“That makes me very angry,” we might write instead of eating the last piece of cheesecake. The cake is a sedative that dulls our emotions while anger is a spark that can be used as creative fuel. Entire books, plays, and operas have been written out of anger. The creative arena is the best possible arena in which to express anger. Anger gave us Picasso’s Guernica. Anger gave us Pasternak’s DoctorZhivago. Properly channeled, anger is a lodestone for creative endeavors.”
–Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet
(I would also add Beyoncé’s Lemonade to the list. I am so grateful she used it as creative fuel.)
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.
-Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
I left the UAE four years ago, and the Middle East 3 1/2. (I may have even shared this quote back in 2013 because it resonated so strongly with me then.) and now I’m back and I’m a tourist and I’m with my husband’s family and when peiple ask where I’m from, I say Texas (!) and it’s like I’m not even the same person.
Do you know where that is? Because I know a lot of things about the world, but that I had to google.
Cluj-Napoca is in Romania.
I am 35,000 feet in the air, traveling 547 mph over Romania and typing a blog post. Romania, dude!
The world has changed.
13 years ago, my first time across the world in 2004, I had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam and people were smoking in the airport. Now I am blogging over Romania.
I just re-read that. 13 years, dude! That’s nearly half my life. I now have internet on international flights but Emirates’ in-flight entertainment system? Still can’t detect my finger. Touchscreen technology has been on the mass market for 10 years but Emirates, a world-class luxury airline, still won’t play Ugly House to Lovely House episode 1.
Anyway, here are some headlines I’ve been watching instead:
Not a single word about the big American circus of 2017.
Guys, my legs are cramped and my knees aching and my nose dry and my eyes tired and I’m thirsty and uncomfortable and ready to land in Dubai–but this is the best.
I’m busy and tired. I’m working and schooling and my days are long and exhausting, and my weekends are often split so I don’t get two days back to back (I hate that!). Whine whine whine.
Today is Monday and I went to bed late (I need a good 8 hours of sleep, beginning before midnight) and woke up tired and hadn’t prepared myself any food for the day.It was a busy day, I was on the go ,and I didn’t have time to eat well. I got lunch from Chipotle but by the time 4:00 rolled around, I was itching for a Snickers bar.
I was driving from class back to work and was about to pull into a Walgreens when I remembered the rule I made for myself the last time I made this decision: Don’t do the worst thing.
That’s it! That’s all you have to remember. On a crazy Monday like today, that is all you must hold yourself accountable for.
So I made the less bad decision of eating a slice of pizza instead.
Not great, but not candy.
(And then tonight on a salad run at the grocery store I picked up–and scarfed down–a bag of Taki’s. sigh.)
Each of us today is obligated to live our authenticity. And if we do–as our spirituality says, as Jung writes about–when we try to live our authenticity, doors will open where other people see walls. Miracles will take place. Resources will show up that we never imagined could come our way. There is magic and mystery in the cosmos but it all is dependent on us living the person that Spirit intends us to be. And when that has to be lived in the face of others’ criticism, it’s painful, I know. And we need to do it. And everything will be okay.
In fact, everything will be more than okay. It’ll be great.
And how awesome was Lady Gaga? I’m a Beyonce fan, and last year’s performance with Bruno was awesome–but dang. This was the best halftime show I’ve ever seen.
Rather than posting her performance, though, I am putting up the video that started it all:
Good job, #sb51. Great performances and, I’m told, a historic game. Bravo.
I first heard this on this episode of RadioLab and though it wasn’t created for radio, I think it’s the best way to experience it. I also found a YouTube link (embed below).
A History of Everything, Including You
by Jenny Hollowell
First there was god, or gods, or nothing. Then synthesis, space, the expansion, explosions, implosions, particles, objects, combustion, and fusion. Out of the chaos came order, stars were born and shown and died. Planets rolled across their galaxies on invisible ellipses and the elements combined and became.
Life evolved or was created. Cells trembled, and divided, and gasped and found dry land. Soon they grew legs, and fins, and hands, and antenna, and mouths, and ears, and wings, and eyes. Eyes that opened wide to take all of it in, the creeping, growing, soaring, swimming, crawling, stampeding universe.
Eyes opened and closed and opened again, we called it blinking. Above us shown a star that we called the sun. And we called the ground the earth. So we named everything including ourselves. We were man and woman and when we got lonely we figured out a way to make more of us. We called it sex, and most people enjoyed it. We fell in love. We talked about god and banged stones together, made sparks and called them fire, we got warmer and the food got better.
We got married, we had some children, they cried, and crawled, and grew. One dissected flowers, sometimes eating the petals. Another liked to chase squirrels. We fought wars over money, and honor, and women. We starved ourselves, we hired prostitutes, we purified our water. We compromised, decorated, and became esoteric. One of us stopped breathing and turned blue. Then others. First we covered them with leaves and then we buried them in the ground. We remembered them. We forgot them. We aged.
Our buildings kept getting taller. We hired lawyers and formed councils and left paper trails, we negotiated, we admitted, we got sick, and searched for cures. We invented lipstick, vaccines, pilates, solar panels, interventions, table manners, firearms, window treatments, therapy, birth control, tailgating, status symbols, palimony, sportsmanship, focus groups, zoloft, sunscreen, landscaping, cessnas, fortune cookies, chemotherapy, convenience foods, and computers. We angered militants, and our mothers.
You were born. You learned to walk, and went to school, and played sports, and lost your virginity, and got into a decent college, and majored in psychology, and went to rock shows, and became political, and got drunk, and changed your major to marketing, and wore turtleneck sweaters, and read novels, and volunteered, and went to movies, and developed a taste for blue cheese dressing.
I met you through friends, and didn’t like you at first. The feeling was mutual, but we got used to each other. We had sex for the first time behind an art gallery, standing up and slightly drunk. You held my face in your hands and said that I was beautiful. And you were too. Tall with a streetlight behind you. We went back to your place and listened to the White Album. We ordered in. We fought and made up and got good jobs and got married and bought an apartment and worked out and ate more and talked less. I got depressed. You ignored me. I was sick of you. You drank too much and got careless with money. I slept with my boss. We went into counseling and got a dog. I bought a book of sex positions and we tried the least degrading one, the wheelbarrow. You took flight lessons and subscribed to Rolling Stone. I learned Spanish and started gardening.
We had some children who more or less disappointed us but it might have been our fault. You were too indulgent and I was too critical. We loved them anyway. One of them died before we did, stabbed on the subway. We grieved. We moved. We adopted a cat. The world seemed uncertain, we lived beyond our means. I got judgmental and belligerent, you got confused and easily tired. You ignored me, I was sick of you. We forgave. We remembered. We made cocktails. We got tender. There was that time on the porch when you said, can you believe it?
This was near the end and your hands were trembling. I think you were talking about everything, including us. Did you want me to say it? So it would not be lost? It was too much for me to think about. I could not go back to the beginning. I said, not really. And we watched the sun go down. A dog kept barking in the distance, and you were tired but you smiled and you said, hear that? It’s rough, rough. And we laughed. You were like that.
Now, your question is my project and our house is full of clues. I’m reading old letters and turning over rocks. I burry my face in your sweaters. I study a photograph taken at the beach, the sun in our eyes, and the water behind us. It’s a victory to remember the forgotten picnic basket and your striped beach blanket. It’s a victory to remember how the jellyfish stung you and you ran screaming from the water. It’s a victory to remember treating the wound with meat tenderizer, and you saying, I made it better. I will tell you this, standing on our hill this morning I looked at the land we chose for ourselves, I saw a few green patches, and our sweet little shed, that same dog was barking, a storm was moving in. I did not think of heaven, but I saw that the clouds were beautiful and I watched them cover the sun.
This post will have nothing to do with groundhogs.
My mom sent me this video today with the message, I’m sure this is a message from my future granddaughter.
Oh, if I know anything about that future granddaughter: YES.
I saw this chickpea curry on instagram this week and made it. But without any spiralized veggies and with the addition of lots of other ingredients, and so does it actually count? Whatever it was delicious. Thank you for the inspiration, Ali!
Also! I saw this black bean and sweet potato bowl recipe and did not make it, but totally will this week. Doesn’t that look so good? And simple! Perfect for a weeknight.
Instagram is the best place to find recipes, by the way. That’s where I get about 80% of the good stuff I make.
And church will def be happening on Sunday. I’m featuring two women writers, one whom you’ve definitely read before, and the other whom you probably haven’t(?). See you back here Sunday at 8 AM!
A friend today was telling me that she is super stressed out. She worked out twice that day, feeling like she could literally run the stress out (!). And I said, What is going on with you?
She was like, remember those crazy hives you got the week of your wedding?
But you don’t, so: One night a few summers ago, I woke up itching my foot, and I couldn’t go back to sleep because have you ever had an itchy foot? The worst.
Well, I finally got up to see what sort of antihistamines I had in my bathroom and noticed that I had hives allll over my legs. In fact, I had them on my stomach and arms, too. And, of course, I didn’t have even one single drop of Benadryl nor one crusty tube of hydrocortisone cream to get me through. The worst part was that every part of my body that made contact with my bed–which was every part of my body–flared up with hives. I spent hours trying to not think about the discomfort, the itchiness all over my body (all over! Arms, sides, back, legs, hips, feet. I was basically one big welt) and was the first person at the pharmacy when it opened.
I managed well enough during the day (because my mind was busy?) but night time, man. That was hard.
Anyway, it lasted a few days, and was long gone by the time my big day came. I’m really tempted to include pictures in this post, because of course I took pictures, but that’s gross and I guess not really the point. Which is:
My friend said her stress was like that, but in her brain. Did I know what she meant?
Uh, yes. Yes I knew exactly what she meant because it wasn’t that long ago that I had an intensely stressful boss who caused me MONTHS of severe anxiety. I would go to bed with my mind racing with thoughts and when I awoke each morning, it’s like they dragged me with them. I was never rested, and my mind wouldn’t even slow down. Sometimes I would wake up in the night with a partial thought about work, fall asleep again, and wake up thinking a different work thought, all of it happening without any effort on my part. Like I had fallen asleep on a train that never stopped. And instead of traveling through the rustic countryside, it went only through (not under!) the world’s most populous cities–Mumbai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York City, Los Angeles, Cairo. So exhausting.
So what to do? I think everyone is going to tell you yoga and meditation, and they are right.
1. Get in yo body.
No wait! This is number 1:
1. This will pass. Those bees are swarming and it sounds like a gang of chainsaw murderers (and probably feels a little like that too–eep!) but it isn’t. You won’t get stung or chopped to bits. You will get through this. It will be tiring. It won’t be forever.
2. Your body. Look, anxiety is a disease of the mind. The bees are part of that. It is so hard to ignore the buzzing–actually, it’s basically impossible. Don’t even try. You’re just wasting valuable energy. But what will successfully divert attention, and give your mind some much needed reprieve, is to get into your body.
My friend runs. I don’t believe in running, so I say do yoga. Whatever. The point is that just like those bees are in your head buzzing around, stress and anxiety are loitering in your muscles. Stretch. Run. Jump. Yoga. Just get your body working.
The reason it’s important to get into your body is this: relaxation is not a cognitive process. You will not think those bees out of your head. Breathing is good but if your bees are like mine, the quiet will be done as soon as your breathing goes back to normal–which is what, 10 seconds? Maybe?
Working your muscles gets the tension out of them. It releases the stress. Yoga gets the tension out of them. The rhythm of running resets your mind and gets your muscles to let go of all that pent up anxiety. That’s why you feel better after exercise.*
3. Food food food. When I have the stress bees, I don’t eat. Some folks are stress-eaters but I am a stress starver. I have trouble getting enough as it is so when my brain is abuzz, the last thing I’m thinking about is good eating.
But you know what feels really good?
Comfort food. Not pasta and bread (no! Bees love carbs!) but like soup and curry and three bean chilli. Eat things that are easy for your body to digest, and that feel good to eat. Let it feel good to eat.
Having said that: last time I had the bees, I ate two boxes of cereal. I had been kind of starving and working late and one night I just snapped! I went out and bought myself some damn lucky charms and ate that cereal like it was medicine. Or maybe not medicine because then I’d be dead.
I applauded myself for finally eating but let me tell you: I felt pretty shitty over those next few days (during which I ate the box–I didn’t eat it all in one night) (but almost).
Learn from me and don’t eat the crap. I’ll link to some (easy delicious comforting) recipes later. Watch this space!
4. Meditate to sleep. Ugh isn’t this the most annoying advice? Duh you need to sleep–but how do you do that on a noisy, never ending train? When you’re being pursued by a swarm of relentless bees wielding chainsaws? Boy, these analogies!
People talk about headspace but I’m a fan of simple habit. Love love love their options and found them so helpful in relaxing my body and mind to sleep. You can adjust the length to do a 5 minute session, or a 10 or 20. (This is also super useful during lunch breaks.) And you can choose the topic! Deep sleep was great, and then there are more you can choose if you subscribe. I’m not a subscriber (yet) but I do really like it.
Sleep With Me is also, I hear, a great podcast for folks who can’t sleep. I prefer the meditation route but maybe you hate meditating!
Or, screw all the meditation advice and do something else instead. Color the stress out. Walk. Garden. Cook. Organize your closet. Throw away your husband’s cargo shorts. Maybe they won’t put you to sleep, but they will help your mind work out its stuff. And hey, if you’re not sleeping, you might as well be doing something productive.
*I am not any kind of doctor or expert or anyone who can speak knowledgeably about why exercise gets the tension out of your body. But it works for me every time and I’m not a precious snowflake, so it will probably be just as effective for you. Try it–even just some stretching feels super good.
Also, my therapist told me that walking basically does the same thing as EMDR and, in fact, was discovered on a walk.
So maybe this post was superfluous and I should just be telling you and my friend: yes. Exercise the shit out of those bees.
Because you’ll get through it. And chainsaws run out of gas, trains stop at stations, and bees die.