mistakes by the lake

sit down. let me tell you a story about ohmygod what am I doing?

Listen up.

 

Does anyone else like lying in bed while someone else tinkers around the house? I love those noises. I’m not sure what the deal is, but lately, listening has been comforting and grounding. Maybe it’s a throwback to childhood, when I would lay awake, looking at the crack of light the door makes, listening to my Dad shuffle the newspaper. I have a roommate now, and I like to listen for the creaks on the stairs and the clinking of dishes she makes when I’m in bed.

I started thinking about this more in the last couple of days, since coming home to visit my parents. I feel so comforted, listening to the sounds of the house at night or in the morning. The plinking of cereal into a bowl, the grinding of the coffee maker, the cats meowing, my parents trying to figure out TurboTax, my mom’s fiddle music, and the sound of the garage door. I leave my door cracked so I can hear the noises better. The secret is out. I like lying in bed with my dog listening to house sounds. I should put that on my online dating profile.

So, as I sat down to write today, I was thinking about all of this. I wanted to find some meaning, or perhaps some message that the universe of noise was trying to tell me. And I sat. And I listened to the wind chimes outside the window. I listened to the cars, as the noises changed with their distance from me.  I heard a clock that I didn’t know my parents had. I heard my ears pop. I think that I spend so much time trying to figure everything out that I must have stopped listening to a degree. Just listening to the relatively quiet sounds of a house suddenly felt so beautiful and interesting.

Instead of coming to a conclusion on how this is all making me feel and why it’s something to pay attention to, I’m going to leave you with this question: What can listening do? What can it change or move? I’m wondering how this awareness of sound could affect the way I listen to people and stuff like that. This week, between now and next Friday, I’m just going to listen more.  Maybe you try it too? That way, when I tell you how it went in next week’s post, you can tell me how it went for you.  Are there good sounds? Bad sounds? Does music count? I don’t know the answers, but I’ll be listening for them.

xo

Big coat+ big hair, don’t care.

Let me tell you a short story about big hair and big coats.

The other day I busted out the blow dryer, which I hadn’t done since I chopped my hair off. I blow dried my hair with the sole purpose of seeing how large I could make it. VERY LARGE, as it turns out.  And yes, I have free time that I spend very unproductively.  Now, this hair was not beautiful. Not something where I thought, Yes. This how we get the boys. More like Wowmy hair is so big and hilarious. I had a similar moment with an over-sized pea coat I recently picked up at a little shop called “Hall Closet, Parent’s House”. It does nothing for my form. It hugs nothing. It flatters nothing. It is so warm, and it makes me feel like Dana Scully from The X-Files, which is a good thing to me. Now, this might not seem like a big deal. I have enormous hair and a weird coat. Cool. BUT the point is that these weird things make me happy, and they’re not there to impress anyone. Nobody cares but me. That is something I have learned to embrace, after years of caring too much about what others think. Hell, I currently care too much about what others think, which is why unexpected joy about crazy hair and clothing is a tiny celebration.

I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve walked into a room and wanted to melt into the floor boards. In these instances of melting with insecurity, I’d like to think that I was just gathering steam. Gathering steam, gearing up for day when I would walk to the coffee shop in my giant coat, and Conan O’Brien like hair, and feel super fantastic about myself, and then head back home. That kind of happiness, however infrequent, is my favorite thing about right now, and it just wouldn’t be as special to me if I was pretending that today was the first day of my life. That past stuff is mine, and to dismiss it seems like a really bitchy friend move to my past self.

Why does stuff that has happened to us matter anyway? Why not just start over and say “That was last year, NEW YEAR NEW ME I LITERALLY CANNOT REMEMBER ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED BEFORE TODAY LALALALAAAAA”.  I have tried this before, and for me personally, it does not work out. I have to respect myself, and that means acknowledging that I am all of my parts. All of my days. Even if I don’t remember them all clearly, they happened. I was me during them. Now I’m here, always. I’m carrying my past with me, not as a burden, but as a base. I can stand on all of the yesterdays. If I went through something hard, and I learned anything, I have that to prop myself up. If I made a choice that I regret, I have that. It’s here, so I might as well stand on it instead of letting it sit on top of me. It’s very hard to move that way. I don’t need to make things harder than they are.

