Seven November Shifts

    1. Pick a topic you want to understand and start studying it. Give yourself a semester of Spanish or biology, sociology, geometry, or American history perhaps?
    2. Start without forethought, without know-how or talent. Start with bad ideas. Start begrudgingly and without confidence. Just start.
    3. Arrive early so that you have time to look around.
    4. Ask yourself what you are not doing, and then do more.
    5. Give yourself space to be more than one thing, and give each thing that you are its own space to grow.
    6. Turn notifications off. Better yet, silence your phone entirely and put it in another room. You do not always have to be reachable.
    7. Take care of people and things that need taking care of, but remember that some things—and people—can, should, and will take care of themselves if you would only let them.

***

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Post inspired by Nicholas Bate

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Seven October Shifts

  1. Seek boredom. Create space and time for having nothing at all to do, to watch, to listen to. Go someplace where there is no one to talk to. Make time for you and raw reality to become acquainted again.
  2. Accept the impermanence of things. Autumn is a time of uncomfortable, undesirable, uncontrollable change. It’s best to change with it because it’s a fight you’re only going to lose.
  3. Get tough and resilient again. No more complaining. No more stalling. You are tough enough, brave enough, and as capable and deserving as anyone else. Dust yourself off, accept the current state of things, and figure it out.
  4. Pay attention to your attention. There is a war going on for your time and you haven’t shown up to fight for yourself. Reclaimed your time for you. Work with mindfulness and intentionality.
  5. Trade one episode (or one hour of TV) a night for 500 written words. Trade your nap time for 30 minutes of reading.
  6. Learn to practice. Every passion is a marathon and the only way to win is to train every day. Practice with an understanding of your own ignorance. Practice with forgiveness of your inadequacy.
  7. Embrace what makes you wild. Pursue it.

***

Thanks 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 virtual cup of coffee.

Post inspired by Nicholas Bate

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If We Were Having Coffee // Getting out of the City

Hello dear readers! Happy Sunday, welcome, and thank you for stopping by for a bit of caffeine and catching up.

I’m not feeling all that great today. I’m recovering from yesterday’s hike, too many hard ciders afterward, too many snacks all day, and staying up a little too late last night. My body isn’t what it used to be and I wasn’t very careful or considerate of it this weekend and now I am paying the price. Copious amounts of coffee are being drunk and little more than laundry is on the agenda for the morning in apology and I hope that by the early evening my body and I will have come to an understanding.

So, pull up a chair and fill up a cup. The temperatures are still summer-like but there is a definite autumn-esque breeze coming through the open windows. It will be cold brew as usual and a healthy spoonful of creamy coconut milk—from the can, not the carton—for flavor. Let’s talk about last week.

“There is so much hope in a cup of coffee.”

@ellacalm

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I am sorry I missed our coffee date last week. It was my fiance’s birthday weekend and I decided to unplug and spend the long weekend being present in every moment with her. We went to dinner at one of our favorite out-of-the-way seafood places and had another dinner with her family at a new favorite Italian place. We cooked together at home too and snuggled up on the couch for movies. She opened her gifts as the arrived and I think she liked them all, and then we got away from the city and spent a day hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that we went hiking again yesterday too. We went back to Deer Creek Canyon, the same trail we hiked on our anniversary. We went back because it was an easy trail and our dog, Lola, needed to start slow for her first hiking day with us.

A bit of background on Lola: She’s, (we believe) an Australian cattle dog and basenji mix. She is energetic, smart, strong-willed, defiant, independent, and painfully shy. She is affectionate and loving, but very much on her own terms. She’s not especially food motivated and even my approval means very little so training and socialization have been a challenge. It’s as if wants to be a good dog, but only her own vision of what a good dog should be.

When we got her we thought she looked like the quintessential “Colorado dog”. The kind of dog you take hiking and camping. The kind of dog you take to dog parks and on road trips. The kind of dog that can be trusted off leash, that is well-trained, happy, confident, a dog that is a true life companion. We quickly realized after we got her home that she was far from what we’d expected.

Lola is certainly active enough but she required—still requires—a lot of work on her manners and confidence. She’s easily spooked, distrustful of strangers, and far too trusting of strange dogs. Hiking was out of the question. There was no way I could trust her to be safe and obedient on a trail, until now.

