Lessons in Letting Go.

I’ve always been a control freak. I’m not sure why that is, but i’ve always just enjoyed having complete control over as many things that go on in my life as possible. Maybe it all began with my deep love of making lists as a child. Or maybe it was when I began to run my life obsessively with a scheduler/organizer in high school. Holidays, parties, club meetings and activities, exams, birthdays. It all got jotted down. And when things didn’t go to plan, as would often happen, I would have to scratch things out with my pen, leaving a big ugly stain on the paper and a bad taste in my mouth as a result. Like I said – control freak.

The funny thing is that some of the greatest moments of my life, some of the most fantastic things that have happened to me, were completely and totally unexpected. It seems that more often than not, when I let go, I allow the universe to throw me some awesome bones. My most memorable adventures came about at times when I decided not to plan ahead, and to just say fuck it and go with the flow. And then there’s my life now – wife and mom-to-be, roles I would have never written down into any $15 planner, and yet these are some of the coolest things i’ve gotten to be yet.

Back in ’05 when I first began practicing yoga, my instructor had a saying she would always end class with: Let Go and Let God. She always made sure to remind us she didn’t mean that toward any particular denomination. It had nothing to do with a specific religious belief. It was more about letting go and giving in to whatever forces might exist. Whether you believe in a god or goddess, or maybe you’re pantheistic, or an atheist, or a satisfied agnostic like myself, it just means that in order to live a good life, you should submit yourself to the random bits of chaos and the possibility of something other than ourselves controlling what happens next.

I was watching a movie with JB today and it reminded me of how much I love him and how grateful I am about everything that’s happened and everything that will happen. It reminded me about how far i’ve gotten when i’ve finally learned to relax and let go. It’s not always easy and I’ve been holding on tight lately to any control I have over my life. But it felt good to relax again, good to give in, good to let myself think less and feel more. So good to let go.

Find Some Magic.

My new apartment is a quiet mess. Cardboard boxes and plastic bags full of clutter are strewn about on the beige wall-to-wall carpeted floors. The air conditioner hums rhythmically and sometimes you can hear the patter of the vertical blinds softly crashing into one another. Our cat, Hobbes, adjusts himself into another curled position beside me on the futon. Outside, I hear nothing. So very different from the loud engines and horns and chatter of tourists below when we lived in our little South Beach sublet.

The first week here was an adjustment. I’d been spending every waking hour of the past almost 3 weeks with JB as he’d been on vacation, and then again as we moved. But then it was time for him to work again and for me to stay at home, within the confines of a city I know next to nothing about. We had yet to get our internet connected, so it was even quieter than usual. No chatting with friends. No checking of e-mail. No updating of blog. No reading up on other people’s lives. I couldn’t so much as look up where the local library was. Frustrating and lonely. It only made me realize how incredibly spoiled I am by technology and by my husband.

I’ve always lived in the city – even when I was so convinced I lived in the suburbs. It was not as suburban as this. It’s not the kind of small-town magical life that I envy from shows like Gilmore Girls. At least, I have yet to find the real magic here. But maybe magic is something created rather than found. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong. Or at the very least, it might be that it’s something that needs to be sought out. I might never find any magic sitting still in my living room. But maybe i’ll find something if I go for a walk. Or a drive. Or get lost.

Today’s assignment: find some magic. Because I want my daughter to live in a magical world, not a boring one. I don’t want her to look around and see the negatives like I sometimes do. I don’t want her to become so easily disillusioned. I can’t stand the thought of her in a world that’s less than wonderful and beautiful and special and perfect. So today, I will seek out just a little bit of magic so that I can have something to show her once she’s here.

10 Minute Moments: You Need To Want More

Sometimes we simply get stuck. We find ourselves in these routines. Wake up. Shower. Get ready for the grind. Work like a dog and pass out to wake up and start over again. Or maybe it’s nothing like that. Maybe instead it’s wake up past noon or later. Have a beer or two. Pass out. Drink some more. Or maybe smoke. Maybe it’s neither. You might wake up to your kids vying for your attention. Then trying to work and being unable. Not enough time. Not enough room. And those kids, they don’t stop asking for you. It’s so easy to get stuck. To conform and be satisfied with all of this.

