My Wil Wheaton List

2016-02-18 13.22.18

Wil Wheaton (or Whil Wheaton, as I say it in my head every. single. time.) has been showing up a lot in my Facebook feed recently for telling The Huffington Post to fuck off. They wanted to republish a post he wrote, but they didn’t want to pay him, because The Huffington Post doesn’t pay for content. Wil said no way and proceeded to discuss on his own blog and Twitter why it is messed up for a corporation to get uber rich without paying the people who created the content that made it uber rich.

My Facebook feed is filled with writers; they were ecstatic about this most recent celebrity defense of their worth.

Oddly enough, Wil and HuffPo had their conversation a few months ago, but it’s enjoying a second life right now via Facebook.

ANYway.

The article in question was about the Seven Things Wil Wheaton Is Doing to Reboot His Life.

And that’s what experts call “burying the lead”.

I’m living it up in Costa Rica with sunshine and volcanoes and pico de gallo everywhere, and I can’t stop thinking about Wil Wheaton and his damn list. And my list.

And how I am so fucking done with not feeling like a fully functioning human being. “When was the last time I felt completely energized and healthy?” I wonder, and I suspect it was shortly after my daughter was born. She turns 11 next month.

So I am resolved to articulate my own list and then to follow through with it.

Using that R word scares the crap out of me because I have been very bad at maintaining any sense of resolve for a while. But doing anything less than that, I think, would guarantee my failure at this point. And I am just so tired of failing at this.

Without further ado, My Wil Wheaton List*:

*or, the things I am committing to do in order to reset myself:

1. Go to the doctor.

For a long time now I have accepted the fact that I need about ten hours of sleep a night, and that after sleeping ten hours I will still dread pulling myself out of bed. I decided it was just one more physical anomaly I was forced to live with and resent. Hating the way my body works has become so commonplace for me that it’s taken me over a year to consider that maybe there is something someone can do to help me.

With Wil Wheaton rolling around in my head, I finally googled sleeping too much. Anything over nine is probably a sign of some other shit going on with the body – like depression. In fact, one article suggested that this can often be a sign of low-level depression that isn’t yet manifesting itself emotionally.

Of course.  Of fucking course depression is a likely player, and of course I have been attempting to deal with it myself because, hey! I’m already medicated! I do not want to deal with this anymore, thanks!

It could also not be depression. It could instead be something that will also explain why I seem to be inflating like a raft at a pool party. I can’t buy new clothes fast enough to keep up with my expanding ass. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damn expensive and uncomfortable.

Bottom line is I am not healthy, and I am not in a position to make myself healthy all on my own. So, off to the doctor I go.

2. Eat better.

Those two words make me irrationally angry. I’m angry at all of the thin and healthy looking people I see at the tables beside me eating pancakes with syrup. I’m angry at my friends who say they aren’t willing to sacrifice good food and instead will just exercise more – and that actually works.

But mostly I’m angry at myself and my stupid, stupid body. Because I have not and never will be a person who can eat whatever she wants without suffering physical consequences.

And while we’re in this self loathing shame cycle, I’ll also admit that I’m angry at myself for being angry and whining about the unfairness of not being able to live off sugar in all its glorious forms. I know there are so many worse things and that this tiny inconvenience is nothing to whine about, and yet here I sit pissed off at the injustice of it all. And I know that self hatred is NOT A GOOD THING and I would never tolerate it in my daughter or my girlfriends.

Also I have PMS so this tornado of woe gets spinning really easily right now. My apologies.

I need to stop eating junk. I need to stop eating sugar. I might need to stop eating carbohydrates in general, but right now I can at the minimum commit to eating only real food.

3. Exercise.

This is a tricky one for me. Every single day I tell myself that I’m going to go for a walk, and every single day I find a reason not to.

I woke up late and have to dive right into work. I’m too tired. I’ll get sweaty and have to change clothes. I shouldn’t even have to walk and should just be focusing on an active lifestyle!

Sometimes I have a conversation with myself about joining a gym or signing up for a class. I love classes! I would be much more likely to go if I had committed to a class! I should be focusing on finding fitness that I enjoy! Right, except you’re really going to spend $100+ a month when you can’t even make yourself go for a walk once a day? Do that first, and then we’ll talk about upgrading you to a class. Besides, it’s a total waste of money to pay for a gym when there are so many free options available – like going for a walk!

My brain is so weird. (More on that in a second.)

I do have an Apple watch that has an activity montior, and I have completed the Magic Circle of Achievement exactly four times in the month of February – and six times in January. The threshold for said Magic Circle of Achievement is pretty low, so that’s where I’m putting my focus right now: complete the circle every day.

4. Write more.

Writing and I have had a very emo relationship for the past year. Blah. I’m over it.

Writing is something I have to do. It is imperative for my mental and emotional health.

My brain is very active. Very. Writing is how I prevent active from crossing over into insanity. It’s how I understand myself: by taking the time to pull out jumble and stretch each thread out line by line so that they resemble something that makes rational sense to me. I’ve been fooling myself into thinking that having thoughts are the same as processing them, and that has not been working out so well for me.

