Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Book Roundup

I'm a bookworm. As a bookworm, I read an inordinate amount of books when I have the time. Since receiving my bachelor's back in August, I've been working, but without the pressure of assignments and classes, I've had so much time to read! I've just begun applying to graduate schools and, if that pans out, I accept that my reading will once again centralize around academics.

For now I've been reading like the introverted fiend that I am, and I wanted to share the books I've been really enjoying for the first two months of 2017!

The January/February Book Roundup:

1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I absolutely adored this book. It's about quirky Don Tillman who begins his search for a wife with a lengthy questionnaire that is supposed to weed out incompatible matches. This, as you can imagine, doesn't go well. He meets Rosie who completely changes the game. Don is a wonderfully crafted character; I dare you to read this book and not fall in love with him. 

2. The Rose Effect by Graeme Simsion 

After falling head over heels in love with Don and Rosie in The Rosie Project, I scampered off to the Kindle store on Amazon to download the next book, which I continued to devour in a handful of days. This quirky duo returns to navigate the weird waters of impending parenthood. Again, I dare you to not fall in love with this couple. 

3. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

I'm not usually a fan of young adult fiction, but this cover kept popping up everywhere I turned - I had to download a sample. By the end of the sample, I had to know what would happen. This book is a dark portrayal of sexual abuse, and I wouldn't recommend it to those who are sensitive to such topics. If you want an easy and entertaining read that'll leave you with all of the feels, I recommend it.

4. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Monroe

Imagine all of those random questions you have swimming in your head were answered by a knowledgable person with a lot of patience and a knack for drawing stick figures. What if? explores these questions in a witty and engaging exploration of the absurd. A word to the wise: keep Google close by. I found myself actually curious about some of the physics and actually ended up Googling most of the topics. 

5. Whiskey Words & a Shovel II by r.h. Sin

If conversational and stream of consciousness poetry piques your curiosity, reach for this book. They only had the second volume at the bookstore and when I picked it up to thumb through it, I found myself unable to put it down. The poems were direct and succinct in their exploration of pain and loss. If I could recommend a setting for this book I'd tell you to enjoy it during a thunderstorm with a hot toddy.

6. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

This one really got to me. It's set in the 1980's and is a brutal story of a young man in a pointless and drug infused world. The style of writing is incredibly blunt, featuring run-on and fragment sentences. This is probably me being a nit-picky English major, but the effect makes for a disillusioned reading experience. This, like The Female of the Species, is a difficult read.

Thus concludes my February/January Book Roundup! I'll be returning at the end of March to share what I've been reading then!

What books have you been enjoying recently?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Mechanics of Falling in Love

This weekend I made a purchase. A beautiful, spontaneous purchase. I was in a bookstore, exploring, my finger tips ghosting the ledge of the bookshelf, and I paused on the tab that marked the row of books as "Poetry." It was the gradient effect, the black top of the spine faded to a lovely, olive green at the bottom that caught my eye. Lowercase typeface font in a stark white explained the book to me: Chasers of the Light/poems from the typewriter series by Tyler Knott Gregson.

I was immediately enthralled. The poems were imprecise, raw, striking. They left me breathless by the amount of passion that was poured between the words. Even the introduction, explaining poetry was lovely: 

Dissect big things, giant gestures, grand emotions, 
into small glimpses, tiny garments. 
Take miniature moments, stolen seconds, blink
-and-you'll-miss-them-glances, and make them enormous. 

I was inspired. I took up my pen, set the tip to paper, and began.

These snippets are from a larger project that I have decided to tentatively title: The Mechanics of Falling in Love. 

Let me fall in love
with the
way you navigate a crowded
room, the way you
deny me, and return
to the stillness of my beating heart, 
the murmur of my words, 
filling too cavernous a space
between your parted lips 
and waiting ears. 