It’s so easy to let yourself get dissuaded from what you really want, from what you’ve always wanted deep down. You’ll make excuses for yourself just like everyone will make excuses. “You’re jut growing up,” “You have priorities now,” “This is reality,” and it’s all one and the same bullshit.

But every writer writes about this. Every person thinks this. Why is it any more special coming from one voice than another? Does it even matter? I thought we were talking about something important here – beyond the medium – the message itself.

This is just a reminder to myself that I don’t feel too fantastic this morning. I went out with a friend of mine last night and proceeded to treat my liver to some Glenlivet and my lungs to a couple of Camel Crushes and now I’m in pain. Less pain about my body, more pain about not having gotten any writing done yesterday, and realizing how easily I could get sucked and suckered in to this life. Working to get paid and blowing it all on a few moments in between the work week. And there’s nothing wrong with this now and again. Never anything wrong with working hard, trying to get by. Something completely wrong with allowing that to be the only thing you want.

Remember what you want.

Because you want so much more.

And when you get exactly what you want (and you will if you keep at it in some way or other), always remember that you NEED to WANT MORE.

10 Minute Moments: Adjusting

Woke up with a stuffy nose, and I know it’s because my room is a mess and because I keep forgetting to take my allergy medicine. The sun isn’t even up and I’m not sure how I’m still awake. Or rather, how I woke up at all. It’s the end of February, and the only thing that makes me realize is that time simply refuses to sit still.

I think i’m going to try to do a little free write like this whenever I can. Too often, I jot down ideas of what I want to write about, I open drafts that I never publish, I write but I stop myself because it’s not perfect. Except that writing is never perfect. Art in every form is constantly changing, morphing from one thing to the next. Or maybe that’s just the kind of thing you think when you’ve slept maybe 10 hours tops in 3 days. Who knows.

I started a new job on Monday. I’d been waiting to hear back from them for about a month now. So far, it’s going alright save for the whole waking up before dawn part. Living out in the suburbs certainly doesn’t help the situation.

Other random thoughts as of late?

– Sandwiches are fantastic. I got hooked on Po’ Boys this month after celebrating Mardi Gras the only way I knew how (with food, although we had some Abita too. Did a little Boozin Betties write up on it here.).

– I don’t mind driving far distances as long as the traffic isn’t so bad. And yet, I live in Miami, where traffic is king.

– I’m still stuck between trying to figure out if I should try to TEFL abroad next year, or just move to New York, or apply to grad schools and see where they take me, or pack up all my stuff and move to California, land of milk and honey and lax laws about some favored personal items. Or maybe become a rubbertramp, pack my stuff in my car, and travel around. Except my car is unreliable. You see where I’m going with this…

And on that note, time for work. My 10 minutes are up.

Song of the Day: Neutral Milk Hotel “Three Peaches”

Taken from the Neutral Milk Hotel official website.

If there’s one thing I love about meeting new people, it’s getting into new (or old) music. Last month, I met a pretty fantastic boy that was really in to Neutral Milk Hotel. NMH is one of those bands I had kind of put on the back burner. Not because they’re not an amazing band. in fact, Jeff Mangum’s voice and lyrics have been haunting me for years now. I first heard about them through WVUM 90.5 FM (the radio station that, funny enough, I wound up working for year later) and then later through my friend Hector who put a few NMH songs on a mix cd for me.

