Meal Ticket? I’ve Already Eaten. (+Giveaway: Jillian Lauren’s Books & Signed Weezer CD)

“I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” –Joan Didion

“Everything not saved will be lost.” –Nintendo Quit Screen Message

I am still caught off guard by the first-world nature of the questions I encounter in this “less hood but only marginally more good” life I now live. A few weeks ago, someone asked me if I believed in perfection as an attainable goal. My first thought was What the fuck kind of question is this at 6:30 in the morning inside a strip club? Can I live? My second thought was to weigh which answer might invite less debate.

“Yes,” I said. And then I went back to sleeping but not with my head down. That’s how my friend Andro got kicked out of the same strip club last year. Instead, I propped my elbow on an armrest and cradled the right half of my face in my palm, because my head bobs a lot when I’m forced to sit upright and look conscious as I succumb to the heavy sleep that feels both inconvenient and inescapable yet delicious.

If we changed a few minor factors like the time, location, ambience, level of rapport with question-asker, and my general affability, which is inversely proportional to the number of hours since my last meal/large snack, I would have answered the question differently.

It seems unfair to give blanket meaning to a concept that shifts a little with each person, but to keep things simple, let’s define “perfection” as: whole, free from flaw and defect, exactly right.

So, is perfection an attainable goal? No. Maybe. Actually, I don’t really care. I’m no longer shackled to the ideal because it’s kept me from writing for months and months. Before, when I was rooting around in the filth of my imperfections, I was so submerged in darkness that I didn’t know that I…didn’t know. When I gained a little clarity, it suddenly seemed wrong and troubling to write without having the perspective that hindsight affords.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and whether or not I should continue. I thought that if I walked away from writing, I would feel free and happy. Those commodities have been fleeting and scarce. For a short time last year, I felt some relief when I decided to wake up every day and just do the thing I really, really wanted to do that day. (This involved a trip to Target most days. You guys, I fucking forrealz did a Target Tour of Southern California.)

I believe that everything happens for a reason. But sometimes things happen because you’re stupid and you make bad choices. You choose blindly and poorly because you don’t know.

I also believe that you don’t know until you know. Once a little piece of “know” gets lodged inside of you, you can choose then to understand it. Knowing and understanding aren’t the same thing. Then when you finally understand, you come to a place of possibilities, choices that mean something because you aren’t feeling around in the dark and pushing through whichever opening you find first, unaware of the other exits.

What happened is this: I approached the healing process with the mindset that I was so broken and so imperfect that I had to fix myself before I could proceed into higher level pursuits like writing, especially writing about my brokenness. I kept waiting to become perfect, because being perfect and whole and free from defect would be my meal ticket to…well, life. How I came to this conclusion is mystifying since I’ve never been perfect, yet here I am, like, you know, living. Here I am living and writing this motherfucking sentence, and I am not perfect.

So I guess I don’t need that meal ticket. I’ve already eaten.

I decided that I was already enough. I made the choice to view myself as whole. And I realized that I can create gravity by continuing an endeavor that really speaks to me, and pursuing it in the way I want to do it. That gravity attracts the right people at the right time in the right place.

When I met Jillian Lauren this spring, the first words she said were, “I heard your name twice today before coming here. It’s nice to meet you!” and then she laughed casually as we shook hands. I immediately liked her because she didn’t give a shit about an unspoken and pervasive L.A. rule: Slight apathy at all times.

I enjoyed Jillian’s writing before meeting her, and it was such a treat to find out that her rare blend of delicate and dope as fuck exists not only on the pages, but in person as well. Some people are controlled and caged by their past, but as Jillian and I exchanged emails, I got the sense that she transcended who she was to become who she is because she understands that the only way out isn’t always back in. Sometimes, it’s about moving forward. Exploring outside the bounds of the known.

It seemed important to share her words and her heart with you, so I wanted to do a giveaway. She offered not only her latest book, Everything You Ever Wanted, but also her other two books, Some Girls and Pretty. She also included a signed Weezer CD (Jillian’s husband, Scott Shriner, is Weezer’s bassist. I took some time to educate myself about Weezer because I wasn’t super familiar with that genre of music. Tbh, I think the only rock band that came to mind before this is….Nickelback. And it’s only because someone asked in a Reddit AMA with 50 Cent if a theoretical tour with Nickelback would be called Forty Five Cents. My husband said it’s not okay to reference both Weezer and Nickelback in the same paragraph for any reason, but sometimes bad groupings happen to good artists.)