Yesterday she went on her first hike with us on a trail shared by people, dogs, and even mountain bikes! And she did so well! She didn’t try to run away from the bikes, and she, for the most part, ignored other dogs and people going by. This is a major improvement from even a few months ago where walking her around the block could be frustrating for both of us. I think we’ll take her again next weekend. I think getting out of the city does just as much good for her well-being as it does for mine.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that the work week was…okay. I’ve been trying hard to get ahead of my schedule and get things done now so that I might have more free time in the next few months but because I have to rely on others to be available and to show up it’s been about 50% days where I get shit done, and 50% days where I have nothing to do. I’ve decided to start overfilling my calendar a bit in advance of inevitable cancellations and rearrangement. I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

As far as my route goes, new kids are being added all the time which always fills my driver and me with anxiety. You never know if the new kid will get along with the others or if they will come in and disrupt the delicate balance you have achieved through careful interaction and strategic seating charts. We’ve been lucky so far. Each new kid has agreed with the peaceful and quiet environment I have cultivated, but we have another one starting tomorrow and I worry our luck may run out.

I did have time for reading and writing, it was only my mind I couldn’t get to focus. I made some progress though and that has to be good enough for now. I hope to do better this week and I am giving myself every opportunity to by uninstalling most of the apps from my iPad and plugging y phone in well way from me for at least two hours a day. I made an effort to clean up my “creativity room” and am pledging to spend a half an hour in there a day making little things with my hands. No screens allowed.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I’m looking forward to this evening. We’re going to have an early dinner and a showing of the 90s classic Clueless at our favorite theater. Afterward, we’ll pick up a bottle of wine to drink while we scarf down the last of the spicy chip-chocolate bark I made earlier in the week and watch the season premieres of The Duece on HBO and Shameless on Showtime. A perfect end to a particularly perfect weekend.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that it’s actually about time I start preparing for the evening. I need a nap—a “coffee nap” actually—a long shower and a little Sunday pampering time before we go no to mention there are still dishes in the sink and laundry waiting to be folded.

I hope you had a good week. I hope you got to do things for you and not just for others and not just because you had to. I hope this weekend was restful and that you won’t stress about tomorrow until tomorrow comes.

Until next time.

***

Thanks 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 virtual cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

198//365 — Home is Where Growth Happens

It’s nice to have friends who think on the same wavelengths we do. That is what friends are for after all. They’re versions of ourselves that we enjoy being around before going home to what you really need, to be with someone very different from us.

Because that is where the real growth happens, not with people who think like you but with people who don’t. It happens at home where it might not always feel nice. It might look more like arguing than compromise, or more like sulking, resentment, and defensiveness. Home is where you work out who you are with someone who’s working out who they are too. It’s messy, it’s beautiful, it’s life, and it just can’t happen when two people are too much alike.

To the woman I love, thank you for having the same life goals as me and very different ideas about how to get there. Thank you for your almost alien perspective. Thank you for your outside interests. Thank you for your baggage and your bias. If not for you, sure, I might still be able to think and sympathize outside of my own experience but I would never have been capable of taking the leap to living outside of my comfort zone.

***

I’m doing something new here. In addition to my regular blog post, I’m adding these journal entries. The goal is to post one every day hence the title of each will be the current day number out of 365. I was inspired to try this by Thord D. Hedengren.

Oh, and, as always, 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 virtual cup of coffee.

The Wisdom of 33

And so, another year of my life has come and gone, but something about this one feels off. Usually, I’m excited to begin a new year, but this time I can only say that I am ready. I have resigned myself to it.

I have hardened my heart for what is to come. Sure, there will be happiness and new experiences, but there will also be more challenges, more disappointment, and more suffering too. It’s funny how the good stuff is never enough to sustain you through the bad. It’s funny how existing gets harder and harder. This is what it means to age.

Thirty-three has been the hardest to handle. My 30s have been great so far, but there have been some strange changes to my body and a sombering of the mind I wasn’t prepared for. I am definitely coming to understand the importance of exercise and eating right, but I’ve learned more than that too. I’ve learned to see the boundary between myself and I’m beginning to understand its purpose. I’m growing wiser, I think, and I thought I would share some things I’ve learned off the top of my head.

