Saudade

For some time now I’ve been stuck in this place of longing for people and things I know I will never experience again. It’s a cruel kind of nostalgia that extends beyond memory and into a realm of existentialism that I can’t come to terms with. I’d say it’s a form of melancholy where tangible photos do not exist and love letters have no value.

In reality, the lights have snapped on, and everybody’s home or dead. There is no resurrecting the past.  

…And he said, “Didn’t we have a good time?” So I said, “Yes, the best,” and it was as if we’d never parted but also as if we’d never really known each other. I remember the night perfectly yet not at all. Music blasted into the crowd and lights caught us dancing in the glow of a euphoric, shared experience that lingers somewhere inside of me.

It’s the details that slip—what was said, the time of night, the exact order of events, and how we ended up. There must have been the drive there and back. But did he spend the night at my place or did I drop him home? Was that the night we slept on the floor because his sheets were in the wash? Did we eat cold pizza from the cardboard box in the morning after I traced words on his back that begged him to guess how my heart was flecked with love? It was the kind of love held hostage because our language lived under the covers instead of in the air.

There were so many entanglements then. He’s miles away from me now, so none of it hardly matters. This can’t be a love letter because married women can’t reminisce like that without consequences. This is a memory. A feeling. An irony. One of many sadnesses I carry that taste like good whiskey. Like a toast to things that once were but can never be again. And it’s beautiful just as it is. So I wouldn’t go back even if I had the chance. If I keep him suspended like that, he’ll always be mine and I his in a perfectly parabolic arc, fading away over distance, time, and space.

Journey to Self

Sitting here waiting for my flight home I’m thinking about all the ways we journey: spiritual, social, emotional, physical (bodily and geographical). Mostly I’m feeling sentimental because I’m coming down from the high of a beautiful weekend with family. I realize we journey from the womb to the world–to many worlds–all of which educate us, or try to teach us new understanding in some way. I said to my pregnant cousin that all the people who loved me when I was a baby are dead, and she assured me people were excited for me to enter the world. And I’m sure they were. How else would I choose to think? Every baby deserves to be loved from the time she is born. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be loved and even though I logically know I’m loved, I experience an emotional breakdown every now and again. I think my insecure, chaotic childhood is to blame. It sent me on this journey to find stability and security in the face of vulnerability. And don’t we all seek to be found, understood, and loved by others in some way?

Travel is a metaphor for seeking love and joy. As I board this plane home, I choose to know love if only because I seek it. I am surrounded by an amazing support system of friends and family who love me just the way I am. But for some reason, it’s the destination of loving myself that has been the most difficult place to land.

If I Say It’s a Rat…

            Today I rescued a small animal from my pool. I suppose it’s a stretch to say, “rescued” since the animal was already dead, but nevertheless, he was stranded on the bottom, and I brought him up. It was so big, I’d spotted him through my kitchen window and almost cried because I thought it might be a bunny. I scooped him out gently with the net, an act that was pretty easy because once I nudged him, he floated up like a weightless thing. Really, he was bloated, and his arms and legs stretched out as if maybe he’d tried to gallop in a valiant yet hopeless attempt to outrun death. 

            I should have taken a photograph so I could show you proof of my humaneness, but I’m not sure what the rules are for posting death online. Whatever the legal way to dispose of a dead creature is, I did that. I’m sure it was a rat, but the last time I saved a rat was when it had gotten its neck snapped in our pool vacuum and I said to my husband, “It’s a rat!” and he was like, “You’re ridiculous. It’s a mouse.” His opinion didn’t prevent my having to dislodge his water-logged body—the rat’s, not my husband’s—from inside the vacuum where he’d been duly clamped between two rollers. 

            Since we’ve been living in the city-country of good ol’ Escondido, I’ve become accustomed to the small things scaring the shit out of me when they scurry from behind the trash bin to the bush. I’m also now familiar with the terrifying sounds of coyotes, and I’ve learned that nobody, probably, is being murdered but that a pack of these feral dogs is closing in on a kill and showing excitement in the form of soul-shaking high-pitched squeals and screeches. I also now know to expect that when I open my windows at night, I voluntarily let in the pungent aroma of feral urine. 

