What If My Favorite Thing to Do Is Nothing? (Notes on Slug Life)

nothingnobody

It’s hard for me to make blanket statements, especially to complicated questions like, “Do you condone violence?” Well, are we talking about someone I do or do not despise? This isn’t my admission that I go around hitting people. Cornered animals, including humans, will often fight back, and I have delicate bones, so I guess the short answer is no, I do not condone violence. I’m important to me and one of my top priorities is looking out for #1.

You would think that with such a bloated level of self-importance, I would use my time wisely and set big goals for myself. When you achieve big, you can brag big. I don’t fritter away precious energy humblebragging; I just brag.

But my favorite thing to do is nothing. It’s hard to brag about nothing. For so much of my life, I did shit I didn’t want to do. After careful thought, I realized that some of the things I didn’t want to do weren’t even things I actually agreed to do, just, somehow, I got dragged into another person’s mess, and eventually, it became my own burden to bear. When I made the commitment to stop saying “yes” to every request, freedom came immediately and the power of “no” was so delicious that it bled into every crevice of my waking hours.

When my zeal for “no” mixed with depression, I stopped doing anything. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had no goals. I would start a task and forego the satisfying rush of finishing it because, fuck that shit. At the end of each day, I couldn’t recall what I had done with my time. Doing nothing feels both long and brief. And doing nothing is really goddamn boring.

Since it’s hard to change your ways when you have no idea what your ways are, I decided to keep track of an entire day during my 102-day break to assess where I might be able to shift my behavior or focus. Reading over my notes at the end of the day was fucking horrifying. If I were a deity, I would most likely smite myself for my ridiculous and wasteful abuse of life.

A.M.

6:40 Wake up. Immediately shut my eyes again and pretend I am sleeping. Hope my body gets the hint.

6:42 Hear incessant chirping. Google “How do I find a bird I can hear but can’t see?” on my phone. Already Googled “Is it illegal to kill a bird in Los Angeles County?” when the bird moved into our neighborhood late spring but haven’t taken action. Mental note: purchase slingshot.

6:55 I need to pee.

7:05 I really need to pee.

7:13 Fuck it. Fine. I will get out of this fucking bed. Fuck my kidneys. Fuck my bladder.

Harv leaves with Cal to drop her off at school.

8:15 Harv is home again. He has a dentist appointment in an hour. I am still in bed. “Wow, you’re exactly as I left you.” Not true. I am now sitting up.

8:15-8:25 I spend 10 minutes of quality time with Harv even though I am in the middle of a Candy Crush level that I was probably going to beat but not anymore because disruptions break my flow. Show Harv a picture of Jay-Z’s murdered out Tesla because the look appeals to me. He immediately frowns and shakes his head.

jayztesla

“Just because I’m married to you doesn’t mean I can’t be married to the streets,” I argue. He says it draws the wrong kind of attention. “You know I don’t fuck with felonies.” My upstanding behavior falls on deaf ears.

9:00 My Any.Do app reminds me that it is 9 a.m. and I need to plan my day. My day has not officially started yet, so I ignore the reminder. I’m really killing it in Candy Crush. Level 617 is my bitch. Wait. How did I go through 4 lives so fast? I switch the time on my phone to get more lives and promise myself that I will stop playing when these 5 lives are gone or if I beat this level, whichever comes first.

9:15 I’m so hungry that I’m starting to feel nauseous. Also, my eyes are getting tired because I have not yet put in my contacts and when I play Candy Crush with my bad eyes, I have to close one and only look out of the other to focus. It is causing both eye and facial muscle strain. I will get out of bed. As soon as I finish these 5 lives.

We have lots of delicious leftovers, but all of those require microwave action. Waiting 45 seconds for my meal isn’t really my style. It really chaps my hide that I bought regular Cap’n Crunch cereal instead of the Crunch Berries version. Colorful food supposedly has more vitamins.

9:52 Eat breakfast. Check Complex Magazine’s website. Repeatedly. Brush my teeth. Think about taking a shower. My feet are cold but I refuse to put on a pair of socks until I take a shower because, hell no, I will not waste two pairs of socks in one day. I’m not going to live like an animal who reuses socks that have previously been on unwashed feet.

I will turn off my phone and start writing at 10 a.m.

10:02 Fuck. Missed it. I will start at 11.

11:23 My feet are going numb because they are so cold. Turning purple even. I have bad circulation because I don’t move very much. Our family doctor says I need to get regular exercise, but fuck that, I do what I want.

I am feeling extremely tired even though I have not done any actual work yet.

11:23-12:18 Text with a friend about procrastination, low self-esteem, fear, feelings of worthlessness. Think about telling my friend I need to take a shower but the conversation has a rhythm, and I don’t want to be rude and cut her off. Attempt to multitask by making the bed and folding the laundry as I text. Spot a Werther’s Original underneath the dresser. It’s a little dusty but wrapped. Lick it a little to see if it tastes “off.” Decide to just eat my unexpected treat and not think about the possible consequences. I’m not trying to be reckless, but I have excellent health insurance, and that’s pretty much the same thing as being unbreakable.

