Considerations

A baby bird screams for food
as I wonder if it’s too early for wine.
It is, I say to no one.

I’ve been sitting on this patio all summer,
watching time go by,
watching fatal duels
between squirrels and robins.

Every morning I relearn how to breathe.

I wanna write.
I wanna heal right this time.

This isn’t blockage.
It’s a fear of hemorrhaging.

I construct my nest,
conjure a string of lights,
flowers that waterfall out of baskets.

The bird’s chirp pierces my ears,
as I begin to type.
Dear hiring manager,
I say for the hundredth time.

please consider me, but please
consider the other artists, too.
please consider the teacher and nurse,
please consider families kept apart
or on the brink of exhaustion.
please ensure that every person
can feed themselves and their kids.
please consider the recent grads,
addicts looking down bottles and bags.

My mom reminds me to dance.
My dad sends me a verse.
He apologizes for failing me as a Christian father.
I send him Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
You do not have to be good, Dad.

I’ve been making living eulogies for as long as I can remember.

 

One of the 30 million

Social distancing in the time of corona is one thing, but being single and jobless during a dystopian nightmare is another. I’m 30. It seems like I was just starting to make long-term goals and take off in my career.

Then comes the swift pull of the rug. Hey, thanks a lot, 2020. Thou art cruel.

I have certainly shed tears. The thing is I know I am far from alone and that my situation could be worse. Last I checked there were 40 million people in the U.S. alone who filed for unemployment due to the coronavirus.

The day I lost my job I bought a fish filet and ate it on the top of a parking garage where two friends joined me. One of my brave friends hugged me. It was a warm hug.

I don’t have the interest or stamina to hunt down conspiracy theories or fiction’s premonitions at the moment, but how Orwellian does being afraid to touch another person feel? Let’s be honest.

This is the first time I’ve been unemployed since I was 16 years old. The first job I ever had was at Cold Stone Creamery, and I gained 10 pounds in the first 6 months. Because free ice cream. I worked with my friends. I made $6.50 an hour. I sang to customers. I had a blast.

Now, I’m one of those poor souls who has a hard time defining myself outside my job. I didn’t realize how severe it was until I was laid off and my “seek, write, destroy” routine came to a screeching halt.

My energy is still here, but I find it’s veering off in all directions. As it turns out there isn’t really a set standard to productiveness during a world pandemic.

Today I was fairly productive, by my standards, and I need to give myself more credit for that. I applied for a few jobs, journaled all my twisted feelings, contacted a career-coaching agency, talked to my therapist, and watched a documentary about Michelle Obama. What an inspiring lady. And I want to wear rainbow colored power suits like that.

Today was a good day. I’m lucky I have the time to do this self-exploration and learning.

Not all days are like this. Some days I slop out of bed around 11, take my dog on a grand tour of the neighborhood, marvel over a squirrel and robin duking it out outside my window (I swear this happened), and depress myself with massive amounts of shitty news until my back hurts and I realize it’s 5 p.m., and I should probably dive into a complicated home cooked meal that takes me 2 hours to make because my body is so riddled with anxiety that I’m having a hard time concentrating on the instructions. On these days, I’m lucky if I make it out of my pajamas or brush my teeth.

One day I wrote a list of how I can become essential. Things I might like to do included child care worker, garbage truck driver, and foot fetish saleswoman. It’s a long story but someone actually did reach out to me for pictures of my feet, and to my disappointment they only wanted to pay me $7 dollars. “My dogs are worth at least $100,” I kindly told the man.

How fun is that, huh? To realize what you do is considered non-essential?

I read somewhere that volunteer work will make me and others feel better, like I’m contributing something in this shit storm. I am writing letters and sending cards to this woman in hospice. She was an elementary school teacher her whole life, and now she has no one. I’m having fun talking to the girl who is coordinating the volunteer work, too. It kind of feels like we’re friends. She told me that the hand-sketched bulldog I sent to Gloria (let’s call her), the patient I was paired with, smiled real big when she saw it. And this made me smile.

I am proud of how far I have come in my life (from a career standpoint and otherwise). As someone who grew up on government assistance, there was always a feeling that I had to work extra hard to prove my worth. I want to continue to work hard, but I also want to make sure what I’m doing aligns with who I am, the lifestyle I want, and the goals I have for myself. The narrative is always changing. So am I.

