Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Moment of Honesty

Figuring out what to do about a job is very tiring. What did I go to college for? I can’t even remember. To be an artist? Oh yeah. Easier said than done, I know.

When I open my laptop I think, “I’m not fit for any of these jobs,” or “I could do this job, if I had a drivers license or a car. I will take the bus if I have to. But what if I get raped, or die? Also it’s hecka dangerous to walk to the bus stop with the way the weather’s been, with the snow now piled up in sludgy mountains which have replaced the sidewalks and streets – so I’ll have to be extra careful not to get hit by a car. On top of that, I’ve been too sick to really do any moving.”

Are all these legitimate reasons for not having a job? I think so. But when this is my thought process before I even start an application, I’m too exhausted to continue, thinking that maybe, if I can’t even to do that, I’m not fit to do anything. All of this sends me the message that I must be somehow deficient. A strong wind of inadequacy plagues me.

But maybe I’m taking this too far. Maybe now’s the time that I stop criticizing myself for the hand that life has dealt me, for the hand that I’ve dealt myself. I may have some weaknesses but at least I’m trying. I’m working: working on finding a job despite my limitations (that lets me work on my art), working on getting a license and a car, and working on my book. (I’m writing a book of poetry and essays, hopefully you’ll get to read that someday soon). It may take some time, but with prayer and faith and work, it will all come together. Little by little, at least I’m making my life what I want it to be. Maybe today I stop finding my sense of self worth in my job or lacktherof, or in what people think of me for having lost my job. I hope that anyone who feels this way, who doesn’t have a job or who is not happy with their job, finds worth in who they are instead of what they do. Remember that everyone is worth it simply for breathing. Shame doesn’t motivate anyone to do anything. Love and encouragement, on the other hand, is a powerful thing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The "Lazy" Generation?

Survival. To people in a world without technology, it means something quite different than to people of generations X and Y.
To survive one had to be a hunter or a gatherer. All of human labor used to be directly related to basic needs: food, water, and shelter.
But, in a society that has focused its energies on minimizing labor, maximizing entertainment, and enhancing comfort, an entirely new extension of reality has been created. Some would even say that since the Industrial Revolution, humanity as been removed from reality (reality in this sense meaning nature). In this version of reality, everyone is always comfortable, always entertained, always happily sedated (or happily caffeinated, take your pick). Many of the jobs available to our generation today are jobs that are dedicated not to basic human needs, but amusement and emotional highs. We’ve got fast food, its addicting taste giving us a feeling of euphoria, drinks to lower our inhibitions and helps us relax, cell phones and computers to keep us laughing or crying as we please: and lastly we have coffee to help get us through the jobs that enable others live the Dream.
Though these jobs exist to uphold the type of culture described above, people do them without thinking. But what can we do when many of these jobs are where our next paycheck comes from: the paycheck that pays our bills and leaves us a little extra money to spend on medicating our apathy?
It’s no mystery that people of the generation of which I am a part often appear to be lazy compared to previous generations. Something in us dreads going to any job that we know deep within our hearts is meaningless. What are we doing really when we feed donuts to children so obese that they have trouble moving around? What are we doing really when we sell television to our beloved Inactive Society? Beer to the addicted? Or brand name clothing to the image obsessed? People in my generation, especially those that think about these sorts of things, tend to get caught up in moral dilemmas or fall into the static state of not caring.
I don’t consider myself a capitalist or a socialist, nor a communist or an anarchist. I consider myself an idealist. Everyone is so concerned with keeping themselves occupied. The key word here is themselves; individuals laboring for individuals. No one seems to care much about the well being of the person sitting next to them, just about their stations in life. Why not let there be more communities where we help each other eat and live and get to know the souls of one another? Isn’t that what love is supposed to be about? I sometimes think that the problem is that no one ever dares to dream about the way things should be because they’re too concerned with the way things are; too cynical to ever believe that things could be different.
I propose that we do what we can within our limitations: with the decision to love dictating all of our choices. So, next time we work ourselves to the bone so we can have things we don’t need and produce things that others don’t need, let us think about, in everything we do, what it means to love our neighbor. To live a rich life, I believe that everyone should take care of both themselves and their community.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Quitting Smoking

Some time ago, I asked my fiancé to set a date for me to quit smoking. He eagerly said, "Christmas!" but that wasn't about to happen and I told him as much. His next proposition was Pascha (Eastern Orthodox Easter). By then we would have been chrismated into the Church and so it seemed only fitting. I agreed, thankful that I had nearly eight months before I had to worry about quitting.

I've been a smoker since I was fourteen. Imaginably, kicking the habit is a near impossible task. To be honest, before I'd started dating Corey, I had it in my head that I would quit some time before I got married - no one wants to try and start a family on bad health. But what I hadn't anticipated was how difficult wanting to quit would be. If I wanted to quit, I would have quit a long time ago. I wanted to smoke. Smoking was a thing I did almost by principle. For me it is the ultimate rebellion against authority (and by authority I just mean everyone who told me not to smoke). I used to view self esteem as a choice - I shouldn't have it just because people say I should have it . . .what makes me so special? What makes anyone special? I can damage my lungs if I want - how much is my corpse worth among thousands of those living who will all die at some point anyway? (kidding!)

Consumption. Always consumption. I probably gained 15+ pounds when I quit. . .the first time. I remember praying a prayer that went something like this: “God, even if you have to make me sick to give me a reality check, do that. Because I really don’t want to quit smoking.” So, I got really sick. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t have any energy. I couldn’t move without losing oxygen. Mostly, I sat around writing and watching TV (shows I was into at that point: Bones and Doctor Who. Bones=disappointing. Doctor Who=never really disappointing.) Meanwhile, I ate a lot, slept a lot, and got angry more often. Smoking was a good way for me to deal with anger. We all do something when we get emotional: pray, smoke, eat, sleep, write, exercise, read, drink, yell at someone, etc. Of course, some of these are more healthy than others. But the unhealthy things are the easiest to do. When I stopped smoking and was sick and emotional and demanding, I ate. I ate a lot. I was a picky eater as a kid, but as an adult I discovered the joys of food. Sour cream wasn’t a thing for me until recently. Why did I ever think it was gross? It’s probably one of the tastiest things ever. And green peppers. And the chicken bacon ranch pizza green pepper sour cream combination. Working at Dunkin Donuts at the time didn’t help much either. Why wasn’t I introduced to maple icing earlier in my life? And Boston Cream? I love custard. It’s way better than regular pudding. I probably ate 20 Boston Creams in the duration of my employment there. (At the time I was reading Bossy Pants, a memoir by Tina Fey, who recommends that everyone should enjoy being a little overweight for little bit of time in their life. You should read it.)

Despite my new food vice and the wonderful feelings of euphoria and lethargy that came with it, I kept thinking about how delicious a cigarette would be after a good binge. I was also gaining a ridiculous amount of weight that I refused to acknowledge until trying on a bra in the fitting room at Kohls. In the fluorescent light, I realized just how big my belly and thighs had gotten. (I should explain: I was trying on a bra to wear under my WEDDING dress. The bride must always lose weight before the WEDDING, no matter how skinny you are. Am I right?) Somewhere between Christmas and late January, I started smoking again, in hopes that I would actually be able to drop the weight and keep it down. It didn’t work. But I pretended it did. It was easy because from the front, I didn’t look all that bad.

But others brought it to my attention. Some people didn’t even deny that I looked fat when I asked (the true friends). It was a gradual process, this decision to lose weight. . . Quitting smoking. That’s what I’m writing about.
When Pascha started to draw near, I started to understand just how scared I was to actually quit smoking. How could I be expected to quit after I’ve been doing it for so long? It’s like I would become a totally different person. Maybe I would be a yelling, eating machine-monster. Maybe smoking was what calmed my personality down enough to make me loveable. The sad truth is, no matter what I believed about self esteem or how condescending it seemed when people told me have it, there was a good deal of self hatred in me, and it was increasingly uncomfortable.

