Quote of the Day

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Melancholia and the Infinite Fear (this could get dark…)

It’s been years. Eons. It feels that long since I've turned my insides out in words, but I feel somewhat that this is a safe space (ghost town that it is) to say that I’ve been in a bit of a melancholy lately. Maybe it's just the January blues, maybe an in between quarter & mid-life crisis as another birthday approaches, or a bit of a Sylvia Plath and the Fig Tree moment. The thing is, I've been feeling somewhat stagnant, and I find that stagnant waters breed regrets of the heart, and regrets breed fear*. I imagine them festering and growing like algae on a rock, slowing strangling my soul. 

It’s not aging I fear, it’s the thought of dying having never really lived, or loved, or fulfilled whatever purpose there may be to find. The fear that with each less day I take a step forward, the more my limbs atrophy. A claustrophobic feeling of the years ahead and the world around slowly closing in on me like a goddamned trash compactor as I sit paralyzed in the middle. The debilitating, stifling fear that choosing risk over comfort will lead to ruin, and that choosing comfort over risk will kill slowly, and that by the time I decide it will be too late.
  Fear that the right time will never arrive, or doesn't exist. The fear that roads left untaken will end up crippling me with regret. Fear of getting hurt, fear of hurting others. Fear that no one will ever really (really) know me, not because they don't care to, but because I won't allow it--maybe because I'm not capable of it. Fear that I will be my own undoing out of fear of letting someone else be. Fear of settling. Fear of not settling. Fear that maybe optimism is just a quirk of youth, and self-growth a myth we tell ourselves to grasp at hope. I'm afraid that the older I get, the more fearful I'll become. 

I know that I will probably never say these fears out loud, and that I'll keep going out into the world with a cheerful (if sometimes sardonic) face. And it won't be a lie. But I know that lurking in the back of my mind, and in solitary moments, the fears linger. And I imagine that algae covered rock slowly sinking to the ocean floor as the world swims past, into the sunlight without me.

*I'm talking internal fear, here, not scary external fears like the thought of Donald Trump somehow being elected president; that's one dystopian future I'm not ready to face the possibility of yet.

Monday, August 20, 2012


I've never put an awful lot of stock in the meaning of dreams. It's interesting to think about things like symbology and hidden meaning, but they usually seem to me, when I can recall them, just a jumbled, distorted montage of the various thoughts, feelings and happenings of the everyday life. A movie trailer you saw here, a conversation you had there. 

About two weeks ago, for whatever reason, I spent a restless night tossing and turning, waking from strange dreams with a vague feeling of unease. In the early hours around dawn I found myself in that state of almost-conscious sleep and just drifting into a dream... I don't remember setting or context, all I know is that someone asked me a question: the name of an author, or actor maybe? "D.E. Flighting", I answered clearly in the dream, and then I woke up, the words feeling as if they had just rolled off my lips. 

"D.E. Flighting?" I thought. Who the hell is that? Is it a name I heard in passing, somewhere in the course of the day or the week, that somehow stuck in a small corner of my brain? Why had I remembered this? If not a name, maybe it was a message somehow. But what could it mean? De-flighting? I was going to be traveling on a plane the next week for the first time in a while. Could that have something to do with it? What if somehow my dream was telling me not to get on that plane?? 

I know this all sounds kind of crazy, especially for someone who doesn't normally assign too much meaning to dreams, but I had awoken with a certain sense of anxiety after a night of poor sleep, something that is really not normal for me. And the dream had been so brief, the last part so clear. I feel that it's rare that I even remember my dreams anymore, lately. In a sleepy moment of clarity right before drifting off again, knowing I would surely forget in the morning, I snatched my iphone from the charger and typed this mystery into my notes to look up later. And then I promptly passed out until my alarm went off.

It turns out it was a smart move as in the bustle of the workday, I didn't remember at all until I was about to leave the office. Somewhat trepidatiously, I typed "D.E. Flighting" into the Google Machine and waited for the screen to load, fully expecting to find no answer to my puzzle but curious, nonetheless. As suspected, there is no D.E. Flighting, author/actor/inventor/person-of-interest/man/woman extraordinaire. None. No one at all. At least not that google is aware of (in this day and age does a person even exist if they are not googleable??). Instead, I found this:

removing the ability of birds to fly; can be effected by monthly clipping of the flight feathers on one or both wings, temporarily by bandaging one wing in a flexed position, or permanently by pinioning or patagiectomy.

