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 –

signature

How to Have Feelings

I don’t know about you, but America’s education system did not prepare me for real life. Emotions? Those aren’t mentioned in physical education or Spanish I. I spent my adolescence with a brick wall between my mind and my heart – I was emotionally ignorant. While I did just earn a college degree, what I actually learned during the past four years was how to feel. And I didn’t learn this in school.

You know how when you’re really happy, you physically go a little nuts? Whether you shout or dance or grab someone near you and shake them with joy, you move. Emotional energy has to move out of the body. Negative energy is no different from positive in this way. My reflex is to shut down and isolate myself, only to find that I’m more upset than ever and am burning with angst or something, but I have no clue what it is or why it’s happening.

I used to be so embarrassed that I had feelings. I saw it as a weakness, something to get rid of quietly. Movies show people acting out of raw emotions without thinking things through, without taking the time to feel before making decisions. Feeling and movement go hand in hand for me – they both clear my head. Whether it’s a run or boxing or lifting weights or yoga – when my body is busy, my heart can feel and my mind can think.

A good cry is scientifically proven to be the most efficient way to move the emotional energy out, but that doesn’t always come easy. Often, it comes on the heels of exercise. When I have something pent up inside, I find myself shedding tears as I’m punching a bag or breathing on my yoga mat. Then I finish my yoga, and I turn on the shower and let hot water run over me while I sob in the fetal position. It’s so cathartic, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I began with boxing. I’d been hurt by a lot of people [including myself] and didn’t know what to do with that, so I punched out my aggression. It’s okay to be pissed off, as long as you’re taking it out in a healthy way, a way that doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Yoga, in many ways, saves me every day. Breathing air into all parts of the body, letting it circulate, it’s the freshness of spring cleaning every time you practice. It’s entirely free because it’s all over Youtube, and you can do it in the privacy of your own home, so no one cares if you look funny or if you fart, because you will. And the acceptance, the calm that comes with it makes you okay with that.

Movement, getting in touch with my body, has served as one of the most effective tools of recovery for me. Finally feeling all the emotions that I’d pushed down with food or alcohol or whatever else has been purifying. It’s helped me dig out all the skeletons in my closet, and now they are all happily cremated and serving as fertilizer to the new growth in my soul. And, really, I don’t think any of that would have been possible without physically getting my feelings out of my body. Once they’re out, they lose their power, and you’re able to analyze them with a clear mind, to work through the causes instead of acting out of the effects. And, like every other form of self-care, it’s so worth it.

What do you think? How do you get your feels out?

signature

Do you like yourself?

If not, here’s how. I certainly have my moments. It’s not always easy to feel beautiful and amazing when we live in an entertainment, image saturated world. With so much to compare ourselves to, it can get confusing if you take all the images as advice – as the way you’re supposed to look. The truth is, you’re not supposed to look like anyone but yourself. How could you? Changing your perspective may take some time, but this should help.

Headscarf from Goodwill. Dress from Arc. It was once long sleeves and floor length - I tore it up.

Headscarf from Goodwill. Dress from Arc. It was once long sleeves and floor length – I tore it up.

 

