What I Learned from // Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf and published in 1925, is the story of just one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society woman living in London in the 1920s as she prepares to host a party at her home that evening.

We also follow the very troubled Septimus Smith, a World War I veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or “shell shock” as it was referred to back then. He comes back from the war paranoid and hallucinating trying to make sense of the loss of his friend Evans and his current feelings and memories of the war and his place in the world now.

“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway is a strange book. Written almost entirely from inside the minds of the characters in a “stream of consciousness” style follows their thoughts and observations on the past, present, and future of their lives and loved ones. It took me a long time to finish it despite its small size because that “stream of consciousness” style made it hard to get and keep my bearings. Once I did though I understood why Woolf might have chosen it.

Themes of relationships, time, religion, mental illness, existence, feminism and even sexuality are mulled over by not just Clarissa and Septimus but of all the characters around them. We learn quickly that the inner lives of these people are much richer and more interesting than their outside worlds.

I don’t claim to know what the moral of Mrs. Dalloway is, but what I learned was that your whole life is lived inside of you every day. Your thoughts are where you exist but we are so wrapped up in what’s going on outside us we never even realize it.

You remember things. You think about who you love and who you hate. You think about who you wish you were and who you are now. You wonder about other people and other places. You learn things and teach things. You’re happy, you’re sad, you’re angry. You see yourself as a child and wonder what you might look like when you get old. You wonder when do you will die, and if it will hurt, and who will remember you.

“It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

But these thoughts occur only inside of our own heads and language is a poor medium for expressing them or even describing how they come to us. So, we are isolated and perpetually misunderstood. It is impossible for a person to know another person fully. THis leads to much of our sadness and suffering. To do better, to understand and to be understood, we have to start practicing sharing your thoughts, and even before you can do that, you have to start paying attention to your thoughts, and then you have to make a point of asking people about their own.

I had no idea the novel was created from two short stories titled, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” and “The Prime Minister,” the latter of which was unfinished. That might explain the abruptness of the ending, which is my one and only critique of the book. It felt like there was so much left to explain, not of the story, but of what it all meant. Still, I finished the book feeling once again that all the praise received for the book and for the author herself was well deserved.

I highly recommend you read it if you never have. It’s different, but if you went into it with an understanding of the style, you might have a better time of it than I did. When you do, be sure to let me know what you think!

“Well, I’ve had my fun; I’ve had it, he thought, looking up at the swinging baskets of pale geraniums. And it was smashed to atoms—his fun, for it was half made up, as he knew very well; invented, this escapade with the girl; made up, as one makes up the better part of life, he thought—making onself up; making her up; creating an exquisite amusement, and something more. But odd it was, and quite true; all this one could never share—it smashed to atoms.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

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P.S. If you have been a long time follower of Zen and Pi you may remember my older book review posts were titled “Short and Sweet Reviews,” but let’s be honest, most of the books I read have already been reviewed hundreds of times over and my short and sweet opinion won’t mean much to many. 

So, instead, I want to start sharing what I have learned from each, hence, the name change. I read to acquire wisdom and a new way of seeing the world and so, that should be what I share, not my crappy fifth-grade quality “review.” I’m excited about this new direction and look forward to reviewing more books soon, and I hope you will learn something too.

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Check out my other reviews on my “Am Reading” page or keep up with my progress on Goodreads.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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Claim Your Freedom and Make Your Mistakes Your Own

“You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too.”

— Anaïs Nin

Bad faith is a concept in existential philosophy that describes the tendency of humans, when faced with the pressures of society to act and believe in a certain way, to give up, or more accurately, to easily and conveniently forget, that they are in fact free beings who are under no innate obligation to give their time or choices up to anyone or any institution for any reason.

We grow up being told we have to follow certain rules and walk certain paths, we are supposed to want certain things and get there by doing certain kinds of work for a certain outrageous amount of hours and years of our lives. We are supposed to date certain people and dress and certain way and live from birth to death doing all the things everyone else is doing, without question, without variation.

We naturally want to be part of communities and communities work best when everyone is on the same page. We do best together when all of us are committed to contributing and moving us all forward one small life at a time.

We are also, just as naturally, very curious, adventurous, and searching for a slice of this earth and something in our lives that we can call our own. We want to mean something in our communities, and we want our contributions to be on our own terms.

We are full of contradictions, and contradictions are uncomfortable. It helps to look to those around us and follow the conventional wisdom, at the same time when others look to us, we encourage them to do the thing we know deep down we don’t want to do.