It was not that I thought smoking and eating – the things I was putting into my body - was filling a void. It was numbing my awareness of the void. People can suffer any amount of things as long as they don’t have to think about how they’re suffering.
I persuaded Corey to let me switch to the e cigarette on Pascha. That way, I’d still have something. I’m currently using the e cigarette. The product leaves me satisfied. I have the highest dose of nicotine, so it’s the closest to smoking I could possibly get. Granted, it doesn’t feel anything like smoking. It feels like small, portable hookah that wakes you up in the morning. Sometimes, because I don’t have to go outside to inhale it, I forget about smoking altogether. (But that’s only sometimes).

I’d like to imagine that in the next couple of years I won’t be smoking at all, that I will have slowly lowered my milligrams of nicotine until there are none left for me to crave.
Once, I asked someone why we are supposed to love ourselves, what makes people worth loving. His reply was “because they breathe.” Ambiguous as it was, the answer satisfied me. And I came to the conclusion that it is hard to get through this life when you loathe yourself.

Having self esteem is not easy. You have to reprogram your brain, work diligently at developing new patterns of thinking. Things are almost more sober as you face the things you’ve avoided while self medicating. It requires taking yourself seriously, not making yourself one big joke.

Still, I find myself stepping outside with my e cigarette and pretending to flick my ashes off the balcony. It’s a ritual associated with cancer, bad teeth, breathing problems; but it’s a ritual that is dear to me. In simpler times people thought it was trendy and calming. I associate it with the relief one feels at the end of the day when getting into bed, and the hope that the new tomorrow will be different.

Here’s to the progress of healthier living. Here’s to the progress of quitting smoking.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Personal Battle With Career Identity

Ours is a nation based on career identities. Everyone defines themselves by what they do. I’m not so hip and arrogant as to say we don’t need a good paying job/ career to be comfortable; but what it comes down to is: people get a better feel for your personality after they ask “What do you do?”
I hate answering this question. I can remember in high school when my best friend asked me: “Erin, what are you going to do after you graduate?”
My answer: “I want to be a writer.” My best friend replied, “Writers don’t make money.”
I still, after earning my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts, do not know what I want to do for money. I hate all the jobs that would make me money. In Los Angeles, I found out that, if I wanted to work in the film industry, I had to work for producers – run around filing and making phone calls all the time. Somehow, it wasn’t appealing to me.
Growing up, I hated school – all the way until I graduated. I didn’t start to really like school until college – and that was only because I started learning about the things I actually wanted to learn about.
For someone who hates school in general, I could never teach.
I don’t want to be in food service.
I don’t want to be in health care.

Any other job is a means to an end for me. But to what end?
So tell me. What is there for people like me?
Is it that I have a genuine lack of interest in everything, or is that I am faceless if I refuse to let my career define me?
I am not even faceless,
I am a drifter.
And maybe a being a drifter is a bad thing, because it’s been over a year since I graduated college. What have I done? I have cared for children and washed dishes.
Perhaps I am absolutely freaking out because I’m unemployed, and have been for maybe two or three weeks. I have nowhere to go when I wake up and get dressed in the morning. It’s not awesome anymore.
Prayers would be appreciated.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Need Help Writing

On my “writing” days that I don’t have work in the morning or some early appointment:
Wake up, lay in bed for a while thinking, smoke a cigarette, maybe go to the bathroom, get back in bed and lay there for at least 20 more minutes, make coffee, drink coffee while facebooking, open the document I’m working on, realize I’m out of coffee and cannot write without it, smoke a cigarette, get more coffee, start writing, hit a wall, facebook some more, force-write some crap that might work later, give up, text someone, see if anyone wants to hang out, read, think about cleaning, get dressed, fix hair, eat, hang out with Corey, complain about how I didn’t get much writing done today, the day is over, lay in bed and pray, think about how it will be easier to write tomorrow, until the next morning, get up and do it all again.