            I’ve almost been killed by snakes, and when I say “almost,” I mean it was probably a garden snake and I didn’t get stupid enough or close enough to discern its venomous potential. 

Also, I once scooped up a bloodied rat with a shovel. It had given birth in my garage before proceeding to die,

which became obvious to me when the accompanying clot revealed itself to be a rat fetus.

   When I said to my husband, “Oh, it’s a dead rat and baby,” he was like, “Come on, it’s only a mouse,” as if those minor details made any difference whatsoever in this situation. He’s never above stating the obvious especially when such comments are to distinguish between my hysteria and his rational truth. He’s smart, for sure, but I’m the one doing the saving and scooping and legal disposing, so if I say it’s a rat, a rat it is. 

            Be thankful I spared you a picture of that. And of this one today, with his wet, glistening fur, soul gone to rat heaven or wherever it may be—who knows whether this rodent lived a well-examined, charitable life. 

            And on this day, as I write to you from my place of work (which is my home—on a lop-sided couch, blanket over my legs because I get cold) and braless, which I’m not sure makes me more free. I’m pretty sure it just makes me more vulnerable, so let that be a lesson. It doesn’t matter what the truth is sometimes–it’s your perspective that carries the most weight. And if you’ve got one, you’re ahead of the game. 

            Happy Thursday. May it be ratless, cozy, and safe, and may you always know which side of the argument you’re on. 

Short Makeup Tutorial

Hi, Y’all,

I felt very Southern there for a moment.

I’m SoCal again, so dudes and dudettes, today I bring you my most recent makeup video. This video focuses on the eyes (mostly). All other makeup was done prior to recording. Since the last one was about a zillion hours long, I thought I’d give you a super short one–it’s under 4 minutes. And it’s fast-forwardable. Or you don’t even have to watch it. So really, it can be as short as you want it to be. I’ve included music and labels so you don’t even have to hear me talk. I’m doing so much for you lately, totally going above and beyond.

If you are interested in the products used, leave a comment, and I will share the details of this look.

Have a beautiful day!

Free Solo Is Effing Nuts

            I’m watching Free Solo, the documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold. Free soloing is the term for climbing with no ropes, carabiners, harness, helmet, or belayer. What. The. Hell. My first question really is why does anyone want to do this? I can’t even understand why people climb, ever, even with all the gear. It just seems too dangerous to be motivating or fun. Honnold is the only climber to free solo El Capitan, a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park. From base to summit, it’s about 3,000 feet. That’s just over half a mile.

            This guy reasons that anyone could die at any given moment in the course of a normal day. His logic is F-L-A-W-E-D flawed. Because dying might happen anyway, he climbs free solo. I’m skeptical about this dude’s mental health. Now, I’m all for living your life the way you want and choosing experiences over things. I just don’t understand. At all. 

            It must be the adrenaline rush he knows he will achieve if he succeeds. Truly though, his fight or flight response must kick in immediately, and so he must keep going, but that’s once he’s already a hundred feet up the side of a flat rock. What is driving him to start in the first place? 

            He started, he says, because he was shy and introverted, and it was a thing he could do to get away. He loved to climb trees and roofs as a kid. Didn’t most of us? And we didn’t become insane pursuers of death. 

            Climbing has allowed him to travel. I get to travel, too. But I don’t have to test my strength and determination in unique, terrifying feats just to go to Europe. 

            He says he would choose climbing over a lady. This is life, his passion. Alex Honnold is a rare breed. 

            There are climbers, hikers, nature lovers by the million. I love to bathe in nature, traversing paths beneath the trees and losing myself along hidden trails. It’s euphoric and healthy to get out there and move in the world. And I may be in danger of spraining an ankle, or maybe even getting pulled into a bush by a maniac. But I’m pretty careful and vigilant. And I’m big. I’m not the smart choice for an abduction.

            Maybe my logic is flawed, too. However, I’m not willingly throwing myself into a daily routine where one slip, one mistake causes me to immediately plummet to my death. 

            Climbers readily acknowledge that “anyone who made climbing a big part of their life is dead.” And yet they continue to climb.

            Honnold got an MRI to check his brain for abnormalities. “Maybe there is something wrong with me,” he thought. Why else would he want to do this, doctors asked. See, even science suspectshe is off his rocker a little bit.

