I would title this "Prince-piration" but I respect you too much

I've been thinking a lot about this loss, and about Prince himself. Of course I'm a huge fan of Prince’s music because I am not a fool, but I'm also a fan of Prince himself. I just loved knowing he was in the world, you know?  Blessing us all with his existence. Touching down onto the mortal plane and delighting the universe. 

Every time Prince showed up anywhere, he destroyed everything around him with his overwhelming Prince-ness. If he appeared on The View, which he did and I do not know why, he made The View almost resemble something sort of almost cool. All he had to do was ride a bicycle around a parking lot and people fell over themselves with joy. He was so cool. And he didn't try to be. That's why he won at coolness. He concerned himself with what he loved, and meanwhile everyone around him went right into heat. 

Is there anything better than a Prince-encounter story? Everyone who ever met him now has a magical tale they can share with the world until the end of their days. I never tire of the Prince story. By every account he was kind, gracious, and unapologetically weird. Musical genius doesn’t guarantee a winning personality by any stretch. I know one journalist who left the music beat because she was tired of being let down by her heroes. I have to imagine she never met Prince. 

I’ve been thinking lately about the real lesson Prince left us with, which is not for everyone to be like Prince. (What a glittering, guitar-shredding paisley world that would be..) It’s to figure out who you are and unapologetically embrace you in all your freakiness. Know your strengths, love them, and work hard at whatever’s calling to you. Examine your weaknesses, forgive them, and love them too, because they prove that you’re human. Embrace your quirks with humor and self-compassion, because that compassion will radiate out into the world for everyone else. Never apologize for what you think you lack; celebrate what you have. You have what no one else does. We need you to be at Peak You-ness. 

It’s so easy to forget that each of us changes the world. Think you’re insignificant all you want, but you’re wrong. Your influence stretches far and wide. Your soul is imprinted on your friends and family. You affect every person you meet, smile at, bump into, give the finger to; you leave them changed and they continue that effect on to the next person. It’s a lot of responsibility, when you think about it. It’s also an opportunity. 

You don’t have to be a star. You don’t have to be Prince. That job was taken; he did a stellar job; the role is no longer available.  In whatever you do, if you live without apology, if you work on yourself, your life itself becomes a work of art. And you’re going to be a light in the world. You just are. You will teach everyone you meet.  

I’ve been thinking of this story about the Rabbi Zusya. “When I get to the heavenly court,” he said, “God will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ Rather he will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?” 

If you’re like me, now you’re thinking, “Why don’t I have a cool name like Zusya? Should I changemy name to Zusya?”  Guys! Focus! 

I know this isn’t easy. Many of us (hey ladies) are trained to apologize for ourselves, as if we’re taking up space meant for someone else. We’re taught there are things wrong with us. Okay, so we have baggage. Letting go is a practice. Shit gets in our way. That’s okay, too. I’m sure even Prince had his moments of doubt; there were probably days where all he wanted to do was to lounge in his reflecting pool filled with Fresca and binge-watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

The goal has never been and will never be perfection. Let’s just all be weirdos, like we are, as Prince would have wanted us to be. Let’s get crazy, you know, and get nuts. Let’s grow like little bananas til they turn us into ducks. Those are the words, right? You better believe I’m not checking. Prince would have wanted it that way. 

 

 

It's amazing I ever get anything done

8:30 am
Me: [opening up laptop]
The Internet: You should check me before you start writing. 
Me: We’ve been over this. First I write, then I check you. There’s no emergency happening.  
T.I.: That you know of. 
Me: Someone would have called me. 
T.I.: Unless they’re all dead. I mean probably they’re not all dead. It’s fine if you don’t check first. Maybe. 
Me: Just give me an hour, Internet. A lousy hour. 

8:35 am
T.I.: I don’t see why it would hurt if you check your email, at least. 
Me: Jesus. 
T.I.: Because let’s say one of your friends had an emotional crisis at 3 am and sent you a heartfelt note and all they want is some confirmation from you that they’re as loved as they secretly fear they’re not, and your silence is just making them worse and worse and who knows what’ll happen next? 
Me: I…I’m neglecting my loved ones with my selfish wordsmithing? 
T.I.: You said that. For the record, I never said that. 
Me: FINE. 

10:00 am
T.I.: Anything important going on there? 
Me: You know perfectly well that I got a Zara sales email and then I went onto the Zara site and fell down a wormhole of trying to find the saddest-looking Zara model I could find and also I remembered that they had some bad labor practices so I had to look that up too. 
T.I.: So: not a waste of time, then. You could use that for something in the future. 
Me: What in holy hell are you on, Internet. 
T.I.: I’m just saying, it’s all material. Everything is material. Didn’t some writer say that? I bet you could find that quote on — 
Me: You shut up now. You shut right up. 

10:07 am
T.I.: DONALD TRUMP IS DOING SOMETHING
Me: … 
T.I.: PROBABLY. PROBABLY DONALD TRUMP IS DOING SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Me: It can wait.
T.I.: CAN IT? Listen: you think the story you’re writing is terrible and I’m not saying you’re right but you’re probably right and also you could write a funny tweet about Donald Trump and then you could check and recheck to see how many people liked it and you wouldn’t feel so tiny and insignificant in this world with your dumb stories that no one is reading because you keep them in a folder on your laptop and you don’t put them on meeee
Me: Get a hold of yourself. 

10:15 am
T.I.: You’ll Never Believe What’s In Your Water Bottle (And It’s Not BPA!) 
Me: What? 
T.I.: You’re not going to believe it
Me: Would you lay off? I’ve written 75 words. My daily quota is 2,000. 
T.I.: That’s fine, writing is more important than life and well-being and stuff. You only gave your kid the same water bottle oh and you’re definitely going to forget all about this in five minutes and you’ll never remember to find out about the Secret Ingredient That Could Kill You All, oh and guess who's a secret twin, and have you seen that video of the mangy kitten being rescued by a bear who's on a dolphin's — 
Me: [turns off wifi] 

10:35 am
T.I.: Psst. 
Me: What the hell? 
T.I.: Over here. 
Me: I turned you off,  you sick— 
T.I.: Your phone, baby. I’m still on your phone. LTE. 
Me: Oh god. 
T.I.: How many words you write? 378? That’s an amazing number! That’s almost 20% of your daily quota, and the day has barely begun. See? You don’t need to get rid of me forever, just for a few minutes. I bet there are tons of writers who write for like 15 minutes and then spend a couple of hours checking me out and then go back to writing for another maybe 10 minutes and BAM look at that, they wrote a bestseller. 
Me: I sincerely doubt—
T.I.: Google it.
Me: I don’t need to— 
T.I.: You won’t because you know I’m right. Google it google it googlegooglegoogle
Me: You’re killing me. I’m moving to a cave. 
T.I. Ooh, good idea! Let’s look up “writing caves.” 
Me: [rage-Googles “writing caves” and “writers who live in caves” and “how to write despite the Internet”] 

6:00 pm
Me: [looking up] What the hell…? 
T.I.: You should really manage your time better. Oh by the way here’s your Facebook wall, covered with news about your friends who are all publishing their ninth bestsellers. It's too bad you're not doing that.

Me: I hate you so much. 
T.I.: There, there. Here, look at this celebrity who ate a vegetable all weird.  

 

 

Updates and horn tooting

Question: why do people always say "Not to toot my own horn, but..."? Why is it unseemly to toot your own horn? I would think if you have a horn, you should toot it. What, you have to wait around for other people to toot the horn that you, the horn-owner, could toot at any moment? Isn’t that unseemly? I’m going to yell out at people, “Hey you, toot my horn”? Where has dignity gone? I’m a married woman! My horn-tooting activity is sacred and between me and my spouse! I can’t remember what I was talking about! All the blood’s left my head. 

Okay, a couple of exciting things: First of all, since last I mentioned the podcast, we published two new episodes: one with the comedian and author Sara Benincasa, and one with just me and Deanna goofing it up. You should listen to them! If you haven't already. Or, hell, even if you have. And then The Guardian published this amazing story about us. And now we have hundreds more subscribers! The pressure’s on. Fortunately I’m incredibly confident and have no issues whatsoever. 

But that’s not all! I was also nominated for an Iris Award for best writing [Edited to add: and The League of Awkward Unicorns was nominated for best podcast!]. It’s such a delight to be nominated for my writing mere months after I stumbled my way back into this here blog. Thank you, nice people who did that. Whoever you are. 

In conclusion, commenter Gina provided the following video, in response to my post about that one time I got too high. I share it with you now, without comment. Except one comment: Do not watch if you’re too high. Also: oh my god. And: DEMON GHOST BABY. 

 

 

Screw it, I'm writing about my cold

I haven’t had a cold in a long time, so this week has been a wonderful reminder of how unnecessary colds are. They’re awful. I would like to know who thought these up. I have some words for them. 

When my sinuses are all plugged up, I seem to become phenomenally stupid. (For instance: I forget how to spell “phenomenally.” That’s a lot of syllables! I even tried to sound it out, in my sad little stuffed-head croak. Phedobedally.

 

Normally I’m all for over-the-counter meds but I can’t take anything with a decongestant because they make me insane. Twitchy, dizzy, yelly. You do not want to see me on Sudafed. And my neti pot can’t make headway (get it? get it) on this sinus situation. I’m too far gone. So here I sit, listening to the ocean roar inside my head, wondering what day it is. (It’s hard to remember when it’s so loud in here.) 

Monday I had to call a plumber and as their phone rang, I tried to remember how I was supposed to greet them. “Hello, I require an appointment with one of your associates of the plumbing variety”? “Morning! There seems to be a bit of a toilet situation”? “Snake my drain”? I mean, sure, now I can come up with all of these perfectly valid options, but when the pressure was on I panicked. My head was filled with fluids.  I was drowning. So when they answered the phone, here’s what came out of my mouth: “I NEED PLUMBER.” Just like that. No, I did not include “a.” 

The rest of the call went well. Turns out you really don't have to get much fancier than "I NEED PLUMBER." 

Tuesday I had a meeting where I was meeting ["I had a meeting where I was meeting"? Nice grammar, Bradley] a bunch of people, so I had to announce to everyone I was sick because otherwise I would have shaken all their hands and then they would all figure out from the sniffling and sneezing that I’d just infected them all. But I didn’t want to be a jerk about it, you know, like: before you thrust your hand out at me, I'd like you to know I’m about to save your life. You’re welcome. 

After avoiding everyone’s hands and apologizing for myself (more than usual) I knocked into my mug of tea and the tea went everywhere and I announced to the room “I DID THAT.” One of my associates thought this was the funniest thing ever. As a result I immediately loved her and wanted to sit on her lap. “I like how you owned that,” she said. “I believe in taking full responsibility for my mistakes,” I replied. “May I sit on your lap, now?” “I don’t see how that’s necessary,” she replied. I explained that I would find it soothing, and she said something about being inappropriate. I don’t know, I was too busy trying to clamber onto her lap. 

Okay that part was a lie, but this is true: On my way home I needed cough drops, so I went to the drugstore near me where the woman behind the counter calls everyone “sweetie” and “baby.”

Now. Did I need cough drops? Kinda. Did I really just want the nice lady behind the counter to call me “baby”? Yes. Yes, I did. I really love her. 

She did call me baby, by the way. And also sweetie. While basking in the warmth of her affections I tried to swipe my card but it wasn’t working, and it took three tries before she took it and said, “Aw, baby, it’s your library card, sweetie.”

 

Enough difficult emotional stuff, let's talk about my cat

My cat is a food monster. 

Dedicated readers will recall that our cat Izzy once became very, very large. She grew out of her kittenhood and just kept going, width-wise. Due to her excessive girth, she couldn’t clean the lower half of her body. From where her waist would have been all the way down to her lil cat butt-hole was a mess. It was sad. 

We took pity on her. “Cat,” we promised, because although her name is Izzy no one ever calls her that, “we will help you. From now on, your food intake will be strictly monitored. You’re welcome.” 

You can imagine how she felt about that. 

I’m happy to say that although she wasn't at all pleased with us, her transformation was a success: in a couple of years, Izzy went from 21 pounds to 12. Her fur became pettable; her butt was and is squeaky clean. Literally. You can often hear the squeaking from the next room as she goes to town on that thing. 

While it’s been gratifying to see her all sleek and healthy, it’s been less rewarding to watch her transform from a content, snacky fatso into a creature who is, if her behavior is any indication, always hungry—always always always

In addition to being hungry always and forever, she is FURIOUS. So mad! She is starving and we won’t give her everything! I mean it could just be the way her face is shaped. Or has her fury shaped her face? Which came first, dear readers? 

And she is treated so damn well. Her expensive food is parceled out at specific times because otherwise she’d snorfle it down and then yark it back up—somewhere distinctly hard to clean, like down the back of the sofa or on top of a charger. For a time she would work hard at getting your attention when food-time was approaching. Which is fair enough, because it was food time. Lately, however, she’s decided that food time is immediately after… food time. Not enough! her eyes scream. Food. Foooood.  

If she was just walking around with a pair of scream-eyes I wouldn’t mind so much, honestly. She can rage inwardly all she likes. But no, once she’s decided that the gnawing hunger inside her has not been sufficiently appeased, she’ll get right underfoot, yowling piteously. As anyone with a cat knows, this is not atypical behavior. 

But does she stop there? If she did, would I be writing this? 

If the yowling whenever you approach the refrigerator doesn’t elicit the required food-giving, she will move on to Step 2: Operation Awful Popsicle. For this one, she licks whatever is nearby. It’s that simple. Just licks and licks. 

I’ve got to give it to her: this is an ingenious move. The cat’s barbed tongue makes an insane racket as she lavishes her attentions on, say, a throw pillow, or my purse. The side of a bookcase. Or the wall. Or a plastic bag. You have no idea how much noise a cat’s tongue can make when it’s dragging against a plastic bag. How insane you can feel as that sound reverberates through your bones. And you leap up to get the bag away from her and yell who left a plastic bag just sitting here? Who?! 

She’s especially fond of performing this trick at 3 am. On top of our dresser, licking at, say, a pair of socks, or a stack of bills. Slurk slurk slurk. Feed me, you terrible dickweeds. Also you should really pay these. Slurk. 

When the licking (THE INFERNAL LICKING) results only in something being thrown at her, she moves to Stage 3: Operation Dog Get. (I know it’s not a great name, but whatever, she’s a cat.) If you don’t give me what I want, I will take what you love, goes her reasoning. (I assume.) 

When Charlie was alive she had to be a little more proactive about this: he wasn’t about to mess with her in any way, so in order to get our attention she had to make a beeline for him and swat all over his poor little face, swatswatswat. She had to expend a lot of energy. And because he was a gentle angel who never hurt no one no how, he mostly cowered. 

Hazel, though, falls right into Izzy's trap, every time. Whereas Izzy could stare at Charlie for hours and hours and get nothing more than a nervous side glance and some resolute licking of the chops, all she needs to do for Hazel is maintain eye contact for three, maybe four seconds. And then Hazel turns into an alarm set just for Izzy. She doesn’t even know she’s being used! Think it through, Hazel! She obviously hasn’t been watching House of Cards. 

Have you ever seen a chihuahua lose her shit? Have you ever experienced it right up against your face at 3:15 am, shortly after you’ve thrown a (paperback) book at the cat but not before you fell back into a deep sleep? You know those Looney Tunes episodes with the Tasmanian Devil? It’s like that, only riiiight up against your face. And then your husband curses a lot and reminds you that the cat was your idea. 

So recently I decided, screw it, Izzy wins. We’re just going to feed her more. I don’t see how a miserable cat who’s skinny is better than a fat and relatively placid cat. (Although we can't return to Awful Butt Level, we just can't.) To complement her usual wet-food regimen, I purchased some quality kibble and one of those toy/food dispensers that would parcel out food to the cat throughout the night, ensuring that at the very least, she’d be snacking at 3 am and not tormenting us. I’m not going to keep it filled all day because I am telling you she would never stop eating, but we need our sleep. 

So I put this thing out and I filled it with a cup of said kibble and it turns out I am a damn genius. Wouldn’t you know it: she left us alone. We could hear her pawing at the thing and munching away, sure—and it was like a lullaby. In the morning, she was still working away at this puzzle, trying to get at every last crumb. During the next day and the one after that, she seemed less desperate for food. 

Then two things happened, within a few weeks. One: she adjusted to the new food intake and it was no longer enough for her. Nothing will ever be enough. And two: she learned. Her brain clearly triumphed over this toy food-dispensing thing. This gizmo that was highly rated on Amazon. I did my goddamn research. She can now empty it in 15 minutes. And then she immediately comes to our room, and sits at the foot of the bed, waiting for us to be asleep so she can drag her awful tongue against a surface. 

I kinda miss the days when she couldn’t clean her butt.

FYI: She’s been staring at me the entire time I wrote this. Actually at the dog. Who is asleep on my lap, thereby messing with her entire operation. Good dog. 

The story to which I previous referred

So here’s the podcast episode I wrote about (albeit cryptically) in last week’s post. We really get into it about a half hour in, but the whole episode is worth listening to. Paul Gilmartin was such a fantastic guest. And despite the intensity of the conversation, there were many laughs. Which was surprising to discover because I honestly couldn’t remember anything we discussed. 

I’d pretend that telling my story to the world was a huge relief but mostly, right now, I feel like a big sloppy pile of garbage. Nothing like digging up some long-buried trauma to help you remember how much long-buried trauma was buried for a reason, i.e. it hurts. Am I having second thoughts about telling everyone? You bet your sweet patoot I am. I mean, hey, what’s a few dreams? I could have handled the dreams! Keep the secrets tamped down until it erupts into some kind of breakdown! No, listen, that was a solid plan! 

Because I hadn’t shared this story with my family, I had to go and do that before the episode aired, and that felt pretty terrible. In addition to feeling bad about my own story I got to make my loved ones feel bad. 

Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s not my fault. Etc. 

Since the podcast went up late last night I’ve already heard from people who have been so supportive and nice and even claimed that my story helped them, which I know they’re just lying about to make me feel better but how nice is that? Thank you, nice lying people. 

If you listen to it and no longer like me I will absolutely understand. This is how bad I’m feeling about myself. I’m not even joking! It’s probably a good thing I’m spending all our money on therapy. 

Nothing to see here

I have a story that wants to be told. 

I don’t understand it. I truly do not understand why I can’t keep this one to myself. It’s all over. I've had so much therapy. I’m okay with it, it’s been decades, and I’m done. I’m good. But for whatever reason, it simply won’t back down. I’ve been arguing with it. Pipe down, I tell the story. You’re not that interesting. I have much better stories to share. But the damn thing won’t shut up. It’s like, pick me! I’m going to be so embarrassing for you! Yay! 

I wrote about what happened on an anonymous site, and you know what? Stupid story’s not satisfied. It jumped up and down on its little hobbit feet. Not good enough! it cried. Tell the world that I belong to yooooou! We’re going steady! 

Then there are the dreams. My subconscious is not leaving me alone. Tornadoes keep popping up into my dreams, sweeping in out of nowhere, tearing down my house and sucking all the breath from my body. Then that wasn’t scary enough, so they were fire tornadoes. I’m running and hiding and the damned fire tornadoes keep getting me. 

Do you get it, do you get it? asks the story. 

Yes, I get it, shut up. You’re still boring and stupid. 

But I can’t just have one recurring dream, oh no. Next up comes the “things in my mouth” dream. First it’s clay, then it’s gum, then it’s dirt. I can deal with those. Then it’s pulled pork. I’m yanking pulled pork out of my mouth and gagging. Now I can’t eat pulled pork. I really liked pulled pork.

This week I dreamt that I was pulling organs out of my mouth. My own organs. But even as I pulled out all my insides and they spilled all over the floor, more kept sliding up and choking me. It was entirely too gross. 

Yesterday I went to therapy to go over these fucking dreams that I have had enough of, and then I headed to Deanna’s to record our latest podcast episode and just like that, while we were chatting with Paul Gilmartin, I went and blurped out my story. 

I have no idea if I said anything coherent or if I even spoke for the rest of the podcast. 

Then I went home and sat on the couch for a few hours. A distance voice reminded me to feed the child. It was probably the child. 

I’m not going to tell you the story here, sorry. You can listen to the podcast (which doesn't air until next week) (and I'm keeping you waiting, I know. Listen, didn't I say the story isn't interesting? I swear it's not). I promise you this isn’t a way of getting you to listen to the podcast, I just can’t type it out. I may be cracking up, but I don't think so. Seriously: don’t worry, I’m okay. Remember how I said I was going to write like no one’s reading? This is what I’m doing. It’s okay for me to publish this because no one’s reading it. 

Someone said to me recently, “Maybe it’s better if you don’t think about it. Because the mind wants to forget.” But this is exactly wrong. The mind wants you to remember, and it will fuck with you until you do. 

 

 

The League of Awkward Unicorns

Have you been listening to my podcast? Look, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but if you like podcasts and/or you have even a glancing interest in mental health, you should listen to my podcast. It’s a good podcast!

The League of Awkward Unicorns features me and Deanna Zandt, who is my friend and fellow depression/anxiety sufferer. We wanted to do a podcast about mental health issues that wasn’t a total bummer.  More specifically, we wanted to do a mental-health podcast that featured us, hosting it. We amuse each other and assumed that meant we would amuse other people. So far our assumptions seem to be working out! 

You know that neither of us are mental health professionals, right? We're just two goofs with a vested interest in reducing the shame and stigma of mental illness. (Actually Deanna is a media technologist, activist, author, and speaker, so technically not the goof in this pairing.) I am not a mental health professional in any way except that I’ve gone to so many mental health professionals that I should have at least one honorary degree. Shouldn't it work that way? I know a lot, guys. 

We have seven episodes out in the world right now, and more to come—we’re publishing them every other week. Sometimes we interview guests, and sometimes it’s just us. We’ve got big plans for the future. In case it’s not clear, I’m proud of this thing we’ve made. 

You can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and probably anywhere else podcasts can be found. You can check in with us on Facebook, too. Let me know what you think, what you want us to cover, whom we should interview, et cetera and so forth. 

Heart-whacked

Today I got injured in my Pilates class, which is a thing that could only happen to me. It’s like suffering a croquet injury, or a bongo mishap. It’s just not easy to injure yourself in Pilates. It was a tower class, which means that you’re working on equipment that’s bolted to the wall, and there’s a piece of that equipment on springs that you push down with your hands—and what you’re not supposed to do is let it go so that the equipment flies up and whacks you in the chest so hard you can’t talk for a few seconds. 

You see that bar each lady is holding? Well, if you stand over it, push it down, and then let it go, it will rise up with surprising force and leave you bruised and mad at it. 

You see that bar each lady is holding? Well, if you stand over it, push it down, and then let it go, it will rise up with surprising force and leave you bruised and mad at it. 

It hurt. It really, really hurt. Like, really.

It’s only a small class, just me and another student and the instructor, so it’s not like the WHANG that reverberated through my chest went unnoticed. Once I was able to talk I claimed that I was fine, and after a few minutes of me enthusiastically lying (why? Why must we always pretend we're fine?), we kept going. 

And that’s when the tears started. You know when you feel them coming and it’s just not the right time, and you’re like, not now, tears, wait until I’m home, come on, we only have ten more minutes of class, RETREAT, RETREAT, you're fine, keep it together, and the tears are like "NO THANKS! WE CAN’T WAIT TO SPILL ALL OVER THIS YOGA MAT!"? 

So embarrassing. 

It hurt, yes, but I also think I needed to cry. I'm normally a crier (boy, am I) but I've been having a dry spell. And it’s been a rough few months. I’ve been worried and sad. My dad isn’t doing great. His health problems keep multiplying, and he’s having cognitive issues, and it feels like every week there’s more news, and it’s never good. I’ve been keeping it together, though. I mean, he’s 80. This is what happens. I’ve kept my focus on my mom, who has to deal with the brunt of it. But then I got whacked in the chest, and something else hit me: my dad’s going to die.  

Luckily, as I said, it was only the three of us, so the class turned into a stretching/therapy session, with me soaking my yoga mat as the other two recalled the times they had cried during Pilates. I kept trying to stop, but my chest kept hurting in these waves, and each wave would bring it on again. 

The thing is, I really don’t want my dad to die. Not surprising, I know. I don't want him to die, and also I hate this. All of it. I think this whole deal, this whole getting old and sick and unhappy business, is stupid and unfair. I wish to have some words with whoever came up with this plan.

In the meantime, I hurt myself and I hurt and I got home and thought I'd stop crying, but I continued on with great vigor, and then my son came home from school and was quite concerned, and he ordered me to bed, because he is goddamn adorable and sweet. So I’m just going to lie in bed for a while with a whole bunch of damp tissues and a mildly alarmed chihuahua. Right after I hit publish. 

An amazing thing I didn't know I needed

Sometimes I write about stuff and I don’t fully understand why I’m writing it. Take last week’s post. I thought I was making a point about writing on the Internet—the high school anecdote was just the way to get there. Why would I care that much about high school? It’s been almost 30 years since high school. I’ve put decades between me and the eighties. The span of my life after high school is longer than it was up to high school. And more things about time. I’m an adult, is what I’m trying to say! Such an adult. I adult like you wouldn’t believe. 

So, sure, I wrote about this time when my friends hated me, but then I skipped right ahead to the here and now. I’m Facebook friends with two of the members of that high school circle. Since then, we’ve had really nice interactions both online and in person. I’ve long moved past that point. Did I mention that I’m an adult, now? I’m ridiculously sophisticated. I sometimes use that primer you put under your makeup. I have creases and such. And life insurance! 

I will admit, however, that a small part of me worried that these friends might react negatively. That I would either hear, “Oh, I see—we’re talking about why we all hated you in high school? Because I can tell you exactly why." Even worse: “I don’t remember anything about it, because you weren’t relevant enough to make it into my memories.” (Yes, this is where my mind goes. I’m in therapy twice a week!) Mostly, though, I figured no one involved would comment much on it. Events that seemed huge to me truly might not have registered for them. 

A few days after publishing, I received two Facebook messages. Both of my high school friends sent me the most extraordinary apologies. They were apologies I had no idea I needed until I read them. 

Not only did they remember what happened, not only did they confirm my suspicions that there was nothing definite that caused the break (or at least they couldn’t remember it either)—they both expressed enormous regret. One person called it “my biggest regret from my high school years.” They said I was undeserving of what I went through. They hoped I could forgive them. 

It’s hard to express what I felt, reading these messages. I’ll tell you what I did. First I stood up. Then I clapped my hands over my mouth. Then I said “oh god oh god oh god” while walking rapidly back and forth around my living room. And then I read them again. While rocking back and forth. (I was alone except for the pets. The cat didn’t care, but Hazel was unnerved and immediately commenced humping her favorite throw pillow.) 

It was amazing. I’m still just…I can’t put it into words. I can’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t realize how much I was still identifying with this time in my life. Until they told me that I was blameless, I didn’t see how much I still believed that I was to blame. I didn’t know I’ve been carrying around the belief, ever since, that any friendship I value is probably going to turn to shit because of me. That I was, at my core, somehow a bad person, and I couldn’t even see it. I didn’t know I was holding onto all this shame. There was a fist in my chest, and I didn't know it was there until I felt it unclenching. 

How great is that? 

(Episode 6 of the podcast is now live! "What's this about a podcast?", you ask? Click on the link and find out!) 

The stupidity of writing (and/or living) for people who dislike you

Halfway through my senior year of high school, a group of my friends decided they didn’t like me anymore. It felt at the time like the entire class had turned against me, but it was probably about five people. Nonetheless, they were five people I spent a lot of my time with, and they were fairly well-liked, so other people who had once thought I was cool now found me loathsome. I devolved from “somewhat cool to hang out near” to “What? No.” It was…difficult.

It was never clear to me what started it; over a period of weeks and months I was just frozen out. People who had once laughed at my jokes were now rolling their eyes. Then walking away. And when I asked them what I had done, they said, God, you don't understand anything. I’d call and their moms would say they were busy and their moms would sound embarrassed. Like that. If I had to dig through my memory I’m positive I'd find I wasn’t blameless, but luckily no one’s making me dig through my memory. (It’s messy in there.) 

So that’s hard to remember, but what’s even worse were my attempts to change their minds. Because I did not say, “Well, screw you” and concentrate on the few good friends who stuck by me. Oh no I did not. Instead I engaged in desperate and frantic bids to get their friendships back. Showing up at get-togethers that I wasn’t specifically not invited to. Breakin’ the rules and gettin’ suspended to show that I was a real bad-ass. (And apparently dropping my g’s.) Worst of all, I made up gossip, literally made up dirt on people, to show that I was somehow in the know and worth hanging out with. You can imagine how well that turned out. 

In my spare time I was learning what "panic attacks" were and breaking out into epic rashes (the family dermatologist was fascinated by me that year), and when I was at school I playacted at being an asshole. Somehow I thought that if they didn’t like me, maybe they’d like this frantic, aggressive version of me. 

This strategy, not surprisingly, backfired, in that not only did they dislike me even more, the few people who were still brave enough to be my friends were beginning to see their point. Is it a coincidence that the one friend who was kind enough to sit me down and tell me what a dick I was being, and then forgive me when I acknowledged said dickness, is now a priest? It is not. She is a goddamn saint. 

The whole situation was pretty excruciating, and the only thing that saved me was graduation. 

This particular story was a dramatic example but not an exception to how I like to focus on someone who doesn’t like me and try and make them like me. I’ve homed in on the one person in my life who doesn’t think I’m all that charming and used all my charm to change their minds. And do you know what? This has always failed! Sometimes spectacularly! 

If someone doesn’t like you, it’s probably got more to do with them than you, but either way, I've learned, there’s not too much you can do about it. Unless you’ve actively been a terrible person, in which case you should quit doing that, for everyone’s sake. 

I’ve been thinking of this period in my life recently, because I found myself recently trying to understand why I’ve struggled with blogging over the past few years. Since I started it in 2004, Finslippy has been one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I gave it my random thoughts and it gave me friends, positive feedback, a book deal, television appearances, a stream of writing gigs, crazy speaking engagements and video projects, and more than one job. I owe my blog so much.

It also provided me with the weird sensation of reading about how much some people weren’t into me. Of course, right? Once your audience extends beyond your friends and family, it’s inevitable that someone’s not going to think you’re particularly interesting. I always knew that. I just didn’t know people would find me so not-that-great that they’d be compelled to write about it. And that so many people would agree with them. 

I am not a special case. This is in no way unusual. It happens to everyone who's put anything out there in the world. It’s the byproduct of creative output. If anything, I’ve gotten off easy. I’ve gotten off easy, though, because I’ve pulled back. And I’ve pulled back because the negative feedback was too painful. 

And it’s not like I was being attacked on the regular, by any means. All I got were a few comments on a forum here and there. A discussion thread or two about how non-exemplary I was. A couple of Google alerts let me know that I wasn’t nearly as great as I (apparently) believed. A couple of emails informing me that I’m a garbage dump of a person. That kind of stuff. 