Great writers say there’s no such thing has writers block, and that writers need discipline. But sometimes, I just don’t know what to write about. Have I really reached that point in my life where I stopped caring passionately about things? How is it that I’ve become so nonchalant, my mind suddenly so old? Where have all my deep impulses for writing gone? How do I find that buried thing that needs plucked out of me and put on paper for all to see? I would just give up writing altogether, but I’d be severely unhappy if I did that. Help me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

We're Not Supposed to Worry

About two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Shortly before this took place, I was talking with one of my best friends and roommate, Nadia, about various things that worry me. My career, my relationship, my family, what God would have me do. What if this, what if that, what if I mess everything up because I worry so much. I started worrying about worrying. “Nadia, I won’t be able to go to sleep because I’m so worried,” I said, to which she made the reply, “we’re not supposed to worry.”
Although this statement is one that I should know very well, it seems that this is the easiest of all things to forget. There it was, momentarily putting a stop to my circular thought process: “we are not supposed to worry.” How could it be so simple? Somehow, (even though people do lots of things they are not supposed to do), I thought, “well, if I’m not supposed to, then I won’t. How bad could my life be if I’m not even supposed to worry about it?”
I was able to sleep, but the next day my anxieties started all over again. Thereafter I was told that I have OCD, a form of which my compulsions ranged from getting affirmations from people on whether or not I was insane to checking my alarm clock seven times before sleeping. Naturally, I started obsessing about whether or not I actually had this disorder. No one had ever suggested this to me before, not after years of counseling, not after years of constantly checking with people to make sure that I am, in fact, not ugly. It perhaps makes sense that I had never been told that I had this disorder before, seeing that I had many more external issues to deal with; life events that were shaping and breaking who I was; I needed help coping, that was certain, but no one really bothered to put a label on what was going on in my mind.
As with any mental disorder, you cannot point do it like a tumor and say, “yes, you have cancer.” However I have decided that in order to get effective help for a type of torment that might be happening within one’s own mind, labels can be helpful. Get as second opinion as I might, the sentence, “we’re not supposed to worry,” is a simple statement that will always stick with me. From Nadia’s words of wisdom we must remember that no one can benefit from worry. It does not change a single thing about one’s life. OCD, as far as I see, is just a corruption of concern: doing something that we are not supposed to do; blown out of proportion like lots of gifts/neutralities we are given that are molded into sin. It doesn’t matter what chemical imbalance a person may or may not have; whether or not we believe in such labels. We are not supposed to worry.

Luke 12:25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Anyway, here’s a poem from project that I’ve been working on, as humbly as I can offer it for a growing poet who’s not quite there yet:

People Think Way Too Much of Poetry

The pretentious flower wears glasses

thick framed, heavy.

His neck bends,

his stem close to breaking.

The pretentious flower has a hat,

baggy, knitted;

his petals hidden.

He wonders why he's a boy,

why he's a flower.

All the bees flock to him,

making food,

making poetry.

They don't care he's not a girl

like most flowers,

or that he's actually ugly, for that matter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Random Thoughts, for Valentine's Day, 2012

I have been writing a lot of poetry lately. In fact, it's one of those things where I do a lot of it, and then leave it alone for a little while. Recently I went back to it, and I have been writing about two poems a week, and reading the poetry of others every day. I'm thoroughly enjoying this phase, as it is a useful tool in helping me to express myself until you know what I mean. Here's my most recent poem:


Was I asleep?
I remember you were
talking on the phone
while I gave you a foot rub.
I squeezed the muscle and
stroked the bones of both
your feet
before I noticed that you were talking
on the phone to someone.
I was there rubbing your feet.
But by that time
I’d vanished from your life
like the last time you used the bathroom
or the delivery guy who over-charged you.
I went into the other room as soon as I realized it
and started throwing knives at the wall so hard
they stuck, while I screamed and grunted
over and over.
You didn’t come in.
you just kept talking
to a mechanical voice on the other end.
It was like the dream where you laid
your head on my chest,
playing with my braids as
I took all of you in,
meditating on your dirt,
and making it to mud, but
the rocks covered my hands in blood
and I couldn’t make it clean, as if
you were smiling and giggling at
my witless jokes and
started yelling and bashing in my teeth,
kicking my stomach,
shouting profanities
while I choked for air.
I screamed to wake myself, hoping
to find you in the kitchen
making some pancakes
or getting a drink of water,
the aroma sweet when you’d tell me it was a dream.

You weren’t abusing me when I woke,
or raising your voice,
or making breakfast or drinking water because you couldn’t sleep.

But you had talked on the phone.
I had rubbed your feet
and threw daggers.
And by the time I was done,
you’d left.
You’d left before
you’d even dialed the number.
I wasn’t asleep,
but I’m still trying
to wake up.