Year 40. Day 1.

I woke up. Brushed my teeth, puttered around. Picked up coffee and breakfast and drove to the park. The latte I finished en route and I ate most of a protein box in the car.  And then I went hiking by myself. Which… unless you count my exercise runs in the woods I’ve never done.

Matthew Inman (creator of the Oatmeal cartoon) wrote a thoughtful missive on the confusing and pointless idea of continuous permanent happiness. That’s how I interpreted it anyway. It’s not a destination you arrive at. Or a fucking journey either. The idea that you’re in this achievable stasis of contentment is just… wrong. It’s a recipe for frustrated failure that completely abandons the idea of nuance.

I am not always happy. Fuck, in the course of a single day the range of emotions I can, or may experience would read like a seizure of brain activity.

I think my goal for being 40 is just acceptance.  And by that I don’t mean passivity. I mean that for me there will never be enough. If I get hit by a car and lie bleeding in the street tomorrow, my dominant emotion will be frustrated rage, because I want more and it’s not enough time.  But what I realized when I laid with the arms of the person I’ve waited most of my life to be with riding out the last minutes of my thirties, is that… that same statement will probably still be just as true if I were 80. So I have to learn to take moments of satiety and accept that those are enough. I can’t use the word satisfaction, that doesn’t sound transient enough. I will feel… in moments, fulfilled. Not perpetually. Not as a single thing of achievement. Just here and there. And that sometimes I feel frustrated with the struggle to achieve, or to nail down what it is that I feel like I “should” be doing.  Not for anyone else, or record keeping, or comparison. Just… true attunement to the frequency I run on. That I have given myself enough fuel and space and input to know what it is that feels valuable and meaningful to me. To stop and pay attention to myself and go into the woods or read or write to listen to music and remember what I’m supposed to be doing.  Create. Thrive. Adapt. Struggle. Suffer if I have to, at least if the pain is part of intelligent growth, in pursuit of something meaningful. Because it won’t all be glorious joy, it can’t be.  Acceptance of the fact that the elation is always the counterpoint on the pendulum to sadness, grief, stress, struggle. And none of things are bad. They just are.

The kind of pain that’s pointless is the stupid external measurements and restrictions you apply to yourself that are part of a system or idea or goal that isn’t something self identified.  WHY are you doing what you’re doing? Is it for you? What purpose does it serve? If the struggle is truly in pursuit to be your own person it matters, it will have results you won’t feel frustrated by or stress that isn’t just an irritating pointless wave.

I need to spend more time deliberating. To… Exercise. Write. Read.

The end of my marriage was the start of something. The universe answering a question I spent a long time figuring out how to ask. Here’s a milestone birthday. Use your one lifetime wisely.  Weather the unexpected with as much patience and grace as you’re able, forgive yourself when things don’t go exactly as you planned. Chase the things you want. Love big. Leap, push, grow and don’t stop to look around to wonder what anyone else things about what you’re doing.  Don’t waste the time, because you can’t ever get it back.

Live. Live. Live!  because you’re eventually going to fucking die!

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Notes from Trip 39 Around the Sun

It’s been an interesting year.

I ended a nearly 10 year relationship with my best friend & we’re now divorced. Amicably but necessarily distant. People change. To me the idea of doing nothing was ultimately more difficult to swallow than completely starting over. He’s a person I respect, admire, and love but it was no longer working for me. I feel immensely grateful that, with a few completely understandable bumps, we handled the entire thing like two people who respect and care for each other … and I learned that happens far less often than it should.

So if you’re reading this and don’t know what to say, don’t sweat it. I realize it’s an awkward thing for people to respond to. Now you know. No condolences required. It was a difficult thing and I am a much different person than I was 9 months ago.

I am more than ok. Things are great.

My family above everything else are happy, safe, and healthy. The rest of it, while trying at times, is just part of being alive. Through all of this they reminded me that I never have to doubt their love, support, and loyalty. We do insanity well, and no one goes it alone.

My friends are extraordinary. Patient, compassionate, brilliant, brave people. To anyone I doubted ever, even just to myself, I’m sorry… that was always about me, never about you.

