Happy wagon: self-care

For once, my reason for failing to write is not that I’ve been too depressed and anxious, but that I’ve been too busy appreciating not being so depressed and anxious. There are a lot of reasons for this–having someone else around the house again, so much sunshine, slowly but surely learning how to stop feeling guilty for the way my life is right now and all the free time I have, consistently remembering to take my medication, etc–but I’m not going to make a new happy wagon list about them. Instead, I’m going to share this self-care list, because these are all things that are important for me to do to maintain health and sanity (using both those terms pretty loosely here), and I’ve done almost all of them recently, and I think that counts as a happy wagon list so writing another one would be redundant.

So, here are some important self-care things, some of which are pretty specific to me but some of which are more universally applicable.

  • read fanfiction (romance, fluff)
  • go to bed early
  • spend time outside in the sun, or use light box if no sun is available
  • read favorite children’s books
  • take a hot shower
  • cover self in lotion, brush hair, put on perfume, get dressed
  • listen to Dan Gibson birds and water playlist
  • eat dark chocolate
  • eat regular, full meals
  • stretch and treadmill
  • talk to/if possible spend time with loved ones who understand
  • cuddle cat
  • drink water
  • listen to comedy podcasts (HDTGM, Rooster Teeth)
  • read Jenny Trout’s Fifty Shades recaps

And here is a playlist for helping you to tap into your innate awesomeness. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for weeks and it’s made a noticeable difference in how I think about myself, so if you’re easily influenced like me, maybe it will do that for you too.

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On mental illness and personal narrative

This started out as a Facebook status, but then I kept adding words until I realized it was actually a blog post. So.

A fascinating (to me) thing about depression and anxiety is how insidious they can be, and how completely they can warp your thinking and perceptions and your baseline for feeling okay. I spent so long being miserable and exhausted and apathetic about everything that it became the normal state of things, and if anyone asked me how I was doing, I said I was fine, because I really thought I was. I thought that was just the way I was meant to feel, that maybe I was a little lazy, introverted, not a fan of going out, but mostly fine. And if I wasn’t fine, it was only because I was being silly or dramatic or having an off day/week/month/year/life.

But I was only going outside when I absolutely had to, and I was forcing myself through every day and then sleeping for hours in the middle of the afternoon because it took so much effort to be awake. Even when I was awake, I was mostly still in bed. I was hardly reading, wasn’t writing at all, was doing the bare minimum of connecting with people. I didn’t care about anything enough to commit to it in even the smallest ways, let alone in bigger life decisions ways. If I did commit to something, I quickly became panicked about it and wanted to distance myself from it. Winter was my favorite season because it was so cold that staying inside under blankets was what everyone was doing and I didn’t feel like I needed to make myself go outside. I was on edge all the time and cried at the drop of a hat. I called myself a misanthrope because it was easier to say I hated people than to say I was terrified of and exhausted by them, by their very existences. It’s unfathomable to me now that I existed in that state for so long and maintained even the vaguest semblance of being functional, and it’s unfathomable to me that I actually convinced myself I was more or less okay.

Now, I can’t get enough of being out in the sunshine. I want to go out and do interesting things and find interesting places, and meet new people (even if that’s still a little terrifying), and move my body (even if it’s just for fifteen minutes on the treadmill). I’m no longer ghostly pale and it turns out, all I had to do to get some healthy color was leave my house sometimes. Who knew? I make my bed when I get up every morning and I make a point of not getting back into it until I’m ready to wind down for the night. I still don’t eat as well or as often as I should and I still need excessive amounts of quiet alone time after being around people and I’m still too much in my own head, still carrying Xanax around in my purse just in case, still crying at the dentist and the gynecologist, still panicking about the passage of time and how much of it I’m wasting being crazy. I’m still not as good a friend as I would like to be, still too neglectful of the relationships that mean the most to me because distance complicates communication and sometimes, I’m just so tired. I’m still tired a lot. I still cry too easily. I still feel reflexively guilty for so much that isn’t my fault and so much that doesn’t even warrant guilt and so much I can’t change now anyway, and I still seek validation for everything from other people, even after I’ve already validated it for myself.

I’m not perfect, in other words. But now, I’m learning to be okay with that. To not tear myself apart for the slightest flaw, to not hold it up and magnify it until it eclipses all the good things about me. I’m learning that there’s no reason to be uncomfortable about saying I’m kind and funny and creative and good at the things I love doing, or that I’m strong and resilient and braver than I often feel. I’m learning that those things are a lot more important than all the things I think are so wrong with me, and that it takes good and bad to make a whole person.