I feel like I’ve lost touch with my brain and my intuition. I realize it’s because writing is how I communicate with myself.

So whether it’s blogging, writing in a journal, or working on my next book, I will be writing every day. It will be on the very short list of things that cannot be pushed off, regardless of what other people’s lists for me might look like.

I am keeping this list intentionally short. I have a tendency to want to make big dramatic changes all at once and then giving up completely when I can’t succeed at everything.

And really? Who I am and what I need is not that complicated.

I just want to feel like a fully functioning human being. I want to feel like my body is a vessel and a tool rather than an angry master to which I’m a slave.

Why I Shaved My Head

I’ve been adulting hard lately.

I researched, consulted an expert, and signed my family up for a new and more comprehensive health insurance plan. I budget more for healthcare in a given month than I do for clothing or going out to eat.

I budget for clothing and going out to eat.

I buy the bulk of my clothes at Talbot’s, because the fit and quality are reliable.

In the last six months I’ve met the mayor, worked with a councilman, attended a private campaign event, and written a grant application.

I’m a member of a board. I serve at the pleasure of another one.

I had a serious conversation with my girlfriends the other night about gin preferences based on strength of juniper. Two weeks earlier I took a friend’s phone away because he was attempting to buy a company while we were out drinking.

I am a grownup surrounded by other grownups.

The fact I can make this list reveals that a) my concept of adulthood is probably not very adult and b) I’m a little weirded out by this very 30-something Liberal White Life I’ve found myself in the middle of.

Some days I am impressed by what my life has become, others I’m pissed. Some days I’m angry at the political jockeying I’ve been told is part of Getting Things Done, others I’m humble and determined to learn about diplomacy and shutting up and stepping back and Not Knowing Everything. I’m constantly aware of how small and irrelevant the pond in which I’m growing is, how silly all ponds are really, and yet I persist in trying to master this one.

And so I shaved my head.

OK, that’s dramatic.

I shaved a tiny portion of one side of my head and only after careful consideration.

I’d seen a few online friends do it, and I envied them their freedom to be badass. “I wish I could do that,” I said. “So do it,” they replied, as if it was that simple.

“But I am too much of an adult,” I explained. “And my face is too round. And I couldn’t pull it off.”

“It’s your hair,” they said – and both your and hair stuck with me.

Because, yes, it is mine. The hair, the choices, the life. It’s so easy – even after making unusual leaps away from the status quo – to slip back into the comforting current of normal. I’ve been bobbing along bitterly pretending I didn’t know how to swim.

And it’s hair - just hair. It’s not life or death or permanent or any kind of important. And if I had reached a point in my life where something so insignificant could morph into the realm of impossible, then I had stopped being any kind of brave and lost all perspective.

I was still scared it would look stupid. I was scared the people I work with would judge me or be mad at me. And that was the deciding factor that led to making the appointment and letting the clippers fly. Because I want to always be a person who does the thing that scares her.

2015-12-09 16.11.56

I love it.

What Is Your Definition of Good?

Today it’s the question of what to do with refugees.

In the past it’s been guns, race, homosexuality, religion, welfare… the list it seems is endless – the list of topics and questions that divide us sharply as a society, the ones that surprise me because the answers always feel obvious to me.

Let’s stick with the refugees for a moment.

The question on everyone’s minds and tongues and status updates: how do we respond to the millions of people fleeing Syria in search of refuge?

There are concerns about resources: is there enough to go around?

There are concerns about safety: how do we know “bad guys” aren’t sneaking in who will someday harm us?

I understand having these concerns. I understand a primal instinct to hoard and protect; it’s the same instinct that makes toddlers bad sharers.

But whenever these instincts rise up in myself, I inevitably am struck by a desire to be a better version of myself for my kids. Who do I want my kids to be? How do I want my kids to remember me?

be brave

I want them to be brave. I want them to be compassionate. I want them to be leaders and role models and beacons of goodness. The only way I know to teach them that is to show them that I at least try to be that person in real life, especially when the choice is hard.

I assume this is what every parent strives for.

I said as much on Twitter recently, and two friends almost simultaneously pointed out the fatal flaw in my reasoning: different definitions and metrics of goodness.

And I mean, DUH. Right? Obviously that’s where the differences occur; not everyone defines good the same. Obviously.

But holy crap do I have a hard time removing my own perspective blinders on this one. I mean, did everyone not grow up watching the same Disney movies and reading the same Little Golden books as I did? The lessons were pretty universal.

Don’t be an asshole.

Take care of people (or animals) in their time of need – especially if they are weaker or smaller than you.

Share.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Take care of people’s most basic needs no matter the personal cost or inconvenience.

That’s basically the message behind every viral news story, isn’t it?

Apparently it isn’t. It must not be. There must be very different definitions of goodness out there that I cannot comprehend.

And I’d like to understand. I really and truly would. Because I believe that every single one of us is trying to do the best we can within our own worldview, and so I’d like to more clearly see the worldviews of those who share on Facebook the stories of the heroism of Holocaust survivors but have no desire to welcome Syrian refugees.