            Scans revealed Honnold has no amygdala activation. His brain actually needs a higher level of stimulation to satisfy his emotional center. That makes sense. Mystery solved. This is something I can fathom. 

            Now I’m going to watch this uniquely motivated man scale some rocks.

            “I think when he’s free soloing is when he feels the most alive,” his mother says. 

            I feel alive when I write. We are just as different as two people can be. I’m okay with that. I have no death wish, no adrenaline bankruptcy. I used to feel most alive when I ran, or after playing the full 40 minutes of a basketball game in college. I can’t achieve that kind of rush anymore because physically, my body won’t allow it. And I think I’ve had enough brushes with death to say with certainty I don’t relish the opportunity for more. When annihilation has stared you in the eyes, you learn it’s wise to back away rather than surge toward it like a medieval warrior with a sword. 

            Honnold explains that he feels a bottomless pit of self-loathing—that nothing he does is good enough—which is part of his motivation for climbing. He acknowledges there’s satisfaction in facing a challenge, and the result is heightened when you are facing death. He says it allows him to be perfect, because if he’s not perfect, he falls and dies. Done.

            Listening to these reasons and watching Honnold in action has put me a little closer to his world. It doesn’t make me want to climb; I just don’t get excited by the promise of death. I don’t want to skydive or bungee jump. I don’t want to cliff dive. I don’t even want to ride on the back of a motorcycle. I’ve done that before. Any rush I might have experienced was stamped out by sheer and utter panic. Feats like this put me into overdrive, flooding my amygdala with the kind of fear that says run! And this is the typical response—it’s why humans have survived over the centuries. 

            Our flight response has kept us safe from danger. Imagine if, from the very beginning, cave people started approaching the fierce lion, standing up to the hungry bear, throwing themselves off the cliff. There’d be about three people in the world, and that does not make a civilization. In order to thrive as a species, we had to fear and flee. And that’s okay with me.

Free Solo. Dir. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. National Geographic Society, 2018.

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

            My husband tossed his candy wrapper at me. He does that sometimes, but this time, I knew the wrapper was for reading because it was a Dove wrapper. And I knew it was for me because it said, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” 

            I often hear that we must find our tribe or that we will know our tribe when we see it—when we see someone being as weird as we are. I have tribes, small groups or singletons here and there, awesome friends I’ve managed to carry with me over the years and through various trials and tribulations. But last weekend, I found my tribe at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in San Diego. 

            This conference was crawling with talented writers and some pretty outstanding individuals, and I was lucky enough to get to spend time with them. And after this, if I didn’t already believe in fate to a certain degree (if you know my background, you get it), I’d be sold.

 After my first read and critique, a woman approached me and offered some specific feedback about my writing. I was honored to get the attention and as always, very appreciative of her input. Another like-minded soul had joined us, and after chatting for a bit, we realized some commonalities in our stories. 

            I finally asked, “Who are you? What’s your name?” She flipped her name tag around. I recognized it because I’d seen it on the list of presenters at the conference. Ugh! She’s a fellow writer and also a publisher! And, no, she wasn’t offering me a publishing contract—I’m not quite there yet—but she was providing some honest, heartfelt, and constructive criticism, which I ate up like a feast of desserts. 

            I had just met this other woman a moment before, and we connected like fireworks, or long-lost sisters, at the very least. And so my community-seeking heart was thumping, and I was already digging this conference and seeing its potential to lift me to another level of understanding as a writer.

            A few hours later, I moseyed on over to the hotel restaurant for some grub, and who did I find waiting to be seated right before me? The writer/publisher I’d met earlier. She was with a group of four others whom I hadn’t met. She greeted me with her gorgeous, welcoming smile and asked if I’d like to join them for dinner. Of course, I said yes. I was feeling particularly social and knew one reason I’d come to the conference was to network and meet other writers, but I had no idea what was about to happen.