We tell them the lie we tell ourselves. Live your life this way and this way only, because there is no other kind of life you can live.

We create blind spots in our vision in all the places our paths fork. We let chance, and worse, other people, choose our direction because choosing is hard and scary, and uncertainty never lives comfortably in the human mind. We are never taught to live by making choices. We are never taught that living with purpose, a purpose we choose rather than one we are born into is possible for us. We are not taught how to cope with regret or how to feel pride at how far we come or to feel joy in where we are. We are not taught to look at our dreams as anything more than that.

We are taught that life is set in stone by the age of 18, if not earlier. We are taught that there is only one way to success, that success is possible for everyone, and that success and fulfillment are the same things. We are taught we only have one chance and that our lack of success is down to personal failure and flaw.  We are taught never to think too hard about what we are taught but I’m telling you it was a lie and for you to perpetuate it makes you a liar too.

You have choices, and you can change your life if you want too. Of course, not all possible choices are available to us at all times, and certainly, there are no easy choices to make. Freedom carries with is certain consequences and all of which must be taken responsibility for. Still, every time you tell someone, or yourself, especially yourself, that you can’t do something, or that you had no choice at any time, you are living in bad faith.

You might be thinking that if so many options were available to us, if all our dreams could come true and we could live the way we always daydreamed we could, wouldn’t we all be doing that? Well, you would think so, but the truth is, being a human is hard, and sometimes it is easier to forget what it means to be so aware and conscious and free in favor of something a little less terrifying and painful.

As a species were caught between a rock and a hard place. We live lives full of deep emotion, potential, and accomplishment, and not only do we have to die, but all that struggle and regret means nothing when you consider the eons the universe will go on existing after you. So, we choose to make unimportant and easily accessible things the center of our lives so that that pain, that cruel cosmic joke, never has to enter our minds. It’s easier to be mindless than to know what is to come and what can never be relived.

But what a waste of what little we have don’t you think?

It hurts my heart thinking of how much of life is wasted while we do the work we think we have to do and live the lives we think we have no other choice but to live all the while daydreaming of the life we might have. I panic to think of all the unexamined years of my own life that slipped through my fingers like sand while I stupidly, stupidly, stupidly spent my time on nothing that matters anymore. I wish I had known that what hurts can sometimes be what is best. I wish someone had told me to take control of my own mind, to be aware of how I live, and to ask myself all the time why. I wish someone had told me that when you have no answer to that question, it’s time to make a change and that change can always be made.

The usefulness of being aware of such tendencies is to take responsibility for the choices you do make so that even when all else has been taken from you or kept out of your reach, you at least know that everything you did was because you chose to do it. At least you will know that no matter how small or painful your life was at the very least it was your own. What else can we hope for in a universe where thinking feeling being pop in and out of existence alone, helpless, and with no way of knowing how to live or what it’s all for?

Any regret we might feel on the day that death comes for us is a pithy price to pay for such freedom and richness of experience freedom. A wrong turn made here and there along will be of no consequence if we can take pride in all of them having been our own.

An authentic life, that is what we all should be living. I don’t mean a happy life or a life where all your desires are met. No life is free from suffering, or of heartbreak, or loss, or misunderstanding, or oppression, but if we have to hurt so much and if there have to be so many regrets and mistakes at least make them your own. At least let your life be free of lies, and hiding, and of giving your life over to people who don’t have to live it for you and won’t be the ones to lose it when it comes your time to part with it.

You can do things, you can improve things, and you can choose what kind of person you want to be. You choose your words, your beliefs, and values, the way you will look, and who you will count amongst your friends and loved ones. You choose how to spend your time, at this job or that, and you choose what leisure time means too. You choose your calling and your path and your passions. Society never says you have to do anything, it only tries to dissuade you from disrupting anyone around you and waking them up too.

Were all steered in the direction that benefits everyone else, but in that cohesion and calm, we lose the only thing we have in this world, our time on it. Even if you wanted to spend your whole life making nothing, creating nothing, learning nothing new at all, at least make sure you are the one who made the choice. Not advertising, not your mom, or your boss, or your spouse, and especially not everyone else around you just doing what has always been done and wanting you do do the same so they never have to think about all the time and freedom they let slip away too.

You have the right to be a free and thinking being, and you have the misfortune to be a being with an intermediate lifespan, don’t give up one minute of it to anyone who any wants to use it for the benefit of their bank account, or their comfort. Live your life the way you choose.

