The #1 Reason I Absolutely Cannot Recommend Vivint For Your Home Security

It all began in January.

We became Vivint customers in 2015 and loved the app, the automated doors, the alarm, the cameras–like, it was new and all, but we were fans.

And then Houston got some bad weather. I don’t know if you reading this are familiar with Houston, but it often has bad weather. Like, big huge thunderstorms that cause flooding, some of which will close roads and disrupt traffic for a day or so. Others of which are part of big storm systems that cause far more serious flooding and that can shut down whole parts of the city for days at a time. When this happens, we get notices on our iPhones and our facebook pages about “severe weather” and “flash flooding” and, occasionally “tornado watch”.

I am not from any places with severe weather warnings, but I have always found the phone warnings and social media sharing to be quite sufficient.

Vivint does not.

In what seems like a cool feature but is actually truly wretched, Vivint has incorporated into its system alerts issued by the National Weather Services so that should an alert be issued, you will not miss it.

Say, for instance, that you are sleeping and there’s a storm going on outside and then the NWS issues an alert for flash flooding in Southeast Houston. Vivint will beam this alert to your system so that you don’t wake up to a flooded home! So nice, right?

Well, Houston is ENORMOUS and we don’t experience flash flooding my area. But, let’s say we did, okay? It’s worth it to be woken up, just in case. Except. Have you ever watched the news? Then you know that it’s not exactly a simple formula and so what may have been predicted to be an hour window of potential flash flooding can extend a little longer, and a little longer, and just a little bit longer. And every time the NWS updates its timeframe, Vivint notifies you.

Not with a message on your phone. No. Because a message on your phone could be ignored, swatted away by a still-sleeping being, or–God forbid–never even heard because you sleep with your plane in airplane mode.

No. Vivint is determined that you receive these alerts and so they send them TO YOUR PANEL and ensure that they are broadcast loudly. It’s just a chime–the same little chime, in fact, that I’ve heard on my Mother In Law’s phone when she gets  a new whatsapp message.

But before sunrise? But before sunrise when it wakes you up? But before sunrise when you awake to a sound that persists at such jarring intervals that you can’t stay asleep and must instead drag your tired self out of bed and down the stairs to turn off the notification manually, only to return to bed and be just in that delightful state of dozing–when it goes off again? And you are pulled from sleep again. And must go downstairs again. To turn it off again. To have it return AGAIN.

No, friends. No I cannot in good conscience recommend Vivint to you. Be you warned.

This is my story:

I am not a morning person, you see, and I do not live in a flood plain (on a flood plain?) and, perhaps naively, I am not all that concerned about storms that occur while I am sleeping unless the government has said, Evacuate your homes.

So when I was awoken, quite early and obnoxiously, by one of those awful Vivint alerts, I turned it off and immediately called Vivint. But–even that early in the morning (!)–there was a line and so I took my complaint to the internet. I wrote this email:

You have to disable these alerts. Talk to your manager. Talk to your manager’s manager. Talk to IT or the freaking coder himself but these alerts can NOT continue.
Or maybe they will and I won’t continue. Houston is enormous and stormy! It just is! So It isn’t helpful to get the alerts–I just dismiss them without reading–but more than that it’s like right now, I have to be at work early and work an 11 hour day. 11hours. I know some people have it harder but damn. Do not wake me up in the middle of the night for nonsense!
I’m so fed up with this.

And then I tweeted this tweet:

To their credit, they did ask me to DM them and then suspended my notifications. They were prompt and kind about it. But, and this is important: THEY WERE PAID TO BE AWAKE. I was rudely awoken and forced out of bed, and DEEPLY UNHAPPY about it. Guys. Let me just risk my life, okay? Really. Worry about yourselves. I got this.

I was irritated at having been woken up this way, and supremely bothered to have NO RECOURSE. Like, how was my only option to go downstairs to dismiss the alert on my panel? What if I were bedridden? How is this not part of the app? How is there not a remote dismissal? How does not got away ever?? The whole thing was so unjust!
I did the only thing I could: I wrote them another email. I sent the following right after the one above. I really wanted them to understand:

Is it clear why I’m upset? Let me explain:
I live in a two story home. The panel hangs by the front door, which is at the bottoms of the staircase. My bedroom is at the top. I sleep with my door closed.