And I’m learning to be proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I had to hit rock bottom, emotionally, to get here, but it’s okay. I’m sorry for the things that destructed along the way, or, more accurately, I’m sorry for the way they destructed, but it happened. It’s the past. I made mistakes and I didn’t handle things perfectly, and I’m going to make more mistakes and handle more things imperfectly, and that’s how life goes. But when it happens in the future, I’ll have more solid emotional structures to weather it, and I’ll be able to curb my catastrophizing tendencies and not self-destruct, and that’s not nothing. I’ve worked so hard over the past year or so, both in therapy and out of it. I’ve done so much. Just because the bulk of it has been internal doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

This wasn’t just intended as a rave about how great I am. I also want to say that if you’re anything like I was, if your position is even vaguely similar, you don’t have to live like that. And you don’t deserve to. Perpetual exhaustion/sadness/apathy, extreme reluctance to leave your house/apartment/whatever, fear of everyone and everything, those things aren’t normal. They don’t have to be your normal. This isn’t to imply that there’s something inherently wrong with you or that you’re failing by not fixing yourself/your circumstances. Ultimately you have to do what seems right and best for you, and that’s not always therapy or medication or exercise or any of the other things people always recommend. “Recovery” is a loaded concept that isn’t right for everyone. It’s just to say that if you aren’t happy with the way things are, if you don’t want them to stay that way forever, they can change. You can change them. Depression lies. It tells us that this is how things will be until we die, and, furthermore, that it’s how we deserve for things to be because we’re fundamentally terrible, unlovable human beings. But we’re not. You’re not.

I’m saying this because it’s what I needed to hear. I knew that therapy and medication were good things for other people, and that other people’s mental illnesses were real and serious and deserving of treatment. I knew that the things I was feeling and thinking were bad. But somehow, I couldn’t connect those two concepts into anything that involved asking for help. If I couldn’t be well and happy on my own, it just wasn’t meant for me. That’s nonsense. And it was also nonsense when just months after starting to meet with my first therapist, she decided that I was well enough to be done with therapy and go it alone again. She wasn’t a very good therapist. I didn’t try again for a while, because a professional had told me I was okay. But I wasn’t. My second therapist is so, so much better. I’ve been seeing her for just over a year now, and I think, maybe, at the end of the summer I’ll be ready to decrease the frequency of my sessions. Not stop them, probably, just decrease them. I have a concrete plan for what I want to do with my life, one that actually feels achievable and sustainable and enjoyable, unlike most of the others I’ve considered. If I could get to this point, you definitely can. I’m such an unmotivated, anxious, defeatist person, and, still, here I am.

Therapy and medication might not be your things. They’re the thingsI recommend most strongly because they’re the things that have been the most transformative for me, but you’re not me. All I’m trying to say here is that you don’t deserve to feel the way I felt, and you don’t have to just accept that as the baseline for feeling okay. The story I told myself when I was in the middle of feeling that way was a cruel, destructive, completely untrue story, and I’m sad for that self and how long she believed it. If you’re telling yourself a similar story, of being unworthy of help, of being not mentally ill enough, of being lazy and selfish and horrible, I just want you to hear that it’s not the truth, and that you deserve to write yourself a different, truer one.

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Monthly roundup: April 2015

This month I:

Read:

  • “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie (5*)
  • “Pear Shaped” by Stella Newman (3*)
  • “The Deal” by Elle Kennedy (4*)
  • “After Hours” by Cara McKenna (3*)
  • “Secret Admirer” by R.L. Stine (3*)
  • “The Prom Queen” by R.L. Stine (5* because I have no shame)
  • “Broken Hearts” by R.L. Stine (4*)
  • “The Runaway” by R.L. Stine (3*)
  • “One Evil Summer” by R.L. Stine (3*)

Watched:

  • a whole lot of Lifetime movies (2* pretty much all across the board)
  • nothing else new at all

Listened to:

  • Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly” (5*)
  • Harry Harris – “Harry Harris” and “Songs About Other People” (5*)
  • the new-ish Youtube of one of my brilliantly talented best friends, especially this and this (5* obviously)
  • the new Panic! at the Disco single (5*)

Did:

  • got so much sun, so much
  • planted a little indoor herb garden, a little outdoor herb garden, geraniums, and impatiens
  • went to an open mic night and socialized with a person I didn’t know, and committed to going to a cheese and wine party with even more people I don’t know
  • saw Iron & Wine in concert for the second (and probably last) time
  • had a salted caramel brownie brittle revelation
  • made significant therapy and self-care progress
  • I don’t know, probably other things, but April felt like a bit of a blur
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Top 5 favorite Fear Streets and why you should read them

Disclaimer: These books all contain pretty terrible and offensive portrayals of mental illness, blindness, romantic relationships, female friendship, fatness, being poor, etc etc. R.L. Stine appears to hate consent and everyone who isn’t rich, beautiful, and neurotypical. My fave is problematic, I already know. I would advise against reading any of this series, not just the ones discussed here, if you think any of these things might upset or trigger you.