Fall in love too fast, feel too much, quit your job, make less money if it means you live your dream. Say yes. Say no! Embrace being different, living different, and thinking differently. Embrace choice and make as many as you can before someone makes them for you. Don’t be afraid. Make as many mistakes as you can on your way to getting it right, whatever that means for you!

You can’t change it all, and you can’t do any more than can be done in one lifetime, but you can be true to yourself. You have a right to do it, and more than that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s long past time we stop acting like it isn’t.

Go, claim your freedom and your truth, and never forget that in all of the creation you are among the most privileged to have either at all.

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // The World is Falling Apart, Stay Safe

Hello, dear readers! Thank you so much for stopping by for our weekly coffee and conversation date. I know it hasn’t been so “weekly” lately. Life’s been a little crazy, and my health and energy levels have been suffering because of it, but I’m hoping that we will get back to regular coffee and catching up starting this week. There’s a chance all the crazy may be winding down. I can’t say I promise though since so much of what has happened has been last-minute and unexpected. I just want you to know I’m trying.

“Life is like coffee, the darker it gets, the more it energizes.”

― Ankita Singhal

***

If we were having coffee, I would start by letting everyone in the state of Florida know that my thoughts are with you. I am following the news of Hurricane Irma very closely, and I hope that the worst predictions won’t come true. I hope you all stay safe and that the damage to your homes, schools, streets, and wildlife and lands will be minimal and I hope the recovery and the rebuilding will be a time of coming together in compassion too.

My thoughts are still with Houston and the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. I’m following the news coming out of the West as wildfires burn unchecked, and I am thinking of the people of Mexico dealing with their own hurricane and the strongest earthquake to hit the country in 100 years.

My heart is also breaking for the young men and women who feel so betrayed by the President’s decision to put an end to the DACA program. I faxed all my congressional representatives to let them know just how ugly and cruel this is and that I hoped they would do right by the citizens of this country and protect its most vulnerable.

It feels like the world is falling apart and I am doing my best to be grateful for what I have a where I am and to keep my home safe and my anxiety in check. The news is getting harder and harder to watch every day and the problems around me grow and grow until I feel hopeless and helpless do anything that matters.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the reason we couldn’t meet last week is that we finally got a weekend camping trip in. We found out that our favorite movie theater chain, Alamo Drafthouse, was partnering with SyFy to show Close Encounters of the Third Kind below the Devils Tower Monument in Wyoming. We learned it would be shown in the campsite next to the tower and decided to head on up and make a whole weekend of it for my girlfriend’s birthday.

I went up there remembering very little about the film and knowing next to nothing about the monument, so the trip was a real learning experience for me. The film was amazing, emotional, thought-provoking, and very funny. The tower was like nothing I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend you go at least once in your life. The hike around the base of it is incredible. You get right up next to it, and even without registration you can climb the boulder field around the base and get right up to it.

I learned a ton about the geography and formation of the tower as well as some of the myths and Native American ceremonies that involve the tower that still go on today. The whole experience was just amazing. I want to tell you more, but the words I have just aren’t enough to convey how I felt up there. I’m so glad we went and that I got to see just a miracle of nature up close.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that while getting away from all the problems and expectations of life for a weekend was nice, it wasn’t nearly enough. When you know there is a whole world out there, with no deadlines, no expectations, nothing but beauty and history, you want to leave everything you know, go off grid and just dedicate your life to seeing as much of nature as you can. Sadly, letting go of your life, your connections, and your luxuries isn’t so easy. So, back to the real world, we had to return.

Work has been hard. I had a hectic week both last week and the week before plus I have been trying to squeeze in writing whenever I could, which wasn’t nearly as much as I needed. And even with all I have on my plate, I feel so guilty for complaining because compared to people around me I think I have it pretty easy. My route isn’t that bad. My work hours aren’t so bad either; and at least I have some time, anytime at all, to focus on my passion. At least I have a passion to wish I had more time for, you know?

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that everything hasn’t been all bad. Not only did I accomplish my goal applying for the Bitch Media Writing Fellowship the week before last I also sent my first real pitch to Buzzfeed for their Mental Health Week coverage. I had hoped to send a full draft of the piece but work really got in the way and I just couldn’t finish it. I’m hoping a summary, and a few clips will be strong enough to be considered, if not I’ll have a topic to discuss here instead.

I have a list of other places to send work, and I anticipate lots and lots of rejection, but that’s okay. I want to start pushing myself further. I want to start learning how to become a real writer, one who is paid to write. The only way I can do that is to start putting myself out there. I have to get over this fear of failure and start making mistakes and maybe even embarrassing myself a little so I can improve not just my work but my pitching strategy too.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that as much as I have missed chatting with you, I have to run. Between the long weekend, the busy work weeks, and my girlfriend’s birthday celebrations, I’ve had no time to take care of the house and I still have to get ready to visit my family, who I have also neglected these past few weeks.