Well. This was a meaning I had not thought of. But it immediately resonated. I've always had a certain fascination with birds and the symbology that surrounds them. So... clipped wings, preventing fllght... damn. Could that have meaning relating to my life? It's true that lately I've felt frustrated in my work life--my "career"--trapped by practical reasons, by indecision. And I've been very torn on what exactly to do about it. So I guess you could say in this sense my wings are clipped, that I've been unable to fly, and though I desperately want to, maybe don't know how right now...

Or maybe it's not just about work. Is it that, unwittingly, I've clipped my own wings? In the wake of heartache from unwanted transition have I become a sort of emotional hermit, unable or unwilling to embrace new possibilities, at least for more than a day? Have I been focusing inward so much that I'm failing to really see the world around me? Maybe... and maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me to quit holding back, already.

Are dreams merely random or is there sometimes deeper meaning if we look closely enough? I haven't quite figured this out for myself, and as an agnostic I'm not one to form rash opinions.

The truth is, I don't really have answers. I don't know if that particular dream fragment actually held meaning for me or if so what exactly that may be. But I do know that something somehow put that word in my head, and jolted me to mental clarity just long enough for it to catch my attention, and make me really want to remember, to feel that it was important to. And whatever caused it, coincidence or not, I think it is something I need to stay aware of, in all aspects of life. In light of this, last week I took a small but crucial step in my personal life, one that was kind of terrifying, and also liberating, eye-opening, and about damn time.

Because the song the caged bird sings is a sad, sad tune and if I have anything to say about it, no one is going to hold me back, especially not me. When the time is right I want to be able to spread these wings and fly, baby, fly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


We all have those things we've been meaning to do for forever, but for whatever reasontime, money, fear or good old-fashioned procrastinationwe don't. I finally did one of those things of mine a few weeks ago. I got the tattoo I've been wanting ever since I read East of Eden in 2009. It was about time, and it was the perfect time. I think it can best be explained by the passage that inspired it:

"But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man... Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win....Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’"

Like Lee, I have "no bent toward gods". But that book and especially that passage kind of blew my mind in terms of my understanding of human nature. It also made me fall in love, or back in love, with the human soul and the light that sparks it, which is free will. So I got a tattoo as a reminder of the indomitable, sometimes transcendent, sometimes terrifying human spirit and the incredible power of free will: the power and freedom it gives us to give in or to fight, to hate or to forgive, to fear or to love. We are ultimately the creators of our own destiny, and we have the responsibility to ourselves to choose it, to fulfill it. Even when I feel like curling up into a little ball and surrendering to the world, when I think of this it gives me strength.

"Why the need for a tattoo?", some might ask. Why not just remind yourself in a less permanently-inked-into-your-body way? The thing is, it's really more than a reminder. It's a commitment and a promise to myself, in black and whiteor rather black and skin-tone, but really, my skin is pretty goddamn whitewith me forever, or at least as long as my body is. A promise to always exercise my free will as a human being; to be myself, and to be better, to make the changes I need to make. To "choose my course and fight it out and win". So I'm starting. I'm not sure what's ahead of me, but when I feel afraid or need inspiration, at least all I have to do is look down at my arm.

Because free will is everything. It's our ladder to the stars and, if we choose to follow it, the pathhowever maybe long and windingto our very best selves. The way is open. Timshel.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

peace in WalMart and goodwill towards shoppers

"Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store."
-Dr. Seuss

No, your eyes do not deceive you, this is indeed a new post. It must be a Christmas miracle!! Really though, I know it has been quite a while. But thanks to the Christmas holiday I happen to have a bit of free time to relax and reflect, and what would Christmas be without a reflection on consumerism and the true Holiday spirit??

We all know the deal. The Holiday displays go up November 1st, while jack-o-lanterns still grin their demented pumpkin-y grins on front porches. Department and drugstores a-like start pelting our ears with the same 5 Christmas carols on loop. Downtown shopping areas become overrun with crazed, zombie-like mobs intent on spending as much on the perfect holiday gifts as their credit limits will allow. And every year, no matter how bad the economy gets, the insanity just seems to get worse and worse.

I don't think anything illustrates how out of control this Christmas consumerism has gotten better than the medley of incidents that occurred this year on that aptly-named phenomenon known as "Black Friday”. Last Novemer a madwoman in Porter Valley (an affluent neighborhood in the LA area) used pepper spray to get the jump on her fellow Walmart shoppers, hurting 20 people, including some children (one of these, a 13 year old girl, was also punched in the face by another customer). In New York City, some shoppers, enraged that Hollister's flagship store was not opening at midnight, broke into the store instead and stole merchandise.

Shoppers in two different Walmart locations were shot in the parking lot in apparent robbery attempts and a woman in Connecticut was carjacked outside of a Lowe's. A video that's gone viral on youtube shows a man unconcsious and bleeding from the face--he had been knocked down by police after allegedly putting a video game in his belt to free his hands so he could pick up his grandson as the crowd surged around them. At a Target in West Virginia, a 61-year-old man collapsed and later died, meanwhile people continued to shop, some even stepping over his body or walking around him, according to local reports. And the tales of ugly (mis)behavior go on and on.

At the very least it should be common sense that a holiday that's supposed to be about family and love, about peace and goodwill towards all, is not in accordance with hurting fellow human beings in order to get a good deal on china for Mom or a Playstation for little Jimmy. Whether you're religious or not, I would think you could get on board with that. But the kind of behavior exhibited in these and other incidences on “Black Friday” represents not just unfortunate greed and materialism, but also a disturbing lack of empathy for fellow human beings.

So how the hell do people come to this? When exactly did holiday shopping become a brutal combat sport? A vicious match to the death for kitchenware and electronics? These are not starving people battling over life-sustaining nutrition, not infected folks clamoring for a limited supply of antidote. These people are fighting, trampling and maiming their fellow human beings for x-boxes, waffle irons, crockpots. Bath towels. Hardly seems worth the risk to health, sanity--even perhaps your life. And personally, I don't think it's worth the sacrifice of your dignity and humanity either.

I'll be the first to admit that I love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the parties. I love cozying up in front of roaring fires (or high def yule logs). I love the smell of pine trees in living rooms and the warm, spiced (spiked) drinks. I love the societal blessing to indulge in obscene amounts of cheese and chocolate. But I hate what rampant consumerism and materialism have done to this holiday. Yes, there is a certain warm sense of satisfaction in finding just the right gift for someone, a certain pleasant surprise and feeling of being loved in getting a well-thought out present from another. But I feel like Christmas can be just as enjoyable without all of the bows and whistles, all of the stressful holiday shopping.

It’s a natural human impulse, to a certain degree, to think of yourself and your immediate family and friends first. However, to be willing to harm others to buy them the latest Christmas gifts?? Seems unreasonable. But it’s the same “us vs them” attitude that has brought prejudice, war and genocide upon our world for centuries. And now it seems it’s become even pettier and closer to home than ever. And it’ s frightening. Because when we fail to see others as our neighbors, as our sisters and brothers in the human race, as fellow people worthy of respect and love and compassion; that’s when the human race starts to spiral ever downwards. If it's every person for themselves at the local WalMart how can we expect to avoid war and carnage on a global scale?

Just think of how much better of a place the world might be if all of these Black Friday shoppers, instead of camping out in front of store and shoving and pepper-spraying their way to gift bargains, would instead donate their time and money to people in need all over the world. Think how good things could be if everyone taught their children the importance of loving and respecting all of their fellow human beings instead of the importance of material possessions. If they taught children about the value of living within their means and not expecting and demanding the latest high-tech gadgets and toys that may not be afforable. It’s an impossible dream, maybe. But hey, when better to dream than Christmas??

I think that Christmas is the perfect time to remember to be mindful of others and to exercise compassion. And for me it’s also a good reminder of the distinction between "want" and "need”, which I’ve recently been trying to be more conscious of in myself, and which I believe may be ever more increasingly crucial to keep aware of in this age of shamelessly opportunistic advertising and rampant consumerism. Because no matter how many things I think I want or “need”, when I reflect on it I have to realize just how lucky I am for the many things (both material and intangible) that I have had in my life and the unexpected blessings that have come my way in the past year.

So Merry Christmas, I hope that you’ve had a joyous holiday and I wish you all the best for the new year. And please, whatever you do, do not try to shop on Black Friday next year. I don't really need an LED light-up ice cream maker with ipod speakers and I like you just the way you are: intact.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

dear muni diary

I am honored to have a post published on Muni Diaries, a blog dedicated to San Francisco's sometimes-loved, sometimes-hated, never-boring public transportation system. It's a wonderful site featuring all things muni: news, photos, stories and more. My story, originally posted on this blog a few years ago, can be seen here. And they even found a pretty picture to go with it! Happy reading, happy riding.

Monday, April 11, 2011

adventures in hobodom, a room of one's own & a lesson in humility

My boyfriend doesn't really like it when I joke about being homeless. "Well, technically, I am. I don't have an apartment, or anywhere I can really call home." But not for long, he counters. "Alright, temporarily homeless."

Let me be clear: in no way do I mean to make light of the plight of the truly homeless, or in any serious way compare my current situation to any of theirs. I'm not trying to bemoan my situation and feel sorry for myself. I'm trying to, I guess, be self-deprecating, humorous. I'm making light of myself. Mostly, I think, because if I joke about it, it won't seem like a big deal. To others. To me.

Because even though most of the time it's not a big deal, even though most of the time I fully recognize that I am far better off right now, even with most of my earthly belongings packed sadly up in storage and living out of a few bags; that I'm lucky to have an incredibly understanding significant other and sympathetic friends to stay with; and that hey! it's only for a little while--even despite all that, sometimes it just is. Sometimes, just for little moments in my own head-space, it's HUGE.

And in trying to figure out why, and stop myself from freaking out, I realized a few things about myself. Because of course part of it was the stress of still trying to find somewhere to live; scouring craigslist, looking at apartment after apartment, being put on hold again and just waiting... waiting... But there was a greater underlying sense of helplessness too, one that made me restless and uneasy. Because, without an apartment of my own to rent, I had been left pretty much at the mercy of others. Now, luckily I happen to know some incredibly merciful and wonderful people and have found an overwhelming amount of support in my current inconvenient predicament.

But here's the thing about me: I hate to ask for help. Or sometimes even accept help once offered. Once in high school I suffered a severe sprained ankle from a car accident and hobbled around on crutches for over a month. Of course people's natural instinct is to help someone on crutches by opening doors, offering to carry books, backpacks, etc., but I was so stubborn in wanting to do these things for myself that I started to get extremely (and unreasonably) annoyed with all the well-meaning do-gooders' actions. Pride? Partly, I guess. But I think even more it's a fear (however rational or irrational it may be) of losing my independence, my resourcefulness, my good old-fashioned can-do spirit.

And it's the same "I can do it myself!" attitude that makes me hate the fact that right now--as an adult, or at least someone who does a pretty good impression of one some of the time--I have to rely on others for one of the simplest basic needs a person has: a roof overhead. But what I've come to realize--and have to keep reminding myself-- is that there is no shame in accepting help, or in sometimes asking for it. Sure it can be dangerously easy to become used to and comfortable with letting others do things for you, and become complacent--and eventually completely screwed when eventually you find yourself all alone and helpless. But allowing loved ones (or sometimes even strangers) to provide assistance every now and then doesn't mean you have to be reliant on them. It doesn't mean you have to be helpless. I don't have to eschew help; I can accept it gracefully and still help myself and then pass it on, instead of lashing out and bearing my teeth like a cat when you try to unhook its claw from the carpet to set it free. And I've found that even when the very last thing you want is to be is dependent, it is nice to know you have people you can depend on.

The second thing I realized about myself is that I am a person who so greatly values--and has often taken for granted--the concept of, as Virginia Woolfe put it, "a room of one's own". I recognize that I'm extremely fortunate to live in a time where equal rights have progressed to the point where women are independent of father or husband and can easily have a room/apartment/house/career/business/empire/etc. of her own. I also admit that I do not aspire to a career as a fiction author. I have been lucky enough to (usually) have a room of my own, as well as income and time enough to write purely for the enjoyment of it. But "a room of one's own" also carries a more personal individual meaning for me. It's a space to think, to read, write, daydream or plan, pick out tunes on my uke without terribly offending the ears of others, to hide from the world for a little while. It's privacy and refuge. A place I can decorate how I want, turn the lights on or off when I want, put my clothes away or leave them strewn about like a colorful hurricane, be by myself or invite company, all as and when I wish. Ever since childhood I think, as far back as I can remember, my room has been my sanctuary.

And so to have that sacred idea of a unique space that's just mine taken away, even for just a little while, is discomforting and somewhat disorienting. Especially when "just a little while" remains an undefined, abstract length of time, dependent on relativism and subject to the whims of roommates and fickle landlords. When the word "homeless"--facetiously used to describe yourself--tumbles off your lips with just a little less ease and a little more forced of a smile as it starts to become just a little more true in your mind with each passing day.

And then the other week I went to a bar. And I got drunk. And lost my purse. It didn't come back. Nor did my wallet or the keys to unlock my car. And in the midst of alternatively trying to cajole and getting huffy with the AAA driver who refused to assist me because I didn't have ID--"What, do you think I just found this key on the ground and somehow knew it belonged to this car?!"--suddenly a mental picture of how I must appear flashed through my head: hungover, mussed-haired, bleary-eyed with mismatched clothes and giant overnight bag slung haphazardly over one shoulder, boots hanging carelessly in hand, twitchy from stress and about a half a minute away from tears of frustration. OMG I do seem like I could be a crazy homeless person trying to steal a car!

what I looked like in my head. ok, maybe without the beard.

Up until that moment, despite the joking and nagging feeling of dependency and instability of my housing situation I had never really felt homeless. Destitute. And standing there with no current home address, no phone, no money, no way to get into my car and no identification in order to prove that it even was my car... let's just say that was about as close as I ever want to get. Because ultimately I had the option--after nearly an hour of phone calls and begging and finally convincing AAA that I was who I said I was--of driving back to four walls and a roof, to comforting arms, a well-needed hot shower and sandwich and bed. And even if it wasn't my own room and even if I had to admit that I needed help, it was exactly what I needed.

And I got even more of what I needed last Friday when I was finally able to (thank the heavens!) sign a lease for a beautiful new home with wonderful roommates. But that lesson in humility sticks with me, as it should; in one swift kick the universe telling me to get over myself, get on with my life, and remember this very crucial fact, which should always be my mantra: That just because things aren't going quite as planned doesn't mean my life isn't pretty goddamn motherfucking good.

Friday, April 1, 2011

don't hang your heart

Don't hang your heart
On things, on love
A name, a face, a place
On dreams of yesterdays
Cause things will fade
And things will start
Don't hang your heart on anything
-Chris & Thomas

Sometimes decisions can just be so hard. Sometimes you find yourself suddenly faced with so many different paths in front of you and only a moment to choose, and the indecision and fear of turning down the wrong way can be paralyzing. And it is precisely here that I know I need to sit still a moment and listen to the words of loved ones, reread the personal epiphanies I occasionally stumble upon in my bloggish ramblings and remember the lyrics of a song I haven't listened to in well over a year. And they are saying: don't hang your heart on any one choice, any one place or idea of how things are supposed to work out. Because there can be no "bad" decisions made in this positive step for change, only different ones. And I can't know what different affects each choice may have on my life, the various ways they may take me. It's like those "choose your own adventure" books except in life there's no going back and choosing different endings. And that can be terrifying, but you know what? It's also ok. Because I know that wherever I end up I am still me, and whatever path I go down I have love, hope, free will. The choice to be happy. And that's the most important decision of all. Don't hang your heart on anything, when there's so much possibility in the world. Instead let it fly free to capture every fleeting, unexpected moment of joy that it may.