self care

surrender

This post was originally titled “RESIST.” I’ve been thinking about that word a lot lately, in terms of politics, my body, my own paralytic inertia. It feels like the word of 2017 already, that somehow by claiming mass resistance, we can stop all the terrible things we are afraid of from happening. If we resist, we can still overcome and prevent and arrest the will of the powerful. We believe resistance is the only answer, fierce, vocal, physical refusal. To not normalize, allow, or accept acts of hatred, bigotry, oppression, sexism, racism, xenophobic and homophobic and transphobic hate crimes and discrimination. To resist means we believe #BLACKLIVESMATTER. It means we believe women’s rights are human rights. It means we believe no human is illegal. It means we believe in science and protecting our water and air and land. It means we don’t allow gender or genitals or biology or binary determine who we love. Love is love. It means we stand up and fight.

We must resist. RESIST. It’s our battle cry.

And underneath, with all of the political strife and fear going on,  in addition to that weight, I have been silently, slowly drowning.

I have been unemployed for four and a half months. I have applied for scores of jobs from retail to things in my field that I am way overqualified for to dream jobs that I would destroy at, all, as of this writing, to no avail. I’ve pitched to build a dozen websites, applied at six temp agencies, and have sold clothes, art, furniture, books, and am still looking to get rid of more things. I have been unemployed because I left a job where I felt bullied, like I had no advocates or protections, where I felt gaslighted and manipulated. Do people put up with a lot worse? Of course. But I reached a breaking point and had a glimpse of myself that felt right. I couldn’t keep going. And because I stood up for my health and wellbeing, I lost my health insurance, my access to physical and mental health care when I need it the most, and was deemed ineligible to collect a single dollar of the unemployment insurance money that I have paid in for more than a decade because, “Hey you quit, this is your fault! Figure it out!” 

Unemployment has a way of making you feel really ashamed that you’re just not able to maintain your life with no income. No work means being at home every day, where you are bombarded with social media telling you to just believe that everything will work out if you work hard enough. You applied for 100 jobs? Well, you have to do triple that, everyone knows that. But also don’t ask for help. Work for less. Work for free. Don’t you dare tell anyone you’re depressed, or drinking to feel something other than depressed, or eating the worst crap food and all of this is making it worse. Don’t talk about maxing out your credit cards to buy food. Don’t talk about the sheer power it took to get out of bed for weeks and weeks. Don’t talk about your insomnia. Don’t talk about your desolate night terrors. Don’t appear weak, no one will hire you. Don’t show weakness. Don’t ask for help.

The quitting was right. So right. It was the failure to realize that you can quit your job, but you don’t get to quit your outrageous rent, or your car payment, or your bills that crushed me. The irony of endless time and no resources or energy. The realization that schedules and routines and ritual are what enable me to function, much like a child.  I went through all the savings I had from having two jobs for six months prior. I spent my pension and 401k payouts to keep my car and a roof over my head. I briefly drove for a food delivery service until I realized it was dangerous driving 10 hours a day, I got a $150 ticket, and my car got dented all in the same week. In America, there is no safety net for the working class. The safety net is for the rich. They keep us trapped in cycles of paying for things and spending more than we make to keep us from having real choices to enjoy life.

What I have found dragging myself through this dark valley is that when you’re 38 and single, there is no one else but you. I have amazing, caring friends, but I am also super stubborn and have always been resilient. I’m the one who helps, I don’t ask for help. And I have still tried to be that friend. Especially to myself. I invented just keep going. I own climbing mountains after falling off the goddamn top. I AM THE SEED THAT GROWS THE ENTIRE ANCIENT FOREST.

One thing I purposefully stopped talking about publicly was drinking. I was sober for almost three years, from 2011 – 2014. In the summer of 2014, my cousin overdosed on heroin. I was working in a substance abuse treatment center and one of my volunteers died from an overdose the very next day. I was told constantly that I would fail because I wasn’t in AA. That therapy and yoga and meditation weren’t enough. I went from never giving a thought to alcohol to being surrounded by it every day. I had to attend many 12 step meetings for work. I was in a destructive relationship that was draining my self confidence and I wanted to be loved. It was a perfect storm, and I had forgotten. I thought all that care would make it possible or different somehow. I slipped into drinking back in my hometown and more than two years later, I was back in a place of feeling at war with myself. Last year I didn’t drink for about 8 months, but the times that I did contributed to me feeling desolate and lost and isolated from myself. Nine times it would be fine, but the tenth time, I was Nikki Sixx in the 80s. Always.