I hope these first weeks of September have treated you well and if it hasn’t, I hope things turn around for you soon. Stay safe, make time for the things you enjoy, take care of yourselves and your loved ones too.

Until next time lovelies.

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Part-Time Monster

Featured image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Hello September // I’m Looking for a New Project

I know I’m a few days late on greeting the new month but with Labor Day weekend falling first thing along with my girlfriends birthday and many more coming in rapid fire after, September tends to be a time of chronic tardiness for me. I’ve only just now found time enough to think about the rest of the month laid before me and figure out my goals, but first I suppose I should look back at the last month’s and take stock of how I fared.

I fared pretty badly. I pretty much let my August Small Goals go. In my defense, I’ve been focused on making sure my work life and home life weren’t falling apart, and making sure not to let the stress get to me or my relationship. I’ve been anxious and exhausted, and I didn’t notice how time was slipping away. Next thing I knew it was too late.

Here were the goals I had set up:

Schedule my driving classes. I called but only to find out my contract year had expired and I would need to pay an additional fee to renew it. It wasn’t just that though, it was my fear. My phobia is like a 40-foot wall inside myself that I have to climb every time I get behind the wheel. I’ll take any excuse not to do it. No more.

Read two books. I read half a book, which is better than no books at all. I may not have met my goal, but I do have a plan to meet it in this month

Walk in the mornings, hike on the weekends. I did walk in the mornings, but since my joint pain has gotten worse, it takes me a lot longer for me to limber up in the mornings than it used to. Work schedules conflicted with weekend hikes, so those didn’t happen either.

Cook one meal a during the week and one big breakfast on the weekends. I did it! Most weeks. I’m not a great cook, but I managed to make roasted sausage with mushrooms, squash, and polenta, and some maple bacon cornbread muffins. Other than that it was just frozen pizzas and smoothies, that sort of thing.

Start planning our big vacation. This one didn’t happen. With the driver shortage at work, there was no way we were going to be able to take any time off. SO instead I planned the weekend trip we just took north to catch the 40th anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind below Devils Tower in Wyoming.

Design save the dates, maybe? One day we are going to start planning this wedding. That day has not come yet though.

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Even though I didn’t do so well on my small goals, I did get a very big goal completed, so I’m not too bummed about it. And anyway this was only my first time trying. I’m hopeful for my September’ goals since I have a better handle on managing my time and I know where I went wrong. This month I want to do better.

So here are my small goals for September:

Find a new writing project. This month’s big goal was to submit the very best application I could for the 2018 Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers. This was the first time I had applied for anything writing related, so I had to write a cover letter, a CV, and gather writing samples with no idea what I was doing or how I was going to stand out. It was stressful, but I’m actually very proud of myself for doing the research and the work every day and completing the task on time, but the deadline left a void in my life. I’m unsure what to do now but I know I want a new project. I want to feel that pride again.

Make a new art journal. I talked about this a few days in my Currently post. I made an art journal by hand many, many months ago and after only completing 2 or 3 pages I gave up on it and ever since I’ve been carting the dead thing with me wherever I went lying to myself saying I would start again. The truth is this sketchbook reeks of my failure, so I need a clean slate. I have a new lovely piece of cardboard and many pages of newspaper, magazine, and scraps to bind, and this time I won’t be posting pictures on Instagram or Tumblr just yet. This one will be just for me.

Create my own creative community. I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about the importance of creative community and how we struggle with the lack of one. He likes to draw, paint, and make small things from wood and metal. We have another friend who writes music, another who plays guitar and wants to start a band, and another who is an actor, writing and performing in small plays. My girlfriend enjoys photography, and I have family members who are crafty and want to start their own projects too. I have creative people around me, but we are scattered, hold up in our separate space trying to do it all on our own. I want to find a way to bring us together.

Take my two driving classes. Seriously, I need to do this now. I need to stop being afraid and get my license and find some sense of freedom and independence.

Make a doctor and a dentist appointment. After my ulcerative colitis diagnosis back in February, I worked closely with my doctor to get me well and back to working comfortably as quickly as we could. I’ve been doing everything she asked, and I’ve improved, but I haven’t gotten back to where I need to be. She told me we may have to try new medications and to check in and let her know how I am. I never did. I’m scared, but I have no idea why. Same goes for the dentist. I know I need work, but I can’t seem to get over myself enough to pick up the phone and make an appointment.