  1. You hardly know yourself at all.
  2. Toxic ways of thinking are contagious. Protect yourself.
  3. Some of your problems are your own fault.
  4. Minding your own damn business is self-care.
  5. If someone you don’t like, doesn’t like you, let it go.
  6. Listen when it isn’t your turn to speak. Breathe before you respond.
  7. You could be wrong.
  8. Your feelings are all in your head, and they are 100% real.
  9. A quiet life can be a good life too.
  10. Make things that don’t exist on the internet.
  11. Ask all the questions you need. Deal with the answers you are given.
  12. Yeah, it could be worse, but it could be better too. Figure out how.
  13. Your body is going to fail, be ready.
  14. Relax into your relationships.
  15. Get a dog. Get any pet at all.
  16. Have serious conversations. Explore the heavy stuff with people.
  17. Break the rules every once in a while, unless you’ve already been warned.
  18. People don’t belong to you, and you don’t belong to them.
  19. Schedule your mental health days.
  20. Look up at the moon and stars. Notice when the sun rises and sets.
  21. Share playlists.
  22. Think about death.
  23. Let people know they mean something to you.
  24. It’s never as bad as you think.
  25. It’s never too late.
  26. If it’s important to you, it is important.
  27. Even if you know you will fail, try anyway.
  28. Make a list of all the things you are avoiding, figure out why.
  29. Be honest with yourself, and with others, about your fears.
  30. Keep a journal. Write all the bad stuff out, then write 5 good things.
  31. Protect your focus—and all of your other boundaries—at all costs.
  32. Water your plants. Water yourself.
  33. Let yourself be sad, angry, bored, hungry. Let yourself be.

That’s all I have for today, but it’s more than I had a year ago, five years ago, and 10 years ago I had almost nothing. I hope what I have helps you, or at least reminds you of what you already know. I hope to have gained more wisdom next year. I’ll consider it a personal failure if I don’t.

P.S. My birthday was actually last Friday. I wrote this then but didn’t have the courage to post it until now. It’s hard to share my story sometimes, even when it’s being served up in a simple list post.

***

Thanks 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.

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Look After One Another

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday is off to a better than usual start. I managed to wake up on time and get ready without having to rush. For some reason, I didn’t require the usual mental lectures and accosting I normally inflict upon myself. I just did what needed to be done. I’m hoping the rest of the week will be just as smooth.

“Anyone who cares about you has to realize that you need a little looking after, nothing else really matters.”

— Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena

A few weeks ago we received terrible news. One of our drivers was found dead in her home. The cause was determined to be Pulmonary Embolism or blood clots in her lungs. I didn’t know her very well, but the news saddened me. She had not shown up to work for two mornings before our staff decided to do a “welfare check” on her. I know it wouldn’t have saved her, but I don’t think it should have taken that long for someone to realize something was wrong.

It’s sad that she was so alone. I thought about how many people out there could be hurt or dying, and no one knew. I am lucky; I live with someone. Someone who makes sure I am okay throughout the day, every day, but what if I didn’t? I realized that if it weren’t for my girlfriend, it might be days before anyone realized something was wrong with me.

I don’t call people often and if they call me and I don’t answer they don’t think that’s out of the ordinary at all. They I am just doing what always do, avoiding people, or maybe I’m sleeping, or my phone is in another room. Unanswered texts are normal as well. I like to talk to people when I’m ready. I’m sure we all know someone like that.

What if something happened to them? How long until you knew?

It was not like this woman not to show up to work. Not only that but we work split shifts, which means we check in between two and three times a day. By the midday or the afternoon, when she didn’t show up for the second time, someone should have tried to find out what happened to her.

I understand that your boss is not your keeper, but should they be? For many people, their coworkers are the people they see more that family and sometimes even spouses. For some people, their job is the only place they go regularly and the only place they might be missed from.

So, this week I think we should all think about what our responsibilities are to the people we see every day. What would you do if one day they stopped showing up? Would you shrug your shoulders and make jokes? Or would you do something about it? What would you do?

I have a friend I know lives alone. When she is planning on missing a day she tries to let me know and days she isn’t here, and I didn’t know about it in advance, I text her and make sure she is ok. I check with our office to see if she may have called in or if she had previously planned to be out. I ask other people she talks to if they’ve heard from her. I make sure I know she is okay.

We shouldn’t let days go by before we notice someone is missing or before we question whether something might be wrong.

This week, find someone to be responsible for. The person who works at the desk next to you. The coworker you see on your smoke break. The one who you’ve spoken to a few times but haven’t quite crossed over into friendship with. Talk to them and find out if they live alone and if they need someone to check in on them should they not show up.

I know it sounds weird or invasive, but I can’t stop thinking about that woman who lay dead in her home for two days before someone thought to call her. It’s sad. It’s sad we live this way. It’s sad we would rather not bother someone, or get in their business, than to make sure that they are okay.

We have to get over these uncomfortable feelings we have about caring for strangers.

We all need looking after, and for that to happen, we all have to be willing to be one another’s keeper.