My job. Has transformed into more of an actual career than I could have ever anticipated. Getting the hell out of the toxic environment I was in over a year ago was far and away was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I work with some of the coolest, smartest people I’ve ever met. I feel stupid every day but never without resources. Humility means growth. I work in a culture that actually is …so much more about people’s intellect and ability than anywhere else I’ve ever worked. I have flexibility that I’ve never dreamed of and like every popular article about modern start-up culture, unlimited PTO, and flexible work environments preach, if you treat people right they will give you their best. Sometimes my best in the last year has been lacking a bit while I navigated a gigantic tidal wave of personal changes… but I truly feel like I work in an environment where my personal desire to perform well is something that my colleagues share, just for the sake of building something cool. After my first year and the departure of my boss/a company founder I inherited a lot more responsibility, and actually got a raise I feel like I deserved and didn’t have to fight with anyone for it. I try never to take it for granted. I’ve had a job since I was 15 and I’ve been through my share of shitty employment. I know how bad it can be.

I sold the first house (condo) I ever bought. I lived without a car for 7 months & bought a new one. I moved into a fabulous apartment with one of my oldest friends.

I PAID OFF ALL OF MY REMAINING STUDENT LOANS AND MY LAST CREDIT CARD. I have a car loan. That’s it. I have never been this kind of *debt-free* in my entire life. Finally. FINALLY. I will never get tired of reading that.

I’ve traveled. I went to L.A., twice. To Philly. To Florida to surprise my Grandma for her 80th birthday. To Portland for work and for fun, twice in less than 7 months. To Baltimore, Richmond, into the woods. I’ve gone to shows, baseball games, to museums, to restaurants, movies, happy hours, dinners, taken road trips. I started work to complete my large tattoo (all the road trips). I cut my hair (see the photo duh). I celebrated my Mom’s retirement (how is that even possible – neither of us is old enough for that). I’m going to spend TWO weeks at the beach (some of it working).

I started over.

I fell in love. Hard. That’s a long story for another day. Probably not here. 😛

I read a story somewhere, possibly fictitious… it doesn’t diminish the sentiment.

A little girl and her younger sister are at the pool. The older sibling is in the deep end trying to coax the younger sister to dive in. “But I’m scared” insists the little girl. They go back and forth, unaware they’re being observed. Finally an older woman, watching the exchange swims over to the younger girl at the edge of the pool. “It’s ok to be scared. Be scared and do it anyway.”

It’s a concept I try to embrace, daily… but also when faced with major decisions. I’ve said it a lot, to numerous people. I’ll say it again here. Fear is a terrible motivator. If you’re doing, or more likely NOT doing something, because you’re afraid – it’s a really good idea to divert all of your energy to figuring out why and most of the time, to do the thing anyway. In the last year I’ve done some of the hardest things I could of previously imagined and survived. Sometimes the real challenge is trusting yourself, you have to learn how to just get out of your own way.

When people talk about deathbed regrets they are never things you’ve done, they’re all of the things undone. The choices made by apathy. Surrender to attrition. The last year of my life was an utter refusal to give in to that. If I sound like I’m boasting, I no longer care. I make no apologies for being a driven, imperfect, fierce individual. I’m proud of the choices I made because a lot of them were incredibly difficult. They ran the gamut of pain from basic anxiety to near-paralyzing terror.

I was scared, I did it anyway and I am happier than I have ever been. So I’ll enjoy these last few days of my thirties, but by all means bring on 40… I can’t wait.

Best Year Ever?

I’ll drink more water. Start there. Take your vitamins everyday. Sleep. Stretch. Read. Go outside. Maybe let that timed electric toothbrush make it the full 2 minutes. If you add all of that up does it mean I’m doing it right? I’ll turn it into a clickbait top 10 list, BUILDING THE NEW YOU. I’m fine with the current me (you), I’d like to just treat this person right.

