was ailing so I didn't have to endure those late-night drives to the ER by myself. In short, she has been reliable and loyal when I've needed her the most.

For all of the biggies, she has been by my side, showing nothing but full support for me. And I can honestly say that we have weathered some pretty severe shit together. On the big things, we agree---on politics (liberal), religion (gross, no thank you), worldview (live fast, die young, leave a pretty corpse), sense of humor (constant)---we laugh like motherfuckers every day. What a rare gift this is for people who have had intertwined lives for the past 10 years.

And I do look at these things as a gift---the things we've weathered together have made us stronger, I hope. But it's not the biggies I struggle with, y'all. It's the daily minutiae that is the hardest part. I think what can make marriage so exhausting is that you, literally---24 hours a day, 7 days a week---must take into account your actions and words and how they will affect another person. There's NO respite from it. So it's not just that you're trying to figure out your own shit, but you've also got to figure out how everything you say and do will impact the person you're sharing a bed and bathroom with. And how their shit will impact your shit.

It's a lot of shit, people.

It's negotiating things like wanting to take a vacation by yourself but knowing that telling her will hurt her feelings. So you keep it to yourself; meanwhile, your needs aren't getting met, you become a cranky bitch, and you end up fighting about a bunch of stupid shit as a result. It's waking up at 2:00 in the morning, not finding her in bed next to you, and wondering if she got beat up leaving the bar late at night, or drove into a ditch, or got pulled over after she'd been drinking. But then lying in bed fuming for another hour before finally texting her because you're 90 percent sure she's just out drinking and forgot to text. And it's hating yourself for being the ugly, nagging wife...again…because she's put you in this position…again. It's being pissed at her because it's the third night this week it's happened and, at 45, you don't feel like worrying about this kind of crap anymore. And it's also beating yourself up because, while you know that it's good for your own well-being that you're no longer staying out til 3:00 every morning getting shitfaced, part of you feels like you're letting her down because you're no longer the party girl she married. It's then feeling angry right after that and saying "No, fuck that. I have a right to be pissed about this. This is some grade-A bullshit right here."

And yes, sometimes it's wishing you were single again.

It's starting a business during the same year you're having a complete and utter breakdown and being resentful that you got roped into this dream of hers because it's making you miserable, driving a wedge between you, and contributing to your Crazy. It's screaming, late-night fights where you're second-guessing her ability to do this, then beating yourself up over your lack of faith in her. It's being put second behind that business in small ways every single day, then kicking yourself because you know she's doing the best that she can, and really, you should be less of a scold and more of a help to her, and why can't you just get on board, for fuck's sake? In short, it's a lot of tearing yourself down because you want to be a better and more supportive partner, but just as often as not, you fail at it. It's also, in the same breath, being unable to overlook the small ways she disrespects you and lashing out about them. It's "showing your ass" to another human being---exposing your most awful thoughts and still praying to god she'll stay anyway. It's you at your worst.

But it's also you at your best. It's being proud to be on her arm. It's being thankful for all of the times you've laughed and belted out the words to some silly '80s song while you're in the kitchen together. It's working like a well-oiled machine when you're cooking breakfast together on a Saturday morning. It's knowing which shirt she will choose to wear to your office Christmas party before she chooses it. It's boasting about her many accomplishments to the world, to your friends, to your family. It's the Sunday mornings spent lying in bed together, listening to Billie Holliday, hanging with the cat, recapping the events from last night's party. It's having someone to always have adventures with, to throw amazing dinner parties with, to see the world with, to laugh at the world with. It's the way you prepare a sandwich just the way she likes it or make her favorite soup when she's sick. It's how you will rush to her defense if anyone threatens her. It's knowing that, no matter how shitty the world gets, and no matter how much she's pissed at you in the moment, she still has your back and still loves you with a ferocity that is overwhelming and sometimes undeserved.

It's going to couples' counseling when things are bad because you know that even though the last two years have been a nightmare---between opening a bar, your dad dying, buying a house, moving across the bay, and the dynamics of many of your friendships changing---it's also realizing that, even under all that said and unsaid muck, there is still something worth salvaging. It's sitting across from a therapist and picking open all of your scabs and wounds for your shrink to see. It's tears and so much screaming that the shrink has to pull his chair in between the two of you to get you both to stop calling each other fucking cunts. Then it's taking what you've learned in that tiny office and trying to transport it into your real-life situations because you both know it simply must be done; you mean that much to one another.