Read two books. I have to finish Mrs. Dalloway right away, I’ve spent way too much time on it. I think afterward I’ll read Memoirs of a Geisha, and finish up Phi too. I found a 30-minute space in between two of my routes at work. If I commit to making that my reading time, and taking time on the weekends too, I should be able to read at least two of these easily. To be honest, what I really need to do is delete all the games on my phone. I wasted many reading hours moving colored candies around my screen for no reason at all. This is actually the real goal. Reading will be the reward.

Get back to sending my newsletter again. I lost a few subscriber last month, and it really hurt my feelings, and I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t think of anything to write, and I was sure it was stupid anyway. I’m still not convinced that isn’t true but it’s still something I do enjoy, and it’s something I want to get better at. I can only get better with practice and with some helpful critique from readers. Maybe you could subscribe and help me out with that?

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Once again, the list is longer than it should be. I always bite off more than I can chew. Oh well, I’ll try to keep in mind that it’s okay if I don’t get to everything and work hard not to feel overwhelmed or discouraged if I fall behind. I have a whole month to get it done, and all it takes is doing a little at a time every day.

What about you? Do you have any small goals of your own you hope to accomplish this month? If so drop them in the comments. I’d love to wihs you luck and maybe we can all keep each other focused and hold one another accountable, yeah?

 

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

The inspiration for these posts come from Nicole at Writes Like a Girl. Check out her goals and join the linky with your own.

Featured image by freddie marriage on Unsplash

August 2017 // I Did the Thing!

Wow, the end of August really snuck up on me! I went the half the day writing the date on forms and staring at it on my calendar before I realized what it meant, tomorrow is September, and then it took the other half to reflect on everything that happened.

This month was a buzzing busy one. The kids have all gone back to school with means I have gone back to working a regular schedule and this school year has been off to the rockiest start I’ve seen in my 11 years here. With the employee shortage, we are all having to chip in and work a little more. My girlfriend is working very long hours, so I’ve been picking up some slack at home all the while plugging away at a big scary goal I had at for myself too. I sent in an application for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers under the topic of sexual politics.

I’ve never done anything like this before which means I had no experience working cover letters, crafting a CV, or putting together writing samples, but I did it. I agonized over it. I fought my fear of it. I thought of my future self and how I hoped she would be proud rather than disappointed. I did the thing, guys. I did the big scary thing, and now I’m ready for September to begin.

But before it does, here is what I am currently:

Writing: Nothing. Well, not nothing. I’m posting here and working on a few little things, but after having worked so hard on that application, I’m kind of burned out. I’m going to take a little break from the pressure and deadlines. I’m just reading and brainstorming. I say nothing, and I say I’m taking a break but to be honest with you I’ve already been making interesting little notes I might make into something one day.

Planning a long weekend away! So, work got in the way, and our big trip west won’t be happening after all. Bummer. But since my girlfriend’s birthday is on Sunday, and since this weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and since Birth.Movies.Death is teaming up with SyFy and showing the movie in Wyoming at the base of Devil’s Tower we ARE DRIVING NORTH FOR THE WEEKEND! I’m so excited. Oh, and I guess I better start planning for the 100 other birthdays of close friends and family falling in this month too.

Making a new art journal. I think I’ve said this before, and I didn’t really do it, but I finally have just the right piece of cardboard for the cover and plenty of scrap paper to make a nice thick book out of it. I want so badly to get back into drawing but trying to do it in the same art journal I failed to keep up with is just a reminder of my failure. I can’t draw when I feel like a failure, so there needs to be a clean slate. Art will be the thing I do that is entirely for me. Writing used to be that thing, but now I write for you all too, and while I love sharing my passion with you, I’m just one of those people who needs something that is just for me too.

Anticipating the end of September! I hate to see the season go but Halloween is my favorite holiday, and as far as I’m concerned it begins on October 1st. I’m ready for candy corn and all the horror movies I can watch. The good ones and the cheesy ones too, I love them all. Plus I’m so ready for the next season of Stranger Things. I have a feeling September is going to dragggggggggg.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway, still, because I caved and reinstalled Candy Crush on my phone. I’m so addicted to the game that even talking about it now makes me want to close my laptop and get a hit of that sweet, sweet color matching action. I need to delete it, and I will, I promise, just one…more…level. It’s not just the game though, the book’s stream of conscious style was hard to get the hang of, but I am making progress. I believe I’ll get through it before the weekend is over. Next up I’ll be reading either Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare or Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

Watching Last Chance High on Viceland. Many of the years 11 years I’ve worked in this school district were spent with children who have emotional and behavioral disorders. These kids are defiant, violent, and angry but they are also so caring, and smart, and afraid. There is a serious lack of public understanding of how these disorders develop and how to treat them. People believe these kids need to be ashamed, bullied, and beat into better behavior but it is precisely this treatment that leads to this behavior. Last Chance High chronicles the harsh world these kinds of kids live in and teaches us that love, affection, protection, and understanding is how you help them heal.

Feeling a little alone. I’m surrounded by people who are too busy living their own lives to pay attention to me, but I’m doing my best not to be too whiny about it. I’m taking some time to learn how to be alone with myself without anxiety and existential dread creeping in. I’m learning to be self-motivated and disciplined and to soothe myself and take care of me without help. I’ve never been on my own, and even now I’m not truly alone, only bored and having a small internal tantrum over not having attention paid to me the moment I want it.

Needing the world to get back on some kind of even keel again. Everything feels so upside down and up in the air. I’m afraid of the future, for our country and for my own small family and circle of friends. The big political and economic landscape have had real world effects. My job can’t find or keep enough qualified employees, my friends can’t afford the skyrocketing rent prices in this city, and I’m afraid to lose my rights, my healthcare, and my sanity. I’m worried about war and natural disasters victims who will lose their homes. I’m afraid there is nothing I can do, and I’m afraid there is so much I can do, and I’m only too weak or lazy to do it.

Loving that last season of Game of Thrones! Best season yet despite being so short. Every episode was action packed and full of surprises and bombshells of information. I sat on the edge of my seat for seven whole weeks. I have no idea how I’m going to wait out the next year or two until the eighth season premieres, and I have no idea how I will live without the show in my life after that final season ends.

Hating that I’ve had to stop being so open to people emotionally. I used to pride myself on being so willing to hear the pains and complaints of others. I k ow how much we all just want to be heard and I know not every is so lucky to have someone in their lives to listen, but lately, there has been so much negativity and lying around me that I’ve had to take a step back. With my own support system working at a lower capacity than usual I just don’t have the emotional strength right now to deal with toxic attitudes. I hate it, but it’s necessary for now.

Hoping I get picked for this fellowship, and I’m also hoping I don’t. I want it because I really think with some mentorship and a little direction I could turn out to be at the very least a damn decent writer. I want this because it will give me a purpose and a place for my writing to call home. I want this because I want to feel proud and I want people to feel proud of me too. But as much as I want it I still have this sinking feeling that I’m not good enough and that I have made myself a liar by trying to convince the nice people at Bitch Media that I am. I’m afraid to waste their time, to find out I’m incompetent, and to let everyone down. Mostly I’m just hoping I can put it out of my mind and keep myself from going crazy until November 15th when the 2018 fellows are announced.

Mostly I’m just hoping I can put it out of my mind and keep myself from going crazy until November 15th when the 2018 fellows are announced.

All in all, this month was a really hard one, but I’m so proud of myself, and my girlfriend, and of us for making it through it all together.This month was about growth and maturity and about loving each other enough to put our own feelings and sometimes needs aside to be supportive of one another. She supported me and took time out of her day to proofread and give me her opinion. I did my best to take some worries off her mind, and we both let go of our frustration to make the most of what time we had.

I hope things improve next month, but I know that if it doesn’t, we can handle it. We can take on whatever the world throws at us, separately and together. We’re growing up finally, and it feels good.

So, how about you? How did August treat you? Are you ready for fall? Do you have any last-minute summer plans to squeeze in? What did you think of Game of Thrones season 7?

Let me know in the comments (:

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

The inspiration for these posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured image by Dixit Motiwala on Unsplash

 

If We Were Having Coffee // Life is Stressful, Life is Good

Hello dear readers. Thank you for stopping by for a bit of caffeine ad catching up. I wasn’t sure we were going to meet today. I have a lot on my mind, and so much I should be doing but it’s all a little overwhelming and when I am overwhelmed I shut down. So, I thought, maybe what I need a cup of strong coffee, a little conversation, and a chance to put my mind to other things before I can try again.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”

— T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell that like the rest of the country my TV is tuned to the news of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation in Texas. The images I see coming out of the city are shocking. It’s horrifying the amount of damage that has been inflicted along their coastal cities in the course of only a weekend.