I’m not done searching. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t painful.

Maybe you are in a similar kind of Rock Bottom, but it’s a different circumstance. Anyway, it’s not quite the apocalypse just yet. Don’t you dare fucking give up.

 

 

 

 

Safe-distance dating at the end of the world

Dating at the end of the world is hard, man, but at least I’m built for it. I wish I could say dragging people on outdoor day trips is a part of my new life awakening, but I’ve always been a deranged, soul-gazing dreamer who gets off on dates involving tall prairie grass and backpacks filled with snacks.

It’s actually one of my oldest tests. Yes, I will have a craft brew with you at an official establishment, absolutely, especially when people aren’t dying because of it, but will you also trudge through mud with me?

Dating is also hard when you are currently unemployed, as it turns out. You want to meet people without coming across all: “Hi, I don’t want die alone in all out class warfare or at the hands of killer bees that are maiming other normal bees who are just going about their business and being helpful for the environment.”

I have to remind myself on the daily that I’m an appealing, hard-working person who has been temporarily knocked off course, and I will emerge from the woods like my other disheveled, well-intentioned non-essential brothers and sisters, hopefully for the better.

Recently, a nice gentleman (and I rarely use that word) asked me out on a date, and of course I suggested a nature trail. I swiped for this particular guy because he has lot of mountains on his profile and honeysuckle eyes that make me salivate. It was a successful first safe-distancing date. We saw a freaked out chipmunk and a deer on the trail and talked about our lives and interests and how weird it is to be alive right now.

I had been dreading our date because of my appearance. No, not because of the usual offenders (stomach rolls, cellulite thighs, puffy hair…I can keep going, but it’s boring). I’m weirdly accepting of my body lately. It might be the relaxed exercise schedule, or the wellness (calm the fuck down) webinars the algorithm gods have been shoving at me, or it might be because I’m not currently surrounded by people or media that are at constant war with their bodies.

I’m self-conscious about my black eye though. I was rough-housing with my dog, and I blew on her ears, which she LOATHES. Anyway, she throttled her face into mine, and now I have a real black and blue beauty. It even made a guest appearance in a virtual job interview that I miraculously made it through.

Anyway, my date said he liked my black eye and that I was the first “real” person he’s met on a dating app in a while. It’s nice to get this feedback. I’ve gotten it before. I realize I have the issue of sometimes being TOO REAL, but this is a fear that no longer keeps me up at night. Why should it? There are way too many things to care about instead right now.

Don’t act like you have me all figured out though, algorithm gods. I’ll swipe right for the dude who likes to wear a Harry Potter shirt in his down time when he’s not at work trying to figure how to machine or humanize the currently broken down machine. And we will take a Buzzfeed quiz together that will determine our house compatibility. He will be pure Hufflepuff material, and he will find out I’m mostly Ravenclaw but also 19 percent Slytherin, and that my garbled Parseltongue is bound to make an appearance at some point.

I intend to keep dating in small, controlled capacities. If you do what you’re supposed to do and wash yourself down, I would like to maybe hold you and be held by you, you know? Seeking love certainly comes with heightened risks (among the other usual risks), so I’m making it count when I can.

 

Now hiring (seeking love)

“How are you?”

The silence is deafening,
but I remember that I’m a catch.

“What’s new with you?”

I was let go on a screen.
I don’t recommend the feeling
for my mortal enemies.

Then again, I realize
the biggest enemy I ever
had courses through me.

She wants to destroy every mask she sees.
She’d suck the virus from your lips.

Your hands are clean enough for me.
I will kiss them dry.
Will you hold me where it hurts?

I will cook an egg for you in the morning.

I know.
This is not the time for love poetry,
but will you come find me at the end of the world?

Practical ways to kick anxiety’s ass

I’ve been wanting to come up with a list of helpful anxiety combatants for a while now. Mostly for me, so that I have something tangible to grab onto when my brain goes into lockdown. But in light of all the mental health struggles being tossed around lately, I realize sharing these personal bits could potentially be useful to someone else.

When I’m having a full blast anxiety attack, I tend to roll around like dough in bed and wait out the sickness. Every thought that enters my head is incomplete and razor sharp. Full of fear and ill intent. Not a single thought of comfort or relief. These are thoughts I do not want to leak outside my mouth so I chew on them and swallow them. And they jab at me on the inside. They pulsate in my stomach. They run up and down my spine like angry toddlers. An endless stream of them.

I don’t know what to do with myself except wait until my body caves into exhaustion. And when I come outside the noise, I always feel like I’ve just wasted another part of my life. Anxiety is such a waste of time.

I used to be terrified of being alone because this is usually where the 50-eyed monster finds me. So I looked for complete stimulation. All the time.

Being alone was too much of a risk. But over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of alone time. Which means I’ve had a lot of attacks. But this has also given me the chance to get intimate with my disorder. Study it. Recognize when it’s on its way. I’ve learned how to set up traps for it. Sometimes, how to give it a job, make it work for me. But mostly how to accept it as a frequent visitor.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder a little more than three years ago. I’m not on medication, but have considered it a few times. I don’t think people who take medication are weaker or stronger than me. Everyone’s anxiety is different. I prefer to maximize all my outlets, outlets that have been working for me for a while.

Obviously, these activities are useless if you’re in too deep, but if you have studied your anxiety enough, and can get a good whiff of it when it’s approaching, maybe one of these could be of use to you.

Move your ass

Yes, I mean exercise. Give it a good eye roll if you want. I know I did at one point. I enjoy exercise, but I’m definitely not one of those people who is on a constant live or die exercise schedule. After long work days, I often have to outsmart my brain into letting my body exercise. The hardest part of exercise is getting yourself there.

Think about yourself hitting that free-fall point during a good workout. Do you feel animalistic? Strong? Like you’re knocking the piss out of invisible demons? After a good workout, how do you look at yourself? Do you slink around in your clothes? Or better, outside them?

My favorite exercises entail a certain element of risk and freedom. Running outside 30 minutes before the sun drops. Challenges and obstacle courses that demand problem solving. Dance is one of my favorite ways to sweat. Zumba, hip-hop, anything where you can showcase your inner freak or completely embarrass yourself and no one around you will care. Or, if you prefer to dance in the comfort of your living room, then truly no one is around to care.

I have large hips, and I know how to use them, damn it.

Exercise that doesn’t feel like work is generally the exercise I’m most interested in. Machines put me to sleep, so I like to be creative about it. I think a lot of people are in this boat. They don’t like exercise because they find it to be a chore.

I’ve discovered I need exercise. I’m a completely different person when I allow myself to work out three to five times a week. I’m less likely to fall victim to my own head games.

Exercise is one of the best, most scientifically proven stress-relievers and weapons against anxiety.

Do something artsy fartsy

There’s a reason those adult coloring books are so popular. I myself like to draw and write. If it’s not obvious, this website is a form of therapy. Though, sometimes writing in particular can summon the beast, especially if I’m writing about something that’s particularly painful to me. Some people blaze up a guitar. Others knit. I have a friend who has fingers made for jewelry. Another who knows her way around a piece of felt.

Making art, whether you’re any good at it or not, has so many mental health benefits. Not only are you creating new brain cells, but you’re boosting your dopamine levels. And dopamine is delicious.

A few months ago I drew something that took me 13 straight hours. I hardly noticed the time I was so immersed in the different shapes and shading. The second I dropped the pencil, I floated down from whatever dimension I was in. Though a lot of people may argue differently, that’s 13 hours of non-wasted time. There’s a product at the end of the creating. You feel good about doing a thing.

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Also, when you’re creating, you’re less likely to hurt yourself or anyone else.

Lie around in a pool of your own filth

Some days, I don’t want anything to do with art or exercise. I want to sit in a pool of steaming water and think about nothing. These are the days my anxiety is nipping the back of my heels. I need a quick fix.

I’ve really been into those bath bombs that have little treats at the center of them. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. There’s a stick of cinnamon or a clove waiting for you at the bottom of the bomb. A little treasure.

I like these guys because they force you to focus on what’s inside. I’ll submerge my hand in the water and watch and feel the fizzle of salt. Until there’s nothing but a small object that I study and twirl between my fingers.

Baths are my way of making my life come to a screeching halt. They’re also where I get some of my best writing ideas. Because thinking about nothing sometimes leads to something.