  1. Objectify yourself. It sounds ridiculous, even cruel, doesn’t it? But really, find a way to distance yourself from yourself – not forever, just long enough to analyze who you are really and find the objective truth that can stand above the lies that your mind might be telling you. It’s true that you are your own worst critic. So if you can please yourself, you can please anyone, right? It might not be pleasing now, but be honest. Talk to a therapist or a friend if it helps – someone who can help you see the truth. There will be things you don’t like, even things that are objectively awful. It sucks sometimes, but no one is perfect. Not me, not you – we are imperfect humans. And it’s better to see that for what it is than to deceive yourself.
  2. Accept yourself. As you are, misaligned morals, traumatic past, ten extra pounds, unibrow and all – or whatever it might be. Nothing will change until you honestly accept what you’re working with. Living in a delusion about yourself won’t help matters. Learn who you are at this moment. How do you spend your time? What makes you excited, what puts you to sleep? What do you cling to? Regardless of how you feel about your findings, accept them. Accept that you are a human being on this planet and you are worthwhile.
  3. Find your values. There are assessments you can take online, providing you with dozens of traits like adventure, creativity, and self-awareness, and you choose which ones are important to you, narrowing down your set until you’ve selected a top ten and then a top five. And then you can refer back to these and evaluate your actions and lifestyle by them. These serve as a guiding light, a sort of north star for personal growth. Any time you lose your way, you can reference these. They’ll grow and change with you, and your life should follow them. If it doesn’t, and if the values are truly important to you, maybe it’s time to make some changes.
  4. Figure out who you want to be. What do you look like in your daydreams? What are you doing? What would it take to get there? Dream. Don’t stop yourself, just let your mind roam freely in fantasy land and then find ways to make those things happen.
  5. Become who you want to be. Maybe this sounds silly or daunting, but trust me, it is possible. The way out of this mess is self-love, and it happens when you can be happy with yourself. With your values and your newfound self-worth, there’s nothing you can’t do. Want to be kind to yourself? Practice. Remind yourself daily that you deserve kindness and love. Start to see your world through these new lenses, and everything will begin to change. Painfully, slowly, then all at once, and one day you look in the mirror and love what you see, one day you gain five pounds and you still love yourself, one day you do things that make you happy every day. It just takes practice. And you’re as capable as anyone else.
It was windy. Those shoes are broken now, but they were beautiful.

It was windy. Those shoes are broken now, but they were beautiful.

It’s not easy every day. But it gets better. It always gets better. Life is filled with growing and changing and it’s an endless wave that you get to ride. But first – pick up your board and learn how to surf. You’ll fall a lot, but you’ll pick yourself back up because it’s important and because you’re strong. And before you know it you’ll be swimming farther out, riding bigger waves. Before you know it you’ll be yourself. And no one can do that better than you.

signature

Intro to Style: Form & Function

Style is fun. It’s wearable art. Any kind of art takes a certain knowledge of your self, your preferences – what colors belong on the palette? What are you painting on? What types of brushes do you prefer? These are the questions that must be asked when figuring out your style. I could write a whole essay on the case for having personal style, but put simply – don’t you want what people see to represent you accurately?

What do you want your painting – your art – your self – to look like? Some prefer garish prints and neon colors, while others enjoy muted tones with a focus on texture. Really the possibilities are endless. The two principles to consider, under which all others rest, are form and function.

Form should follow function. This was a principle of the architect Ansel Adams that always stuck with me because it makes sense – and his work is gorgeous, workably beautiful. I like to be comfortable in my clothing, but that doesn’t mean wearing sweats. The function of clothing is also make me feel incredible. A bomb outfit boosts the confidence. But it begins by feeling good in it. The two go hand in hand.

I can do anything in a long pleated skirt.

I can do anything in a long pleated skirt.

Form

This is the visual aspect, the textures, colors, prints, silhouettes. It takes getting to know your coloring, body type, preferences. Do you look better in warm or cool colors? Solids or prints?  I’ve done this through trial and error. I’m drawn to textures – I have velvet shirts, leather and wool skirts, a denim dress, silks, and all kinds of blends. I like clothes that hit my natural waist, calf-length skirts, backless anything, and fitted shoulders. With experimentation, I’ve found that shades of red belong both in my hair and in my wardrobe. Warm colors, olive greens, oranges, mustard yellows – rich, fall hues. I wear far more color in the summer than I do in the colder months. I like my accessories to be black and versatile. All my jewelry is gold, with various gem stones.

To figure this out for yourself, pay attention to what compliments people give you, to how you feel in various colors, etc. I once saw an episode of Scrubs in which Elliot returned a dress because she didn’t get three compliments on her first day of wearing it. This is excessive, but it’s worth noting that people don’t usually lie when they compliment you. And people notice when you feel good. Feeling good is the ultimate goal. And that leads us to…

Function

I like to be comfortable, to be able to move freely. I like room around my waist because I don’t want to feel like I can’t breathe. Soft, luxurious fabrics feel nice against my skin. I have two bags – one backpack with sturdy straps, and one simple black cross body number. I have a shoe for every occasion, but only 4 pairs, all of which are comfortable and worn regularly. I wear the same pair of earrings every day and rotate through five rings. All of my clothes can be mixed and matched [part of why color palette is so vital]. Everything goes with everything. It makes getting dressed so much easier. But it’s still fun! Like when you were young and had a Barbie doll with a 4 piece clothing set that allowed for at least 10 outfits. That’s me every morning. And it gets fun trying to find all the combinations.

Notice what you feel comfortable in. Take into account your lifestyle, your daily activities. There’s no point having a closetful of sky high stilettos if you’re on your feet all day and rarely go out in the evening. They might be nice to look at, but it feels better to use everything you own, to make your wardrobe your own.

Another aspect of function is price. I like high quality, always have, but I’m forever on a budget. And maybe it’s my Jewish heritage, but I love a bargain. And I find some of my nicest pieces on clearance or at a thrift store. The hunt is part of the fun. I also customize things – little fixes here and there make pieces uniquely your own.

Style is a journey. Hopefully seeing mine will inspire yours.

Style is a journey. Hopefully seeing mine will inspire yours.

Style is important to me. Remember that the phrase, “Look good, feel good” is axiomatic; “Feel good, look good” rings just as true.

signature

 

 

Conquering Depression

I remember seeing those commercials that said, “Depression hurts. Symbalta can help.” It’s true that depression hurts, and it seems like more and more people are dealing with it as our culture encourages internet connection over human connection. I don’t know if Symbalta helps, but I do know that Abilify and an assortment of other pharmaceuticals did not help me. What did help was group therapy, connecting with other people and learning the skills of mindfulness and meditation. I hope this list will help you.

  1. Look. Listen. Take a moment to realize that you’re depressed. This sounds elementary, but there have been times when I’ve eaten a few too many cookies mindlessly, only to feel worse at the end and be forced to acknowledge what I was trying to avoid all along – that I feel like shit. So stay one step ahead of the game, and call yourself out. See how it feels.
  1. Remember the truth about yourself. Depression has a nasty way of clearing out everything good from your brain, lying to you and insisting that you’re not important and a slew of other negative ideas. Look in the mirror and say, “You are a worthwhile person. You matter. You are intelligent, kind, strong, etc.” Don’t say et cetera, or do and then recognize yourself as hilarious. Just keep speaking the truth to yourself. Because you are.
  1. Do something. Meditate for ten minutes. Dance around your room. Write in your journal. Draw a picture. Box. Play a song. Go outside. Breathe deeply. Remember that you’re alive, and choose to live.

There you go, three easy steps and you’ll never be depressed again! Obviously I’m joking, that’s impossible. And implementing this is not easy. But, with practice, it does get easier, and maybe you’re able to recognize depression in a day instead of in a month. Neuroplasticity is a real thing – your brain can be rewired. And it remembers good decisions, as long as you keep making them.

20160403_232546

A message from myself to myself – I wrote it and got it done in the summer of 2014.

Warning: you will slip up. I sure do. Why do you think I’m writing this? But have grace. Be kind. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says “be kind to yourself.” It’s literally tattooed onto my body and I still forget! Eventually I always remember, and it doesn’t take nearly as long as it used to. It can be difficult, but kindness is what we all deserve.

Mind that this list is by no means conclusive. I do plenty of things that I didn’t write here, and it’s imperative to find what works for you – everyone is different! But this is a strong start. Now meditate your way out of those end-of-winter blues. Spring is here.

042615_0013_HeartlessCh1.jpg