Fifty shades of red

We all battle with small bouts of anger, borne out of daily frustrations or minor inconveniences which reveal themselves as that a*hole who cut you off or a befuddled drink order (seriously I said Cabernet, how hard?).

I always believed that as we aged, patience and acceptance would come more easily.

But lately I find my rage has grown as the biological marker of my life on Earth increases. It no longer stays in my chest but I can feel the redness rush up to my face and even the veins in my eyes. Words that my father would swiftly get the soap out and wash my mouth with are now part of my normal vernacular. My car horn is just another note in a song on the radio. My speeding heartbeat is coming closer to being my actual resting heart rate.

I thought this was a normal way of coping, but after going through what seems like fifty shades of red, I began to wonder – why the f* am I so MAD?

You can blame the job, the city, your family, or your situation all you want. But it’s your body, your actions, your words…and they don’t have to react so negatively, right? There’s yoga for that. Or kickboxing, or running. I do all of these and then some. I’m an endurance triathlete who rides bikes for 70+ miles and then runs for hours after. Still no relief from the anger.

And then I realized…the one thing I’m not using. The one thing my father always told me that God gave me…my mouth.

Yes, that opening where words come from. I’m quick to write them all down but reticent to actually say them. It’s like they get stuck somewhere between a thought and an action. I’ve held so fast to the idea that your words don’t define you — your actions do. So hesitant I am then, to say something that I won’t actually follow through on.

A shy kid, I hid from nearly every man, woman, animal that was taller than me. Ask my family. I would hide under tables, in closets, behind my dad…anything to get away from the scary person in front of me.

As I grew, that physical flight from fear fell away. But my ability to voice my concerns — this time real, and unrelated to a “big scary man” that was really just my dad’s tall colleagues — never grew inside me. It stays there as a dry molted caramel that’s impossible to swallow, but just as impossible to vibrate away with your vocal chords.

I wish there was a valve I could turn on in these instances, so it wouldn’t get stuck, and instead, come streaming out naturally. But that’s not how it works. There’s no “Dummie’s Guide to Speaking Up.” You just…have to DO it.

I’m trying to find my confidence and my voice in this life. It’s a constant struggle, one I wish desperately would come sooner, than later.

 

 

Creature of Habit

I’ve had the same passcode, or some variation of it, since high school. It was my locker combination. And it has taken on so many different forms to unlock everything from phones to bank accounts, to garage doors, to hotel room safe deposit boxes.

It’s not that it’s easy to remember. It’s more so that I grew attached to those numbers. To that routine. To something so assigned and definite. Why change it?

I hate change.

Even if it’s good change, my eyes cry oceans until they are so dry it hurts. Only then, when it’s all gone, when the well is barren, that I can begin to settle down, settle into whatever it is that’s different.

Freud could say this repulsion to change stems from some deep rooted psychological scar from my parents’ divorce. And he may be right. All I know is, for as long as I can remember, change is the one constant in my life, and the one thing I constantly can’t handle.

One that tops them all: leaving. People walk into and our of lives all the time. This is normal. People move. We are a transient generation. Change has been good in the respect that women can follow their dreams, not their spouses. And planes can transport us anywhere in the world in just hours. Both men and women can follow their whims, not their parents’, they can wander about the country, or the world. There are no rules to this thing called life anymore. This also means throwing off the sails and cutting the anchors that tie you to a place and time. This means ending relationships, giving up a career, severing a lifestyle, to follow the unknown, to follow your dreams. It’s both wonderful, and sad…all in one.

I left New Jersey for DC, for college. I had no rear view mirror nor did I want one when I packed up and left. I hated high school. I hated middle school. I hated the constant push and pull from the parentals. I hated the revolving door of women my dad dated, and the backlash after they broke up, as it appeared, the entire town of 7,000 people knew and judged me for it. And when he finally remarried, I hated how she changed our house, that they had two children. It was so much change, all the time. And I couldn’t control any of it.

I was angry at the world. So I turned to the only thing I could control, the only thing that was constant: school, studying, learning how the hell I could get out of this merry-go-round of change.