It's knowing that you will be the one to nurse her through her father's death or that she will be the one sitting next to you with a box of Kleenex when your cat finally has to be put down. It's knowing that, yes, it's possible that she will end up with dementia because it runs in her family, and you will be, quite possibly, wiping her ass one day even if she forgets who you are and refers to you as "Consuela." It's thinking about things like, god forbid, if the business were to fail, what actions you would take to ease her pain in the months and years following, and how you would bolster her back up and stand her on her feet again. But it's also having blind faith that it will never come to that because she knows what she's doing. It's trying to plan for the future when sometimes the present is more than you can bear and the future seems like a pipe dream.

It's knowing that you love her more than you thought it was possible to love another human being and understanding that, even in the face of that, it's still gonna be a chore at times. It's accepting her dream as yours. It's accepting her heart, whole-heartedly, stains and all. It's accepting the flaws and annoyances. But it's also reveling in her perfections and strengths. And, most importantly, it's stopping to savor all the sweet moments in life with her because true intimacy is possibly our greatest purpose while we're on this planet. And you know that, at last, you've found that with her.

So yeah, this shit is hard, y'all. It's not for the faint of heart. But like anything that is hard and worth doing, it's also unbelievably rewarding.

It's getting up and doing it all over again the next day, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, because that's what marriage is about.

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast Updates

It occurred to me the other day, that the holidays have me with my head so far up my tuchus, I forgot to post the link to Episode 3, my interview with Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton. Sean is one of the chillest, most laid-back guys you'll ever meet. He represents the true meaning of the word bon vivant, seizing life's opportunities wherever they present themselves and forging his own path for every endeavor he throws himself into. The guy is seriously cool, y'all, so click below to give us a listen. We talk about misbehaving, cooking, drinking, and more misbehaving. 

For those of you who don't know, i think beards are the anti-christ, and yet, I STILL love Paxton!

 

GO AHEAD AND GIVE US A LISTEN! YOU KNOW YOU WANNA!

Lastly, I was supposed to release Episode 4 this last Tuesday, I know. But my producer, the Mighty Thor, thinks that people get too busy and crazy during the holidays and that this episode is so fucking good, he doesn't want to release it until the new year. So, my pretties, that means no new episodes until January 5! But what an episode it's gonna be! Just you wait!

Remove Yourselves from the Fetal Position and Go Do Something Nice for Chrissakes

I haven't written in a couple of weeks. Mainly because my thoughts have been a giant jumble over current events, but also because I have foolishly spent the last two days arguing with gun nuts on Facebook. IKNOWSHUTUP!  I'm not even taking my own advice at this point. I'm just sitting on my laptop for 16 hours a day, obsessing about the state of the world, the state of my country, and trying to get strangers to change their views on guns---all fruitless endeavors, to be sure.

Y'all, shit, I don't even know what to say anymore. The world is a shitastic place, and there's nothing any of us can do to change that. One of the best things I've read in the ceaseless coverage in the wake of Colorado Springs and San Bernardino is this. The author basically has come to the conclusion I have, which is that you have zero control over the chaos of the modern world. You're not gonna end racism, or invent a machine that suddenly removes all the pollution from the air in Beijing, or find the magic bullet (as it were) for gun control in US, or shut down ISIS in the Middle East, or get the human dumpster fires that are the members of our Congress to work to affect positive change for America, now are you? No, probably not.

So, in lieu of that, why not do shit that makes YOU feel better on a personal level? These are the things that you CAN control. If you're feeling anxious and out of control, lying in bed and trying to figure out how to shut down the KKK or worrying about those garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean that are the size of the state of Texas is probably not going to make you feel hella chipper.

So the author of that article, "Fifteen Things for When the World is Shitty and Terrifying," lists out the things you can do in and around your community that will make you feel better on a personal level. She's got some good things on her list, like taking one old coat and going and giving it to a place that will give it to someone in need, buying a $10 pack of socks and several boxes of feminine products from Amazon and having them shipped directly to the homeless shelter in your community. (Things like toiletries, especially tampons and pads, and underwear and socks are among the most under-donated but most-needed items in shelters.)

Some shit like, go and sit in a park and watch children playing, makes my skin crawl. Since I mostly think of children as crotchfruit, and since they don't really encourage adults who are alone to linger around playgrounds and stare at children these days, I think I'll give that one a miss. But her overarching point is brilliant---no, you can't save the world, but you can do a few small things---daily even---that will make a difference in the people's lives directly around you. You're not going to convince George Zimmerman not to be a racist and a misogynist. You're not going to say or do something that makes that festering cesspool of a person, Donald Trump, realize that he's spreading hate and fear and change his actions and words. So why not do something on a personal level that makes the world a better place.