P.M.

12:18 I wash my face instead of taking a shower so I have time to eat lunch. I can’t skip meals because hunger gives me excruciating headaches. Also, when my stomach is empty, my heart is full of rage, and I’m trying to care more about myself and other people.

1:30-2:30 Therapy. We mainly talk about procrastination and why that’s ruining my life. I mention to my therapist that I am on level 618 of Candy Crush so she knows I’m not just doing nothing with my time.

3:15 Pick up Cal. Except for that one year dismissal time overlapped with reruns of Cold Case, I try not to be late for pick-up. Feel like it shows my kid I got her back. I’m mostly doing this for myself so that when I get old, Cal will give me money to shop at Whole Foods.

3:45-6:30 Lie down. Allow myself a few minutes to grieve over never seeing Tupac rap live. Think about Biggie. Does God allow beef in heaven? I keep my Tupac on the west side of my bookshelf and Biggie on the east.

tupacbiggie

6:30  My brother and his wife come over for dinner. They’re outdoorsy people and often leave the country for extended scuba diving or hiking trips. Harv went to Tibet and then to Everest base camp a few months before we got married, so my brother, Marshall, is asking Harv about his experience. Marshall hopes to summit at least one of the Seven Summits, the highest points of each continent. I bet I could climb a mountain. I climb the stairs in our house all day long, and I never even stop or anything halfway. They are talking about a mountain in the Himalayas called Annapurna. Maybe I will do that one. My brother says it has a 41% death rate. “No wait, I think it’s down to 38% now.”  I scratch that one off my list.

7:50-11:30 I watch multiple episodes of Everest: Beyond the Limit, a docu-series chronicling the two-month journey of Everest climbers. If I can climb a mountain with the same devotion and concentration that I have for watching this show, I will be unstoppable.

Questions about climbing Everest:
Is it okay to cry on Everest? Will my tears freeze?
Is wifi available?
Will I be able to maintain my skincare routine?

11:30 I am extremely spent after watching hours of Everest. It’s been emotionally draining and I’m physically maxed out after being in a sitting position for over 4 continuous hours. Get up and stretch. Call down to Harv and ask him to bring me a glass of water with a lemon wedge. I need to rehydrate, but I just can’t see myself going all the way downstairs right now.

11:40 Think about Neil deGrasse Tyson. I wanted to become an astrologer when I was 12 but made the mistake of saying “astronomer” instead of “astrologer” to my parents. For 3 years, my Christmas gift was a subscription to Astronomy magazine and monthly deliveries of Voyage Through the Universe, a Time Life series that cost my parents $20 for each book. I still have them today even though I’ve never cracked open a single volume. They can now be purchased for $1.99 online. If I meet Neil, should I mention my collection? I bet it would earn his respect. Those Time Life books ain’t nothing to fuck with.

11:50 Harv says I’m probably not going to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson in the near future so I need to stop rummaging through boxes looking for my books. He also suggested I “go to bed right now.” How am I married to such a pessimist? He’s really lucky to have me in his life.
___
This was a powerful, eye-opening exercise, and it’s helped me understand what a profound impact depression had on my behavior when I allowed it to overtake my day. Well, if I’m being honest, depression, sheer laziness, and apathy. I’m embarrassed that this is who I can be sometimes, but now that I know what rock bottom looks like, I can be better. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
___
DOES MY BLOG LOOK JACKED UP? Please clear your browser cache, reload, and it should look normal (but better cuz I’m working on blog revisions with my developer, Lindsay of Hello Monday).

Holler at me:

Flourish in Progress on Facebook: Liking this page will change your life. Ha. No. Be real. Sometimes I post semi-fun shit on there, but that’s about it.

Instagram @flourishinprogress: Yes, my profile is on lockdown. But I accept most follows unless we used to do bad shit together.

How to Avoid Everything (Notes on Self Care)

beyourworst
Keeping it real is a full-time job. This truth goes directly against my work ethic. I’m not passionate about much in life except living comfortably without toiling through all of the time-consuming, laborious tasks that usually entitle people to that kind of comfort. Basically, I want to live like a rapper without being a rapper. If you happen to meet anyone who’s never laid down a single track or been taken into custody for disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of a firearm but still lives like Rick Ross, then you may have a better understanding.

I’m not a fan of hard work, but very occasionally, I can force myself to do it. So at the end of June, when I made the commitment to get real and work through the ugly shit I’ve kept cordoned off in dark corners, I thought that a monthlong break would be enough time to address my demons, and I would come back, like, perfect. Allotting 36 days to clear away debris like addiction and anger and depression seemed pretty generous, and I actually made a list of things I might try in case I finished a few days early. I watched a tutorial on how to make an owl zipper pull using the Cra-Z-Loom, and of course that bitch was #1 on my list.

