how are you holding up?
Whatever you’re feeling is valid and I hope you are finding comfort.
I am not in an at-risk age group, I have the means to buy supplies, and I have a safe location to stay in for a while. There are kids who are going hungry because they’re missing their school lunch, jobs in hospitality on hold, friends of mine unable to celebrate weddings, babies born and so many more huge heavy things.
So it's with a huge acknowledgement of my privilege, I’m going to tell you a bit about my experience this week in hopes it brings comfort and because sharing comforts me, I hope that's alright? I'm having a tough time.
I’ve always found the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the world goes quiet alarming, not cozy. I’ve realized in recent years my tendency to exist as an errand-running, overscheduling, workaholic, with a gotta go go go go go go go go go attitude doesn’t mesh well with days where I’m expected to rest. Basically, I was bad at: holidays, vacations, anything where I’m not in control…
My anxiety has a field day out of my normal habits and routines. Aware of this, last year I decided to flip my life upside down. Long-term solo travel became my school to re-learn how to be flexible, spend time alone, release control, and rest.
After 2 months abroad, I returned to the States and so did my old habits of rigidity and overwhelm. Within a few days, I was rushing around running errands, my social and work calendars were overbooked. And I was back to my rigid, perfectionistic, and food restricting pattern. It was like everything I learned on my trip came undone, I was back and so was all my baggage I’d hoped to lose.
As things escalated with COVID-19, the plans I made dissolved. And with a clear calendar and a stocked fridge, I realize what I thought was my own personal hell (a cocktail of isolation, loneliness, and lack of control and uncertainty) is actually my own personal masterclass in self growth and reflection.
The lack of control and uncertainty in all of this has brought to the surface many of the insecurities and character flaws I’ve been working on growing. When I chose evolve as the theme word for letitouttt this month, I had no idea how drastic the change would be or how quick.
This week as we all warm up to this reality that feels like a movie, I'm reminded me of our interconnectedness. That we are all not that different, we are just bodies. And turns out people love being amongst other people. Regardless of our nationality or fame or status, we are delicate human bodies. And delicate [some of us more than others] human minds.
My human mind is in a bit of turmoil. On my flight from Australia, I started watching The Good Place and now I keep thinking, "oh this is my own personal bad place [helllll]" With my depression and anxiety, the lack of togetherness reminds me how important public places, connection, and celebration mean to me. How it is an important anxiety coping mechanism I've taken it for granted.
Most uncomfortably, social distancing is pointing out my codependency on social engagements, errands and meetings as distractions from being with myself, my creative work, and my feelings. When you’re stripped of this addiction cold turkey, it’s jarring. I’m going through withdrawals and it is rough...
But of course because of technology, I can still distract and connect. ((phew))
The weather in LA matches the somber heaviness of the moment. It’s dark, cold, and rainy so being outside really isn't an option especially because I only have warm weather clothes in the suitcase I packed in January. But yesterday I didn't care, I HAD TO GET OUT OF THIS ROOM. As I walked down the street in the rain, vigorously voice texting and calling friends, my phone got wet and stopped working.
“ YIKES. THIS IS MY LIFE. WHAT IF THE APPLE STORE SHUTS DOWN THEN I WILL REALLY BE ALONE!”
I felt a wave of gratitude for social media, podcasts, FaceTime, and technology in general as a substitute for IRL connection.
Eventually, my phone turned back on… I survived.
Ironically, last year still living in Brooklyn I felt so overwhelmed and over scheduled...wait no I've felt that for approximately the last 29 years. I'm self-aware of the fact I'm a "time optimist" packing in as much as I can in a short amount of time and in constant state of overwhelm. It's difficult to be present from this place and not fun to be around.
It got so bad last year I realized I was doing it to distract myself from my pain. I felt nostalgic for a time I lived alone in Michigan with barely any friends or distractions. I was 24 and extremely productive. I wrote my book, started a podcast, took all the online courses, all while working remotely full time. I did a lot, but had very little social interaction.
When I moved to NYC, it was the opposite-- running from meeting to meeting, uptown for a podcast, downtown for a dinner, midtown for a doctor, Brooklyn for a party, "sure I can make it to Harlem for your boyfriend's birthday no prob." I lived in the scarcity mentality of, 'if i don't go i might be alone forever, i might never get invited again.' Completely disregarding how little energy I had.
Between interactions, I filled my brain by calling a friend or eavesdropping on smart people on the latest Fresh Air episode. I didn’t let one second pass where I sat alone with my thoughts. I’d get home so late enough I’d crash into bed and do it all again the next day.
The contrast of how I lived in New York to how I lived in Michigan showed me I’m capable of both extremes. The pendulum usually goes too far in one direction before I realize I need to pivot and discover a middle between isolation and busyness. It’s neither secerio involved downtime, much less boredom. I was constantly distracting, either alone or with others. But with others felt healthy.
At the end of last year, aware of this pattern--instead of choosing to make that shift by saying no to plans and carving out more space for myself to breathe, I left the hemisphere. (i’m an extremist)
I spent the first 3 weeks of the year alone in Bali, a place where I knew no one and everyone I did know back in the States would be sleeping most of the hours I was awake. I woke up day after day confused and depressed, until suddenly a week in, I woke up one morning at peace. I’d warmed up with myself.
But what got me through the difficult loneliness then and what will get me through this isolation now is being able to take breaks from facing my feelings. I can still cope sometimes because I have a phone. I can listen to podcasts, I can make podcasts, I can reach out to a friend and even if they’re sleeping. The truth is it’s okay to distract sometimes, being a human with feelings is intense which is why we have friends, phones, Lizzo, and snacks:: to make it all a little more pleasant while we’re here.
Connection and collaboration keep me going. I’m held together by a web of people I’ve collected over the last several decades across the world. At a time where people are distancing, we must still connect. Picking up our phones to actually make calls and sending check ins to each other is impactful.
I am a single person, yet usually I don't feel lonely. But this week, what’s helped has been the pals who have checked on me. If you know someone who doesn't have a Rita to their Tom in quarantine, maybe check on them. Just as you’d check on your lone friends over Christmas, check on them now…
Actually check on everyone, we're in short distance relationships now.
WHAT I CAN DO TO CONNECT OTHER PEOPLE
[FROM A DISTANCE]
—>CALL, CARE, CHECK IN & listen to their feelings.
—> trust that whatever anyone is feeling is valid because it’s what they’re feeling. (( a good practice in relationship in general and one I've had to train myself in))
—> seek to understand where people are coming from rather than make people understand where I’m coming from.
SOME IMPORTANT SELF-CARE THINGS TRYING TO DO
((BUT THIS IS A LONG INTENSE EMAIL SO CAN WE PAUSE AND PLAY A SONG? HERE'S A NICE ONE. ))
ON FOOD & BODY IMAGE
I’m eating enough. my tendency during stressful times is to restrict and go back to old ways. Trying to not do that, which included getting groceries, keeping food in my house, and cooking, which are all things I rarely do. I wrote a long essay about where I am in 2020 with food & body image here. It is a big shift to how things were even a year ago.
two things that might be helpful related to this right now.
- my friend Brooke, a therapist made this amazing resource about body dysmorphia.
- isabel wrote this today for us. it hit me hard.
I’ve been jet lagged, so I’ve been staying up late and having trouble falling asleep for the first time in a while. I’m now trying to go to bed earlier and wake up at the same time daily. I’m considering becoming a napper… will report back on this.
I heard Mary Karr say once, that "People are her nature." I've felt the same but that's not possible right now, so the next best thing is the outdoors. It’s raining in LA, which is jarring for me since I’ve been fortunate to spend the year traveling. Despite the rain and cold and my lack of warm clothes, I’m still getting outside and going on walks.
I prefer group fitness classes to a gym or home workouts because of the familiar strangers and the activity of it forces me to leave my house. Videos are a nice substitute. My best friend simi made this in the nick of time and has a community around it.
Plans are changing, things are closing, and there’s uncertainty. I’m taking this as an opportunity to practice presence. Things not going my way will happen regardless of the pandemic. This is good practice. After this it will be a nice shock when things do go as scheduled (!!)
Brene Brown says, “Unused creativity is not benign.” With that, I’m reopening my creativity clinic this week. I was meant to be in Mexico, but instead I will be offering my services as a midwife to creative projects wanting to be birthed.
***I am giving away 3 free sessions in my creative clinic. The first two to dm me on instagram will get the spots.
MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS EMAIL IS BELOW!!!!!!!!!!! YOU'VE MADE IT THIS FAR....
HELPING PEOPLE IS THE MOST USEFUL WAY FOR ME TO GET OUT OF MY OWN HEAD WHEN I'M SPIRALING.
WHAT I'M DOING:
—> support artists and small businesses, freelance creators, and entrepreneurs as much as I can. I’m tipping everyone I do encounter the largest % I can…and buying gift cards to my favorite places & tickets to future shows. just bought tickets to see Big Thief very far away
—> still make and share your art. Whether you have a podcast or blog or are an artist. Try to do it as much as you can and share it with other people.///\\\///\\\
1. I put out an episode of my podcast last week with someone I met during that time in Bali (see, it didn’t take me long to end up making Ubud like NYC)
2. **I’m offering my workshop Let [a podcast] Out at a discounted rate through the end of the month because I read this week that:
- "We are seeing a large uptick in the number of podcast episodes being downloaded!"
- "Podcasts are the most accessible & effective means for people to hear a long-form message."
- "Businesses are even using them for internal communication now! "
I think a nice way to use them right now is to share our feelings, learnings, and come together in peace right now (like Lizzo did with this mediation.)
In short, if you have a podcast my advice is keep making it and publishing it. And if you want to have one, make it!
People will listen and care.
Lastly, some words on traveling…
Traveling is a privilege and one that I no longer take for granted. I didn’t leave the country for years... until last year, when travel became something that helped my mental health--mostly because of the connection and togetherness it offered but also because of the practice in flexibility.
As I’m writing this, I was meant to be in Mexico. I am reflecting on how grateful I am for my long term traveling and the increased sensory awareness it gave me this year so far. I aim to keep this explorer mindset, whether I’m the town I grew up in, Antarctica, or in quarantine.
I heard this week, "boredom is just a lack of presence.”
I hope you can strike a balance of: rest and productivity, connection and solitude, and creativity and inspiration.
If anyone needs support right now during this limited togetherness, I would love to help you however I can. There will be a new podcast episode thursday and Spiraling (my mental health podcast with Serena Wolf) will return early to make us laugh and feel less alone in this.
People need people. This is intense, hard and complicated. Let me know if I can help you. I'm grateful you are on this list and cared enough about me to read this long update.
PS. just an FYI this is the last time I will be launching my Let [a podcast] Out workshop, so if you’ve ever considered joining, this is it. Feel free to check out the alumni page here to see some of the podcasts the workshop has helped create.
oh and one last thing for world's longest email...
A workshop on instagram live last week. if you want to watch it. it was a weird fun distance hang.
If you weren't able to join or want to watch again you can check the video recording out here or grab the audio recording here