Anxiety and T.S. Eliot

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
[T. S. Eliot]

 

Remember reading this in high school? Or maybe dozing off when it was discussed in the obligatory poetry unit? I know, so much doesn’t stick. Hopefully my reading plumbs the depths of its emotion a bit further than your high school self was able to.

Reading this first in middle school, then high school, then again in college, I’m fairly familiar. It’s grown on me with each reading, and now it lurks in the corners of my mind, and lines from it come to me when I need them. Today – “there will be time”.

Sometimes I sit completely still, my mind racing with thoughts of all I want to accomplish in a given day. I’m wasting time by contemplating just how little I have. This gets my heart racing, plants me firmly in my head instead of my body or the present moment, and brings on anxiety.

But there will be time. Life is long, and yes, I want to write a dozen essays and edit 20 pages of my novel and write three emails and meditate and run and do yoga and cook dinner and draw a picture and finish reading War & Peace today, but goodness gracious, TAKE A BREATH. Whatever your list of to-dos looks like, trust. Breathe. Know that there is time and there will be time. And the best way you can use it is to be here. Now. And do one thing, fully, at a time.

What helps you relax? How do you ease your mind on a busy day?

Love and namaste –

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Soul Care

As humans, we are inherently triune beings – mind, body, and soul. Growing up in charismatic Christian circles, I saw people moved by what they called the holy spirit. Now I see that these people use[d] religion as a means to give their souls life. They spoke in tongues and danced around rooms, “moved with the spirit.” But I feel the same spirit when I listen to jazz or absorb great paintings; I pulse with that life when I dance in a club or write a story. I may not ascribe to any religion, but my soul is as alive as ever.

We are raised to go to school, to seek education – to read books and solve math problems in care of our minds. We’re taught to eat healthy foods and exercise to care for our bodies. But what about our souls? The spirituality of religion can get stuck in legalism and dogma, leaving the greater part of the population lost and, in many ways, dead.

“A little wisp of soul carrying a corpse.” – Epictetus.

 

Our souls are what bring us to life – they’re the animating factors that shine light behind our eyes and make our skin glow. Think of humans as double layer cakes – mind and body are the layers of cake, but without frosting, who wants to eat it? Dry and crumbly, maybe it tastes good for a few bites, but something’s missing. The glue, the moisture, the decadence – the icing on the cake – the soul.

All animals have bodies and minds. But what make us human, what have the potential to make us great and transcendent beings, are our souls. Our healthy souls can unite us, make us free, give us power, and lead us in paths of love and light. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sets physiological and safety as the lowest two – the only needs that are purely physical or mental. The top three are love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – the needs of the soul. So, if you don’t believe me, believe an esteemed psychologist – 3/5 of our most basic human needs are those of the soul.

But in a society, a culture, a world that neglects the soul – how do we care for it? How can we bring it to life? This takes work, consciousness, dedicated practice; Rome was not built in a day. Maybe you follow religious teachings, maybe you let music and art spark your internal fire, maybe you practice meditation and yoga. Start by clearing out the cobwebs, dusting the corners, and opening the windows – the beginning is the hardest part. Just as muscles atrophy in the absence of strain and brain cells wither away with disuse, our neglected souls wilt like thirsty flowers in the shade. We need sunlight, we need water, and we need these things regularly. People use drugs to feel alive in this way – to skip the daily practice and enjoy the light of the soul for an evening. But this feeling of ecstasy is possible on a daily basis. With practice, with care, the soul becomes stronger and brighter, and your power becomes increasingly accessible.

pen and ink drawing let the light in

So, as Voltaire wrote, let us cultivate our gardens. Let us seek out beauty and love, surrounding ourselves with objects and images and sounds and foods that bring us joy, with people who radiate light – let us make our souls happy. When we do this, all other desires are met – a body and mind connected to a healthy soul with be beautiful and intelligent and strong. So yes, have your workout and your salad, and read your books and work your sudokus, but begin with the soul. Stoke your internal fire and all parts of you will burn as brightly. 

Let the light in.

