Let’s Avoid A Holiday Implosion, Shall We?

It’s that time of year again: Snow! (depending on your location) Time off! (depending on your vocation) Love and Cheer! (depending on… you get the point).

I’ve been singing the praises of this month loud enough for you to get the hint – I really and truly love December. When I was growing up, my parents infused our winter with magic and information. I didn’t just learn the Christian stuff, but also got to hear about the traditions of other religions. Their stories, mixed in with my own imagination, transformed how I see the changing of the season. It became more than a time for presents – which I love – instead morphing into a time when anything at all is possible if your spirit is willing.

On the flip side, this is also a time when joy fails. With the influx of family cards, lovey-dovey Hallmark movies (that always seem to be set in the same advent calendar- type towns) , and people portraying perfect lives, comes the onset of despair. Not to mention, the grey and unforgiving frosting of the Northern hemisphere can nix any hope for the healing quality of daylight.

Seasonal depression, dear reader, is real and alive.

I come from a place of extreme privilege. I was raised by two loving, while admittedly flawed, parents, who worked themselves to the bone for my brother and I. Our home was warm, our bellies were full, and we woke every Christmas to find toys, no matter how bad *I* had been that year. That is incredibly rare. A home life like that would set anyone with more than five brain cells onto a path of success. Even as a survivor of sexual abuse, I knew happier days than a lot of people. To say that is not to negate the gravity of my pain, but an acknowledgement of my reality.

Still, even with all the stuff and things that make childhood a fond memory instead of a nightmare, I have experienced less than stellar holidays. Those unfortunate times took place mainly in adulthood, and I shudder to think of them. But, that’s what fosters growth, right? After looking back on the times when my Yule celebrations were rough, I’ve come up with some tips to help you navigate the stress without a spontaneous combustion.

Let’s hop to it!

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Be with those you love, if possible. If impossible, why is being alone so bad?

Most of the points on this list operate under the assumption you will be going home to be with your family, however I want to acknowledge that oftentimes that isn’t a possibility. Whether it be estrangement, death, or how expensive it is to fly or drive, you might not be with your family over the break, and that is ok. I know that isolation is one of the greatest tools of depression, because in the solitude of your room you can weave all kinds of tales of your inadequacies. Yet, I’m starting to wonder whether being alone in itself is the problem. There are lots of things we can do for ourselves in the quiet of an empty home. What if you were to treat yourself to beautiful things like compliments, a good meal, some you time? Besides, how often do we really get to be paid to stay home and take care of ourselves? This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you can, I say run wild with the possibilities.

 

snow drifts and chimbley nymphs GIF by Yule Log 2.015

 

Not every battle is worth fighting.

Yes, I know the drill. We’re supposed to go home for the holidays, set aside our differences, and sing songs at the end of the night with everyone coming to an understanding of the meaning family.  *eye roll*

That’s a movie. In fact, it’s a movie I wrote in one of my journals when I was 13. We’re not all going to get along just because our religious text told us to. Politics (that dirty word) is the fastest, most sure-fire way to watch things go left at Nana’s house. If you want to enjoy your time you are going to have to learn when to fight, and when to bow out. In addition to that, you’re going to have to look out for when your relatives are just looking for a sparring match, rather than an honest and respectful discussion. No, you shouldn’t let your auntie say wild things about the world, or sit idly by when your great-uncle on your father’s side tells a rape joke, but the little digs from people who don’t care about you might not be worth your time every single time. Ya dig?

Speak up when you can, and in the meantime just radicalize your cousins and siblings.

happy living single GIF by Bounce_TV

 

Take care of your body.

This one is simple: eat smart, drink water, don’t blow your stomach to smithereens on pie. You deserve to indulge, but know your limits. As a recovering bulimic, I have to give myself permission not only to eat what I want, but to step away before I spiral. So, mind your body and how it affects your brain chemistry. Take care at the parties, at your family home, or in your own home!