I am starting this year in a completely different place. I have a new-ish job, that in the 6 months since I’ve started has turned into one of the more rewarding and stable aspects of my life, some of that is by virtue of comparison (to previous jobs, to other facets of my life) and some is because there is not enough I can say about working within a culture that rewards intellect and skill over being the appropriate shaped “peg” to jam into a corporate setting. Being freed to stop dressing up like someone else (a normal cubicle jockey) and being allowed to focus instead on the work itself rather than the personal drama of the workplace is so fundamentally liberating it pains me to think of going back to an environment that diverts so much energy to the bullshit of office politics over the actual work of contributing to the business. Oh, and working for assholes < — never again.

So as far as my professional outlook, 2017 is already kicking 2016’s ass (unless you count landing this job as a 2016 accomplishment and let’s just call that an even split.

I’m living solo for the first time in… forever. Roommate-less, legit solo. On the couch in my underwear, dishes piled in the sink if I want (ew, no), hey I should take that trash out, a-l-o-n-e.  I cut my hair differently.

I’ m still making pottery, three years running now. I think I’m finally in a place where I want to start pushing myself to try harder and more complex projects. Bigger, more intricate, more focused. I’ve considered upgrading my status in the studio from student to community artist but I’m going to hold off a bit longer while I wrangle with some financial items. (see the whole…  living alone thing – it’s a bit more expensive).

I had dinner with a friend a couple of weeks ago and she said that she’d read a “resolution” challenge that suggested you find three specific words to define your goals or motivations for the coming year and she’d thought about it and opted for one word instead. A part of my brain spent the remainder of that dinner ruminating on what that particular word would be for me. Everything I come up with sounds like a word a stupid college girl would get tattoo’d above her ass but it seems inescapable so fine, passion. That’s what I choose.

This year will be the best year ever, if only because it will be about both the things I want and don’t want. What I don’t want is to waste my time on anything that I don’t feel passion for. Hobbies, activities, people.  Life is achingly short, this is true if it lasts until you’re 25 or 50 or 100. If you’re doing it right, it’s never going to be enough time.

So yes, this is the year that I’m getting divorced and turning 40 and possibly having to sell my house and the first time I will likely owe the IRS money (fuck me). And I live alone and I’m starting over and I’ve spent the last three months running around not taking the best care of myself (exercise anyone?). But I refuse to let any of that bog me down. I have spent a lot of time in pain, doubting myself and wondering what idiot lived inside me that thought I had anything figured out, for the record I don’t, and neither do you.

But I started the year in a good place. I traveled to California to visit my best friend. I have a job I that I enjoy. I get to make art. I fell in love with someone. And so fuck the milestone birthday and the taxes and the reboot, the year will be good because that’s what I can control, how I deal with it, what I decide. So this year will be about music, and art, and travel, and books, and food, and the amazing people in my life, all the things that make me feel better about being alive, hideous-facist president, rapidly-dying cultural icons, total life-upheavel be damned.

This year I will (want to)…

Hike, go outside, walk, spend time in nature whenever I can.
Read. Put my phone down for fuck’s sake when I could have a book in it instead.
Travel  – near and far, whatever makes sense
Push myself at work so I feel better about what I’m contributing (classes, conferences, what else?)
Art – view, witness, create. Go to exhibits, plays, events. Make pottery, take more photos, find ways to combine my interests (getting my tattoo finished this year makes me feel really good about this too)
Music – shows, shows, shows.
Self-care – exercise, food, sanity, (also omg this is dumb but I’m going to start carrying a knife again). I’m good about these things but they’re the first to be neglected when routine is stretched. Find a new hobby (yoga studio?, get a bike?, start walking literally everywhere haha)

 

 

 

Devil’s in the details

I had a great weekend. Somehow psychologically I have a weird need to do a variety of things to feel like my weekend was useful. Type A weirdness variety but between pottery and errands and then spending the evening visiting with friends. Sunday was an early morning to meet my Mom and my nephew for breakfast and a hike and then stopping for groceries on the way home. Suddenly napping for two hours afterwards didn’t feel wasteful and indulgent because I felt like I’d spent the time so well. It’s a stupid set of rules to impose on myself but I can’t seem to help from doing it. Ever mindful of the passage of time and wanting to feel like I’m spending this finite and invaluable currency well. It’s an admirable goal, I just want to avoid cultivating some sort of anxious neurosis.