From then, i’d kind of forgotten about them until 2005, when I met a boy in California who absolutely loved them. During one of my trips to Los Angeles, he even tried to teach me how to play Two-Headed Boy on the guitar (I got a little of it but have forgotten since). But after I came back to Miami, and after that short-lived romance had ended, I stopped listening to them. Things didn’t work out with the boy and although I wouldn’t admit it in those days, enough time has passed to say that I was really heartbroken.But  It wasn’t their fault that things didn’t work out with that particular boy. The music is never responsible. It only serves as a reminder of things that might have been, things that once were, things that can’t be. And that’s alright. Because it’s making me realize something important.

See, I’ve spent about 3 hours now listening to this song on repeat, going over so many things in my head that might’ve mattered, that could matter, that probably shouldn’t. The great thing about listening to something over and over again is that eventually, the song means something completely different. It’s like when you say a word over and over again until it begins to deconstruct, decompose. It gets pulled apart, shredded, torn, and eventually it’s completely unrecognizable. The same is true for music. You can analyze a song to death, you can cherish it until it’s gone, you hold it close until you can’t remember why you were holding on in the first place.

And so it is with this particular song, Three Peaches, that I’ve gone through all of this, that’s seen me go through this, that continues to exist. I didn’t even bother to look up the words at first, but then I did, and of course it took on more meaning. But the more I listen to it, the less I want to cry and the more I want to be inspired, the more I want to do. It’s the kind of song that shackles you to the bottom of the ocean just long enough for you to find the key and rush back to the top. It resonates- because we’ve all felt that thing that sits in the back of Mangum’s throat. It’s the same thing that’s in the back of our minds and at the bottom of our bellies and hidden deep within the cavity of our chests, a harsh reality that simultaneously slaps you in the face and then cradles you until you’re okay again.

This song isn’t just a song. It means so much in its simplicity. So much emotion in each note. And to me, it means more than that. It means moments, it means history, it means everything i’ve felt for so few, on such rare occasion, when i’ve actually been capable, and it means a fresh start when it’s finally all behind me.

So listen. Just… listen. And if you hear it, if you know what i’m talking about, well.. then that’s all there is to it. That’s all I can say about that.

The things that keep you up at night (or: everyone hates something at 5am)

Sometime between the hours of 2am and 5am, when the hunger pangs begin to hit hard, when you know you’ve inevitably fucked your entire sleep schedule beyond repair, when all the booze and drugs are long gone, when the cigarettes are beginning to leave permanent stains on your person, when the world is quiet except for everything going on in your head, something just… shifts.

You lose perspective. You get tired of waiting. You get fed up with being understanding. You don’t want to understand. You want to yell. You want people to get the fuck out of their beds and out of their sound sleep, rip them away from those nice dreams about that trip to Thailand they never want on or maybe just a dream about a really good sandwich. You take another drag, a heavy one, a deep one, and you think to yourself, “When the fuck did I become a smoker again?”

I’m not angry. I’m not upset. But it’s late, my friends. I don’t even know if that’s even relevant. Late. It could be early. It could be very early. Just the beginning, perhaps. But it doesn’t matter, because the point is, regardless of how you feel, no matter how good things get, there are always things to hate.

I know some people have a distaste for the word hate.

“Oooh, hate? I wouldn’t say that… That’s such a strong word.”

But if you’ve ever loved anything, anything at all, your friends, your family, your pet, your house, your computer, your ability to stand upright, the taste of a good slice of pizza, the way you’ll always find a star in the sky if you look long enough… then you must understand that it is just as valid, just as easy to hate something.

And I do.

I hate several things. They become more apparent in the late night. And especially apparent when you’ve been in your head for too long. So here, in short list form, are all the things I hate right now. At least, the ones that are nagging and eating away at me and keeping me from any sort of sleep.

Insecurities. We all have them. Who really likes these?

Noticing pain on other people’s faces. Especially when there’s nothing you can do to really help them.

Being tired. Sometimes it would be nice to have some real energy. Sure, I could live a healthier lifestyle that might grant me more energy, but this usually eats into the things I deem as fun. And so, i’ll continue to be tired.

Barely getting by. This might be resolved soon, at least temporarily, but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth what you have to do in order to stay afloat.