Let the valleys between
our conversations
ring with the wind-
strung truth
I miss you
I crave you, the way the
an addict craves needle 
in flesh
I want never to be away 
from you

Let your body learn the 
curves of mine, 
the edges
the spun-out, frayed borders, 
let our fingers trace intricacies 
across the scared plains of our
physical stories, while we share our
conquests, our battles, 
our beginnings and ends. 
Let me memorize the
strength in your shoulders, 
the warmth of your
neck, the breath that carves 
hollows against my thighs. 

Let me fall for your heated
words and broken plates, 
your retreat into caverns of
pleated memories, 
let me follow you there, 
and cradle your tired 
neck in my arms as you sigh 
against my breast. 

Let me fall for moments and 
sweeping stories. 

Let me fall for your description 
of clouds dipped in ivory
opaque lakes as deep as
the quiet between old lovers, 
borne again by old pain, bitterness, 
resentment, lingering
love, ill-placed and longing.

Open the door, and let me in,
throw down the welcome mat and
I will
brew you coffee, tangle
my limbs within yours, listen
memorize the sound of your laughter.

Let me, oh love, let me.

Poetry is everywhere. When was the last time you realized that there is something worth remembering everywhere? 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Spaces Between No

I am a firm believer in the idea that pain breeds art and when you can turn that pain into something communicable and beautiful, then you can accept whatever brought that pain upon you. Be it communicable or beautiful, here is a stream of consciousness free verse piece that has been lightly edited for continuity:

The word "No" is powerful, it 
has the ability to build walls, end
roads, begin stories and shift courses. But "No" can be
and it was a night when "No" was met with the 
insistence of a refill, a party where "No" was 
laughed at. 

It was a night when "No" 
further blurred the differences between 
hatred and
desire; "No" became the word that felt and knew 
the range of my voice, determined to be
broken; "No" became the chorus of 
affirmation played upon the back of denial; a
night when "no" - lost its authority. 

"No" became a muffled cry when you
decided to carve canyons into my spine with
your fingertips; "No" was shouted when 
you pressed the creases of the pillows into my face
and wove whiskey through my hair with your
breath. "No" became the rhythm your hips
carved against mine,"No" became a word lost in the
seconds, minutes 
you stole from me, "No" was screamed into the 
sheets, a 1000 count that I picked out, until 
my voice broke around the word and my 
tongue could no longer project the sound. 

"No" I breathed when you bucked yourself
off of me, 
onto the floor, a heavy thump,
and fell asleep, face hidden. 

"No" was the word that tumbled from your lips 
when I asked you if you remembered the
previous night. It tumbled like a leaf in autumn, dry and old
and empty of sunshine, falling between us
where we trampled it desperately 
beneath our soles and forced smiles upon our faces
because denial is stronger than any "No." 

"No" became the word that haunted me, as I pressed the night away 
and sandwiched it between good memories; "No" found its way back
to me in sleepless nights, in my memory-bruised spine that recalled the
pressure of your fingers with startling clarity; "No" I say to the 
pieces of me that faded, lost in the repression of so 
a memory. 

Weeks, months, years of
until finally "No" becomes "Yes" 
in a series of panic attacks and hollow tears, mourning the
me that is lost; 
"Yes" I whisper, coaxing out the me that's been in hiding, the
me that knows genuine smiles and loud laughter; "Yes" I answer 
as I rediscover the me I've become; "Yes" as I turn and piece through
the past with painful clarity.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Experience of Nothing

"Nothing," I say over the rim of my coffee cup. The liquid is freshly made, freshly poured, black as the eyeliner I hide behind, and it burns my tongue and throat, warms my numb core and the questioner, the concerned party, watches me with the look that tells me just how much they don't believe that word. It's a word that doesn't match the question, that inquiry I haven't figured out how to answer when I feel like this: What's wrong?

"Okay," they say. They turn, they disappear, they offer one liners like, "If you need to talk, I'm here," or, "If you need anything, let me know," and I want to feel gratitude towards them. I want to believe that they actually mean what they say, instead of practicing meaningless social expectations. And I know, for the most part, that they are there for me, if I really need it.

