Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Crumbling Into Something

Hello, Invisible Audience.

I am nestled into my cozy home, watching the spring arrive one unfurled leaf at a time. I am marveling at the moon that continues to run through its phases and the sun that keeps climbing into the sky before falling into the mountains, day after day. I am marveling at how nature does not seem to have received the memo to stop everything and stay home. I am simultaneously glad; puzzled; amazed that this is true.

It is roughly a month into quarantine. I am not sick – in fact, I feel better than I did when my business went away overnight. I am more grounded than when I had somewhere to go every day and children to teach.

I have an admission to make, Invisible Audience. When the world shut down, I felt relief. I could not keep up. I was like someone in the middle of the race who watches others prance by as her reserves slowly fade to nothing and she wonder if she will make it to the finish line after all. I was relieved, because the quarantine meant no one would know that I wasn’t going to make it; it meant the race was canceled for everyone all at once and I could slink off the course as part of the crowd without any shame.

Suddenly the most joyful parts of life I had put down because they didn’t lead straight to a paycheck have demanded room in my routine: time in nature; books and podcasts with authors I admire; healthy, slow-cooked meals. Suddenly I am confronted with the life I have created and how little room I made in that life for me.

I have been listening to a new book on tape, read by the author. It’s called Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. It is a wholly inspiring book, by a woman who has chosen to trust herself over the many other authorities who have insisted they know what is best for her. She is honest and courageous. She admits to the ways she has abandoned herself in the past, and counts the ways she numbed herself out. She has promised herself and her children that she will not abandon herself anymore; that she will be an example of what self-love can be instead of the martyrdom often attributed to motherhood and womanhood. 

She is both inspiring and intimidating, because I have something to admit, Invisible Audience: I have chosen and abandoned myself more ways than I can count. Unlike Glennon and many of the other women I admire whose books I read and interviews I listen to, I have found myself on a rollercoaster of courage followed by fear followed by blind faith followed by a need for someone else to take the reins because I did not physically have it in me to hold my own head above water. This has been my past, and it is still my present. This ever-peeling onion of mine makes my life look like one step forward and a dance back past the starting point. Or at least it feels that way today.

Here’s the truth: I have built myself a life. At this moment, when much of that life has been swept away, I am glad. I needed the break. When I think about taking it up again, my soul resists and my heart aches. The truth is I am not made for this existence, Invisible Audience. I am not made to toil and convince myself over and over again that what I have is good enough.

I recently ran across a picture on Facebook of me when I lived in Panama. It was taken by a professional photographer at a jazz festival. I am radiant. I am happy. I was also working through some serious shit, but there was joy in my face that I have not seen there since.

There’s an old saying: we are not meant to simply pay bills and die. Although I thought I was feeling the old ways crumble before the pandemic hit, in truth it was me thatIwas feeling: am crumbling away to nothing. Not in a nihilistic way – in fact, it is the most freeing way I know how to be. Suddenly the flesh has been scraped off the bones of my existence and I realize the underlying structure is crooked. No wonder it hurts. No wonder it is so hard to stay upright.

Fortunately for me, I know this feeling and this place well, Invisible Audience. I have been here many times before. There is no longer fear in this place. Instead, I hold hope: hope that the demolition of old systems makes way for new innovation. Hope that there is more joy in a new iteration. Hope that I have an opportunity to make changes so that once again I can see the joy etched into my face where now I see only exhaustion.

I have been hesitant to write, Invisible Audience. To even have the room to contemplate this change is a gift during such a shitty, scary time. And yet I can no longer deny who I am and what I need. I need something different from what I have. What does that mean? I’m not yet sure. But I can’t deny what I need anymore. Not for that woman who shone in Panama. Not for the woman who looks at life a month ago and doesn’t want the same life back again six months in the future.

Love and something new kisses,

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Ponderings in a Time of Quarantine

Hello, Invisible Audience,

I am writing you from the comfort of my kitchen table, with a cup of coffee by my side and a fully stocked fridge in the kitchen.

I am so, so lucky.

I am lucky because, despite the fact that 75% of my income disappeared overnight when I shut down my group Spanish classes, I still have a place to live, food to eat and savings -- for the short term, anyway. I am lucky because I never completely gave up on my freelance writing, which is a mostly online gig, and I can continue to do it.

Every day I wake up and I feel how lucky I am. There are people out there out of work. There are people out there scrambling to find work, because they have no idea how they’ll pay for the food they need in the ransacked grocery stores. There are people out there that still have to go to work, despite the danger of contracting something that may not just hurt them, but their families, too. There are people out there whose jobs now continue from home, even as their kids call for their attention and assurances, while their bosses expect them to carry on as if nothing has happened.

It is from this place, where I feel lucky, that I sit and look at the economy and society reeling around me, and I wonder if now is the time.

Many people have said they didn’t see this coming. I may not have seen this specific thing coming, but I certainly felt something coming. A feeling that the current system was unsustainable; that our booming economy was operating in an unsustainable way. 

Why did I think that?
·     Because the only way to get really great health insurance is by working, which seems to be an oxymoron. If you’re sick, how can you work to pay your premiums?
·     Because statistics say that 60% of U.S. households don’t have enough savings for a $500 emergency.
·     Because of the local taxi driver who picked me up, who works seven days a week to support his family and keep a roof over his head because rent is so high. That taxi driver had to give away all his pets to be eligible for that rental at all.
·     Because few of the people we currently depend on to stock our groceries and run other essential services at this time can afford to live in the town I work in because rents and home prices are so astronomically high.
·     Because when I needed to move in January, my choices were a hovel over a garage that reeked of gasoline and oil for $1200 a month, or a much cheaper and more amazing alternative 20 miles out of town.

I feel lucky because I chose the cheaper location outside of town, which was available to me because I’m friends with the owners, a privilege I don't take for granted. I feel lucky because that choice for cheaper and farther away means I’m now in a much better place for this crisis than I would have been even three months ago.

At the same time, I am realizing how unsustainable my own life was, now that it has changed so drastically in such a short amount of time. I am not restless and overcome with energy, cleaning my house and power lifting boulders to keep myself in shape. I am taking more naps, handling things that have been on my plate for months, and taking more walks without music, where I can listen to the leaves in the trees and notice the smell of spring coming. 

I had already felt myself grinding to a halt before all this hit, Invisible Audience. Now, I am grateful for the lack of frantic activity. I am wondering how I did it for so long. I am wondering if I want to have it again. And most of all, I am wondering why it’s so necessary.

If life is built on the idea that one must hustle and pound pavement and go full speed, of course it will collapse when we all have to stay home. But I find myself curiously watching my own reaction, and wondering at the parts of life that are trying to continue as if nothing has changed. 


I don’t know how long this will last, but I am already seeing that am different now. Things will not remain the same for me. I am suddenly clearer on how little I was able to find myself in the frantic pace I was trying to keep up before this. I may choose not to do that anymore, Invisible Audience. I may come out of this forced but not unwelcome isolation and realize that it’s time to make changes to my life so it doesn’t require me to be part of the rat race. 
It’s not that change is coming. Change is here.

Love and socially isolating and changing kisses

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Holding It All

Hello, Invisible Audience,

A very happy new year to you. May 2020 bring you more of your favorite things.

I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because they make me feel like I’m supposed to change too many things about myself all at once and I’m a failure if I can’t make them stick. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve made a lot of really important changes in my life – but as I’ve said before, they tend to come in small increments, not larger resolutions that require big changes in a short period of time.

Anyway, there’s something I’ve been thinking about for several months now that could possibly count as a resolution, although maybe it’s more of a change in mindset: I want to work on being able to hold it all.

Just to clarify, I did not just misspell having it all. As far as I’m concerned, that phrase and what it entails carries far more baggage than joy. When I think about what having it all means to me, I think about people who work their tails off, party their asses off, can buy everything they want and have zero time to actually enjoy all they have. I am not saying that’s what your life is like if you think you have it all, Invisible Audience. I am simply saying that those words strung together inflict misery on my system in a way that I don’t want to carry with me.

No, holding it all is a concept that’s been a long time coming for me. It has to do with actively letting go of black and white thinking and coming to grips with the fact that the world does not work in absolutes. 

This is a hard one for me. A part of me wants to think that someday I will be all happy with no sad; that I will love myself fully without wishing parts of myself were different. Part of me wants to think I will fall madly in love with someone who always says the right thing, and I will stumble upon a job that never feels like a slog to get up for. And as far as we’re talking about fairy tales, I’d like all this to happen on a warm tropical island with an endless supply of margaritas and mangoes. 

Well, shit, Invisible Audience. I hope I’m not crushing your dreams if I tell you that I don’t think that world exists. Instead, I have slowly been realizing how much wishing for that dream has been negatively affecting my reality. I have learned that, if I want relationships without conflict, that means I will have less relationships. I have discovered that even jobs and tasks I love get tedious, and that exhaustion and illness can make any great thing feel awful. I have learned that expecting to find equilibrium means that I am setting myself up for failure, because I can’t be satisfied with the days that I don’t feel steady, even if they turned out well. 

For me, holding it all means owning that I can have several conflicting feelings at once, and that doesn’t mean they cancel each other out. I can think my job is worthwhile and also wish I didn’t have to do it sometimes. I can dearly love someone and not agree with their life choices or politics. I can be doing my very best, and still always find ways to improve, but that doesn’t mean my best attempt was meaningless.

Maybe this all sounds logical. Maybe you figured this out a long time ago, Invisible Audience. But the shades of gray of this chaotic, messy beautiful existence have always felt absolutely mystifying to me. I’ve spent a lot of time – and a lot of cognitive dissonance – trying to fit a square peg (either/or thinking) into a round hole (reality.) 

So, does that count as a resolution? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe resolutions feel a bit too black and white these days, and I’m looking to give myself a little more grace in the process than a resolution seems to encompass. Instead, I think my goal for this year is to embrace more of all those seemingly contradictory things that float through my day-to-day life: the rainbows on snowy days; the anger that rides on the tail of a big laugh; and the joy that sometimes comes coupled with fear.

Love and holding it all kisses,