What are these other definitions of good that I’m missing?

 

End of an Era

IMG_2242.JPG“You have to mourn the person you used to be.”

She was talking about the women we were before becoming mothers, but when Janelle Hanchett of Renegade Mothering said that sentence out loud at the MomCon last weekend, they resonated with me for reasons that had nothing to do with parenting.

I’ve been swimming in murky waters for a long time now, struggling to make sense of my surroundings in the swampy in between, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t pull myself onto a new bank. Even patience and time failed to clear the mist.

This was not to be a passive passing. Of course not.

A huge, meaningful, defining chapter of my life has drawn to a close, and that calls for an intentional acknowledgment.

I’m not even sure what to call the chapter. Blogger? Writer? No, those are things I did before and will continue to do long after this page has turned.

It’s the chapter in which I went to conferences and attended press trips for work. A lot. The line from travel to check wasn’t always clear, but it was strong enough to justify trips all over the country – and even out of it a few times.

It’s the chapter in which my front door was a constant depository for free stuff, sometimes from friends but more often from ginormous companies hoping to coax a little influence their way.

It’s the chapter in which I appeared on lists and on stages and was recognized regularly by strangers at certain events.

It’s the chapter in which I joked about being famous on the Internet and paid many of my bills because it was at least a little bit true.

My kids tell people I’m a blogger when they’re asked what I do. My husband says he doesn’t know but I get free stuff. Neither of those things are really true anymore.

I finally corrected Jared the other night when he said it while we were watching Master of None. Dev was trying to explain his girlfriend’s PR job in music and finally admitted, “I don’t really know what she does, but she gets free tickets to concerts.”

“That’s what I tell people about you!” Jared laughed.

And I remembered Janelle’s words about mourning. This was a moment to do exactly that, or at least to start. This was a chance to say out loud what I’d been feeling for over a year.

“That’s not true anymore,” I told him. “It hasn’t been for a while.”

“True,” he shrugged, taking no notice of the significance of the moment.

But the relief I felt was instant. The fog dispersed and in it’s place the present shone clear. Finally I felt a comfortable distance settle between where I had been and where I am.

I’ve been so resistant to let go, because man were those good times. I found my soul in those times, and my voice and my backbone and what I was absolutely certain was My Purpose.

I found a tribe for the very first time. I finally knew what it felt like to be accepted and even loved for who I was, to walk into a room and not be the weird one. That love made it easier to go back to places where I’ll always be the freak. Would admitting that tribe was no longer bring a return of the loneliness I’d endured before?

I got to be part of something special, to be in on a secret the world would eventually discover but that would in part always belong to those of us who knew it first. I was part of the primordial goop from which fame, fortune, innovation, and major cultural shifts emerged. Granted, my name isn’t tied to any of those things (except in the acknowledgements of a few best-selling books), but I’ll never forget what it was like to be there when it all started. Does easing my grip on those good old days make me irrelevant again?

I don’t want to give up my membership card in the cool kids club, even if I haven’t been to the clubhouse in ages. What will make me special now? Where will I belong? What will I be a part of?

Who’s going to pay for my vacations?

Seriously. My family and I went on our first ever non-subsidized, just-for-fun vacation this summer. I had to ask a friend how much I should expect to spend because I had no idea. I’m super disappointed to give up that particular ignorance.

The absence of all these hard-to-quantify benefits have left me with an easier to read balance sheet. That’s scary as fuck. I can’t say that I’m pleased with what my personal worth amounts to when it’s boiled down to dollars and cents or number of meals cooked. I’ve been questioning lately what my contributions are now, and the answers are less than inspiring. I do a much better job justifying the ambiguous.

Maybe I’ll be able to take a closer look at that now, to fully commit to creating a present tense that fits as well as the past once did. Maybe now that I’ve been able to let go of the old comforts I’ll have a better idea of how to start filling the new holes. Maybe, as they say, the best is yet to come. At least now I’m ready to find out.

Day 3: sketching

I haven’t been overwhelmed with a desire to write, and this NanoBlowMe challenge hasn’t changed that yet. Instead I have for a long while now been drawn to making pictures. Paints, pastels, pencils, watercolors. I am constantly taking mental pictures (and sometimes phone ones, too) of the world through the filter of some new medium. 

   
   
Emma is applying to CAPA, the public art school here in Pittsburgh, and she has spent months preparing her portfolio. That has often meant me sitting beside her for emotional support, sketching away in my own notebook while she works. 

I love it. I’ve been getting way more satisfaction from these visual arts than from writing.

I feel like I’m betraying some sacred oath, that I have to give back the name tag that’s read “I’m a writer” for the last few years. I fought hard for that label. 

But screw labels. Who cares what I’m called. The names change by the minute anyway. Mom. Wife. Colleague. Director. Writer. Cook. Friend. Neighbor. Voter. Couch occupier. 

When I forgot about the what it’s easier to see clearly the do. 

Today what I wanted to do was draw, so I did. And what my daughter needed me to do was sit beside her in front of a mirror and talk her through seeing her own face as a series of shapes and shadows – and so I did that, too. 

What did you do today?