 

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Remember your successes

When I go to holiday functions, I always start to sweat when I think of the dreaded “So, what do you do?” question. Which is usually followed by the devastating “Is that really a job?” As a writer, I get this ALL. THE. TIME. These questions are accompanied by a smirk, silence, and me slinking away to think of good comebacks in the bathroom.  I’m often reminded of this Tumblr post:

It’s true on a lot of levels, even among family.  Some people don’t know how to respect others based on – oh, I don’t know – being able to happily survive this cruel, heartless wasteland we call Earth . Your mere existence might not be enough for them, but it’s sure as hell good enough for me and the people who aren’t d-bags. Try to remember that while they’re looking down on you, you’re making a life for yourself the way YOU choose to. That’s powerful. Not many people are brave enough to be who they want to be, rather than what will get them shallow accolades. The world needs you just as much as anyone else, regardless of your job. Take stock of your triumphs – whether they be emotional or monetary – and keep it moving.

In closing: BREATHE

Whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or just another day off, you can survive this. When I’m on the verge of a panic attack (which I’ll be writing about soon) my husband gets me to settle into my breathing and by the end I’m much better. You’d be amazed what our bodies can do when we let it run on autopilot. I’d like to encourage you to give it a test drive this season by just breathing in, then, funnily enough, out again. The rest will flow from there. So, be well this holiday season. Be strong when you can and forgiving when you can’t, and never doubt your right to the warmth of the sun.

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The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned In 32 Years

Care to spare a moment for a lady on her birthday?

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When I was a kid – I’m talking Barbie dolls and no crust on sandwiches young – I couldn’t wait to grow up. Despite the ease of youth (something we never appreciate until it’s gone) I thought getting older would afford me the kind of freedom I craved growing up in a small town in Kansas. I could do the things I wanted to do ( stay up late), I could go anywhere I wanted to go (Narnia), and above all else I would be far removed from the trauma of abuse. In my youthful naivete, getting older wouldn’t just be another state of being me, I would be completely and marvelously transformed into a new person. There was nothing I wanted more than to be the distant, powerful me of the future.

Fast-forward to today, and in some ways I’m still chasing that elusive LaKase with all the answers and none of the world’s weight. What’s changed is how I look at the woman I am in the present and the way I appreciate the skin I occupy. There are days that I wish I could be someone – anyone – else. Preferably someone with a little more money and wings. Yet, more often than in the past, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that there never has been, and never will be, anyone like me on this Earth. Every freckle, every step, every dream, and every trauma I’ve survived is unique to me. There’s nothing anyone can do to rob me of my right to take pride in my journey – and what a journey it has been. I might not literally be a superhero running around slaying dragons, but I’ve come to see myself as someone who is just as formidable as an caped-crusader.

Today, I want to share just a few lessons that have made my journey to 32 more fruitful than that little kid I was could have imagined. I hope each piece of knowledge helps you as go off into the wilds of the world, and steadies your resolve to be who you’re meant to be. Enjoy!

  1. You’re not for everyone. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t beloved by those I desperately wanted to impress and often went home dejected. Eventually, I learned to be thankful for the ones who made me feel at home in their presence and in my own skin
  2. It’s never too late to change your life. Change is terrifying , I readily admit it. There are few things in this world more frightening than starting over later in life, especially in a culture that rewards youth at every turn. Throw in the responsibilities of adulthood, and it becomes nigh impossible to hit the reset button.  I’ll be writing about this more, but trust me when I say that you’re never too old, too far behind, or too weak to change the path you’re on. It takes time – and funds – but you deserve it if it’s what you want.
  3. Stop punishing yourself for past mistakes. This point goes hand -in – hand with point 2. For the longest time I believed that all the things I did wrong in the past –  the times I was a bully, the times I lied, the moments I came up short of human decency – meant that I had no right to claim a good future for myself. Now, I think about it like this: I apologize where I can, I look into why I did the things I did and vow to do everything I can to avoid falling into the ugliness of those mistakes again. We’re all people wearing different brands of weighted shoes, trying to figure out how to untie the laces, so go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be who you were if it hurts you or others.
  4. You will encounter people who like to harm and destroy. It’s not your fault if they fix their sights on you. There’s a part of our victim-blaming culture that likes to, obviously, shift blame away from assholes. Rather than looking at a snake for what it is, we often find ways to blame ourselves for being slithered upon. You don’t have to do that. It’s not your fault when cruelty is visited upon you. I’ve finally accepted the reality that sometimes people just like to inflict pain. Now, I no longer feel obligated to make excuses for them and blame myself.
  5. You, my dear, are perfectly made.  Trauma operates insidiously. It creeps into your nooks and crannies, altering the fundamental structures of your psyche. For years, I couldn’t figure out why I hated looking in the mirror, why I felt sick in my skin. After years of work, the answer is quite clear: being abused messed with my ability to see myself beyond the pain. Looking in the mirror was a reminder of the hurt, and of the fact that my body was “damaged”. I’m so thankful to be in a place of relative peace with myself. I was, am, and always will be, just right.

And so are you.

 

My (Current) ‘Get Shit Done’ Playlist

“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.” – George Eliot

As a recovering loud kid, I can’t stand silence. Empty spaces make me sweat, and I absolutely detest the quiet game.  My parents often reflect on the day I started talking in the same grim tones you would expect to hear from a retired detective. I was never quiet, and just when I was old enough to stop crying for recognition I started talking. Then, the music started. I was singing all over the place, my voice shamelessly bouncing off our walls and into the world. Music transported me to new planes of existence long before I had the words to describe my sense of fealty, and it more often than not helped me to calm down when my emotions spiraled. Music – singing it, listening to it, learning about it – has been a life-long form of love that I show to myself.

I’ve finally discovered enough self-control to not bellow every chance I get, however my no silence affliction is compounded exponentially when I’m supposed to be working (or eating). Working simply feels like work when you have to do it without sound. You would think music wouldn’t calm a wayward mind, but it somehow creates a level of focus I can’t harness without it. Just as the quote above states: music simply helps me float through the sludge.

This list is not referring to bops you can sway to absentmindedly at a red light. I’m talking about the songs that inspire the laser focus of a falcon. Whether it be due to genetics, or an intrinsic level of rage , these songs get me authentically and indomitably HYPED to create. I’m able to quell my restlessness, ignore my insecurities about writing and put myself out there at least once a day. The music I’m going to share isn’t necessarily a list of club-bangers; in reality, most of the tunes are relatively subdued. However, the singer in me is inspired to focus by the sounds, beats, and wordplay of each song listed below. I’m not sure which gene they tickle, but I’ve been looking to these songs for the last few months when I need to buckle down.

So, without further ado, the playlist designed to help me get shit done!

 

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“Help Me Lose My Mind” – Disclosure feat. London Grammar (SOHN Remix)

“Rusty Nails” – Moderat

“Insane”- Flume feat. Moon Holiday

“Level Up” -Ciara

“Passionfruit” – Paramore  performing a cover of the song by Drake

“You Are All I See” – Active Child

“Django Jane” – Janelle Monae

“On The Nature Of Daylight” – Max Richter

Do These 10 Things Before Your Next Big Move To Avoid A Monster Meltdown

Yesterday I officially became a Californian. Leaving the midwest behind was that bittersweet mixture of anxiety, elation and hope for the future I used to experience right before taking a plunge into a new body of water. When you can’t see the bottom it’s easy to imagine monsters slithering about the sides, waiting to gobble you up. Instead, I would discover (after dipping my toes in five times) there was nothing so dangerous to fear that I couldn’t survive.

Few experiences can spark an anxiety attack like moving away from everyone you know to an unfamiliar place. Hell, even knowing the place and what to expect can still be frightening! Today I want to share with you the list that aided me in this crazy transition. I found that when I was looking for advice online most lists were missing the human aspect – how to take care of yourself mentally and how to curb the understandable stomach knots that form.

Transitions for survivors, or those with depression or anxiety, can be truly painful. As I learn more about the ways trauma re-shaped my mind, I’ve discovered an obsession with control and order. In response to having control stripped from me, I now itch for ways to box up that which could mess with my flow. The unknown world at large with all the possibilities for chaos just scared me silly!

Now, I’m on the path of confronting my fears. A huge part of my healing journey has been the pursuit of chill. Going with the flow. Trusting those who have earned my confidence to help me take care of myself. And now, diving into waters I’ve been dreaming of exploring. So, this list is what has helped me with the dive, beyond most of the practical stuff you might read on other sites. Whether you’re going across the country, or a state nextdoor, these things could make it much easier on your mind.

Please let me know in the comments what you do to prepare yourself for big changes!

1. Secure a place to live (Airbnb, apartment, house, friend’s couch)

I was able to go to bed sooooo much easier in Kansas with the knowledge we had a place to stay once we were in California. This takes time and money, but it’s worth it. You want to make sure you’ve secured a safe place to rest, where you can decompress after that trip. Finding housing after the fact is a freakout waiting to happen. If securing a rental isn’t doable from your current home, you can buy a little time by utilizing an extended stay hotel or Airbnb. Either way, try to get your stay squared away early.

2. Eat your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant

Letting go of the familiar is hard, but it’s made more difficult if you don’t give it a proper goodbye. Mark and I ate at our favorite restaurants before we left so that we could move forward without regrets. We had ramen at our favorite noodle spot, po’boys, thai and burgers in the week leading up to the move, because we didn’t want any kind of regret attached to something positive. For me, regret is like a fog that distorts the present. You can’t enjoy the view fully through the haze.

3. Make sure your license and passport aren’t about to expire

Practical and also stress reducing. You’ll have to update your license for your new residence, however if you’re traveling with a license or passport that is about to expire you will be dealing with an unnecessary headache. There are extra fees when it’s updated late that should be going towards rent and food. Make sure everything is up-to-date before you leave, to buy yourself more time to get it all switched over.

4. Try something you always talked about doing in your current home

Here’s where regret seeps in for me. There was a cute little bar Mark and I kept talking about trying out. We’ll go next weekend was the usual response when we drove by. By the time we were finally ready to go? Closed permanently! We both groaned. In this case there wasn’t much we could do, but I still wish we’d tried it before the owner moved to a bigger city.

Try things before you go – karaoke, a bookstore, a concert, a museum, any place you’ve been putting off. I think this is the best way to know for sure whether or not you were missing out on something. Letting go will be that much easier.

5. Say goodbye to the people you love

You gotta. I know it hurts and you don’t want to start with the water works, but don’t take off without giving your people time to process seeing you go. They need to be able to let you leave just as much you need to be able to move forward. We took our time seeing our families and friends, but it still didn’t feel like enough. I can’t imagine my mental state if we hadn’t made time for it at all.

6. Create an on-the-go self-care plan

This one is a lifesaver! I’ve said it before, but self-care is the most important thing you do for yourself. Everything on this list is self-care! Why wouldn’t I demand you continue the love fest on the road? Before we left, I rounded up some of my favorite “quick fixes”: a lavender bath soak for the hotels, rose water for my hair and face, a relaxing playlist for when I wasn’t driving, my favorite snacks (veggie straws), my favorite blanket, relaxing movies and lots of clean underwear. We were on the road for four days, but having things that eased my mind naturally eased tension in my body. All I ask is that you not skip out on doing what you need to be happy along the way. You deserve a good trip!

7. Identify medical professionals in your new area

This might be the most difficult step on the list. When you’re not in the area and don’t have anyone to ask for recommendations it can feel hopeless. However, if you sit down for a few hours and take your time you should be able to round up a few names. I usually use these search terms: “[town name] + therapists” to get started. Local hospitals can provide information about professionals associated with their system of searching isn’t planning out. This one can take time, so don’t feel obligated to get it done before you leave. Having it on your to-do list for when you arrive is good as well.

8. Think about what kinds of groups you would like to join

Yep, you’re gonna have to make some friends. The worst thing to do when you move is to isolate yourself. How are you going to learn what you like about the place without locals? Now, not everyone is safe -that’s a sad reality – so it’s ok to be picky. Before we left, I researched women’s groups in the area, yoga studios, political groups, book clubs and classes so that I had options to meet new people. I’ll go to each, try them out, then move forward with the ones that made me feel welcome, and, most importantly, safe.

9. Work out a realistic fail-safe

I promise I’m not including this to scare you or talk you out if this big change; on the contrary, I want you to go for it! Since I’ve been using the swimming analogy, think of it like this: you’re most likely not going to jump into a pool without knowing how to swim, but if you fall in there are lifeguards around to save you. My dad regularly had to jump into pools and the ocean to save my brother, because he didn’t understand his limitations. Life happens. We think we’ve got a hold of things, then sometimes we’re out of our depth. Mark and I agreed if this town doesn’t work out, we’ll stay long enough to save up and leave for the next town. If you have to move back home? It’s ok. Your safety and mental health are more important than what anyone else thinks. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

10. Breathe. Then breathe again.

You can do it. If I can do it, with all my flaws and anxiousness, you can, too. I think you’ve survived time and time again. There have been dark days, but then you made it through to the light. Pull strength from the truth that you can make it, then breathe over and over and over again until you arrive at your next adventure. If we’re going to be in this world, we’re going to live it well.

Good luck, my friends!

My Favorite Movies For Mother’s Day

Every Friday I will feature the books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art that have been inspiring me, or that I’m looking forward to experiencing. Please share your suggestions below!

 

Let’s just clear this up: no one has a cooler Mom than I do. Charlotte (Mrs. Perry if you’re nasty) was born to improve lives and laugh, which is what she’s been doing since 1964. She’s so cool that she doesn’t even care if you all know she was born in 1964, because, to her, getting older is a gift. My mother is a rare gem and I am so happy to get the chance to gush over her before her birthday. We have traveled together, grown from hormonal sparring partners into beloved friends, learning wonderful lessons along the way. She never ceases to amaze me in her dedication to her family, her zeal for life and stiff upper lip in troubling times.

Besides travel, my favorite thing to do with my Mom is watching movies! Today I’m going to share our favorite movies to watch together, ones I think perfectly capture the spirit of motherhood, growth, and love.  They’re not what you might expect us to watch, so check out the list below for some surprises!

Note: Don’t worry Dad, you’ll get your shine on Father’s Day!

 

Muriel’s Wedding

Mom and I first watched this Australian film starring Toni Collette when Blockbuster was your best option for grabbing a stack of weekend movies. The story revolves around a young Australian woman named Mariel who is positively obsessed with getting married. After stealing money from her father – a local politician – Mariel moves to Sydney with her best friend and changes her name to Muriel for a fresh start. Along the way, she lands a husband, but realizes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

This flick is our favorite one, because I think we both see a little bit of ourselves in Muriel. Neither of us are thieves, nor have we changed our names, but Muriel has this pure fascination with love and romance that Mom and I share. We’ve both read our fair share of romance novels. Also, the Abba soundtrack is fire!

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The Dark Crystal

There’s something so weirdly lovable about this Jim Henson puppet production that keeps us fawning over the Gelflings and Mystics. The film is a fantasy extravaganza about a Gelfling boy named Jen who must travel across his world to heal the mysterious dark crystal to restore peace and balance to the land. There’s no way I could ever write enough to convey how straight up strange this film is, but we love it! Mom always giggles at a particular scene – a flashback – of a baby Jen splashing in a tub.

The journey Jen takes leads him to so many outrageous characters and locales that really suck you into the world, which is why we love this one. Jen’s journey is all about strength, love and sacrifice – qualities we try to emulate in our lives.

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To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

This is one of the very first movies that Mom and I went to by ourselves, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Honestly, what’s not to love about this film? Not only does it manage to capture the 90’s in a perfectly problematic snapshot, but you also get to watch Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo work it in outfits I could never pull off. The trio play drag queens traveling from NYC to California to compete for the title of Drag Queen of The Year, but get stranded in the middle of the country in a small town that is in desperate need of their magic.

This movie, above all else, is about the bonds of friendship that help us to transform our lives for ourselves. Every character grows to claim ownership of their identities, their lives, and their inherent power; it’s a film I always cry over. I’m so thankful my Mom didn’t think I was too young to learn lessons from a picture others might have shied away from.

 

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That’s it for today, folks! Have you seen these films? Let me know in the comments what movies you love to watch with your mother or mother-figure!