I’m not sure how 36 days turned into 102, but I just want to take this opportunity to mention that if any of the coping mechanisms you use to stay functional involve pushing down grief and pain and rage about your past or your present, and you unlatch the gate that’s been corralling those feelings and they all escape in a mad rush and you have to chase each one down to see if it really belongs to you or it can be returned to the wild, um, you’re not going to have time to make that owl zipper pull. Yeah, I know, it was a surprise to me too.

Since I’ve been going to therapy again and giving it an honest go this time (instead of just sitting there thinking it’s a crock of shit and counting down the minutes till it’s over), I was initially surprised by this overwhelming stampede of emotions because I thought I had been dealing with them. And I was. But it was kind of like when I used to smoke crack and then I would to do lines of cocaine as an intermediary step to come off my binge. Sure, I wasn’t smoking crack right then, so congratulations to me, but I wasn’t really addressing the whole problem.  I was just using stopgap measures to lessen the blow.

In therapy, I was working through smaller issues because I wasn’t yet ready to face my past as a whole. At some point, I realized that the smaller issues existed because of a bigger problem.

I realized this about three weeks ago at Target.

I don’t want to share too much of Cal’s personal business, but I was at Target looking for bras for her. She’s wearing “real” bras now, and prefers the wireless kind, but all the wireless ones I found in her size were really expensive, so I decided to check out Target. Cal is such a good kid, and she’s not the type to complain, so my goal at Target that day was to find a wireless bra in her size and buy the same style to test it out first to make sure it was actually comfortable. My bad for sharing that personal piece, but I think it’s important here.

Until I was a young teen, my aunt sexually molested me. It still causes me an immense amount of suffering just to think about it, and it’s permanently affected the way I handle certain situations. I’m extremely uncomfortable about breasts because my aunt used to touch mine. Being in the bra section at Target started a chain reaction of thoughts that drew me deeper and deeper into a pit of misery.

When I was 11, I finally told my mother what was going on. To simplify what happened between then and when I left for college, I’ll just say that my family didn’t come to my defense. It’s not so much that they denied the existence of the abuse. They just…didn’t think I should make such a big deal about it. To this day, they are upset that I won’t let it go.

I know it’s the compassionate and forgiving thing to say that I no longer blame my family for not protecting me. Or that I have overcome my misery and forgiven my aunt, but I can’t. It’s not the truth. I still blame my aunt for ruining my childhood and I still have trouble understanding why I wasn’t worth it to my mom for her to protect me. I thought that being a mother to Cal would help me understand my own mother better, but I’m the type of mother who can’t bear the thought of my kid wearing an uncomfortable bra (even though that would totally be my fault because I should have just shelled out for the $60 bra, but I ain’t about that life), so my empathy lessens the longer I am a mother myself.

Before I drove home, I sat in the Target parking lot to calm myself. I thought that scrolling through Facebook would be a good mental break, but clearly, I am not that bright. That Monday, TMZ released the video of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiance in an Atlantic City elevator. It was all over my Facebook feed.

Eventually everything connects, and for me, I finally made my connections in that parking lot. The years of abuse I suffered while I was a child altered the way I viewed my own self-worth. Which then led to years of abuse as a young woman. I thought about the man I dated who repeatedly asked if he could sell me to his friends for sex. I allowed others to treat me like I was valueless, and I treated myself the same way.

But you know what? I’m too old for that stupid bullshit. I’m not valueless. I can still be a good mother even if it wasn’t modeled for me as a child. Just because something is unfamiliar does not mean it is unknowable. 

When I got home from Target, I booked a photo session I’ve been thinking about for 4 years but never had the nerve to actually do. I’ve been the black sheep of my family for so long because I had a baby before I was married and because I didn’t finish college. Photos like this would mean that I was still just that dirty and dangerous girl. I’m not. And I will no longer allow anyone to determine my self-worth. I got the pictures back yesterday. One day, when I’m old, I’ll look at the pictures and think, “Yup, that homegirl didn’t give a fuck. You go, EJL.”

EJLSept2014

These past 102 days have been life-changing. Well, most of it happened in a two-hour span at Target, but I still wasn’t making no Cra-Z-Loom crafts on those other 101 days. I’ve cut out a lot of people who have been in my life for too long. It feels strange, and I’m dealing with a lot of guilt about it, but I have so much more space for the goodness I couldn’t take in before. And I understand now that I don’t have to hide negative emotions like hate. I just don’t really give a fuck anymore if my family accepts me or thinks I’m “worth it.”

I still have a lot of hate in my heart, but there’s more room for love and kindness too. If you think about it, I’m the living embodiment of a Coexist bumper sticker. I mean, yes, those bumper stickers are more about religious tolerance and my focus is more about how much I hate people, but get past that stupid detail, and there I am.

Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks in it.” -David Foster Wallace
—-

Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: Lots of not-seen-on-this-blog stuff. Sometimes funny. Mostly a waste of time. But who doesn’t love to waste time?

Instagram @flourishinprogress: One more picture from the photo session posted on Instagram. Profile reads:  “Hallmark ornament collector on the outside. Ghetto as fuck thug on the inside.” Not a good match for people who want flower pics and shit.

Mad props to photographer Joshua McCaghren and makeup artist Renee Kim