You could say I was a loner and that would be accurate. I was sick of running through friends, so to speak, with mostly every clique casting me off because of my father’s actions. I was just biding my time until I could leave. And when I did, it was a most liberating, free-falling, high-fiving amazement. I made new friends, I drank this magical juice called alcohol, I danced in sketchy frat houses, I ate ice cream at 3am, I tangoed with diplomats and had drinks with ex-pats. I traveled the world and volunteered. I did all of these great things with great people, until the novelty wore off and I remembered what I had left behind: my family, my dog, the 15 minute drive to the beach, the few loyal, nonjudgemental friends I had, and that feeling of being “home.”

I never moved back. But I often looked back, and went back over breaks and a few weeks each summer. My family did drive me crazy, so I never stayed long, but I grew to miss and love that craziness and yearn for it like a calf needs her mother. As I grew into my second decade of life, I found myself coming back more and more. Any chance I could get to see those crazy hooligans. I loved them and they loved me, no conditionality. It was home.

As my DC days grew to a close, and so too did my first real relationship, those saline droplets I knew so well came back as if I’d been holding the Indian sea back for years. College was over. My exciting CNN internship, over. The first guy I ever loved was leaving for Bulgaria. My friends were scattering round the country, if not the world. I didn’t have a job yet. I was alone, bare, open to the world. Change was inevitable, it was all around, it was happening to everyone around me, it was happening in me. And then it really happened:

CNN came knocking. This time, for a job in Atlanta. I had ten days to move. And I did it in 9. I embraced this change. I needed it. I wanted it. Craved it. After a summer back in NJ tending to my family, I was so ready to leave, again.

It was a weird transition to the South. Everything is a lot slower, crispier, hotter. There was no orientation to the real world. Just: here’s life, and good luck. After my first day on the job, I came back to my room, stood against the wall, and slouched down like they do in the movies, not knowing if I could do this. It was the most terrifying change I’d been through. Alone. Not knowing a soul. Not knowing anything about broadcast production. I was like a baby born all over again, coming into this world alone, cold, naked and scared.

I made it through. Very well, I may add. And I’m coming up on 5 years at the company. There have been so many changes over that time – two role/title changes (both times for the best, although of course it came with tears, fears…the usual anxiety to change), four housing changes, each one for the best, again, but the tears were always present when the moving truck arrived; friends coming and going; boyfriends coming and going and coming back again.

There’s no definite or static or forever. We enter this world and we leave it. What we do in between those undetermined times is not always up to us, but how we react — that’s entirely in our hands. I’m 26 and I still cannot figure out how best to handle change. It’s a struggle, always. Maybe I’ll never learn how to cope with it. Maybe I am coping with it the best way I know. There’s no right or wrong way to deal, there may be a “better” way to deal, but we all just muddle through, some silently more than others, some using words, some using their voice, some, like me, use water until the water is all gone.

I am admittedly an emotional human, and I feel so much that my heart physically hurts every time any ill will is thrown at me, or near me. But it recovers, with tim…the blood still flows in me, around me, and when it’s healed it is back to square one. Comfort, change, pain, anger, acceptance, repeat. At least I know the process, and I know I’ll regain some semblance of OK-ness again. It’s all temporary, fleeting. Every breath is a chance to look at change and tell it, OK, I see you, how am I going to get through you? And then you just do it.

Technology: Connecting and dividing

Since when did it become socially acceptable to send wedding invitations via Facebook? I’m guessing around the same time it became acceptable to have an entire “relationship” through texts.

Just because it’s easier to click ACCEPT than to snail mail an RSVP does not mean I’m more inclined to do it. What happened to class? Oh, right, we lost that when we started rocking mom jeans in the 90s.

FaceTime, Skype, Gchat – love these applications. Bringing families & friends together since [insert recent year here]. But is technology actually dividing us more than we think?

With our faces in our phones and our hands feverishly texting, twittering or whatever it is you do to avoid actual contact, are we losing our physical life for one that fits in 140 characters or less?

What will they call our tech-crazed generation?

We are pretty much past the height of jobs lost TO technology. Now we are the gen lost IN it…our whole lives are a series of Instagraming, Facebook stalking and YouTubing.

My 10 year old sister has an Instagram account, with countless selfies and with more followers than I. Say wha? What could she possibly “show off?” She needs an audience that’s real; not digital. She needs people to commend the talents of her mind, not her body. She needs a journal, not an iPad. But I’m not her parent. Do they know?

And if the future has more fake people to offer:

Give Daddy a kiss!

Give Daddy a kiss!

…then I think I’m out. I already deal with enough phonies with half as much plastic, I couldn’t imagine dealing with an entirely synthetic person.

The newly released Samsung Galaxy has “eye scroll” technology? That’s a bit…intrusive. And lazy. C’mon now, we can’t use our hands? I’m seriously worried that when (*IF) I bring children into this world, they’ll be playing soccer on a Wii rather than with an actual ball. They will never pick scabs or know how bad the sting of antiseptic is because they will never fall and scrape their knees. Now I’m being dramatic.

I’ve always hated change. But I’ve accepted it long ago as part of life. But what I won’t accept is a generation that lives only in cyberspace – there’s so much more than hiding behind a computer screen, or flicking fake birds at fake blocks, or playing Words with Friends. Why don’t you play actual scrabble? What happened to old-fashioned board games?! There’s so much more in life than playstation. With that, I’m going to leave you with this quote:

“Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

I’m not saying I’m better than you, I just expected better from you…

(but not really)

Do you ever find yourself generically tossing around Hallmark ‘thank-yous’ and realizing after that the words are as remote as Neptune? But some galactic inequality forced you to say “thank you for all of your encouragement over the years.” Wait, what encouragement? “I couldn’t have done it without you.” But I did. “I don’t know how I’d survive without you!” I’m pretty sure I’d still be alive. Blatant blasphemy, mellifluous malfeasance – lies told because some part of your ego needs to dignify why they’re in our lives…even if your expectations of who they should be and who they are don’t match.

Ever make a pro-con list for people? It feels almost inhumane, plotting a person’s fate as your friend on a piece of paper.

Alaska forest - trees

(Photo credit: blmiers2)

But I’m starting to respect myself enough to let go of anything, anyone, any value that no longer serves a purpose in my life. Feeling drained, I realized I was holding on to too many trademark “toxic” people and situational Sallys – you know, the ones you keep around just because it’s convenient? I found myself getting lost in the ever-widening circle of friendly acquaintances that I can’t (and don’t want) to keep up with. It becomes a chore. Friends shouldn’t be chores. In a previous post I talked about how I don’t hold on to objects because I have so much to hold in my mind…parade of problems aside, add to it my collection of people and relationships of the poisonous or just plain incompatible, and my head becomes engulfed in a Nor’easter. But I’m finally starting to vacuum in there as well, maybe two seasons too late as the Northern Hemisphere is well into its autumnal phase. Evaluating not necessarily who I can cut out of my life, but where I could leave the door open for them to come and go. Rather than deracinate the entire tree, ramose with connections, I’m breaking some branches to make room for others to grow stronger and others to grow back when desired, when natural.

Not a task I find easy, since I genuinely believe everyone has greatness in them. But I’m sick of great expectations turning into even greater disappointments.  So that said – being selfish with who I let in, I’m starting to see that is not selfish at all – it’s normal. Not to equate people with purpose, but if you bring more drama than a 90s teen movie, then I’m sorry but it’s not worth it anymore. We’re adults. We’re supposed to be mature. We’re supposed to be a lot of things including rational and responsible, maybe economical. But most of all we should be genuine. Let’s stop our volant dance around the half-truths we tell each other and the manufactured feelings we expect to have and to receive. Friends are not pre-fabricated houses; they’re not one-size-fits-all. They may have once been excellent, fitting: a true staple in your life – but they change and so do you. You may try to change the foundation – build an addition to fit a new aspect of their personality, demolish an old room with haunted memories. But if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. You tried. Friendships are kind of a lot like flat soda: it was once good, but when it’s no longer bubbly or enjoyable, you have no option but to throw it out.