It's so very easy, and you won't believe how good it makes you feel. There are people who argue that there's no such thing as being truly altruistic because at some point, you get joy and pleasure out of the results of your altruistic act; therefore, it's not fully altruisitic because you, too, are getting something from it, and it can be argued that that's the real reason you did it. To that I say: Who gives a fuck? If the end result is that a few battered women get tampons for a couple of months or that a homeless guy gets some new socks AND I feel a little better about spreading good in the process as well? I'm okay with that.

Here are a few things I've done recently that took little effort but made the people around me feel better. I enumerate these things not to say LOOK AT ME, I'M A TOTAL BADASS, but rather to illustrate just how small your actions can be.

  • We donated three boxes of books and a huge bag of clothes to a homeless shelter.
  • I gave a homeless guy my Peet's coffee card that had like $20 left on it.
  • I'm baking cookies for a friend of mine who is having surgery.
  • I've run a couple of friends to doctors' appointments and served as their moral support when they got difficult news.
  • I wanted to make a big fancy dinner for my wife and me, and we were going to have more than enough food, so we extended a last-minute invitation to our friends who just had to put their dog down.
  • I finished an art project for our bar's wall. My wife had been irritated with me that I hadn't started, so finishing it was something I knew would make her feel good.
  • I made a pledge to donate money to the Coalition Against Gun Violence as soon as I am able and started a hashtag #DollarsAgainstGunsPledge for it to encourage others to donate to organizations that combat the NRA and the gun lobby's influence over our elected figures. 

See? None of that shit took a lot of my time or energy, but I end up feeling like I'm doing my part to make this a cooperative and joyful world. At a time like this---when we're heading into an election year and both political figures and the media are whipped into high gear to make sure we're all full of fear and loathing---it's more important than ever to act in a way that proves all these fucktards wrong, to prove that we don't need to be consumed by Fear and Hatred of the Other because the majority of us are good people.

I'll end this entry with a story: every morning I go to the same coffeeshop and get my morning coffee. Then I go outside, around the corner, to these two benches, and I have my morning cigarette with my coffee. On Saturday, an old, black, homeless man sat on the bench next to me and asked me for a light. We sat there together, smoking our cigarettes, drinking our coffee, and making small talk about the weather. After he finished his smoke, he got up slowly and hoisted two huge garbage bags full of empty aluminum cans over his shoulder, and nodded toward my left hand. He said "Someone sho' is lucky." I looked at him quizzically. He continued "I was saying some person sho' is lucky to be married to you and to get to wake up to your beautiful smile every day." I blushed and said thank you.

As he walked off, he turned to me and said "Notice how I said 'person?' You gotta be careful these days. You can't make assumptions. You'll leave someone out." And I smiled even bigger when I realized what he was talking about. In my hoodie, short hair, and baseball cap, he'd pegged me as a dyke and had chosen his words accordingly.

And I thought, as I watched him limp away, if a straight male who is over 60 and who likely didn't have access to a variety of educational opportunities when he was younger due to the color of his skin and his age can recognize the need for everyone to feel included, then why can't the so-called "smart" and politically powerful people realize that? People have been bitching about how we've become a world overtaken by political correctness, but what I'm tired of is the people who are bitching about it. What harm does it cause to recognize that the white, straight, middle-class worldview and the life experiences that come with that status don't apply to everyone, and that by your words and actions, you can acknowledge that and not make them feel uncomfortable? "Political correctness" now has some sort of dirty connotation, but all it is is not making people who aren't like you not feel like shit. It's as simple as that.

My homeless buddy who lives on the street---who many would turn away from due to his smell and his appearance---was civilized enough to recognize this. Shouldn't we all? 

Yup, it's just that easy.

Multiculturalism: Come for the Pork Dumplings, Stay for the Tolerance!

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite places in Oakland, if not the whole damn world---the Chapel of Chimes at the Mountain View Cemetery. This place is rad, y'all. From Wikipedia:

Chapel of the Chimes was founded in 1909 as a crematory and columbarium in Oakland, California. The present building dates largely from a 1928 redevelopment based on the designs of the architect Julia Morgan.[1] The Moorish- and Gothic-inspired interior is a maze of small rooms featuring ornate stonework, statues, gardens, fountains and mosaics. The name "chapel" refers primarily to the style of interior design, as it is not a traditional cemetery chapel building.