In lieu of a happy wagon post, here’s one about Fear Street. It’s pretty much the same thing, anyway.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Fear Street has become one of the great joys of my life. I’ve read an embarrassing number of them over the past eight months or so, and, despite having loved almost all of them, a few favorites have emerged ahead of the rest. So now I’m going to tell you about those, and try to entice you to read them, too, so I’ll have company in being a grown adult reading these absurd teen horror stories.

“Switched”

Nicole always thought her friend Lucy’s life was so much better than hers. She had cooler parents, a cuter boyfriend . . . next to her, Nicole felt like a loser. So when Lucy asked if she wanted to switch bodies, Nicole thought it sounded like a fun idea. Good for a laugh. She didn’t realize the switch would actually work. Or that Lucy’s life might not be so sweet after all. Turns out, Lucy’s got a few issues. And she’s about to get her revenge — using Nicole’s body!

This was one of the first ones I read and it’s amazing. I figured out the twist about halfway through, but even so, I was legitimately hooked and anxious about how it would all turn out. Don’t judge me. It’s really depressing if you think about it too hard, so don’t do that either. Just read, try not to hate Nicole too much even though she’s incredibly annoying, and laugh
along with me at the terrible surprise! ending. And look forward to creepy well drowning scenes, heads being torn off with sounds like the scrape of Velcro, and the most inept police officers (or are they?) ever, in typical Shadyside fashion.

“The Face”

They say something horrible happened that day. But Martha can’t remember any of it–not the smallest detail. They say it will come back to her in time. But someone wants her to remember now. She draws his face, over and over–the face of a dead boy. She can’t control her hand. And she can’t remember how he died. But she’s going to find the answer.

This one is sooo good. If you don’t read any of the others (and you probably won’t), you should at least read this. There are kisses that taste like salty nacho chips, kisses that taste like candy bars, implausible hypnosis, the most unbelievably convenient plot contrivances in the history of terrible writing, and a fantastic decapitation scene in which someone’s head “bounced onto the snow. And emptied out. Emptied out. Emptied out.” It also has one of the flimsiest reasons for murder that I’ve ever read, even for Fear Street. And the most word repetition of any book ever. Basically, everything about this book is the best thing about it and you’re really missing out if you don’t read it.

“College Weekend”

Nothing can ruin Tina River’s big weekend at Patterson College with her boyfriend, Josh Martin. She’s so excited, she doesn’t even mind that her cousin, Holly, will be tagging along.

But when Tina and Holly arrive, Josh is gone. His roommate, Christopher Roberts, says Josh is stuck in the mountains, delayed by car trouble. That’s weird—Josh never mentioned he was going away.

It gets even weirder when Holly suddenly disappears. But Christopher isn’t worried— about Holly or Josh. Christopher seems to have the answer to everything. Tina is confused. But one thing is clear— she’s about to learn more about love and murder than she ever wanted to know.

This book has a disgusting description of a person’s face being burned away by photo developing chemicals. I’m not even sure if the chemicals in question could actually do that, but if reading about it happening isn’t something you’re eager to do, I don’t know what you’re doing here. It’s great. And before that, the villain forces the heroine to dress up in his dead girlfriend’s clothes and take pictures, and then in his great-grandmother’s clothes, and, I mean, come on. R.L. Stine has some serious problems and we’re blessed with these books where he tries to work them out, the least we can do is read them. This is also one of the most blatant depictions of his favorite “he forces himself on you because he loves you” trope, which, well … maybe you’re not eager to read about that, and fair enough, but it’s impossible for me to take seriously in these books. Maybe that makes me a garbage human being. So be it.

“Fear Hall: The Beginning” / “Fear Hall: The Conclusion”

Come with me to Fear Hall. That’s the creepy college dorm built many years ago by the cursed Fear family. Hope and her roomates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great…until one of them becomes a murderer! Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream! I hope you’ll join me for Fear Hall. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!