So imagine now that you are sleeping in your bedroom with your door closed. And then you wake up. At first you’re not sure why but then you hear it: a sound………and then again……and then again–you know that you need to address the sound because it’s woken you up and it plays at just the right intervals that your mind can’t tune it out. It’s like it was designed to keep you awake. It’s like you inadvertently signed up for a small torture device. You are now part of a psychological experiment perpetrated by some company in Utah that does not offer 24/7 support and so you must choose:

Lie there, as the water drips
drips
drips
Onto your forehead, preventing you from sleeping. And not only preventing you from sleeping, but actually causing you to be afraid to fall back to sleep. Your body tenses in anticipation of the next sound. Time passes.
Is it done? Has the alert passed?
You begin to allow yourself to relax and consider drifting off back to sleep and—WOM.
The sound.
It does not let you sleep.
It is designed to keep you awake.

So you must choose the only thing you can, because it is 4AM and you are a working adult with responsibilities and soon–too soon–it will be time to fulfill those obligations. Reluctantly–oh how reluctantly!–you get out of bed. It’s cold and also you’re in your underwear and because you don’t want the vivint cam next to your alarm panel to catch you in your drawers, you out on your bathrobe and slippers and, with rising annoyance, descend the stairs.
It sounds again.

You look for a sledgehammer.
You decide not to detour to the garage.
You see the alert. It was issued four minutes ago for the next 45 minutes.
You clear it and head back upstairs (!) to bed. You can squeeze in another few hours before work.

Once snug under your covers, you can see the lightning flash behind the curtains. It must be far though, for you hear no thunder, and no rain pounds the windows.
Too bad. It would have been a nice lullaby.
Not that you need it. It is, after all, only 4 AM. You’re plenty tired and once back under that pile of covers, you’re ready to doze off once again. You feel your breathing slow, and your mind begin to wander, and your muscles heave a sigh of relief.
Breath in…..breath out….
Goodni–

WOMMMM

It hasn’t even been five minutes but that damn alert is back to tell you that the tornado alert has been updated and is now in effect 5 minutes longer than the previous alert and it absolutely will not stop alerting you to this and not even the good Lord himself knows how that is helpful, let alone valuable enough to pay for. Especially in a place like Houston which is HUGE and gets tons of storms, many of which do not affect your home, much like the case is at this very moment.

The craziest thing to me is not that y’all still have this feature (but don’t misunderstand me: It is indisputably crazy. My MIL has complained of exactly the same thing. How have you not fixed this?) but that it is so persistent. Every few minutes it has an update. A loud update that will not rest until it is certain that it has disrupted your night’s rest.

I’m so tired, Vivint. I’m so tired and upset that I set off my own damn alarm because I tried to rip the panel off the wall. That’s how fed up I am.

Sleep deprivation makes you do crazy things.
Don’t make your customers crazy.

 

It’s the truest thing I’ve ever written, but evidently not the most effective for just TWO DAYS LATER I was awoken AGAIN by that 8&#*$(%(*# WOM sound and this time I was so fed up I tried to rip the panel off the wall.

Do you know what happens when you try to rip panels from the wall?

The ALARM sounds. (Sorry, husband!)

More twitter DMs. More promises to disable alerts. More seething rage. And then, suddenly as it began, it stopped.

For two full months, I did not get a single alert. (Perhaps, perhaps, it is because we did not have any severe storms. Perhaps.)

And then, Sunday April 2, 2017, it happened again. I heard that damn sound and instead of finding our sledgehammer, I went back to sleep. I dozed off. I dreamed about the alert waking me from sleep. Then I woke up. To the WOM.

I took to the Twitter

And then my husband got involved

And we resolved it with this sad baby gif that is the best gif ever made

 

So in summary:
Vivint will make you crazy. It will disrupt your sleep and send you into rages in the wee morning hours. Also, the app is only 3 stars in my opinion, and the panel has a way delayed response, and sometimes when I get a notification that our doorbell was rung, the footage only captures the person LEAVING. Like, what is even the point?!

But. Having said all of that?