When I decided to start writing again, I wasn’t quite sure how to do it anymore. Or what I would write about. Then I met Jillian and ended up at a strip club (wait, those two things aren’t related btw), and I decided to let go. Not everything is worth keeping.


P.S. BIG THINGS POPPIN’: Major changes and transitions for our family this summer. Can’t wait to share with you what’s on the other side. When it’s quiet here on the blog, stay close through the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress)


DOPE GIVEAWAY: All 3 of Jillian Lauren’s Books + Signed Weezer CD


TO ENTER: Leave a comment below sharing a valuable shift in perspective / important life lesson / noteworthy advice / a goal or a hope or a dream. Basically, if you find it shareworthy, I’m listening. You fascinate me.

Only comments left on this post qualify. Giveaway entry period ends Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm PT. Winner will be contacted via email. It’s not necessary to create a Disqus account or comment with a social media profile, but please make sure your email address is correct if you choose the “I’d rather post as guest” comment option.

Look at the Stars. Look How They Shine for You.

HBDCal15flourishinprogress on Instagram

One of my favorite pastimes is hanging out with young children. Not necessarily because I like children, but because I’m pretty much going to be the smartest person in the bunch. When I ask if anyone would like to challenge me in a one-on-one addition battle, I often hear excuses about how they’ve only mastered number recognition, but that’s not important to me. What’s important is winning.

Spending time with young people gives me a chance to remember small moments with Cal at that age. I thought I was going to pack away every childhood highlight in some mental box, each piece easily accessible whenever nostalgia strikes. It’s not that easy, but those memories are in there somewhere, albeit jumbled, and they surface whenever I see a familiar expression or hear an innocent question, like when someone asks, “What’s it like being old?”

Cal asked me that question when she was 4. I was 23. I felt old, so the question didn’t offend me, but I wanted to make sure I understood her. “Are you asking me what it’s like to be a grown-up?” When she nodded, I answered truthfully, “I’m still trying to figure it out. Maybe I’ll get good at it soon.”

I’m still trying to get good at being a grown-up.

Cal turned 15 yesterday. I have no idea how time moved so fast…yet, so slow. I feel like I’ve lived so many lifetimes since Cal was born.

When I got pregnant at 18, I kept it a secret from almost everyone. I didn’t know who else to talk to, so I started praying a lot. God and I had a pretty tenuous relationship until then, but I felt an overwhelming urge to seek out a Higher Power. I prayed that He would put forgiveness in my mother’s heart. I prayed that He would keep me safe when I ran away from home during my second trimester. And when it came to praying for Cal, I mostly just asked God for a baby with good-looking feet. It was really important to me that my child feel confident in open-toe sandals. I pleaded with Him to make my baby sort-of normal: sort-of normal looking and sort-of normal on the inside too. I didn’t need her to be especially pretty (except for the feet) or thoughtful or kind. I tried not to be greedy.

Sometimes, it seems like God doesn’t hear my prayers. Last Christmas, I asked God to help Santa put a bow-tied Lil Wayne under the tree, but I got a deluxe lap desk with a cup holder instead. I was upset at first, but now I can see how anyone could get those two confused, especially during the busy holiday season. I’m still not sure what the problem was when I prayed again for Lil Wayne on my birthday, which is in September, but maybe Jesus observes Labor Day, and the foam-filled reading pillow was just a stopgap gift.

At other times, I am awestruck by His grace and mercy. It still surprises me that my daughter did not come out broken. We only allow ourselves what we think we deserve. While I fervently prayed for sort-of normal, I was prepared for a malformed child, a slow child, an unhappy child, or a malicious child. But Cal is perfect.

When my mother realized that I intended to keep the baby, she pressured me to reconsider. She reminded me that a baby was not a toy I could put on a shelf when I grew tired of playing with it and wanted a newer and shinier diversion. A baby is forever. She repeated this Korean phrase to me over and over again:

pluckastar“Plucking a star from the sky”
She said that raising a baby as an unwed, uneducated teen with no money was like trying to pluck a star from the sky- impossible, futile, and disheartening.

The fear of transitioning from someone’s child to someone’s mother without the luxury of becoming a grown-up first made me feel small and flimsy. When I closed my eyes at night, I imagined my arms growing longer and longer, grasping for the closest star, each one bright and beautiful and seemingly within reach. I’d wrap my hand around the light, but each time I brought my fist close and peered in, there was nothing but dark space.

I asked God to help me become a grown-up. And I gave my daughter the Korean name “Seh Byul.”
newstarIts literal English translation is New Star. I couldn’t pluck a star from the sky, so I made a new one.

Happy Birthday, Cal. I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

Let’s be homies4life. Holler at me.
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