Nevertheless, She Persisted

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Words said about Elizabeth Warren last night as Mitch McConnell explained why she could now no longer take part in debate on the Attorney General nomination.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Words I have been thinking about a lot today. They’ve seemed to be a theme, I think.

Anxiety tried to get me this morning. Nevertheless, she persisted and actually worked today.

Fear tried to get me in yoga class today. Nevertheless, she persisted and nearly (finally) achieved crow pose.

Shame tried to keep me from going to the therapist. Nevertheless, she persisted and sure enough, made it to the office, through a full session, and a serious weight’s been lifted.

But back to yoga class. Because while those three instances all do prove that perseverance is a theme, the yoga piece is important.

One of the instructors at my studio focuses on one region of the body over the course of the month. January was hips (that was a lot of fun, honestly–I’ve always had pretty tight hip flexors and now they feel much better) and February is full of legs as a whole.

While setting our intention, the instructor asked us to call to mind times where we (class this morning was me, my wife, and one of our friends–it was glorious!) were knocked down and had to stand back up.

There were so many times that were called into my mind. Liz Warren served as an inspiration for me too. She stood up for what she thought was right and while she wasn’t allowed to speak (because misogyny and sexism, of course), she still went and read the letter to over a million people on Facebook Live. She persisted.

And of course, there were quite a few times of my own that came into mind. So many. Recent, not-so-recent… Real dark things. Softer, more “trivial” things.

But regardless of what things seemed like, how bad they were, or whether or not I thought they were the end, somehow, I stood up. And I’ll keep standing up. It’s the only thing I really know how to do anymore. Stand up.

Because, like Liz Warren and so many other strong women I know, nevertheless, I will persist. 

Ease Into Courage

There have been two things I’ve thought about a lot today. They’re kind of related, but interestingly, they came from two different places–in a matter of about an hour.

My mind hasn’t been able to stray too far from either of them and they’re both important.

They intersect at a point I hadn’t realized until I started putting fingers to keys… (Funny how writing–at least for me–always seems to bring things into perspective…)

The first: what would life look like if it were easy for you?

I subscribed to the #AsktheQuestion newsletter from Ms. Laura Jane Williams after a work friend recommended it via Twitter. When I clicked, read the description, and subscribed, I hadn’t thought that I would sit on Sunday mornings, anxiously and excitedly awaiting an email ever at any point in my life. But, now that’s what my Sundays look like.

This morning I was pleasantly surprised as I awoke to find today’s edition, talking about things (read as: life, etc.) being “easy” for people.

In essence, the essay closed with the, seemingly simple, question: What would life look like if it were easy for you?

I thought about it. Tried to digest it. Mulled it over. I tried to go on with my morning, but it stuck there.

I thought about it a lot as my wife drove us to our yoga studio this morning. I thought about it a lot as I waited for my vinyasa class to start.

I thought about it a lot as we strolled around Target and as I stood in the middle of the store holding a bunch of random items as she went to find something.

When my brain wasn’t preoccupied with other things like work or my yoga schedule for the week or trying to get my body to contort itself into lizard or tree pose, it was there, wondering what things would be like if they were actually “easy.”

My life, while when I was younger might have seemed easy to some, isn’t easy now. Sure, it’s not has hard as some others (I will openly admit that I have some white privilege), but it’s not easy–by any stretch of the imagination. I struggle. A lot.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about being the “fat girl” in my yoga class.

If my life were easy, I could wear whatever I wanted and feel happy.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about my marriage being legal tomorrow.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about what pronouns I use for my wife, actually using the term “wife” instead of “spouse” or wondering if the one person I decide to come out to today is going to be the one to end up attacking me for being gay.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t need pharmaceuticals to keep me a functional member of society. I wouldn’t have ended up spending four days in a mental institution. I wouldn’t have wanted to die.

If my life were easy, I would’ve been able to learn to drive like all my classmates, instead of facing crippling anxiety every time I even think about getting behind the wheel of a car. 

If my life were easy… so many things would be different.

But then, the more I think about it, the more I realize having life be easy would take the most important pieces out. The pieces that teach us the most and the pieces that help us grow. The pieces that sometimes seem to bring us to our knees, but the pieces that help us get back up again.

This brings me to the second point of the day. The other thing I’ve been thinking through.

In my yoga class this morning, the instructor (one of my favorites), asked us all a question as we set our intention for our practices today. (Fun fact: My intention for any and all yoga classes is usually a single word–survival–but that’s a post for another day.)

Her question: What does courage look like to you?

For me, courage looks like a lot of different things–especially given the way things are right now.

Right now, courage looks like using the correct pronouns for my wife. Courage looks like being able to openly say that I’m married to a woman. Courage looks like standing up for my faith when so many Christians now are denouncing many of the values that I uphold–or interpreting the Bible in ways that go against the values I have and believe in. Courage means being open about my mental illness. Courage means making that appointment with a new therapist. Courage means waking up and living my life.

I’m not trying to make an extraordinarily bold statement. I’m not trying to say that I’m any better than anyone else just because I was able to get out of bed and live today. But, for me, that’s hard sometimes. There are times where things get ugly and living is the hardest thing there is to do–let alone actually trying to be a functional member of society and actually do things like go to work or go to the grocery store.

Right now, all I can do is remember that courage for me is going to be different than courage for other people. And easing into that thought is all I can do for today.

On Carrie

I’ve been mulling over writing about this, and about her, for a long time. She died the day I married the love of my life, casting a bit of a dark cloud over that day. I haven’t been able to string enough words together in quick succession to make it work. It’s been a little over three weeks, you’d think I would’ve been able to put something together by now.

But no. All my words are messy. They’re all kinds of garbled and jumbled and scrambled and I don’t even know which way is out or up anymore when it comes to this.

And as I sit here, fondly remembering my favorite pieces of Wishful Drinking, I find it even harder to pull them–and myself–together. (As if it could’ve gotten any harder…)

I finished The Princess Diarist while sitting in the bathtub. I finished Wishful Drinking not long after–as I’d taken a sick day to pull myself together. As I read each and every word of those beautiful books, my heart broke a little bit more. I couldn’t quite get the tears to fall. I started Wishful Drinking right after Princess Diarist because I didn’t want to give her up yet. I couldn’t leave her yet. I still can’t leave her yet.

The world lost a bright light when it lost Carrie.

My world lost a bright light when it lost Carrie.

I lost an inspiration, a hero, a friend.

I’ve written a lot about my own struggles with bipolar disorder. It hasn’t been easy to deal with and there are days I still resent it. There are days I hate it and I hate myself and I curse everything that comes along with it. The days where I can’t make it to work, the days where all I want to do is cry. The bad days. The good days, those I’m grateful for. The manic days, where nothing can phase me, where I’m invincible and I don’t have a care in the world–those I would live for. But they don’t come without a cost. And the cost? It isn’t worth paying.

But, one of the first things I learned when I was first handed that diagnosis by a doctor that was less-than-friendly about it, was that Carrie had it too. Carrie had it and survived it. It didn’t kill her, like it threatened (and tried) to kill me (on more than one occasion).

She spoke about it in a way you could relate to, that could make you laugh, that could make you understand what it was like to be bipolar.

It’s something I try to do but fail miserably at. I’ve heard her explain it, I’ve watched her explain it, I’ve read her words explaining it. (In Wishful Drinking, she refers to her moods as “Roy” and “Pam,” where “Roy” is “Rollicking Roy” and “Pam” actually stands for “pissing and moaning”–something I absolutely understand, especially on the worst of the worst days.)

When I read her descriptions, I can commiserate, I can relate, and I understand. Carrie made that painful diagnosis a little easier for me to deal with. Of course, it’ll never be easy to deal with; it’ll always require some kind of medical assistance–whether mood stabilizers and antidepressants or something else down the road.

The more of her writing I read, the more inspired I feel to not only keep writing in general, but to keep writing about my illness. To keep being open about it, to not let it win on the days where it feels like it might drown me. To let my own versions of “Roy” and “Pam” know who’s boss. (Me, that’s who!)

As I read her words, in Diarist and Drinking, I realized that now, maybe more than ever, we can’t stop or give up. She wouldn’t want us to. She wouldn’t dare.

And as so many things are changing, her words and her strength are two of the very few things we can hold tight.

I miss her dearly. I’m so grateful for the works she gave the world, for her emoji-filled tweets, for her photos of Gary, and for her in general. My world got a lot darker when it lost her.

The Year Ahead

I’ve seen a lot of people sharing their words of the year for 2017 lately. I’ve seen “focus” and “courage” most recently; both of which are great choices. Neither are what I would pick for myself though. I don’t want to steal those words from the people who chose them, nor do I think they quite fit for me. And that’s okay.

It took a long time for me to decide on my goals for the year, and I think, after writing and considering them, I’ve finally come up with something in terms of a theme. But that’s for later.

For now, here are my goals.

Run farther, faster, smarter.

2016 saw me get back into running…again. (For a while, my enthusiasm for it has ebbed and flowed. I think it’s here to stay this time.)

What I love about running and what continues to bring me back to it is that it really helps clear my mind, it helps my ever-fluctuating weight, and there’s nothing like some quality delayed-onset muscle soreness after a good workout. Not the kind that hurts forever, but the kind that reminds me that I did something good.

I want to run a live 10K this year, the equivalent of a 6.2 mile race, and some 5Ks while I’m at it. I’ve always loved a good 5K run.

I want to run the Navy 5 Miler again, and while I didn’t get into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, there’s always next year for that.

2016 saw some great PRs for me on the running front–from my fastest (and of course my first) five miler to my fastest single mile ever. Even when I was running nearly every day in high school, I’d never had a mile under 15 minutes. (I’ve always been heavy and slower than molasses in January.)

In fact, just on Sunday, I nearly broke 13 minutes after having to take three weeks off because I caught what felt like the plague. My fastest mile is still at about 13:36, but this year, I hope to maybe break 11 minutes. There are plenty of weeks ahead to do it.

The smarter piece is important too. Take my rest days seriously. Take my nutrition seriously. Count my miles and run my routes intelligently. (Don’t go out too late, wear reflective clothing if I do, stay where it’s well lit. Wear warm clothing when it’s cold. Use my live-tracking. The simple safety things.)

There are plenty of races around me and to run–and even though my New Year’s Day run was not fun (headphone issues and my base had been completely wrecked by my three-week hiatus), there is plenty of time left in the year for good runs, smart runs, far runs.

Write better, longer, more.

Admittedly, I’ve fallen into quite a writing slump. I hadn’t been writing on this blog as much as I liked to and I have plenty of ideas just waiting around to be written. Kind of like puppies waiting to be taken into good homes. (It’s an odd comparison, but it works in my brain.) And even in terms of my work products, it’s hard for me to say that I’ve been completely happy with what I’ve been publishing.

My hope for the next year is to continue to improve my writing. I want to expand my vocabulary (which I started working on in 2016 with the creation and use of my word wall–something I’ll probably write about sometime soon!) and vary my sentence structure. While maintaining my distinctive voice. That’s something that’s more important in the things I write for work, but it’s something I truly value.

When I write, I tend to lean toward short pieces, between three to four hundred words. Which are fine and good. But, there’s much more that could be said about so much. And yet, I find myself just writing to get to the end, not writing to really describe. This year, I want to write more. For work and for fun. On this blog, in my novel(s), in my newsletter. Everywhere. (One of my not-included-in-this-blog goals is to open my first novel up to some beta readers. That may come next quarter. Stay tuned.)

I’ve always loved writing. I will always love writing. And the more I do it, the better I feel.

Be stronger in faith, love, and hope.

I joined my church in April 2016. I fell in love with that church and my faith had been something I questioned for a long time through my younger years. But as an adult I’ve found it so very useful, especially when I’m feeling at my worst.

I am admittedly new to a lot of church things. I’m new to a lot of (read as: pretty much all of) the aspects of organized religion, but there are some things I love. I love the concept of “walking in love”–where we are all encouraged to give what we can to others, to show people the love that Christ has shown us. And I want to do so much more of that this year. My church makes it pretty easy to do all of that and my church as a whole is a great example of it. I could wax poetic about it forever.

I want to go to church more. I don’t go as often as I would like, but when I do go, it’s almost like something magical happens and I automatically feel so much different, so much better after I leave. It’s always a semblance of relief–a burden being removed. I love that feeling and I want to experience it much, much more often.

Be thankful for all good things: the big, the small, the in-between.

My planner for 2017, which I’m completely in love with, has a weird spot at the bottom of each left-hand page, the page designated for scheduling and the to-do list. (Both of these will be incredibly useful features.)

For a long time, I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s just about an inch tall–not nearly enough room for my large, bubbly handwriting to fit in an inspirational quotation. And too big to just keep blank.

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be good to have a “gratitude space.” A place to write the things I’m thankful for that day. Some days there will be a lot, some days not so much. Sometimes big things, like being thankful for having a job or maybe getting the promotion I’ve been looking into for a couple months now. Sometimes it might only be the little things, like what I wrote down the other day: “clean slates, open roads, and running shoes.”

But the point is to be thankful for all of it. I’ve really been living on borrowed time for over four years now and it’s time to really appreciate it.

I think I’ve finally come up with a theme for the year. 

It’s been hard, just thinking about it. But, I think I’ve got something.

All of these things, all of these goals I have for myself, have to do something with existence. Whether it’s existence in a written space, existence on the road and sporting running shoes, existence in faith, and existence in gratitude. I know, at some point, they all may waiver. There could be an injury, writer’s block, loss of faith, or a rough patch of time. (God forbid all of these.)

One definition of a word that’s come to mind is: “the quality or fact of continuing to exist.” That word? Tenacity. One of the definitions of tenacious (the adjective form): “not readily relinquishing a position, principle, or course of action; determined.”

And I think that just about sums up where I want to be in 2017. Not giving up. Determined. Existent. Tenacious.

Yin and Yang

Two complimentary forces. Good and bad. Shadow and light. Yin and yang.

These are the things I think of when I think of everything that happened in 2016. (Of course, it feels like the dark side is perpetually winning and it’s driving me a bit bonkers at the moment, but…I digress.)

As I’ve struggled to put together a piece for work about well, my job’s own 2016 in review, my personal struggles and memories keep bubbling up and telling me that I need to let them out. And here we are. With the good and our bad, our shadows and our light, complimenting each other and fighting it out for the forefront on my mind.

As I’ve worked on the work project, I found my calendar from the first six months of the year. A full-sized planner. I archived it, of course, because I knew I’d need all my notes for my annual review. And the more I thumb through it, the more I see that it’s full of different things. The good and the bad. Both work and personal.

When I think about the year as a whole, I remember so many different bad things. I always remember bad things versus good things. A huge fight and falling out with my dad (that finally resolved this week). The loss of Kristi’s dad atop a list of so many of our heroes we also lost, including Carrie Fisher. The election and its results that changed so many things and caused me to question my career far more than I ever had before. I was unmedicated for a long time–the longest time since I had started them, and times had gotten scary. (I’ll write about this eventually, but not now.)

But there were also good things. I have to remember the good things. I have to hold onto the good things. 

As I thumb through that planner, I can quickly and easily see just a few of them.

February saw both my second Springsteen concert and my first trip to Florida. My mom got us *great* seats to see Bruce from a friend of hers. And, basically a week later, when Kristi went and ran her second half marathon at Disney World, she invited me to come along. I even got to go and meet Tinkerbell! And we took tequila shots with her dad, which is one of my favorite memories of him.

March saw Kristi and I get engaged. I’d bought the ring less than two hours before I asked her to marry me, with the help of a toddler-sized bright yellow raincoat. Thankfully, she said yes. (A week and a half later, we got our first bit of bad news. Two weeks after that, more bad news came. And more after that.)

April, Kristi and I celebrated her 25th birthday in Florida. Two trips in one year. I was baptized into the Methodist church which has seen me through so many dark, dreary days. I also went to a Jeopardy taping and held my very first training that I wrote and gave. It was terrifying, but I was so glad when it was done.

June saw us going to Awesome Con together, me working late nights, and running my first live race of the year, a 5K I ran with some coworkers and their friends.

July, Kristi and I saw Toby Keith and Disturbed in one weekend and ventured an extra twenty miles after one of the concerts just to get Waffle House. (They didn’t have chocolate chips that day. It was sad.) I went into the Pentagon for the second time ever and got to stand at the podium of the press briefing room, which was probably one of the coolest moments of my young career. We adopted our precious boy cat, Stripes.

August, I got a new apartment for my birthday where Kristi and I moved in together. My work colleagues from all over the country came into town and we celebrated my birthday at a big happy hour. My mom and brother came to stay with us in the new apartment, not long after we moved in–their first time coming down to visit since my mom first helped me move to DC in July 2014.

September, during a week of late nights and early mornings, I managed to squeak in a visit to Nationals Park to see my second Springsteen concert of the year. It rained but the show was fantastic. My first big stadium show. Labor Day weekend just two days later, Kristi met my dad, we saw Blink-182, and I took her to my hometown in New York. I ran my first five-miler and didn’t die.

October, Kristi and I got our engagement photos done, and my dad’s illness finally was nearly resolved. I made my last trip there for the year. (I try to go 3-4 times a year.)

November and December were hard. Harder than they should’ve been.

Obviously in November, the election happened. Kristi and I applied for and got our marriage license.

The election changed our plans, making us wonder and worry for the future of our legal marriage. But, we decided and we moved up our legal ceremony and we won’t let that dissuade us from having a big wedding in October 2017–as we originally wanted and planned.

I found myself running to each church service I could that week. Three different times I found myself in the pews, praying to God for hope, clarity, and grace.

Later, I ran my second five-miler and still didn’t die. I wrote another 50,000 word manuscript as I tried to drown out all the uncertainty in my mind. (It was far easier this year.)

December, Kristi and I hosted brunch for her friends in our apartment. Her mom came to visit for Christmas. We married on  December 27th and went to dinner afterward. Our New Year’s celebrations were small, we watched Netflix and cuddled with the cats, knowing that 2017 had lots in store for us.

There were so many horrid things about 2016 but going through and seeing all of the good things that happened makes it all worth it. 2017 will be better; it’ll still have its challenges, but I have faith it will be better too. There is shadow and light in everything, after all.

 

 

A New Thing

In an attempt to combat all of the horrible feelings I’ve had lately–the ones I can’t quite explain and some of the ones I felt the other day–I decided that it’s about time to start a new thing.

I’m starting my own newsletter. A place where I can share just a few things, a few snippets of thoughts and feelings, or some words that spilled out that don’t quite have a place to go.

Right now, I have a lot of homeless thoughts and ideas.

A lot of them probably could live here, in this space that could be called underutilized at best, but they don’t quite seem to fit in. I’ve tried to squeeze them in, but it’s like a misplaced puzzle piece. Instead, they’re stashed away in various drafts in various spaces. But, maybe a newsletter might fit them a little better.

I don’t like the idea of homeless thoughts, ideas, words, and phrases. I don’t like the idea of writing things and keeping them to myself. And I definitely don’t like the idea of not writing at all.

Lately, writing’s been difficult. I’ve been in a funk, in a haze, and I’ve been considering doing this for a long time. I’ve gone back and forth on it. But, it’s time to commit. And I’m committing.

I hope you enjoy it.

Why Can’t I?

“Forthcoming: a memoir.”

“I’m writing a book.”

“I’m starting a newsletter.”

“Here’s this new blog post I’ve just written?”

And then there’s me. Meek and mild. Hiding in my corner of the internet, questioning myself, yet again.

It ebbs and flows, this insecurity. This feeling like I can’t do anything. This feeling that anything I do won’t be good enough.

The thing is, the numbers say it. Numbers say they won’t be good enough. You go and you look at stats, you look at page views, you look at this-that-and-the-other and you see, that nobody’s there.

Maybe I’ve just lost sight of it. Of the “why.” Of the reason why I put my pencil to the wide-ruled pages of my notebooks for so long. Of the reason why my J and F keys stick from overuse and exhaustion. Of the love I have for words on a page–a paper page or a web page, it’s never mattered. It was about the words.

But, I sit here, and I try. I try to put the words together. I try to get the confidence to share the news of a new project I’m looking to start next year. I try to get the confidence to put something out there, something that I can be proud of again. But, here I sit. Behind a keyboard, typing, deleting, typing, deleting. It moves like a Metro train in rush hour: starting and stopping incessantly.

Why can’t I just be like most other people who actually can get past their insecurity? Why must I be stuck in it forever? Why must it be the one thing that stops me always?

I’ll have the idea, I’ll start the project. I’ll make progress and I’ll have something I’m mildly proud of. Yet, when it comes time to share it? I turn back into the meek, mild, timid version of myself and I hold it tight. I doubt it and myself. I doubt everything and I shroud it all in shame and so the next time I look at something that could be a diamond in the rough, something that could be a real gem, all I see is muddled garbage. I sully it. I turn it into something awful. This blog, my work, it’s all feeling awful now. Everything feels awful, nothing feels good enough.

Why can’t I just be proud of myself? Why can’t I just be happy? Why can’t I?