That feels very accurate to my experience over the last several years. I’ve been jumping from one crazy life event to another while managing multiple other mini dumpster fires. It’s been a wild ride and I’m burnt out. My nervous system is on edge and I don’t know how to calm it the fuck down. Or maybe it’s that I never have enough time to actually destress. Or I don’t know an effective method of destressing. Is there even such a thing?
Massage. Acupuncture. Therapy. Dancing. Art. Crying. Swimming. Yoga. Talking to friends. Enjoying a day a the beach. Exercising. Vacations. Most of these things cost a lot of money. Some of them do not. But all of them take time. Usually a lot of time that quickly dissipates like little mud puddles in mid-August. Adults don’t have enough time anymore, or enough money.
I was complaining to a friend that I have all of these little bills piling up, parking tickets, toll bills, even a UW library bill for $360! She said, “These are all avoidable things!” And I said, “No, I don’t think they are. Not when I’m this burnt out and have no time for myself.” See this article on Millennial Burnout for details.
I have been constantly going, traveling, hustling, working, driving, moving, to exhaustion.
And I’ve been noticing it in my body when I’m still and I take a minute to listen (which rarely happens). I’m stiff, sore, achy, puffy, bloated, inflamed. I eat poorly and my digestion suffers. My neck is always sore, my back is always aching. I feel that I can never stretch enough, move enough, exercise enough, it will never really get the kinks out of my muscles and joints. There is no such thing as a perfect state. There is no such thing as Eden.
I’ve also been realizing just how bad my boundaries really are.
Years ago, when I saw Jim Carrey’s Yes Man, I thought Yes! I need to do that. If I say yes to everything, then essentially I’m saying yes to life; more amazing experiences, less lethargy and depression. So I try to say “yes” more often than “no”. But I rarely stop to consider if what I’m doing is what I really want to be doing. I allow people in and in and in and never have enough alone time–and as a Virgo, there is never enough alone time. I’m trying to learn the art of prioritizing myself. It’s hard.
I say yes to a lot of things.
Like that one time I biked down the West coast with two boys I barely knew from college, one of whom I felt a chronic luv-lust for coupled with a deepening sadness because I knew he didn’t luv-lust me back. I felt bitter and angry chemicals mingling with all the euphoric endorphins pumping their way through me as we went up and down those massive mountains, and it all ended in heartbreak. Later, I went on many more solo bike trips (and had before), and it was waaaaay better.
The time I “sailed” across the Pacific Ocean from Kauai to Seattle with a coworker’s mad misogynist alcoholic godfather. We raged at one another across the coffee table that stood between our two beds as he poked fun at my “self-help” book. That book was actually a feminist manifesto of sorts by Sue Monk Kidd, an incredibly intelligent woman who fought her way out of her religious patriarchal upbringing into a relationship with the Divine Feminine. It was a book that resonated deeply with me and bore witness to my own traumatic religious upbringing. His angry red face blistered with sun and liquor only fed my feminist ire.
The countless times I fell into relationships because I just so happened to slip on a banana peel and whoops, we landed in bed! I desperately wanted to have sex, be sexual, be intimate, anything! I made a lot of mistakes, haphazardly and reckless, throwing myself headlong into the world of dating and sex after a lifetime of enforced celibacy and “purity.”
he time I went hitchhiking with my partner to see the Eclipse, an experience I’m eternally grateful for both for the Eclipse and the hitchhiking. Later I ended up trimming weed with him on a farm in Southern Oregon, a low point in my working class weird jobs history, not to mention the fact that my father died right in the middle of the season.
The time I went to the Philippines with my best friend because they had always wanted to see the crucifixions and the penitents on Easter. It was never a place I’ve been drawn to for any reason, but I went because they are my best friend and they asked me. I felt mildly traumatized and triggered by all the blood and suffering and then we ended up having a philosophical fight about our differing religious and spiritual value systems.
The time (recently!) I had sex with a Columbian man in a hostel room (while another guy was sleeping right above us in the middle of the day) because he gave me such an amazing, full body massage. I don’t regret it, not at all.
The other night when my best friend wanted to take acid and go to Neumo’s on a Saturday night. It was a wild and crazy jungle littered with anxious thoughts about the girl stumbling drunk around the dance floor looking for someone, anyone to engage. But also the incredible dancing happening all around me by a very eclectic crowd of people. The line of girls waiting for the bathroom, and my thoughts–I am a queer body, this is my queer body! This is the experience of a genderqueer body in a women’s bathroom. In the privacy of the stall I held my hands up to the light and looked down at my hairy legs, my hairy crotch, the blood on the toilet paper in the toilet bowl. This is the experience of a bleeding genderqueer body. I even took a picture. I watched the dots on the floor swirl into a lovely pattern before my eyes, I was so high. On the dance floor I bounced a balloon up into the air and kept it afloat as I swirled and moved around the room, in and out of different groups, This is the experience of a genderqueer. Then when I couldn’t locate my friend for all of 20 minutes, I freaked out and didn’t want to be there anymore. I said goodbye and walked most of the way home, staring at trees and shrubs along the way. I stopped midway across the University Bridge and reflected, It’s been a year since my surgery. My body, this queer body, mine. I am a new body, this, my beautiful genderqueer body. And I felt powerful as I stumbled along in the darkness under the softly swaying trees in the park, I am the predator. I am taking back the night, while passing male people on the sidewalk, holding my head high.
It’s not that these were bad experiences, they were even mostly good moments.
I guess what I’m noticing in all of these instances is that I didn’t stop to consider what I wanted the outcome to be or how I wanted it to be.
In a lot of these moments I was thinking, Why not? What’s the harm? Or even, Well, if I don’t do this now, then I never will. Especially those early memories, of biking down the coast, sailing across an ocean, and falling into relationships. Some of them came from a place of scarcity, like I’d never get another chance.
Yesterday, I wandered into EastWest Books and picked up this book called, Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, a life influencer. I skimmed through the book because I’d heard of her before and saw mostly bits of memoir about starting a business, how she wanted to be a New York Times Bestseller but failed in front of 150,000 people, that she even got a boob job, and hates volunteering at her kids’ school! Ha. Anyway, I got bored quickly (oh funny, you might also by now, reading bits of my memoiry blog post!) and had to skip all the way to the end to find anything useful. I finally did though.
She recommends that instead of writing a to-do list, write a “results list.” Think about the outcome or result that you want, and set goals according to that. Instead of writing, “Work on manuscript,” put down “write 2,500 words” as your goal, the result you’re aiming for. You’ll get a lot more done.
Then figure out how to get that goal done in the most efficient way possible, whatever that looks like for you. Don’t meet your friend at the coffeeshop and gossip for an hour and a half with just twenty minutes of writing (guilty). Go alone and get those solid three hours in.
She also talked about how to specifically meet your writing goals–because, well, she is a writer. It was really helpful, actually. She said there is no perfect writing environment, you just have to get used to writing in all different ways and times, in chaos, in stillness, at home, in the office. (Like right now, I’m writing this at work because there’s nothing else to do!) But by setting up cues, you can train yourself to write anywhere. Whether by completing the ritual of ordering your favorite coffee drink, or going to “your coffeeshop” or putting in your earbuds with your curated playlist that helps you work, you can create a cue that gets you writing.
But it’s also about cutting through the crap and getting the results. Because if you just keep saying you’re going to do something, but you don’t carve out real action steps towards your goal, then you’ll never get it done.
If I just keep saying that I’m writing a zine about hair, but I never make an action plan to systematically achieve it, then it will never get printed.
So, Girl, Make an Action Plan/Results List! That should probably be her next book. She also wrote one called Girl, Wash Your Face. (I probably won’t read that one either, but I might get it from the library and skim for the one nugget of usefulness.)
I’ve learned a lot going from one dumpster fire/crisis to the next. I’m also single now. For once in my life I’ve slowed down and listened to my body enough to realize that I don’t actually want to be in a relationship. Perhaps I never really did. A few months ago, I went on a few dates with some girls from Tinder, but I very quickly realized that I’m not ready and I’m so not into it. (But also don’t judge me if I get right back into one!)
When I first started dating (at the ripe old age of 20), as soon as I’d get into a relationship (which, I swear, happens just like slipping on a banana peel, concussion and everything!) I’d want to get right back out of it. I never took the time to think it through, like, Is this person compatible with me? Do I even like them, like really, really like them? I think my primary focus was almost always sex. Well, duh, of course it is in romantic relationships. That is kind of the whole point, otherwise we’d just have a bunch of best friends, right? But that’s what gets me into trouble, the whole sex thing, and having or not having access to sex. Hence, a hostel hookup in the middle of the day!
Oh yeah, but dumpster fires. I’ve been chasing all these crazy experiences and I’ve been doing some art along the way. But I’m not very happy with my output. I could be a lot more effective if I have routines in place and am more intentional about the things I say yes to on a daily and yearly basis.
And this is where this shit gets hard. As much as I hate humanity and loathe mainstream culture (that weird, existential gender crisis in the bathroom at the meat market/Neumo’s?), I love hanging out with people, I love traveling, talking on the phone with my friends, my loved ones. I love connecting with people, having all the feels, externally processing the shit out of everything, going on adventures, experiencing new things.
That’s what I want, what I need.
Now that I’ve been back in Seattle for two years (two years!) and just got a new, full time job for the first time in EVER, I’m hoping things will begin to quiet down. One more dumpster fire to put out? Maybe. But I also know that it comes down to setting better boundaries with myself and my time, being more intentional, and saying no so I can say yes to me.