I’ve given glimpses of my depression and sads, but it feels important to talk about how much alcohol contributed to that. I was afraid to let people see that I had failed. Even though I know failing is the only way I ever learn anything. And I needed to learn something so big, so massive and important, that I had to drop out of fucking society to be able to see it. You learn walking through the quicksand in the dark that your only job is to find out who you are and turn that up to 11. I can’t drink. I knew that about myself, I know that, and it never feels authentic to me. It is always an attempt to dull my feelings, to turn it down, to turn it off. And I don’t want to ever live in a way that needs to be turned off. I only want to turn it up. So here it is. If you ever see me with a booze in my hand, slap that shit to the ground and ask me what the fuck is so wrong that I need to erase myself. I mean it. You won’t have to though, take that to the bank. If there’s one thing that I straightened the fuck out, it’s this. I may be penniless, but I’m not drunk. Not ever again. BAM.

Here’s what else I know: All this shit we buy – the clothes, the gadgets, the neverending binge and purge of things – none of this makes us happy. This is why Burning Man touched me so profoundly. It uncovered a need in me for a truer path to real joy. The gifting economy. The decommodification. The disconnecting from technology. The fire. The art. The creation. The destruction. The helpers, everywhere. The endless opportunities to create, to be strong and useful, to build and solve problems and, especially, to surrender to the majesty of using what you have, of radical self reliance, radical self care. To completely immerse yourself in the idea that you don’t need most of what you have. That’s what this experience had given me. I don’t need 20 pairs of boots or 200 books or a super fancy apartment prison that I can’t leave because it’s so expensive I can’t afford anything else. I need a tribe of weirdos who recognize my bottomless majesty and beauty and value.

So yes. I’m broke. I’m still looking for work. I’m weathered and wizened by months of ripping myself out of the Matrix. So what would you do? Would you take any job? Would you stay in a city you know you need to leave? Would you keep trying to buy your way to some kind of happiness that isn’t real? Would you take the blue pill and go back to sleep?

I say fuck the blue pill. I say goodbye to endlessly striving. I renounce my overpriced, edgy, quirky decorated prison. I say no to more shopping and more bills and more chains. I say yes to finding work I truly love with people who understand and value me as a human being and a coworker. I say yes to living smaller and more frugally. I say yes to leggings as pants and sleeveless shirts because my body is a work of art, no matter what size it is. I surrender to the uncovered knowledge that I am not someone’s moon, I am the sun. I am not your lamb, I am the lion. I surrender to the fucking gifts I have of being alive today, of being able bodied and fed and warm. I drown in gratitude for being able to practice yoga and meditate today. I bathe in hot water and relish in hot coffee. And I promise myself to keep digging my way out from under this pile of meaningless garbage to reach out to other humans, because that – human connection – that is my most prized and humble possession. My own compassion. My own humility. My own ability to soar. I am open to give and receive love. And there is no way to drown when love is your breath.

In that vein, here are some things I am good at that I wish I could put on my resume:

  • Planner and manager of epic adventures and travel excursions
  • Friend you can call to ask for advice or comfort when you are feeling low and need some love and support
  • Pretty rad chef, especially fancy toast
  • Excellent interior decorator
  • Glitter eyes on point
  • Really excellent at mixtapes
  • Genuinely loves people and things without irony
  • Will instigate office yoga Fridays 
  • Hallway dance party captain
  • Loves to write and has an online archive of heartfelt true stories going back a decade
  • Will tell you the truth, even if you don’t like it
  • Has ideas, like constantly

And if someone reads this and thinks I’d be a bad hire or somehow don’t fit in with the vision of the company, good. Get on or get off. I’m not sorry. I have seen and felt the truth, and that’s all I can accept now. And I surrender to the knowledge that I will be okay because I am finally fully myself.  I am standing on the edge and I can see forever.