Charting My Emotional Growth

hang-in-there1

They say you can’t improve your progress unless you track or measure it.

We measure everything: the number of likes or retweets, weight loss, daily steps, the bikes down Market Street, but do we measure our emotional improvement? No. Why not? Well, I decided to track my emotional growth on the kitchen wall – like when I was a kid charting my height – and you know what? I can really see the improvements!… and the backslides.

My journey of emotional growth started in my early 30s, when I moved to San Francisco. It was a wonderland of local farm to table foods, tattoos, and fixie bicycles. Everyone was so vegan and organic and free of gluten’s tyranny. They were aware and doing things like acupuncture, yoga, and reiki. I came to realize that I had the self-awareness of a zygote. My first mark on the kitchen wall was literally inches from the floor. I made huge strides during the first year, though, thanks to intensive twice-weekly therapy sessions, meditation, loads of daylong silent retreats (which never work because I like to talk), yoga and, of course Pema Chodron. I had what many would consider a break-through within the first six months and a huge emotional growth spurt equivalent to three inches of height. (read more…)

To The Woman Pouring Water In a Homeless Man’s Mouth

Chagall

To the woman pouring water into the homeless man’s mouth:

Hi, I work two blocks from you on Taylor Street and Golden Gate Avenue. Every morning I bike down Golden Gate to my office job in a co-working space. I ride the elevator seven floors to the “penthouse.” I brew tea, make some oatmeal and bring it all to my desk where I camp out for 8+ hours.

I enter the digital world. I respond to email after email; I blast things out on Mailchimp; I interact with early-stage startup founders and corporate employees that pay my company enough to cut me a paycheck. Usually, I eat my homemade lunch at my desk. (read more…)

The Girl With No Identity

fireworks-floral-with-bomb-and-matches-1993

I was lying on my stomach on the small back terrace of my host family’s apartment in Barcelona, using an old coat hanger to try to fish my favorite pair of underwear from the corrugated tin roof one floor below.

After the underwear fell from my hands while I was taking it off the clothesline, I’d debated what to do. I was alone at the house and too mortified to wait and ask for help anyway, but leaving them on the corrugated tin roof forever felt strangely unbearable. I decided I had to get them back, so I looked around the apartment and found a wire coat hanger. I bent it into a hook, which I attached to a piece of cable I scavenged from a closet. Then I got down on my stomach and lowered it down, flinging my arm out awkwardly to try to get it to catch. (read more…)

Who Am I Without a Job?

Farbstudie Quadrate by Wassily Kandinsky OSA472

I was 27 and I had just completed two years working as a law clerk when I accompanied my husband to the American School of Classical Studies (ACSC) in Athens, Greece for his graduate work. The program involved spending one full year participating in extensive on-site explorations of ancient sites, and I was lucky enough to join in the multi-week trips that the graduate students took studying places, buildings and ruins that most tourists don’t even know exist.  It was a terrific, unforgettable experience, one that I reminisce about to this day. I had a job at a large law firm waiting for me when we returned and so was not anxious about my own prospects. Yet much to my surprise, and despite the wonderful time I had living and studying in Greece, I did not like the feeling of depending on my husband for money even for a short time. It was also strange to constantly explain my presence in Greece relative to him. I had gotten used to having my own identity as a law clerk, where I thrived on my critical role in court processes and proceedings. (read more…)

Can People Change?

monkey-riding-a-four-headed-beast-1982

It’s a new year!

We hope you had a great winter holiday with your friends and family. In addition to excessive amounts of food and beverage intake, this is also a time of year for reflection. Which means we’ve all been giving lots of thought (too much thought?) to the ways we want and plan to change (or want and plan for others to).

I’ve been interested in the question of whether, how, and why people change for a long time. And let me admit right up front that I have a bias: I absolutely believe that people are capable of changing. This is something I’ve seen in my personal life and in my relationships. Still, the circumstances of lasting change remain a bit mysterious. I wanted to talk to someone with a unique perspective on this, so I turned to Craig dos Santos. Craig is an interesting case because he strongly believes people can and do change – but says willpower has nothing to do with it. (read more…)