Sunday, February 4, 2018

Miss Bossy Pants

“Go to the party”, the voice urged me.  

One of tens or maybe hundreds of voices overlapping in my psyche; this was my Bossy Pants voice. 

Not to be confused with my Mean Girl voice, who’s tone is slightly more pitchy and slopes like a Valley girl.

Bossy likes to tell me what I should do. Her favorites are telling me to do yoga, eat clean, clean my apartment, be more adventurous, and read. 

Tonight she was demanding I go to a Super Bowl party because as Mean Girl would say, “It’s, like, super lame to stay in for the Super Bowl.”

Bossy doesn’t talk like that, she has a much more leveled-headed, logical, if not domineering tone. 

“It will be good for you to get out and socialize,” she says, and when I tell her I’m exhausted and just not in the mood and don’t really care for football anyway, she responds as per usual, “You really need to do it.” 

The chorus of voices agree, I can almost hear their eyes roll to the back of their heads.  

But there’s another voice, so soft-spoken and faint, I could barely hear her. Speak up, I urge her silently, hoping she might give me a justification to stay in like I wanted. 

I have to tell the others to shut up, and listen closely, when I hear her: the voice of Self Care. 

When I hear her speak I know she’s the one who actually cares about my wellbeing. She’s not concerned with what I “should” be doing, she doesn’t care about me fitting in that very narrow box of social “norms”. She wants me to do what will make me most happy and operating at my best-self. 

And tonight that meant wearing pjs and writing in Starbucks (with a book on the table I was “supposed” to read, but didn’t, because that wouldn’t have been self care.)

It’s really hard to differentiate between what we “should” be doing and what’s truly in our best interest. Between what will deplete vs what will recharge us, what will make us feel like we’re doing whats expected of us vs doing what feels right. 

Parties are fun, and socializing is absolutely necessary, but forcing yourself to do something you’re just not up for is not self care- it’s peer pressure. 

I got texts of photos of beer-pong from Half-Time and secretly wondered how Justin’s performance and commercials were going to be- and a small twinge of FOMO pinched me. 

But the cool thing about Self Care is that you get to change your mind- at any point you can turn your car around if you want to. Self Care will tell you exactly what will help you feel best- you just need to tune out the Bossy and Mean Girls- and listen out for hers. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Black Elephant in The Room

Yesterday I wrote about the days I am lucky enough to wake with a warm sunny halo around my head...mmmm. 

But that was some days. Most days? Most days I wake up with a feeling of dread washing over me, with the thought of ‘what if today sucks’ resounding in my head? 

I’m not a pessimist at all, I just struggle with this thing called anxiety that often makes me operate in fear rather than love.

As a teenager I was very comfortable sharing the darker parts of me. I didn't see it as something to be ashamed by, it just was. I could say I was feeling depressed by wearing black nail polish before it was trendy, or write about it in an emo poem for all of Facebook or Myspace to see. 

As an adult, I no longer want to be seen that way. I want to present a highly functioning, put together persona, who is cheerful and fun to be around. No one wants to hang out with Debbie Downer. When I’m feeling blah I tend to keep that under wraps. Everything is or will be okay, is the kind of message I want to project.

But don’t we also get to acknowledge the pain? Doesn’t not talking about it give it more power than it deserves? In trying too hard not let the negative emotions define us, don’t they define us even more? The black elephant in the room no one wants to talk about only grows in our silence. 

What if it’s just casual instead of a huge deal? Depression, anxiety, mental illness, these are things we all deal with on some level. We all have features of those demons in us in some way or another. Some are more willing to acknowledge it than others. Some try to repress parts of them they don't feel are acceptable. Some are less respectful of their negative emotions than their positive. 

But we all deal with darkness, and the more we talk about it the less alone the rest of us feel.

So here’s to those days. The dark, gloomy ones. To the gray skies and rain dripping down our windows. Here’s to accepting the darkness, instead of being ashamed by it. Here’s to learning how to deal with the black elephant in a way that respects it but doesn’t feed its power. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stop This Ride, I Want To Get Off!

Some days I wake up to the sun streaming in through my blinds, a warm glow surrounds. I feel rested, inspired, and motivated, like I got this. Things just go right; I’m taking a smooth Ferris Wheel ride up to the top, feel good music playing loud, the smell of carnival popcorn all around. And it feels damn good. 

“You did it! You’re happy,” I tell myself proudly, as if there was something special I did today to make things go well. As though I am the one manning this ride.