PICT3157 flying dove

(Photo credit: Flying_Snow)

Don’t expect so much from someone. That way you won’t be disappointed when your friendship turns flat. Don’t act better than them; they see the world with different eyes – learn from them. We are all here with different journeys – enjoy yours, let them enjoy theirs as well. We only have a short time here. Whether your measure it in years is your choice, but make sure it’s rich in memories – good ones with good people. And most importantly  learn to let them go when it’s no longer working. You aren’t losing them, you’re just setting them free.

The carbs of life

The alcohol was speaking to me.

Not figuratively in the Fitzgerald-ian way; that man could translate the landscape of the heart into novels  read by adolescents for decades to come, all while inebriated. But my beer was speaking to me, literally:

And I could not agree more.

I’ve been neglecting the most gratifying part of my life. I refuse it the time it deserves, yet my writing still percolates out of me in bits and pieces, incapable of remaining behind the dam in my mind. I find myself writing down lines on food-court napkins – that is, when I have a second between shows to eat. These thoughts on crumbled brown paper end up in various purses, pockets, places. I’ll pull them out during the desperate occasion of a runny nose. At which point, I’m confronted with these lines I thought were genius at the time but now seem insignificant compared to the mucus dangerously approaching my upper lip. Am I blowing off the one thing I was made to do? Am I ‘snotting all over it’ – figuratively too?

I know this sounds odd but I miss water. I come from the shore, where the tide’s the only hazard. Which wasn’t enough of a risk for me. So I moved some 1000 miles for a career path that’s always demanding, sometimes perilous and never the same day to day. And I’m happy growing here and taking risks and learning. But am I risking now the chance that I’ll be able to do what I love later in life?

Nobody said the bottom was great, but no one said it’d take so many hours, missed birthdays, holidays, sleep, sanity. And I’m changing…

Today was full of “Forrest Gumping,” as I like to call it. Not only did I forget the PIN number I’ve had for the past 5 years – lost somewhere in the broken synapses in my brain, but I also ran for so long that, if my body had the capability, I would have grown a massive amount of facial hair.

I might be temporarily losing my mind. But knowing that I have a plan, a path and a passion – knowing I’ve found the carbs of life, the thing that keeps me going, and going after it…that’s my pot of gold. And that’s where I’m running to.

London 2012: Inspiring a Generation

Credit: Michelle Cohan

Sunburnt in London. Yeah, that happened. Who gets sunburnt in London – land of the eternal autumn and the perpetually pale? This one does.

Of course I would bring the stifling Atlanta heat with me some 4,000 miles across the sea. I was really looking forward to some 60 degrees and rainy — not because I love having shoes ruined by the relentless downpour synonymous with London…but because this summer heat has brought about none of the happiness usually associated with warmer temperatures.

I guess I’m growing up…and I guess I understand now why older people don’t welcome the heat as they once so readily did – it’s no longer associated with footloose freedom or genuine caprice. Summer is now just a series of whimsical velleities and continuous peering out the window at what I could be enjoying…that is if there was even a window in my workspace. And then when I finally do take the time off and step outside – I get burned, literally, even with SPF 30 on.

Philosophies aside, London was amazing. The Olympics have this congenital sense of unity – no matter what countries are at odds with one another, at least they can all come together for this one grand event that the entire world watches. No longer are wars or revolutions the center of the news. For these two weeks, it’s all about pure human talent and the amazement at what we can do – what we can be – nationality, religion and color all cast aside. It’s a really unique experience to witness so many different people come together at the Games and to see the respect and innate kindness that we all, as humans, have within us. Working in the news industry and seeing day in and day out the civil unrest in Syria to the verbal vilifications of the 2012 Elections, it’s easy to forget that we have the capacity to exhibit such compassion and dignity.

There are so many rivers but they all reach the sea. We are all different but we are all born with the same capability to do good. And I whole-heartedly believe this more than ever after witnessing so much of it in London.

