Lifestyle matters

A few years ago I met my hero and travel/entrepreneur icon Chris Guillebeau at a little book store in Arizona.  I dressed up and sat wringing my hands in the audience while he spoke, then fidgeted and mentally rehearsed my script while waiting in line to meet him.  When it was finally my turn I asked him the nagging question I’d held onto since the first time in high school I was handed the Nonconformist’s Manifesto.

I wasn’t concerned with finances, the gear he used, the airlines he chose or the credit he built.

I asked him how he could live the way he did without being guilt-ridden about his privilege.

Hi friends. I may be making a very difficult and wonderful announcement in a little bit. I’m still torn over it’s repercussions, and most of the tearing is due to my overwhelming sense of guilt that I am quite able to improve my life. I don’t know how to explain it another way; I feel super freaking guilty that I could get better if I chose to.

Because some people don’t have the choice, or at least not the way I do. For instance, I have a family in Los Angeles that practically begged me to live with them and accept the therapy they would pay for; how many can say the same?  Like, I have friends who, until a couple months ago, were legally unable to get American Drivers licenses even though they’ve grown up here their entire lives, thus hindering their job prospects and all these other things in life.  It’s stupid.

The past couple months of therapy has shown me that for all my fuck-you-I-do-what-want bravado, I am one of the most guilt-ridden sad-sacks I know. My modus operandi is to flip the bird and do whatever I wanna do, and then wake up a month later at two AM hating myself for it. Rinse and repeat.

If this thing that I may be announcing comes true, then I will be fully taking advantage of my privilege in a way that makes me kinda uncomfortable. Basically, it’s a potential job, an actual dream job, that involves children, leadership development, the outdoors, and not being a waitress or a barista for the rest of my life. It’s a “real” job, a meaningful job, a job that would allot me more money than I’ve ever seen as well as health benefits and vacation time. What do I even do with that?

Because that job would also keep me from returning to Arizona, to my broke-down, hopeful little Phoenix and the beloved friends who’ve been my family for years. It would keep me from the Franciscan idealism I thought I was faithful enough to embrace. It would keep me in La, and it would put me in an office, and it would put an end to the transient, kinda (read; hella) immature lifestyle I’ve stomped around in since turning eighteen.

I keep thinking, about various experiences, that THIS is the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. Maybe that’s true, and life is just a series of really tough decisions over and over with increasing difficulty. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so torn.

Back to Guillebeau, my hero who I so brutally put on the spot about privilege all those years ago. Remember, I wanted to know how he could do what he did without losing sleep thinking of the brokenness in the world. But that isn’t really what I was asking, and I’ll bet he knew it. While I whispered and whined about the unfairness of his lifestyle, Chris nodded and blinked and waited.   He probably knew right away this wasn’t really about him, but about my inability to reconcile the beauty in the world with the ugly. How do you enjoy the world you’re trying to improve? And what right do you have to be happy when so many people are not?

Chris eventually shrugged and said he simply didn’t feel guilty, and that he felt like he was doing exactly what he ought to do, and I left the bookstore unsatisfied and kinda sad.

And it’s taken me all these years to realize it made me sad because I hadn’t actually been asking him about his own sense of purpose; I was begging for allowance. I was wanting, almost desperately, someone to tell me it was ok to realize my own potential. I needed someone to give me permission to enjoy life, to travel or fall in love or work somewhere I was passionate about.

It’s taken years, but I’m finally really thankful Chris Guillebeau didn’t give me that allowance. It wasn’t his to give, and it wasn’t needed anyway. I’m starting to see that you don’t actually need permission to do the things you want to do. (within reason. obvs.)

(He did draw a monkey in that little book he signed for me, so that’s cool. Thanks homie.)

Anyway, all this to say, I’m trying to figure out the next step and I wonder if you’ve had a similar experience, and what you felt and what you did with it. Is your happiness twinged with guilt or are you a normal person who’s able to hold both the wretchedness and glory of being alive at the same time? What steps did you take to start thinking that way?

How pro-life are you, exactly?

This morning a Facebook friend posted this picture;

abortion

and it kinda through off my groove.

I try to stay out of Facebook arguments (because obviously) but my entire walk with Maroussi I spent thinking about that picture and what it means, and what it means when someone posts something comparing the holocaust to abortion.

Post-edit; it’s been graciously brought to my attention that I’m a dork, and mis-understood the above picture.  Its obviously comparing the lives of American soldiers lost in WW2 to aborted babies, NOT victims of the Holocaust.  *sigh*

My bad.  Honestly, I am just so used to the holocaust/abortion comparison now, especially after that Dugger chick made the news with her dumb comments, that its the first thing I thought when I saw that graphic.  My apologies.