I read a recap of this duology before I read the books themselves, so the whole thing was spoiled for me. Don’t do that. Just read the books. They’re off the rails from start to finish, and so full of plot holes that it’s amazing there’s even a consistent narrative at all. I don’t know what I can tell you about them without ruining the experience of reading them, so you should just trust me. There are many gruesome murders, a violent, unstable boyfriend, terrible friends making the worst decisions possible, inept police, psychological contortions that will make your brain hurt both because they make no sense and because they’re awesome … everything you want from Fear Street, and they don’t even take place in Shadyside. Warning: there’s a lot of disturbing-ish fat-shaming, so, you know … if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, maybe give this a miss. It isn’t portrayed as an okay thing, but I also don’t think the effects it has on the girl in question are portrayed particularly sensitively. It also has a girl getting her skin burned and peeled off by six gallons of chlorine poured in a jacuzzi, though, and another one being steam pressed to death, so it’s got that going for it.

“Into the Dark

Paulette Fox refuses to let her blindness stop her from living a full life. But one thing she’s never done is fall in love–until now. Paulette knows Brad Jones is the only guy for her. Even when her friends see Brad commit a horrible crime, Paulette is sure that he’s innocent. Her friends tell her he’s out of control. That she will be his next victim. But Paulette knows he would never hurt her. Is Paulette right about Brad? Or has her love put her in terrible danger?

I haven’t laughed so much at a book since reading this, and before that, I hadn’t laughed so much since “Fifty Shades Freed”. If you’re one of my blind friends and inaccurate portrayals of blindness make you angry, you should probably skip it, but really, it’s fantastic. Paulette can tell exactly how fast her friend is driving by the way the wind feels on her face, identify people by smell, and travel all around town–even to an abandoned house–on her own, but she needs guide rails to find her way around her own backyard. She doesn’t want her parents and friends to be so overprotective of her, but she makes such ridiculously stupid decisions that she’d probably be dead if they weren’t. She refuses to call the police when her bedroom is vandalized, lies to her parents after the villain tries to pull her out her bedroom window, and refuses to call the police again when the villain creeps and heavy breathes around her backyard and takes away her guide rails, all because she doesn’t want people to think she can’t take care of herself. Spoiler alert: she really can’t. She also feels people’s faces to get an idea of what they look like, which, like. Writers. Stop this. It’s not a thing. We don’t do it. Ditto counting steps. But actually if you’re my guy R.L., don’t stop it, do it as much as you want. This book is flawless, even though the twist was obvious from the beginning, and I’ll probably read it many more times.

Honorable mentions:

“The Boy Next Door”

Lynne and Crystal think Scott has it all. He’s handsome. He’s the new star of Shadyside High’s football team. And he’s moved in right next door! Both girls will do anything. Say anything. Try anything to get the chance to go out with him. That’s all either of them want.

But that’s all Scott’s last girlfriend wanted, too – and now she’s dead.

This is R.L. Stine’s attempt at a “Psycho” ripoff, except the villain doesn’t become his mother when he kills, he just mutters phrases she’s drilled into his head. Warning: a dog gets killed with a pair of hedge clippers. Pets are another thing R.L. Stine hates. There are elements of this book that I actually find a little unsettling, especially for a Fear Street story, and a lot of it takes place from the killer’s point of view. But there are hilariously dramatic internal monologues to balance it out, and it contains the line, “Okay. So we’re both hot for his bod!” I love the idea of someone actually saying that and also the idea of R.L. Stine writing it. And I love such charitable sisterly thoughts as, “She hated it when Melinda put herself down that way. Sure, Melinda was plain, and shy, and kind of drab. But she could have a shot at any guy if she made the effort.”

“The Prom Queen”

A spring night…soft moonlight…five beautiful Prom Queen candidates…dancing couples at the Shadyside High prom—these should be the ingredients for romance.

But stir in one brutal murder—then another, and another—and the recipe quickly turns to horror.

Lizzie McVay realizes that someone is murdering the five Prom Queen candidates one by one—and that she may be next on the list! Can she stop the murderer before the dance is over—for good?

Lizzie McVay is the best Fear Street heroine I’ve read so far, maybe the only good one there is. Pushy Shadyside boys don’t get her all hot and bothered, and she actually kicks one of them out of her house and another out of her car when they get creepy, and calls one of them out for cheating on his girlfriend and assuming she must be interested in him because every girl is. She has a long-distance boyfriend she only communicates with through letters because I guess this is set in the 1800s, and she never cheats on him even though he’s not in the book at all until the end. That’s a low bar to set, but sadly, it’s saying something for Fear Street girls. She also breaks the villain’s foot at the end and manages to save herself, rather than being last-minute saved by the police or the guy she likes. And she’s mostly nice to people and not a terrible friend, except for the catty mean girl thoughts she has, like, “Rachel wasn’t the most popular girl in the class or anything, but that was mainly because she was so shy. Well, I guess it was also because she had a bitter streak in her, about being poor and all.” And, “Simone was playing Maria Von Trapp, of course. She always was the star. Even though she didn’t make a very convincing nun.” That’s so perfectly high school and I love it.

