Learning to Forget, Overlook and Ignore

botero1

When I was in middle school, we were always given a packet summer assignments that were due in September. It constituted probably two or three total hours of work, and I’m sure most kids did theirs the weekend before the first day of school. I always did mine on the first or second day of summer vacation.

I’ve never been someone to put things off. It’s not just the schoolwork of childhood; errands and work projects as a grown-up get the same treatment. Sometimes people tell me they wish they could be more like this, but it’s not some great virtue to be admired. It’s just what I am compelled to do to manage anxiety. Doing things ahead of time doesn’t make me do them better or more carefully, it just makes me feel better in that one moment. In this way, it’s actually no different from procrastination. (read more…)

“Think about it, bitch”

Sam O' Neill Chubby & Tubby

In the late 1960s, Lucy was working as a cashier at Chubby and Tubby, an army-surplus store on Rainier Avenue in Seattle. It wasn’t a particularly nice neighborhood at the time, and the work was backbreaking; she was on her feet all day. But she had to pay for college.

It seemed like an ordinary day.

Even on ordinary days, though, there was usually a policeman on duty in the store, because all the cool little gadgets and items it carried proved an attraction for  shoplifters. The crime could have happened to anyone. But what unfolded afterward could only have happened to Lucy. (read more…)

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…)