photography + oil pastels + scribbles
writing when you’re depressed
Last night I read an interview with Julie Fast who wrote Get It Done When You’re Depressed.
The title alone was enough to stir my inert brain.
I tend to baby myself when I don’t feel “well” physically or mentally. It’s a habit that’s been encouraged by plenty of people like my doctors, my mom, my therapist, and most of my yoga instructors.
I do believe there’s something to listening to what you’re body is saying and heeding it’s request to slow down. But that’s because most people are constantly on full speed and out of touch. I’m hyper-aware to the point of constant collapse.
My body always wants to slow down. I have an autoimmune disorder (RA) and, I’m pretty sure, depression. If my body had its way, there would be 14 hour bed times with naps in between.
Sometimes I think this is reasonable, but often I think that’s the depression talking (what’s out there to accomplish anyway? what’s so important about your life, everybody’s just doing the same shit?)
Julie Fast noticed that her writing was just as good whether she was depressed or not, it just didn’t feel as good to write.
But she did it anyway. And she keeps doing it, because on her “well” days she’s glad that she can move through the bad days, months, or years.
I’m a product of an instant gratification culture where the idea that there might not ever be a payoff for my actions doesn’t sit well. Since I don’t get paid to write, I should at least require myself to enjoy the process right?
Most of the time writing feels like digging myself out of a hole. It’s a lot of work and not that entertaining since it’s just me and the hole. And then when it’s over, there’s not that many people who will praise you ‘cause who really cares that you climbed out of a hole?
The payoff is being on level ground again which can feel exhilarating for a while (that is, until I sink into my next hole).
I’d like to start adopting this attitude of writing when I don’t feel like it, since most of the time that’s how I feel.
Spent a large portion of today Instagramming, cause that’s what adults do on the weekend I don’t care what your mamma told you.
a bodily embrace
I’ve thrown all my bras away like a snake shedding its overly padded skin. I bought an Urban Outfitters lacey no-wire number three weeks ago and since then it’s been the only bra I could stand to wear. It’s closer to a training bra than what usually passes as an adult woman’s bra (the kind with thick straps, hard wire, and a full boob encasement).
Maybe I’m late to this trend and everyone else has already succumbed to the comfort of thin fabric braziers, but I’m currently counting this as my personal discovery of the year.
25 is the year of my boobs, and I can feel their appreciation.
I’ve never been embarrassed to have small boobs because I’m such a petite person. In fact I love little boobs because they make me feel like a waifish goddess akin to Audrey Hepburn or Twiggy prancing around happy to be idolized by women rather than an overt object of sexuality for men.
That’s my body comfort zone, and “sexy” in the public sphere still feels strange for me (a private room with a man I adore is a wholly different story).
But now without full boob armor giving a stiff misrepresentation of my shape I’ve felt more beautiful in my clothes and, dare I say it, sexy. I like wearing a slinky tank and seeing the natural curve of my breast sink into its natural place. When it’s cold, my nipples show, and it hasn’t once embarrassed me; in fact, I think it’s stunning in its honesty.
Nothing to worry about, just a body here.
Now there are more dresses I wear sans bra because they really don’t need one. I’ve slipped out of the practice of shaving any stubble under my arms before wearing a tank. My legs, the beauty bane of my existence, are looking a bit friendlier. I’ve been experimenting with natural deodorants and in that process started to adore the faint musk of my own bodily smell.
It’s not that I’m losing good hygiene; I’m making choices based on what feels right for me and my body.
In this practice, I’ve also discovered that I prefer my eyebrows shaped by a professional and a smidge thinner than I used to like them (a scary step, but necessary for a face shape that’s just now filling in). I regularly wax my arms at home because I enjoy having something smooth to touch when self-soothing any daily anxieties, and I like things bare between my legs because it’s reassuring for me to feel clean in a private place.
I have more confidence in these personal choices because they feel like my own. Connecting more closely to my real, unfettered body has diminished my desire to morph myself in any way or for anyone.
So often we intentionally ignore or marginalize our physical self thinking that the mind should take precedence. That’s a shame when our body has so much real wisdom to offer. Make a practice of listening.
subjectivity and social media
I’m 25 with a social media addiction.
These days that doesn’t really qualify as a dirty little secret, but there’s still a measure of acted out shame or backdoor denial people use when talking about their social media habits.
"I use Facebook, but only post good articles and pictures people want to see."
"I’m a big Pinner, but I actually do a lot on there in real life."
"I Tweet, but it’s not my life. Only like 3-5 tweets a day."
"I Instagram, but no food pics or selfies."
Tumblrites are really the only shameless users that I can think of, but a lot of that is credited to the mostly anonymous nature of Tumblr.
That’s where the social-scape of the internet gains momentum for me—when you can experience people outside the tiny circle of your friends, your town, your income, your same life.
Tumblr is expansive where Facebook is suffocating. There’s only so much of the same weddings, babies, ruminations on work, etc. that we can reasonably stand. Tumblr is the Wild West to Facebook’s picket fence split-level. Anything goes, and the net of expression is cast far and wide.
There’s a decent gap between real life social media (the kind where the players in your day-to-day can monitor what you’re posting) and fantasy social media (where you construct your own identity less constrained by the definitions of the labels your real life throws on you).
I’m not fond of these two terms (and open to suggestions) since the line between real and fantasy feels a little fuzzy when you’re talking about digital actions. I also wish the word “fantasy” carried a bit more weight. Our society gives fantasy an airy and useless connotation, but I think that fantasy social media becomes a more realistic use of the internet.
Why write on a wall of a person you could see? There’s more value in seeking out new artists or perspectives of people who will unfortunately never cross your path.
I don’t need repeat minds; I need to be able to hit shuffle and see/hear/experience something new.
When people say about social media that “you’re making your life seem better than it is,” I can’t help but wonder what else we’re doing with our time on this planet. There’s so many ways we dress up that slippery notion of truth even in our “real” lives. How we decorate our houses, our cars, our jobs, our bodies, our faces, our relationships—aren’t we trying to make some self-directed meaning out of the fact that we’re existing in a terribly difficult world? What’s the truth underneath all this?
Too often, I fall down a nihilistic slope of thinking about reality and find myself sitting at the bottom of a mountain of apathy.
That’s why too often my apartment isn’t decorated, my face bare, and my clothes picked without a second thought. Because too often I don’t feel like there’s the energy to dress up the truth and pretend that I’m more than another person with a shelf life. Ironically, it’s usually this downward spiral that heightens my awareness to the fact that if it doesn’t really matter then I can embrace truth and realness as subjectively as I want.
Because the truth is we’re all swinging from one struggle to the next and we rarely feel as grateful as the internet snapshots of our life make us seem. But maybe that small capturing of the ideal—the life you wish existed, the face you wish you had, the beauty in the world you wish you could always see—feels a bit comforting. And more than soothing, it’s a practice in self-definition. That’s a modern luxury that we shouldn’t take for granted.
Now more than ever, you can be who you say you are, not who the world assigns you.
Maybe I use too many filters on my pictures. But often, the bare image on my phone doesn’t capture everything you’re seeing like how that latte, dress, flower, slice of pizza, night with friends made me feel or even, more often, how I wish they made me feel. Both of these concepts are legitimate and worth expressing.
It’s true that you can’t construct real happiness through an iPhone.
I want you to be authentic.
But the kind of authentic that you’ve created with your own everyday decisions and your own definitions, not the kind that confines you to what is “real” and what isn’t.
Give up so you can get started
What’s worse than never having enough time? Having too much.
So much time that your procrastinator’s brain expands to fill days, weeks without your consent. You’ve got your to-do list, but somehow there’s a warp speed time lapse that occurs every time you do a small task, sit at your computer, prepare a meal, visit the store. And suddenly the little blackhole time-sucks add up to another day without goals met and lists unchecked.
But you’ve got ideas, oh you’ve got ideas. Your brain is full of those, and that can sometimes pacify you—the thought that one day you’ll get to your great ideas when you have enough skill, passion, contacts, time (oh wait, but you have that now). Enough is never enough.
These past two weeks I’ve wondered how I fit anything in before with a 40-hour work week in a cubicle. Is it possible, I think with complete dread, that I was more productive while I was sinking 50 hours a week (adding in commutes) than I am now with a completely self-structured calendar? Excuse me, I’m currently choking on the self-disgust.
Striving for more and better is good until it gets in the way of your progress. For me, the pressure of more leads to a surrender into nothing.
Because the negative thoughts fool me into thinking that I can’t accomplish anything as grand as I imagine (like a career as a writer, a creative start-up, or that art installation I’ve been meditating on), so instead my brain says, it is best to not do anything.
You’re safer reading another blog post or book chapter; it’s best to hit next episode on Netflix; you could use another cup of tea, take a walk you need to be outside.
Because consumption in any form is so satisfying. Almost satisfying enough to stifle your desire to create.
Our brain tricks us in so many ways. Those elaborate dreams I have, that beautiful ability to visualize: it’s a delicate weapon that’s currently aimed at my own throat.
Because those dreams both overinflate me and completely derail my motivation. They skip too many steps. Nobody built a one-step path from an idea to the dream. So when my brain leap frogs over all the minutes, hours, weeks, and years it will take to build that bridge it gets a little tired and overwhelmed and decides it needs a snack. Rightfully so, little brain, you’re taking on too much at once.
So, I’ve decided it might be more useful to dream of the hours logged on a keyboard than my self-published book in my hands or the many trials and errors staging an art installation that may or may not look right. (I also have to remember that these events will not happen in a nicely choreographed montage set to the perfect soundtrack. That’s just another way we try to dress up time and fast forward to the dream.)
Maybe it’s best to visualize the smallest next step than the end goal because honestly, once you get there it may not look like the dream anyway.
In fact, it’s time to let go of the dream. The more you’re attached to the outcome, the less likely you’ll have the nerve to take the next step.
Because success in the traditional sense is really terrifying whether you have it or not. If you don’t have it you’re scared you never will and if you do you wonder if it’s enough, how long you can keep it, if someone will take it away from you, or worst of all if you are anything without it.
Success wrapped in external measurements like money, fame, or reblogs is an escalator leading to nowhere.
The beauty of this twisty magical universe is that you can define success and measure it in whatever metric you like.
But maybe I can be even more radical. What if I went ahead and assigned the label myself? Success.
There, the deed is done, the mental mountain climbed, and now the rest is just icing on the cake I’ve already made. Suddenly I feel much lighter and the words are coming a little bit easier.
XXVIII (Philip Larkin)
Is it for now or for always,
The world hangs on a stalk?
Is it a trick or trysting-place,
The woods we have found to walk?
Is it a mirage or a miracle,
Your lips that lift at mine:
And the suns like a juggler’s juggling-balls,
Are they a sham or a sign?
Shine out, my sudden angel,
Break fear with breast and brow,
I take you now and for always,
For always is always now.