…sorta…because still, that is the dumbest comparison I’ve ever seen.  Wtf.

Besides being absurdly offensive to actual victims of the holocaust, the picture makes me assume a couple things about the poster.

Obviously, you’re posting this picture because you’re pro-life, right?  Which means you’re all-the-way pro-life and are suuuuuuuper supportive of those babies after they’re born, right?   Let’s just talk about what I assume about you if you’re pro-life, mmmkay?

I’m just going to assume from now on that if you tell me you’re pro-life, you’re so pro-life that you vote against blowing up civilians in other countries.  You believe that a person’s value is not determined by their location, nor their race, gender, religion, socioeconomic standing, future potential etc.

I’m going to assume you offer free childcare to parents who need a hand.  You’re aware that many mommies are single and work full-time, often more than full-time, and can’t really get ahead in life because they’ve gotta pay someone to watch their children.  You know the stress of this is often debilitating, so you’re eager to sacrifice your own free-time to help.

You’re so pro-life, you vote for higher taxes so as to pay the hospital bills for unwed, under-served mothers who already have four children at home. You probably volunteer your time in after-school programs for all those kids whose parents’ work full-time and have no one waiting to greet them at home when they finish with school.  You vote to raise minimum wage so these teenage single-mothers can actually support their families, right? You must be more-than-willing to pay higher taxes so these beloved, precious infants, now middle schoolers, receive healthy meals at their public schools, because you know that without adequate nutrition a child’s behavior and mental health suffers. And you love these children.   Pro-lifer, you’re obviously there either to counsel or pay a counselor to walk with the terrified twelve-year-old pregnant with her father’s kid through her blessed gift from God, right?

Because obviously, if you’re posting statistics about the holocaust in relation to abortion, you also know the statistics involving lowered crime rates twenty years after abortion was legalized. And you’re not dumbfounded by the correlation, because you’re aware that babies born unwanted into a corrupt system often grow up corrupt. If life seems dead-end, and hopeless, and injustice prevails, maybe, just maybe, that’s how people reach the point where the only option they really see available is something illegal.  Maybe.

You’re all for sex education classes being taught to young children and you vote yes on schools offering free condoms to its students in full confidentiality. You’re pro-life, right? So care so deeply about the lives already here.

You love life, so you have voted for equality in marriage, because you know that usually gay and lesbian couples aren’t making babies; they’re adopting them. And if girls and women aren’t aborting their babies, and they’re unfit to raise them, you obviously support adoption in a very real, financial, political way.

You didn’t go see and support American Sniper because if glorifies a twisted individual who enjoyed taking the lives of others, who claimed that actual human beings were “savages”. You love babies so much you were appalled to learn he murdered children.

american sniper

^Chris Kyle, everyone.

And your nationalism halts at defending him.  “He was just doing his job”, but so were the Nazis you’re comparing women in need to.

Most of all, pro-lifer, your church must be flooded with adopted and foster kids, because you all take very seriously the command your God gave you to care for those orphans. (James 1:27) You know that faith without works is dead, (James 2:14-26) so you obviously do more for these babies than post an emotional status about them, yeah?  You know that American churches outnumber children in foster care by three-to-one, yet there those children wait.  In the broken foster care system.

You remember that you were adopted into God’s little family.

I’m so proud of you, pro-lifer, for your moral standing. Now what are you doing with it?

Orphan Justice Resources here

Prove to me that what you’re advocating for isn’t some high and lofty rhetoric and that you actually care about those babies, and their parents.

“Stark Raving Sane!”

On this week’s edition of Mental Health Mondays (yeah that’s totally gonna be a thing now watch out) we’re gonna talk about the anxiety-ridden existential crisis I’m having because, no joke, I watched a funny movie this afternoon.

ros and guil

First off, I don’t set an alarm anymore and went from awaking at 4:40 every morning to whenever now.  Sometimes its six, sometimes it’s ten, more often its somewhere in between.  Anyway, I rolled out of bed around 9:40 and drank coffee outside and felt weird, and decided to go for a walk but the walk felt weird.  By weird I mean kinda pointless.  Like, why wake up at all?  I have nothing to do today.

Or any day, actually.  I have dropped out of my life and am just chillin’ right now.  It’s really weird.

Anyway.

I got home and before even showering or eating or anything I found a movie I’d wanted to watch by virtue of it starring Gary Oldman.

I really, really, really like Gary Oldman.

Like, if True Romance was just a two-hour loop of the six minutes of Drexyl Spivey screen time I would watch it.  Twice.

drexl spivey

Anyway, this movie, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, claimed to be hilarious and witty and star Gary Oldman etc. so I turned it on.