It will give grant you some excellent Twitter fodder

In case you’re not on IG: Someone wanted me to die

Or probably. Here’s the story:

Today as I was trying to capture this weird ol’ tree branch, I heard shouting in the distance. It was clearly a very agitated man–men? I couldn’t tell, but the voice(s?) were getting louder. I looked up and saw a man several hundred feet away, on the other side of a big, grassy park walking in my general direction. I kept looking for another guy, a source for the second voice, a source of the anger. It sounded like maybe someone had just been kicked out of someone else’s backyard? Why else would there be shouting but only one lone figure cutting across the field? I tried to be discreet in my staring but I was the only person around and he was facing me so that was really successful. And I couldn’t hear well, only something about You have office hours every day! And then, we passed each other. Now my back was to him and his shouting had become much louder. No, not louder. Closer. And boy was he angry. I picked up the pace a tad, beginning to feel slightly concerned that my curious gazing had further pissed him off, when I heard him shouting again behind me, “I WANT YOU TO DIE AND I GET WHAT I WANT.” 😳He HAD seen me! And he was following me because he was going to kill me! Or wait–is that what he meant? Why didn’t he just say that he wanted me dead? Or killed or murdered? Why phrase it “to die”? Really an odd semantic choice for someone murderously angry. Oh, or maybe he’s not in a murderous rage. Maybe he just wants me to die…eventually? In my sleep of old age? Wait, is he even talking to me? I’ll never know because my smarter self kicked in and said, girl, you better get to stepping because if that man reaches you, you do not even stand a chance. I walked with as rapid a nonchalance as I could muster–passing up a little alley that looked perfect for a murder–before finally reaching my car. I dared one last look behind me. The street was clear. There was no shouting to be heard. I paused briefly, debating whether to circle back to the park in my car, before finally just driving away. What would you have done? And was he really going to murder me? (Or maybe he just wants to receive my obituary in the mail someday?)

A post shared by Anna Ray (@annaraybia) on

The thing about this is that really was the dialogue in my head. I was concerned with what he meant rather than the potential danger he posed. I *think* it’s just how my anxiety-ridden brain works, so how do I make it more interested in preserving my life?

Help Me Get A Cat!

girl with armful of kitties

This is me when I was 5 years old.
girl with armful of kitties

Actually, let me rephrase that. This is a picture of me that was taken when I was 5 years old, and it is also a picture of me at almost 30, if you could see inside my soul.

The only difference between me and her is that I no longer have any cats.

🙁

I’ve moved a lot in adulthood, including several overseas moves, and then when I settled down, it was with a professed pet-hater. Did you even know such a thing existed?

:(:(

Well, I’ve been telling myself for years that when it’s right, the Universe is going to send me a cat (isn’t that what the cat fairy’s for?). I’ve gotten my family on board, too, with trying to persuade my husband that cats are not the evil the dog-lovers lobby has made them out to be. They are so smart! They are funny! They can even be sweet!

We even went out in January to visit my sister, who is a very clean woman, and Ben got to see up close that you can have a litterbox in your home and not even smell it, and a cat in your home and not have any hair on your clothes.

He was not convinced, but our yearslong campaign of cat videos continues. And it seems to be working.

Last night we were both sitting at the bar working on our computers when he looked at over at me. What are you doing?

Um…watching@fosterkittendiary ‘s livestream? I turned my phone to show him their darling little kitten faces.

You know that look you give your spouse when you don’t quite understand what they’re saying but you’re definitely concerned about their answer? He gave me that look, and held it for several seconds before turning back to his screen. Then, a second later, he turned back to me.

Okay look, he said. If you make $2000 a month on your blog, you can get a cat.

Did he just say that? He did not just say that. Make income from my hobby? And we’ll get a furbaby? What’s the catch?

Okay…Like, for how many months?

When you start generating consistent income. 

Right, but, what counts as consistent? 2 months? 3?

Yeah. When you start making money each month, we can get a cat.

And then we shook on it. We shook on it!

Guys. MY HUSBAND WE SAID COULD GET A CAT.

So, not really sure how to do that yet but I think getting some readers is a good place to start. Read. Tell your friends. Help me get a cat! And then you can come back and get original cat content and it will be the best!

This blog has been many things over the years: my travelogue in Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen,, and a smattering of other places. A space for existential reflection. An unflinching look at how the great recession of 2008 affected me as a college graduate and contributed to 6 months of jobless bumming on my parent’s couch.  A glimpse into my home.

These days, I continue the ponder the meaning of my existence and the purpose of my life. I do this mostly through literature though not exclusively. And I continue to be a near insatiable consumer of stories–books, podcasts, interviews, interesting stories and videos–and I share the best ones. Most recently, I’ve been working on a series of posts about your body–well, my body–and struggles with eating and feeling good and bad and angry and great. I’ll be adding to that, and expanding to other topics (see the site tagline).