I have no idea what you should do next, and I will never try to tell you that I do. If you’re like “what should I have for dessert” or “should I text this girl”, I will totally offer you advice. But, for the big stuff, the “seriously, what do I do next”, I think there are answers inside of our yesterday and today and plans that fell through and mistakes. I think that, when I listen to myself, and recognize a small shift, like giant hair and coat confidence, I can learn a whole lot from that. That matters to me.

xo

Alexis

PocoSmall

This doesn’t exactly relate to my post, but I dreamed this up when I fell asleep while writing it, so…yes. Comment/share here or on social media to be entered to win a print of my weird boat dream.

Emergency kit

When life gets hard, I pull out an emergency kit. My emergency kit has a dog in it. It also has coffee, a candle, sage and something to write with. There are some rings in there that remind me to be strong; one from my sister, and one from me. I put them on, make the coffee, and burn the things that smell good. I write with one hand and pet the dog with the other.

When emotions swirl in, and wrap themselves up in my head, I’ve been trying to resist the urge to do battle. I’ve been trying to learn about mindfulness lately, as I figure 488 million Buddhists can’t be wrong about something as simple as being present. I find it challenging because my brain is a pretty loud, jangly place. It is not a peaceful drive in the country. It is a sticky child in the backseat eating crayons, asking if we’re there yet.  So I’m interested in this mindfulness business, focusing on letting feelings come and just sort of observing them. This is uncomfortable at times, which is why I don’t think that the Buddha would mind me pulling out said emergency kit before sitting with all of this shit.

Eventually, I would love to feel comfortable wherever I am, with no need for a sense of security. My inner calm would be all I needed. For now, as I figure that stuff out, I’m not going to feel bad about the fact that my dog and some sage can help me avoid a panic attack. Or that sometimes they aren’t enough.  If I’m going to jump into all of this vulnerability, I need a baby blanket sometimes. Literally– I have the blanket I came home from the hospital in, on hand. JUST IN CASE. If I’m going to quit drinking booze to try to find some inner peace and balance, I’m going to occasionally eat ice cream while crying to my mom about how dating is hard when you have to tell dudes that you’d love to meet for drinks but that you won’t be drinking and could they please for the love of PBR just order a beer and not get weird about it?  I strive to love every inch of my body, because it’s mine and I know deep down that it’s great. I’m still going to spin into a body-loathing frenzy from time to time that involves trying on 7 pairs of jeans and then hiding in bed pants-less for a few minutes before getting back up and trying again.

Pants attack

When pants attack. *

Last summer, I wanted to do a headstand. I practiced almost every day in my room, smashing around, falling down, and sweating. It was not pretty. Eventually, I figured it out. I was able to do one. So I tried handstands. Same process, same smashing. I still can only hold it for a few seconds before I fall on my face, but those moments that I’m up there, balancing, feel good. The moments that I’m lying on the floor panting, checking for rug burn, also feel good. It’s a mess, but the whole thing makes my body stronger. Trying to do a handstand makes my arms just as sore as doing the actual handstand. Point: There aren’t good and bad parts here. Just parts. Trying parts, succeeding parts, starting over parts.

Today, I thought about some heartbreak, and I thought about some insecurity, and I felt small. I took a bath. I thought about all of the ways in which I am capable of treating myself like shit, and was tempted to do them all. I drank some coffee. I convinced the dog to snuggle with me by bringing all of my bedding to the couch. I lit a candle. I wrote this. Every step forward is a celebration.

 

*Want a colorful print of pants attacking? Comment here or share this post for a chance to win your very own copy, which I will send you in the mail. xo

Congrats to last week’s winner, the beautiful and talented Andrea Gallagher. I picked the winner live on Snapchat (me: perplexxis) so you know it was an honest random pick 🙂

GTFO vs. bloom where you’re planted

Honest admission: I want to put my bed into a camper van, toss the dog in there, with a bunch of paper and pens and paints. I would drive around the country, slinging art, sleeping in my van. In reality, I would have no clue how to fix a van if it broke down, and without my sturdy 9 to 5, I wouldn’t have the money to do it in the first place. I like showering in my shower. I like sitting in my bedroom, after work, burning candles and rearranging furniture.  I recently started contributing more than zero dollars a month to my 401K fund, and I feel good about it. If that doesn’t strip me of my wanderlusty free spirit badge, I don’t know what does. And yet, the desire to run remains.