Build your music playlists

Spotify is one of my favorite things. For two reasons really. One is the Monday feature. New music based on your preferences. New artists who will speak to your soul and talk you through your morning. At the start of every week. A lot of people dread Mondays, and I imagine people with severe anxiety especially do.

A few weeks ago I was curling my hair and listening to the new Neko Case album on Spotify. It was my first week of work. My anxiety has been pretty high because I’m learning tons of new things and meeting tons of new people. The song “Halls of Sarah” started playing, and I leaned into the words and starting bawling. It was a good release to have before the start of my day.

I also enjoy the build your own playlist feature. I’ve been adding to my RUN and Write playlists for years. My Write playlist is for when I’m editing and writing. My RUN list is filled with workout jams. Pretty self-explanatory. But then I also have a playlist titled “Yold,” which is reserved for songs that make me feel both young and old at the same time. Then there’s “Bitch Mix,” which is for when I want to connect to my feminine side. Pretty scary to say, but there was once a time in my life when I listened to very few female artists. Their voices embarrassed me. I turned them down at stoplights. This is how Bitch Mix was formed. All these ladies help me when I’m really struggling with the dark side. They are my mothers and sisters.

Music legitimately saves lives. We all know this. Sometimes I feel intravenous with my music. I need it more than most things, and I’m grateful for it.

Pet a dog

My dog is my hero. She has magical super powers that ooze out of her eyeballs whenever she looks at me. I always wanted a dog. Especially a high energy one that needs a lot of attention. Dogs force you to get up and stop moping. They need to pee. They need to eat. They need you to clean up the tinfoil like object they just barfed onto the carpet. They want to play.

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Some of my favorite days are the ones I’m listening to the rain and lying next to my dog, Maya. She sighs heavily while I write in bed. Her warmth is a reminder that I exist. That I’m loved profusely by a living creature.

Dogs (and cats, etc) are amazing mental health enhancers.

Oh, but there’s so many more

I have a lot of other go-to anxiety fighters: nature walks, orgasms, video games, anything that gets me to laugh my ass off, having a meaningful conversation with another human, and turning off my fucking phone. These aren’t secrets by any means. They’re just reminders for you and me for when we begin to slip under.

What’s your list? If you don’t have one, then that’s a clear sign that you need to clear out some time for your rad self.

your reminder

surrender is a sunset,
that time of day when there
is nothing left to do but to accept
answers from the sky.

this is the trail
where I had a run-in
with a crayfish,
a fury so small
I almost missed it entirely.

I crouched low enough
to see its dewy eyes.
It shook its claws at me
demanding an explanation,
to which I had none.

Hi, I’m always just passing by.

When I was younger
I left three layers of skin
on the pavement here.
the burn was a better
reminder than any timer.

the clouds swirled over my head
like a bruise,
and I dared to be broken.

Fall but please don’t drown

I fell for your mountainous mouth
for the waterfall down the middle
that pours both filth and love,
for the sweet and salt you whisper
into my ear at night while my dog
sleeps between your Greek art legs
or at the edge of your flat feet
that don’t hurt when I pull your toes
backward. Your hands know what I
like and where to find me in the dark.
Their wanting washes over me,
tirelessly surging like waves.
We make love in the hospital bed
that was gifted to me. Ophelia
drowns in a painting on the wall
alongside our transfigured bodies.
Hers was the worst way to fall.

Friend

I want to say that I’ve been hiding
on stable grounds and in warm beds.
It’s okay to want these things,
but I’ve been cooped up
in the kingdom of “you and me”
I’ve built for everyone.
And I’ve been an outcast
staking inside windows,
watching birds build nests,
passing up friends who make me
feel the massive depths of myself.
If you were still sitting across from me,
Franco who likes men and M2M,
Anny Banany, the aspiring missionary,
Jess who helps animals give birth,
and all the other healers of my life,
I’d tell you that I’m an accumulation
of our memories, that no one is anyone
without sincere friendship.

Mundane Lemonade

Two girls and a lemonade stand.
One has overalls with lace flowers
on the pockets. I want to tell
her how pretty they are, but
she’s not making eye contact.
It appears her mother taught
her about stranger danger.
The whole fire department
pulls over to the curb.
We’re all heroes supporting
homemade business. I’m trying
to hold onto the liquid light
swirling around in my cup
like a sun. It’s not as sweet as
it could be. I don’t need pills.
Just a squeeze of humanity.