I love the industry I work in, but for these two weeks, I was able to forget what I do, who I am, where I’m [not] at in life. And I could just enjoy life beyond work, bills and always being politically correct. I found myself ignorant to the news, ignorant to anything outside of this small sense of joy with truly being in the moment. Ignorance is, sort of, bliss…after all, what’s so wonderful about knowing every horror, big or small?

The motto for the 2012 Olympics this year, as I’m sure you have heard plenty of times, was “Inspire a Generation.” This year’s Games truly did just that – at least for me. I walked away inspired and ready to get back to my own goals. And while they may not be as physically rigorous as an Olympic athlete’s, I’m going to work equally as hard to get to where I want to be, and in doing so, hopefully inspire others to do what they do best. Because that’s what the world needs – people who love what they do and do it well and with passion.

And with that, I must sign off. To see my London 2012 photos, please go here. (they’re pretty awesome, just sayin’)

Packing for London

Emotional Baggage

Emotional Baggage (Photo credit: pyramis)

One could say I’m a minimalist. I loathe having more than I need, especially clothes, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to buy more hangers. And I hate saving paper I don’t need, because the environment needs it back more than I need to save a two-year old receipt from CVS.

People often comment on how light of a packer I am, seemingly stunned that a young American girl can fit her entire life into a backpack. Whether it’s a two month long back-packing trip through Europe or a weekend in NYC, essentials are essentials…you can always wash clothes, buy shampoo, use a scarf as a shirt, or brush your hair with your hands. I’m not the kind to bring a First Aid kit, because why prepare for something that you don’t want to happen? And yes, the scarf thing totally happened and I totally rocked it.

So yes, I like to travel with the basics and nothing else. Maybe it’s because I’m a simple person, or maybe it’s to balance out my emotional baggage, which could fill ten suitcases and then some. I wish I could reverse the order, because dealing with a physically heavy portmanteau seems a lot easier than carrying around ten tons of misery.

My grandmother was a pack-rat extraordinaire. As in she saved the stickers off of apples and bananas – that kind of pack-rat. I’m not sure what she was trying to hold on to, but she had a deep attachment to material. I’m hoping it wasn’t a habit formed to fill a lack of love, because she couldn’t have asked for a better family. I sincerely doubt she considered the burden she left to her three children, tasked with cleaning out her two houses – filled with trinkets from the 1920s on.

Conversely, my dad – the executor to her estates, her accounts, her life – turned out the opposite way, saving nothing except money. But eventually that went away, too. And so did his sense of awareness with his family. We all have our ways of dealing, our idiosyncrasies to compensate for an absence. My father had the mentality that if you spend enough money, you’ll fix a problem. My grandmother – if you buy enough things, you’ll be happy. My stepmother – if you drink enough alcohol, your problems will dissipate.

But they don’t. Maybe for a fleeting moment they do. But they’re still there when the nightingale sings you to sleep, and ever so present when the morning birds’ cries reach your inner ear, transducing sound waves into neural impulses, awakening you for another day.

According to the MalthusianDarwinian theory, man must justify his right to exist, his purpose to wake up each morning. But life is not always fulfilling, it’s not perfect ever, and it’s most certainly unpredictable. So we create these pseduo-ways of reminding ourselves that life is good, I’m happy and I’m in control. Sugar to cover the sour; a shape to fill a lack. So we walk around this planet with stuffed minds, too much to think about and no where to displace it. You can never fully let go, but you can put these side-platters of problems into little boxes in the attic of your mind. Maybe not the best solution, but it’s better than any “-ism” I can think of to deal with it otherwise.

So I’ll continue to pack these problems away and with every attempt try to keep them where they were born. Maybe one day, my materials and my mal memories can fit into one suitcase. Impractical? Maybe, but it’s something to strive for.

Oh, and yes, I’m going to London in four days. FOUR DAYS. Actual luggage packed? Negative. But let’s be real, all I need are umbrellas and rainboots. Maybe a rain jacket too. And my DSLR.