And you can read reviews and character analysis yourselves (as I’ve been doing) but basically it’s the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as told by the two childhood friends the King coerces to find the cause of Hamlet’s “affliction”.  The title is taken directly from Hamlet and it is, indeed, hilarious.  I laughed out loud on multiple occasions.

rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead kattomnic energy

But what’s obnoxious is that, and spoiler alert, Ros and Guil do die.  And all this after hours of the Guildenstern going on and on about life, meaning, reason, art, death, etc.  It just set the whole thing up in such a way that I was really hurt when they died.  It felt, as it was intended to make you feel, like everything is pointless and sad and blank and redundant and silly.  These are minor characters, right?  But everyone’s the Main Character in their own lives.  And its an interesting film because they are the most passive, indecisive people.  They don’t do anything, they just think and talk and things happen to them or in front of them.  They are hapless onlookers and the story really earns its genre as tragicomedy.

B7501-09-14

So I’ve been scrounging Tumblr for gifs and Google for history and analysis’s of the play, and my head is spinning and I’m suddenly too anxious to eat or go climbing as planned.  Seriously, I’ve got a group of girls at the rock gym expecting me and I’m curled up on the couch replaying the hilarity and sadness of that film.  I just ran up the hill behind my dad’s house and wept and now I’m here trying to explain it, but I’m too sarcastic to give anxiety disorders the credit they deserve, and this is getting too long anyway.  I just feel like…shit man, all I wanted was to see Gary Oldman be funny in a Shakespearean comedy.  I didn’t expect all the existential dread.

It feels like being dehydrated.  And I’ve been gulping water.

And do ya wanna know the worst part?  It’s not that I’m missing rock climbing or that I cried or any of that, it’s that I was triggered (god do we have to call it a trigger?)  by a line The Player says, almost in passing.  He’s mad that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern left his performance, and he says,

“You don’t understand the humiliation of it – to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that somebody is watching.”

That somebody is watching.

The Player is talking obviously about the Audience.  He’s an actor and his works are meaningless unless someone sees it.  But it really got to me.

Because I often feel alone, and I find myself asking the rhetoric, what is the point if no one knows me?  At the end of the day I don’t actually want to be the only one who bears witness to my life.

I think the Player views his audience as some might view God; a being to give meaning, who watches and cares.  We all wanna be loved and known, right?  Unless you’re a fucking sociopath you probably want there to be at least someone who knows you deeply and loves you anyway.

So I’m living “alone” in California with no friends, none of the lifestyle matters I’ve built around myself for the last six years or so.  It is a stripping of everything that gave my life meaning, be it the farm, the Neighborhood kids, my friends, “fighting” for change in Phoenix, my go-to coffee shops and bars and places of respite.  I’ve got nothing, and certainly no one watching now.

And is that why I believe in God?  Is that why I write at all?  Because I’ve gotta have someone there who knows or I will fall apart?  And what about you?

So yeah.  No climbing tonight.  Yes loneliness and angst tonight.  Probably gonna sit outside and weep or watch random bloopers on Youtube until I decide to go to bed.

How do you cope?  Have you seen this movie or the play?  And were you able to watch it without a breakdown?

Let’s talk about Art, baby.

Have you seen Sia’s new video for Elastic Heart?  It is beautiful, heart-breaking, and extraordinarily well-done.

And naturally, as the video featured a Pretty Pubescent Girl and a Grown Ass Adult Man, the cries of “pedophilia!” rang out in the streets.

Elastic Heart

First of all, props to society for being aware of sexual abuse and for speaking out for victims’ sake.  Props also for Sia apologizing for anyone feeling “triggered” by the video and politely explaining that, with all due respect, the critics are wrong.

Secondly, this video is in no way sexual and is an obvious expose’ of two dueling selves.  We ought to be more careful about seeing sex in everything.  We ought to be careful, lest we unwittingly demonize appropriately affectionate fathers, uncles, brothers, etc.  Let’s also be wary of seeing bodies as nothing but sexual entities, yeah?  Bodies are just bodies.  Freethenipple and all that.

Moving on.

Other more eloquent writers (including the artist herself) have gracefully explained the intentions and meanings behind the video, so I’ll not bother with that here.  Read what they’ve said, watch the video yourself, and come to your own conclusions.  I personally found it so moving I was in tears by the end, and my affections for Shia Lebeouf grew, like, ten-fold.  (I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for sad bastards!)

It also moved me to think about art, and the way we interact with sensitive subjects artists chose to express, and how they chose to express them.

I want to open a dialogue about what we, in a creative field, are allowed to explore.  When does it cease to be art and simply become perverse?  Is there any topic that is untouchable?

Because even if this was a video depicting pedophilia (which it’s not), would it not be appropriate still?  Lolita is a novel heralded as beautiful, tragic, and “classic” and its literally about a pedophile who kidnaps and rapes his would-be step-daughter for two years all over America while he waxes poetic about forbidden romance.  Its told from his point of view as he implores sympathy from a jury.

Is the rape scene in the Clockwork Orange art or is it obscene?  Or is it both, and is that ok?  Is art allowed to go places we would never dare to in other outlets?  Does there have to be a moral to a story?

I mean, if you know me you already know I believe it is, indeed, ok for art to go to those dark places, be it in our writing, our music, our drawings, our dances, etc.  I believe there is a separation between art and life; what I’m wrestling with is that pesky little line drawn between them.

My grandpa, may he rest in blue-collar, gun-wielding, Western-novel-reading peace, was the most conservative of anyone in my family.  We affectionately referred to him as Dirty Harry up until he died last year (four heart-attacks later…this guy was a fighter to his freaking core).  Grandpa Dirty Harry also brought my dad and his siblings to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show when they were kids.  In fact, he’s the one who let me borrow the DVD when I was eleven.  Grandpa never questioned his morality after seeing a film about a cross-dressing alien murderer; he saw something that was artistic and hilarious about it, and moved on.  To his Westerns, I guess.

Frank-N-Furter

Reading Lolita doesn’t make you sympathetic to child rapists.  Watching Breaking Bad shouldn’t make you want to kill people.  These things are stories, in and of themselves, and its ok to read and/or listen to stories, right?  It doesn’t mean we’re condoning that behavior of lifestyle, right?

By the same token there are also things that are decidedly Not Ok, and I personally believe anyone wearing Kurt Cobain’s suicide note on a t-shirt is a lousy piece of shit.  That is not art, that is reprehensible.  Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves.

But then I catch myself again!  Where is the line?  Who draws it?  Is it ok for comedians to joke about something you would never dream of mocking in real life?  Should everything online respectfully come with a “trigger warning” or is that pandering to a whiny, self-obsessed view of the world?

I am genuinely curious what you think.  Where do you personally draw the line?   Is it violence?  Is it sex?  Is it dirty language?  Have you read Lolita?  Did you see Django?  Have you ever worn fishnets to the Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Do you have as big a crush on Shia LeBeouf as I do?

Discuss.

Bukowski is full of shit

I’ll explain.

Hey.  Hi.  What’s up, old friends?  How’ve you been?  What resolutions have already fallen apart?

So…I’m in California, again, because I got really sad, again, and I was fortunate to have this as an escape route.  Honestly it wasn’t planned at all, but my family came to visit me for Christmas and in affect kidnapped me with promises of therapy and sleeping in.

Lo, here I am.

I say Bukowski is full of shit in an endearing sort of way.  I don’t hate the guy.  Meg calls him the “boy king of douche bag dude bros” but I actually really like his writing.  It’s just that his popular little quip about finding what you love and letting it kill you is a bunch of horse shit.   It’s the worst.  It’s stupid writer-speak that doesn’t take into affect the real danger in self-destructive affections and it glorifies addiction.

Because men kill the women who love them all the time, and cigarettes and heroin and all those things kill their lovers too.  And I feel like this is stupid writer-speak too,but it sure felt like my lifestyle in Phoenix was killing me.  And I loved that lifestyle.

All this to say yo, I’m in California and going to get better and go back home when I’m not a total mess and eeeeeeeverything will be fine.  I’m sick of writing about depression, so I’m just not going to, and we’re going to move on to current events and probably a whole lot about my dog.  I love my dog.  He’s the coolest thing.  If you were here you’d see how obnoxiously I point out how cute my dog is.

Movin’ on.

2015 is not going to suck.   Age of Ultron’s coming out in a few months and everything…

 

“I do wanna hit up the forest…”

Today was good.  Today was so good.

You gotta savor days like today, when three close friends are able to spur-of-the-moment peace out to Flagstaff for some coffee and tree-therapy with you.

(Before we move on, know that Ric took a frickin’ instagram video of our drive up there and its mostly me talking to no one in particular about the cool forest, the good coffee, and “the outdoor gear store…awesome”.  At one point I’m like, “I’m cool with whatever.  I do wanna hit up the forest at some point.”

God, when did I start speaking like that?  I wanna hit up the forest?  wtf.)

Flagstaff 4

I found out I had Saturday off and mass-texted the Neighborhood crew, but only Bryan has the kind of car that can safely get us all the way to Flagstaff.  Becca, Ricardo, my puppy Maroussi and I hopped in Bryan’s truck early this morning and fled this concrete jungle for bluer skies.  We listened to NPR and took selfies and talked about racial tensions in the United States, and how our lives are different from our parents’.  Thank god.