During my bouts of therapy and counseling, I had a number of psychological phrases thrown at me. Bipolar disorder, generalized depression, manic/depressive disorder, "Though no one can seem to agree on whether bipolar or manic/depressive order is the leading term," a kind faced counselor tells me over the edge of her notebook in the too warm office, on the too comfortable therapy couch, but there are days where I feel absolutely nothing, where the very center of my being retreats far enough within myself and I feel very deep, very hollow. 

It's like being placed in those clear glass ornaments that pop up in the shelves at the store during the holiday season. If I reach out, I can run my fingers along the curved glass, see what's happening on the other side. Beyond the glass, just outside of my touch, emotions swirl along the surface and I can only watch, only imagine what they feel like.

The part about depression that genuinely baffles me, specifically when it is accompanied by crazy swings that send me from being completely fine to being completely numb, is that nothing triggers it. There are some things that affect it, of course. Bad news, stressful times, a particularly sad movie or book, but, for the most part, it happens on its own accord.

My energy falls drastically until I'm so tired I can hardly move, hardly pick up my phone to respond to anyone. My muscles begin aching, my shoulders droop as though weighted, the coffee I burn my mouth on no longer perks me up, no longer jolts me from the pain of the heat. Pockets of exhaustion bloom in my spine until my vertebrae aches from the added burden. Food, even the idea of it, tastes like ash in my mouth. Cold settles into my limbs and I can't warm myself. My hands shake of their own accord.

I feel like I'm a prisoner to myself.

I feel like I'm drowning beneath the weight of what I can't feel.

These low moments of nothing can last for an hour, for a few days, for a few weeks or months. Through trial and error, through neural therapy and countless hours spent laying in bed contemplating the very definition of nothing nothing, pronoun: not anything, no single thing; adjective: have no prospect of progress, of no value; adverb: not at all; origin: old English I have discovered ways to usher myself to the swing that pushes me back into being and feeling okay.

It's just so much easier to say, "Nothing," rather than explain the fact that I feel nothing. When this happens, I'm just trying to get to the other side of the swing.

Nothing, in a strange and convoluted way, means that I'm inadvertently working on it. I'm trying. I just need time.

So, for Mindful Monday, I want you all to be aware of what you can do to help yourself through these negative times. What makes you feel? 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dealing with a Panic Attack in Public

If you’re one who suffers from anxiety, you know firsthand how difficult it is to have a panic attack in public. The shortness of breath, the shaky feeling in your limbs, the uncontrollable sense of dread that grips every aspect of your person, the genuine fear that you won't be able overcome what you're feeling - it's easy to feel trapped in the experience. 

If medication isn’t the route for you, there is an exercise that’ll help calm you down from a panic attack regardless. The best part about this exercise is that you can perform it anywhere. Aptly named 5-4-3-2-1, this exercise will help ground you.

Here’s how you do it:

5: Name five things you can see around you.
4: Name four things you can feel.
3: Name three things you can hear right now.
2: Name two things you can smell right now.
1: Name one good thing about yourself. This must be different each time you do this exercise.

How it works:  

One therapist described this technique to me as a distraction trick. By focusing on your surroundings you’re pulling your mind away from the anxiety. It breaks you away from the initial attack and allows the anxiety to run its course. 


It’s important to remember that everyone experiences anxiety differently, and dealing with a panic attack will be a unique experience for everyone. Everyone who experiences anxiety, if once or multiple times, deserves patience and time to figure out the best way to handle these attacks.  

Some other techniques on how to deal with a panic attack can be found at Huffington Post

Photograph at the beginning represents photographer Beethy's experience with extreme panic attacks.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Morning Meditation

On Monday mornings I like to begin my day with a few moments of meditation. For a while my Monday mornings were spent groggily laying in bed trying to enjoy a few minutes of sleep until the time came when I absolutely had to get up. Then I would roll over, flip myself out of bed, and sleepily hurry about my morning ritual.

A while ago, I began settling my alarm for 15 minutes earlier.

A while ago, I traded my tossing and turning for a few moments on my yoga mat, not practicing, but thinking, breathing, being completely present.