The next day, I feel almost as though I have a right to this happiness I created. 

Then there is a kink. There always is. My heart sinks. Something has gone terribly wrong, and the trajectory of my ride has come to a halting stop. My cart has suddenly stopped mid climb, and is swaying. This doesn't feel right. It’s out of my control, and I’m starting to feel powerless. 

Disappointment washes over me when I realize things are not going the way I had planned, one curve ball hitting me after the next. The music stops, and my cart takes a nosedive, falling quickly to the bottom, landing hard and messily.

From rock bottom, I see the top, where my cart once was, where I had gotten to with my own inspiration and hard work, and realize how hard it will be to get back up there. I feel dejected, unmotivated, let down, so incredibly let down, and I don’t know that I even want to attempt to rise back up again. I want to curl up in a ball and take a week long nap, blaming everyone and everything for this fall. 

Who is in charge of this ride anyway!? Why are people not more responsible? I paid for a ride that goes smoothly to the top, and stays there for a decent amount of time. I anticipate the slow and gradual fall that is inevitable,  before going right back up. But changes mid-climb? Oh no. This was not expected.  

Unmet expectations create the hardest falls, and landings most difficult to recover from.  

I know this is where my the work lies. 

I can’t take credit for the days I wake up motivated. That’s a gift from G-d, a head start. Those days are easy. When our expectations are met, it’s not hard to feel good. 

It’s the days where nothing seems to go right. The days you have to draw deep breaths and remind yourself that these curve balls are part of life, and without them, the good would feel mundane. The days that go off your expected plan, those days you have to take a moment to acknowledge the disappointment, tell yourself if's okay to be disappointed, and then decide to just get right back up.  

Turn up the music, pop some corn, try not to anticipate where this ride will take you, and just go with it. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

All or Nothing

If you read my poetry from when I was a young teenager, then you know. You know that I was an angsty, brooding, emo-music-listening-to kind of teenage cliche. I dripped black Sephora tears, bled in ardent poetry, and listened to way too much Linkin Park. 

If you read my articles on from my late teens, then you know as well. You saw my writing attitude shift into a more optimistic, spiritual, if not somewhat self-helpy, vibe. 

Ask me which version of me was more real, more honest, and the answer is, well...neither. 

I wasn't trying to be dishonest or inauthentic at either point. In fact, I was merely trying on these personas for size, and I took comfort in giving myself a label, so I could pretend I was all figured out. Really, I was just searching for an identity, in a world that I have always seen as either black or white. 

What I needed was balance, in a world that I has always nudged me one way or another. What I needed to do was something instead of doing everything or nothing. 
The thing is, balance has always been a challenge for me. My room has always been either chaos, or meticulously organized and labeled. I got either A's or F's on exams. I worked tirelessly on a project or didn't do it at all. My day was either categorized as "amazing" or "awful", rarely anything in between. 

The truth is my day is a cocktail of monotony, joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, excitement... not in that order nor limited to those emotions (how fun for my lucky husband!). It's taken me years to understand that life is not meant to be lived in an "all or nothing" frame of mind. It's not all great or all terrible... people are not all good or all evil... and most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the broad spectrum between perfection and failure. It's the very place I am learning to be comfortable in, and although I've always favored "insta" results, I am learning to appreciate the lifelong journey that is balance. 

When I am tempted to revert to my usual "all or nothing" state and veer far left or right, I pull over and stop to think how fortunate I am to live in world that is not just black or white, but painted in various shades of vibrant color. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

90's Kid

I am almost grateful to have grown up in Buffalo in the 90’s. It challenged me in ways children who grew up in coolers cities or more recent decades were not, and it forced me to become creative. I had to be a little more imaginative, than say a Brooklyn kid with Xbox, if I wanted to have fun. When I complained to my father that I was bored back then, he would say “You’re boring”. Which was true. So I quickly became un-boring.

One hobby I took up was duck catching. We had a pond in our backyard that was home to a family of ducks. Their signature duck waddle gave me the impression that they would be slow enough to catch. This was not the case because, as it turned out, those things also have wings.

If I wanted to watch a movie (and I REALLY did, because we weren’t really allowed to), I had to be completely committed to the cause. There were hangers involved, VCR rental companies, and lots of scheming. I discovered if I stick a pin in the back of the TV monitor, I could watch Arthur. There was a lot of static, but the way I saw it, fuzzy Arthur was better than no Arthur at all. Sometimes I could catch a rerun of Full House or if I was crazy lucky, a new episode of 7th Heaven. One night I found myself watching TV through a crack in my sister’s closet.

I created an Ebay account in my mother’s name and bid on used TV/VCR combos. To my delight I usually won the auctions, but I never actually paid for them because I didn’t have any money. Ebay frowned upon this behavior and eventually shut me down.

I lied a lot, just to see if I could make people believe ridiculous stuff. Most times people were so bored themselves, they would believe me simply because they wanted it to be true.

I told some people Mary-Kate and Ashley lived down the block. I informed my little sister, Ita, and her friend that the music sensation Uncle Moishy took up residence in our basement. And to make things more exciting, his roommate was Uncle Pinchy. Technically Uncle Pinchy was a puppet, but once they were on board with Uncle Moishy, I figured it was believable that two uncles might live together. Plus these girls were like six, and what do six year olds really know about life anyway? I also tried to convince Ita (the target of most of my lies) that there was a family living in the manhole in our backyard. We’d knock and knock on the waterhole and when no one answered, I’d shrug and say “Oh I guess they’re out of town.”

Ita loved when I made her shows, but I didn’t have any Barbies or little Fisher Price people to use as characters, so I used my big sisters’ old makeup. I assigned them names, occupations, and personalities. There’s still a tube of coral lipgloss hanging around somewhere in my parents house named Aunt Martha...

I think it's safe to assume a child named Kale, growing up on the urban streets of Park Slope has not, nor will ever, experience any of that stuff. But it's the stuff that made me who I am today, and gave me the ability to think more inventively, and for that I am grateful.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The American Idol

You are not the most beautiful. 

You are not the smartest.

Or the the most talented.

Contrary to what your mother has told you.

You are not the best. 

If you have ever been told otherwise, you have been lied to.

Not only are those "compliments" untrue: they are harmful.

Why? Because those statements are not compliments; they are expectations. They are demands for perfection.

It all began when you were just a helpless infant. “You are just the cutest little thing, aren't you?” they cooed, planting the seed that would only continue to grow. Not only were you the cutest, they told you; you were also the smartest and the funniest. Your identity and self-esteem grew to be wrapped up in being "the best". The pressure to stay on top was reaffirmed each time you were convinced that you were better than the rest. You were taught that your self worth was to be measured by how far your success outweighed the success of your peers. 
Eventually, you started to believe that your champion status was what made you special, and often felt inadequate when you could not measure up. 

Society is obsessed with the pursuit of perfection. We extol success and idolize winners. Consider the Olympics, or the tens of reality shows that have people vying for the ultimate title; a medal for every talent you can imagine is fought for and coveted (even marriage is competed for!). Never mind the fact that next season there will be a new winner, and each season after that. Never mind that the best will always be replaced by better.

Ever wonder why celebrities appear the least secure? Why supermodels do coke in the bathroom at the party? Why talented artists are found dead in their mansions and accomplished actors check into rehab like the rest of us go to the spa? These people are decidedly the closest to perfection as humanly possible, so why are they the most miserable?

Why? Because people are not meant to be perfect, and even if airbrush and plastic surgery can fool their audience for a while, no one can keep it up forever. One day they will be photographed with no makeup on. One day someone younger and more talented will replace them at the top. Grammys and Oscars will just serve as reminders of their "shortcomings". They are miserable because we have placed unfair expectations on them, and the pressure to live up to those impossible labels is just too much to handle.

So if being a gold medalist is your dream, if only coming in first is acceptable, you are setting yourself up for failure every day. It is a fools game to try to be "the best". It is impossible. You don't have to be better than everyone else to be great or virtuous; you have to try to be better than you. There is always going to be someone more beautiful, more intelligent, and more talented than you. And that's okay. You are not the best, and the good news is, you don't have to be. There is nothing perfect about perfection.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Of Prayer

Some prayers are to be played in double bass, low and intimate; whispered like secrets. 

Others are to be played on black and white keys, loud and lyrical; lighthearted. 

And some few are to be screamed, raised from the ashes of the core. They are to be performed on a stage of thousand violins. And they are to reach a pitch so high, only G-d can hear it.


Mystical Marijuana

We are broken
Well-intended, still we're flawed
An Illusionist performs before us
But we're seldom ever awed

We search for other spirits
Place our faith in clever frauds
We trip on magic substances
Lest we ever trip on G-d

The hunger is profound
It consumes us from within
For it is born of a desire
Far more potent than even that of sin

The lust for any drug
Is a spiritual facade
For it is simply the soul's craving
For a relationship with G-d