On Why You Should Actually Do Your Hobbies

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Photo Credit: Stanley Murzyn

It’s a strange feeling to not love the things you know you love. It reminds me of those depression commercials from the 90’s: “Do you often feel sad? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy?”

As a kid, I thought: that’s horrible. Now, I sheepishly raise my hand: that’s me.

The thing is though, doing what you love is essential. Even, and especially hobbies, because they are “recreational.” Read: “re-creational.” They are the stuff that forms and re-forms. The stuff that brings you to life and keeps you alive.

I work a lot. You probably do too. And when I am finished working, I am exhausted. Everything takes more time, more energy, more motivation when you have depression. But it doesn’t mean its un-doable. Usually once I start something I used to love, within the first 5-10 mins, I love it again.

So my goal this week is to do one thing I love for half an hour a day. If all of a sudden I am writing new songs, climbing a rock wall, or baking different breads, I’m only re-creating what I’ve always been.

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PSL (Pumpkins Save Lives)

At Last She Understood

Light bounces off the emerald and gold on my finger as the afternoon sun shines through my window. I’m typing at my computer with articles to write, emails to send, and calls to make, but I can hardly think of those things. The sight of two sisters driving away plays again in my mind. Marie and I waving and holding back tears, as the two drifted off like a cloud onto the road and out of our lives… for now.

I am getting married. They are going to grad school overseas. We are all embracing change – in its happy moments and its prickly moments. We’re not even little women anymore – we are spitting images of our mother and father, and many of us older than them when they had their first child. Even though, I feel as if I should be grown-up and wise, I still don’t know how to live without feeling the sad parts a little more than I think you’re supposed to. So my fiancee looks at me and sees the heaviness. And while he can’t define it, he can recognize it, which, to me, is a miracle.

Fall is my favorite, not because of PSL’s (that actually means Pumpkin Spice Lattes for all you don’t speak fluent Starbucks), but because I feel most myself here. The world is dying around me, and everyone agrees with me that there is a profound beauty in the dying.

So if you are losing something, or something is losing you, bless the shedding of the leaves though they may make you feel raw and naked. Bless the ache and the loneliness. And while we know that fresh leaves will appear, bright-eyed and alive in the spring, be here now in the orange and browns. In the deep reds of fall, in the sleepy farewells, and the warm company of those you love.

God will never leave you or forsake you.

 

Measuring Up. 

I have wasted more sighs than I’d like to mention over magazine covers in the grocery store. But these days, instead of thinking “Never in my life will I be that pretty or that skinny,” I have become black-belt status in the art of reminding myself that a) those people are photoshopped and b) even if they weren’t, salad still tastes like I’d rather be fat. So, I don’t look to magazine covers anymore to “become something.” These days I aspire to be someone else: me.

“Isn’t that nice?” you’re thinking. Well… it’s not. Because the “me” I’m speaking of isn’t who I am now. It’s the “slightly-unealistic-future-me.” The one with perfect skin, a yoga figure, and a smokin’ resume. She has tons of friends and a healthy mind that’s never depressed. She doesn’t ever doubt the path she laid out for herself. She breathes deep. She’s noticed because she’s just that inspiring and accomplished.

Ok, so I don’t want to discount trying to improve and be the best version of ourselves, but I would like to examine the pressures we put on ourselves to be something we consider “enough.” I know that I, for one, have at times been truly disappointed in who I am. Then I start blaming.

I blame the depression that I’ve never published a book. I blame laziness or fear that I’ve never tried to pitch a song or cut an album. I blame my free spirit that the idea of a desk-sitting (or desk-standing as the new trend is) normal 9-5 job makes me want to throw up and run away, making it impossible for me to have an impressive career.

Blame is great, isn’t it?! It says, “You don’t understand, World! If only you handed me everything and not put all the people against me, I wouldn’t be sad, and I’d be brave enough to do hard things.”

But then I thought… you know what? I get up in the morning when the day is big and grey and glaring at me. I go out when the subway sounds cold and long and terrible. I breathe deep when my body feels limp and listless and tired. I apply for jobs I’m not even sure I can handle. Sometimes I even look up at someone and smile when my head is hurting, emotion lost inside me, and my chest feels like lead.

Let me tell you. Those things are not easy.

So unlike future me, I haven’t published a book or built an annoyingly outstanding resume, and also, I still don’t have clear skin (dangit). But like future me, I live with integrity, I strive, and I do hard things, even if I’m the only one who sees them. I still want to write a book and do lots of très cool things in my life. But this unrealistic pressure to be an unattainable me laced in glitter with photoshopped emotions needs to go.

So if you struggle with this too, it’s time to adjust some expectations, and acknowledge feats accomplished. Its time to say to yourself: these unrealistic expectations taste like I’d rather be the present me, the one who is striving and digging in the dirt of life to find beauty. She is real. Her wounds are real. She is brave, capable of inspiring, and undeniably and completely enough.

Tiny Cracks of Light.

