silver linings playbook

“There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive.”

tiffany, silver linings playbook (2012)

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that which haunts

it’s not you that haunts
it’s the nearness of you
in these ghostly subway cars

standing with the 10%

blog

Drew, Dave-o, Bill & Me

so go figure–i start a blog entitled “wanderlust” and as soon as i start travelling, i quit writing. quite the contradiction i must say. well i’m writing now to remind myself to reflect on these experiences, to never let them pass without a proper moment of reverence for where i’ve been, what i’ve done, and what if any, lessons learned.

i capped off an amazing summer (visits to paris, london, and a summer-long beach house rental with friends and strangers, both of whom became best friends) with a 5 day backpacking adventure through the grand canyon in mid-september. if you’ve read any of my previous posts (probably not considering no one reads these things), you’ll know that i endeavored to create a bucket list last february. on this list (#38 to be exact) was “backpack through the grand  canyon”. my brother, the master of making all dreams possible, did so for me. he booked a 5 day trek through the south rim of the canyon. he, who spends months, even years, at a time in remote war zones, decided to spend his r&r roughing it with his little sis. i secretly think it’s because he wanted to see if i was tough enough to hang, which obvi i am. i was a girl scout for christ’s sake. but anyway, we packed up, flew to az and roughed it on the hardest trail in the south rim (good pick, bill). 5 days have never felt more impactful.  

i want you to close your eyes and envision it: the thrill of living entirely out of a backpack, testing your physical and mental limitations in one of the most beautiful and remote places on earth. you descend upon a treacherous trail hacked out of rock to reach the bottom, a mile down. your blistered and broken feet welcome the sands on the banks of the roaring colorado river. 90% of visitors to the grand canyon never descend to the bottom and yet there you are, you badass 10%,  just basking in a geological mind fuck of rock layers. you awake at dawn to find a surreal desolation and rising sun that’s threatening with fire and fury. it’s hard to determine whether day or night is more beautiful. sure you can drink in the stunning and awe-inspiring views of the canyon in the sun’s heat, but at night time something truly magical happens. the sun sinks behind the (d)re(a)d wall and as twilight casts a muted glow on the horizon, a few stars begin to twinkle. within an hour these stars multiply infinitesimally until you’re sleeping in a one-person tent under a glittering pashmina of diamonds resting across the canyon’s rims. need i continue? i think not, friends.

and what of the the people we encountered? tante tanis, the spiritual and enlightened healer with a phd in economics and expert on quantifying the economic cost of violence against women (talk about fate encountering her, i mean really…), dentist dave who i am convinced is john locke, and drew the freakishly strong little man with a quirky humor and i won’t lie rugged sex appeal. each of them left an indelible mark on my brother and i. bonding over such an intense physical experience forges something deeper than a friendship.

needless to say, i am hooked. i vow to spend at least a week each year backpacking, canyoneering, unplugging myself from the technological toils of this digital age and truly recentering myself. it was the combination of brute physical exertion and mental exhaustion through which i realized i am able to overcome anything, to stand with the 10% and finally understand what the 90% of us are missing.

bed sheets & chemical burns

the nights are (h)ours
fashioning love from
bed sheets & chemical burns

diagnosis: misguided careerism, treatment: neil gaiman’s commencement address (on repeat)

“the moment you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

so many things to say, but i’ll keep this super brief.

for those of you that know me, you’ll know that i suffer from (among a myriad of other ailments as outlined in this blog) misguided careerism. i’m too afraid of the unknown to ever commit to pursuing any one set career path. you’ll often hear me say “i once wanted to be x, y, & z …ok maybe a through z.”  really though: a journalist, professor, lawyer, news anchor, free-lance writer, social worker, executive director of my own nonprofit, professional crafter, photographer, philosopher, etc. you name it, i’ve most likely spent a few weeks researching how to be it. jesus, remember that hot second i thought i was going to be a meteorologist? yikes. i’m not alone–some studies have cited americans will change their careers an average of 7 times in their life. difference is, i have yet to make a concerted effort to pursue any.

