Monday, November 25, 2013

Career Success

In a thank you card I received today from a recently married couple whose wedding I attended this summer:

"You are a dancing beast"

I think I can retire now.

Not from dancing. That would be ridiculous.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Let the minimum be the maximum

Hi, friends. Me again.

I did something in my life and I thought I’d share it with you.

a)Because I talk about my life even when people don’t ask.
b)Because I thought you might benefit from learning about this particular instance of something I did in my life.
c)Because sometimes I talk about my life here in a way that has some sort of helping tool attached. 

Sometimes I just talk about cats or slyly talk about boys I have crushes on.


So last night before bed I felt a liiiiittle bit like I was about to exit my relaxing and enjoyable weekend by doing some good old worrying.

So I did that thing that therapists and Oprah and other people tell you to do sometimes: I wrote down the things I was thinking about; in this case, some things I have to do.

Oftentimes I ignore this advice – psh, write things down? People, as if that’s going to get rid of my longstanding history with insomnia. Please. And as for writing? It’s extremely cathartic and, it's like, my thing, but making a list at my bedside is a little different than writing an essay midday as my vocation.


Recently I’ve done some late night scribbling and it’s kind of sort of worked.

Last night, not so much, because I had a headache that was trying to be my best bud and so sleep came more in response to ibuprofen, me thinks, than to my scribbling.

Yeah yeah, you don’t care about the details. What did I write, you ask?


As we are just around the corner from Thanksgiving, and for some, Chanukah, and for some, Christmas, and for most who use the most popular of calendars these days, New Years – we’re busy, is my point – there is a lot to squeeze in before January 1st. So I made a list. I'll tell you what kind in a sec. But first:

You know what’s going to happen on January 1st? We’re all going to wake up and we’re gonna get that racing feeling in our bods and we’re gonna reflexively start thinking about what we have to do next, what is the most pressing on our huge to do list and thus needs to happen first. And we’re gonna think, “Quick. Shower. Coffee. In the car. To work!”

Then we’ll realize it’s January 1st and that we have the day off.

Some of us will be popping aspirin, too, let’s be honest. I don’t plan to be a part of that crowd, but we’ll see.

And let me just take this opportunity to say


Taxi taxi taxi. Taxi it home, people. Be safe. Your life is precious and so are those of the other people on the road. Let’s give ourselves some respect by protecting ourselves and those around us. Thank you. Also even if you’re not driving, please be careful if you are imbibing, period. Surround yourself with trusted friends and watch out for each other.

I don’t care if I sound like a mom, I will be your mom any day and by the way moms are great.

So after we realize it’s January 1st and either take our aspirin or make coffee or, like some of you weirdos will do – do something actually productive and responsible like gardening or balancing your checkbook – we will soon realize that we really don’t have that much to do. At least not RIGHT NOW.

But until then we have a lot of RIGHT NOW in our lives. You know I'm right.

Because here’s the thing about this time of year that we're presently in. Everything just, like, gets in your face and smashes around you and everyone’s like, “Christmas presents now! We have to buy them now!” and “We must have egg nog and have ourselves some cliché moment of discussing the holidays and how much we love egg nog and cocoa.”


Also, somehow, work becomes more frantic. It just does, have you noticed this? For crying out loud, it's not like we're working for Santa Claus so what is the big rush about??

But I haven’t yet made the point that I set out to make here, so let’s get there shall we?

OK so this list I made last night.

It wasn’t just a “what I need to do, in general” list or a “this is what I’m worried about right this second” list.
It was a list of things that I need or “need” to do before the year is up.

Work is on that list, but I don’t know if I wrote it down, because it’s a given. Get to work by 8, do your thing there, leave at 5. Cool? Cool.

The other stuff is stuff I’ve already signed up for, can’t skip out on, and some things that I want to make happen in the next 45-ish days.

Here’s the key to this list: it’s pretty short, considering all the things I could heap on there.

I could, for example, write on my list: "make adorable cross stitched reindeer stockings for eight of my close personal friends. Write personal note for each stocking and place inside. Hand deliver while singing a Christmas carol. Elf outfit would be cute - might need to go shopping."

a)I would so not have the time for that, even if I took work off my list.
b)Just no. I love to cross stitch, but it is not my ambition to make the cover of Cross Stitch Living this year.

Although that would be great.


a)Not sure there is a publication called Cross Stitch Living.

Though there are other cross stitch publications that sometimes come with cute little stitch projects and I would love it if I got a subscription for a holiday gift (making it easy here, people, just straight up telling you what I want. Also: boyfriend and cat.)

The list I made last night does not have cross stitching on it at all, because cross stitching will still be there on January 1st. Needlework is not off limits until January 1st, mind you, but it’s not required.

One of the things on my list is a half marathon.

I’ve signed up and paid for the half marathon, and I’ve trained. So I’m gonna do it, if my foot holds out.

So on the list I wrote last night I included things like:
  • Running outfit [something obnoxious with a lot of green and red and tinsel, if available]
  • Get new running shoes
  • Get a massage before the race
  • Get foot worked on before the race

Honestly, all of these things don’t even need to happen. I could be totally lazy until race day and just show up, without an obnoxious running tutu, in my old shoes, with my injured foot and knots in the muscles of my upper back.


It would be more fun and more comfortable and less debilitating if I do these things pre-race.


I don’t have to do them.

But the run itself is on the list because it’s already on the calendar and it’s going to stay there. Hopefully, if my foot holds out.

I have thought about gifts for friends and family. Last night, as I drove, I imagined and started composing a charming little Christmas letter I could write to friends (because I always drive and rarely write on paper, so I write in my head). I thought of getting Christmas cards in which to place each letter. I thought of printing on green paper and skipping the cards.

It was a charming little Christmas letter. Or the start of one, anyway.

But I didn’t put “Christmas letter” on my list last night.

Because it doesn’t need to happen.

For some of you, it might need to happen. You might have the time. You might be the best and most reliable Christmas letter writer in your neighborhood, or ZIP code even. For you, this might be the thing that needs to stay on your list. Maybe baking gingerbread cookies will be taken off the list in exchange.

I’m here, first, to tell you that you don’t need to write that letter or bake those cookies (or you can bake them and skip the icing) in order to be a validated human being. I mean it. So skip it if you want to, even if people protest. Because I know what it feels like to do things because you’re afraid of what the response will be if you don’t.

The response might be annoying, or at worst, well, worse than annoying. But you can survive the response and stand your ground and come out as a validated human being who maybe enjoyed an extra glass of egg nog this year and felt like you actually got to see the holiday lights instead of experiencing them as a blur.

As the weeks move forward for me, things will very likely start to fall off my list, like ornaments falling from a heaping wheelbarrow hitting bumps. (Why I have ornaments in a wheelbarrow, I don't know). Once they meet the ground, they will smash, won’t be that pretty anymore, and I won’t really give a gingerbread cookie about their fate at that point.

If I don’t buy a running tutu for my race, whooooooo carrrrrrrres?

I signed up to do the race, not wear a tutu.

It occurred to me today:

I made a list of the minimum that needs to happen.

Yet my minimum is really what I am allowing to be my maximum.

Obviously I will eat and sleep and things, though I didn’t write those down (sometimes I do, no joke. “Lunch” has been written on many a list in my life).

So I am here to suggest to you, though you do not have to take my advice, to:

Let the minimum be the maximum.

Figure out what you really care about in the next six weeks. Do you really, really want to get a plane ticket to see your family? Do it. Figure out the details, and do it. Put it on your list.

Thinking about a 5K but haven't signed up and you're already feeling run down? Don't sign up. 

The rules are simple.

Don’t list too many things.

Why? Because work and just showing up for Thanksgiving – with the candied yams you’ve already signed up to bring – and just showing up for the company holiday party, and...all that tinseled jazz is gonna get in the way of all these other things you're trying to do in addition.

And you’re gonna be really tired.

Your friends, if they’re loving friends who love you more than the gifts you give, aren’t going to care if you give them a gift on January 2nd, or March 9th.

Just let it go.

Let the minimum be the maximum.

Pick your deal breakers, get excited that those are going to be a part of the end of your year, and for crying out loud pour yourself a glass of egg nog. Even if you hate egg nog. Because it’s symbolic of the season.

Now go! Make your (teeny, tiny) list. And walk away from it. Because there should only be like three things on it, if you're following the rules. You know what’s on your list, so you don’t need it for reference.