Getting nagged. Especially by people who you’re not even close to. My mother, well, she can nag me til the end of times. But getting nagged by people with ulterior motives just makes me want to punch things. Mostly their faces. Need to get away from these situations.

Advertisements on YouTube. But that’s no surprise.

People who won’t help themselves. Because you know they can and just won’t and how that stupid saying about getting a horse to water but not being able to make them drink is pretty damn true.

The inability to move on. From what? Oh, take your pick.

Mosquitoes. I do live in Florida, afterall.

Timing. I am nothing if not a master at bad timing. Not for everything, but mostly when it counts. Or when I feel like it should count. Or when I just really want something. Is what it is.

Whining. You’d think i’d stop doing it, but sometimes I also love the things I hate.

Sitting still. Why am I not on the road again? Please, someone, tell me before I attempt the hitch away.

The unknown. This is another love/hate. Think we’ve all been there, yes? For example, right now, it is unknown whether I will actually post this, and then it is also unknown how long it will be before I take it down, if at all. It’s unknown whether or not i’ll get any sleep tonight. It’s unknown where i’ll be in a few months’ time. It’s unknown if anything I can think of right now will possibly ever work out. It’s unknown how i’ll feel about everything most of the time.

Distance. From the good things, anyway.

Not sleeping. See: Being tired.

Running out of the things you like. The last sip of ginger ale. The last cotton swab in the box. The last episode of your favorite show. The last bit of toilet paper. Empty lighters. Empty gas tanks. Feeling empty.

 

There are more things, i’m sure, but what good is it to continue blathering on about them? Here’s a good fuck you to all those things.

FUUUUUUUU.

At the very least, it’s all very therapeutic. Tomorrow (today?) is another day (today?). Don’t think i’ll bother to watch the sunrise this time around, but i’ll leave you with a song I found on one of my high school mix CDs recently that I was once obsessed with.

 

What keeps you up at night? Be honest. I’m obviously not about to crack the ol’ judgement whip on anyone. Yet.

How people change your life (And how people have changed mine)

I know so many people. I know so many people. Sometimes I try to think of all the people I’ve ever met in my life, and it baffles me because it’s such an infinite amount. A new friend of mine recently said that with the advent of social media, that whole 6 degrees of separation has now been whittled down to 4 degrees. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, or if the 6 degrees thing was ever true to begin with. Anyway, that’s not even what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is people. And most importantly, their impact on all of our lives. I know, I know. Kind of vague. But from the moment we’re born (barring extreme circumstances), we are surrounded by other humans. Our mothers, for one, are there when we are born. If we are born in hospitals or houses, there might be doctors or midwives, family and friends. As a baby, on the whole, you are never left alone. Those around you shape the way you learn, grow, and eventually your entire outlook on life. We are a composite of endless minds and emotions, all trying to show us what is best, all trying their hardest to give us the tools we need to one day be self-sufficient humans. We are raised to inevitably be alone.

And so we grow and grow. We make our first memories as we begin to understand language. One of my very first memories is of being about 3 years old and running into a house we were considering renting. The place was enormous from my perspective, but I’m sure it wasn’t much to behold – a duplex in Hialeah, FL. I found my very first treasure there on the side of a bathroom sink. It was a small gold earring, slightly bent. I took it to my mother and asked her if it was possible to find a matching earring. She took the sad little piece of jewelry and put it away and said we would try to find its’ pair. My mom still has that earring locked away in a box somewhere. I don’t know if it means much that my mother still has that earring, or what she thought about it when I presented it to her so proudly, or if she’s even thought about it since. But that moment, in some way, changed my life. Because if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have this story to tell. Life is funny that way.

My 7th birthday, neither Natalie is present, but all these people changed my life somehow.