Please read any or all of these books. Do it. And then talk to me about them.

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Things that make the world wonderful

Periodically, usually when I’m feeling very sad, I return to this list to reread it and, if I can, add new things to it. I’m not feeling very sad today–in fact, I feel so full of happiness just at this moment that my heart could burst with it–but I know some people who are, and I doubtless will be again soon, so I’m sharing it anyway. I think I’ve shared it on this blog before, but it can’t be shared too much.

You could also consider it a stand-in for the happy wagon posts I haven’t been writing, but I’m not labeling it as such because happy wagons are about my current daily life, and this list is about all times and all lives.

  • sleepy puppies
  • purring kittens
  • all kinds of kittens
  • early mornings
  • late evenings
  • honeysuckle
  • chicken salad sandwiches
  • swings
    • * porch
    • playground
    • rope
  • lake swimming
  • birdsong
  • whippoorwills
  • freshly washed sheets
  • picnics and picnic food
  • waterfalls and streams
  • trees and treehouses
  • children’s literature
    • Beatrix Potter
    • Winnie-the-Pooh
    • Pippi Longstocking
  • fresh-baked brownies
  • fresh-baked everything else
  • breakfast
    • French toast
    • homemade waffles
    • omelets
    • blueberry and lemon poppyseed muffins
    • scones
  • books
    • new
    • old
    • in general, their smell and pages and the weight of them in your hands
  • snail mail
  • writing compliments
  • windchimes
  • rag dolls and stories about them
  • waking up in the night and realizing there are hours left to sleep
  • the smell of plants and damp earth
  • babies
    • smell
    • soft heads and skin
    • warm weight
    • funny little noises
    • laughter
  • pinwheels
  • writing during thunderstorms (see also: being a nice cliche)
  • tea sets and tea set jewelry
  • fairy houses
  • anthropomorphic animals
  • bells
    • tinkling
    • church
    • jingle
  • the change from summer to autumn, the world breathing a sigh of relief
  • the change from winter to spring, the world stretching and opening its eyes and starting to dance
  • Neil Gaiman’s lovely voice
  • musicians who are so good it physically hurts to hear them and try to comprehend their perfection
  • the moment of just waking up, before you remember that you’re a person with a name and a life and things to think about
  • craft fairs
  • Halloween
  • Christmas
  • bare feet on warm earth
  • brightly painted nails
  • sundresses
  • sunshine and sun-warmed hair
  • strawberries
  • lemonade
  • trains and train whistles in the distance
  • laughing so hard that you forget what you were originally laughing at and end up laughing at yourself for laughing
  • people who encourage you to be and make you feel comfortable being wholly yourself, and who bring out the best of you without even trying
  • having a clean house
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She learned a shining language

Day 7 of The Enchantment Diaries from The Fable Tribe
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

SHE LEARNED A SHINING LANGUAGE

What are you most good at?

Don’t self-edit. Write down everything you can think of that you’re proud of knowing or creating or being.

These are the languages by which the world may not measure your worth, but by which your story is created.

Celebrate one of your favorite achivements today.

I’m a very compassionate an empathetic person. I care so much about other people and their lives, both the happinesses they experience and the sadnesses, and if I don’t have firsthand understanding of what they’re going through, I want to learn about it. I want very much to help people, especially at-risk youth and those who are marginalized, and I want everyone to have a space in the world where they feel safe and heard and validated. I do my best to make sure that my language and attitudes are not harmful to the oppressed, and, if they are, to change them because it costs me nothing and improves the lives of others who need it. I work daily at solidarity and allyship, and I also work daily at keeping myself open to correction when I get it wrong, even if it’s uncomfortable.

I’m wildly imaginative, sometimes to my detriment, but usually it’s something I love and value very highly about myself. As a small child, I imagined entire worlds into being, populated with people who each had full names, phone numbers, parents, and complete histories. I told stories to myself, to my dolls, to my tape recorder, to anyone who would listen to me. I was often alone, but never lonely, because I always had friends and adventures and alternate worlds living inside of me, ready to come out at any moment. As a teenager, I wrote constantly, every day, stories and novellas and poetry and letters and diaries, most of it absolute nonsense, but drenched in my wild, desperate heart. I told stories to Miranda whenever she would let me, which was often. Most of those were absolute nonsense, too, but she liked them and I liked creating them. As an adult, my imagination has turned against me more often than it’s done any good, but it’s still there. I just need to remember how to harness it. It’s gotten me into trouble and it’s made me cry and it’s made me laugh and it’s delighted me and it’s terrified me and it’s kept me company when nothing else could, and I’m endlessly grateful to have it, even when it makes me a little crazy.

I’m good with words. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable about saying so, because it feels like bragging, like taking credit for something that I shouldn’t own. If other people say it about me, that’s great and I’ll glow about it for days, but I shouldn’t say it about myself. Why? I don’t know. False modesty is so irritating. I love Kanye and Frank Ocean and Beyonce and everyone who loudly, unapologetically gives themselves credit for the traits they think are great, the things they’ve done that they feel are deserving of praise. Even if I can’t aspire to their level, I can at least say here in this quiet little space that I’m a good writer, and I’m glad about and proud of it. When I try to talk, I stutter and stammer and fidget and blush, but when I write, everything comes out just the way I want it to. Or, if it doesn’t, I can rework it until it does. It feels so much more natural to sit down and write a letter, or a blog post, or a poem, than it ever does to sit down for a face to face talk. Maybe that isn’t great, but since it’s the way it is, I’m happy to have this natural affinity with written words for all the times when verbal ones fail me.

I love enormously and fiercely. Someone who thought he knew me best of all once called me a cold, emotionless robot, and I’ve never stopped laughing about it because it’s so absurdly far from the truth. I’m all emotions. They burn me up. If I’ve ever loved you, a part of me will probably always belong to you, and even though sometimes I hate that and I feel like it means that eventually I won’t have any of myself left, I wouldn’t change it. With such high highs come equally low lows, but the highs are so high. It’s so good to love while the loving lasts and is reciprocated, to feel that intimacy with another person, to be so terrifyingly known. It’s so good to give something so deeply held, so integral, to someone else, to watch it take root between you and grow into something no one else could have created. It’s so good. My friendship is not easily gained, but it’s also not easily lost, and I will love and praise and defend my friends to the moon and back. Love is not all we need, but without it, none of the rest really seems to matter.

I laugh easily. I learn eagerly and quickly (excepting anything to do with numbers). I care passionately–sometimes too passionately–about the world outside of myself and what directly affects me. I believe in the goodness of people, regardless of all the reasons they give me not to. I’m easily exhausted, but I persist. I dream big. I’m always seeking the good, and seeking to share it with everyone else. I have great hair. I can sing a certain kind of song passably well. I’m flawed and messy and this was hard to write, but I think I’m okay.

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Monthly roundup: March 2015

This month I:

Read:

Watched:

  • “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2*)
  • “A Good Marriage” (3*)

Listened to:

Did:

  • turned my best online friend into one of my best friend friends (I’ll stop talking about it after this, probably)
  • turned 26, only felt a little terrible about it
  • saw Neil Gaiman, didn’t get to meet him but did get to hear him speak and read
  • bought too many things, as usual, only felt a little terrible about it
  • shifted my wake-up time to an hour and a half earlier than usual, which, yes, is a noteworthy thing
  • was happy, mostly
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Happy wagon: 03.22.15-03.28.15

I was too tired to do this post yesterday, and last week was a hard one, but there were a few nice things that I want to document, so.

  • waking up and immediately rolling over in bed to open the windows, and not having to close them until going back to bed at night
  • this perfect friendship song (“our blood rides in tandem, we’ve been wove on the same loom” // “to me you are like breathing, you’re like food”)
  • talking in therapy about my impatience with the initial stages of building friendships, wanting them to spring up fully formed with all the passion and intensity I crave from my relationships, and subsequently making an effort to notice and appreciate little moments of connection more
  • prolonging my birthday indefinitely as presents continue to trickle in from friends and from my sister
  • rereading a little bit of “Flipped” each night before bed
  • cold lemonade in little mason jar glasses
  • simple forms of domesticity done just for myself, cleaning things and putting them in their places, lighting candles
  • finding this amazing Claremore area full of antique and vintage shops, coffee shops, bookstores, and parks, spending a sunny day exploring, looking at old clocks and tea sets and vintage dresses to my heart’s content
  • my fantastic new deep burgundy velvet dressing gown, with puffed sleeves and ruffles at the neck, bought for $10
    dressing gown
  • this park which had a pavilion, a gazebo, an old-fashioned lamp-post, a fountain, and lots of flowers
    park1
    park2
    park3
    park4
Posted in Happy Wagon, Roots | Leave a comment

We will find a way through the dark: for the love of a boy band

I want to talk about One Direction. I want to talk about them because they’re important and they matter so much to me and I want you to understand why, but I also want to talk about them because maybe if I can make my love for them seem like something deep and serious, you’ll respect it and won’t make a joke of it and I can keep talking about them without feeling like I need to apologize for it every time, and that’s a reason I hate. Things don’t always have to be deep and serious to matter. I’m not a teenager anymore and I no longer feel like I can only listen to sad, heavy songs because those are the only songs that are worthwhile and the only songs that will make people see me as a serious girl. I am a serious girl, most of the time, but I’m also a girl who desperately wants to be happy, who is so bone-deep exhausted by sadness and heaviness and dark emotions that if I never felt anything but bright, sweet, bubblegum-sugary pop happiness for the rest of my life, that would be great. As Witchsong says: there is nothing wrong with happiness, with things being easy.

One Direction’s music makes me happy. It’s music I can listen to without having to engage my brain unless I want to, music which sometimes actually requires me to disengage my brain in order to enjoy it, and while that maybe sounds like an insult, I promise you it’s not. I need to disengage my brain more often, to just. Stop. Overanalyzing everything to death. I need to just feel things, sometimes, without complicating them. I’m not very good at that, and loving One Direction is, for me, an exercise in turning off and tuning in.

On one level, they’re five boys with cute accents, doing cute things and performing cute friendship for us all to shriek about. They’re a manufactured boy band singing manufactured boy band songs about how beautiful we are even if we don’t know it, how much they love our endearing little imperfections, how devastated it makes them when we leave them. They know their audience and they cater to us flawlessly. They made a perfume for us, which, listen, actually smells pretty nice. They gave us “Girl Almighty”.

On another level, they’re stadiums full of girls who are overjoyed to be there, to be in the presence of these boys they love, but also to be in the presence of so many other girls enjoying a thing together with all their souls. Screaming teenage girls are what’s most often criticized about boy bands. Who would want to see them in concert and have their eardrums exploded by that shrieking noise? Me. I would. I’m genuinely heartbroken that I lost my chance to see One Direction in concert last September, the last chance I’d have gotten to see all five of them together. To be in the midst of that magnificence, that tidal wave of girl-energy, that sharp, bright happiness. I love girls, is the thing, and I love seeing people loving things, and I love spaces that exist just for that. I want people to get really, wildly, embarrassingly excited about the things they love, to make everyone take notice of their enthusiasm. Especially if that enthusiasm is for something that people mock and dismiss because it’s marketed toward teenage girls, because it isn’t a deep, serious, man-approved thing. I’m a serious girl, and I want permission not to be, just for a while, just in this one space. One Direction give me that permission. Harry Styles says, “You can get get anything that you want, baby just shout it out, shout it out.”

On a final level, One Direction are us. They give us a framework to talk about ourselves, to offer up and examine our emotions in a way that’s safe, away that’s easier sometimes than confronting them directly as parts of ourselves. We choose members we identify with more than the others and we project things onto them because they’re really only partially filled canvases to us. We love them and we worry about them and we talk about them as though we know them intimately, as though they’re our partners and our best friends and ourselves, because they are. They are.

For me, that special member is Zayn. It’s always been Zayn, from the first time I heard a One Direction song and thought, there could be something here, this could matter to me. It was his voice that made me listen more closely, he was the first one I Googled to find out his name, it was his awkward mumbling and his kindness toward pregnant women and his gentleness in interviews that hooked into my heart and dragged me in. It’s the little things, as they know well.

I’m embarrassed to say that it was that song that was my way into One Direction, but it was, and I can’t be sorry about it because, well, here I am. I vividly remember the first time I heard it and how much I hated it, how much I ranted about it, how scornful I was of the lyrics. To be honest, I’m still a little scornful of the lyrics, and I don’t love it anymore, but for a while it was something I played again and again. Just to solidify how much I really, really hated it. Just to make sure I had all the lyrics right, for when I wanted to complain about it. Just to hear Zayn. Just to hear Harry’s rasp. Just because … oh, because I loved it. I did.