It was a really sweet drive, and I mean that in the taste sense.  It was sweet like the honey we harvest at Hope House or the way my puppy’s fur smells when I bury my face in his neck after he’s been playing in freshly mowed grass. Just…sweet.

It was sweet because we’re four friends who volunteer/work at a nonprofit that seeks justice in very tangible ways down here on the ground, and it gets a little discouraging sometimes.  Sometimes we really need a break.

Case in point; yesterday was real bad.  So bad, that when some homeless lady walked by my apartment while I was outside with Maroussi and asked for spare change, I flippantly told her I had none.  She asked if I had cigarettes.

“Nope.  I got nothing.”

“Well how about a bite to eat then?”

“I have nothing.”

“What about inside your house?”

“Seriously? I literally have no food inside my house.”

“Really?”  She was incredulous.  “You have no food inside your house?”

I literally have no food inside my house! I have nothing, ok?  Fuck.”  I really did, truly and literally, have no food in my house.  That’s been a problem.  We’ll get to that.

“Ok, well,” she continued, now almost as furious as I was.  “I’m homeless and you’re not, so-”

“Jesus fucking Christ I have nothing to give you, ok?! God!”

“What about dog food?  I’ll take dog food.”

“GO AWAY! WHAT THE FUCK!”

etc.

I wanted to punch a hole in my wall (impossible; they’re brick) and fall face down on my bed (er, futon from Meg) and scream and cry because I am an asshole.  A real and total asshole.  I wanted to burn my apartment down because it smells weird and I wanted to rip up all my clothes because they’re old and don’t fit, and I wanted to not have mirrors anymore because I’m sick of seeing my tired asshole face.

Instead I hung out with friends and talked about the movie Filth and how much I love it.  It was great.

Then I texted everyone about desperately wanting to go to Flagstaff and lo, fifteen hours later I was there.

Everyone who’s ever written about the forest is right.  Get up and out there.  Thank that ole diety you used to be enamored with for forgiving you for being a depressed asshole all the time, and goof off with your friends up there.  We went to Macy’s for coffee, and all the “awesome” outdoor gear stores, and everyone loved Maroussi all over town.  We drove to the lake and smoked cigarettes by the water, and walked through the trees way out into the forest and giggled at the deer carcasses hung by the legs at some hunters’ campsite.  We enjoyed each others’ company and laughed at my adorable little puppy.

Ric said something cool in the truck.  It’s stuck with me all day and I guess it will forever and it should.  We were talking about our affection for each other, the work we all do and the things we believe in.  And where we came from.  The four of us are, respectively, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Irish (with some Italian and whatever else splashed in for me.)  Our ancestors may not have been friends.  Hell, even our parents probably wouldn’t know how to relate to each other!

But we love each other.  We do life together.  We take random trips to Flagstaff together and make food for each others’ parties and lean against the same walls at church.

So Ric said, “we’re living reconciliation.”

I like that so much.

Flagstaff 7Flagstaff 5Flagstaff  6Flagstaff 8

Reconciliation is a messy mosaic kind of process and there isn’t actually a rule book, or if there is none of us received it.  Sometimes its beautiful and perfect and there’s pretty trees and things, and other times its wretched and you snap at a frustrated homeless woman for no reason other than you’re tired of all the sad broken things.  Somehow this is all part of the same painting.

Actually…you know, that makes sense.  Have you met artists?  They’re crazy mothafuckas.

Anyway, I’m thankful for today, and all the shitty days too, and I’m all crazy sorts of thankful for my friends who continuously save the day.

Also I’m thankful these ones humored me and blasted the entire Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack all the way home.  I’m gonna be hoarse for a week.

Lately

Lately Phoenix has been breaking my heart.

I feel like we’re not fighting a losing battle anymore; we’re fighting a lost one.  I feel like Monsanto won, gentrification won, racism and sexism and all the isms I rage against have won.

And we’re going to be a failed ghost town in a matter of years anyway.

Phoenix Lately

Last night at Ric’s birthday party I sat at a big table outside with many of the people I love most in the world and we talked about it all.  How the elections went, how the Grand Avenue Festival made us sad, how we don’t know how to reconcile our lives.

Two days ago was the Grand Avenue Festival and man, was it a sight.  Grand Ave, you remember, is the Fuck You street that slices through downtown at an angle.  It always screws up Phoenix newbies.