ByeJobsmall

Dream*

When I get restless, I first look back, to see if that’s the place I want to be. It’s not.  Paulo Coelho says “I think it’s important to realize you can miss something, but not want it back”. I miss Chicago, I miss mysterious, toxic people, and I miss smoking and drinking and dancing until the sun rises, but I don’t want any of it back.

I decided to move to Michigan from Chicago a year ago, to recover after a breakup and to find comfort in a state that I grew up in. It was part knee jerk part planned reaction. Most things I try to plan go directly to shit, but somehow, this one worked out. I had planned on a year. A year is, in my mind, how long you stay somewhere. A year is long enough to find a new passion, or job, or lover or person to live with. It’s long enough to hate something, to discover something better, or to decide it’s time for a fresh start. After a year, with no real reason to leave, I have no idea what to do. This has led me to a discovery: I love to react. Anyone else? Not reacting is hard, right? I started thinking about moving out of Michigan. Why? No idea. I just feel like I have to do something. Staying and just doing the things I’m doing now feels wrong, even though I love the things. So how long do we stay? Why do we stay? How do we know if we’re running away from something or towards something and do we have to judge it? Sometimes words do battle in my head. The word “complacent” and the word “content” fight when this topic comes up and I haven’t come up with a winner.  Did I “run away” or did I “try something new” when I left Chicago? Does it matter, if I’m better for it?

I’m in a better place now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to run.

 

*Want me to send you a beautiful large print of this silly drawing I did? Leave a reply or share this post, and I’ll pick one of you at random and mail it to you.

Alexis, 32, 0 Miles Away

Something I hear from my married or coupled friends is “I really miss dating” or “I miss feeling like I should put a bra on when I leave the house in case future boo is running to Walgreens too” or (I get this all the time) “I am so jealous that you get to do online dating. That seems really life affirming”.  You guys? This one’s for you. Because you miss it, and I feel like it’s my job to help you feel like you’re right there with me.

If you have been in a relationship for a long time, you may have missed the online dating boat all together. I’m so sorry. You know that feeling of leafing through wet garbage to look for something you lost, but are not really sure you even want it anymore? Like, an earring you kinda like or maybe a 15 dollar check from Consumer’s Energy but you’re thinking, “Is it worth it? This garbage smells really bad”. There you go. That’s what it’s like. Please, don’t be jealous of my positive attitude.Trashdate

Here are some fun things that have happened for me on Tinder this year:

I went on a date.  My take away from that is you should tell me that you live with your parents and hate everything before I spend the time to put on mascara and pants. I bought Wendy’s on the way home from that date. My chicken nuggets made me feel like the evening wasn’t a complete wash.  I love Wendy’s and I’m not ashamed of that. I don’t like people who hate everything and I’m not ashamed of that either.

After something like this, I usually go through the following steps:

  1. Delete dating app
  2. Excitedly do all of the fun alone things that make me happy, like reading and napping and drawing
  3. Wonder if people in the future will refer to this as my prolific period because I make more art when I’m not looking for someone to make out with. Wonders if people in the future will remember me.
  4. Remembers that making out is fun.
  5. Downloads dating app

So then I gave it another go.

I recently had an internet conversation with someone who didn’t look gross and wasn’t holding a dead deer or fish up to the camera. Promising, right? Unfortunately, he made a joke about sex positions, twice, and then told me to relax. Barf. Repeat steps 1 through 5 above.

It’s not all bad, of course. Going dancing is something I do more of when I’m single. Last weekend I went dancing and practiced this slick move where I basically dance away from anyone who approaches me.  My legs were sore for 2 days from doing this.  When I got home, I made my dog “shake” my hand in celebration of the fact that I went out and danced and stayed up late.  She’s really proud of me.

Recently, my therapist asked me if I was dating. I laughed hysterically and finished with a “whhhewww…..yeahh”. Then she wrote something down. I imagine she wrote “Seems to be really good at dating”.

16 months later + 620 words on heartbreak.

Heartbreak is no joke.  Whether you are the one that ends it or not, the end aches with loss and emptiness. Time passes, and sometimes it heals all wounds, like it’s supposed to. Sometimes it doesn’t. People tell you to keep on keepin’ on, because time will totally take care of your sad little heart. Recently I learned that if we don’t let ourselves feel our feelings, and get mad and confront certain shitty truths, time can pass, and we can stay in the same place.

I went through a really hard breakup a little over a year ago. I thought that time would fix things. I thought 6 months sounded about right. But then 6 months passed. I was still hurting. It was constantly on my mind. I met new people but was not fully present because I was always thinking that maybe I made a mistake. Maybe that past relationship wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe I needed that person in my life at the cost of so many other things. Only recently, I realized that time does help to numb the sharpness of the loss, but by pretending I was fine, that I wasn’t mad, that it didn’t hurt, I was keeping myself in the same shitty place, mentally. I kept small ties to the person I had been with, because finally letting go would mean exactly that. That I had let them go. I found this quote by Lou Doillon. She’s a beautiful French woman who writes and sings and acts and I would like to be her friend. She had things to say about heartbreak and I was all “yes, yes, mhmm, yes” about it:

The best way to deal with heartbreak, she said, “is to embrace it, to surrender to it, because it’s all right and it makes you a better person to let it destroy you. My grandfather used to say, ‘No one’s dead yet’. The worst drama in life is death. The second drama in life is heartbreak. The worst ones are the ones that have to do with passion. I do believe that passion is a projection and love is a projection, when you fall in love with people who are mysterious enough for you to project whatever you needed to project. Those are the worst heartbreaks because it was all a fantasy anyway. You’re closer to a junkie at that point, so you might as well surrender to [the heartbreak].”—Jezebel

I had so much trouble with surrendering to the heartbreak and the loss because it made me feel vulnerable. I was much better at hurtling myself through the day, with tear soaked cheeks and wine stained lips, yelling “I’M FINE” as I headed off to my zillionth yoga class of the week. I thought I looked very together. Nobody bought it, because wine lips don’t lie, and when I try to lie I fail miserably. So I had to give it up, and go back to square one. Crap.

Heartbreak is hard but I don’t think we need to fear it. Embracing it without romanticizing it, accepting that you might be sabotaging your own grief by not letting go, and being about 10 times kinder to yourself than you think you deserve. That’s my advice, based on a year of mistakes and wrong turns. I deal with as it comes, whether it’s every day or once a week. I just let it in. It’s like a ringing phone. I answer it, I let it talk, and I listen, and then I hang up the phone. Letting the damn thing ring and ring will drive you nuts. I just go with the hope that, one day, it stops calling.

xo

Thoughts? Feels? Leave ’em in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Come hang out in this mess.

“Please don’t clean for me”, my mother says before she comes to visit.  I used to ignore her, and fly into a sweeping  and Windex frenzy. At some point I stopped. I realized that no amount of cleaning would make her feel differently about me. She knows I’m not perfect, so there isn’t a point in hiding the laundry in the closet in an attempt to prove otherwise. I fly into a frenzy about plenty of other things, but that is a different story for another day.

I am fairly certain that no one feels like their perfect Instagram looks all of the time. The moments of “finished product” or mornings of picturesque coffee-scapes are fleeting. Most of the time is spent knocking coffee grounds off the scooper and onto the counter AGAIN and cleaning them up with your hand and what the HELL is the dog licking off the rug. Ew. What is that? Then, for maybe 30 seconds, the freshly cleaned counter is dappled with sunlight, and the coffee looks like art. There are no drips on the edge. Your dirty hands are not in the frame. And that’s fine. I am not railing against curated online imagery, or magazines full of perfect moments. I just know too many bloggers and stylists and photographers and event creators to believe for a moment that anyone lives like this all of the time, or even most of the time. These are beautiful, messy, real people, who are not perfect.

Our lives are full of so many moments. Some make us want to and take a picture. That is so beautiful. I want to remember that, to show everyone how beautiful this is. I don’t think that’s fake or hollow. Please, show the world a beautiful picture. But in our daily lives, it takes a little more vulnerability, not to overuse that word, but it does, to show the unhinging and the mess. To admit, even if it is to a few of your friends, that you are not feeling amazing. Tell them about a mistake. Tell them what you learned, or didn’t learn and how you totally made that mistake several more times. Let people come to your messy house. Do not apologize for your dirty car. You are living, and I think showing people that is the simplest way to build a community. Not a community of admirers, who are certain that your life is perfect, but of people who see you and know you. That feels like home. I promise. Even if it’s three people, it’s a relief.

There will always be people to judge you for being messy, for being too neat, for being boring, for being too crass or too hippy-dippy or whatever it is. I know: I have been very guilty of being annoyed with people for their “perfect lives” or “seemingly well-behaved dogs” or “ability to drink just 2 glasses of wine and not 5” or whatever it is. That has shown me two things:

  1. I was judging people based on what their lives looked like and
  2. All of those things had to do with my own insecurities.

Do what you want. Take selfies and take pictures of your perfect brunch date. Do it because you want to. When you are sitting there, though, looking through images online or in magazines or on television, remember: these images can’t encapsulate a person. These images do not change who you are. Your reactions might teach you something, like, “I am really insecure about how horribly behaved my dog is”, or “I really have a messed up view of my body if that person’s body is literally making me grit my teeth”. It’s fine. You are not a horrible messed up person. You are a person. These are other people.  I read this quote by Baba Sheikh Farid that Laura McKowen referenced in an essay:

“I thought it was I alone who suffered. I went on top of the house, and found every house on fire.”

 We’re all so hard on ourselves. We’re all on fire. I hope we can be a little messier together, and find the beauty there too. I’m trying to do my part, by sharing my mess. Seriously, I have no idea what the dog is licking off the floor. She’s gross, and she’s probably going to jump directly at your crotch when you walk into my house. I’ll live.

 

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A dog and a control freak

Let me tell you a story about a dog and a control freak.

As I write, my dog of 4 years, a pitbull/bloodhound/mutt lays peacefully on my bed. She is peaceful because she is tired. She is tired because she got up at 2:30AM, dragged me, crazy head cold and all, out to the yard under the guise of answering nature’s call. At that time, she ran, full-tilt, Kool-Aid man style into the fence, thereby releasing herself into the neighborhood. There was a rabbit. It needed to be chased. I made some sort of noise that was an attempt at whisper-screaming, which is not effective, and will still scare your neighbors. I stomped around, looking for my coat, swearing as I shoved my bare feet into my boots. Tearing out of the front door, standing under the street light with my runny nose and my unzipped winter coat flying in the breeze, I felt the familiar feeling that I get when Daisy is a monster: I had no control. I was mad. I loved her and needed her to come back.

When I first got Daisy, I would come home to find all of the photos knocked off the wall, fruit from the bowl on the table torn to shreds, mixed in with shampoo, some glass from a make-up compact, the  combo spread all over my bed.  Ah. I had forgotten to latch the crate correctly. There’s nothing to do but clean it up. Well, first, I would usually melt into a pile of tears on the floor because this was somehow my failing. I was not good at dog. I could not dog properly.

The first time she got off her leash was when I realized that I loved her fiercely. Every time she ate a thing that I loved, I learned patience and the value in not placing too much value on material items. She collected my tears in her stinky fur, watching boyfriends come and go. She moved from one apartment to the next, and finally, she rode in the moving truck on my sister’s lap, and I drove, with tears in my eyes (dangerous, btw) out of Chicago and home to Michigan.

She makes mistakes. She gets anxious and loses it. I still love her.  Luckily, the people in my life say the exact same thing about me.

What I’m trying to say here is that Daisy is a source of comfort and frustration and in the end, I can only respond with love. I also respond with yelling, but not too much.  I have to let go of control because it’s not all me here, running things. There would be so much lost in our lives if we didn’t welcome in the things that were going to take away our tightly guarded control. Maybe for you it isn’t a dog. Maybe it’s giving in every once in a while and stepping outside of your routine. Maybe it’s falling in love even though you’ve been burned. I’m so new at this, and have so much to let go of, but Daisy is a good reminder.

Now, if you will excuse me, my sweet beam of sunshine and joy is dry heaving on my pillow. Bless her.

Self-love: A slow and annoying journey

Self-love. That sounds so nice! What do you think of when you hear those words? I think of candles.  Nothing out there says I love me like a bathtub and some scented candles. It also makes me say “this water is getting cold and I want my bed and have no patience for baths” which is a whole other problem because baths are great probably.

Candles and positive affirmations aside, there is one piece I was totally missing and now I’m pissed. Self-love takes all sorts of time. As in, you can’t tell me how much time, and I have no idea, and some days I feel like I’ve been watering a plastic ficus tree or keeping time with a broken watch. “Hello!” I say to the self-love that I apparently have been building up. “Is this thing on?”.

Oh. It takes time, you say. Shit. That is disappointing to me.

You see, it was hard to take the first steps. I ended bad relationships. I came to terms with the fact that I was restricting calories and exercising as a way of controlling my size/life/self-worth. I stopped counting calories, which was annoying, and frustrating, but after a few weeks, I was proud. Look at me, on the road to self-love. But this road? It’s SUPER LONG. Along the way there are these little towns of self-love and then there are these other shitty towns of self-loathing where I start to stare at the map, absolutely sure I am off course.

What do you do?  All I can figure for now is that on the good, positive days, I need to make a mental note that I am here and  I’m in a good place. That way, when I’m in the place where I am obsessing over last night’s pizza and beer, the fact that I slept through yoga again, and am starting to second guess almost every choice I’ve ever made, I can say “Uh huh, gotcha dude. Now, if you wouldn’t mind recalling the way we felt, I dunno, 3 days ago, when we felt like a very special and sparkley babe…yes, let’s think about that”.

Anyone else? Seriously, if there was a pill I could take or a yoga pose that would just bring on the love, I would be there, and would tell you all about it. I suspect this is one of those “journeys”?  I’m in the car, I’m liking the view out the window for the most part, but…are we there yet?!

Hello from the other side (of the lake).

Sitting in bed, with a head cold, a dog, and a very fancy frozen yogurt dinner, I decided that I wanted to go back and find my old blog. With an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation on (in addition to a very comfortable pair of Star Wars pjs, for nerdy balance) I started digging around and found www.mistakesbythelake.blogspot.com. I read the posts. I felt feelings. Damnit.  Me two years ago sounds like…me now. I was expecting to hear the voice of someone much younger or at least more naïve. Yes, I know 2 years is not a long amount of time. So much has happened though! My internal voice should sound much more sage-like and world-worn, now that I had gotten engaged, broken up, threw all the plans up in the air, moved back to Michigan and started that not-as-fun-as-it-sounds process of “self-love”. I felt like I would feel so far away from that author writing in May of 2013.

So what to do? The whole plan here was to look at that and say “Oh man, how little I knew…and now, well now my heart has been slammed around and I have this knowledge to share”. So I thought about it. I ate the rest of my froyo . I looked at the dog, which is what I do when I want answers. I just stare at her perfect dog face like it’s an oracle. Then I reread the posts. And I did some cries. Here’s what I got:

  • I know things now I didn’t know then. For example, there were things that made me think “if that happened, I wouldn’t survive”, like having to call off your wedding and  selling your wedding dress to a girl off Craigslist while you’re packing to move out of the city you’d loved for 8 years. But then I did survive. That lesson is priceless.
  • I am the same person who wants to find peace, who gets anxious, who wants very badly to love her body, and feels loved by people and knows she has about 3 times the amount of emotion that she is able to handle on any given day.
  • Here’s one: I’ve made some sort of peace with my creative process. It isn’t the art I thought I would make, which is just another way life is all “OH YOU HAD PLANS HAHAHA YOU DON’T GET THOSE” and it’s magical.

I am by a different lake now. I am still making mistakes. I am still moving forward. I don’t need to start over anymore* because I’m fine like this. Headcold, weirdo pjs, stinky dog guru…all of it. I want to tell you about it. I’m not trying to sell you my lifestyle, I promise. Like, it’s not for sale and I don’t even know what I would sell you…time with my dog oracle? Fresh nerd-wear?  Maybe (I hope) you’ll tell me about some of your stuff, and we’ll be fine together, and maybe even better than fine sometimes. Xo

*I had to start the blog over, but that’s just because I didn’t like the words “blogspot.com” for some reason.