This morning, I woke up cursing. The reason: my feet were freezing. In New York, where I live, the powers-that-be recently decided to cancel autumn. Normally, we have a good three weeks in between the hot garbage smells of summer and the horror of winter for crispy-leafed, light jacket weather. This year, however, we blew past that part entirely. (I mean, who even likes fall anyway?) We went summer-to-winter, zero-to-sixty. Hence, my waking up with cold feet. And hence, my waking up cursing.Read More
You ever wonder what in the actual hell you are doing with your life?
Me -- nah. No way.
I walk around planet Earth just outrageously certain of myself, confident in my every decision. And man, it shows.
Daily, I'm stopped on the street by people who all have the exact same thing to tell me: "Good god, woman!" they exclaim. "You look like someone who KNOWS where she is going. Not just, like, directionally-speaking, by the way. What I mean to say is --" they pause briefly, struggling to find the words. "What I mean to say is that you seem to have this general sureness about yourself and your future. The heavens smile down on you for your fearless determination towards your singular, unwavering goal. Good for you, girl. GOOD. FOR. YOU."
I then respond to this commonplace occurrence by simply shrugging my shoulders, smiling, tossing a mixture of glitter and five-hundred $1 bills in the air, and laughing as I mount the back of a motorcycle driven by my good friend and Grammy-award-winner, Rihanna. We ride off into the sunset together, leaving behind a trail of superfluous sparkle and currency.
And then I wake up.
The honest truth is I am never stopped on the street by such admiring strangers. Rihanna is not a close, personal friend. I am sorry if I misled you.
And the other honest truth is that I'm not always outrageously certain of myself either, particularly when it comes to existential matters of the what-am-I-doing-with-my-life variety.
See, I've got this condition, and perhaps you've got it too: I like a bunch of stuff.
In other words, I'm multi-passionate.
This means that I am seldom working towards one focused, singular goal. In fact, I'm often working towards multiple goals, fueled by a vast spectrum of interests, regularly dropping other ambitions in pursuit of new ones (a cardinal sin, many would say). Instead of living my life like a golden retriever on a treadmill running towards a steak attached to a fishing line, I live more like a chihuahua who got loose in an unsupervised butcher shop (i.e. I have several interests vying for my attention. There are many, many steaks, if you will).
For reference, here's a list of things I enjoy/care about/am skilled in, in no particular order: writing, reading, organizing events, traveling, being alone, being with people, being with some people but not other people, theater, music, podcasts, television, video editing, musicals, psychology, teaching, public speaking, leading small groups, Twitter, babies who wear glasses, convincing people to watch The Great British Bake Off, wearing fuchsia, Photoshop, design, singing, working with kids, baking, improv, blogging (oh yeah, that), feminism, activism, performing, wearing jumpsuits. The list goes on.
Offhand, this certainly doesn't seem like the worst condition to have. I always tend to agree with the adage that to be interesting, you must first be interested. (Doesn't that just have the very best ring to it?)
But the problem with being multi-passionate is that it can have the effect of making the road of life, particularly the road of a professional or artistic life, feel a bit winding and full of detours. The moment you start to pursue one interest, you immediately feel like you are leaving all of the others in the dust.
Here's a terrible diagram I drew to help illustrate this point:
If you're multi-passionate, perhaps you are familiar with what it feels like to experience life in this way. Others around you seem to be progressing at a normal speed towards something concrete while you are pulled in a million directions towards this vague idea of feeling "fulfilled."
This habit of falling in love with a million different life paths can make it hard to feel like you are ever really achieving expert status in anything. How could anyone ever possibly find the time to turn each of their multiple passions into honed disciplines?
Thus, for the non-expert, unsure, multi-passionate human being, a nagging question can sometimes start circulating in the mind, seemingly out of nowhere --
What in the actual hell am I doing?
That's the question that arrives in my mind, at least. Perhaps in your mind you use less salty language, but you get the idea.
This question, by the way, doesn't stand alone. It has friends: other kinds of questions that are all sort of similar but daunting in their own unique way. Questions like --
- Am I wasting my time?
- Am I in the right career?
- Am I good at this?
- What does everyone else think about this path I'm on?
- Am I doing what I'm doing for the right reasons?
- Am I being true to myself?
- Should I just give up already?
If any of this is sounding familiar to you, then unfortunately, the prognosis is official: you're multi-passionate. You like a bunch of stuff. You're doomed.
That is, until you consider the alternative.
Think about all of those other guys: the ones who know exactly what they want and always have known and won't stop until they get it.
What happens when they reach their goal only to find out that it's not all it's cracked up to be?
Or worse yet, what happens if something completely derails them from ever reaching their goal in the first place?
What if the won't-stop-until-I-become-a-scented-candle-maker guy loses his sense of smell? (Is that possible? I hope not.)
What if the won't-stop-until-I-become-the-first-person-on-Mars lady realizes that space is a vast wasteland that is better left unknown? (My personal opinion and I stand by it)
Certainly, this results in a crisis of sorts, and a big one at that.
But you, my multi-passionate, multi-talented, multi-fascinated friend: you're different.
While many people throughout your life will accuse you of being a head-in-the-clouds, impractical nutcase, I would argue that the opposite is true.
I would say that you're a hyper-realist (and so am I! Phew!). You know that there is more than just one option for you. You know that life is essentially just free sample day at Trader Joe's. You can try stuff. You can love stuff. You can hate stuff. You can combine stuff. You can even build a whole goddamn meal out of JUST. FREE. SAMPLES, you clever thing, you!
So when life throws you a curveball, you've got options. You may not know everything there is to know about one subject, but you know at least a decent amount about lots of subjects. At worst, this makes you a wonderful conversationalist, and at best, it makes you a valuable asset wherever you go. Seriously.
But it's a trade-off, right? For the singularly focused passionate person, there's potential for a HUGE crisis if a goal isn't met. For the multi-passionate person, there's even greater potential for a series of mini-crises for, like, the rest of your life.
(Sorry, but it's true.)
So if you're feeling like you're in the midst of one of those mini-crises right about now, I've got just the thing for you!
I've created a FREE workbook for your multi-passionate ass! This 6-page document is essentially an interview between you and your existential crisis. I'm giving you the tools to ask yourself questions that are far more helpful than "What in the actual hell am I doing?" so that you can get on the road towards feeling confident in your choices.
Ready to feel a little less panicked and a lot more sure of yourself? Click below to snag your free download!
Are you multi-passionate? How do you cope with the occasional existential crisis?
Psssttt...I'm announcing something fun at the end of this post, but if you just can't keep your pants on in sheer anticipation, you can click here now!
Around these parts (these parts being my blog, my life, and my brain), self-care is a big deal. As far as I'm concerned, if you aren't taking care of yourself, it's going to be pretty damn hard to take care of anyone else, ya dig?
And judge me all you want, but one of my favorite ways to take care of myself when life gets bananas is by watching television. There is just something so satisfying about being able to turn off my brain for a minute and let moving colors and shapes dance in front of my tired eyeballs.
In this day and age, TV as a relaxation method is super accessible. With Netflix and other streaming programs, we have a whole world of critically-acclaimed television right at our fingertips whenever we want it. That said, since there are so many shows to sort through, it can be challenging to determine which will help you relax and which ones are, while phenomenal, going to stress you to the bones (ehem, Breaking Bad).
That's where I come in. I watch a whole frickin lot of TV. I watch so much TV that I started a podcast with my husband to justify our TV viewing habits. And since I'm such an avid television consumer, I have quite a few go-to shows I look to whenever I need to recuperate from this weary world.
Looking for a new self-care show to get obsessed with? Here are a few of my favorites (all of which, by the way, are available on Netflix):
The Great British Bake Off (Or The Great British Baking Show in the U.S.)
Watch this show when you...need to get out of your own head (it's particularly helpful during times of anxiety or when you've pretty much lost all faith in humanity).
You know how a good deal of reality television is dominated by impossibly difficult people screaming things like, "I didn't come here to make friends!" or "PROSTITUTION WHORE-ER!"? While these shows can certainly be a guilty pleasure (or, depending on the program, a sociological adventure), I've found that much of reality TV can end up leaving me feeling overstimulated and slightly on-edge.
But imagine, if you will, a reality show in which the cast is made up of thirteen truly charming and genuinely wonderful human beings -- the kind of people who literally might say, "Perhaps I did come here to make friends!" Then imagine that these thirteen delightful creatures are super British, and on top of that, they are also amateur bakers -- novice, talented individuals who are just trying their best -- in a competition to win...basically nothing. A cake stand. And esteem. That's really it.
THEN imagine that this seemingly mythical reality show is hosted by two brilliant, iconic British comedians, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, who make everyone they encounter feel both delighted and safely amused. Wouldn't you want to watch such a show on a rainy day?
Well, friend, I have good news: this show exists. It's called The Great British Bake Off (or, inexplicably, The Great British Baking Show in the U.S.), and it's everything you need when times get tough.
The reason why I think GBBO is a fantastic show when it comes to self-care is because it's just one of those depictions of humanity that reminds you that people can be good and life doesn't always have to be a competitive, angry, complicated mess. Sometimes, instead, life can just be full of sweet, simple joys like banoffee pie, custard, and human beings just doing their goddamn best.
The show has been running for six seasons in the UK, but we Americans just caught wind of it last fall. Unfortunately, for us in the States, there is only one season available on Netflix (season 5 and it's wonderful), but if you know your way around the sketchy parts of the Internet, there are certainly ways to access the other five seasons. Just saying...
Watch this show when you...need to detach from reality (and laugh a lot).
Remember waking up to watch Saturday morning cartoons as a kid? Don't you miss that feeling? Side note: I used to wake up every Saturday at 6 AM just to catch Recess and Pepper Ann. Like, I did this voluntarily. INSANE.
But anyway, now you're an adult with a job, possibly kids, and a whole heap of responsibilities. Who has time for cartoons?
You do. Or at least you have time for one.
Bob's Burgers is an animated show about the Belchers and their family-owned burger restaurant. It features the comedic talents of H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, and so many others (seriously, it's just a huge pile of cameos from all of your favorite comedians).
Obviously, I recommend this show because, hello, it's hilarious, and who couldn't use a good laugh during hard times, right? But more than that, I love Bob's Burgers because it doesn't take its audience down any dark, uber-thought-provoking paths that many other adult animated shows seem to be fond of. While those series definitely have their place and merits (The Simpsons, for example, is one of my favorite TV shows of all time), there is something so nice and fresh about a show with a family that just enjoys each other and has mild adventures from the comfort of their family-owned restaurant.
Plus, Tina Belcher is, in my humble opinion, one of TV's all-time greatest characters and possibly my feminist role model.
Watch this show when you...need to marvel at comedic genius (and feel slightly better about yourself).
Speaking of feminist icons, this list would not be complete without an appearance from this Tina Fey masterpiece. 30 Rock, the NBC comedy that chronicles the life of Liz Lemon, a TV writer just trying to have it all, is my all-time favorite TV show.
All. Time. Favorite. No takebacksies.
30 Rock moves at a pace that is both fast and truly mesmerizing. I have seen each episode no less than twenty times, and I still find myself surprised and delighted by jokes I hadn't quite noticed before.
As a self-care measure, 30 Rock is fantastic in that it helps you escape into a world in which people are these hyperbolized, almost cartoonish versions of the bizarre humans you know in real life. There is Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) who lives far beyond the confines of reality and is always trying to fill his home aquarium with sharks. There's Kenneth The Page (Jack McBrayer) who is mysteriously ageless, forever optimistic, and incidentally sporting a Hitler youth haircut. Then there's Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) whose insecurities are so deep that she gets jealous of the soft skin of babies.
And then, of course, there is our star, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), a woman who eats cheese at home in a Snuggie, wears a one-piece bathing suit as underwear on laundry day, and not only has her fly open, but there is a pencil sticking out of it. Liz will make you feel both understood for the sometimes-mess that you are while also making you feel slightly better that your life is in somewhat of a lesser degree of shambles.
Watch this show when you...feel broken, in need of fixing.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have STRONG opinions about HGTV shows. They all seem to follow a similar theme: need house >> find house >> house is not that great >> fix house >> everyone cries. But some of these shows are so staged and weirdly confrontational (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, LOVE IT OR LIST IT AND HOUSE HUNTERS) that they can be far from relaxing television.
Fixer Upper, however, is the HGTV series that gets it right. The show features Chip and Joanna Gaines, a contractor and a designer respectively, who fix up homes in Waco, TX (btdubs, I used to live there!). Chip and Joanna do this remarkable thing for a married couple on television, something virtually unheard of on a HGTV show: they get along. Like, they seem to actually like each other. And y'all, it is a treat to watch. Truly, these are just good people making dreams come true. Plus, Joanna's design sense is so spot on that every single home reveal is just absolute eye candy.
Oh, and did I mention, one of my dear friends, Kaley, was on the show once? Becaaaaause she super was.
Gilmore Girls (Seasons 1-5)
Watch this show when you...need to be reminded that the problems of life are actually pretty low-stakes (and when you want to escape to a small Connecticut town)
Gilmore Girls, as you likely know, follows mother-and-daughter, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel). Lorelai is a young mom who became pregnant at sixteen-years-old and has since developed a strained relationship with her high-society parents. The two women live in Stars Hollow, a fictional small town in Connecticut, that features colorful and highly-caffeinated characters.
Now, I love this show, but over the years, I've come to realize that Gilmore Girls can be pretty polarizing. Either you love it for all of its fast-talking wittiness or you hate it for its fast-talking incessancy. Either way, you're not wrong.
But here's why I love this show when it comes to self-care: as a viewer, Gilmore Girls transports you to a small-town world where everyone knows your name and no one is forgotten. Everyone gathers every morning at Luke's Diner and spends every major holiday celebrating in the town square. It's just a nice thought.
More than anything, though, I love Gilmore Girls because it's a show that features low-stakes drama. Lorelai is never diffusing a bomb or fighting a White Walker or anything like that. She is simply misunderstood by her parents and feels conflicted in her various romantic entanglements. Rory doesn't have to escape from a moving vehicle or lead an army into battle. She just has to make good grades and figure out how to say, "I love you" to her boyfriend. No big whoop.
It's a good reminder that many of the problems of life are really, for the most part, fairly low-stakes in nature. We like to think that they are big, terrifying, earth-shattering dilemmas, but really, they aren't. Thanks for the life lessons, Gilmore Girls!
OH, but PS. Seasons 6 & 7 are in no way relaxing to watch. In fact, they are super depressing and, at times, lame. You have been warned.
What is your favorite TV show to watch when you need some self-care?
By the way, while we're on the subject of self-care, I wanted to let you in on something pretty crazy exciting that I have in the works that I think you're going to want to take part in...
Friends, I've created a FREE AS ALL HELL email series called De-Funked!
You'll definitely want to sign up for this if --
1. You've lately been feeling like you're in a bit of a funk. Perhaps you've been in a crappy mood or you've been lacking in motivation or you've been feeling a lot like busting some heads and you don't really even know why.
2. You're doing pretty okay, but you'd like to prepare yourself for any future funks that may be coming your way.
3. You enjoy receiving fun emails from someone who has a bizarre sense of humor and who cares about you.
All next week, I'll be popping into folks' inboxes with some encouragement, joy, and a few simple but powerful challenges to help you go from defunct to de-funked (GET IT?! IT'S A PUN! I FINALLY MADE A PUN, MA!)
Sound like your kind of thing? The first email goes out this Monday, June 8th, so be sure to sign up below!
Throughout my blogging career, I've tried to make a point of not saying "sorry" for any unexplained absence from my usual blogging activities. In the few times this has happened over the last five years, I've typically just picked up where I left off as if I'd been blogging all along. This is for a few reasons:
1) I don't want to assume that people have been waiting on me, wringing their hands, wondering where on earth I must be if I'm not updating my blog. I mean, I know everyone has lives to live and jobs to job, so who is really going to be affected if I happen to take a little breaky break from the ol' B-L-O-G? Probably no one but my mom, right?
2) I don't want the language police dropping into my inbox to tell me how saying "sorry" makes me look weak, asking annoying rhetorical questions like, "Would a man say sorry for not blogging?" (side note: ladies, anyone who shames you for saying "sorry" is at the top of my shit list these days.)
3) I'm always hoping that maybe no one even noticed, so if I acknowledge the absence, then it might trigger a line of thinking that's like, "OH YEAH! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT YOUR READERS AT ALLLLL?"
The thing is, I really do care about my readers (possibly more than I should, but that's a conversation for another day). And in the past couple of weeks, I've received some genuinely sweet messages from strangers concerned about how I'm doing, wondering where my weekly email has been. That said, it's clear (and also super humbling) that some of you care about me too.
So that's why, whether you've noticed my hiatus or not, I want to a take a hot sec to explain where I've been, what I've been doing, and why it's been a bit quiet around these parts lately.
Here's the thing: as I've lamented a few times over the last couple of months in my sparse posts and Twitter updates -- I've been sick. First, with a simple cold, then a sinus infection, then the flu, then bacterial pneumonia, and most recently, costochondritis (google it. It's not life-threatening in any way, but it kind of sucks).
In every online update on my ridiculous and somewhat geriatric illnesses, I've given a virtual shrug and said, "It's not the end of the world. There are far worse things that could be happening."
And of course, that's true! Oh my gah, so true. I could get hit by a bus, lose someone close to me, develop an actual chronic and fatal illness -- these are all the REAL things against which I have been judging my current circumstances.
But after almost two months of being this weirdly sick, I'm not sure this has been the best mindset after all. I mean, sure, it's important to keep some semblance of perspective, but honestly, I think this bizarre comparison between my sickness and "actual problems" has caused me to be pretty avoidant when it comes to seeking help.
Because here is the real truth: being this sick has been really hard. It just has.
It's a type of sick that I have had trouble conveying to others (though I tried in my last blog post with a whole host of similes). I've actually been following a writer on Twitter who has been struggling with pneumonia as well, and when I read a recent tweet from her, I felt so powerfully understood. She shared, "I have never felt so completely taken over by an illness as I have with pneumonia. I feel totally erased and not myself in any way."
That's precisely what I've been feeling like: erased and not myself.
You hear "pneumonia" and you think, "Oh wow, that's definitely a crappy type of sick," but you don't think, "Oh man, that's a never-ending energy suck," or "Oh gotcha, you're not going to be able to work or do anything normal for several weeks."
Over the last two months, when I've had to turn down invitations because I'm still sick, at a certain point, I've become convinced that no one is really buying it. This is in part because, before this, I wouldn't have believed that a healthy adult could be sick for this long, but it's also because my friends usually respond by saying, "STILL?"
And yeah. Still. :\
But because being perceived as dramatic is one of my life's greatest fears, there have been times throughout this illness in which I've ended up pushing myself too hard. I've been showing up when I probably shouldn't be showing up. I've been putting on lots of makeup, taking a bunch of pain meds, sweating through my clothes, laughing, and covertly coughing into my elbow and hoping no one says anything about how gross it sounds.
During one such occasion, a well-meaning friend kindly asked, "How are you feeling?" It was an innocent question with an obvious, socially acceptable, and wildly untrue answer -- "fine." But for some reason, I found myself not capable of answering this way. Suddenly and without warning, all of my avoidance and inability to accept my own weakness became a lump in my throat that pushed hot, unwanted tears to my eyes, and the only response I could muster up was: "BAD!"
And I should note that I actually bleated this word awkwardly like some sort of inconsolable baby goat: "BAA--AA--A--A--D!"
This is the moment I realized that what I was doing -- hiding how much my body was hurting and pretending like I was on the up-and-up when I was really on the crap-and-more-crap -- wasn't helping anyone. It wasn't helping me and it wasn't helping my friends who, by the way, honestly would have loved to have been supporting me and weren't able to because I was being a prideful jackass.
So that said, instead of being a prideful jackass, I'm going to be an inconsolable baby goat and tell you, sweet reader, the truth: I haven't been writing on this blog (or anywhere, for that matter) because I have been a little bit of a mess.
And not the fun kind of mess that has juicy stories and gossip and a fun catch phrase like, "I didn't come here to make friends!" I've been the kind of mess that watches hours and hours of House Hunters International and does literally nothing else. I've been the kind of mess who sleeps all day long and who cries periodically in frustration and who can't walk to the subway without needing to take a break.
I'm not saying any of this because I want your sympathy (really, please, pity gives me hives). But I'm sharing this experience because it's real, and if I pride myself on anything, it's crafting a corner of the Internet that's more true than it is false.
But here's some good news: I'M FEELING BETTER. Seriously, no bit zone, I am feeling so-ho-ho-ho much better. Otherwise, I would not have been able to construct all of these complex sentences here. Promise.
And now that I truly am on the up-and-up, I've been wondering what it is I'm supposed to learn from all of this. What teachable moments have come out of this bleak, dumb bout of sickness? Here's what I've come up with:
Life Lesson #1: Sometimes you just can't.
I actually wrote a blog post about this idea whenever I was in the flu-stage of being sick. At that time, I was already completely OVER IT (little did I know what was ahead of me), so I wrote a post titled "Sometimes You Just Can't." However, if I'm truly evaluating my state of mind at the time, what I really meant was, "Sometimes You Just Can't...For, Like, A Week. Two Tops. But Then You Really Need To Get Your Shit Together."
When I didn't get better after writing that post (and in fact, got much worse), I felt like an absolute failure. To be sure, the entire time I was sick, I felt like a failure. Every time I couldn't write or walk to get my meds or go to a friend's birthday dinner, I felt like I was letting everyone down, my thinking being SURELY, it is unforgivable to be out of commission for this long.
As a culture, we prize productivity. It is the mark of a successful, contributing member of society. But look, man: sometimes you aren't a successful, contributing member of society. Because sometimes you just can't. You really can't. Not just for a day, but sometimes you can't for weeks or months or years at a time.
Life is a puzzling mystery full of unexpected weirdness. And that said, there's no sense in flogging yourself when things get crazy. It is what it is.
Life Lesson #2: Perspective is great and all, but so is complaining.
Again, to keep myself in check, I've been reminding myself that it could be so much worse. And that's all well and good, but if I'm really thinking about what actually made me feel better throughout this whole process, it was when I decided to finally start complaining. If that's self-serving, so be it, but honestly, it felt good to know that someone else (usually my husband) was aware that I was in pain. I felt less alone and more like myself.
It's a lesson I keep learning again and again and again in life: share what hurts. Emotional hurt, physical hurt, spiritual hurt -- find someone with whom you can swap war stories. Do your relationships a service by admitting when things suck. Any good friend will tell you that it is a privilege, not a burden, to help you.
Life Lesson #3: If you place your value in what you "do," disappointment is inevitable.
Honestly, you may be reading this, thinking, "What's the big deal? You were sick. Sick people need rest. So what?" And you, my very frank friend, are 100% right.
But here's a personal confession that you likely have already figured out about me: my self worth, rightly or wrongly, is often rooted in my ability to create. Thus, when I lose that ability, it's not just a loss of health, but it's a loss of SELF. (THIS IS SOME EXISTENTIAL REALNESS RIGHT HERE!)
So a reminder, friends: when you base your value as a person on what you can personally do, you set yourself up for disappointment. Again, life is a random, complicated mess, and our abilities -- even the ones we work absurdly hard to cultivate -- sometimes fail us.
Look, I preach creativity and confidence on this blog, and I'm going to continue to do that, but here's something I probably don't stress enough: your creativity has limits. Your confidence, too.
Yes, I want the people I reach on this blog to be inspired to love who they are and to make amazing things happen in this world. But even those amazing things do not define your self worth. They can't. Because your abilities have limitations. They can be taken from you in the blink of an eye -- by pneumonia or by some other far more serious illness or by a terribly mean tweet from a stranger or by the passing of time.
So whatever you base your hope in, make sure it is bigger than yourself. Make sure it is bigger than your health, your relationships, your hard-earned acclaim.
We don't like to talk about it, but those things can go away. But that doesn't diminish your value. Not for a second.
AAAAAAAANYWAY, I'm back. I'm better than ever (JKJKJK I'm still a bit of a mess, but I'm hanging in there) and I've got some exciting stuff cooking that I can't wait to share with you. Thanks to everyone who has been so thoughtful to me over the last couple of months. You mean more to me than you know.
Have you been learning any major life lessons lately? Teach me!
Leave it in the comments below.