Not only is this place breathtakingly beautiful, but it was designed by a badass CHICK.

I love this place for not just the architecture, but for the fact that it offers up one of the finest places on the planet for quiet contemplation. There are benches and chairs positioned in the small, intricate rooms for a person to sit and listen to the quiet gurgle of the fountains and examine the gorgeous mosaics on the walls. Sure you're surrounded by the ashes of thousands of dead people, but they're all stored in urns that look like huge, old books, so really you feel like you're in the world's quietest library.

I was feeling the need to be someplace sacred this week, so I plopped myself down on a set of stairs that gave me the view below and admired the Moorish architecture. And I thought about how Ms. Morgan had accomplished this masterpiece of the blending of European and Middle Eastern styles of architecture, combining the best of each.

And as I sat there, feeling a little chilled by all the massive, old stone walls and steps surrounding me, I began to hear chanting from down the hall. I recognized the language as Vietnamese, but the chanting sounded Buddhist in its style and rhythm. There was one clear voice leading the chants and a chorus of people repeating him. It was interspersed with the gentle >ding< of traditional Buddhist meditation finger cymbals. I had seen they were having some sort of memorial when I'd walked up but didn't pay much attention to it. I closed my eyes, hugged myself tighter, and listened to the melodious, repetitive chanting of a Buddhist monk for what seemed like hours. In the background, I could hear the burble of the fountain; I could feel the solemnity of all that old stone around me. I started to notice my breathing, and everything but my breathing, the chanting, and the burbling fell away.

Look, I know I live on a coast---and the liberal one at that---but it did me some good to: 1) take some time for myself away from the constant barrage of shitastic news being vomited out at me through my phone, and B) remind myself that I live in a country that purports to espouse multiculturalism. And for the most part, in the past, we have. (Yes, there have been some exceptions, but that's a political rant, and I'm trying to avoid those.) And living in the Bay Area, I am fucking blessed to be submersed in that multiculturalism; this is an area of the country that has larger-than-average foreign populations from all over the map. I see it everyday in my coffeeshop, in my grocery store, in my doctor's office, in the unbelievable food scene here, in the hijabs and dashikis people around me wear, in the music I hear being played from houses. And I thought about how lucky I am to live in this rich stew of different people. 

I'm not saying the Bay Area is some sort of utopia where people of different races or religions never get discriminated against or that racial incidents don't happen. Believe me, we have our share. And nor am I saying that we're living in a fully integrated society, even here. The neighborhoods can be pretty segregated---a pocket of Russian immigrants here, a pocket of Salvadorians there, and, yes, we have the Projects here too. But when your likelihood of having black friends in Oakland, Hmong neighbors in San Francisco, an Afghan coworker in Fremont, or a brother who married an Ethiopian Muslim woman increases by the sheer dint of geography, the likelihood of you being a more empathetic, more compassionate individual toward people who are, by skin color or religious practices, considered "Other" just shot up. And when that happens, we are all better for it. Empathy and compassion are our tools in this battle. From The Guardian:

Think of all those tiny interactions between different ethnic groups on an average British city street: the newsagent, the corner shop, the delivery driver, the postman, friends laughing, children playing, a pair of lovers. This is what generates passive tolerance. You don't have to be part of the interaction yourself; just witnessing it is enough to have a significant impact – comparable to the effect passive smoking has on your health, hence the term passive tolerance.

What's more, there have been a bunch of studies in the last 10 years that basically reinforce this concept of passive tolerance. In one study, the researchers stated:

They were careful to rule out the most obvious explanation for their finding, social psychologists Miles Hewstone and Katharina Schmid explain – namely, that the higher levels of tolerance in more diverse neighbourhoods are a result of more tolerant people choosing to live there. Two of the studies were conducted over several years and tracked the same individuals, showing how attitudes changed. Even prejudiced people showed a greater degree of tolerance over time if they lived in a mixed neighbourhood.

So I get to live in this soup of multiculturalism, which, as it turns out, has more benefits than just being able to get sushi delivered or being able to enjoy arapas when you get the craving. It's made me more tolerant of different religions, traditions, cultures, and even sexual fetishes. No, wait, scratch that last one. You get the idea though.