Today I’m working from home. Admittedly because as I’m still learning things at my new job I am in a place where I’m not terribly knowledgeable or productive so I knew today would be slow. I feel this weird guilt gnawing at my thoughts because I want to be doing more but I’m not great with abstracts in this context. I could “read up” on the topics related to my new gig but that seems … sort of like time wasting. Which I’m not a big fan of. So I try not to actively worry too much that I”m not pulling my weight and also try to steer clear of being pointless defensive about being accused of not doing anything. I’m proactive about asking for work and offering to help and beyond that I can’t do much more, I don’t want to be a nuisance about helping. I’m often left wondering how many PTSD symptoms I have from my previous gig. Such an epic heap of paranoia and negativity I imagine it will be months before I finally shed the full weight of the baggage.

If I spend too much time thinking about it, atleast right now it feels weird and potentially cyclically damaging. Like… my life is great overall. I had an excellent weekend, I have a great job, spending all of my time wondering about the impermanence of this job, my life, my overall existence is quite literally HELPING NOTHING. It changes nothing. It accomplishes … NOTHING. So I shouldn’t do it. What I should do is be grateful and try to enjoy my life. That I’m at home in pajamas and I’m not super busy. That will come. I am smart and capable and even if the absolute worst thing happens and I get fired because they decide I am stupid and useless and unnecessary (which typing it out here seems ridiculous) I would STILL be ok.  I would live. I would find another job and journey my way back to sanity and stability. I can only do what I can do.

This weekend I spent great time with friends and family. I called my Dad. I bought a gift to thank a neighbor that’s been really helpful.

I am safe and healthy and can quite literally do anything I want. I think I just need somewhere to say it outloud and remember. And oh YEAH I went running and my knees and legs hurt but I didn’t die. So there.

Let me go back to sucking it up and not being such an enormous dumbass about everything.

Caution, this may be habit forming

Or you hope. I’m sure out there in the wide world of the interweb there’s an article on some helpful self-improvement themed website that tells me how long I have to do something before it becomes second nature. Or wait is that a Japanese cultural thing that I read about somewhere

I think lately I’m attempting that with so many things they were getting diluted. The financial, the nutritional, the psychological (and massively personal) and the fitness.  IMPROVE ALL THE THINGS.

So the financial is rolling. There’s nothing to convince me of (for myself) or the audience (if they’re participating). We are trucking along, honing our grocery shopping skills, getting better at packing lunches, not eating out, but still every weekend feels fun and busy with cool things and we’re 16% of the way through a year and it’s not easy, but it’s no longer something I’m psychologically obsessing about at every turn. I knew that our transition to spending less money wouldn’t be that challenging since we’re surrounded by a derth of kick ass people who share our interests. It’s just keeping the momentum going.

Psychological is obviously more nuanced and multifaceted. I will say that part of the momentum for staying on top of getting the fuck out of debt is that being financially free, untethered to bills leaves so many other possibilities open. You don’t owe anyone anything, so you can theoretically *do* whatever you want. The consequences of becoming a gypsy are less dire. It’s a real driving influence sometimes. Like this weekend, when we managed to get out of town for a few days, to eat and sight-see and just be. There’s no groceries to buy or laundry to fold, and I can spend two hours walking around outside in a cemetery taking photos. It’s liberating. Not just to break out of the routine but to be reminded to force yourself to do so in every day life when the opportunity presents itself. It’s kind of an unnatural tendency for most people, to push yourself to chase after new things, but it really helps strip away the bullshit most of the time. The rest of the facets, eh… I’m not sure I’m game to expose all of those parts here. But it’s more deliberate upheaval, all with positive changes in mind, so things just to evaluate rather than to lament. Onward, upward, etc…

And finally… nutritional. After a mini vacation that included three days of unadulterated gluttony, I’m back at work and back directly on the wagon. No coffee (I can’t drink it w/o diabeeeetus level sugar), no sugar, massive vegetables, water and fats/protein. Minimal to no fruit – mainly berries. Maintaining around 50g of carbohydrates, get into ketosis and get rid of this extra bullshit fat weight that has insidiously added itself to my person. A 1000 mile journey begins with a single step, yadda yadda, so fucking grouchy.