Today I went to work and scheduled a massage. I went to the grocery store and ate some foodstuffs. And then I came home and wrote this instead of a charming Christmas letter.

Although this is kind of a charming Christmas letter in its own right. 


P.S. I also realized this letter makes me sound kind of anti-holidays. I spent my lunch break today eating McDonald's food in my car, listening to Julie Andrews' Christmas CD. I'm not anti-fun in November and December, and I am oh so grateful for the birth of a Savior.

The point of this letter is to tell you that I want you to be able to inhale, exhale right now, not pant. And thus not miss the Julie Andrews and the Savior birth celebrating.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I've selected an amazing Thanksgiving buddy for 2013

I think I am finally coming out of my cranky, sensitive, dramatic funk. Praise the good Lord above. I'm still tired and needing lots of vitamins, but otherwise I feel I am on the upswing. And man, things were getting ridiculous there for a while. I could not snap out of it. 

One thing that helps a lot is cracking up with my hilarious friends. 

A conversation with my dear and precious friend Jeff on the phone this evening: 

Me: “I really want to try wassail [pronounced Wuh-SIGH]”

Jeff: “Wassail? [pronounced correctly]”

Me: “Yeah. I don’t know why I have so much trouble pronouncing it because it’s pronounced differently in the song.”

Jeff: “Yeah, I think you should probably take a cue from the song.”

Both of us laugh hysterically.

20 minutes later in the conversation:

Jeff: “Could you remind me how you used to pronounce ‘wassail’?”

Both of us laugh hysterically, and I have to wait to stop laughing in order to meet his request:

Me: “Wuh-SIGH.”

More laughing.

Jeff: “Oh, boy. That’s good.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

Open letter (btw, I'm feeling more than a little whiny lately)

Dear family, friends, and people I may meet in the next several weeks (because I will meet you and I will want to be best friends and hang out):

In (more than) a word: I’m stressed.

I have been here before: over strung, over tired, feeling guilty when I can’t give time to people yet needing those people to let me talk out all my feelings of being over strung and over tired.

But this time I think I’ll do something different, by addressing it with this letter. I’m not calling this being proactive, because I’m already in the thick of it, stress wise, and who are we kidding – I will never be a planner-aheader. We’ll call this ground control (I don't think I'm using that term correctly; I'm trying to creatively say "get my life under control/get me grounded").

I will (try to) make this brief, and just say a few things about what I need from you and what you can expect from me for the next several weeks. Probably until 2014, to be honest, because there are holidays occurring over the next several weeks.

I need:
  1. You. Please don’t forget that. I need you. I really do.
  2. That said, I need to be able to say “no” to you (although please note I probably won’t say the word “no.” I will say, “Welllllllll…” followed by a big long apology/explanation about why I can’t spend time with you. And I will feel badly about it).
  3. Rest.
  4. To work on my self control.

I believe, during my many years of uninhibited extroversion and many interests in many arts and many things, that I have recognized before this teeny tiny issue I have with self control, and my lacking it.

I have realized more than once Рsay, oh, a million times Рthat I need to cool it and just focus. That I need to currrrb the action. Currrrrb the activity. Tennnnd to the basics. Ferm̩ the bouche (shut the mouth).

But when it comes to that term “self control,” while I know it is Biblical and thus I should care, it also sounds very hall monitorish and seems like a smaller thing on the list of things to do, so I usually write “N/A” in my mind and run away, hoping the hall monitor doesn’t see me skipping out on this detail again.

But really, I need self control.

One of our pastors at church recently quoted another of our pastors who said: “Insight is never healing.”

I have become aware that I need self control. I know that I need to say “no.” (Or at least to say, “Wellllllll…”). But I don’t do a damn thing about it. Here’s part of the reason why:

It boils down, really, to the fact that I just want people to like me. I don’t want anyone mad at me, ever. I really don’t want to hurt your feelings, ever. And, in case we’ve forgotten: I want you to like me.

So with that in mind, I have what some might term an irrational fear that in sending a message like this one here that says, “I’ll be in touch when I’m in touch,” that the reaction of some, or many, or all, will be: “Forget that broad. She doesn’t have time for me.”

Did I mention I really don’t ever want to make anyone mad? Yeah. You’re basically just not allowed to be mad at me. That should just be a rule. Although I’m not bossy enough to enforce it. Because bossiness usually comes with the responsibility of having people get mad at you sometimes.

So I am torn in bringing this up, because I so desperately need to just come to you on my own terms right now, but I so desperately, desperately, need you all in my life. And I don’t need you just for my own sense of self worth. I also really like you people.

Let me pause for a moment and say also that I don’t feel like y’all are banging my door down for my attention. So if you’re reading this and fearing that you are coming across as the needy one, fear not. You’re not.

That said, I try to make my policy with people in my life very clear and that is this: you can always call me, even at 3 a.m., if you need to talk. I don’t care if your “crisis” is just being really unhappy and uncomfortable with how you are feeling at 3 a.m., whether it makes sense or not. I’ve been there, thus I qualify that as a crisis, and Lord knows I’ve called people at 3 a.m. with that particular kind of crisis. And sometimes you just need distraction and need to talk about bubble gum or TV or wallpaper – something – to get your mind off your crisis-like feelings. I’ve made those phone calls, too, and you can call me and we can talk about wallpaper and bubble gum and I won’t ask you the hard questions except maybe “Are you OK?” before we hang up.

So that rule still stands. I’m not shutting you out. I am here for you. Just to be clear.

And so while you can and should still call me – or whomever it is in your life who you trust with your crises – I need you to meanwhile not be offended when I:
  1. Don’t reply to your (non-crisis) emails. Or:
  2. Non-crisis Facebook messages.
  3. Or non-crisis phone messages.

And I guess I’m asking for the same in return to my messages. If I call you in crisis, please call me back. If your latest email from me is one regarding bubble gum, you need not rush in your response. Or respond at all.

In the next several weeks, you might invite me to dinner or a party or whatever, and I may have space on the calendar for it. My body may be able to get in the car and get there. I may even be able to be charming while I’m there – though I’m not guaranteeing that these days.

What I’m severely lacking, I am finding, is the time and stamina needed to recover from these things.

I say, “OK, yeah, of course. I can do that, and that, and that, because look right here: space on the calendar!”

But then later I think, “My car and my living space are a huge mess, I’m eating Spaghettios for dinner at 10 p.m., I can’t sleep, I’M SO STRESSED OUT!!!!”

That part is afterthought.

Because at the time when asked to do something, I think:

A)     “Ooh, yay! People still like me! They want to spend time with me! I am validated once again!”



I’m not always this dramatic. A lot of times I’m able to say, “Meh. I’m happy watching a Disney flick tonight. Those friends will be there another weekend.” It doesn’t mean I love the Disney flick more than the friends, but it does mean I’m OK with not driving to see those friends and instead hang out with Simba for the evening.

But lately? I’m feeling a little dramatic. Actually I’m feeling very needy, because I am very needy, because I’m very stressed and very tired and need a lot of reassurance.

I’m going to wrap this up because I said I would keep it brief and clearly I haven’t done that.

It might sound like I’m being funny in what I’m saying above, but I am rather serious, and the writing of this was fueled by a pulsating blob of stress and worry that is very serious.

If you have a crisis, please email or call with a “may day” type message. If it’s very urgent, call twice.

If it’s anything else, bear with me. Love me. Don’t quit offering your time and listening ears, *please*, but if I say I can’t join you for an activity, just accept it. (Again, not that I’ve had a lot of push back from y’all, because I never really say “no” to invitations to activity).

And again, don’t quit offering your time and listening ears. Please don’t wait for me to pass this season of stress before you continue communicating with me. You don’t need to halt communication. That would be sad. I still want to hear you. I will read your emails and listen to your voice mails, and they will make me smile. And sometimes I will respond, and sometimes I will even be funny or charming.

Please assure me that your offer for a sushi date, or a phone date, or a non-date (if you just want to be friends or you’re married or something) is not the last offer you will ever extend to me.

Because I may have an irrational fear about this. And I am needy in my need to have it discredited more than once.

I love you. Please love me. I’m here for you. Please keep being there for me. Also: I’m cranky (that last point is just fair warning). 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A morning. (Or, a semi-weekend recap)

Well I’ve been at Starbucks for about two hours now without being able to connect to the WiFi, so I guess I’ll write something, huh?