Then, time passes and we get older. I got older. We make our first friends. We have our first misunderstandings. Like when I was 6 and my best friend was the 4 year old next door named Natalie and we were best friends until the other Natalie moved to our block in Midway Point. Natalie #2 was older, and therefore in my mind, wiser and cooler. I don’t know why I assumed that. Maybe it was the cartoons I watched. Older kids were always way cooler. After all, they’d been around longer so they’d had more time to learn just what was cool. And Natalie #2 told me that it wasn’t cool to hang out with babies like Natalie #1. And how much it hurt to tell my first best friend that I didn’t want to play with her anymore. How that changed me life – knowing that I, too, could be cruel. How I know that had to have changed Natalie #1’s life. Over time, we actually all became friends, but that moment sticks out in my mind so strongly. Sometimes I wonder if she remembers that at all. After I moved away the next year, I never saw her again. I never even knew her last name.

“My, people come and go so quickly here.” It’s one of those quotes that always sticks in my head, mostly because it’s true. I left the Natalie versus Natalie situation behind me when I moved, and then came 2nd grade. We’d just been through a major hurricane that wound up not scaring me one bit (I suppose I was much too young), and now came the more terrifying aspect of being the new kid at school. At the time, it all seemed so important and so endless. When you’re young, your world is so small, and because we’ve only been on the planet for a short while, our sense of time is skewed.

Or maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe we just say that as we get older because that’s what we’ve been taught to say, and maybe certain feelings are never-ending. Like your first love, or at least the first person you really feel something for. I had a crush on a boy named Danny in the first grade, but I wouldn’t say that was the first one I cared for a great deal. My first long term “like” was Jonathan, and i’ll use his real name now because it’s been so long, it doesn’t matter any more. But maybe he does matter, because I’m writing about him again. Whether he knew it then, whether he’ll ever know it, he changed my life.

I met him in the 5th grade and my love for this boy ran deep for about 5 years. That’s a long, long time for a kid (at the time when I finally gave up on him, I had been fawning for him for ONE THIRD OF MY LIFE). That’s a long, long time for anyone, really. I don’t know why he affected me so deeply. He just did. How is it, why is it that some people impact you in such a strong way while others barely make a splash? Are we the ones that decide from the get go? A subconscious decision that states: yes, you there. I will let you make my life wonderful. I will let you destroy me. How does this happen? Why do we continue to let it do so?

People change our lives simply because we care. If we, as a species, did not care about anything at all, we would have self-destructed ages ago. I’m not sure if we learn to love as children, or if it’s inherent, or what, and I don’t imagine anyone will ever understand the complexities of human emotion wholly and fully. But that’s just the state of things, and over time, the only thing that has changed is how these situations are handled.

And this is where it gets tricky. Right now, a lot of people I know are in a state of transition. Maybe it’s the start of the year, or something to do with the way the planets are aligned. Who knows. All that’s certain is that many of us are being affected by others, because that’s what always happens. That is what is always happening. It never ends. All we can do is sit back and wonder why these people come in to our lives (why we let them?), what it means (if anything), and where we go once they’ve affected us. And my god have we been affected. Sometimes it’s a minimal influence, sometimes completely life altering, but always important.

I’m currently writing this while hanging out in the apartment of someone that has affected me (and will likely continue to affect me) a great deal. All the while I’ve been hiding out here, I’ve been wondering about others that have recently changed my life. This kind of thinking is cyclical and does not lead to much productivity.

That is, unless you turn it in to a project.

So I’m going to attempt to take at least 1 person that’s affected me (maybe weekly, maybe biweekly), that’s changed my life in some way, and write about how they actually went about doing that. It might be interesting to see all the people my memories bring out. I’ve met so many and with every passing day, I know i’ll continue to meet more. The people that changed my life so long ago, most of them i’ve lost touch with for good. As for the people changing my life right now, inspiring me to write long posts like this (among other things)? I don’t know what will happen with them. Maybe they’ll be lost as well. Or maybe something else will happen, as things tend to do, and i’ll find them again, and maybe i’ll actually get to change their lives just a little bit. Because really, isn’t that usually the thing we want to hear anyway? That we affected people the way they affected us? Every musician likes to hear the roar of a crowd, every chef loves a good compliment and a plate licked clean, and us writers? Well, we’d settle for a simple message that gives us some indication that you might’ve understood what we were trying to say.