I learned the basics of the art of meditation years ago, when I approached my practice with no intention but to simply be. It was a beautiful. A moment that left me craving more meditative moments. But I started college and slow activities like meditation became impossible. Semesters progressed in frantic and stressful tizzies as I learned how to balance my introverted social life with my academics. Sometimes, one gathered more attention than the other (I'll let you guess which one won over the other) but I felt a certain hollowness within me, a intense and internal sense of disappointment with myself. I wasn't entirely happy with my life, but years of on-and-off yoga practice and occasional meditation made me very much aware of the moments when I felt happy and content.

So, my final semester, I struck up meditation every Monday morning. I try to meditate for a portion of each day but, sometimes, I don't make time for it. I'm tempted to say, "I can't make time for it," but that implies that there are outliers beyond my control that prevented me from meditating. The truth is, I sometimes just don't make time for it. Which is not good, but I'm working on it.

The best way to learn meditation, in my opinion, is to reach out to someone who specializes in guided meditations. If that's not an option for you, you could look up some videos on YouTube where there are a plethora of guided meditation videos that are very helpful. For me, this is how I approach it:

(Find a beach at sunset and plop your ass down! ... Just kidding)

I get situated on the yoga mat, coming into an easy crosslegged position. Don't get so comfortable that you almost begin to fall back asleep (as I meditate during the morning) but don't be uncomfortable.

I touch my thumb to my index finger and rest the backs of my hands on my knees. This mudra (which is a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist practices) is suppose to promote wisdom.

From then, I begin to draw my attention to my breathing. If a thought comes up, I don't use negative energy to push it away, I acknowledge it's importance, but simply say, "It is not time for you," and focus on my breathing.

I don't set an alarm, because I don't like the idea that I will be violently pulled from a deep meditation. Some mornings, I spend five minutes meditating, some mornings, I spend thirty.

Accept where you are in this process. Be present with your humility and humbly acknowledge that you've arrived at your mat.

Meditation isn't for everyone, but if it is and if you've tried this semi-guided meditation, let me know how it went! Let's cultivate positivity together!

What helps you begin your Monday mornings?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Find Your Perfect Moments

In a perfect world, Monday mornings would simply not exist, allowing us the luxury of staying in bed until the afternoon or tackling that early morning running trail you've been wanting to try. In a perfect world, maybe our Mondays would begin at the lovely hour of 1 p.m. following a long, slow lunch of our favorite foods. We'd be given the chance to ease into our week, so that Tuesday would come ringing productivity and ambition.

Unfortunately this isn't the perfect world.

But, I don't ascribe to the notion that perfection doesn't exist. What about perfect moments? What about those few minutes where we feel content that seem to be sandwiched between trying to pay bills by working that 9-5 or trying to figure out your next step in life?

For me, a perfect moment is found in a cup of coffee. And a perfect cup of coffee comes from a french press coffee maker.

I take ground coffee (it usually works best with coarsely grounded coffee beans) and pour the coffee into the bottom of the basin. Top with hot water

Let sit until dark and delicious. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.

Be mindful of where you find your perfect moments so you can find your way back to them again. A cup of Columbian coffee in my French Press and a few moments to enjoy it is my perfect Monday morning moment. It's the calm before the storm of the week, before the phone calls, emails, and customer service.

What are your perfect moments?

Mug by Ciroa
Planner by Day Designer

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What to Expect for September

Hello, my lovely people. September is a beautiful month, the precursor to Autumn. As the days grow slowly shorter and the winds hint at colder weather (and the pumpkin flavored everything hits the retail centers), we trade out or shorts and sundresses for sweaters and long pants and prepare to welcome the new season. Though this blog format is fairly new, I want to keep you all updated on what to expect should you wish to return!

- 2 Weekend Meditations: from coming to terms with being unsure of yourself, surviving anxieties and an open letter about tattoos.
- 1 Mindful Mondays: how to handle a panic attack in public. 

The first day of autumn is September 22! 

Let's fall into autumn and make September a month to remember.