gaiman’s catalytic speech puts forth the notion carving a unique path for yourself despite what popular opinion might otherwise advise is not only possible, but more importantly the purest and most organic path to true success. gaiman challenges us to disregard the critics, the skeptics, the conventional norms and to simply make good art. it’s not about me “choosing” any set career path, but about exploring the possibility of simply doing what i love: learning, writing, and teaching. lead with passion, not the idea of achieving a set goal.

make good art without fear of it being misunderstood–write without fear of it going unread or worse yet–misread. be your own artist, completely and unapologetically. i need to stop insisting that i work some job which doesn’t make me happy to pay the bills. how? follow logic: dare to enroll in graduate school and accumulate smaller bills thereby needing to work less. eating regularly is overrated anyway, right? emaciated is the new skinny? (one might argue graduate school is one very large bill but i’ll consider it an investment with delayed return at this point). stop being content with familiarity because i’m too scared to fail. chances are i won’t get into a first tier doctoral program, people won’t like my writing, and maybe i’ll never have one set career, but will i be happy? according to neil gaiman embarking upon an adventure in which i write as avidly and as insatiably as i think and feel, is sure to lead to happiness. (albeit most likely shrouded in poverty, but genuine nonetheless) as long as i’m naked, i’m doing something right. point is: maybe my ideal career is a culmination of all these professions in one, maybe my ideal career is simply creating & imagining, but i’ll never know until i have the courage to say fuck off to conventional wisdom.

if you have the time, i highly recommend you watch this speech. i promise whether or not you officially identify as a member of the arts community, it will be relevant in all the right ways and it might just change your life.

what ever happened to an apology letter?

click to view google chrome “coffee” commercial

it got a 4.0 software upgrade, that’s what. with web innovation and social media transforming by the nanosecond, so have the nature of our relationships, which are now seemingly archived in a vast virtual expanse. long gone are the days where they lived on in memory and tear-stained postcards only after parting ways. nowadays they are immortalized through instagram photos, @mentions, auto-archived gchat conversations, blog entries, facebook wall posts, youtube videos, and good ol’ email chains. these places, or more aptly–spaces, contain a cyberized history which can materialize in a mere click, undoubtedly far quicker than we can forget about them.

nothing demonstrates this better than google chrome’s “coffee” commercial in which the virtual synapses created throughout a relationship are reconfigured to deliver a rather endearing apology for “how things ended.” set to the soundtrack of the indie meemies’ track “porch song,” it proves that deleting phone numbers and text messages no longer suffice in the tortuous feat of trying to get over someone. instead, we are consistently faced with nostalgic anecdotes in every aspect of the web. kind of unsettling when you quantify the amount of MBs occupied by reminders of any one of our relationships. as a result, moving on requires logging off, deactivating, and disconnecting from wifi–which is, quite literally, virtually impossible.

the effectiveness of this commercial draws from the fact that we live in a new age of compulsory documentation. we are driven by a need to document our experiences and relationships, sometimes enhancing them but often times compromising the very quality and authenticity of them. welcome to generation documentation. it’s easy to tug on the heartstrings when they’re wired to your hard drive and you’re unable to unplug.

realizing this viral phenomena has got me head-scratching. i’m a literary person, a girl who can communicate through quotes from brontë novels alone and refuses to get an e-reader because i’m desperate to preserve the sanctity of books and the printing industry (hypocritical as a blogger, perhaps, but whatever). so yes although i’d love to receive a hand-written apologetic invitation to coffee via snail mail, i gotta be completely honest here: if i ever find one of these sitting in my inbox, there’s a good chance i may just fall to pieces one nostalgic click at a time. well played, mark potter and google chrome, well played.

time for a check up: my quarterly evaluation

so the first week of april is decidedly over. this means we’re three months or exactly 1/4 into the new calendar year. initially this realization found me about as thrilled as ben gibbard was on the first of january. it’s easy to fall into a pattern of cynicism when you start the year off with nothing but bad news and false expectations. that’s a pretty strong cocktail for disaster given a history of alleged “bad luck,” so-close-yet-so-fars, and more-bitter-than-sweet ironies. and yet–i’ve managed to survive. in doing so (thanks in large part to an innate resiliency and maybe even larger part to copious amounts of whiskey drank amongst best friends) i’ve unknowingly evaluated the first quarter of my year. i swore when i started this thing that i wouldn’t become one of those bloggers who writes inspirational, self-motivating posts about how you can turn your life around and this still holds true. but in facing certain circumstances i’ve inevitably discovered things about myself and most importantly about what really matters during a shitstorm, umbrellas aside. results are outlined below in no specific order:

  • why do we see each new year as some heightened magical window of opportunity? what if instead, we reframe our thinking. what if we really challenged ourselves to see each day as an equally opportunistic chance for lasting happiness? isn’t that what we’re all after, anyway? i think the temporality of our happiness is what frightens us most, or me at least. it’s not just finding it, but in keeping it wherein the challenge lies because a part of us knows that nothing gold can stay. all things are transformative and so happiness is fleeting when conceptualized over vast expanses of time. what if however, we woke up each day and sought lasting happiness during those incremental 24 hours? suddenly, it seems significantly less daunting and much more attainable. “what can i do to be happy today, in this very moment?” is a lot easier (and less ambiguous) than, “what is going to make me happy in life?” when we retrain ourselves to think this way, we start to realize the happiness in those small joys which are often taken for granted; starting and finishing a book in the same day, finding out your should-be $150 bar tab is only $50, realizing you snagged the last cinnamon roll keurig pod delaying the disappointment of being out one more day, etc. it’s the sum of these parts which culminate in lasting happiness. life is a series of sunrises and sunsets so start realizing the everyday potential within this expanse.
  • evaluate your relationships in life. unless they are added value, delete them. in other words, rid yourself of the distractions. weed your garden of happiness, if you will. in doing so, you will not only rid yourself of the unwanted and unfulfilling excess, but you will enable yourself to better appreciate what’s already there, however tiny the seedling might be. it will allow you greater access to cultivate new positive relationships and the ability to focus on those meaningful ones you’ve already established. realize the time and energy spent on your relationships and adjust accordingly based upon a margin of gain. quit the habit of indulging in those that are draining.
  • if someone cares, they care. stop brooding over them and overanalyzing again and again as to why they don’t–they just don’t. chances are they’re a prick or too numb to feel. it’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s better than downing an entire bottle to forget about them. just because they don’t care, doesn’t mean you don’t matter. so stop reveling in past nostalgic memories or anticipating the ah-ha moment in the future. as outlined in the first bullet point, all things are transformative and relationships/people will inevitably change with no easy explanation sometimes.
  • throw expectations out the window, they serve no purpose. when you stop expecting things from people, of people, and for people (including yourself), you open up to the possibility of being surprised and lessen the chance of being disappointed. differentiate between expecting and hoping. expecting something is foolish in that it ignores uncertainty, while hoping for something recognizes uncertainty but calls upon faith to attain it. do remain hopeful. hope is your lifeline.
  • stop comparing yourself to others. some people will never have it easy, some will only ever have it easy and some will straddle the fence never fully teetering to one side for too long. it’s of no relevance to you understanding why this is. your neck will only become strained looking over the fence. instead, say to yourself, “this is what i have, and i’m gonna work with it.” when life hands you lemons, you buy some tequila and pretend they’re limes. on the other hand, if things are going well–enjoy it. you’ve earned it and remember that in a split second you could end up on the opposite side of that post. stay humble.
  • be gentle with yourself. chances are you are your toughest critic, at least i know i am. what’s the point? being hard on yourself to the point of exhaustion isn’t going to produce greater results. hold yourself accountable to high standards, but remember to recognize your own accomplishments, however small they may be. pat yourself on the back for remembering to wear a bra and congratulate yourself for getting out of bed because that’s half the battle sometimes.
  • prepare yourself to get messy. life is a wonderfully disastrous circus. if you haven’t gotten dirty yet, i feel sorry for you. some of the best parts are those spent rolling around in the mud. you’ve got to be prepared for madness and chaos. no one ever won a game sitting on the sidelines.
  • believe that you are enough. however tiny you may feel, you are enough to affect change. sometimes i get jaded just trying to wrap my head around how i’m going to truly make a difference in this world. i never know where to start and often surrender to the school of thought that i’m only one person, i can’t possibly impact something of such magnitude. then i remember one of my favorite quotes from desmond tutu, “do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” do your little bit of good each day with the belief that you are contributing to something far larger than yourself and in time, you’ll realize your existence matters.
  • write down your dreams. ok, so this sounds cheesy but maintaining a running list of dreams and accomplishments keeps you focused. i’ve created a “bucket list,” at the suggestion of one of the happiest people i know and nothing gives me more satisfaction than crossing something off in one of those black sharpies. so yes, write it down, don’t type it. the thrills not the same using strike through. There’s something to be said about the permanency of ink on paper.

now this list is by no means exhaustive of my findings, but in sum: january did break me into little pieces and february wasn’t good either–so what? normally i would have crawled into my bed, denounced 2012 as the worst year yet, and wallowed, but seriously what’s the use in that? i still have 267 opportunities to make 2012 a good year, maybe even the best yet. so i guess it all boils down to a simple math question. would you rather find happiness once or 365(6) times each year? the choice is yours, but i’d like to think i have a pretty convincing argument.

if the price is right, why not?

disclaimer: i’ve been writing this post for the past three days, revising and re-revising so it might actually make some sense. just a few moments ago as i’ve scrolled to the end with a noncommittal reticence to hit ‘publish’ my phone rang. caller id: ‘billy.’ in the sweetest irony (read on and you’ll see why), he’s back. finally, he’s back. and all hope of this making sense has gone out the window. apologies.

***

From the invasion of Afghanistan until last summer, the U.S. military had lost 761 soldiers in combat there. But a higher number in the service — 817 — had taken their own lives over the same period,anderson cooper writes in an entry on PTSD from his blog nearly a year ago.

i was recently presented with the opportunity to see restrepo, an oscar-nominated documentary by sebastian junger & the late tim hetherington based upon their time spent on assignment with an army platoon in one of the most dangerous regions in afghanistan. hetherington, a brilliant american/british war photographer was killed last april when he was caught in a mortar attack while covering the conflict in libya in what appears to be an increasingly dangerous fate for war correspondents. late last week, the bronx documentary center in new york offered a special screening and q&a with co-director, junger. as a documentary junkie & long-time fan of hetherington’s work this seemed like an amazing opportunity.

despite this obvious inclination, i didn’t attend the screening. i searched for some sort of explanation as to why i was seemingly incapacitated by a sense of dread, but i’m not certain i’ve found a definitive one yet. maybe it was the location. but to be honest, i think i was afraid to hear the stories of those soldiers reminiscent of my own brother, currently deployed in a special forces unit in afghanistan. my reluctance to watch the film given the recent events which have transpired in afghanistan (i.e. army staff sgt. robert bale killing 16 afghani civilians) made me reach one arguably unsubstantiated conclusion:

i think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the cost, and inherently, the utility of war.

what is the true cost beyond the marketable & quantifiable resources (the oil, the money, the political hegemony) and furthermore, who pays? what does war cost for the men and women who not only sacrifice the finiteness but also the quality of their lives (which is often forgotten–the very point of this post)? what does it demand from those of us indirectly affected by this toll–the family members, lovers and friends? how does war impact our society– i.e., our economy: what are the ramifications of stealing countless bodies and brains from our faltering economic sector and returning them in black nylon bags or physically and/or psychologically damaged? the point is: the tentacular effects of war are far-reaching and often buried in places we least expect.

insult to injury–given this ineptitude to acknowledge the effects of combat on a human individual, our inadequacies in providing rehabilitation and recovery benefits to our veterans are glaring. a cnn newsroom feature from earlier this month highlighted the reversal of nearly 285 ptsd diagnoses in an attempt to save taxpayer dollars by avoiding these rehabilitation costs. where is the outrage? we ask these men and women to sacrifice their humanity for the sake of ours and yet we are unwilling to address the consequences. ignorance is not bliss, it’s money saved.

we cannot accept the practice of exposing our loved ones to the dehumanizing experience of war repeatedly and with little understanding of the true implications. blood stains far deeper than we can ever imagine and so we cannot simply expect soldiers to ‘rinse & repeat’ with no lasting scars from these experiences. this is evidenced in the 817+ lives lost after they have returned from the frontlines. it is also evidenced in the deterioration of relationships both while they are away and during their return to ‘normalcy’ once back home. the military affects every aspect of a soldier’s human experience, placing tenuous strains on relationships which anchor them as wholly human–present within and throughout. most recently, it is witnessed in the case of army staff sgt. robert bales, an example of when these individuals are forced back to the front lines despite irreparable psychological damage. the new york times ran a full-feature article this week on sgt. robert bales attempting to understand how a football hero & beloved family man is driven to commit such an atrocity. war is a dehumanizing process–is that not an atrocity?

i speak from personal experience in saying that these soldiers are simply not the same when they return. each time they are exposed to combat, they compartmentalize in order to survive. emotions & feelings–those characteristics which make us fully engaged human beings, are often suppressed. this is a tremendous toll. i can hear it in my brother’s disembodied voice on the phone and i can feel the weight of this tension mounting inside of him from repeated exposure. and so, when a soldier ‘snaps’ (as the media has coined the actions of sgt. bales), it is directly from the weight of this strain.

truth is, i fear as much for my brother’s safety as for the loss of that boyish grin which makes his eyes crinkle at the corners. i’m scared shitless of not just burying him, but also the possibility that he will someday return a living, breathing ghost. how long before his very self is lost among the sands of iraq and afghanistan? he could be one tour away from being the next sgt. robert bales. there in, lies the point–any g.i. joe/jane is one moment away because of what they are asked to do, by us and for us.

let me be clear that i am by no means asking for impunity for bale, but merely asking for us to keep the context of his actions centripetal in our analysis. i think it starts with bearing witness to the stories that so desperately need to be chronicled, as junger and hetherington have done in restrepo. in doing so, we might understand how robert bale the man, not the soldier, is not the rare exception, but rather the archetype of what our foreign policy and military actions truly cost.

and with all this said, i’ve added restrepo on the netflix que.

excuse me, miss but what is IWD?

today is international women’s day (IWD)—so what? for many of us this means nothing more than march 8th or another meaningless holiday, not easily distinguishable from ‘national pancake day’ or ‘insert-some-trivial-commemorative-pop-culture-holiday.’ to some it may be annoying or even infuriating, as is most feminist work undertaken. but to several this is a day of celebration, remembrance and most importantly organization.

today is a day to reflect upon where we’ve been in the movement for gender equality and empowerment and where we are headed (because a woman’s work is never done). but this is a hard task for those of us unable to understand the struggle women face or even identify it. so today, instead of answering a series of questions posed by gender across borders (a kickass blog centered on issues of human rights, culture, and gender which has organized an #iblogforIWD blog-a-thon) i’m going to tell you why today is our day. yes, mine and yours. i’m talking to both men and women, gays, lesbians, those straighter-than-the-line-between-capitalism-and-greed folks and all those in between, over and under. #iblogforIWD because feminism is for everybody.

i never thought of myself a feminist nor did i want the title and stigmatization associated with the dreaded ‘f-bomb.’ we’re all dykes after all aren’t we? funny how words like these are cast as stones. truth is i’ve been called many things: bitch, cunt, slut (thanks limbaugh), lesbian (NB: lesbian is actually a derogatory word having nothing to do with describing a person’s sexual orientation), etc. these words have become synonmous and inextricably tied to feminism because misused adjectives and nouns are all others have to invalidate feminism’s legitimacy. identify the fact that society is inherently unequal, voice your opinion about politics (or anything really), express yourself and your sexuality, fight for control over your own body, or heaven forbid you rebuke the maternal ‘manifest destiny’ and you’re deemed any one if not all of these terms.

the fact is: feminism is a theoretical framework. it’s a way of looking at the world through a gendered lens. it’s recognizing that gender defines our human experience. and yes, i guess that’s pretty scary.

i cannot walk the streets at night without the overwhelming fear of being attacked or harassed. i cannot wear clothes that are too tight or revealing without being told i’m a walking invitation for rape. i’m promiscuous and immoral for carrying contraception (or requesting that i be granted equal access to it). i’m told i’m a slut if i enjoy sex, but prude if i don’t want it. i am judged on my relationship status because my own existence is validated by my relation to a man. the list could go on.

you cannot deny that my human experience is defined by my gender. i exist first and foremost as female, all other characteristics are incidental. i am legitimized by my ability to conform to the stereotypes of feminity. we are socialized to believe that women are inherently inferior. this is so deeply embedded in our culture, it becomes unidentifiable, invisible. feminism gives visibility to this by challenging our axioms of socialization. yes women are doctors, lawyers, ceos, politicians, mothers, homemakers, etc. but the truth remains: i make about .80 cents to a man’s dollar. this withheld .20 cents is the glass ceiling i cannot break, an insult to my intellect, a direct result of my unapologetic vagina.

being a feminist does not require an unapologetic vagina, or any vagina for that matter, it simply requires an analytical eye. it means asking “whom does this benefit?” or “whom does this serve?” even if the answer is resoundingly rhetorical. these questions must always be present not in the back of our minds, but in the forefront. we cannot implicitly accept what we are told, taught, and made to believe. i’m asking you today to take up feminism. to conjure your inner ‘feminist curiousity’ as cynthia enloe would say & challenge your own existence in this world.

acid throwing, bride burning, fgm, facial cutting, trafficking, rape, domestic violence–these are not culturally foreign phenomena. they are forms of gender based violence present across all cultures and societies. look within your own communities and behind closed doors. christ, just look at the media and television. i’m asking you to stop fighting the urge to resist and to really think about how society is structured–do we live in a rape culture? if you can, for one day, question your own place and dare to be uncomfortable, you have undertaken the work of a feminist.

i’m writing today because i want to, but also because talking about these issues, consciousness-raising, is the only methodology i have to individually affect change. i write out of choice and necessity. i write to imagine and to strategize. in writing, i can dream and as gloria steinem the great has said, ‘without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.’ dare yourself to imagine a better world for the women in your life. dare yourself to be a feminist–i did.

happy #IWD to us.

diagnosis: overworked & underpaid, treatment: double shot of endorphins

it’s already tuesday & i’m desperate for the weekend. you feel me? i know you do. if any of you out there are once ambitious, bright-eyed, precocious undergrads now finding yourself falling victim to the mediocrity of playing it safe, you feel me. you’re overworked & underpaid. working for the weekend. you tend to spend your days making plans rather then seeing them through. daydreaming in cruise control. well this is why staying inspired is so important. & if you’re uninspired, there’s always the clarity of a solid run. oh and the accompanying healthy dose of uppers certainly help. nothing like a 6 mile run in the strangely serene dark of my small town. just me, my nike frees, the pavement & a pop-tastic playlist.*

so now i’m utterly exhausted yet blissfully content. whereas before my run this chai tea, new book & ratty old sweatshirt would have seemed embarrassingly pathetic, now i couldn’t be more satisfied with the routine. ahh, the transformative powers of running–blame it on the endorphins i guess. who cares? pour me another & make it a double, thanks.

diagnosis: overworked & underpaid/treatment: double shot of endorphins

* this playlist is not intended for judgement

1.) scale it back – dj shadow ft. little dragon

2.) punching in a dream – the naked & famous

3) never let go – paramore

4.) save tonight – eagle-eye cherry

5.) where does the good go – tegan & sara

6.) pictures of you – the cure

7.) uninvited – alanis morissette

8.) schoolin life – beyonce

9.) one & only – adele

10.) lost in the world – kanye ft. bon iver

11.) apologies – grace potter & the nocturnals

12.) wild ones – flo rida ft. sia

13.) i am not a robot – marina & the diamonds (starsmith 24 carat remix)

14.) navy taxi – kate nash

15.) the space between – dmb