Again, I remind you, in these coming weeks and months, take some time to reflect on the notion upon which this country was founded and what she continued to be as she grew up. America has, for nearly 250 years, extended her arms to people of all races, religions, social circumstances, and political affiliations. Remember the "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free?" It's on the goddamn Statue of Liberty, which France gave us as a goddamn gift.

And if you don’t think being patriotic to one of your country's mission statements is good enough, trying behaving in a way that honors the basic tenants of your faith. WWJD? I dunno, but I'm guessing it DOESN'T involve turning away orphans who just want to live in a place where their mothers and sisters aren't being raped daily and they don't have to worry about a bomb destroying their entire neighborhood, let alone their houses.

Please be kind to your fellow humans, in real life and on the internet, my precious Buddhafaces. And if you really want to go a step further, here is some information from the Charity Navigator site (a site that rates which charities are actual the best to give to if you want most of your money to actually go to where it's supposed to) about the best charities to give to help Syrian kids. Every year I buy canned goods to help people in my country; why should I make a distinction not to help someone else because they come from a different part of the world?

End soapbox rant\

Just go out and do nice things for people. Seriously. #GoBeKind



Funny, Wasn't I *Just* Talking About Fear and Anxiety?

Yeah, so my last entry was just about how we've become all anxiety-ridden and fearful of the world we inhabit…then Beirut, Paris, Kenya, Nigeria happened. Christ y'all, I'm trying---as I'm sure we all are---to find some solid emotional ground in the wake of such madness. I read a really good article on Gawker, of all places, about Why Terrorism Works. The author states:

Rage and fear. These are the twin goals of terrorists. And terrorism is wonderfully effective at achieving these goals. All of our rhetoric about bravery and freedom and honor and Settled Determination to Push Forward After This Tragedy rarely adds up to anything more than rage and fear. Our responses to terrorism are based on rage and fear. Because of this, terrorism works.

Rage and fear, two very dangerous emotions. When people are full of rage or fear, they do dumb things. They overreact and lash out, usually at people and things that have nothing to do with the aggressors themselves. For rage and fear are not able to be finely tuned, so it pours out indiscriminately, scorching everything with its lack of precision and finesse. I read a really good article about the social and emotional effects of 9/11 on Americans, which states:

When offenders cannot be punished directly, people lash out against alternative targets that they perceive as similar in some key way to the original offender or offenders (a phenomenon known as displaced aggression).

These misdirected emotions are called moral outrage and not only cause harm to innocent people, but it rots your psyche. A mind consumed with blind rage is no better than what the aggressors believe in and have shown the world. If you stoop down to that level---that level of blind hatred---it can not only cause real danger to others and to yourself, but now you're thinking the same way your enemy is; you are at his level now and, hence, he has won. Not to use a flippant metaphor, but it's the geopolitical equivalent of a boy pinching you on the playground to get you to scream and retaliate. Not only that, getting the western world to turn on ALL Muslims, even the peaceful ones, is part of ISIS's mission, so turning to suspicion and hate and lashing out at Arab Americans who had nothing to do with ISIS's actions is helping ISIS realize one of its goals.

Maybe I could at least see it if this hatred were in any way productive, but it rarely is. So, for example, in your fear and disgust, you find yourself being consumed with hatred and suspicion for all Muslims, people wearing burkas, or hell, just a Sikh person in a turban even though they're not Muslim, but you think, "Who cares? The fuck is the difference anyway?" In your fear and rage, you're grasping at straws.

What is the benefit of carrying around all that hatred? To what end? What are you accomplishing? You're making yourself tense and anxious and you're in no way "combating terrorism." Why would you constantly let that rotten, fetid feeling consume you when---unless you're planning on going over to Syria personally and going Rambo on their asses---you can't really affect any sort of change.

What if you, say, made it a point to strike up a conversation with the hijab-wearing woman whom you see in your coffeeshop five days a week instead? What if you just started with some small nicety "Can you believe this weather?" and it went from there? What if it continued slowly like that, for a few weeks, until you found yourself looking for her, wanting to join her at her table? What if you actually got her story? I'm not saying she's going to have some harrowing tale of washing ashore in a raft, but I bet you hearing her story makes you have empathy for her, and maybe even her family members, who may still be elsewhere, stuck and living in danger. This type of coping mechanism---the counterpoint to the moral outrage discussed above---is called moral cleansing or the act of performing kind acts to reassure ourselves that the world and all people aren't evil. And now there's evidence that empathy can be learned; that is, a person can train themselves to be more empathetic

Look, I'm not saying you need to run out and join a fucking mosque, people. All I'm saying is that, post-9/11, this country became a scary place to be. The amount of anger, xenophobia, and hostility was at its peak throughout the general populace, and it led us to relinquishing a bunch of liberties we might not should have. And it led our government to act rashly to assuage that scared populace; for governments, too, can lash out in fear and anger. And in doing so, we helped contribute to this current mess.