 

Love, calm, & care –

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Untangling Self-Sabotage

Do you ever find yourself engaging in destructive behaviors? Acting against your values for a fleeting night of debauchery or a few extra days in bed – sabotaging yourself? I know I’m not the only one.

Why do we do this? Why, when things are going well for a change, is it natural for us to tip the scales in the other direction?

Maybe we’re used to trauma, to bad things happening, to always having something to struggle through – after a while, pain becomes familiar. It becomes safe, even if it isn’t good. And good things can become scary. Good things can feel too good to be true, and, instead of savoring the golden moments, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to find out what the catch is, the flaw, the actual reality – because things can’t just be great, can they?

I think they can. I think life can go well, and this doesn’t mean that it’ll all turn to shit eventually. I think, if we practice love and kindness and mindfulness and trust, that we can all live great and beautiful lives. And I think we’re all capable of achieving truly incredible things, solely by being our best selves.

It sounds cheesy or fluffy or fake, right? Like cotton candy that’s way too sweet. It looks nice, and you buy some at the fair, but after two bites you’re tossing it out because you can’t stomach the flavor of pure spun sugar. So you buy a salted pretzel or a sausage on a stick, and you balance out the flavors.

And this is self-sabotage – a sick way of balancing ourselves out. Because some part of us knows how incredible we are, and some part of us is terrified of that, of the greatness that lies latent within us. Of the ways we can change the world, of the pressure and responsibility that comes with such power. So we hurt ourselves, knock ourselves down a peg, placing ourselves in negative relationships, drinking excessively, eating unhealthy foods – whatever your vices, the wicked bit of our subconscious finds a way to balance us out. To keep us from achieving our potential. To keep us safe.

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Because greatness is kinda terrifying. Success, that mythical ideal that the world continually chases, can be scary. Because what happens when you get it? What happens when you realize that success is a state of mind, that you have nothing to chase except your own dreams, and that you can be successful whether you’re a cashier at Burger King or a renowned neurosurgeon? Then you’ve made it. Then you’re happy, right? Then you’re grateful, gracious, loving, calm, clear – able to give from a place of wholeness and light and security, able to truly contribute something positive to the world, something that only you have to offer.

But that seems too good to be true, and we’re all conditioned into skepticism, raised to believe that old women who offer young girls lasting beauty and happiness are only out to get them, out to put them into a deadly slumber and sabotage their dreams of true love. But here’s a twist – maybe the witch in all those Disney movies isn’t a separate character from the princess – maybe she’s the princess’s subconscious. Maybe she’s sabotaging herself, too insecure and afraid of losing the joy and the love and the light and the beauty of the fairytale, so she stops it all before it can come true. Before she can be proven wrong. Before she can have it all.

We know the witch is evil, and we know the story always ends with happily ever after – with the witch being defeated and the princess being saved by an external force, journeying off into the sunset. But this doesn’t feel quite right. Because where’s our example of saving ourselves, and where’s our model for living happily ever after? These things are elusive – even Walt Disney couldn’t portray them. So we’re left wondering what will happen when life goes well, dreaming of happily ever after without knowing what it actually consists of, deluding ourselves into believing that it isn’t happening right now.

But this is it. Your happily ever after is your prerogative. The witch is yours for the defeating. She’s not a foe to be vanquished with a single kiss – no, this battle is lifelong. She will always be there, tempting you away from your joy with exactly the vices you crave. And sometimes she’ll win. And sometimes you’ll win. And the happily ever after comes when you accept all this, when you bring grace to the fight and learn to dance with your witch. And over time you learn the steps by heart, your muscle memory takes over, and it gradually becomes easier, and, while you can’t kick her out of the party, she’ll start to realize that you’re a way better dancer than she is, and that you don’t let her shove you around the way you used to. That she’s lost her power because you’ve found yours.

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I don’t think it ever stops being scary. But maybe that’s the beauty of it, maybe that’s the thrill. So lean in to the fear, lean in to your power, lean in to your potential. Let yourself be great. And have a ball.

Love, calm, & care –

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Enamored of Life

This series of choices and relationships and experiences that we’re all a part of, independently and symbiotically waking up and eating and moving and laughing and crying and feeling and loving and hating – let’s just take a moment to appreciate how incredible it is.

Don’t get me wrong, life is hard. I remember, in 10th grade, hearing a classmate of mine proclaim, in a tinny exclamation of joy – “I love my life.” She was happy with her boyfriend, enjoying her circle of friends, her close relationship with her sister, her academic success, and her important role on the swim team. In that moment, sitting alone, mocked for my intelligence, unhappy with my appearance, socially inept, virginal, in the throes of turbulent family life, depression, and an eating disorder, I hated her. I felt certain that she was lying, that it was impossible to love life when all I could think about was ending my own, clinging to the shreds of my religious beliefs as they disintegrated in my fingers. Joy felt impossible.

But I always promised myself it would get better. I held out hope for the day when I would dominate a court room with my litigious prowess or transplant a heart with my deft fingers, sustaining my hurting adolescent self on faint images of a future where I was accepted, respected, even celebrated – of a life where people liked me and maybe I even liked myself.

bloom pen and ink drawing lotus

Well I’m not a lawyer or a surgeon, but I do love myself. I am joyful. And I love my life. And I’m not lying. And sometimes it all feels too good to be true.

Maybe you, like me in 10th grade, hate me for writing this. Please don’t. Please understand that I know how much it can hurt and how awful the world can feel – I know. It can really fucking suck. But it doesn’t always suck. And so much of the suck is in your head. That doesn’t make it any less awful, I know, but it does give you power. It makes it within your ability to make the situation better. Just take a moment to be grateful. Relish in the way a berry bursts in your mouth or the way the sun feels on your skin or the way the person sitting next to you makes you smile. Let yourself get drunk on life – this is what we’re here for. We are alive and beautiful and capable of absolutely anything.

yolo hat style

No matter how binding or tragic your circumstances, you have the power to enjoy your life. We’re on this planet to live – for life. And after all, we only live once [as far as I know]. It’s so simple, yet so complex, and it is an honor and a pleasure to share it with all of you.

Love, calm, & care –

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Anger

Sometimes I get angry. Pissed off. Like I just want to whirl around in a dervish of fury and destroy everything in my path. The first tendency is self-destruction – throw out all my healthy habits, eat an entire cake, drink a whole bottle of wine, relapse into anything that would dull this feeling, make me numb, or hurt myself just to feel something definite, to pin down the anger, to funnel it in one direction.

But there are healthy ways to go about this. First off, it’s okay to be angry. It’s a normal human emotion, and sometimes, you gotta have it. How? How can this emotion that seems so innately destructive be productive?

It has to come out – anger cannot be suppressed. If you ignore it, it will fester and consume you, destroying your soul and potentially hurting anyone you come into contact with – it can make you toxic. Everyone’s different, so, please, experiment – try different methods for getting your anger out, just know that it has to come out.

Here are some ways I like to vent –

  1. Nothing like some good old fashioned pugilism to force your feelings out. Instead of hitting yourself or another person, glove up and murder a punching bag. Lose yourself in the motions, in exhausting your body; let the bag represent your pain, whether it’s a difficult circumstance, a person who hurt you, or some part of yourself. Hit it. Hit it hard. And leave it there. Leave feeling reinvigorated, refocused, emptied out. Whether you go to a gym or you shadow box around your house – I promise this will help.
  2. Listen to angry music. My go-to cliché angry albums are My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade and Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight, Meteora, or Hybrid Theory. Hearing a singer scream in anguish along with raging drums and electric guitar provides solidarity – the sense that you’re not alone in feeling this way and a reminder that, just as the album will end, the feeling with pass.
  3. The last time I got pissed off, I put on The Black Parade and drew a picture, aggressively slashing my pen against the paper and creating an image of my anger – a visual representation of how I felt. I let the pen lead me, and found myself building a fence topped with massive spikes, clearly indicative of my angry instinct to build walls around myself and hurt everything around me.

anger abstract pen and ink drawing

  1. Put on any of your angry tunes and go for a run or get on the elliptical or a bicycle or lift some weights – take out your anger with healthy physical movement, no punching bag necessary. Something about exhausting the body really helps to exhaust the anger, and the endorphins that follow guarantee some relief.

Regardless of your method, I find anger is best handled alone. I’ve been in an intimate relationship with a person who didn’t know how to handle his anger, and, if he was with me for that, the first thing he did was say really awful things, trying to hurt me as a method of catharsis. Protect yourself, the people you love, and your relationships by taking a moment to separate yourself when you’re angry. Step away from the current situation, from whatever is triggering you, and work that shit out.

Love, calm, & care –

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Identity Formation

You can be whoever you want to be. Sound too good to be true? It isn’t.

First accept the basics, the things you can’t change – find your baseline. What are you working with? What do you like to do, what are you interested in? Get your bearings with yourself. Maybe you have no idea – so start trying things. What are you curious about? What are you drawn to? How do you want people to see you, how do you want to see yourself?

Want to be funny? Watch a bunch of funny movies, hang out with funny people, notice what makes people laugh, what makes you laugh. Want to be well-traveled? Find a way to go on a trip. Make a list of places you want to go, experiences you want to have. Seek them out. Want to be healthy? Start working out – try running, try yoga, try boxing. Go for a hike. Eat a salad, a handful of nuts. Practice. Want to write? Get a notebook and a pen, open a word document – start typing and find out what you have to say. Want to be a history buff? Go to school. Read a book – the library has a wealth of free options, anything you want to learn, you can learn.

The key is to see the possibilities – don’t limit yourself, don’t put yourself in a box. You have a mind, a body – you can build yourself, you can choose. All it takes is a little observation, a little practice, and – primarily – a belief that you can.

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I recently watched the Coen brothers’ movie A Serious Man. The main character is shoved around by his life, his wife, his job – by circumstances. He envies his wife’s lover – a man people called “serious.” And he tries to be a serious man. But he doesn’t seem to get it, doesn’t quite believe he could be serious, doesn’t really know where to begin. He confesses to a Rabbi – “I’ve tried to be a serious man.” But was he? Did he own that identity? I’m not sure he made it in the movie, but all it would have taken was confidence.

I always loved the movie Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale, Jr, masterfully played by Leonardo DiCaprio, molds himself into a thousand men, plays a different part for every phase of his life. He acts as a pilot, assembling a crowd of flight attendants to breeze through the airport, works as a teacher, a doctor, a playboy. He was a conman. A confidence man. A man with enough confidence to believe that he was a doctor when he put on that white coat, and everybody else believed it, too. But if he hadn’t believed it, no one else would have.

I went to school for creative writing – had workshops with other students, swapping stories and offering critiques – writing. Ask most of them if they were writers, and they’d tell you they were trying to be. They wondered how to continue writing after graduation, how to make sure they kept at it. But it’s deceptively easy. All they had to do was write. Write a single sentence, and you’re a writer. All you have to do is believe it.

I also spent some time in business school, and a popular maxim there is – “Don’t dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want.” If you want a certain role, start by looking the part. Then act the part. Believe that you are capable of playing the part, and before long – you’ll get the part. Because other people notice confidence – they respect it, appreciate it, admire it, and generally, reward it.

Maybe this sounds deluded, silly, impossible. But you have more power than you think you do. You can always grow, teach yourself lessons about things you want to know, practice self-improvement until you love every bit of yourself. Begin by accepting where you’re at, and the possibilities are endless. You can build yourself into whoever you want to be – the only person in your way is you. The truth is, you’re limitless.

Love, calm, & care –

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Leaning In to Winter Blues

Ah, February, the month of international depression. The time when winter gets real, when seasonal adjustment disorder (SAD) becomes more than just a funny acronym, and when New Year’s resolutions get thrown out the window. It seems to be a good month for a slump.

And sometimes, a slump is just the thing. Depression can seem like a looming spectre – something to be afraid of, to dread. But honestly, it can be a gift. I know it sounds crazy, but we all have phases of ups and downs in life, and the downs don’t have to be so miserable.

Maybe you’ve been pushing yourself really hard all month, taking on new responsibilities or relationships and getting exhausted – you feel yourself draining, emotionally and physically, heading for a collapse or an explosion. Notice that. You can keep your eyes open, stay aware of where you’re heading. It doesn’t have to be scary, doesn’t have to have power over you. It might feel like you’re falling, but you can catch yourself.

I’m always telling myself to “stay woke” – my words for staying aware, maintaining mindfulness, not sleeping on myself, on my emotions or moods, not forgetting that I need tending to. Because it’s when you forget, when you ignore yourself, that depression or anger or sadness will blindside you like a tsunami and sweep you along with it. But if you’re watching – if you’re staying woke – you don’t have to drown. You can just ride the wave.

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I’ve learned to take depression as my body or mind telling me to take a break. I have a natural tendency to be really hard on myself, to push myself and maximize the use of all my minutes, so when I start to feel dull, I listen. I step back, watch a black and white movie, take a bath, and allow myself to enjoy the dullness instead of getting swept up in a pity party of malevolent coping mechanisms and lies.

You don’t have to listen to depression. It might tell you terrible things about yourself and the world and the people around you, but they are not true. Make lists of truths about yourself – you are capable, you are worthy, you are strong, you are beautiful, you are exactly where you need to be. One phrase I really like – the universe is for me, and so is everything else. I got it from my favorite Youtube yoga instructor, Adriene – it might seem a bit abstract or even unbelievable, but repeat it to yourself along with some deep breaths. Say it out loud. Speak it into existence. Write these truths down and hang them on your wall, say them to yourself in the mirror. Carry them in your pocket. Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean you are worth any less.

Depression is hard, but, if you’ve experienced it before, you know that even when it seems like it will last forever, it does end. You’ve seen the clouds break and felt the sunshine beam down on you, you’ve climbed out of the pit and stood on solid ground. You’ve done it once, so have faith – you can do it again.

Trust yourself to navigate the caverns wisely, take solace in the existence of light. Even if you can’t see it right now, it’s still there, and you’ll make it out alive. Maybe even better for the experience. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, and before you know it, depression isn’t quite a friend, but at least a frenemy that you don’t mind seeing now and again because you are prepared for it – you know how to treat it, and you know how to make sure it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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So welcome, February. Bring on the depression. We can handle it.

Love, calm, & care –

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Life Style

How do you see life? As a ride to be enjoyed? A game to be played and potentially beaten? A series of unfortunate events, or challenges to be hacked?

Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, survival is the threshold – once basic, physical needs are covered, our minds and selves are freed up for higher pursuits. But are we born into certain levels? Is his hierarchy a kind of psychological caste system?

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I’m currently reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and in one chapter he argues, through a character named Prince Andrew, that Russian serfs are meant to work hard, to have their days filled with demanding physical labor and that, if a landowner wanted to give them more freedom, he would be doing them more harm than good. A serf is a type of person that needs this labor to survive.  Without it, he’d be lost – feeling useless and not knowing how to fill his time productively. In the same breath, the prince posits that just as he would suffer in the serf’s life of manual labor, a serf would have no idea how to manage his time in the prince’s life of leisure. So each is born into a level, and that’s that – it’s for the best. The rare ones who transcend levels are meant to do so, but they are mere exceptions.

This might seem cruel and unequal and classist – but does it matter? Are the concerns of one class really so different from another? I love the show Sex and the City, and I’m currently watching Girls. The former chronicles the lives of four women living in New York – they have well-paying jobs, are in their thirties, and the show explores their relationships, the ups and downs of their personal, everyday lives. Girls follows four twenty-something girls, also living in New York – they run in circles of entitled young people, all being supported by their parents, not really having a clue about how to handle life, and struggling just to pay rent. But the show explores the same themes as Sex and the City – relationships, everyday life – their humanity. So does it matter how much money they’re making? Maybe Carrie is worried about spending too much on shoes while Hannah can barely make rent, but won’t the same types of problems always exist? Won’t the real issue, the one we remember, not be our financial stability or the weird job we worked, but the relationship with the guy who wouldn’t commit, or the ex-boyfriend who’s now gay, or the moments of warm friendship in the midst of all this? Does class even matter?

Now I know that, in this comparison, I’ve looked at two sets of white women from middle class families. I know, it’s a biased perspective. But I think it could apply to more circles than you’d expect, and I think that what ultimately makes the difference is not the class you are in, but the way you approach life. If Carrie Bradshaw suddenly decided to dedicate her life to philanthropy and making the world a better place, I think she could find a way to do it just as well as Hannah Horvath could. Sure, they have different connections and talents, but that’s the point – they’re different people. The differences they could make in the world are equally valid.

If you’re born into the ghetto, raised in a gang, always looking over your shoulder, selling drugs just to survive – you could find ways to enjoy this. You could coast through it, accepting it as your lot in life, hardly thinking about moving up or down in the world, just letting yourself live the life you were born into, having relationships and making deals and simply living. Or, if you see life as challenges to be surmounted, maybe you’re driven to do well in school, to get a scholarship to college, to rise out of the class you were born into. You’re an exception.

But that’s on an individual basis. They don’t teach life strategy in school. I never took a class on figuring out your passion or your purpose in this world. So maybe you’re compelled, internally, to figure this out for yourself, or maybe you’re not. And, more than whatever situation you’re born into, I think this is what decides your fate. You can practice, you can study, you can move yourself up in the world – but it’s entirely your prerogative to do so.

What do you think – am I being unfair? How do you approach life?

Love, calm, & care –

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Dreaming of Spring

I woke up this morning dreaming of spring. Of taking a bike ride through the city, walking along the river, wearing a sundress. So I put on a tank top, and I floated around my apartment, and I wished. I wished for winter to be over. For the flowers to bloom, and the trees to come back to life, alternately thinking of my empty refrigerator and wishing for a hearty breakfast. And I wondered – why do we always want what we don’t have?

dreaming of spring in winter

Why do I want spring when it’s winter, summer when it’s spring, fall when it’s summer, winter when it’s fall? Why am I jonesing for an eggs benedict when I have an omelet right in front of me? Why is it so hard to be content?

girl dreaming of spring in winter

Maybe it’s societal – we’re conditioned to ache for the next big thing, to always look ahead, wanting the next hit or the next song or the next relationship, even when what we have is perfectly good. Maybe it’s innate. Honestly, I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know – being present is a choice. I am the only one responsible for my own happiness. And while this may feel like a burden at times, it’s kind of a relief. Winter, summer, eggs sunny side up or hard-boiled – it’s up to you to enjoy it. Like it or not, your happiness is your problem.

girl dreaming of spring in winter

Yes, you can complain. You can whine. You can moan and groan and get everyone within earshot to feel bad with you, but what does this really accomplish? Do you feel any better? Maybe you have people to commiserate with you now, but I think you all just feel bad together. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather lift people up than drag them down. I’d rather be around joyful people than whiny ones.

Happy does not equal fake. It doesn’t mean pretending everything’s okay and plastering a smile on your face when you feel like crying. True joy comes from internal peace – from accepting that maybe you are broke and tired and hungry and slighted and whatever else – but that won’t stop you from taking a walk through your favorite park and smiling at the way the moonlight hits the trees, or calling your best friend and feeling really grateful that you know him or her, or just looking around you, remembering who you are and what you’ve been through, and finding comfort in the truth that everything will be okay. Maybe it’s winter and you hate it. Maybe you’re going through a breakup and it feels all-consuming. Maybe the waiter got your order wrong. So put on a sweater and make some tea. Have a good cry and go out with your friends. Send that plate back. And smile.

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Because contentment comes from within. Not from having the perfect body or the perfect weather or the perfect job – perfection is an illusion. Reality is what’s in front of you. Can you live in it? Can you enjoy it? Exactly as it is, exactly as you are. Take a breath, and look around yourself. You are responsible for your happiness.

you are responsible for your happiness

Love, calm, & care –

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