So. I think you should go get your friends and y’all should stick around. Or, tell me in the comments what would make you stick around! What do you want to read about?

And remember to tell your friends! If not for me, then for her:

girl with armful of kitties
Look at all those kitties! They’re bigger than I am!

 

 

How to Listen to your body

I have a box of girl scout cookies in my freezer.

I put them there after eating a sleeve on thin mints on Saturday, and half a box of peanut butter patties on Sunday.

March is a dangerous month, guys.

Tonight I was feeling hungry and I thought about the cookies. It was after 9 and rather than cook something (if I could scrounge something up from my barren cupboards), why not have a few cookies? I could just sneak in and grab one. Or three….


The thing is, it isn’t about the cookie, or the cookies, or the bite I could take. It’s that my body was telling me something, and I needed to listen. My body didn’t want a cookie. I did, or felt like I did. But my body? It was just hungry! And really freaking hungry at that because you know how much I eat in a day? Not nearly enough.

For years, I have been hearing my body’s need for food–for nourishment!–and have instead eaten sweets. I don’t have to eat a meal. And that means I don’t have to chop or wash or cook or think at all about what to make. And I don’t have to think about spending money or worry about how much is justified and which restaurants are ethical. I just eat a piece of candy and all the options disappear.

Is it anxiety? Is it a disorder? Is it simply that I am easily overwhelmed with decisions? Yes?

All I know is that making this decision day after day for years has left my body in a lousy state. Not a terrible state, just a lousy one.

I’ve recently gained several pounds. My brain has gotten foggy and my ability to think through things, to remember recent days and details, is seriously diminished. I often wake up tired–not just sleepy, but lethargic. My skin is breaking out. And now my damn clothes aren’t fitting right. Some not at all.

I am not happy. I am not happy with how I look. I am even less happy about how I feel. Most of all, I am disappointed in myself. What am I doing?


It’s hard for me to make good food choices. I’m a sensitive soul with strong values, anxiety, and one hell of a time integrating my opinions and beliefs with my actions. I take in lots of information all the time, and have a terrible time processing it. It works for me as a writer. It’s awful for me as an eater.

But. Why can’t I just let it be hard? Yes, the cookies are tasty. Yes, they’re so convenient. Yes, it will stop the hunger. But only for a few minutes, and then it will be back. Or, it won’t be back. Instead, as it’s done before, it will stop asking for fuel and nutrients and instead put my body into power save mode. I’ll go to bed feeling sated, but I’ll wake up with a headache, heavy eyelids, and no will to move. Then, the hunger will return.

It will bring with it little cells with their tiny signs and they’ll march around my stomach and shout about better working conditions, and all the ruckus will get the synapses in my brain all fired up and so when I do finally drag my tired self out of bed, I will probably eat breakfast. I will feel so proud of myself, and the influx of food dropping through the sphincter will quiet the protesters before I’m even done with my plate and, feeling sated, I will head out to work.

At work, I will become so busy fulfilling tasks and so stressed about completing them on time that hours will pass without me noticing I haven’t eaten. It will be nearly 4 before I eat again, and again I will feel proud of myself for prioritizing my health. I may even pat myself on the back as I walk out of Chipotle with a Barbacoa Salad.

Later that night, when I am home and my husband has been fed and the time is coming for me to think about putting on my pajamas and crawling into bed, I will want to eat again. I’ll take a few gummy bears, a handful of chips, a swig of soda. I’ll feel sated. I’ll sleep.

It will be several days before I pause long enough to see how little I’ve actually consumed.


I took this to the page earlier this week. I’m on week 5 of  The Artist’s Way and so I’ve been doing morning pages religiously for just over a month now. I asked what I should do? What on Earth am I getting from this? Why is it so hard?

The answer floated to me today. Two answers, actually.

The first: Do the hardest thing you can think of. I know that sounds very broad but it was very clearly about exercise because I was reminded how much I hate doing repetitive tasks and how bored I get with working out but how much fun I have being active, and how hard I trained and how good I felt doing the Savage Race two years ago. I have in mind precisely what I’m going to do, but I’ll talk about that another time.

The second came tonight in the kitchen as I was thinking about those cookies. Anna, you can eat the cookies. Of course you can eat the cookies. But your body is speaking to you, and you know very well it’s not asking for cookies. If you eat them, you will once again be ignoring your body. You have made it clear that ignoring your body has made you unhappy. So, enough with the deliberating and make some damn zucchini. 

And I did. I also sliced an apple I’ve had sitting on the counter and ate it with peanut butter. I even drank several glasses of water.


It’s not easy to listen to your body. Listening to your body means that you’re going to have to do some tough things. It’s going to require you to be good to yourself. That’s how you know it’s your body talking. Your body will always tell you to be good yourself. You will ignore this and ignore this and ignore this for years and years, for so long that you won’t even be able to hear it, that you’ll think surely your body will have given up making this request.

And then, in a quiet moment in your kitchen, you will hear it. It will be so faint you’ll be certain you imagined it.

But no. That’s your body.

All these years of your abuse and neglect, and still it compels: be good to you.

Sometimes it reminds you of zucchini and apples. Sometimes it asks for water.

Whatever the language, its message remains:

Be good to you.

This Podcast Will Mess. You. Up.

10 best podcasts for thinking, feeling, curious people

The Podcast You Must Add To Your Feed (If You Can Handle It)

And the podcast is: Strangers.

I am selective about the podcasts I listen to, so listen regularly to only a handful. Since they only come out weekly, I always feel a little starved for good, new content.  There are a million great podcasts out there, but to hold my attention you’ve got to tell me compelling stories, ideally in longform narrative, and the more complex and human the story, the better I like it (and likely the more messed up I’ll be about it). I rarely listen to interview shows.

But Strangers man. This is freaking one complex show, dude. Whoa. I listened to three episodes tonight as I was doing other things, which is super normal for me. But twice, I stopped what I was doing and just listened because I was so gripped by the story. And I mean I stopped for like several minutes and just listened. Wow. I don’t know how I’ve never heard of this before (because that means my circles aren’t talking about it and–what are you all doing then?) but brava, Lea and your team. Incredible. #trypod [also, I just read the about page and Strangers was featured on Sampler, which I loved and listened to every week (aside: yo, Brit! When’s your new show coming out?) but still somehow I only found this show tonight, scrolling through the top charts. I don’t know.]

But there are so, so many good podcasts, guys. Here is my top 10:

1. This American Life of course. Love Ira. Love that they produce such high quality, interesting, thoughtful stories time and time again. I’m trying to think of my favorites because there have been so many over the years. #304 Heretics maybe has had the greatest influence on me, and particularly in college. This part especially

And I thought, well, I’ll be. That’s weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s where the pain comes from. We do that to each other, and we do it to ourselves. Then I saw emergency rooms. I saw divorce court. I saw jails and prisons. I saw how we create Hell on this planet for each other. And for the first time in my life, I did not see God as the inventor of Hell.

Oh, and this little video called The Cameraman, that I believe comes from their TV show and not the podcast. I still don’t quite know what to make of it, except to observe, as so many others have, that social media and cell phone cameras and our technology and means of communication affects us. Badly. Not always and certainly not simply, but there it is.

2. Reply All always entertaining, and incredibly thought-provoking, it is my favorite show. I love the hosts, and they help me understand the world around me a little better each time I listen. Thursdays are the hardest day of the week for me so what an upper it is to download their new episodes each week.

Probably my favorite episode is #56 Zardulu because what is reality dude? But I am most grateful to them for Email Debt Forgiveness Day.

Actually, I just remembered this and half to mention it: I first heard the show at a podcast festival in 2016, and did not like it. Like, the festival was at NYU so it was full of college students and when these guys came out, the audience went nuts! I don’t even remember the episode they did that night, but I remember those cheers being a persuasive recommendation and I’ve been listening ever since. Give it a shot.

3RadioLab. Words is probably the best episode I’ve ever heard, or at least my most listened-to episode. It is so fascinating. It features: deaf kids learning how to communicate but without ever being taught to! Super fascinating.

Now that I’m thinking about all this, it’s very easy to pick out the episodes of this show that have messed me up. I even posted one of the most beautiful stories already.

Reasonable Doubt, which I’ve never been able to listen to again because it so terrified me (and also, what happened to the man in the second segment? Crises of faith are tough, yo, and I’m curious about his journey.). And I never have felt compelled to watch Making A Murderer because I think all I need to know is in this episode. But also, don’t you agree that that woman’s gut was totally right?? Like maybe it was applied to the wrong situation but she felt something wrong about him and rightly so! I nearly wrote in and was like, Lady! Keep trusting your gut!

The Living Room is not originally a RadioLab story but that’s how I heard it (it’s from Love + Radio) and oh, it hurts. It’s so beautifully told, making it that much sharper. Ah.

4. The RobCast. Even when he talks too much, which is basically every time, he’s saying good stuff. I’ve quoted it here twice before. And he publishes on Mondays, so it’s kind of the best way to start the week.

5. Happier. Practical, insightful, and just varied enough to keep me returning week after week. Plus, Gretchen Rubin sounds like such a mom, right? But in the best way. I’m like, I can handle life. It’s crazy but doable, and I can even be happy.

6. Dear Hank and John. Because I have a thing for John Green, but also because it’s super funny and nerdy and just a good feeling show for the middle of the week.

7My Favorite Murder. Good stories, hilarious hosts, but also it scares me and has made me see my own world and life in a different way. Like, a more vulnerable way. I’ve learned to say Eff Politeness! (which is quite a polite rendition of the actual catchphrase) which has been very helpful. But I had no idea how many people were murdered in their homes so I’m a good deal less secure in the world, and also terrified to have any kids ever. So. Maybe I don’t recommend this one?

8. & 9. Serial and Invisibilia are two of my other favorites, but the seasons, man. I’m just too impatient for seasons. Listen to them anyway, and at this point you can binge listen to both of their past seasons while waiting impatiently for their 3rd seasons to drop.

10. The Memory Palace. I don’t listen to this one regularly anymore because I was so in love with the original microform stories (so to speak). But oh, Nate, you know how to craft a story. I recommend the first 37 (they start on this page) because those are what first drew me into the show.

I will say that I’ve recommended this to half dozen people, none of whom took to it. I don’t know if they were expecting something else or they just didn’t like the feel of the show (?) but each one of these first few dozen episodes is under 5 minutes, so they’re super quick, but really—what’s that word that means it gets you right in the heart? I don’t know. I’m just saying: expect vignettes. Radio vignettes. And tell me what you think.

What are your favorite podcasts? What am I missing out on?

What is Good?| Church

“My father and his cousin created the first drug dealing territory in this favela back in the 60’s. It was a very violent place back then. Before my father came along—anyone with a weapon had absolute power. There was no law. There was no police to turn to. There were many homicides, burglaries, and rapes. My father played an important role. It was a cruel role, but it was important. He had to clean up the favela. The criminals weren’t just going to leave. They had to be erased. And my father did that job. He was a tiny man. He dressed well. He was educated, and polite, and humble. To many people he wasn’t a good person. But he was a righteous person. I didn’t follow in my father’s footsteps. I became a photographer and an activist. But I don’t see my father as a bad man. He brought rules to this place. And today’s drug traffickers enforce those same rules. This favela is one of the safest places in the city. Stealing is not allowed here. You can’t rape. You can’t hit a woman. Yes, there is violence. Because the police are always fighting the drug traffickers. But if the drug traffickers were gone tomorrow, the favela would be a far more dangerous place.” (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Original post (with photo!) here: Humans of New York.

Thank you, Brandon.

Get Your Story Straight, Okay?

I remembered today one of my proudest childhood accomplishments: talking my way onto the speech team in 12th grade.

Sort of.

We had moved to Dubai in August and by September or October I had heard about the Forensics team. A classmate told me about it and I was interested in it the way you are when you’ve never done something that you’ve always wanted to do–like you want to do it, but you’re scared because you just don’t even know how. First, I missed the initial meeting (held in a classroom, at lunch).

Then, I spent a full month waffling about topics. I thought and wrote and researched and changed my mind and thought some more. And all of this was in 2004 so, yes, there was google, but like, the internet just wasn’t that big. There was only so much I could work with.

I tried out several topics on the teacher and each one was nixed–for being too overdone, for being uninteresting, for not being sufficiently compelling. And it’s important to say here that despite all the back and forth, I had all but disappeared for the last month. I knew what not to do and then struggled with what to do. By the time I had a pretty solid start, the other orators were already memorizing their speeches. By the time I had a topic nailed down, it was 3 weeks to competition. Probably everyone thought I had just dropped out altogether.

When I finally walked into his classroom and told him I had something, he responded exasperatedly, like high school teachers do when have too many students and too little time. (And when those students don’t get things done on time.) “It’s too late. Everyone else is already practicing theirs.”

I was apologetic. But, I was also a really quick memorizer, and I was off to a good start.

“All right, fine.” He said it just like that, too, and took a seat. He was poised to just tell me no, though, I could feel it.

I stood at the front, behind his podium, and began my speech. The change in my teacher was visible. His posture went from slouchy to like–like there was a set of strings pulling him up at the ears. He was paying attention, and not just to be polite. When I finished the first page, he stood up and told me with a look of genuine surprise on his face that I was approved.

Three weeks later I made it to finals, the only one of the orators to do so.

I replay that moment now, 12 years later, and see that it wasn’t just surprise on his face. He was impressed. He didn’t let me compete because he was obligated to (he wasn’t) or because he was being nice (he wasn’t that either). He did not expect that to come out of me, and was delighted (and shocked) that it had. Hell, he was thrilled to have me on the team!

I thought about that today and went digging through email to find more details about that day. Was it really only three weeks? Had he thought I abandoned the team? What made me finally choose the topic I did? I couldn’t find any of that. I stressed about it here and there to friends back home, but said very little, except to say that I had finally finished the speech, and that I made it to finals. That’s it. In the story of my life, this episode doesn’t even appear. I say, I didn’t do any activities in high school because I was a lazy bum.

!!!

That’s not even true! I was a bit of a lazy bum, yes, but I used to read a ton, and I took piano, and I hung out with friends, and I babysat and held a part-time job and was involved at church and hiked and traveled and summer camped. I had a short stint on the pole vaulting team in 10th grade (or was it 9th?). I studied both Spanish and Italian in high school, too, and when I was in grade school, I learned the Russian alphabet. I would fall asleep listening to Russian tapes. I once started translating a Russian Book of Mormon and it only took me a few words to realize that actually there was a different name for what I was doing: transliterating. I didn’t do activities at school but outside of school I was quite active. And at the start of my senior year (!), I packed up everything I knew, said goodbye to my friends, and moved to the other side of the world.

Look, I know it’s me, but that’s a good story. I want to meet that person.

That I didn’t recount this miraculous tale to anyone at the time is evidence that I bought into the narrative that I was a lazy bum. I was a lazy bum who didn’t get crap done on time because I procrastinated (I have a few emails about that). I didn’t tell this story because it wasn’t a story worth telling. I did my speech late. I competed. I didn’t place. So unworthy a story was it that for years, I forgot that that sequence of events ever even happened.

It’s only today, because I came across an exercise in The Artist’s Way about childhood accomplishments, that I remembered it. I am really proud of that moment. He was about to cut me from the team, and within a fraction of my performance he had completely changed his mind. How have I gone so much of my life not carrying that pride around with me?

I’m coming to think that we are born knowing all of our truth. The years of expectations and reprimands and norms and rules and shoulds (so many shoulds) serve to both grow us and to divert us from what we already know about ourselves: that the things we enjoy as kids, and that we’re good at, though not always overlapping, will always be the things we most enjoy and are good at. Keep doing them. Transform them if you will (there’s no forensics league for professionals) (wait is there?), but do them. And when you’re through: get your damn story straight.

International Women’s Day

Look, I know what title says–I wrote it–and I’m not really going to write about International Women’s Day. 

I’m sorry. 

I mean! Thank you for understanding. 

I really just wanted an excuse to talk about how I don’t participate in national and international holidays, even ones like this that I think are awesome. I knew about day without a woman but forgot and didn’t wear even a speck of red (unusual for me) and didn’t do anything about IWD until freaking everyone on social media was posting about it. 

Fine. I won’t be tone deaf. 

I posed this. 
But I wanted to post this dramatic, more graphic version: 
because it’s so cool and I’m still not over that exhibit. I’ll post more about it sometime probably. We’ll definitely actually because I’ve got to do something with all these photos. 

So, I don’t know. That wasn’t empowering and it was totally cis of me, but it was a genuine celebrations. Bodies, and especially those of women (cis and non alike), are just amazing. 

So the picture is a statement on beauty, complexity, intricacy, work, and purpose, just like I want my life to be. Except I don’t really care if anyone calls it intricate or complex. 

And I’m grateful to be a woman and for all the women who came before me, and those who are next to me. Thank you.

Maybe this was a post about today after all. Man. 

Ha. 

It’s okay; Hydrogen’s not so stable either. 

In studying for my anatomy test, I read that the elements most important to biological processes–i.e. LIFE–are those that are unstable. They get the other elements to mingle and together to build larger (and surely better) structures. 

Is that so profound and beautiful? Next time you’re down on yourself remember that crazy is in the very building blocks of who we are. 

I’ll just have a slice of cheesecake to go, thanks.

I woke up angry today.

Anger is new to me, and it’s the scariest thing. Everything else I feel is just that–like running my fingers over a rough surface–but anger feels like a monster inside of me. It’s a separate being inside of me, and I know neither how to release it nor to tame it. I only feel the heat of it, the intensity in my chest. Does everyone feel this way Because if so, the world suddenly makes enormously more sense.

I didn’t fly into a rage. I didn’t even wish ill on the other commuters on the freeway. But, sitting in the quiet morning light, I kept replaying in my head the same scene: walking over to my husband–who was in bed sleeping–and yelling at him for making me so angry! What did he do?

I haven’t a clue!

He was a little ornery yesterday, a little antagonistic. Completely normal behavior for him, by the way. It just happened to fall on upon which fell several other things–poor diet, headache, stress, feeling out of control of my life and lost about my future–and there I was, ready to pummel him with my pillow.

I didn’t, though. I held back. I reasoned with myself that that was a terribly unfair thing to do to him, and also a scary one. You shouldn’t have to worry about your wife yelling you into consciousness unless someone has been shot, and it’s you.

Don’t get me wrong: this was definitely the right decision. I would go back and choose the same thing.

And yet.

And yet.

I could have done something with that anger. Anger can be channeled into creativity. I know it can, and I don’t know how.

Last spring, my husband and I got in a big fight–or maybe it was a small fight–and I was so mad at him I couldn’t bear to be in the same room. But I also couldn’t bear to tell him how angry I was, so I let him fall asleep and then I crept downstairs to the couch. A mix of anger and the light from the downstairs windows made it difficulty to fall asleep, so I decided to watch Lemonade. I turned to it for her soothing voice, for the poetry, the visuals. I wanted to take my mind off the anger, to be distracted enough to fall asleep, but instead I watched the whole thing. It had never struck me how angry she became, how angry she let herself become.

I had always resonated with one piece early in the album. She’s suspended in water, submerged, just beginning to wake up, to rise up, and she tells a story familiar to most women, about self-contortion, passivity, containment, and trying to make yourself something else, ignoring your own voice for another’s.

This time, I saw that the basis for the entire film was uncoiling that need. And to do it, you must feel love, desperation, apathy, hurt, introspection, and yes, rage. Oh, the rage! I never imagined how cathartic it could be. What a relief it was to see her yell and swear and seethe on camera, to flip it off, and to never apologize not even once. She never blames herself or wonders what she did wrong, or questions what the other woman has that she doesn’t. She is so mad she’s practically on fire with anger, but she stays so cool. She doesn’t become passive, and she doesn’t shrink. In fact, she doesn’t do much at all. The song isn’t really about her.

Her job is to stand there and rage.

It’s only later, much later, that she returns, forgives, goes back upstairs to bed.

First, rage.

I don’t know how to feel that kind of rage, and I certainly don’t know how to channel it. It’s so much easier to eat the cheesecake.

 

I’ve long feared anger for its destructive potential, but maybe I need to mine it for its creative power. Maybe next time, instead of imagining yelling at him, I write the scene.

What else has anger created?

I tried to change.
Closed my mouth more.
Tried to be softer, prettier, less awake.
Fasted for 60 days. Wore white.
Abstained from mirrors.
Abstained from sex.
Slowly did not speak another word.
In that time my hair I grew past my ankles.
I slept on a mat on the floor.
I swallowed a sword.
I levitated into the basement.
Confessed my sins and was baptized in river.
Got on my knees and said amen, and said I mean.
I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at Your feet.
I threw myself into a volcano.
I drank the blood and drank the whineI sat alone and bent and begged at the waist for God. I crossed myself in thought.I saw the devil.I grew thickened skin on my feet.I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the holy book–
But still inside me, coiled deep, was the need to know.

It’s modified because I’ve never needed to know if someone was cheating on me. I just needed to know.

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