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The difference between surviving and thriving are the day’s little moments of vitality and joy. They are the tiny cracks in the sky that let the light in. But the sky doesn’t ask if I would like for it to crack open. The sky is the sky. I have no control over it. In the same way, I have no control over the occurrences of joyful moments, or if today will be a good day or a hard day.

With depression, the default reaction to most things is sadness. To hear oneself laugh, to feel oneself smile is a gift, a relief, even. Sometimes I wonder, “Was that really me?”

Do I sound morose? I don’t mean to! In fact, I have many tiny cracks of light throughout the day, and they are the loveliest gifts. Each of them covers me like sunlight. That sunlight feeling – it’s one of my favorites. I think it’s party because it reminds me of my childhood: walking out the front door of our house in Milpitas, into the dome of California sunlight. My mom there. My siblings there. We’re just going to the pool. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

It’s frightening to accept the little joys that come in a day, because I know I will probably fall into sadness again shortly after. Who wants to be let down again and again? Fear politely explains that those little joys are actually imposters. Don’t be foolish; you’re not a child anymore.

But the truth is, the imposter is the sadness and the fear. And the “real me” responds so happily to these tiny cracks of light, because the real me is made of the very same stuff. So don’t give up, my readers. As hard as it sounds, allow yourself to be taken with those moments of light. Even if the feeling only lasts 3 seconds, allow yourself to thrive for those 3 seconds. You are made of the light you are so attracted to.

This is a hopeful post.

This morning, before eyes opened to the day, I already knew it would one of the hard ones. I could have sworn I was getting better. “It” was getting better, I mean. The depression, the lack of life that plagues my life.

So I had a couple bad days last week. They didn’t go away, and now its back to shallow breaths and the stuffy, dark rooms of Square One. Have I written this post before?

Square One is a familiar place, like the doctor’s office you grew up visiting. Its familiar like frozen vegetables warmed up – that horrible steamed broccoli from your childhood. And part of me is like, “This again? Ok. Done this before. I can do it again.” Another part of me is entirely unemotional. And a final part is sick and angry and laying out plans and maps all over the tables and floors of my head to figure out how I’m going to nip this thing, called depression, so I never, ever have to be in the Square One space again.

In the maps and plans, I hone in on the fact that its winter on the east coast. I hate winter here. Not because I hate snow or garland or mittens. I’ve come to associate winter with some of the severest depression experienced. It happens pretty much every January and lasts until early April. So the first thought is, it’s winter. Then I flip through the catalog of just about any other thing I can blame it on: this city, my job, something someone said, feeling unsuccessful, feeling inadequate, the medication I’m taking, my hormones, lack of sleep, or that the cold is just so ridiculously unpleasant… hmm, back to winter.

In yoga last week, the instructor asked, “What do you practice? You will become proficient in whatever you practice.” The first things that came to my mind were “sadness and beauty.” But now as I type, I think I am selling myself short. There is one more thing I often practice, and that is “choosing to live with vitality.”

This morning, before eyes opened to the day, I already knew it would be one of the hard ones. But the next step is knowing I have choices to make whatever the weather, my emotions, and the all the other items in the “this is why your life sucks” catalog. Living with vitality must become a choosing, and I’m sorry to say, I don’t even perform that choosing very well. But we cannot do anything well, of course, unless we practice.

So Unfinished. So Lovable. So Brave.

It’s 5 in the morning. I’m awake. The air is thin and cold and the space around me dark. Memories do not appear like trains passing. They are still frames, and they stare at me. I face them, and hear:

You did that.

There’s a Vampire Weekend line that goes, “You know I love the past, because I hate suspense.” But the stories of the past don’t end. They wash into the present and, like a changing tide, you never know if they will affect the shorelines of the future.

Recently, on the great short poetry platform known as Twitter, I saw a @jesstaras retweet that read:

You are under no obligation to be the same person you were a year, month, or even 15 minutes ago. You have the right to grow. No apologies.

I think some people are little heroes when it comes to getting up and moving forward after making a choice they regret, but when you’re depressed, its a particular struggle not to be defined by said choices. Self-worth is sanded down by sadness. We are convinced we don’t deserve good things and that we don’t deserve to be loved well. But we humans, we tend to rebuild – there’s something so attractive about breath and life.

And so, in this last day of 2015, I look back on the film role and still frames and I see scores of choices, good and bad. There’s no denying they colored my year, but must they define what I am now or how God sees me now? Must they define what I want to become or what God believes I can become?

We are new creations, but unfinished. Continually recreated in things like breaths and thoughts, rainfalls and words, sounds and sunsets.  The only obligation we have is to find our true selves, the self that desires to love and to be loved. Because somewhere in the quietest parts of us, we know that we are lovable and were created for no other reason than this.

Doesn’t that just make the still frames of bad choices shrink like shadows on a wall? Because when we know we’re worthy of love, irregardless of past choices, we can calmly and courageously take on a whole new year of choices. So let us show others this year how much they are loved, because love makes us brave. And its an incredible thing to not have to feel so afraid.

Tell Me I’m Beautiful.

Last month, there was a particularly desolate day, where I was sitting on the cool wood floor of my bedroom, wanting nothing more than to hear that I was beautiful. On that day, I had neither the energy nor the opportunity to be anything more. Plus, beauty doesn’t have to be “functional,”  at least not in a utilitarian sense. Beautiful things bring joy by merely existing.

I wanted to hear I was beautiful, so I knew my life was still relevant. Worth having around this place, so to speak. In the end, God whispered it through another’s voice and I believed it.

We forget to stop defining the self with labels we can control. We forget that we’re enough, because we breathe and God chooses to sustain the breath within us.

So sometimes now, as I sit on the subway or lie in bed, I take breaths like sips of water or sips of wine, and I wonder at this breath – why it ever started, why it still goes, and the way it is proof that without my opinion or consent, someone thought I was indeed worth having around. And I don’t have to do anything to earn that – just breathe.

Befriending Fear.

Image taken from fluohrine.tumblr.com
Image taken from fluohrine.tumblr.com

Anxiety is my new guest, which is kind of rare for me personally, but also pretty normal for someone with depression. It’s taken residence in my mind where it circles. It also visits my chest where it trips around in dull and sharp pangs. Frankly, it takes up way too much space. So today I decided it was time to hate it and forever stare across the room at it with glaring eyes. Or I was going to befriend anxiety and try to sooth it into something nice, like hairdressers do with my crazy hair. Neither option sounded great, but since it insists on staying, I decided befriending was the way to go.

This is how befriending anxiety looks. You call it what it is – Fear. I am afraid of what will happen. I am afraid of what has happened. I am afraid of what is happening.

I then ask Fear, “What’s the worst that could happen? The worst possible scenarios?”

Fear tells me and I cringe, but then I think, “That’s really not so bad.”

And Fear says, “I know. Telling the truth is not my way of doing things, but if I did tell the truth, I’d tell you those worst possible scenarios rarely happen. Usually everything turns out fine.”

I nod, and Fear naps. Then everything is quiet, at least for a while.

Treasure in the Ruin.

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Photo Credit: lostatseaphotography.com

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.” -Rumi

I read this quote today, and it hit home so hard I wanted to run from it. But I couldn’t escape it. I took the words from the page and saw them sink into my own story. Ruin is my story – isn’t it everyone’s in some respect? I am a series of sunken ships, each of them their own tale of glory, battles, and oftentimes, loss.

I roam the rooms of my mistakes and disappointments and gather all the lessons in my arms. I grieve the losses and wear the jewels. Its so easy to sit in my bed with my coffee and wonder if life will ever get better. Ah, the energy it takes to realize that as I sit, I am being recreated! Loss is not the only part of the story. There is treasure in the ruin, and finding this treasure is my hope.

Learning Love from a Prima Ballerina.

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Photo taken from blog.anthropologie.com

Sunday morning coffee, and I’m wrapped in my quilt. The window is cracked open and fills the room with autumn. The city is quiet. The apartment is quiet, and I do what any self-respecting single woman would do on a leisurely morning: I grab October’s Anthropologie catalog. This month features three women of character, and I am taken with the first, Marie-Agnes Gillot. She is the prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet, and every picture of her is elegant and stunning. Its a fresh and sophisticated change from so many other models I see on billboards in this city: the stoned and skinny J.Crew girls, the bare skinned, air-brushed Victoria “angels,” and the expressionless designer models of an indeterminate gender. Marie-Agnes Gillot is a woman. The pages of the catalog show her in ballet poses wearing, of course, Anthropolgie’s fall collection. There is also a short interview with quotes strewn throughout. This quote blew me away:

Dancing is my life, but becoming a mother is by far my greatest achievement. My two year old son is my love… No day is more beautiful than when I am with him.

Whoa. This human, who knows beauty, who lives it, who feels it in her whole body every time she dances, says that more beautiful than the art she creates, or the historic, history-ridden stages she moves on, or the cities she travels, is a little boy, and he is her greatest achievement.

How is it that I forget that loving and being loved is our greatest achievement? As I sit here in this room, with all my things that remind me of places I’ve been and people I love, I realize now that I have everything I need. Yes, sometimes life is dark. Somedays loving or forgiving myself looks likes a mountain I can never, ever climb. Sometimes I have been fettered to this depression in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of existing. But even amid these trials, I know I am loved and for that, my life is profoundly beautiful.

One more essential Gillot quote for the morning:

Discipline is the cornerstone of freedom, not the opposite.

In coming out of the darkness of depression, discipline or a determined movement of the will is imperative. But as depression chips away at resolutions, will-power is affected! When I meditate or pray, I enter into myself in a focused way. I am alone with myself and God, and I have to be honest with where I’m lacking (yikes) and with my hearts deepest desires for myself, no matter how hard the achievement of said desires seem (yikes, again). Prayer and meditation repurposes the self for something greater, something more beautiful than it already is. This takes an incredible amount of discipline and sometimes courage. But its this discipline that is setting me free to see the beauty that is around me and to be grateful for all that I love and all who love me.