And we've never really returned to "normalcy," have we? Whatever that looks like. No, the timeline for our country can now be divided into "Before" and "After." For the events of that fateful day have left deep emotional scars on our national psyche and on each of us individually. It changed everything, including the biggies---politics and religion---forever. A number of people realized, perhaps for the very first time, that America was not the righteous, impenetrable lady we'd learned about in grade school. No, she was flawed, fallible and, worse yet, vulnerable. A lot of us, whether we like to admit it or not, now waste at least part of our precious subconscious in a fight-or-flight mode. And a subconscious that is living in that constant terror is not a healthy one.

I have no answers, y'all. The best I can do is feel as much empathy as I can for not only ALL of the people who have been the senseless victims of terrorism at the hands of ISIS, but also the victims caught in the crossfire of our response to 9/11---the countless innocent men, women, children who had nothing to do with this mess, yet were killed by our bombs while going about their daily lives in their villages. This is what having empathy is about: being able to imagine what life is like for the refugees fleeing Syria in precarious, un-seaworthy rafts, or being able to understand the terror a woman and her children feel in Afghanistan when Taliban fighters invade and take over her village, killing the men, raping the women, and enslaving the children.

For during these dark and unpredictable times, I find it infuriating that the human race has chosen to divide itself over matters of religion, politics, class, and nationality, when what we need to be doing is uniting as simply Good vs. Evil. Obviously, I get that it's not always so black or white, but look, here we have a clear and present enemy who represents humans at their most vile, and the rest of the world sits here bickering about flags on Facebook, who gets the most media coverage, relaying incidents of Islamophobia against innocent citizens, quibbling over national politics, and blaming everyone except the shitheads who are truly responsible for it. It weakens us, it weakens you, and it empowers them.

So think about your thoughts and actions around these issues in the coming weeks. Resist the urge to turn your mind over to fear and hate. Get away from your computer or TV and all the news and take a nice autumn walk with your dog or your sweetie. Notice the leaves changing, admire the beauty of fucking nature. Squeeze your loved ones and pets more often. Savor a good meal---I mean, really savor it. Rewatch your favorite movie. Have a board game night with your friends and get drunk and silly. And, yes, maybe go out of your way to be kind to a stranger who might be feeling like the world is watching him or her with suspicious eyes these days. Show them that the world can be a compassionate place, even while being simultaneously scary. 

Yeah, the world is on edge right now; I'd be blowing smoke up yall's asses if I told you otherwise. But let's just pretend the world will end next month. You wanna spend that month walking around screaming at people you perceive to be the enemy, getting into unwinnable arguments with people on comment threads on the internet, watching that vein on your forehead get bigger and bigger, and wiping anger-spittle off your lips? Or do you wanna focus on loving the people who love you, enjoying the things that make you happy, and being a kind and compassionate human being? 

I'm choosing peace. 

Suffer from Depression and Anxiety? Cymbalta Can Help!

Anyone else notice how we've added the word "anxiety" to the term "depression" in the last few years? It used to be that we just talked about depression, but now it's always the phrase "for sufferers of "depression and anxiety" or "this pill dramatically reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety."

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and came across this gem about How to Survive a Mass Shooting, and I thought "Oh for fuck sake, what the hell is this alarmist clickbait bullshit?" I read the article and had two major thoughts: First, I was struck by how calm and non-alarmist the article actually was (that is, it was genuinely meant to convey information); and secondly, I thought "This is the equivalent of telling a woman that if she doesn't want to get raped, she shouldn't dress in slutty clothing."

For this is what it's come to. A couple of years ago, when a mentally disturbed kid went into an elementary school and shot a bunch of six-year-olds, I thought "At last, finally they can't ignore the gun control issue anymore." But the minute America decided that a bunch of dead little kids was okay, I knew we'd fully lost the battle. So now it's up to us. Soon we'll all be wearing Kevlar vests under our clothes, and that will be the new normal. Fashion designers will have to account for the added bulk underneath, and all the emaciated models on the runway will be sporting them. This is what it has come to.

I prefer driving around with all my car windows down to running the AC. I just like the wind in my hair. Then I heard on the news that there's been a spate of people running up to people with open car windows and snatching their purses and backpacks out of the passenger seats and running off. So now I wrap the straps of whatever bag I have with me around my parking brake as I drive. This is what it has come to.

I used to like to sit outside at various coffeeshops when I write. But there has been a rash of robberies where people are sitting at tables outside coffeeshops and the robbers run by and grab laptops off the tables, and before the victim is even aware of what's happening, the robber is half a block away. Now I sit inside at the back of any given shop and wonder whether I should buy one of those cords to wrap around my laptop. This is what it has come to.

Within the first year of moving into our new home, our car was broken into three times. Each time, we kept less and less in the car, and nothing at visible. The last time it was broken into, the thief stole our dental floss that we keep in our console for flossing emergencies because that was, literally, all we had in there. Our house was broken into. While we were in it. We had to break down and buy a security system, even though we didn't want to be those people that shielded ourselves from the outside world. Now we arm ourselves from the Others every night. Us vs. Them. This is what it has come to.

Guns used to be used in situations of anger in one-on-one situations, situations where a someone had a beef against another person or people for a specific reason (real or imagined). Then, in 1991, a dude in Killeen, Texas, George Hennard, walked into a Luby's cafeteria and gunned down 23 people, and suddenly the concept of a person killing a large group of innocent people for no reason with a gun or guns was a possibility. You could just be sitting in a restaurant, eating dinner with your family, and suddenly your life could be over. Then it was you could be the food court of a shopping mall. Then it was you could be watching a movie in a theater. Then it was you could send your kid off to high school and he or she could die. Then it was you could send your kindergartner off to school, for fuck's sake. Then it was you could be literally sitting and praying in your house of worship. This is what it has come to.

Then, in a new wrinkle in 2015, you could, literally, be on live TV, and be gunned down in front of thousands of people watching their morning news before heading off to work.

This is what it has come to.

Is it any wonder at all that "anxiety" now goes hand in hand with depression? Of course we're fucking anxious. When you start looking around---and you don't have to look that hard---it sure does seem that everyone and everything is out to gun us down, steal our shit, and leave us for dead. Plus, in addition to the NRA, the gun lobby, and the inbreds with their fingers on their triggers, we are also fed a steady diet of horrific news in our Twitter or Facebook feeds, so even if no gun nut has shot anyone in your own neighborhood or movie theater, you have easy access to the other "deadly" news that jams up our brains. Now our food is killing us, so is our water, so is the FUCKING AIR, for chrissakes. I mean, when you really stop and think about it---and plenty of us do---really the whole planet and everyone on it is conspiring to end your life. 

And you say you feel a little anxious? Can't imagine why.

"Depression hurts...Cymbalta can help."
I think I own these very same sweats.

So yeah, you can go see your doctor and get your Zoloft, Prozac, or Paxil, and I certainly don't condemn the happy meds; they work for many people, me included. But if you're using those meds and not altering your behavior and what you choose to look at each day, you're essentially still standing in the shit and wondering why you're covered with flies. If you're not taking some steps to self-soothe (like meditation) or if you're not modifying what you read on the interwebs each morning (please stop reading Fox News), you could be mainlining that Prozac and you're still gonna have a bad time.

So if you're someone who is currently taking anxiety meds but still listening to your town's police scanner, getting a steady diet of alarmist news, and spending time with Debbie Downers all day long, maybe it's time to modify your behavior a bit, so that you're working in tandem with your meds and not against them. Maybe try some experiments---vow that you're not going to watch or read any news for a month or that you're going to give up all social media for a week. See if it makes a difference on your outlook.

Look, I live in fucking Oakland, a city about which many crime jokes are made. I'm not advocating that you bury your head in the sand and walk down Telegraph Street at 2:00 a.m. with your laptop bag wide open. If you live in an urban area, it pays to have some common sense and street savvy. I'm still not typing this entry from the sidewalk table outside the coffeeshop; I'm still firmly entrenched in my back-of-the-store seat. But I have changed my behavior in how I meditate and in what I click on. I never click on articles from certain publications or articles that have alarmist and horrible headlines. I've stopped posting alarmist and angry stories (mostly) on my own feed so others don't have to read those kinds of stories either. And I never read comments on articles, for that is the Satan's butthole of the internet. I can promise you, you will never have a rosy view of humanity while reading any comments forum. (Unless it's Gawker comments---sweetbabyjesus, that is some of the funniest writing on the 'net.)

Yes, the world is undeniably a shitty and unsafe place, probably even most of the time. But there are certain steps you can take to minimize your exposure to it. Stay sharp out there, but stay smart too. And just to be safe, before you shut down your computer or phone for the night, you should probably watch some cute-ass animal videos before bed. 

Love at first bite.

Posted by Telly Leung on Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Episode 2 of the Podcast is Up!

First of all, thank you all for the amazing feedback on the first episode! Eddie was a great interview. He's got personality that jumps through the microphone, so he made it easier on me. But I'm glad you guys are all liking it, and I've gotten a bunch of messages from folks telling me that it's helping them and they found it funny, enjoyable, and enlightening. Makes me feel like my ass ain't just hangin' in the wind for nothin'. So thank you! And I appreciate ALL feedback, so if you have constructive criticism, I wanna hear that too. I know a bunch of you are avid podcast listeners, so feel free to drop me a line and let me know if you've got suggestions for me. Either leave me a comment on this blog or email me at feedback@strugglingbuddha.com. 

Without further ado, I present Episode 2, Sarah. Sarah is a friend of mine who is going through Stage IV breast cancer. A family friend and cancer researcher told her in her early twenties, after a bout of cervical cancer and benign breast lumps, that her cancer would inevitably come back, probably in her early forties, so she'd better live the way she wanted to live for the next 20 years. So she went out and made her life exactly what she wanted of it---starting a number of businesses, traveling the world, partying with the jet set, and eventually making her way to Europe to train to become a sommelier. 

The result was a life less ordinary, a great outlook on life, and some ridiculously cool stories. And even though, yes, cancer is back in her life, she still has a great attitude. So pop in those earbuds and give our interview a listen, won't you? 

(PS: we are still in the process of registering with iTunes and Stitcher, so currently the only way to listen is to go through the Soundcloud link I posted here. Be patient...we'll soon be on iTunes, google, and Stitcher.)






O Happy Day!

First and foremost, I wanna thank any of you who listened to my podcast, which I released on Tuesday! I’ve been getting good feedback, which makes me deliriously happy. My producer, Thor (I know, my producer’s name is THOR, how rad is that?!?) says I need to prepare myself for the inevitable haters because The Internet, and I know it will surely come, but right now I’m trying very hard to take a minute to savor the fact that I finally accomplished this huge thing I’ve been talking about for two years.

For I noticed that I never do that. I never take a second to soak in a goal achieved, an accomplishment, the house I just cleaned, the entry I just posted, the meal I just cooked…whatever it is. I rarely, if ever, let myself sit back, even for a second, and say to myself “I did that.” But sure as shit I will spend hours, if not days, beating the crap out of myself if I don’t achieve those goals or cross those things off my to-do list. So if I’m gonna give brain space to all the negative, it’s only fair I do the same for the sunny side.

Damn skippy!

So I’ve really been letting myself feel this sense of accomplishment. And it has soaked in! These last couple of days, I’ve been walking on air. And that’s permeated every other aspect of my life. I’ve been feeling more of a desire to connect with people, to be out in the world, to be a part of life again. And I’ve been feeling all “goodwill-towards-man” even.

The other night, as I was riding BART into the city to meet a friend for dinner, I was just sitting there feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy. And trust me when I say no one is ever filled with gratitude and joy on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains. Mostly, people are just filled with piss and vinegar. Okay, mostly piss. And I was just sitting there, listening to Alabama 3 through my headphones with a shit-eating grin on my face which, on BART, is usually an indicator of insanity so you do have to be a little vigilant. And it dawned on me that “Holy fuck, this feeling I’m feeling? It’s happiness. I’m actually happy right now!”

Well, actually Thor and I made it together

As someone who has been on a journey to reclaim her happiness for a few years now, you can imagine how much this fucking delighted me. “OMG, it’s working! I’m happy!” It was all I could do not to jump up and start spinning on the pole in the middle of the BART car, like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, but as a veteran transit rider, I knew to subdue my urges.

But fret not, no George W. Bush am I. You will not see an entry with a picture of me standing under a presumptuous and garish MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner. Happiness, I have learned, is indeed fleeting, so I’m savoring the shit out of this moment, knowing that there will be inevitable dark moments in my future. But right now this feels extraordinarily good.

And it is enough.