First, let’s talk about this: I am sitting at a table at the front of the store, right next to a window. There is a table directly outside the window from where I’m sitting, and the two people sitting at that table have chosen to sit facing the glass, so I feel like I’m being stared at. I don’t think they are staring at me, I think they’re just having a conversation while avoiding the glare of the sun in their eyes, but seriously, dudes. Let’s not.

OK what else can I tell you? I’m having lunch with my friend Rosie in about an hour. We will be dining at my current place of culinary obsession: FIVE GUYS. So incredibly delicious, and In ‘N Out burgers are like rice cakes comparatively. You can fight me on this. I stand my delicious beefy ground. With my complimentary peanuts, thank you very much. Where are my free peanuts, In ‘N Out?

Wow that got mean spirited really quickly. I was actually planning to talk about something more positive, which is the joy and peace of calling a friend last minute – as I just did with Rosie – and having them be available to do something spontaneous and at the last minute.

I began my morning at Starbucks, and I had finished one cup of coffee and a donut. I was feeling the jitteriness set in, the clock was approaching twelve. I thought, “I should eat. Maybe I should buy a newspaper. I want to keep sitting here, but I should eat. I want to get on the Internet but I can’t get my computer to connect. So maybe I should get a paper. Or write. Maybe I should eat.”

Then I thought I’d call Rosie – one of my only friends in L.A. who actually lives somewhat close to me – Valley residents, represent! – and I did call her and asked if she had lunch plans and Voila! She did not! Five Guys here we come!

Anyway, point being, this spontaneity thing doesn’t always work out. So many times I have been aggravated, tense, depressed, felt forgotten, simply because I found myself alone and wanting company and no one was around or available or answering their phones.

But sometimes you call Rosie and she picks up and she, too, would be happy to get a burger with you.


Also grateful for this weekend as a whole, which has been pretty stellar and unexpectedly productive as well as restful. Yesterday I managed to write – and today, too; this really is rare as of late – and I ran nine miles for the first time in life (and experienced waves of nausea for the rest of the evening, but ya know, whatevs) and I put the finishing touches on a video and finally posted it to YouTube (I filmed it in May).

Last night I talked to Mom and Dad on the phone, and by talked to them I mean that they narrated the last quarter of the Iowa State game to me. I thought about saying, “Talk later, Guys,” but then I got invested and stayed on the line. All I was doing was trying not to throw up, anyway, so why hang up? Sometimes it’s a good idea to just stay on the line with people you love because they’re there and you love them and both of those things are pretty great.

I also slept late on Saturday and Sunday morning this weekend. I was so insanely tired last week – on Tuesday I cried those can’t-stop tears simply because I was so, so tired – so I totally needed the rest.

I’ve also managed to not become lonely this weekend, though I’ve only had face time with cashiers and other strangers in public places.

OK now I feel like these people outside are looking at me and incorporating me into their conversation (I’m sure they’re not, but I’m uncomfortable nonetheless). Please turn around, friends. Face the parking lot, or put your noses in books. Start making out with each other, something.

I ask you, how can they not feel uncomfortable with this arrangement?? If there were no glass between us they would never arrange themselves this way. Because we're basically sitting right next to each other. And they're facing me. And we don't know each other. And we're not in conversation together. 

If you do one thing this week, beloved readers, make sure to position yourself at a table outside of a coffee shop with your back to the coffee shop. Thank you.

OK, I’m going to try the WiFi connection again. I think that goal is shot, so I’ll probably buy a paper. Which, as a journalism degree holder, I should probably do once in a while, ya think?  


Oh my goodness, now the guy outside is giving a shoulder massage to the woman, and they are still facing me.

OK, woman protested, he’s sitting down again.

Still facing me.

I should be paid professionally for all the Starbucks spying I do. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Taking my hands off the keyboard of life

I am always writing.

Let me qualify* that statement. *(GRE word)

I am never writing these days, in the pen to paper, fingers on keyboard traditional sense.

Technicalities. I will always lose when it comes to technicalities.

But in my head, you must understand, I am always writing. My brain makes statements, creates sentences, crafts essays. All the time. I can be driving for 30 minutes and “write” a whole essay on jealousy, celebrity, mental health (one of my favorite topics, as we all know), a memory of my mother, by the time my car gets me to where I’m going.

Sadly, and so very aggravatingly, only my car gets me where I’m going in these situations and my essay never hits the page.

I am sometimes good at the self talk that says, “It’s OK if this thought, sentence, idea, whatever, never hits the page. What needs to hit the page will hit the page.” I know that it’s good to practice writing, even if it’s only in my head.

It breaks my heart and makes me crazy and makes me feel like my writer’s life is slipping between my fingers, too. It does that too. But on a good day, or in a good moment, I’m OK with breathing, getting out of the car and walking into whatever activity I have signed up for that is further delaying my writer’s life.

Four weeks ago this weekend I was at a church retreat. It was fantastic. I was so unused to seeing mountains, that I actually commented to my fellow Saturday afternoon football players, “Doesn’t that look like a green screen?” This comment also made me realize how LA I have become – yikes.

I got a fat lip playing football, which I loved, because as a sibling of all males I enjoy showing off an injury, and this particular injury wasn’t accompanied by a concussion so it was all good. I also got the fat lip upon colliding with a very attractive male who I am yet to relocate at church services, so if you see him please let him know I’m looking for him. And that my boo boo needs to be kissed. (Get it? ‘Cause it’s on my lip? Nailed it.)

I met some new people, including a fellow writer who I declared my soul mate basically right away, and out loud. I hope that didn’t freak her out, but it’s already out there so what are you gonna do? Our pastors preached, and taught. We sang. A cabin mate prayed for me and another cabin mate after we opened up about our struggles with anxiety and depression. The time of the prayer was around 2 a.m, and sent up from bunk beds.

The food was even good.

When I left the retreat, I drove away without the radio on. This is something I almost never do, as, like most of us, I am terrified of silence. I’m OK with relative silence, sometimes, i.e. classical music, or yoga or meditation, while someone talks you through what you’re doing ("Now move into cat pose..."). But total silence? No thanks. Because in my head things are not silent.

When I got home that day I was able to take an hour nap, and wake up not feeling depressed (a very common after effect for me; I don’t wake up groggy, I wake up legitimately depressed). Then, at bedtime, I was able to sleep again. Ever since this retreat, I’ve been able to fall asleep in ways I haven’t for years. I almost always read before bed, but I’ve been skipping that a lot lately. 

I should mention I’m in a new job, thus my brain is still using a lot of fuel to learn the ropes, and I’m training for a half marathon, so my bod is craving tons of sleep, so this has a lot to do with my resting habits. But the retreat certainly helped.

I’m not saying the retreat was some childlike experience of childhood camp that acted as a magical elixir. But I was surprised how readily and easily I was able to drop my cynicism and embrace the childhood excitement of a camplike weekend (and I do believe it was not my own volition that was able to adopt such an attitude, I think Someone else helped in this department). And I left the retreat on a high, for sure. But if memory serves, this particular high wasn’t accompanied by the usual fear of an oncoming low that I so often carry around with my highs.

Yep, that’s me: can’t even enjoy the highs in life because I fear, in the midst of the high, that tomorrow (or in an hour, or in 5 minutes) I will crash. Can you relate? Call me. I mean it, I’m here. This back and forth is one of the worst things ever, and a thing that can make you feel very alone – but you're so not alone, homies.

On the last day of the retreat, before I drove away in silence and calm and peace and happy reflection on the football and the worship and the 2 a.m. bunk bed prayer, we had a worship service during which one of our pastors preached a message that really affected me.

At the end of the message we had communion, and I was able to believe, sort of, kind of, for the first time in a long time, that I was forgiven. Usually I take communion with a strange mix of “I don’t deserve this” and “I don’t understand this” feelings and numbness.

But during that last morning of worship, something hit me. And it was this: I need to

Quit writing it.

I don’t need to quit writing. I need to quit writing it: my life, my future. I need to quit writing the lows that I think will follow the highs. I don’t have a superpower to stop the lows that may very likely continue to follow the highs, but I don’t need to write them in my always-writing head before they have a chance to decide to show up on their own.

Let me slow down for a sec and explain what I mean.

In addition to writing essays, and delicious sentences that y’all will never see because I am too busy doing other stuff, I “write” out in my head what is going to happen to me. Sometimes these happenings involve me at Barnes & Noble in several years, signing copies of my memoir and being lavished with praise. Or being interviewed on the Ellen show, just because Ellen finds me interesting.

Usually the future happenings I write ain’t that pretty. They might be more believable, but they ain't pretty.