Years ago we dealt with flooding here in Denver. It had rained here for days on end and once the ground had become saturated the water began to seep into our homes. Only 13 inches of fell rain over the course of many days here, and only an inch or so of water found its way into my basement, but even that felt devastating. I cannot imagine that amount and more over just one night, or the 50″ forecasted for Houston by the end of this storm. I can’t imagine how those people are feeling or how scared they might be.

I have family living in Houston—my sister, her kids and husband, and his family—and so far they are faring well, but that may not last as the waters are predicted to continue to rise through the middle of the week. I was happy to hear though that they have plenty of food and water, they have a plan should the water start to flood their apartment, and their satellite signal held out long enough to watch the Mayweather/Mcgregor fight last night.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the last couple of weeks have been more than a little crazy around here. The school year started and not only are we dealing with a severe driver shortage there is also new management and district wide problems ranging from students with lice to teachers and coaches charged with sexually assaulting students. We’re only two weeks in and this already feels like the worst year we’ve ever had.

Personally, though I’m doing better than most. My route is a good one, and I like the driver I’m riding with too. My girlfriend isn’t doing so well though. She’s still working up to 14 hours a day but she’s agreed not to work on Sunday’s and even when she goes in on Saturday’s she at least sleeps in a little and comes home in the early afternoon. I’m still worried about her stress levels and her health, but she is trying.

She’s agreed not to work more than 6 days out of the week, and when she goes in on the weekends, I am going to start going in along with her. I can write from there, and we can bring the dog too. It’s better than me sitting at home sad or making her feel bad for something that’s out of her control. When she isn’t working, we do our best go out, to keep off our phones, and keep our attention on each other. This weekend we saw friends for drinks and enjoyed a few movies at the drive-in.

By the way, Dunkirk was boring. Annabelle was creepy, but the plot was kind of dumb, and The Dark Tower was beyond disappointing. We had fun despite the movies.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it hasn’t been all bad though. I believe the last time we chatted was the week before our 15th anniversary. We kept it simple. Fifteen years together is quite a milestone but for us and we just wanted to enjoy it without any stress of planning or the pressure to make it perfect. That’s how we are though, the more important the milestone in our lives, the simpler we choose to celebrate it. This year it was a seafood dinner at our new favorite restaurant complete with plenty of wine and oysters. That was all.

It may sound boring, but it’s honestly all I ever want. Just to be with her in a place that has memories of us where we can spend a few hours getting to know each other again. The longer you are with someone, the more you realize that having someone listen to you, to laugh at your jokes, to offer advice and reassurance, and tell you all the good things you do and how much you mean to their world means more than any material gift or fancy destination. So that is what we give to each other, these little gifts for anniversaries, for birthdays, or sometimes just on a regular old Friday night after a hard week.

That’s love. That is what 15 years feels like to me.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we are only 7 months into Trump’s term and I have already come to a point where I have to stop letting him, and his administration take up so much of my time and mental energy. I have to limit how often I read the news, and I will no longer allow myself to watch his speeches, his press releases, or his rallies live. I will watch when I am in a good place, not before bed, not when I am already having a bad day, and not on my bad anxiety days.

I am still committed to resisting his harmful, destructive, and chaotic agenda and I will still work hard to educate those around me and stay informed, but I will do it in my own time and in my own way. I’m tired of starting the day yelling at the TV and fuming on social media over his latest tweets and lies.

This past weekend is when I really began to cut myself off. The last straw, the moment I decided he will never be someone I consider a leader and when I lost the last scrap of hope I had that he might one day become a president I at least won’t be embarrassed by, came when I heard the news that while the entire country was sending thoughts and prayers to the people of Texas as Harvey slammed into the coast he quietly pardoned a racist and banned transgendered people from serving in the military.

He’s a snake and a coward, and he’ll never be my President.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it is getting late and I really have to get going. There is just too much I have left to do before the weekend is over.

I have been working like hell for the past two weeks to get my application in for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers, and I am so close to finishing my cover letter, CV, and gathering my writing samples. I’m going to try to spend the rest of the day working on it. I had hoped to submit it all tonight, but with all the house work I have to do before the big Game of Thrones finale it may have to wait until early tomorrow morning.

I hope you had a wonderful week, and that your weekend was a relaxing one. If you are in Texas or have family near any of the destruction, my thoughts are with you. Please, stay safe.

Until next time.

And Lola, the cutest little pain in the ass I know lol 🐶

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Part-Time Monster

Featured image by Paul on Unsplash

Sometimes Self-care Means Tough Love

“Self-care should include the cold shower as well as the scented tub.”

― Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life

Too often we get our self-care advice from companies who only want to sell us something and other social media users who only want us to like them so they too can sell us something later. Too often we get our self-care advice from people who have never been depressed or think the answer is as simple as veganism, more sunlight, and a better attitude.

Not all of this advice is harmful or even wrong, but it’s only half the story. You only ever hear the good stuff, the easy stuff, the feel good and comforting stuff. But self-care isn’t always about feeling better, it’s also about growth and healing, and we all know growing is hard, and healing hurts.

I love Bateson’s comparison of self-care to the cold shower and the scented tub. It reminded me of my struggle to get a morning routine that got me to work on time. When I wake up, I crave a warm shower and low lights. I tell myself that the best way is to ease into the day, but it’s a lie. I just want to do what feels better.

I read somewhere that a cold shower is the best way to start the day. I tried it, I hated it, but I can’t deny that it worked. The cold shower hurt but it woke me up, it energized me, and it put the world into perspective. Not much can happen in the course of a regular day that will be worse than that cold water all over me. The cold water was what was best. It got me up and out and off into the world to do what I needed to do.

It kept me from lingering in what is only comfortable.

And just like the cold shower we sometimes have to do what makes us uncomfortable to help ourselves do better and be better. Sometimes your happiness and everything you want is just on the other side of hard work and a little bit of tough love.

When you love someone you have to be honest with them. When you love someone, you don’t enable them. If you love yourself, you do the same, even when it’s hard.

Doing what we have to never feels as good as doing what we want and heading the truth always hurts more than the sugar-coated lie. Life can’t be all happy feelings and sunshine. Being alive is hard, and the world is harsh. If we want to survive, we have to learn to live and find what peace and happiness we can in all the frustration and suffering, and you can’t do that if you live in a bubble keeping all the bad thought at Bay with bath bombs, shopping, and expensive frappuccinos.

I’ve written about this before, about being mindful of the ways you take care of yourself. Escapism is the only answer but even when you decide to confront your self-remember to stay with what you need not just what you crave.

Self-care can be as simple as your food choices. Sometimes I crave sweets a lot when I’m feeling down, or tired. I crave all kinds of bad foods. Fried foods, salt, fat, butter, I’d eat them every day if it were up to my emotions. I want what feels good, what tastes good, what releases dopamine into the brain, but that isn’t what I need.  I need fuel for my body and my brain. I try to opt for fruits and veggies, nuts, rice, and water. It’s a fight I don’t always win, but I try because it’s better for me.

Sometimes self-care means protecting yourself from yourself. Sometimes we hurt ourselves more than anyone else, and we have to be strong enough to stand up for ourselves when that happens. Sometimes I tell myself I’m ugly, or I’m stupid, or I’m the worst and I’m always messing things up because it’s feels satisfying to reinforce harmful thought patterns. The truth is I’m just like everyone else, no better, no worse, and just as deserving of love and patience and forgiveness. It’s hard to accept that, but it’s what’s best for me.

Sometimes self-care means giving up your pride and asking for help from others. I suffered from fatigue, stomach pain, and shame for years because I couldn’t let go and go to the doctor for help. I couldn’t go because I was scared. I ended up getting really sick by the time I was able to get an ulcerative colitis diagnosis.  I tried changing my diet, and self-medicating, all the while telling myself that was self-care but it wasn’t, it was doing what was comfortable and easy. I was enabling myself. It wasn’t until I put my foot down, with myself, and did what was scary and painful that I really began taking care of myself.

For some of us, self-destruction can look a lot like self-care because people are broken and what hurts feels good and what should feel good hurts like hell.

Looking back on all the things I did for myself that ever felt like real love and caring were always hard to do. It was always uncomfortable and scary. All the indulgences and the gifts and the times I’ve done something in the name of “treat yo self!” were temporary. They were only comforting, not caring.

So today, on internet self-care day, give yourself something you need, not just the things you want. Take a moment to take in your current self-care routine, if you have one, and make a small change. Look at all the places you might be hurting rather than helping and make an effort to do a little better for yourself.

I’m not telling you to only ever take cold showers, the scented bath is necessary too. Just, try saving it for the end of those hard days when you’ve taken all your meds, drank more water, eaten more and better, for getting up and giving a shit and dragged yourself from sun-up to sundown doing your very best.

You still deserve comfort and the things that make you feel good too, but you deserve the tough love just as much. Never deprive yourself of either one.

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for more inspiring reads + some small existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee. Thank you!

Featured image by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash