meet yourself

summer is my favorite time of year. i’m built for hot weather. i love to bake in a sunny window, sweat on a sidewalk. summers of years past often tend to take on a rosy tint in my memory; i smell my favorite summertime perfume and the years come rushing back. days by the seashore, nights by the backyard fire. oddly, the bug bites, hangovers, allergy eyes don’t figure quite as heavily into these memories; neither do my deepest darkest summertimes, the times i was so far inside my own body the sun couldn’t reach, the times everything looked perfect but nothing felt right, the long nights drinking alone, treading water in despair that i couldn’t see the bottom of.

and of course, i compare myself to those gilded women of those summers gone. why am i not as carefree, not as creative? not as ready to laugh, not as in love with the air i move though?

i’m not that girl (and i probably never was) but what i am is here. i’m packing up moving boxes and i’m making big plans. i’m working hard and wishing i was working harder. i’m moving through these anxiety attacks the only way i know how – by putting my head under and letting the waves crash over me until i can breathe again.  i’ll have another adventure in the passenger’s seat & a long night with the lightning bugs & a perfect, glittering afternoon that drips by with a good book and a sparkling drink. all that much and more is promised. right now all i have to do is be here.

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fucking gemini season

See left for the official Gemini Season Mood®

We are out here:

  • going out for “one drink” and Ubering ho
    me at 1AM, jumpsuits splattered in cheap white wine
  • attending rooftop drag shows
  • impulse booking solo summer getaways
  • loving our bodies, wherever they are right now
    • (our thick thighs are strong; our skin and bones exquisite; our waists and hips, the birthright of our mothers and their mothers before them)
  • devouring a summer read in our happy place (on the porch in the sunshine or curled in a furry blanket during a summer rainstorm)

***

This season is the rising manic energy of a city sidewalk at 7pm on a Friday night, voices spilling out onto the streets, happy hour giving way to golden hour, sandals cruising toward trouble, bass beats, neon lights. It is, too, a dark Saturday morning spent listening to rain pound on the windows — cancel spin class in favor of a Netflix binge, coffee in bed. It’s daydreaming and crying jags, it’s who you become when flirting with a pretty stranger. Put on fourteen pretty  dresses in the fitting room, buy none of them. It’s the season of bats and lightning bugs and thick green leaves quivering, thrumming at dusk.

a morning routine: or an extra fifteen minutes

Morning people, please count your blessings, and trust that you don’t understand the eternal torment of a night owl in an early bird’s world. With all due respect, this one isn’t for you.

A month ago, after a bout of extreme jet lag, I spent about a week waking before the sun. As a night owl, this doesn’t happen often. (Full disclosure: this doesn’t happen, ever.)

I finally got to live as the morning people do. I woke up on my own, got out of bed because I wanted to, made myself some coffee, enjoyed the quietI wrote a few pages in my journal, took my time putting on makeup. One morning, I even had time to play some Stardew Valley! Oh my God, it was amazing. Instead of a hellscape of meetings and caffeine jitters, my morning at work was well-paced and unrushed. (And dare I say: productive?!)

While my sleep schedule has since shifted back to its normal rhythm, I had two lightbulb moments:

https://www.myschaoreo.com/
photo by Myscha Oréo

First: Find something better than going back to sleep. (I know.)  I think what separates the snoozers from the early birds is that for some of us, when we wake up, there is nothing in this world we would rather do than continue sleeping.  I perform mental gymnastics to keep myself in bed for as long as humanly possible.

But with a really compelling reason not to go back to sleep, I find myself snoozing ever so slightly less. For me, that is 15 minutes with really good cup of coffee. I’ve found my perfect combo — Trader Joe’s breakfast blend and a slightly sweet coconut creamer. That, and that alone, pulls me out of my cocoon in the mornings.

 

Second: Think of the minutes you spend out of bed as bonus time. Extra, on top of the 24 hours you already get! What would you do with 15 extra minutes? What about 30? Once up I’m with a cup of coffee in my system, I get an extra treat: a few more minutes to finish up last night’s dinner dishes, wipe down the bathtub, read a chapter of my book, or spend some quality time bonding with kitty. An opportunity to cross one item off my to-do list before the day even starts.

Maybe one day I’ll be one of those people who gets up and works for a few hours before the rest of the world wakes up, but I come from a long line of late sleepers. If genetics are any indicator, things don’t look great for me. In the meantime, I am living vicariously by reading about other’s morning routines, and enjoying my extra 15 minutes.

for those who come alive in the sunshine

it’s taurus season, babies. my favorite part of the year, for obvious reasons. in my part of the world, this is when tide of battle turns, when spring starts to win the war over darkness, gray, death. there is green in the world, now. pink and white buds blow in the wind. the sun shines a little warmer. (and sometimes, on a particularly blessed Friday afternoon in April, the sidewalks spills over with al fresco diners, dogs on leashes, the sound of music pouring out of windows and doors — amen, thank you, blessed be)

wine kiss

i’m packing my bags for a long weekend in nyc with a best girl friend or two. statement earrings, jumpsuits and glossy lips are coming with me. i’ll meet the rooftop champagne and matcha in bed on the ground.

(i mean, would i really be a taurus if i didn’t give myself permission to indulge and glow on my birthday weekend?)

in other news, lately i am feeling deeply turned on by:

  • deep greens paired with baby pinks in luxurious fabrics
  • rose quartz manicures
  • monochrome makeup — loving all peach or all brown on the eyes, lips, cheeks, and nails lately
  • indian-inspired gold jewelry & appliqués
  • outfits in all black and all white
  • big earrings and glossy lips
  • aperol cocktails

fellow taureans, you know we are kings & queens of aesthetic. what’s doing it for you right now?

what i needed to hear

the last few months have been terribly difficult for me. over the past year, anxiety has come to occupy a large, looming presence in my life. a large, invisible weight pressing on my chest in the mornings; a dark and suffocating cloud floating around my head, making it hard to inhale. i have worked hard to meet it, understand it, and mitigate the effect it has on my life, and i have made progress. but this last month felt like a huge step back, and that was really hard. i felt sad, i felt frustrated, i felt helpless in the face of this weight that follows me around, no matter how hard i work to shake it. no matter how far i think i’ve come, to be laid out on my ass by this invisible monster was damn discouraging.

this week, chani nicholas’ new moon affirmation hit me hard.

“I honor this new moon by honoring all the small steps that I have taken towards my own healing.

Major transitions rarely feel wonderful. New growth opportunities can often appear as a threat. I expect to be upended. Internally reorganized. Externally overhauled.

I give up being overly committed to any one version of myself.”

like a ton of bricks.

i took the time yesterday to acknowledge the work i have done to heal. to thank myself. for crying on the phone to a friend, for taking the morning off when i just couldn’t handle the world outside, for a trip to the gym when i knew it was for the best, for take-out when a night alone in front of the stove seemed unfathomable, for a home-cooked meal when my body cried out for it. i thanked myself for treating me gently, and with great care.

yes, i am transitioning. transitioning through stages of my life, through my roles in the world. from girl to woman, from woman to wife, from passive player to active. of course, of course, this change is causing me deep psychic pain. i don’t know what it is all in service of, but at some point i have to trust that it is all in service of growth. and a life without growth is not a life i want.

dear me: wherever you are, meet yourself. see yourself. even if where you are is running over the same anxieties over and over in your head and nervous energy pulsing through your body. take a look at yourself and say “okay, I see you. wherever you are is okay. let’s make the space we can to make room for you. tell me, now — what would help?”

items in my closet I regret buying

In a bout of wishful thinking, I’ve been spring cleaning my wardrobe. (Spring seems like a distant memory here on the East Coast. Life is snow, mud, then snow again.) With mindful consumption on the brain, I have been reflecting on the clothes I own that I never actually liked. In order to be a smarter shopper, I’ve been asking myself: why did I buy these? What was I really thinking in the moment?  How can I stop myself from entering that pattern again?

Here’s a small sample of my spring Goodwill collection, a.k.a: Things I Regret Buying! :

  • The “It’s Only $4.99!” Criss-Cross Tank Top – You know, the one you spot on your way to the cashier. You saw Ilana wearing one kind of like it on Broad City! It’s so cheap that it doesn’t matter if it fits, but it’ll totally fit. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t fit. And the spot where the tag is sewn in really, really itches. You will wear and hate it several times before eventually throwing it out because you are tired of it mocking you from your underwear drawer.)
  • The “This Will Look Great When I Lose 5 Pounds” Button-Down Skirt – This skirt was so cute, but they didn’t have my size. “It’s winter,” I told myself. “Once I get back in the gym, this will fit perfectly.” As it turns out, no amount of Pilates or Zumba has reduced the width of my hip bones. Joke’s on me!
  • The “I Just Got a Big-Girl Bonus So I Am Contractually Obligated To Buy This” Stupidly Expensive Designer Dress – This is the purchase I’m perhaps the most ashamed of. I daydreamed about this dress for months. It followed me around the internet in sidebar ads and Instagram posts, like these dresses tend to do. I fell in love with the fantasy of who I would be in this dress. When I got my holiday bonus, I spent a truly stupid amount of money on it, sight-unseen.  When it came in the mail, I tried it on and realized it was totally, completely, unflattering on me, and I would never wear it. And the return policy? Non-existent. YUP. It sat in the bottom of my closet for months before I finally sold it on Poshmark for a loss. A small consolation.
  • The “This Overly-Invested Saleslady is Hovering Over Me and Making Me Very Nervous and Confused So I’m Buying This and Getting the Fuck Out of Here” Dress – This woman conned me out of $45 for a dress that I deep-down KNEW was the complete wrong color for me with her incessant hovering and deceptively friendly demeanor. I’m sure she could smell the fear on me. If you are panicking in a MANGO and the saleswoman will NOT let up, drop the dress and leave. Learn from my mistakes.
  • “OMG FINAL SALE” Monkey brain sees shiny thing. Monkey brain sees flashing banner ad proclaiming FINAL SALE 2 HOURS ONLY SELLING OUT NOW. Monkey brain says flails and clicks buy. Guys, step AWAY from the online sale section! Do not fall for the myth of scarcity. If you didn’t want it before someone threatened to take it away from you, you still don’t want it! I promise!

treat yo self 2018

I was lucky enough to get a nice year-end bonus this year, which just dropped in my bank account this month. I spent the holidays fantasizing about a shopping spree at Anthropologie, Madewell or Barnes & Noble, but in the past week or so I’ve had a change of heart. Maybe it’s that my partner and I have been talking about moving — across town, this summer, and maybe somewhere else, more permanently — causing me to experience my material things differently, or just a desire to break my spend-shame cycle. (I talked about my January no-buy resolution here.)

So, I paid down some debts, tucked some money away, and had a little left over to treat myself. After the anxiety and health struggles I’ve gone through over the past year, it felt important to me to spend a little money in the name of self care. I mean, Donna said it best.

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But… how to treat myself without acquiring more shit? Here’s what I brainstormed. I hope it can inspire someone else!

  1. Instead of new shoes, book some time with a financial professional. A lot of my anxieties are money related. I’ve been blessed enough to move into a higher tax bracket over the past year, but as someone who did not grow up with a lot, or into a family with a lot of financial literacy, this has caused a lot of stress for me. I’m booking some time with a financial consultant and a tax professional, for some much-needed advice and peace of mind. A sanity check to help ensure that my life goals are on track is a better gift than any new pair of boots. (And I have my eye on some beautiful boots.)
  2. Instead of a Sephora splurge, treat yourself to more permanent beauty treatment. Listen, I get it. I’m a compulsive lipstick buyer. I want that new Fenty as much as anybody. But maybe instead of dropping over $100 at Sephora (how is it so damn easy?) you could invest in a permanent beauty solution whose effects will last past hot yoga? Laser hair removal, eyelash extensions, microblading, teeth whitening…  even Botox or a Kim K laser facial if that’s your thing.
  3. Instead of a pricey night out, get a deep house clean. A few years ago, a night out buying rounds of expensive cocktails for my friends would have been a thoroughly satisfying way to drop a few stacks. These days, the hangover isn’t quite worth it for me. I mean, sure, there’s a new speakeasy with $15 cocktails and an all-night dance party across town, but have you ever tried waking up to a clean house? Spend some money to have a professional deep clean your house, including all of those awful annual tasks you dread doing (oven cleaning, baseboard scrubbing…) That is self care.
  4. Instead of a shopping spree for yourself, go on a shopping spree for someone who needs it. I love a shopping spree. It turns out, it feels just as good — maybe even a little better!? — when it’s not for you! I went to a bookshop and picked out a bunch of books for a program I volunteer with that donates books to inmates, but there are so many ways you could go with this. Nice winter clothes for homeless shelters, toys for kids who need it, makeup and professional wear for women in domestic violence shelters who need to look nice for job interviews, etc.
  5. Instead of an expensive spa treatment… tbh, I’m still getting the spa treatment. Hey, I worked hard this year! Hot stone pedicure and detoxing mud wrap, here I come…

january no-buy

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I’ve written before about my relationship with shopping and spending. I wouldn’t call it an addiction, but I certainly don’t have the healthiest relationship with my disposable income. Like, there is a history of emotional abuse between me and my credit cards.

I struggle with this, in part because I do genuinely love beautiful things. I admire the craftsmanship of a well-knit sweater, the smell of a thick book, the pleasant weight of a nice new candle in my hand. But by the same token, I often feel shame afterwards — shame that I get such pleasure from a material item (am I shallow? vain?) and shame that again, I proved too weak for a shiny new trinket.

Growing up, I didn’t get a lot of new things. Now that I am doing well for myself, I worry that I am acting like a starving animal at a buffet – hoarding, high on the sensation of plenty. I worry because it’s not sustainable – financially and emotionally. This pleasure doesn’t last. I worry because I feel that I’m trying to fill a void with the wrong stuff. I worry what I’ll do when I no longer have the means to fill that void with expensive toys.

This month, I’ve made a goal to abstain from all clothing and beauty purchases. (Unless they are replacements for empty/broken things I truly use every day, like undershirts or foundation.) If I succeed, I get to buy one thing that tempted me this month. I’d like to see if I can do two months, maybe more.

What I hope to accomplish:

  1. Spend in a more intentional way. Things are not filler. I want my things to be honored, used and cherished.
  2. Find new ways to satisfy the craving to buy new things. So far, I’ve found that engaging in something creative — reading, journaling, sketching — helps to soothe the anxiety I feel when a new “gotta-have-it” craving kicks in. I also revisit old purchases that I’ve made, and try to appreciate them like I did when I fell in love in the store.
  3. Cultivate a less guilt-ridden relationship with money. Ideally, I would like to be able to buy good quality things at fair prices, and not feel any shame about it afterwards. Whether that means dollar-store cleaning supplies and thrift store jeans or a rare shopping splurge on a girls’ weekend and a beautiful date night meal. That sounds like freedom to me.

still getting the hang of Christmas

I’m spending this early December thinking of the role I want the Christmas season to play in my adult life. Cocktail parties with gold-speckled champagne flutes? My home full of lights and pine needles, friends, card games, Christmas music and mulled wine? Holding hands by the big Christmas tree downtown on the way to the theater? Or maybe an understated — and decidedly pagan — Yule observance spent by the hearth: soft, warm, quiet.

Christmas is rarely easy, isn’t that so? It isn’t for me, anyway. Expectations. (I guess, much like the ones I’m setting up right now.) Hallmark movies and glittering childhood memories that were never made to be lived up to. Our parents really set us up for a lifetime of disappointment with that Santa Claus thing, didn’t they? No December 25th could ever come close to the magic of a believer’s Christmas Eve, that transcendent moment before you bound down the stairs on Christmas morning. Every Christmas since feels like pressing on a faded bruise, landing on old injury that never healed right. The site of a child’s first betrayal, first broken faith. (If they’re lucky, anyway.)

And so I sit by the tree and nurse every heartbreak of mine that never quite healed with a glass of eggnog and bourbon. I do my best to smile through the stories and the familiar old movies and the platters of cheese. I watch the children and try to feel their joy. I tell myself I’m happy, and I suppose I am, but I am also so very sad.

What I do know is that I want music. Laughter. Warmth. The warmth of bodies, the warmth of a house to be welcomed home to, warmth of the food we share with the people we love. The people who love us in our party dresses the night before and the people who love us the next morning, undereye circles and coffee by the window. Bright white sky, early winter light.

This year, I don’t want to feel the ache of Christmases gone, but maybe that’s part of the deal. Living with the hole that joy leaves in your heart once it’s gone. Gently place a sprig of holly there, say a quiet thanks.

lessons from libra

 

 

Go to the theater or the portrait gallery once every six weeks. It’s good for the complexion.

Sleep in past noon. Serve a multi-course breakfast at four. Play Drake and Fleetwood Mac on the stereo.

Find a book that hooks you and dive in, unashamed. Murder mystery, boarding school, highland romance, post-divorce walkabout? Pick your poison, read past bedtime.

Embrace your paradoxes. Embrace nature’s paradoxes. You can be clever and soft, prickly and gentle, warm but still. It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful.