Five Senses Friday: 6.22.18

This week, many Americans (and the world) watched with bated breath as the family separation policy of the Trump administration generated optics that amounted to modern-day concentration camps. An alarming number of us sought justification: If people don’t want their children taken from them, they shouldn’t put them in danger by bringing them to the border illegally; Most adults are bringing minors who aren’t their children to get a free pass; Immigrants are infesting our country.  (A reminder from media critic Jean Kilbourne: Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.)

But I saw another number speak up, shout out, and use their voices in a new way: a friend who just moved to a new state and immediately called her senator; people attending their first protests; acknowledging their own privilege publicly and calling others to do the same; donating, calling, crying out.

It was scary, wasn’t it? While I’ve been incredibly vocal lately, did you know I’ve been scared too? Though I’ve signed countless online petitions and sent dozens of template email forms, two weeks ago, I called my representativesfor the first time – and I left a message. I’m such a chicken shit. This week, I called Roy Blunt’s office during the middle of the day, talked to a staff member, and voiced my opinion on the issue of family separation. The whole exchange took about a minute, but I was shaking like a leaf.

Doing anything for the first time is nerve-wracking. We aren’t born knowing how this stuff works. We aren’t handed the confidence to be a bold ally for the marginalized the moment we decide it (finally) merits our attention. But we press on. We press on. At dinner this week, Brett and I shared some truths we are currently exploring (thanks Layla Saad’s Wild Mystic Woman Podcast for the inspiration). A truth we spent a lot of time on was this:

The world is to be engaged with: press up against the darkness and ugliness and lean into the lightness and beauty; leave your mark on your community and be imprinted upon by teachers, mentors, guides.

6.29.18 EDIT: Damn it. I was re-reading this to grab a quote for a social media post and was struck by and feel it necessary to point out a very common bias here. ^ The association of beauty with lightness; ugliness with darkness. Light and dark are spiritual concepts, but they are also the descriptors of appearance. John A. Powell discusses this with Krista Tippet in On Being and how very destructive it is for a person of color to have blackness consistently associated with negativity. Foot, meet mouth. I’m sorry. This is harmful and I was not being mindful. I’ll do better.

I’m not pre-conditioned to engage with the world in this way. It’s raw and vulnerable and when I’m doing it anywhere else but online my heart beats a thousand miles per minute. Any confidence you might you perceive is the confidence that my words are true, that my words are just, that my words need to be heard. There is no confidence in my saying them. I am afraid.

I’m doing it anyway. Perceived emotional discomfort does not hurt more than the real physical threat BIPOC experience in the face of white supremacy. We press on. If you do nothing more today, take 10 minutes to watch Luvvie Ajayi’s TEDTalk: Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. It’s lifegiving.

Smell: Sniff out the Issues (Research) Now that you know about white privilege, what are you going to do about it? Emptying the White Knapsack by Jaime Grant offers a great list of practical suggestions to “create the workplaces, institutions, neighborhoods and beloved communities to which we aspire” (found via Anton Truer).

fullsizeoutput_19b6See: Read, Watch, or Experience Art from Artists of Color The XCHANGE, is a content series co-created by Nneka Ude and visual artist, cultural critic, and my good friend Shawn Gadley. In the first few episodes, two black founders of Black Tech Mecca talk business strategy, black culture, and startup life.

Taste: Get a Taste of Life (Immersion) Cultivate an Instagram and social media feed featuring people who are black, indigenous, queer, Hispanic, Latinx, biracial, activists, artists, writers, hikers, educators, fat, thin, witchy, Christian, Muslim – folks who will help you better understand intersectional identities and uplift the veil of your own privilege. Here are some of my unmentioned favorites: Ron GriswellJacob Tobia, Rochelle Brock, Jessamyn Stanley, Glennon Doyle, Mona Haydar, Fran Tirado, Delainee Richelle (This is a practice I started almost immediately when I began educating myself about white privilege – it was a suggestion made by Thias Sky and Lindsey Rae in parts one and two of Thais’ Reclaim Podcast episodes “You’re Waking Up to Your White Privilege, Now What?” which are required listening. My personal prophet Rachel Cargle (see below) made this suggestion recently as well).

Touch: Take Action with Your Hands On June 30, rallies are planned around the county to send a message to the Trump administration that families belong together – and free. Find an event in your community (or start one!) here. Not ready for public protest? Use 5calls.org to demand reunification of migrant children that were separated from their families during the past 6 weeks.

Hear: Listen to Voices of Color Rachel Cargle: Unpacking White Feminism on The Kate & Mike Show; Rachel is an academic, a writer, a student, an activist, and a voice that I listen to very closely. She is a no bullshit, community-building, portal of education and a movement maker. To me, she embodies Cornell West’s quote “Justice is what love looks like in public.” This podcast episode is a nice entry to her work. (Support her on Patreon.)

Bonus Resource: The fight isn’t over: Immigration Advocates Say President Trump’s Executive Order Creates Even More Problems, but here’s how you can help.

As a note: I’ll be taking the next week off, so look for another round of resources July 6!

 

Five Senses Friday: 6.15.18

I’m starting a practice called Five Senses Friday. I’m big on themes (if you know me personally, this shouldn’t surprise you). I’ve been unsettled lately. I’m unstuck. And with Five Senses Friday, I’m inviting folks to join me. I want to wiggle out of, chip away at, and disrupt the quiet but pervasive forces of injustice and oppression.

By engaging all five “senses,” my hope is to commit, with my full self, to doing “The Work.” What is “The Work”? It probably depends on who you ask, but I’ve come to understand it as this.

Rooted in humility, respect, and curiosity:

  1. Spend time in self-reflection to understand how our identity informs our impact (and how this differs from intent);
  2. Lean into the discomfort of our revelations, despite how vulnerable it feels to face the harm we’ve done; and finally,
  3. Advocate for, align with, and act in the best interest of racial and social justice.

The third step is critical. It represents the transformation from ideas to accomplishment, from knowledge to understanding. I have spent a lifetime talking about what I might do; believing I was already doing enough claiming labels for myself based on no evidence, no action, no allyship. When I started to dig into my own self-work a little deeper, a writer I follow on Instagram posted this image:

30830890_1922167654512872_6533052591914352640_n

It is profound in its simplicity. It allowed me to realize that in my segregated world, almost every room I enter is full of white people. It’s time for me to start speaking up.

And so, Five Senses Friday. These are simply resources to stay educated, to take some action, to make a small step. Whenever possible, I’ll share resources written, created, or developed by BIPOC (that’s an acronym for black, indigenous, and people of color). There are resources developed by other white folks I have found particularly helpful, and I’ll share those from time to time too.  I’ll always credit my sources and do my best to credit where I discovered the resource as well.

If you’ve done a little of the work yourself, you might think, “she’s not saying anything new.” That’s right. I’m not actually that interested in saying much new. If I add some colorful new commentary, it’s unfortunately likely my interpretation will be shared, reposted, and praised because our culture loves a “woke, blonde, white woman” A LOT and it will overshadow the intellectual, meaningful, and original work that a person of color (probably a woman) did to stay alive.

What I will share is my own experience, here, at what I hope is the back of the crowd. I will do my best to not speak over or for a person of color. There’s a good chance I’ll fuck this up. I expect my community to hold me to a high standard and to call me out when I make a mistake. This literally doesn’t work any other way.

The first resources are for beginners – many are articles I read and revisited when I decided this topic didn’t scare me so much I had to simply run away.

Smell: Sniff out the Issues (Research) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh (found via Anton Truer) (If you’re not quite sure about the concept of “privilege,” try Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is by John Scalzi; it’s a good primer.)

See: Read, Watch, or Experience Art from Artists of Color 5 Tips for Being an Ally (found via Rachel Cargle’s Social Syllabus: How to Be an Ally; Rachel makes so many resources available for free, but do consider becoming a Patreon supporter so she can continue to do so.)

Taste: Get a Taste of Life (Immersion) I got the idea for this “sense” while listening to a conversation between Brene Brown and Deray Mckesson on Pod Save the People (Joy & The Gift and We’re Not Going Anywhere). Brene and Deray discuss how proximity to people different from ourselves is one way to battle hate. However, white folks have to tread carefully here. Our history is one of colonizationappropriation, and disrespect. So, before we move in close to others, we need to first understand our implicit biases to reduce the risk of harm. And we do have them. We aren’t colorblind, you know. Project Implicit (which is mentioned in the podcast episode with John A. Powell) provides a series of tests developed by scientists to measure implicit preferences, which are related to behaviors we make in the workplace, the medical office, and in our criminal justice system. Take a test, understand your biases, and spend some time in reflection before exploring this sense next week.

Touch: Take Action with Your Hands Update your voter registration to your current address, mark your calendar for the upcoming primary (or general election if it has already passed in your state!), and familiarize yourself with candidates and upcoming ballot initiatives. (Hint: Rock the Vote and your state’s Secretary of State’s website are great places to start!) You cannot be an effective advocate if you are not an engaged voter.

Hear: Listen to Voices of Color Opening to the Question of Belonging with John A. Powell, On Being with Krista Tippett; Powell (the scholar, not my father-haha) profoundly names the two “parents” of our current considerations of race as slavery and The Enlightenment – which brought us the myths of individuality and independence. If you find yourself in conversation with “Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstrap” folks (like my own personal John Powell, for example), you’ll be glad you’ve listened to this podcast episode.

Bonus Resource: Racism against white people doesn’t exist in America, and here’s why it never will; TL;DR: Racism = Prejudice PLUS Power. A person of color being an asshole to a white person while never, ever strip that white person of their cultural power. So, yes, a POC might have been a real dick to you once, but no, if you are white, you’ve never experienced racism.

There ya have it! If I didn’t piss you off, confuse you, or alienate you completely – I hope you’ll ask questions if you have them and share your journey with me if you decide to undertake it! And if you are pissed, confused, or alienated, know this . . . I’m placing my value in relationships that will evolve alongside me. I anticipate there are some that will not grow at the same pace. There is work to be done and I won’t wait any longer. The risk of staying silent is far greater than the risk of speaking up. I’ll be back next week with more!

The D Word

For about 6 weeks, I’ve been considering what my life might be like as a single woman. Not because that life is one I want, but because I’ve wanted any life but the one I’ve had. I have been intensely unhappy. Brett has been unhappy. We’ve been unhappy separately and together. This sentiment has been rolling around in my body and working its way into my soft tissue.

Following an early departure from drinks with friends (caused by an awkward confrontation that felt juvenile and humiliating), I informed Brett of the following: I couldn’t think of a single reason for us to stay married that didn’t include the fact that we’ve simply always been together and furthermore, (I didn’t actually use the phrase “furthermore” but grandstanding is one of my preferred offensive strategies so it bears clarifying here) if we separated, I could hardly come up with a short list of things I would lose.

The human heart is a dark thing.


For several months Brett and I, for separate but similar reasons, have been working with mental health professionals. In the poker game of family genetics, anxiety, depression, or alcoholism might not be in our particular hand (unless they are), but the cards are certainly in our decks. We’ve got to be prepared if or when they appear. Consequently, medication is part of our care routine. This is complicated business. Anti-depressants rarely manage “it all” on the first attempt and side effects are weird. Excuse me, that’s an understatement–side effects make you feel like someone else is at the steering wheel of your brain.

During these months, we’ve been on deeply personal journeys, re-opening partially healed wounds, digging our heels into the belief that we are worthy of our better selves. It’s emotional puberty – growth is so prevalent it’s physically painful. If you’ve known us, you might not believe me when I tell you this couple, these two people dedicated to reflective, introspective, intellectual exploration, are doing inner work we’ve never come close to before.

We do everything together. We thought we were doing this together too, but I was the first to realize we had actually been alone for months. We hopped on two separate tandem bikes at the same time. Well, fuck.


For 6 weeks, any time Brett needed my generosity or empathy or compassion, my mind generated a future where I was free; not of him, necessarily, but of his need for me. I started to consider if I was an obstacle to Brett’s healing. I began to link both thoughts together. And like water rising, these thoughts eventually overflowed and outward to him: “I can’t think of a reason for us to stay married. I wouldn’t lose a single thing if we didn’t.”

It was as awful as you think it was. But worse because I was there, and you weren’t. And I said all the horrible things, and you didn’t. We fought all night and slept in separate rooms and woke up gutted and ignored each other all day.

I volunteered at a local butterfly garden the next morning (because I am Amanda all day, every day) and afterwards, while sobbing in the McDonald’s drive-thru waiting for my lunch, I had a horrible realization: I had absolutely no one to call for help. I needed a friend so desperately but couldn’t think of a single person I was close enough to that would understand.

Because I have billed myself as Mrs. Marriage. Mrs. Marriage cannot call you and tell you she is contemplating divorce.

I’ve officiated 3 weddings. Brett and I have been together for 10 years. These are lovely things and I’m proud of them. But I’ve created a ridiculous ethos for myself with regard to relationships and marriage – I’ve dressed myself up like some sort of sage; as if I have access to special knowledge. Come to me for answers. It’s complete bullshit.

I had ice skated into the center of the pond, doing triple axels the entire way while proselytizing about it. Now, I was out in the middle and realized not only was the ice under my feet dangerously thin, but all my friends were couples skating on the thickest, safest ice in the pond. If they could even hear my cries for help at all, they wouldn’t understand me.

Through all my efforts of transparency and authenticity and vulnerability in the hopes that I might help someone else’s marriage, I had completely failed to find a sage of my own to turn to. Shit.


I have one mode of processing: verbal. In the absence of a confidant, I had one person to whom I could turn. Brett. This did not start pretty, friends. It felt a great deal like picking a scab, actually.

Here is a short, edited transcript of the conversation:

Me: “What the hell?”
Brett: “Go to hell!”
Me: “Fix all our problems.”
Brett: “I’m not the only cause of all our problems.”
Me [VERY unhappy this is clearly true]: “Fix something anyway.”
Brett: “You’re being pretty damn mean, don’t you think?”
Me: “Yes, I’m being mean on purpose because I am very hurt and angry.”
Brett [VERY unhappy this is clearly true]: “Stop it!”

These are, obviously, the highlights. Toward the middle/end of the furious parts, Brett lobbed a fastball into the center of the strike zone: “You’ve made your love conditional.” This gave me pause because the truth, even when you are angry, is still the truth. And the truth is a pathway to healing. If you are brave enough, when the truth shows up in your relationship, you can get naked and show up beside it. I don’t know if this ever gets any easier, but I do think it can happen with less resistance the more you practice. Showing up naked next to truth looked like this for me:

“You’re right. I’ve been in so much pain lately. I wasn’t prepared for the impact your mental health journey would have on me and I should have sought support immediately. I spoke out of malice, so I could hurt you and that isn’t fair or in alignment with my character. I deserve happiness in this marriage, but that’s not how I want to find it.”

Brett can tell you what showing up naked next to the truth looks like for him sometime himself, if you ever want to ask him.


Being a healthy person is hard as hell. Being married is hard as hell. Doing both at the same time is damn near impossible. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.

I do not want to divorce Brett, but I did want to scare him into loving me better. Brett doesn’t want to burden me but does need tremendous support to manage his mental health. But know this – your partner does not have infinite capacity to hold space for you. We are not infinite vessels, even in the context of unconditional love. Great partners create this illusion, but you must be a conscientious steward of it. Your bad behavior has consequences, even if it takes place on the path toward wellness. We build up collateral in our relationships with impact, not intent.

How do we carry on? I, for one, aim to find the tools I am not equipped with. I need to find a new therapist and schedule more regular visits. I need to read some old love notes and remind myself what being with Brett has always been about. I need to find someone who has been married for longer than I have that I can call when shit gets bad (currently accepting applications). Brett has an agenda of his own.

I believe in the healing power of vulnerability. Without a strong foundation of emotional expression, I’m not certain Brett and I could have navigated through (let alone to) this particular challenge. To that end, I’m recommitting to this blog as another tool for restoration and a strategy to invest in myself as well as others. I hope someone, least of all me, knows themselves a little more intimately as a result.


I wrote this post prior to Kate Spade dying from suicide. It feels more important than ever to share my family’s journey with mental health with our friends, family, and neighbors, and to remind anyone who might read this, to know – you are not alone if you have felt badly, if your marriage or relationship is far from perfect, or if tomorrow seems like it will be the very same as today. There is help available to you, now and always. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Do you know what the worst part of getting advice from another person is? The worst part is that no one else is exactly like you and so, no one else can tell you exactly what to do in a way that satisfies your deepest and most serious unmet need. This is partially because you can’t articulate what your deepest and most serious unmet need is to begin with and partially because advice about deep and serious unmet needs tends to be more general in nature, like a guideline rather than a rule. And guidelines are open for interpretation and demand analysis and your brain really can’t analyze one more single, solitary nugget of information. This is because you have already explored each and every scenario and the six resulting consequences of action or alternatively inaction and the result is that you are so perplexed that you’ve made yourself unwell and could really use an outside opinion right now. Which brings us back to the worst thing which is when you are getting advice from another person.

You is me, in this scenario, but you already knew that.

All of this is to say I have been an incredibly needy friend lately and my people are doing their best and just getting no where with me. And bless them for hearing me day in and day out and really hearing me, too, not just listening and nodding politely, but poking around in the muck with me and trying to buff out some of the rusty bits. In spite of their best efforts though, no one can give me what I really want which is a plan for what to do, right this second, this very moment in my life, where all of my choices have converged and I’m living in the now, attempting my very best to figure out what’s next.

I really believe that life happens in seasons and the great thing about a season is that it goes as surely as it comes. And in this season, I am trying to start my career in a new town and that’s a bit tough because no one knows me and what an asset I can be and who am I kidding I’m completely freaked out and feeling like a reject loser right now and “a bit tough” is the understatement of a lifetime just ask my husband who lives with me. Job searching is basically the Vulnerability Olympics. The stakes seem so high and panic feels too real and mostly, I have entirely too much time alone with my thoughts.

I have this conviction that in six months, I’m going to look back and say, “I wish I’d had a better attitude about that whole thing because it really would have been so much easier to manage . . .” but I can’t. Anxiety is like a smoke that moves closer to your chest every time you inhale. It creeps under the gaps of your doors and through the cracks in your windows and there aren’t enough lunch dates or bottles of wine or long baths with face masks to distract me from it forever. I mean, no one has that much personal power. I actually spend most of my day feeling guilty. Guilty that I feel badly or alternatively that I feel badly but not so terribly that I’m motivated to do anything. And have you ever actually felt bad and wanted to do thing that will make you feel better? If yes, let me assure you, there are deeper levels of feeling bad you’ve yet to reach.

Erstwhile, I am growing increasingly discontent and emotionally unstable and closer to drinking wine before noon. I feel like a top at the end of its spin, more wobbly with every turn. Soon, I think I’ll tip over and only a great, omnipotent hand will be able to set me to rights, spinning with purpose. I sense this season is nearing its natural end, but that’s the stickiness with anxiety and worry. It’s always asking, “Yes, but what if not?” It is disorienting to mistrust the voice in your own head. So I constantly seek external reassurance, asking everyone if it will be okay for me. And the answer is always “yes, yes you’ll be fine.” But that’s the thing about getting advice from another person, isn’t it?

When I was younger, all I cared about was being liked. (Can I get an AMEN from my Yes Gals?)

That sounds a little dramatic but you can pretty much track most of my developmental years by seeing which thing I was trying out to discover, “Does this make me likable?”

I was a good student so that my parents and teachers would be proud of (like) me. I made snarky jokes so my friends would laugh with (like) me. I was the cheer captain, the student council president, the drum majorette so that people would notice (like) me.

I’ve come to a new conclusion: F*ck that.

I am immensely likable. I throw incredible parties and if I love you and you’ve done an okay job of loving me back, I’ll probably throw one in your honor. I love giving gifts and I regularly have a wrapped present on my desk at work and there is a good chance it might be for you. I think up excuses to send people hand written notes. I make really tasty banana bread and I always bake enough to share.

The point of this is to say that I have enough proof that I am likable. You should like me. And if you don’t, or if you did and decided that I wasn’t your cup of tea anymore, then you’ve just got bad taste. Bless. I am sincere and I care about you and if I’ve upset you and hurt you, if you are brave enough to tell me about it then I will be brave enough to apologize. I love to learn and be challenged and if I said something that you think is ignorant, if you are sensitive enough to call me out in a productive way, I’ll be generous enough to listen. If you just jumped on the Amanda Train and there’s something about me you want to know, and you ask me without agenda, I will tell you that story.

I don’t think that worrying about being liked has served me much. I think I have hung on to that litmus test (“Does this make me likable?”) for entirely too long and I’m letting it go. Today I get to celebrate 3 years of marriage and 8 years of happiness with Brett and I can tell you one thing: There was a time in my life when I didn’t think I deserved love, when I was insecure and alone and certain I would always be that way. I was entirely wrong and Brett proves it to me everyday. He loves me abundantly and he sure as hell likes me.

“You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

Hey. Thank you. Seriously. You guys are so legit. You know what is just as brave as me sharing my struggles? You calling me, texting me, messaging me to say, “Me too. I love you.” It is so amazing to do life with you.

I was ready to share yesterday was because I’ve been feeling better. When you are feeling better, you can have a sense of humor and some peace of mind that being vulnerable is a source for goodness, not fear. I know that you might not be feeling better yet, which is why it’s important for me to share. But feeling “better” does not mean “fixed” and actually, if you are a real human person and not a robot, then you know that “fixed” is a fallacy. It doesn’t matter if you are prone to anxiety or not, if you are an introvert or an extrovert, if you are a party animal or couch potato. You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head.

 

But you can keep them from building nests. Here is how I am trying to do that:

1) Self Care. I am a quitter. I love to quit things I don’t love. I dissociated my self worth from “sticking it out” a long time ago and as a result, I’m a bit of a prolific quitter. I quit softball in the 1st grade because I hated playing the catcher. I quit basketball in 8th grade because I hated running. I quit band after 7 years because I was tired of marching in parades. I am not, however, quitting Whole30. I’m not cheating, I’m not bending the rules, and I’m not going to stop now. This is a new paradigm for me and it is making me feel strong. It is making me feel in control. It is making me proud of myself. These are good feelings to have when you are getting all bajigitty about everything.

2) F*ck Feelings. This article from The Atlantic has given me a great deal of peace. Super feelers- give this a read. I am constantly seeking closure, comfort, understanding of why things have happened to me. The book featured in this article argues that such behavior is a fruitless endeavor. The point is: bad shit happens. We tend to misplace how much control we have in those scenarios. No amount of therapy is going to prevent the birds from flying over your head. And further, some people who have bad things happen to them become alcoholics, stop engaging with their families and friends, and quit their jobs. If you have had bad things happen to you and you’re still a functioning human, then that deserves some credit. This approach shifts the focus away from the psychological landscape towards our actions. You’re probably never going to understand why your parents suck so much, but if you got up and went work today- how much does that matter? Overthinkers, I expect you’ll relate to this. I do. You can keep those birds from building nests.

3) Ban “Anxiety.” This is a new practice for me and one I’ve ripped off completely from my friend Holly, who I’ve mentioned before is my personal beacon of wellness. She advises banning the word “stressed” from our vocabularies because, what does that even mean really? And can you imagine a life stage when you won’t be stressed? (Close your eyes and try it. You probably can’t.) If we pay more attention, moments of “stress” are often something much simpler. We might be tired. We might be hungry. We might be sad. And these things, unlike stress, have pretty simple fixes. Indeed for me, “anxiety” has quickly become a crutch. When I label every negative emotion as “anxiety,” I give away all my power to cope.

Indulge me while I share where most of my anxiety comes from. It is a voice in my head who says to me, “Hey fat girl. You’re fat and in case you thought differently, no one actually loves you. Fat people don’t belong here and you’re fat.” *wince* I hate that voice. But when I label it “anxiety” instead of “bullshit,” I give it authority it shouldn’t have. I can’t keep the birds from flying over head. But I can ask, “why don’t I feel good right now?” And I can take some initiative and ask, “What would make feel better that also respects my self care and prioritizes actions over feelings?” Don’t be surprised if you get a text or call from me saying, “I am feeling unloved. Let’s go get our nails done.”

It is not easy, friends. And nothing feels right when you don’t feel good. I know. Hugs make your skin crawl and food tastes like dust and being out in public feels like punishment. I know. Let’s promise each other when it gets this bad, we will reach out and say, “I’m not doing good right now and I just don’t know.” And our good friends will know that isn’t the time to say “Have you tried your top 3 tricks to fight anxiety?” Good friends will just be still with us and remind us that they are ride or die, even if we are anxious weirdos everyday for the rest of our lives. But when we do feel better, let’s also commit to accepting that birds will fly, but do the work to keep them from building nests on our precious heads.

I love you guys.

The Good and The Bad

Have you all noticed I’m living my best life lately? Have you seen all the cool places I’ve been? All the fun activities I’ve done? All the amazing people I’ve been with? Isn’t it so great and fun?

I promise I’m not being sarcastic. Those things really are great and fun. But (and isn’t there always a “but”) I’ll be honest with you (because that’s what I do here): I’m tired. I’ve also been sort of inexplicably sad and anxious lately. Sad and anxious in a way that is not very Amanda-like at all. I know myself really well. My favorite thing in the world is joyful heart. One of my very best friends once told me he considered me a “champion of happiness.” Couldn’t you die? Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard? ME TOO. But lately, I have frequently had the feeling that some alien being has crawled in and set up camp in my person.

It isn’t upsetting, so much as unsettling. Have you struggled with anxiety friend? I thought I was familiar with it because I have fought panic attacks on and off throughout life, but this is something quite different. Several times in recent memory, I’ve been in a group setting (which I normally love) and prompted by nothing, I find myself on the verge of tears, struggling with total sensory overload, and overwhelmed with the desire to be alone in a quiet, dimly lit space. In these moments I think, “Oh please don’t let anyone look at me because if I meet someone’s eyes, they will look at me and they won’t see Amanda, they’ll see this otherness and I will have to explain why I’m sharing space with it and I don’t have an answer for that.” In these moments, the worst feeling in the world is to have attention drawn to myself and because it is so out of character for me to be withdrawn and lost for words, it is hard not to notice my behavior. In these moments, I’m able to recognize this otherness but I’m not able to do anything about it.

Outside of these “crisis” moments, I’m finding myself increasingly concerned about my appearance, anxious about my surroundings, and discontent with my relationships. Two months ago, I thought this was about my weight. I thought I was in a funk and struggling to deal with my hangups. I am now accepting that it is probably something more. I’m sharing this for a number of reasons, the first being that I write in order to cope and the second is that saying it “out loud” makes it real and when something is real, we recognize it and give it the space it requires. I think we are often guilty of trying to squeeze out the darkness in our lives. That is, if we don’t look at it, if we give it the cold shoulder, we can somehow out ghost our issues into nonexistence.

But if happiness is real (and I believe it is) and magic exists (and I believe it does) then, so is anxiety and oft ignored partner, depression. Ignoring these feelings won’t make them go away, and I’ve had enough loved ones with mental illness to know the consequence of going it alone. I am so supported and deeply loved and because of this, I am sharing authentically where I find myself. I am sharing because rather than having another glass of wine or calling in sick to work, I’m going to reach out for real professional help. And maybe get a prescription. Or maybe try some other coping strategies. I am sharing because I think the most important and brave thing we can do for each other is say, “It’s not good for everyone all the time and that’s okay.”

I’m in the middle of a Whole30 right now and whatever influence it might have, the act of prioritizing self-care has felt really good. The creators of Whole30 argue that the food you eat is either making you more healthy or less healthy. This feels true of everything. Nothing is neutral. Our behaviors, our attitudes, our habits are either making us more well or less well. The past few months I have felt fragile when I am used to feeling bold. But I think in that smallness, I’ve been able to plant seeds of peacefulness. I started this post at the beginning of the month and felt compelled to let myself rest for a bit before sharing. I am sharing now because I think it’s a good thing to talk about. I am not without joy and most importantly, I am not without love. But we rarely are. What we often experience is a deep fog that prevents us from grabbing on to those truths. I am getting in the habit of making choices that feel good to me and I think this is a small step towards quieting the niggling voice of self-doubt and fear that can persist in all of us.

A Capsule Wardrobe that Isn’t

I started my entire minimalism movement inspired by the ideas of a capsule wardrobe. I loved the thought of having beautiful, high quality clothing and having a lot less of it all together. And that’s exactly what I’ve created. I have a teeny, tiny wardrobe. But no capsule.

What I mean to say is that unlike other capsule wardrobe projects, I don’t have anything waiting for me “off-capsule,” if you will. When I started, I pulled items for my spring capsule, pared down clothes I didn’t really want, and set aside pieces that I liked, but wasn’t sure about. Summer or fall capsule items, I thought.Yet as time went on, I reevaluated those items with a more skeptical eye. Why weren’t they special enough to be first draft picks? Ultimately, the answer was because they were ill-fitting, declining in quality, or simply no longer my taste. It gradually became clear to me that those feelings wouldn’t change with the seasons, so out they went.

The only pieces I own that aren’t hanging my closet are bulky, cold weather sweaters. There are 4 seasons in Missouri: Snow, Rain, July, and Oh my gosh it’s so nice today can you believe how nice it is today I love this weather this is great weather. I wear variations of the same thing year-round. As the weather cools, I throw tights on under my skirts. As the weather warms, I roll up my jeans and wear them with t-shirts and lightweight blouses rather than sweaters. Flats, button down tops, pencil skirts, blue jeans, v-neck tees, are worn in every season.

It didn’t make sense to set aside anything for future capsules. I didn’t love that much of my closet anyway. The summer season is approaching and here’s what I intend to buy:

J.Crew Button Down (a variation of my beloved white shirt)
High-waist Denim Shorts (I’m going to try them. There’s a good chance they get sent back, but I’m trying to be brave)
Madewell d’Orsay Flats (I finally pitched a very smelly pair of black flats and my others aren’t far behind. The work shoe situation demands attention.)
High-waist Bikini (As you can imagine, Brett has thrown the full weight of his support behind this purchase)
SOMETHING TO WEAR TO A BARBECUE, OUT TO DINNER, AND A WEDDING. Y’all, I’m struggling here. I’m gravitating towards a jumpsuit. Maybe this one, or this one, or this one. (HELP.)

And that’s it. It’s not an inexpensive list of items to be sure. But they’ll all fit in very nicely with my current wardrobe, which though small, I’ve been getting along with quite nicely. Recently a friend asked me if my capsule wasn’t actually bigger than normal, because she’d never seen me wear the same thing twice. (I can assure you this is not true. I’m actually wearing the same pair of pants today that I wore yesterday. I considered adding another pair of slacks to my list, but decided I should just shave my legs so I can wear a skirt instead. Minimalism you guys. It’s a whole thing.)

So maybe don’t stress if you haven’t dominated your closet situation as swiftly as you’d like. You don’t need a perfectly seasonal and rotating selection of highly curated clothes. My recommendation is to trim until it’s easy to get dressed in the morning and you always have something to wear that you love. It’s working for me!

 

 

 

Become a Minimalist and Earn $1,000*!

*Results not guaranteed.

A pretty incredible consequence of the Mosers Going Minimalist has been a nice little deposit into our Travel Savings as a result of selling a lot of our unloved possessions. We’ve made about $1,000 from auctioning old phones and records on e-bay, selling empty bookshelves on message boards, and hocking $1 coffee mugs at a garage sale. I can hardly believe it. Things I don’t find useful or believe to be beautiful have transformed into new energy- money that can go into life-giving transactions. (Like staying with our dearest friends in Canada and watching our sweet friend Ben get married on the East Coast and tickets to see Aladdin on Broadway.) (HELLO!)

When I started this journey, I posed the question: Do you believe that you’re enough? Extra money is a treat, but being enough? Having enough? That is my end game.

Savoring new, empty spaces
Savoring new, empty spaces
And now that the clutter is cleared, the real work starts. It’s important to remind myself why I started this project.

1. Own fewer, more lovely things. Saving and making money weren’t actually goals of mine, though I’m pleased at the results. Rather, I wanted less possessions that were more treasured. I sold or donated all of my purses and kept one black Kate Spade that was a gift from my darling cousin and bought this gorgeous cognac brown Madewell tote that I’ve been coveting for years. I even had it embossed in gold with my initials. (MINE FOREVER.) In the end, I’ll probably spend the same amount on clothes. But they’ll be soft and special and higher quality and that pattern of value will repeat itself through my entire home.

2. Capture some peace of mind. One of the things that I found the most practical about the KonMari Method is that after you’ve cleared your home of anything that doesn’t spark joy, life becomes a lot more straightforward. If you fear you’ve lost something and it isn’t where it belongs- then stop worrying. You’ve definitely lost it. Isn’t it THE WORST when you aren’t sure if you’ve actually lost it, or misplaced it, or dropped it at the office? With the Kon-Mari method, everything has a place and if it isn’t in its place, you can stop looking for it and start problem solving. HOW VERY SIMPLE.

Last week Brett was in a really good mood and said, “I’m so cheerful lately!” I said, “You’re unburdened!” As we’ve cleared our lives of unnecessary clutter, commitments, and concerns, we’ve been noticeably more agreeable.

3. Value the right things. Brett fell asleep before me last night and when I stepped out of bed to turn off the lamp I was struck right in the feels. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I was so overcome, I took a photo.

FullSizeRender-7

There was my beautiful husband and my precious pets all sleeping next to me, peacefully. You guys, it was the most perfect moment and God gave it to me and I have done nothing to deserve it. I cry thinking about it. When we sorted through our mementos, I threw away every single journal I had kept during junior high and high school. It was easy — I was lonely and sad growing up. My family was troubled. I felt unloved. I had wonderful friends and a grandmother who lifted me up and showed me what life could be outside that fog, but I poured my hurt and my anger and my pain into notebook after notebook. I have carried those totems with me for ten years now and it was easy to say goodbye. Now, I have everything I have ever wanted. I don’t need to look back and remember when I didn’t.

There is no possession worth more than that. Don’t you agree? My people matter. Not my things. And I really think that is what lives at the heart of minimalism. This wonderful message that our lives are complete, that we are blessed beyond measure, and that we are truly enough. HOW VERY SIMPLE.

Kon-Mari Method

Minimalism. Can we talk about this? Because, I am exhausted.

Brett and I took Monday and Tuesday off work to give our house the Kon-Mari once over. An hour into Day One, I was exhausted.

I’ve been overly confident, y’all. I felt that because I had been expressive and vulnerable here, I was prepared to do the work. I expected it to be joyful, simple, and most importantly- quick. I established myself as an authority on minimalism, without actually becoming a practicing minimalist first. (I do this…)

But, I want to encourage you in the face of what I was feeling. Because I think this is so worthwhile.

The most accurate way to describe my reaction was “All. The. Feels.”

Oh my gosh we have so much stuff. Why do we have so much stuff? I just bought that. Why did I buy that? What a waste! I’m such a waster! I’m tired. Why did I think this would be fun? This isn’t fun. Why do we have so much stuff?

And so on. I was overwhelmed immediately, but this is because (as previously established) I tend to ignore hard facts and idealize EVERYTHING. My blessed, sweet husband was patient and encouraging and didn’t pick on me at all. And when I said, I need a break, he said just the right thing which was, Let’s get ice cream. 

We started with clothes and y’all- I am STILL pulling unworn items from my capsule. I yanked a pair of navy khakis, a black sweater, and a button down from my current capsule and just about everything from my “off season” capsule except sweaters that are too damn hot to wear. If it didn’t make the capsule in Round One, I don’t love it. If I have 30 items in my closet and I still ignore certain pieces, then I really don’t love them. Out they go.

Papers were easy but caught me off guard. I was diligent in keeping anything I felt might be important and what remained was a time capsule of my first years of adulthood. An $800 receipt for the black 1994 Escort LX coupe that my dad bought my senior year of high school. (You guys, this was a big deal for us. $800 was a lot of money. I can’t even.)  The award letter for my Bright Flight scholarship. The lease on my first college apartment. The insurance paperwork from when my car was totaled. (Not the Escort. That junker died in the Target parking lot on my way home from work. I bought a beautiful Nissan Altima and some jerk t-boned me on a rainy day 2 months later.) Our marriage license and the applications for our passports. Except our marriage license (natch), these all went in the “shred” pile, but there was something startlingly emotional about flipping through them in succession. I was glad when we finished up.

Komono was, well, everything. We went room by room (to make it manageable) and it took every bit of two days. We emptied cabinets, cleared shelves, dug things out of nooks and our living room is now patently full of goodies for our garage sale on Saturday. (We’re having a garage sale on Saturday!).

Fatty was a big fan of all the available boxes for sitting.
Fatty was a big fan of all the available boxes for sitting.

Mid-day Monday, I was pretty sure there was no chance I’d have the energy to deal with mementos, but by Tuesday afternoon I was so ready to be DONE that I powered through. We kept scrapbooks and photo albums (probably not in total alignment with the Kon-Mari method, but it works for us). I sorted through a plastic bin of photos and Brett and I both determined we didn’t need the hall pass from Kindergarten or the card from our 13th birthday party signed “Joe and Jane.” (Who are Joe and Jane? Where did this card come from? Why did I keep this?) We even sorted through cards and letters we’ve written each other over the years and only kept the most special. (Brett noticed a somewhat concerning pattern which is that about half my cards begin with “Sorry I’ve been such a bitch lately…”)

I threw away a lot of photos. I had an astonishing quantity of photos of 1) People I am not friends with anymore; 2) Places I do not remember being; and 3) Me doing things I should not have been taking photos of (drinking, smoking, breaking into circuses). Emotionally, this was an easy task because if I ever go into politics (I won’t), the blackmail material is significantly lighter.

I’m ready for next week. I’m ready to clear the debris from my home, to pay someone to give it a deep clean, and to settle into the maintenance phase- which I am the most eager and anxious for. I think I’m ready to call myself a minimalist, but I’m certain that there so much more to uncover in these new stages than I could ever expect.