            I sat and laid my napkin over my lap, and it was over—or, should I say, it began! —I chatted, laughed, and they did, too. It was a beautiful display of new friendship and kismet. We all just clicked. These people were so welcoming and smart and funny and complimentary. And genuine. We almost hated to leave each other to return to the conference to hear the evening speaker, but we went anyway, showing up late together like the cool kids returning from ditching class. Only we were the cool kids because we were ourselves, secure in our own skin, and getting the most out of what life has to offer. And deep down, I think we all realized what was happening—that we were forming a unique bond of camaraderie and kinship. 

            Now, they’d already found each other, and I came late to the game, and they already had their own kismet happening. But they welcomed me with their lovely hearts. And all weekend, we looked for each other, saved each other seats, and continued to fall in love. I’m pretty melodramatic, and I’m not at all sure they’d describe us in precisely the same way, but you know what? I’d usually be a little shy to introduce them like this, but somehow, with this group, I know that if they read this, they will appreciate and accept it as 100% me, without judgment. And that’s how I know they are my tribe. 

            We are keeping in touch hard-core. And they all have super cool, important day jobs and families, and they are as committed to our little group as I am. They’ve said as much, but also, I feel it like they’re with me all the time now. 

            How does this happen? Where you go away for the weekend and come back changed by the beauty and compassion of other hearts? I couldn’t have predicted or forced it, and there is no formula. It either happens, or it doesn’t. But if I hadn’t met my first real critic at that reading, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here gushing about my new writerly tribe. Most likely, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing, but now that I’ve met these people, I don’t ever want to let them go. That sounds a little stalker-y, I know, but seriously, I believe we will continue to support each other’s writing goals and lift each other up. And I know we will even see each other face-to-face again because this weekend was like being away at summer camp, and once you forge connections like that, they root themselves in you like little trees.

            Two years ago I connected with a few stellar individuals at a one-day conference, and we promised we’d keep in touch. I’m Facebook friends with a few of them and have intermittent exchanges. But I didn’t follow through in the way I thought I would. Maybe, if we’d had the whole weekend to get chummy, things would’ve turned out differently. Ironically, one of those writers attended the writer’s conference last weekend, and she and I reconnected, and I know we will always be friends. She is very talented, intelligent, and brings beauty with her wherever she goes and has no idea just how awesome she is.

            So, I wanted to write about this because over a week later, I’m still on a high from my experience at the conference, and I then my husband got a candy wrapper meant for me like a fortune cookie message snatched up by the wrong hand. 

            After I married my husband, I lived in Redondo Beach for four years and never found a community of people like me. When we moved to San Diego, I left my job, my friends, my family, and had to start over building my world. For two years, I remained isolated and depressed, and then I answered a Meet-Up for writers and found my first two tribe members in my new life as a San Diegan. And we now have two others.

These things take time, but the point is, you have to put yourself out there. Your tribe won’t just fall into your lap from the comfort of your home—the candy wrapper might, but you have to tune in. You must be yourself, unapologetically, throw yourself into the ring of life, and see where you stick. And when you do, your spirits lift and possibilities open up, showing you what’s behind door number three. You walk through, embark on a new path of friendship and understanding, and never look back.

Don’t Let Procrastination Keep You Down

Hello, writers, readers, and lovers of words, lists, and ideas! Today’s post is about an article I published on Medium.com. 

If you are a writer who procrastinates, this little list might reinvigorate your creative spirit. If you’re anything like me, you thrive on discipline, order, and routine. But my Achilles heel is freedom, so I had to make a change. The biggest shift for me was learning I have to shower when I roll out of bed because if I allow myself a leisurely morning of coffee, television, and loungewear, I fall face-first into monumental laziness. Putting on makeup and clothes meant for public forces me to hunker down and go to work, even if that means walking down the hall to my office instead of venturing out into the world.

Starting this January, I recommitted myself to my work. It can be especially challenging to work hours on end when I’m my own boss and not making a cent. But I love my work, and I give myself permission to pursue my dream of chasing the oh-so-elusive craft of writing. I realize that when we chase things, they run, but chasing is the only way I know how to catch what I want.

I hope you have a passion to chase and that you are feeding your heart and soul what they need. Live unapologetically. Dream big, and settle only when your spirit breathes peacefully and you know at your core that you are enough. The world needs you just the way you are–as long as you fight the procrastination beast who threatens to keep you small.

Write on, and make this day extraordinary.