For now, thank you (all) for changing my life. This is the best I can do for now, the most that I can possibly say without saying anything at all.

Baby steps for a new year.

Every year, the SciFi (er, SyFy) channel hosts a Twilight Zone marathon on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I had completely forgotten about it until I went to my kitchen to heat up some pasta and scrolled through the guide until I had the genius Rod Serling on my television. My brother came downstairs for a minute and I had the luck of giving him the plot for one of my favorite (albeit tragic) episodes, Time Enough At Last, when we heard my sister in law shouting from upstairs. My brother left to check on her and my nieces and then I heard more shouting, except it sounded less angry and more excited. When I reached their bedroom, I saw my baby niece Sophie standing up by herself for the very first time. There she was, tiny little fingers gripping the top of her crib, a smile on her face from ear to ear. Her twin sister, Chloe, was in her mother’s arms, watching the commotion calmly. My brother ran for the cameras and I became the impromptu videographer of Sophie’s first solo stand.

You always hear about people recording and fussing over a baby’s first steps, but even being able to stand up alone is a remarkable accomplishment. It sets the groundwork, after all. It was awesome to see how happy she was at discovering a new ability. Over the past 8 months, I’ve watched Sophie and Chloe grow from the tiniest 3lb and 4lb newborns, barely making a peep, into these curious little girls that squeal at the sight of their daddy. There’s a scene that comes to mind from Lost in Translation, where Mr. Harris (Bill Murry) is discussing fatherhood with Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). He tells her how children eventually become the most “delightful people you will ever meet in your whole life.” Getting to know Chloe and Sophie over all this time, I think I finally understand what he meant.

Chloe and Sophie - No longer content with sitting around.

But that’s not what I wanted to say. Of course they’re delightful little humans. What I’m fascinated with, however, is their development. Hell, everyone’s development. We start off so completely helpless, so dependent on caretakers to feed us and change us and keep us clean and keep us from harm and then slowly, we begin to develop all these skills. You learn to sit up, and then you finally stand, and soon you walk and run and fall and get back up again. I hadn’t really thought about the process of learning a new skill, or the patience it requires, in a long while. Sophie’s first solo stand was a life altering accomplishment for her. She won’t be content with just sitting any longer. She’s going to wake up in a few hours and she’ll try standing again. And while she might fall or just not get it right immediately, there’s something about the innate need to strive forward, to progress and evolve, that won’t allow her to simply sit still for the rest of her life. This in itself is more inspirational than all the Nike Just Do It commercials and Hang In There kitty cat posters in the world combined.

Sophie now wants more for herself, whether she realizes it yet or not. We all begin with this drive. We’re little sponges as children, eagerly absorbing as much information as possible. Because everything is new, life is continuously fascinating. So why is it then that as we get older, we slow down our inherent desire for more? Why is it that we simply begin to accept the status quo, that we no longer view the daily things we do as exciting adventures but instead dismiss all of these incredible abilities we have as boring and mundane?

Sophie plotting her next move.

One can always learn something new from another person, especially from those you least expect it. My teacher today was Miss Sophie Faith, who today decided she wasn’t going to take life sitting down anymore (i’m a sucker for puns, what can I say?) She’s inspired me to begin taking my own series of baby steps, to continue on the path to writing better, traveling more, and having even greater adventures. It’s even more fantastic that it happened on the first day of the year, a day when we’re all reflecting on the past and looking forward with eager hopes of an even better set of 12 months.

I encourage everyone to think about the simplicity of learning new things today and every day. Take a new approach to life and try to see everything you do with fresh eyes. You might learn that you’re no longer content simply standing around and that those baby steps aren’t far behind.