***

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They Can’t Hurt Me Anymore

“The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.”

— Rachel Maddow

When you’re growing up queer there exists some time between when you realize you are different, when other people realize you are different, and when you are comfortable in your differentness.

For some of us, it is a short time, for some of us it can be nearly a lifetime.

During that in-between time there will be people around who will react to who we are in the wrong way, and almost always the result is we become ashamed of who we are and a lot of permanent damage is done.

***

I remember in 4th-grade year, there was a girl who lived in my apartment building, rode the same bus as me, and shared my classroom. She was my default friend and at recess, would sometimes play with her and her other friends. Playing with the girls meant standing around talking or doing quiet activities that wouldn’t result in injury or dirty clothes.

I thought that was boring so sometimes I played with the boys. I ran around, jumped off the swings, and played with action figures. I got dirty, I got hurt, and I had a great time.

The next year, in 5th grade, my default friend told me that she and the other girls didn’t want to play with me anymore. I was honestly so surprised I just stood there, staring, and asked her why. She said I was too different, too weird, too much like a boy, and that was the end of it.

I felt shame right away. I was different, and that was bad. I didn’t want to be different.

That was the last time I felt comfortable with my gender identity and expression. Before that, there was just me, just Lisa, I wasn’t a girly girl, and I wasn’t a tomboy, I just did what felt right for me. It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment that the things I did not only put me into a category of boy or girl but also dictated the way other people would treat me and whether or not they liked me.

For the next 20 or 25 years of my life, I would think I had to be either a girl or a boy. I would go through phases where I swung wildly from masculine to feminine and deep down I would not feel comfortable in the mask of either one. I would think there was no option to say I was both, or neither, or one day one and one day another. I didn’t know that feeling the way I did wasn’t exactly uncommon.

And one day I heard the term “Genderqueer” and a whole new world opened up for me. I could once again be just me, just Lisa, and never again will anyone hurt me by labeling me or rejecting me based on my sex or gender.

***

Later, in high school, after the girl crushes had come but I still hung on to the hope that my attraction to women was a phase there were a series of friends who would try to get me alone to ask me once and for all if I was gay or not.

I ducked and dodged these questions, and I grew to believe that just like my gender people would judge and reject me based on the feelings I had for girls. I was terrified of coming out.

After I finally did come out, I came out as a lesbian. I went completely to the other side of the spectrum; I was ashamed of my attraction to men. After some time I denied even to myself that I was attracted to men. In the world of lesbians, the bisexual girl is frowned upon and shunned. I even shunned other bisexual girls and warned against dating them. I was awful.

Since I have been dating a woman for the past 14 years of my life, I thought the distinction didn’t matter for me anymore. Whether or not I was a lesbian didn’t matter because I was only sleeping with my girlfriend. I let the issue go.

It took a long time, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I was exactly exclusively attracted to women and over the years I have found that being honest allows me to engage in conversations with my straight female friends that I wouldn’t have before. It may seem small but this kind of banter between women can help form bonds, and I am glad to be able to engage in it authentically. I also feel freer. I feel more me. I feel like there are no parts of me that are hidden anymore.

I try to educate people about what it means to either gay or bisexual. I try to tell people that some of the ideas they have about the ways people can be attracted to people and what that has to do with—or how it has nothing at all to do with—their gender identity and expression, or whether or not they are capable of a monogamous relationship. I try to tell people my story and let them know that we are all different but not so different after all.

I do still identify as a lesbian since after much introspection I have found I am after all much more attracted to women than I am men. Which is just another example of how the labels we come up with rarely describe the reality of our feelings.

***

Throughout my life I have been called various names, dyke, fag, and even “rug doctor,” not to mention gay and queer, which shouldn’t be offensive but were said to me in a tone that let me know they were being used as insults.

I’ve been told I need to dress differently, that I am confused, that me, and people like me who are attracted to both men and women, and identify with both genders, just don’t exist. I’ve been told I am choosing to feel the way I do and that one day I will regret it.

I’ve been rejected, condemned, and fetishized by both men and women for who I am, who they think I am, and who they think they can make me into. I have been ashamed, afraid, and—most often—confused by how I feel inside. I’ve wanted to hide from myself and wished more than anything I could be someone else. I’ve been hurt by people, a lot, but all of that has changed.

I continue to grow and change and discover myself, but I won’t let myself feel afraid, or ashamed, or hurt. No one can do that too me again. I am who I am, and I know now that whoever that is, she is loved and will always be because I love myself and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

***

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