IMG_9441

The festival featured artists, food, crafts, etc.  A street littered with fanfare.  I was working my new hiptastic coffee shop, slinging lattes and bagels all day, while my buddy Raquel wandered the festival with my new puppy.  (We’ll talk about him.)  She said it made her heart ache to see the white-washed charade all over our avenue.  She said she kept hearing heart-breaking snippets of conversation.  People saying they were so glad Phoenix is being cleaned up, how its getting safer, how there’s getting to be some “culture”.

Its the same well-meaning but ignorant rhetoric I hear all the time.  Restaurants keep opening and failing on Grand Avenue and every business owner seems obsessed with “bringing people downtown”, as if there aren’t thousands of people here already, who have been here for years.

My heart is breaking because, oh man, there is already “culture” down here, its just not one of which you speak the language.   You say you wanna grow Phoenix up but what you mean is “fix” it.  We don’t need to be fixed.

It’s the same with the do-gooders who “just want to serve” at my downtown church.  Y’all come down here with your lofty ideas of what it means to “reach out” to a group of people.  You think you’re “bringing Jesus” to a place where he’s been for literally ever.  You wanna be a light?  Well you’re fluorescent and you’re giving us a headache.

Stop making service projects out of my friends.

Phoenix lately 2

Last night we laughed about it.

“I’m always like…yeah,that’s cool, awesome…hey this is random; have you heard of the book, When Helping Hurts?”

Like, how do you subtly tell someone they’re ruining everything?

Johnny’s outside from sun-up to sun-down working in the garden, fixing fences, taking care of animals, dealing with plumbing and cleaning and planting and sowing and everything, and when we get a group of garden volunteers they spend two hours dicking around on the farm and taking water breaks every half hour.

Johnny says if nothing else, he tries to make sure everyone gets fed and that he’s not an asshole.

I’m trying to adopt that mentality.  We all are.  All of us who’ve made our homes and lives down here on the ground are just trying to not hate the ones who are “reaching out” to us.  We’re all just trying to reconcile growth with preservation.  Johnny says we need leaders who know how to nurture. We wanna be part of the community that’s already here.  We want racial reconciliation, we want to be heard, we wanna hear, we love your hipster cupcake shops but we need you to vote for our candidates, yo.  We are making friends, falling in love, dealing with our addictions and our hopes and each other, and no one here is a service project for each other.

So Phoenix is breaking my heart, because the well-meaning do-gooders are fucking it up and because the soil is polluted, the air is polluted, the food is poison, my friends are disillusioned and everything sucks and I’ve been sick with chemical allergies or something since I came back from Summer Camp.  I’m trying to regain some sense of hope.  I’m trying to remember why we’re fighting, why we’re still breathing this poisoned air.  And I think of that Andrea Gibson poem, where in it she says,

anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.

So I’m flexing.  I’m staying.  I’m a mess and I’m trying.  I’m in love with the stubborn resiliency of this community and the way their incarnate love seeps into every hang-out.

But man its hard for a lotus to grow in depleted soil, ya dig?

PS this is my new puppy, Maroussi.

Maroussi phoenix lately

One of the girls at Garden Club told me about her brother’s pitbull having puppies, so I went to “look” at them.  That was five weeks ago.  I fell in love with this baby and now he’s mine and hangs out with me at the coffee shop every day.   I live a pretty charmed life sometimes.

New hurr

Chopped

Welp, that happened.

We drove home listening to the the Vitamin String Quartet’s rendition of Fall Out Boy songs,  and I tried not to cry while simultaneously feeling like a total badass.  We bought liquid eyeliner, eye shadow, and styling product.

And when we got home I in front of a mirror with my fingers in my hair, mortified and excited.  I took like million selfies in terrible that lighting, so here’s a few for your enjoyment.  I think they capture the spirit of the whole deal.  Styling gel is way too fun.

New HairNew Hair 2New Hair 6New Hair 5New Hair 7

Hope you enjoyed. :)

Mane event

I’m selling all my hair online so as afford rent at a house downtown.

Like…all of it.

Hair2

It’s funny because I never really realize how much of my sense of identity is tied up in something until it’s taken from me. It takes the rug being yanked out from under me to see the unhealthy ways I find my self-worth. This experience with Hairsellon.com has me reeling, second-guessing who I’ll even be without my Rapunzel hair. If I’m not the girl with locks that strangers gush over, who am I? Will you still think I’m pretty when it’s gone? Will I lose my hippie card if I do this?

Ah, vanity, ye ole sonofabitch.

But it goes a little deeper than vanity. Listen, a lot of this is tied into the fact that my hair was literally falling out in high school because I was starving to death.

See, from the time I was fourteen until around seventeen I was obsessed with losing weight. It started with an innocent “let’s be good stewards of our bodies!” and ended with me in the hospital. I remember looking in the mirror in the hospital bathroom and really seeing how skeletal I was and wondering how in the hell something like this could happen to me.

That’s the way sin is though. You’re never tempted into something evil because it looks evil; it always starts out looking holy. The best lies are simply truths that have been tweaked a little. I’ve been watching Breaking Bad again and reveling in the character development of “good” people like Walter. BrB’s appeal is in watching “the nerdiest old guy” we know become a ruthless villain. We all like this show because it exposes how these little compromises, these little sins, pave the way toward greater and greater evils. What begins as a good thing (a man sacrificing for the ones he loves) eventually has boring old Mr White poisoning children.*

It’s like that with eating disorders much of the time, too. We start out with the biblical truth of being a good steward of our bodies and wind up weeping in the bathroom because we ate a couple M & Ms at a Christmas party.  I used to wake up terrified from nightmares of having to eat in front of people.  I fantasized more about my funeral than my wedding day.

I was sick.

2007-04-10_Easter_SpurCross_Eggs 045

Anorexia ruined my hair, something I’d taken so much pride in from the time I was a little girl. I’d always known my hair was beautiful and so much of my sense of self was in that. Suddenly, at sixteen, when I pulled my head off my pillow every morning strands of my hair stayed behind. When I brushed it, it came off in clumps. It was stringy and brittle and I hated myself for how I just couldn’t seem to stop.

When I turned eighteen, after treatment and counseling and much, much support from my community, I chopped off all my stringy hair as a defiant “starting over” point. I wanted a new life. I wanted to be free. I moved out of my parent’s house with short brown hair determined to never hurt myself that way again.

Five years later, my hair is thick, 28 inches long, and perfect. Many of my friends are horrified that I’m cutting it. I’m a little horrified too. This hair has been a testimony to my healing. It has been a symbol of the grace I’ve been shown, the second chance I was allowed. When you tell me I have pretty hair what I hear is, hey, look how far you’ve come. You’re doing so much better. You’re doing so well. You’re not as sad as you used to be.  There was a deeply spiritual reason for letting my hair get as excessively long as it did, and it’s going to be a trip to not have that reminder every time I brush it. It’s going to take extra effort to remember the mercy I found myself hidden inside when I slowly tried to end my life in high school.

Braid 3

And you know what? I’m a little excited to be stretched like this. I’m excited to have to start over, to not have a physical reminder of my own redemption, and to learn to be a person even without beautiful hair.   Does this make sense?

And really, you know what? I’d rather be back in the neighborhood than have pretty hair.  So whatever.  See ya downtown.

 

*Yeah, Walter White’s a friggin’ sociopath and probably was from the beginning. Screw that guy.

Pss obvs. the hair-selling thing is a temporary solution to an ongoing problem (ie paying rent).  I’m only using it to get back downtown, where I’ll mosey on into a new job and back into Normal People Life. xoxo

Guiltless pleasures and that cow I bought.

*technically a baby steer. We’ll come back to him.

Summer isn’t over until I rejoin society, I think, and that’s definitely not happening until after my brother’s and my roadtrip next week. So this is still summer, and I’m pretty sure when I look back on the spark notes of my life if I get to be an old lady someday, this chapter’s gonna be “Marvel, Fall Out Boy, and I Bought a Cow.”

Marvel, because in the midst of a total personality crisis last April I found myself alone in the back row of a movie theater watching Captain America; The Winter Soldier. I think something about Captain America’s isolation and loneliness hit home because I, as they say, lost my shit and proceeded to go on a five-month (and going strong!) Marvel binge that’s rivaled my teenaged obsession with Johnny Depp. Like, hot diggity dawg, gimme super heroes with tragic back stories and mental illnesses! The Hulk tried to commit suicide? Gimme. Iron Man has panic attacks? GIMME.

I hit all the levels of fangirling, including spending hours at my buddy Brian’s apartment reading old comics by his pool.

I ate that shit up.

I was embarrassed about how much I adored the Marvel franchise until I realized, hey, when I’m really, really depressed, I don’t like anything. I don’t get excited or nervous or heated about anything; I’m listless and tired. It’s like when you’ve been swimming all day and there’s still a ton of water in your ears, distorting the way everything sounds. Depression is like that watered-ears feeling, but with emotions.

So I realized, oh my gosh, I can’t be that sad! I LOVE MARVEL!

From then on I totally owned it. Hell yeah, I know the back stories of every character in the MCU. Yeah, I dressed up as the Winter Soldier during Super Hero week at camp and cracked myself up saying, “who the heck is Jess?” when kids called my name.

Sometimes it’s the silly things, and sometimes all you’ve got to hang onto is the mantra at least I’m not as sad as I used to be.

Avengers

Fall Out Boy.

Ah. This. So, a couple months ago my little sister and I really liked the band New Politics, and I saw they were opening for the Monumentour. Some bands called Fall Out Boy and Paramore were headlining, but whatever, NEW POLITICS. I bought us tickets and waited.

Meanwhile, my sister did some “research” for the concert.

In May when I made it to LA, she frantically introduced me to the Holy Trinity of Pop-Punk; Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and My Chemical Romance. All of the sudden the music I may have listened to at thirteen was all I wanted to hear at twenty-three. It was amazing; all the intellectual sad bastard music I’ve listened to for the last ten years or whatever faded until all I resonated with were these eyelinered emo boys.

I told my sister that “pop-punk” was my guilty pleasure and she gave me a really weird look.

“Really?” She asked. “You feel guilt about something harmless that you enjoy?”

Touche’.

So I stopped feeling guilty. I started just openly enjoying these fun little bands I should’ve liked when I was in high school.

fishnets are for when you wanna feel awesome

We’ll come back to Fall Out Boy after I tell you about the cow steer.

Mine.  This one's mine.

At camp this year I had a baby dairy cow named “Boca” to care for. He came to me skin and bones and nervous around people. My co-worker and I worked fervently to put some weight on him, feeding him separately during the day and making sure to spend extra time petting him. Soon he was like a puppy, following us around and mooing when we left the arena. Everyone at camp fell in love with him.

The last week of camp we learned he was to be auctioned off in the Fall as cheap hamburger meat and again, my shit was lost. I don’t know what happened, but I went to my boss in tears, mortified that this baby creature who we all loved and who loved us was going to be slaughtered for such a wretched industry.

And like any absurd person with a heart…I decided to buy him. The camp director donated a hundred and random counselors pitched in, and we bought the cow. I thought my dad was going to cry when he realized I was serious.

I found Boca a home near San Francisco and last week my mother and I rented a trailer and drove halfway there to transfer him to his new owners. Now Boca lives with another cow in bovine paradise and I’m short a few hundred dollars, but grinning like a loon because I did something I believed in and frankly, I don’t care how ridiculous it is.

Ridiculous, like knowing everything about Marvel and listening to bands that were all over Teen Magazine ten years ago.

Sometimes in life you feel like you’re losing yourself, like you have no idea what the point is or who you are anymore. And sometimes it takes an act of futile compassion to regain some sense of direction. Driving down from the halfway point, after leaving Boca with his new cow apologists, I thought of Marvel and the Pop-Punk music I’m usually too “mature” for, and felt like myself for the first time in a very, very long time.

It’s a soul thing.

It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize a few things, like how life doesn’t follow a linear trajectory and how even if I felt like I was soooooo far beyond this point three years ago, this is ok. This is more than ok.

Friends, I urge you like I urge myself; lighten up. This is a season of becoming. This is a season of rediscovering. This is a time to be moved by things other people may not be moved by, because it shapes and solidifies our personalities into something that can be used to uniquely rock our sphere of the universe in a good direction. Yeah, some of its futile, but it’s a soul-thing. It can’t be translated and it doesn’t need to be, because most everyone has their little pointless, soul-enriching pleasures they can’t explain.

I like superhero stories and catchy music and it made a difference to me to make a difference to one baby animal.

What are your soul things? What are the pleasures you shouldn’t feel guilty for anymore?

“Life’s a bitch and then you die,” my friend Amber says. It’s really hard and we need each other, says my old pastor.

So damnit, enjoy those things you enjoy.

We can talk theology and philosophy and all that stuff later on. Right now though? Relax your shoulders. Breathe. Listen to whatever you wanna listen to and watch all the Iron Man movies in one setting, and spend your paycheck on something frivolous and pointless and foolish because you need to do it for your heart.

Two nights ago was that Monumentour concert I was telling you about. You know who’s a good front man? That punk-rock pretty-boy Pete Wentz. And you know why? Because he never once even humble-bragged. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show where the band’s frontman spoke so intentionally to positive self-care, camaraderie, and work ethic. This guy knows where he’s been and he knows where his fans are, and he uses his platform to speak about mental health and to encourage people to stop the “it gets better” rhetoric and just make it better.

pete wentz no h8

I was impressed and encouraged and somehow reaffirmed. Yeah, I started listening to Teenager Music in my twenties, but did you hear these bands applaud the kids in the crowd who are beating suicide’s lure?  Did you see how happy my punk ass little sister was?

FOB

So yeah, that’s Summer ’14 in summation. And that’s how we’re moving forward. Tell me what makes you happy, tell me what gets your heart worked up, tell me if this friggin’ rambling post was too long.

See you soon, P-Town.