This got away from me a little. What I meant to say was that Zayn is the most important to me, and that’s my bad luck, because earlier this week he left the group. My favorites always leave, or die, or break my heart in some other way. It’s tradition. But this time it’s so personal for me, because of what Zayn is to me. Because of what I project onto him. He seems like the least attainable, which makes him the most comfortable for me to swoon over. He seems the least accessible, the one who gives the least of himself to the public, and yet he’s also so gentle and kind and everyone loves him and wants more of him. It seems really obnoxious to relate to that, but I do. It often feels to me like people want to befriend me despite how little I give to them, and I often resent their intrusions into my life and my space because how could it be genuine? How could they care? They don’t even know me. My kindness and my desire to help people don’t mean they do. I don’t love this about myself, but it’s a thing, and I’m trying to be honest with you here.

Zayn has also been the most vocal about how anxiety-causing and overwhelming it is to be in such an enormously successful, famous band. How difficult it is sometimes, even though you’re grateful, of course, so grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given. As a very fragile anxiety baby, albeit not one who’s a member of a successful, famous band, I feel this a lot. And, similarly to how people reacted when Robin Williams died, there’s an element of, if Zayn, with all his privileges and resources, couldn’t hack it, if he was so overwhelmed by stress that he had to take a break and then ultimately decided to leave completely, what hope do I have of being okay? Of Handling my life? I’m not saying this is reasonable or rational, it’s just how I’ve felt this week, and it’s hard.

It’s also hard that this band, this collective of joy, this thing that has gotten me through so much sadness and heaviness and depression and fear, is changing. It’s not ending, maybe, but the way it used to be is ending. I don’t do well with change under the best circumstances, which these are not. Of course we all knew it wasn’t going to last forever. Boy bands are fleeting, ephemeral things. We hold on so tightly because we know that soon we won’t be able to hold on at all. I haven’t listened to “Through the Dark” since the news of Zayn’s leaving, because to me it represents everything that One Direction are and now won’t be. I wrote something about that song that I might share here soon, because it’s long and personal and means a lot and I don’t want to just shove it into this post at the end, but here. Listen, and try to understand what it means to have five beloved, important people telling you, yes, you, even though they don’t know you personally, that you deserve to be loved, that you can be loved even when you’re at your darkest, that it’s okay to cry and fall apart and that they’ll be there through it all and it will get better, somehow, someday, you’ll make it better together. Try to understand why I cried about Zayn just a little bit in therapy yesterday, and, even if you don’t care about One Direction, try to understand that I do, that a lot of people do, and maybe try to be kind to us right now. Maybe save your super funny jokes about 1D hysteria for another time.

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Posted in Little Scribbles, Music | Leave a comment

Happy wagon: 03.08.15-03.21.15

Combining two weeks into one post, because they’ve been such good, good weeks and I was too busy trying to enjoy them with my whole soul to post about them separately.

  • hours of talking, feeling effortlessly understood, always wanting to say more but also knowing it’s okay if I don’t
  • chicken salad sandwiches and strawberries in the sunshiny backyard
  • hearing birds flapping their wings right above my head
  • meeting Jesus at the mall (this one isn’t going to be understood by most others, but I don’t want to type out the whole story, so I’m really just including it so I can remember)
  • Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie ice cream
  • being in the same room as Neil Gaiman, hearing him say funny and wise things and read cute stories
  • turning 26, feeling not great about it because it seems like a terrible age to be, but embracing it as another year that I’m still alive and having a great, laughter-filled day to make up for last year’s bad birthday
  • easily fitting other people into my routines, creating shared new routines that make me feel happy in the way that my already established ones do
  • Hilary Duff and Lifetime movies, getting to indulge in the terrible things I enjoy with someone else who appreciates the value of cheerful mockery
  • the first park trip of the year, walking in the sunshine and the breeze, sitting on benches by running water, talking to funny, cute kids
  • egg sandwiches and mashed potatoes from the Amish cafe and strawberry shortcake sundaes
  • lavender lotion from the Amish store and how great it smells and how great it makes my skin feel
  • the sweetest birthday cards and birthday presents to eagerly wait for in the mail from the loveliest friends
  • finally creeping my sleeping pattern toward healthy and regular, waking up between 9:00 and 10:00 and actually feeling awake rather than run-down and achy
  • herbs and bird feeders and tomatoes and flower pots from my mom for my birthday
  • sun sun sun
  • barely having the house to myself and loving the company, feeling sad and a little bit lonely now that it’s all mine again, which is a good thing because usually I can’t stand to be around people for more than five minutes without needing to retreat into myself and be very still and quiet
  • breaking down several anxieties that have always felt like integral parts of who I am, believing that I can define myself however I want rather than just paying lip service to the idea, for the first time feeling like I really have the tools to live my best life
Posted in Happy Wagon | Leave a comment