What should I write about?

One “positive” thing about job searching, despite the anxiety, depression, loss of identity, and loss of income (this laundry list sounds so sad it makes me giggle) is the opportunity to reconsider how I want to, um, live my life.

It’s easy for me to lose “intentionality” and purpose about how I do day-to-day things when I’m consumed by larger tasks. It’s also easy to lose a “bigger” sense of purpose and forget to think about what the heck I want to do with my life/be as person, more generally (seriously, though).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time we actually have in a day and what can happen within all that time/space. That freedom to imagine possibilities is one of the greatest/terrifying things I ever feel, when I do experience it. Yet, more frequently, upon waking, I feel burdened by things that I have to do–I know this is adulthood, and to at least a small extent, it’s inescapable. Minimizing the feeling of that burden is a difficult thing for me to do (advice welcome, sort of).

Yet, when I think about most of the things I really want to do, they aren’t necessarily counterproductive to most of the things I “have” to do (“have” to in the sense that certain undesirable consequences follow from not doing those things). I want to be creative. I want to write. I want to, um, create knowledge, and learn new things and communicate about them in an accessible way. I want to understand things. I want to follow my curiosity. I can put this in more concrete language (i.e., I want to know if x follows from y), but sometimes I think the big language helps too.

But these things that I really want to do, especially the less technical, more ambiguous, “creative” things seem to slip under the radar very easily.

True, there is a part of me that wants to just sit and percolate, let my lumpy thoughts bubble up and take form, but I’ll return to that in another post.  Maybe I can call it “meditation,” ha ha ha….ugh.

So then I wonder, why don’t I do the things that I actually enjoy/derive pleasure from a lot of the time?

An article I read from the Harvard Business Review was helpful in beginning to answer this question. The author explains how a “constant itch for digital information” had impeded his ability to really focus on anything. He uses the specific example of reading books, but explains that the itch can easily cut into his ability to focus on projects at work. The author then trains himself to, uh, read, as a solution.

Which makes complete sense to me. I’ve had a broken brain feeling for a few years now. I’m, like, pretty sure I’m good at doing about ten things at once, so I tend to do that. I write an e-mail and read an article. I tweet a thing and buy a pair of pants. I get in bed and I check the news.  I consume information like a/n [insert simile]. But my ability to do just one thing has definitely suffered.

As a child, total immersion in reading and writing was my primary strategy as an introvert. I use cooking like this frequently now–I can’t do many other things while I chop carrots with a very sharp knife–but it’s not quite the same. Reading, at least, tends to invert my ego in a beautifully powerful way, while writing taps into a part of me that demands expression but rarely gets it.  I need both, and it hurts my brain/body/all over to go without, but in a numbing way that’s hard to notice after a long time.

Uh, so, I should read books, prolly. And write stuff. And just do other good things for my brain. I feel a pull from both my creative and social science-y identities, but maybe I can glue them together somewhat, too. This needs more exploration, certainly…

I know another problem is the feeling that I don’t deserve to do the things I want to do. As self-scathing as it sounds, I don’t really think I’m alone in this. I think it’s probably another pernicious, yet implicit, consequence of modernity, probably already well-covered in the emerging “busy trap” literature. I totally buy into this argument, too,  And it’s a trickier one to shake off. Those Puritanical ideals of suffering are deeply ingrained.

I don’t like palliative solutions to complex life-type problems. But at the same time, maybe it’s not that hard. It’s just a matter of teaching my broken brain to produce dopamine differently, right? And asking crystal clear questions, like: what do I want? (And then reframing it pragmatically with: what do I need?”)

On that note, give me things to write about. What kind of market is there out there for my, er, beautiful words?

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DIY/inexpensive gift ideas

I feel pretty lackluster/re and less than proactive today, so I’ve decided to compile a list of a few happy things. (I’ll write about why my brain is broken later and how I’m going to fix this…)

  1. 20 cheap but thoughtful gift ideas from Thought Catalog.  My personal favorite is the Advent Calendar, although you are welcome to give me “encouragement” anytime.
  2. 53 Inexpensive Christmas Gifts. These are “inexpensive,” rather than DIY, but still reasonably good and helpful for brainstorming.
  3. This is probably the most useful search result that came out of googling “DIY Christmas gifts for people who aren’t crafty”
  4. And, finally, my favorite, food gifts! I want that nutella.

And whatever you do, never, ever try to replicate anything that Martha Stewart made, if you’re anything like me. Otherwise, go for it. If all else fails, you can draw upon the genius idea I mass produced for my relatives in 1996 or thereabouts, whereby I cut open and covered cereal boxes to be used as magazine stands, *winky face*.

martha

Martha laughing as you try to craft handmade slippers

 

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Avenging my dad

I told my dad after we saw True Grit together (the Coen brothers version & in theaters) that I would avenge him if someone ever killed him.  And he laughed a little and was like, “Okay!”

So now that dad has died and it doesn’t feel at all natural or “well-timed,” I wonder sometimes how exactly I’m supposed to do the avenging.  I don’t really feel very “avengey” towards suicide itself.  It’s very personal and, by the time you’re trying to prevent someone from taking their own life, you’re in a total state of emergency.  I do feel more passionate, however, about preventive mental health care, especially for men around my father’s age. (White males accounted for 70% of all suicides in 2013.)

So I want to be preachy but I don’t.  I want to say: understand the mental health history in your family. Talk to people around you. If you feel at risk, make sure you have a strong network of health care providers–access to good therapists, people who know their mental health shit, and a solid GP who understands mental health issues.  Be educated.  Read.  Talk to people. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t dismiss it. People kill themselves and you can’t always stop it. But you can do a whole lot to cushion against that risk.

It feels obnoxious, but I did it anyway.  I don’t know how to avenge dad.  But this is my blundered and heartfelt attempt.

Here are also a few resources I found inspiring over the past few years:
this article from WBUR on suicide prevention for men, which led me to this organization’s site as well as the the delightful “man therapy” website
-and of course, this, from sassy gay friend
-I also read about this service, mostly targeted to teens, this year.
-I always feel pretty wound up when I read this and the follow-on, but it’s very good.

And you can always call me if you need to, and you can probably call a lot of other people who love you very much, if you do feel that emergency hit. Don’t even think twice about it.

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two e-mails about shoes and apparently I always want shoes in May

Hi, Sarah —

I just now transferred $100.00 to your savings account.  Get yourself those shoes!

Love ya!

— Daddy
5/20/2011

Hi, Sarah!  I transferred $525.00 to your checking account.  That will cover the vaccines, and help toward some running shoes.

Love,
Daddy

P.S.  Let’s talk tonight, if you have time.  Or give me a call when you’re going to bed – no matter how late.
5/29/2012

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a season of mourning

This feels like a season of mourning.  I already have thoughts about dad running through my head.  I feel like there is all this lead-up to the anniversary of his death, in a way I did not feel last year.  I was busy dealing with too many other things, presumably.

I feel like punching him in the face and hugging him.

I feel like screaming at him and telling him how much I love him.

All at once.

100_1370

I have been thinking about how mourning sometimes seems to drive people apart instead of bring them together.  It should be our shared human experience, but instead, it often puts us into our own siloed places.  You talk about your dead daddy and I can’t help but start talking about mine.

In a recent medium article I shared, the author describes grief like this:

When you experience a loss like this, you get to see a really wild new amount of life. Suddenly the range of the type of sad you can feel, to the type of happy you can feel, is busted open. The spectrum from happy to sad isn’t a foot wide anymore — it’s as far as your arms can stretch and then to the edges of the room and then up the block and over into the next neighborhood.

And that feels so true.  My boyfriend is the best human, and probably some of it is because he has this grief.  But I feel like I haven’t really had the time to reap the advantages of it.  And I worry I won’t ever will.  I’ll just have a bigger capacity to feel, but I won’t ever fill it up.

I don’t know what this is to say, totally.  Just that I might be an asshole this month, but I still love you all.  And can’t we all just grieve together?  I don’t really know.

leaves

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Crap I like to eat

Inspired by Molly Wizenberg, yet again:

“Sometimes I want to make two types of sauce gribiche, and other times, I want to claw my eyes out and then call for a pizza delivery. I know I should try to find some sort of happy medium in this, and maybe I will someday. But in the meantime, I have found that it’s useful to sit down and make a list. I call it The Crap I Like to Eat (CILTE) List, and it really does help.” — Molly Wizenberg

????????????????????????????????????

Crap I like to eat
lentily/beany (salads)
roasted chicken w/ tomatos and onions
salad (plus cheese, plus nuts, plus fruit/veg)
tomatoes (roasted, or…?) on bread
cheese on
bread
chicken salad on bread/crackers
fish many ways
poached/scrambled egg
avocado (on bread optional)
chips and salsa (w/ cheese and avocado and beans an option)
garlicky greens
brownies
cookies
ice cream
cauliflower candy
noodles
with stuff
like tomatoes
or capers
and cheese
and let’s not forget olives
baked sweet potato
don’t forget pesto
anything/everything on a saltine (or toast)
shrimp
oatmeal
cabbage (as coleslaw w/ peanuts or sautéed w/ carrots and green onion)

new ideas!
brown rice with toasted pecans
angel hair pasta with tuna, etc.
lima beans w/ feta and parsley (maybe tomatoes too)
ten minute couscous

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