For example, this past week, while listening to my favorite writer, Anne Lamott, speak at a church here in Pasadena, the horrible story I was writing in my head was more like: “This is never going to be you. Clearly you aren’t writing as of late, so when do you think this is ever going to happen? Plus you’ll never be as admired as her. And maybe you’re not meant to be. Which is OK, but what's the point, then?” Etc., etc.

Isn’t that lovely and uplifting?

But guys. Friends. This is my life. This is my reality. Those examples above of the stories I write - both good and bad - are like the tip of a fingernail on an entire body of stories that are written all the time. My mind churns and churns and it loves to head for a story that ends in fiery doom.

I also love to write – and read – stories of grace, redemption, second chances, sobriety, peace, soft purring pets that amazingly, miraculously, through their purring, resuscitate us, over and over and over again.

But those awful, shitty fiery doom stories almost always elbow their way to the front of the thinking line. It is my prayer and hope and experience (not the most often experience, but enough) that the grace stories, the purring stories, win.

But, meanwhile, I must fight the fiery doom stories. Or just let something else be written in its place. Written by Someone other than me. 

When I realized recently, Bailey, you need to quit writing it, I was able to enjoy communion. I was able to be resuscitated and drive in silence without freaking out.

Y’all might think that I am Little Miss Believer, with all my writing about faith, and it is my fear that I will be misunderstood in that regard and lead you to believe that you can’t relate to me or reach out to me with your doubts because you think that I don’t have them.

I probably doubt more than I straight up believe, I just want to say that. So again, if you can relate, call me.

But amidst my doubt, there are certain things that help me keep believing, or do what it more often looks like: keep me holding out for belief. Rooting for belief. Waiting and hoping for peace and calm and trust in that which is not my own mind and tiny life. Because this world is full of a lot of Awful, and I am not willing to believe that that is all there is. No way. Blegh. That view gives me the heebie jeebies and crushes me a million times over.

Reading certain Psalms (139, 91) makes me cry. Reading Scripture out loud makes me cry. Just thinking about praying with my family makes me cry. I’m not saying crying is proof of anything, but it’s telling. And it might be proof. I’m not really interested in the proving business as it is, anyway. I’m interested in the getting people peace and hope and love business, which I think is the business my God is in.

Some other things that keep me holding out for belief include: a kingdom that is not of this world. Because as I mentioned before, this current world, while full of beautiful things and nature and yes, love, it’s really full of Awful. So that whole, “This isn’t all there is” idea: that sits really well with me.

Also, God as our Father works for me, because I have a really wonderful human father who is just like me and thus quite possibly may understand me better than anyone else I may ever end up knowing. I realize that a lot of people don’t have great fathers, or fathers who are even in the picture of their life, and I always hate hearing about those kinds of pictures. But I am really grateful for my dad, who, in being a wonderful dad to me helps me imagine a God who loves me affectionately as my heavenly Father.

I could get more into the details of those two things I just mentioned, but for now I want to focus on the final thing that really helps me with my unbelief. And that is this: God as the Author and Perfector of our Faith (other translations: author and finisher of our faith - I also love that).

The Author.

I love that.

As a writer I love that, because I love to write and I identify with it, the same way a carpenter could love that Jesus was a carpenter, or a dancer could love and so totally get it why David decided he needed to dance that one time.

I also love it, as a writer, because it reminds me that I am not The Writer, nor do I have to be, nor am I allowed to be, nor will I ever be.

So I can, and should, quit writing it.

Just this morning I was making up in my head a whole scenario of how a handsome boy I know might ask me what I’m doing for Thanksgiving (it is almost guaranteed he will not ask me this) and I’d have to tell him, “Oh, I just bought a plane ticket to see a friend for Thanksgiving.” Then the handsome boy, having acted too slowly, would not spend Thanksgiving with me, and thus we would not and will not ever spend that quality time together that we need in order to fall in love.

…and then there will be no other handsome boy to love me, or there will be one, but before we get engaged, or after we have two lovely children or at some other inconvenient time, this handsome boy will discover that I have a crazy mind that churns and goes between high and low. He will discover that I need so much attention and that I can be so obnoxiously sensitive, something that I’m aware of and just in turn makes me more sensitive, and we will get divorced or not engaged in the first place and I will die alone.

I’m asking for a friend. I’m not the only one who writes these fiery doom stories, right?

OK, I know that we all write fiery doom stories, except for a few Pollyannas in the world whom I can only tolerate on very rare occasions for about one single minute, if that.

But I’m willing to bet that my fiery doom stories are more frequent and more fiery than those of the general public. Should I see a therapist about this? Yes, and I’m working on it.

But I can seek solace, whether I'm in a season of seeing a therapist or not, in knowing that Someone else is writing my story, and I can hope and trust as best as my cynical, grumpy, scared little heart can handle, that the story will not end in fiery doom.

And I can buy a plane ticket to see a friend for Thanksgiving and trust that if I’m meant to fall in love and get married and have kiddos and hopefully not get divorced, that all that will happen. And if it doesn’t well then it doesn’t. I don’t like to think about that, but hey, this is not my book. Some people wish to see into the future. I don’t wish that. I prefer to just write my own book – somehow, somewhere, in the time that will eventually be allotted to me for writing – and meanwhile live inside this one that God, the author and perfector of my faith, is writing.

Oh yeah, and with this kind of surrender and quitting of the writing of fiery doom stories, I can actually have a shot at enjoying Thanksgiving. Which would be so great. (And I am pretty excited - me and friend already have a pretty ambitious list of movies to watch during our holiday).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Accepting applications for a boyfriend

I'm accepting applications for a boyfriend.

Long distance need not apply.

I actually don't have time to review applications, so you might as well just go straight for the big, CLEARLY MESSAGED grand gesture. (You guys kind of suck at this, by the way, as a group. Just say, "I like you." "Let's hang out." "You're hot." Pick one and use it. I'm not asking to marry you, I just want to talk to you. You know, like our parents and grandparents did once upon a time when the world knew how to actually date).

This is actually less for romantic desires at this point and more for my own physical health and personal sanity. Let me show you how this is true. A boyfriend could:

Clean my car. Because I'm not doing that. I hate driving around with the piles and piles of sh*t (not literal, calm down) in the back seat, front seat, floorboards. HATE. But guess what, Peeps? I don't have time.

Boyfriend could also: tell me he thinks I'm pretty. But he better mean it. Otherwise don't offer me empty lip service. Speaking of, he could:

Offer smooches. We're talking very brief make out sessions, because did I mention I'm exhausted and constantly in my car, at work, on a treadmill (training for a race, not sadistically adding activity to my schedule), at the grocery store, or in bed?

[Note: I'm SO not complaining about having a job. I really like my job, feel appreciated, and love HAVING a job.]

Boy could also: hold my hand. Because I like doing that. But he'd have to do this only in the car, because holding hands while treadmilling just wouldn't work, let's be honest, and I'd feel uncomfortable hiding him under my desk at work.

But he'd have to clean my car first. Really, cleaning the car should be job number one. Followed very quickly by telling me how pretty I am.

I really had a whole list of how this would help my physical and mental health, but am forgetting....

Oh! He could go to the grocery store for me. Actually, this could be perfect. He could drop me off at the gym, take my (now clean) car, purchase groceries, pick me up, tell me how beautiful I am not to mention how my sweat smells like lilies, hand feed me (if he likes - that's optional. He could also hold my hand while I eat, because while I'm not interested in treadmill hand holding, I think I could manage eating with the one hand. I don't think this. I know this, with my very colorful resume of drive-thru-eating-while-driving history).

He could also fetch me candy whenever I want candy, which isn't too often these days, so he needn't worry about being too burdened with this task. It's in the "as assigned" category.

And lunch at work. Be really great if he could supply that. I could even put him on my checking account so he wouldn't have to ask for my debit card (though he should be buying, because, well, I want him to) all the time, but he would have to set up that joint checking account because I'm sure not doing that.

Oh, he could deposit my paychecks, too.

Now, you might be thinking, Bailey, you just want a glorified errand boy.

Well, no.

He needs to listen, too. He needs to do a LOT of that, and I wouldn't expect or ask that of an errand boy. Because that's just unethical and probably not within union guidelines.

And I could tell him that he's pretty, too, I'm charitable in that way.

I just need a listener, preferably handsome, who's very good at making sure I am always fed, my car is not disgusting, offers stories and/or lullabies at bedtime, and lets me kiss him for about 2 minutes a day.

I'm not asking for a lot. I'm convinced that millions of women everywhere have this, I just wasn't offered that particular coupon/offer/special at the boyfriend store.

OK, fine, I never made it to the boyfriend store in the first place. The directions to get there are likely buried under clothes, trash, a fresh bottle of Zyrtec, some bananas, empty coffee cups, my

Whoever can find directions to the boyfriend store first will be given very high standing in the boyfriend screening process!!!! Come on, boys, WHAT are you waiting for?! Don't I sound lovely and not demanding nor completely and utterly exhausted? Don't I sound like a non-emotional mess who would be just delightful to speak with?

Did I mention I'm willing to make out?

But only for two minutes. I'm busy, guys. And I really need to have my mouth free for venting and emotional processing so that you can do all that listening I'm hiring - I mean, dating - you to do.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Satisfying small

I'm about to coin a new term (which reminds me: I coined one a while back, and while my friend Tommy thinks it will not take off I would like to disagree with him. Anyway. Remind me to remind you of this term soon. Hold me accountable; I might write more often.). But for now, take notes on the one I'm actually going to tell you about now.

And don't take credit for this term. You may use it. But don't act like you came up with it. Unless you, too, came up with this same term, in which case let's be best friends right now.

OK. Term: 

Satisfying Small.

A "satisfying small" is something small that brings a bit of satisfaction.

My satisfying small for the evening? 

When my microwave ravioli meal is at the end of its first heating cycle - the part where it needs to be stirred before returning to the microwave - and I get to flip each ravioli over with my fork. 

I enjoy it. 

Satisfying small. 

What's yours? 

Antihistamine Party

Bottle of Allegra in my purse.

Lid not fully affixed.

It's like a tiny, sneezy person yelled, "Opa!" and made a run for it. Slipped out on his bum, using the purse strap as a getaway slide.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vacation Recap (which incorporates some lists, for the organizationally inclined among you)

So let's talk about where the heck I've been for a month, shall we? 

And before we do that, let's share this piece of work that my nerd...I mean winner friend Tom made to document my recent travels:

Yep. He's a winner. 

I would feel more than a little conceited making this on my own, but Tommy just made this of his own volition and thus I can just think it's funny and fun. I also have a red winter coat and I believe it has been mentioned by some that it possesses a rather Carmen quality.


So I took a vacation. A long one. An all-over-the-place one. 

And I have to say: 

It was actually a crap-ton of fun. 

While I am more or less a fun person, and while I have my moments of being obnoxious in a good way, I also have this really annoying habit that involves worrying and being anxious. And here is lesson #1 that I learned on this recent vacation I took:

Vacation Lesson #1: When you're moving really fast and every few days getting on a new bus or in a car with a friend(s) to drive to another city, and spending most of your time talking talking talking to your college friends, it's kind of hard to over think things involving your self worth, employment status, and general life-is-messed-up-ed-ness. You don't really have time, what with the beers being poured and the Cubs games to "watch" [read: ignore while you talk] and the dancing that begs to be danced. 

Which brings me to a quick recap of the general list of activities that were undertaken while on this vacay: 

General List of Activities Undertaken While on Vacay:
  • Dancing
  • Singing (in a car, in an apartment, in my parents' basement, along the edge of Lake Michigan)
  • Talking talking talking
  • Cooking (Tuscan veggie soup and Middle Eastern beans & rice)
  • Eating (lots of grilled cheese, notably and interestingly)
  • Drinking of beer
  • Developing beer gut
  • Watching 80s movies
  • Celebrating G'ma's 95TH BIRTHDAY
  • Playing volleyball with new-found Romanian friends on beach in Chicago
  • Surprisingly enjoying the playing of the volleyball
  • Surprisingly enjoying being in Chicago (we have a history that is not all parts pleasant)
  • Spending very reasonable and sometimes ridiculously cheap amounts on Megabus tickets
  • Smooching the faces of very cute and tiny cousins, niece, nephew, and surrogate niece
  • Shutting eyes with head on pillow at very early a.m. hours
  • Teaching friends about #TheWaysOfHashtaggingAndTwitter (apparently several of them were eager to receive this lesson)
Regarding the talking talking talking category, this was an interesting time to visit several of my old friends, as many of the friends I caught up with were people I met in college, a journey which many of us began 10 years ago last month (the primary month in which vacaying occurred. Convenient. Sentimental. Nailed it.). 

Talking to your college friends exactly 10 years after beginning your freshman year together is really a good, and fun, sometimes tough, and revelation-y experience. Not Revelation-y like the book in the Bible, but revelation-y like you realize stuff as you talk to college friends 10 years after starting college. 

I mean, in general, some of it's just fun talk. Laughing about former crushes, former make out partners, class projects, things one of us said that the sayer doesn't remember saying but that the hearer totally remembers. 

It's also really interesting -- and sometimes tough, if you're of the jealous bent on occasion, like moi -- to see where everyone has landed for the moment. The last time I saw my friend Dan, for example (who I met as a freshman, studied abroad with, and have kept in touch with since graduation), had been about a year and a half ago, and I remember talking with him then about a vision he had for developing an urban ministry that doesn't fit traditional church norms, so as to meet people in a way that is comfortable for them before talking to them about Jesus and how great Jesus is. 

Well this time seeing Dan...I learned that he's made it happen! I have a business card to prove it. Dude realized his dream!

I'm kind of blown away by this. I'm so proud of him. Jealous that he has focused and made something really big and impressive happen? Yeah. But proud and so excited for him. 

All my other friends are so talented and accomplished and caring and I just love having our relationships. As I saw each of my girlfriends again I thought how beautiful they are (dudes aren't looking half-bad, either). I love that so many people I know are aging well and not just aging but maturing and being beautiful inside and out. Winners.

I discovered on this trip

[Vacation Lesson #2:]

that there are people who I haven't seen in a really long time but who I still have a really strong connection with. I mean I guess I knew that, as I've been able to pick up where I left off with people at several points in my life, and in no small part have done this in Los Angeles, where high school and college and grad school friends have landed before and alongside me. 

I continued to bond with my friend Karina's husband, Tommy (yes, the maker of the beautiful art in this post), on this trip, whom I had only met a few times before. I always felt close to Karina, and now I feel so connected to both of them, even with an entire country between us. 

Also, and I will say this briefly: while I generally felt like the Mess among friends, I was glad to be home during some moments in which my friends actually needed a listening ear for moments of roughness in their own lives. I don't mean that in any way as "I'm glad I'm not the only one with a mess" but just in the sense that I was glad to be there for them and be a listener and quit thinking so much about me. I could have been there over the phone here on the Coast, but it was nice to be there in person. 

Let's see, what else can I tell you to wrap this up relatively quickly?

We can talk about The Number of Places I Slept on This Trip
  • 12 beds
  • 1 couch
I won't bore you with the details of each bed's specific location. But I will segue into the more generically geographic

List of Cities Visited:
  • [Greater] Kansas City, MO [region]
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Viroqua, WI
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Chicago, IL
  • Iowa City, IA
  • Columbia, MO
By the way, this conglomeration of cities put me in six -- count 'em -- states over the course of six -- count 'em again -- consecutive weekends (CA, NE, WI, IL, MO, KS). Remember that thing I said about moving too fast to think? 

As you can imagine, stopping after all of this moving has been a bit of an anxious shock with over thinking eager to make its appearance again. I am trying to run off my beer gut, catch up with friends in Cali who were not a part of and likewise sorely neglected during the #MidwestTour2013, and, oh yeah, WRITE again. I maybe read 15 pages out of books during my entire vacay (I usually read at least that per night) and other than jotting quick notes for people on pads of paper or updating Facebook statuses at 3 a.m., I basically didn't write during the vacay. 

Which brings me to Vacation Lesson #3: It was really good to take a break from stuff. (Per the writing, I believe in regular practice, but this was a unique opportunity to vacay and put writing in a "later" category). 

During the reception of college friend Kari's wedding, college friend Brad told me to push Grandma (aka me) down into my purse. Translation: quit being a boring old person and just enjoy yourself. He said it out of love and I winked in response. (He's really adorable. You would wink too).

And then, as I have done many times in life but had not done recently enough, I danced my ass off. For like four hours. And sang a Celine song, obnoxiously and loudly. And a Journey song. And then we went to a bar where I didn't drink because I was being old and I was dehydrated, but I went along for the outing and watched my friend Lisa get hit on by a stranger -- work it, girl. 

It was good to take a break -- to be forced, really, by the pace of activity, into a break -- from all the over thinking. From the I'm-a-mess, my-life's-a-mess, what-is-going-to-happen-next-(and-when?)-in-my-life thinking. 

I was gratefully able to recognize during this trip that I may never have a trip like this one ever again. 

I may be able to someday travel for a whole month again, and travel on the cheap, and see old friends, sure. But I doubt I'll find another vacation where so many of my friends are available and still single and still able to remember things from freshman year of college (because my memories, for one, of a lot of those moments I thought I'd never forget are fading). If I tried this vacation five years from now, probably half of my friends will have kids. I might have kids. MIGHT. There won't be a lot of air mattress sleeping and singing of 90s pop tunes when toddlers are sleeping in the next room and when we ourselves are falling asleep due to toddler-induced exhaustion. 

I don't say all this to be a downer, I say it to note my gratitude for this most recent trip's great degree of specialty and awesomeness. After all, there's something indeed special and awesome and a little romantic about something that only happens, just as it happens, once. 

So where in the world is Bailey Sandiego? For the moment: Los Angeles. Not (at the moment) wearing a Carmen Sandiego style coat. It's like 90 degrees, friends. 

SO MUCH LOVE to all the family and friends who helped make this trip possible. For feeding my face and my beer gut, for giving me places to sleep, (Mom & Dad) for purchasing air travel, for showing me new places, for making old places seem fun again, for dancing and singing with me, for being beautiful, caring, powerful, helpful and inspiring You, and for getting me out of my anxious head for 4.5 weeks and cheering me on as I headed back to life as I know it. XOXOXO

Hey look at that, I wrote a blog post. I'm back, baby!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Questions into Celebrations

A lot of times I write things in my planner with a question mark at the end, to indicate that the plans are not finalized.

Then, usually, if they become confirmed plans, I turn the question marks into exclamation points.

Like so:

[DLand = Disneyland!!!]

Monday, July 29, 2013

You know you're a Bieber fan

when you add one of Justin's CDs to your Amazon Wish List and receive this message:

"Since the item you added was already on your Wish List, we moved it to the top. (If you want more than one, change the Quantity Desired.)"

A middle of the night plea for cleanliness

I need to keep the environments around me clean.

My home, my car.

My purse.

I am a neurotic, anal-expulsive* (look it up**), Myers-Briggs type ENFP person, and I am only making things harder for myself by not keeping things clean. It only takes a second to pick up one item that is out of place, but it takes hours to clean up several of them, and the time I spend thinking about it, consciously and subconsciously, takes hours away from my (relative) sanity.

I am writing this here not because you necessarily care but because it is 12:41 a.m. and I am trying not to lose my mind -- again -- and I am about to embark on starting to clean because I can't sleep anyway and have a headache and I am overwhelmed by the constant churning of my brain,


I am making this public, declarative statement. Because when you say something to an audience, you feel a little more accountable.

I need to keep my environments clean.

This madness needs to stop.

I can't make myself less neurotic, but I can make my physical environment less crazy. I am not a toddler. And frankly, even toddlers are capable of putting things back in their toy chest.

Do I wish I had a life coach, therapist, or boyfriend/husband to tell me to pick up my toys? Well, no, because I don't like being told what to do. But really, at this point in my life, yes. But I can't afford the first two people on that list and I don't have one of the third.

*I'm not getting in a conversation now about the literal "anal"-ness of that theory, or whether I believe in all or any of Freud's theories. I just know what it feels like to need to have everything you're thinking about, creating, doing, eating, reading, watching -- all of it -- in front of you and in front of your mind, and at the same time to feel like you want it all to GET OUT OF YOUR FACE so you can breathe.

**Please don't take that as a bossy statement. I'm clearly not in a great state of mind right now. I will give you a hug as consolation if you found that to be bossy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


When people ask me about my dream job, I always wince a little before I tell them that I want to write spiritual memoirs. A lot of times their reaction is initially positive, actually, because they think I want to write books about other people’s stories.

But then I tell them I want to write stories from my own perspective about faith and family, and I wish that I could disappear from the conversation as I wait for that confused look to come across their face.

“You mean you just want to write about yourself and your life and this is your dream? This is what you’re aspiring to do?”

They don’t actually say that. This is what I imagine they are thinking, and I cringe and wonder just how arrogant and self-absorbed I am.

But let me just say one thing (OK, many things). I have studied the craft of memoir for a long time. This isn’t something I just started casually thinking about recently. I have my reasons for wanting to write from my perspective about things that have happened to me and pieces of wisdom that people I love have passed on to me.

I’ve been reading memoirs and autobiographies as a hobby since high school. I went to journalism school, where students usually do their master’s projects about Twitter, or major historic journalistic happenings like the investigation of Watergate and “All the President’s Men,” or how women aged 18 – 34 respond to depictions of women in magazines like Cosmopolitan.

My master’s project was about spiritual memoirs. I don’t know that there ever was a master’s project about that subject before in the journalism school or if there ever will be one again. Why? Because it’s not exactly a journalistic topic. But I really wanted to focus on that, because it’s my passion.

During, before and after my work on that project, I have read and continue to read memoirs, memoirs, memoirs. Often about faith. Almost always about family, because family is everywhere inside us – we cannot escape the influence of family.

When I read these memoirs, I don’t generally think that the authors are arrogant, or annoying, or wasting their time. The books that I love the most are the really honest and analytical ones, and if they are both of these things crafted with amazing writing, that is the jackpot.

My reaction to all these books is: I’m so glad someone put into words things that I have thought before, things that I have struggled with, rejoiced over in my own life. My other reaction is in a manner similar to that of how we feel when we stop and reflect on how grateful we are that a musical group we love decided to perform music. I think: I’m so glad this person, who is clearly an incredibly talented and gifted writer, decided to write. I don’t get hung up on the fact that these people are writing about their own lives instead of others. I think there is a time and place for each type of storytelling.

I am a writing freak. I get so drunk on the written word. I love it, love it, love it. I get totally geeked out on this stuff. I drive down the freeway and think about how I am yet to read Buechner, Nouwen, L’Engle, Augustine, and how I want to read them all right now. I look forward to author appearances the way many of my peers get excited for concerts. I get giddy over books. I fall in love with them. It is a romance all its own, one that crooks my neck uncomfortably on a pillow as I lie in terrible posture at midnight, fighting fatigue to read just 20 more pages.

Over time, since I started this here blog, I’ve been told – not a million times, but enough – by people that something I said made them happy, touched them, and that they were glad I said something.
Even writing that statement makes me feel arrogant. But let me just tell you that is why I write. When I have read the writing of Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Jay Bakker, Phil Vischer (yes, the Veggie Tales guy), Lauren Winner, etc. etc. etc., I have thought so many times: YES. There is tremendous, incredible comfort which makes me able to move forward in life when I read on a page the words of someone else who has been somewhere I have been. I write not for the “fame” of writing, but because when I read something and it touches me I know how powerful that is, so who am I not to do the same for others if I am getting clear feedback and requests to do so?

When I took my introductory reporting class in journalism school, I was prone to say ridiculous and obnoxious things during lecture in our classroom full of probably 200+ people. In more private moments, during some of the countless occasions when us tired, crotchety master’s students got together for drinks, some of my friends would mention to me that they enjoyed listening to my comments in class.

I felt ridiculous (and then again, not so ridiculous) making the comments, but apparently I was saying things that other people wanted to say but were too afraid to raise their hands and actually say themselves.

Believe it or not, I was a shy kid. At least that’s the way I remember it. But around the third grade mark, I got sarcastic, and from there on I have always been obnoxious. I talk. I’m loud. I’m not shy, and I will be that person in a group to finally say, “All right, everyone, we are going to Taco Bell for lunch and that is it! No more discussing our options, let’s go.” I have opinions and I share them. Sometimes people find this funny, probably sometimes they want me to shuuuuut uuuup.

Let me just say I wish I could shut myself up sometimes. I don’t understand sometimes why I have this impulse to just make something known outside of myself, why I must tell those around me what I am thinking and feeling, why I am so verbal.

But when it comes to writing, this is the only thing I have ever felt called to do. It is the only thing that I have received continuous, specific words of encouragement about. And yes, I want to shut myself up on the page, too, sometimes. I worry a fair amount about how words can hurt others and make people who don’t agree with me hard and thus not willing to listen again. I really believe that God is more than my words will ever say, and I absolutely do not want to step on His toes or get in the way of the things He is doing for us by opening my big mouth and saying something that will lead His sheep astray.

Anne Lamott, in her book about writing called “Bird by Bird,” says something about how writers are simply just really observant people. I think she says something in addition about how it’s our job to share those observations, but it’s been a long time since I read that book and I don’t have my copy here with me to reference and check, so don’t quote me on that. But I remember the thing about being observant.

I am a neurotic person. I observe. I think all the time. I cannot stop. I feel burdened by it a lot. Sometimes I am OK with it because I am grateful that I was selected to be a creative person. Whatever the reason this incessant thinking is here inside me, it’s here. Two things I can say about it: 1) When I write down my observations, they are not only in my head anymore but also on paper, and this offers tremendous catharsis and relief to my nonstop and sometimes tortured brain. 2) Sometimes people respond to this, positively.

So I write.

I get up in my unemployment and instead of heading straight to the job listings, I head to Microsoft Word. I put the date at the top of the page, I save the file, I sit, I head to the Internet to dink around, and then eventually I get to gettin’. I write something. You know why? Because so many of these trusted writers who I am so grateful for say that you’ve got to write every day. Make it a habit. Do it at the same time every day, to create a mental environment that recognizes when it’s writing time. Do it to practice, to use the muscle, to keep limber. Do it because if all you ever do is talk about it you’ll never actually do it. Do it because this is our job, and in this particular line of work no one is going to make us do it but ourselves.

Writing is a lonely profession. It provides temporary freedom from neuroticism, but it also breeds it. Anne Lamott says to call your writer friends when you feel like sh*t about yourself and your writing, because someone eventually will answer the phone, and they will understand. I practice this in general, not just when I’m freaking out about writing. I’ve been known to dial 10 numbers or more in a row, just to get the human on the other end of the line who can get me out of myself for just a sweet second. The ones who I can cry to and who can make me laugh are on speed dial. (Theoretical speed dial – as if I know how to activate speed dial on my phone. I still haven’t figured out where the speaker phone feature is.)

I hope that my writing is something of that voice on the other end of the phone line for some people.
I will still feel arrogant on occasion, like a fool, hating so much that look on the faces of people who don’t comprehend how I can be so bold to say that I want to write books about my own observations, instead of interviewing some really interesting person and writing his story instead. My hope is that either some really gifted writer out there will write the story of that really interesting person, or that he will write it himself. Because when someone speaks from her own perspective, it is honest. It is not hindered by the thoughts of someone else, and it speaks to people. And I love that. That type of writing specifically has served me as a reader, and a writer. If I thought these memoirists were all arrogant pricks, I would have stopped scouring that section at the library a long time ago. But there are a lot of people who know how to tell the world about something they really understand, something that for better or worse they just get, and personally, I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Do I still feel weird, arrogant, as a writer? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes I feel like a fool. An arrogant prick who thinks maybe I should just write in a cave and not ever provide my stuff to an audience, because all this talking about me makes me uncomfortable to think about and broadcast. But that defeats the purpose, I think. And every once in a while that audience says, “Please keep going. Keep writing.”

I really try to write around themes* – faith, family, mental health. It’s not so much that I’m writing about me. I am simply the narrator, speaking to things that affect us all but that some of us are afraid to talk about. I have needed writers to say before, “I feel crazy, I feel like a jerk, I am so f*ing lost in this life,” and they have said it, and I have heaped kisses of gratitude upon them from afar. I am simply carrying the torch to keep saying those things so that people won’t get so utterly lost in their anxiety, their depression, their irrational fears, their doubt of their faith that they have had for so long and so desperately don’t want to lose.

“We read to know we are not alone,” said C.S. Lewis.

I might be going against the norm, in a pretty hardcore fashion most of the time. Very few people walk around this place saying, “I want to write spiritual memoirs.” But as far as I can tell, I have a calling and I am following it. I have been made somewhat obnoxious. Sometimes obnoxious people are simply obnoxious, and other times they are asked to speak up. And 2,118 words later, I have accomplished my task for the day, to write. The Word document is no longer blank, no longer contains only a date.

*By the way, in case you’re wondering, one of the major differentiations between a memoir and an autobiography is that a memoir tends to be focused on a major theme or a snapshot in time. Autobiographies tend to be chronological, birth-to-present stories. I picked up a bit of this trivia during my master’s studies…

(A small) P.S. This is my 1,000th Daily Bailey post. If you’ve been here since the beginning, thank you. If you just got here, thank you for stopping by. And welcome. Xo, Bailey

Friday, July 26, 2013

That which calms me

I woke up around 5 this morning. Not on purpose or thanks to an alarm, just one of those many occasions where I wake up earlier than I want to.

I won’t get into it right now, but I will say that being alone in the middle of the night is one of my least favorite things.

As I was lying in bed, waiting for sleep to return and wondering if it actually might, I heard a sound on the roof and outside. I thought maybe the wind had picked up, and I pictured dried leaves and such being carried across the pavement. I thought maybe there was an animal – or more than one? – outside.

I went to look outside, and may have realized before I actually reached the window panes that it was raining!

I quickly opened a window to bring the sound of pattering drops inside. I wasn’t awake much longer.

It doesn’t rain very often in Southern California, and when it does it’s more likely to rain in certain sections of the region and usually during the winter. I live in “The Valley,” where it seems to rain more than in other sections of LA, and I love this. A brief July water shower was oh so welcome today.

I moved to LA – get ready, here comes some information you’ve already heard before – in large part for its daily dose of sunshine. Sunshine keeps my spirits up. I love that there are so many days of sunshine here. Even when I take them for granted, I am still aware that the continuous presence of brightness each day is helping me out. The way a multivitamin or daily glasses of water help us out. It’s not obvious in a highly theatrical, emotional way that they’re helping, but cut out the vitamin or the water and we’ll notice the difference eventually.

I do not miss the snow of the region where I grew up. Maybe in 10 years I’ll be able to appreciate it again, in the way that I think a solid 5+ year break from listening to Ace of Base tunes will help me get back to a place of appreciation for the band. But right now, I don’t want to hear about snow, see it, feel it, think about it.

This past winter my hometown and several areas around it got pummeled with snow. Each week they got a new dumping. And this news was all over Facebook. I legitimately got annoyed and probably angry in response to this. I thought, “I left that area for a reason, I really don’t want to hear about this on Facebook.”

I’m not kidding. I’m a total grump sometimes, if you haven’t noticed.

So I don’t miss snow. It makes me cold, the grey clouds make me depressed. Let’s not talk about it anymore.

But I do miss the rain. I have loved rain and rainy days for always. It’s soothing. It’s cool: (non-frozen) water falling from the sky! It makes us (or me, at least) sleepy and friendly, kind of like Snow White’s seven dwarfs, or Muppets.

I don’t know where that analogy just came from, but I’m going with it.

Rain, even though it’s associated in all the great weather metaphors with depression and, sometimes, danger, for me it has the opposite effect. It makes me happy. It makes me calm.

One thing I have loved about rain for a long time is that it slows us down and brings us together. When it rains, all plans to go to the beach or the amusement park are called off. Not that I don’t love the beach or roller coasters, but they will be there when the rain lifts.

Yes, snow brings us together inside, too, and calls off our plans when it traps our cars in its frozen, gross grip…grrrrrrr. But there is a difference between snow days and rain days, so to speak. Snow, to me, feels like a trap. Rain is usually not something that comes and stays for days and months. The ground drinks it up, our cars get a fresh glisten on them thanks to the free bath, and we head back out to our lives, with a fresh whiff of delicious post-rainness to accompany us.

I might seem like someone who is hard to pin down. I talk a lot, I talk fast, I have a lot of ideas that churn around and spew out of me. I know a lot of people and like to keep in touch with many of them at once. But I love quality time with people – particularly with one person at a time – and it is very hard for me to tell people directly that I need some attention.

When it rains, quality time can’t help but show up. Think about what you do when it rains. If you’re at home, you grab your roommate, make popcorn and pop in a movie, right? If you’re babysitting, you whip out a board game or build a fort or go sit by the window and just look out and listen. You find your cat for a fresh round of cuddling. Even at the office, it seems to me that an extra pot of coffee gets thrown on the burner when it starts to rain. People take a break from their bill processing, their phone calls, and meet in the foyer or the break room to look outside and talk.

Rain brings us inside, together, and calms us down.

I love the sunshine now, but I didn’t always love soaring temps or appreciate the simple necessity of sunlight. The turning point came around the time I studied abroad in Africa, before which I told myself I better get used to sun and heat. Today I love lying on the beach or by the pool, working on my “tan,” people watching, talking, listening to the waves. The way hair warmed in the sun feels on the palm of my hand. Making senseless patterns in the sand with my fingers, barely realizing my habitual motion as I talk on the phone to Mom and Dad 1,500 miles away.

But when I was younger and still today, I thought and think that summer is kind of a season of feeling left out.

Wow, I really am a Debbie Downer, aren’t I?

In the summer people are running around. Beach, amusement parks, picnics, BBQs. This is all great, but if you don’t have a specific group that you’re a part of, you only land in these activities here and there. And the moments of waiting for these events can be pretty lonely. Or pretty damn lonely, depending.

When it rains, everyone has to come inside. Sometimes people complain. And with those people, especially out here where rain is such a rarity and, in my mind, a hugely precious gift, I have to say I kind of want to ask them what is wrong with them. We get something like 350 days of sun a year out here, and these people can’t keep it together for an occasional sweep of rain or cloudy day? But generally, when I get past the want-to-shake-them stage, I don’t actually mind the complaining. I just ignore it, and enjoy a hot beverage and the sound of the drops, and the fact that we’re all together.

Probably on some deep, unseen level, it makes me feel like I am back in my childhood home, with all of my siblings and parents in one home, before we were even old enough to think about leaving home for college and spouses and grand adventures to California. I’m visiting my parents in two weeks, and in their house with coffee and wine and three cats and themselves, I so hope it rains while I am there.

When it rains, for a moment – for 20 minutes or a day or a week – I don’t have to pin anyone down and beg for their attention. And if anyone else needs some attention, I am there to share a hot beverage with them and offer them some attention.

I’m getting blissful just thinking about it. 

Friday, July 19, 2013


What is it that keeps you from focusing?

For me, I can’t even focus on what is at the core of my lack of focus.

Off the bat, some obvious things that keep me spread thin and nonproductive:
  • Technology
  • Overstimulation
  • My ADD nature
  • My extroversion
  • Social media
  • A wide variety of interests
  • A society that is constantly waving things in my face, saying "Look at this! Now look over here!"
Even as I write this, I am distracted by the tabs open on my Internet browser.

We are a creative, talented lot, us human beings. Gifted and creative in different ways, but we all have something to offer that is meaningful to life’s conversation. But how do we harness it?

I enjoy so many things – writing, reading, needlecraft, talking, exercising, singing, cleaning, animals, meditating, mundane things like filing papers, lying in the sun – but here’s the thing: I rarely tell myself that I should set most of them aside, for a moment, or (here’s a provocative thought) for several months, in order to focus on one thing that might be more of a service to people if I really bore down and focused on it.

There’s a problem here I already see with this idea. One can’t skip the everyday activities in order to focus on one’s art or craft. We have to keep our surroundings clean and functional, take care of our hygiene, pay our bills, talk to our kids (mine are yet to be, but I know a lot of y’all have them) and our friends. We have to do these things in order to maintain our well being and to keep ourselves as, well, ourselves.

If I don’t talk to people every day – and I’ve decided recently that it’s very important that I physically see people each day – I am not completely, fully Bailey. I won’t die if I go a day without talking to someone – and thanks to a blizzard that I would like to forget I have gone several days without seeing people in person – but it’s really helpful to my nature if I do. I need to laugh every day, and praise the good Lord I have some funny people in my life who keep me laughing.

Meanwhile, all my little rituals and hobbies keep me up and bubbling with ideas, etc. etc. I also know, though, that some of these rituals like meditation and sitting still and praying and writing are so good for keeping my racing mind in check. I don’t like to be bubbling with ideas all the time. It makes me crazy. I can’t shut my mind off in those moments. I don’t have the patience or the energy or the wherewithal to write down all of my ideas for things to write about, videos to make, people to send fun mail to, when my mind is going super fast ahead of any pen I could use to write these ideas down with.

Recently I made myself a new and improved “unemployment schedule” that is overall too ambitious in its entirety, but I don’t expect myself to hit nearly all of the things on it every day. What it boils down to, though, the things on it that I am trying my best to hit every day, are:
  • Writing in the morning
  • Morning meditation/prayer/stretching time, on some days
  • Lunch (yeah, I have to write this one down)
  • Job searching/networking in the afternoon
  • Sometimes exercise
  • Dinner and free time (seriously, this sounds like a camp schedule for kids, but these are the kinds of ridiculous drill sergeant steps I must take with myself)
  • Reading
  • Bedtime
I’ve thought for a long time now about the irony of our world’s ability to get things done so quickly through the benefits of technology and the fact that we as humans can’t move any faster in our thinking or writing or doing simply because there are technological tools to help us.

Let me tell you what I mean. Email. Twitter, Facebook, etc. Many moons ago – you know, around 1985, when some of us were born – if we wanted to communicate with someone who wasn’t right in front of us, we had to either call them or sit down and write or type a letter. We had to put that letter in an envelope, look up the address (in our Rolodexes that we had better hoped were organized, otherwise it would take us all afternoon to find the address), write that address on the envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it.

Then, then! We had to wait for the person to receive it! And then wait for him or her to call us or write us back!

Today? You have something to say, you say it. “Blah blah blah, 140 characters, POST.” Whoops, maybe shouldn’t have said that. Too late.

It used to be that when we wanted to go somewhere, we had to look up details on a map, or talk to a trusted local who knew every road and landmark nearby. (Let me just stop here and say that while I use Google Maps almost daily, I am also a proud owner of a Thomas Guide for the streets of Los Angeles – awesome tool.)

The fact that we can look up things on Google Maps – or, for some of you advanced people, have your smarty pants phone look it up for you – doesn’t mean our cars can drive faster than they did 20 years ago. It doesn’t mean we won’t possibly have trouble finding the place once we get near the appropriate cross street. If a Yelp review says the drinks at said place are delicious, it doesn’t mean our taste buds are robotic and will agree with those taste buds of the Yelp reviewer.

When we press ‘send’ on an email message, it travels in seconds, or less, across the world if need be. But we still have to take the time to think about what we’re saying in that message. We might be typing our messages, which is faster than handwriting, but we still have to sit to compose it long enough to get our full message across, to proofread it, organize our thoughts and convey appropriate, civil, kind tones.

I was reluctant to join Twitter, which I did last month, because I knew it was just one more social media outlet to heap onto the pile. I don’t even want to look at how many Tweets I tweeted yesterday – it was my first real day of getting a little crazy with my rate of tweeting. But as a social person, and as a person who uses the Internet for entertainment in general and in this time of unemployment, and as a writer who wants to get her writing out there for consumption, I wanted to try out this Twitter business.

I think it’s hard, in this time where we have so many stimulations around us, to say to ourselves that we should take our hands off the keyboard for a moment (or, for us writers, maybe keep our hands on the keyboard but only keep that one Word document open!) and focus on one thing. I think that’s a pretty radical thought for our time, yet I don’t think that’s radical for the way we are designed as humans. We have these great new tools, thanks to our creative human design that allows us to think these things up and make them, but our bodies and our minds aren’t designed to just suddenly – or ever – keep up with this new pace we’ve set for ourselves.

I can find hundreds of jobs to apply to each day on the Internet, but I can only meaningfully put together application materials for one or two of them each day. And that’s of course assuming I’m not dinking around on Facebook, yakking on the phone with my friends, or even doing other valuable things like exercising or volunteering. Yet, because the tools are there – I can send an email with one click, and for that matter I can email a recruiter who I’ve never met because his or her email address is publicly available – we don’t tell ourselves that we should move at a slower pace than that which the tools themselves can keep.

I’ve been trying recently to focus on my writing as my real work, the work that I feel I am called to do and the work that my creative capacities are most aptly attuned to.

But at times it’s really radical for me to think that I need to temporarily sacrifice some of my other gifts and talents, or interests, to focus on that work. Not necessarily even for just a couple of hours, either – maybe longer, much longer periods of time. Just because I can agree to help a bunch of people out with various projects doesn’t necessarily mean I should. With Facebook in my face, and the fact that my friends know I use it, it’s harder to say “No, I’m going to sit this one out.” Obviously I’m there in front of them, I seem available, so why should I tell them I’m not? Because if I make myself too available, then I can’t really offer anyone quality time or assistance, friendship or focus.

Before I wrote this, I tweeted that I needed to turn off the Justin Bieber Pandora radio station if I was planning to get any real writing done. My hashtag?: #focus