In realizing that I wasn't alone with this phenomenon, I also read scathing attacks on my blogging peers and my friends. I sort of...obsessed over these attacks. I saw people I understand on a cellular level being ridiculed and dismissed. No one was making me read those sites. But somewhere in the weird little frightened squirrel part of my brain, I was taking notes, trying to figure out what these people who hated everything would like, how I could be that cool girl who’d get a pass. 

It didn’t take long for me to really get these people's voices in my head. I became increasingly careful with what I wrote. I edited and re-edited. I second-guessed and didn't hit publish. I became increasingly self-conscious and reactive and every post just felt harder and harder. And then I gave up. It wasn’t fun anymore. 

But who made it un-fun? I did. I denied myself the joy of writing shit that I wanted to write. How stupid is that? Who was this benefiting? A few people who probably weren’t paying any attention? Would these people spontaneously contact me and say, “You know, I used to think you were boring and unfunny, but now that you’re not writing at all, you’ve really grabbed my attention. Want to get drinks?” And then we’d get drinks and we’d be best friends and everyone would like me again and I’d be voted Most Misunderstood But Secretly Great? 

This is silly. It’s so silly. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t think you’re great. Don’t read it. Don’t read negative shit in general, actually: it’s poison. 

And if someone doesn’t like you enough to fire off an angry missive about how you're the worst, just rest easy in the knowledge that that person is a miserable chafe of a human being who doesn’t deserve your time and energy.

Then reply, “For the last time, I’m not going to have sex with you.” 

This always freaks them out. Because secretly they wanted to have sex with you. They all do. Because you’re super hot.

 

Generating ideas

About a month ago I left my editorial job to return to writing, and I knew I was going to do this for a while, so I had a few months to really hyperventilate over my decision. I hadn’t written much in that time and was feeling kinda dead inside as a result, so well before I was unemployed, I set myself the task of writing down 10 ideas every day. They couldn’t be stupid—“write a bestseller” or "make a million dollars" couldn’t count as an idea, much as I wanted it to— but “not stupid” was otherwise broadly defined. 

This was a really valuable exercise and I recommend it. Idea generating is hard work. It tires you out like exercise can tire you out. Just like exercise, it can feel overly difficult and pointless, until you start to see results. 

When you’re churning out ideas you generate all kinds of garbage. Sometimes you're delighted by the useless garbage. You get to look back at your lists from weeks before and you don't have a single clue what you were thinking. Were you falling asleep when you wrote these?

Then you post a few to your blog because what the hell. 

  • “You're Not Terrible: A Story for All My Friends Who Think They're Terrible" 

Well, that's easy. You're not terrible! You're the best, not the worst! Why do you think you're terrible when you're definitely not! Only people who are terrible don't think they're terrible. Wait, did you not previously think you're terrible and now you do because I said this? No way, not you. You're a shimmering being of light. I want to take pictures of you all day.   (Great idea, great story, get this published immediately) 

  • “Alice and Alison—find someone I can emulate, like Julie and Julia!” 

Oh my god, what? Get a hold of yourself, Bradley. Also what Alisons are there in this world? Alison Williams? Alison Brie? Commendable young ladies, but no. Gross. Stop it. Now I'm mad at me. 

  •  “Eulogy for the guy who lived down the street who’s angry about the sun.” 

 I don’t have a clue what this means. I don’t know what it could possibly mean even in my imagination. I’m 99% sure I was dreaming when i wrote this. This is dream language. But then my penmanship is pretty legible. It wasn’t even my last idea of the day. Was I thinking about Buzz Aldrin railing against the moon on 30 Rock and I thought, that’s proven gold, just flip it and make it local? Oh well, here you go: 

We’re here to remember that guy who lived down the street. He was a good man, even though he was super angry about the sun. He was always outside, which is weird, seeing as how the sun made him so angry. Most of us on the block have a fun story about Bill—his name was Bill, obviously, we all know this—standing in the middle of the street, waving his arms around about the sun and its hidden agenda. “But it’s cloudy out today, Bill!” we’d say, and he’d reply, “But it’s there, damn your hide! Don’t you understand? It’s not leaving us alone, it’s just hiding! Continuing its secret work!” And we'd tell him, "Bill, we need the sun for warmth and energy!" And that's when he'd start karate chopping the air. He was a colorful guy and wore a real big hat. We’ll miss his yelling—his sunrise yelling least of all. 

Rest in peace, idea. 

  • Stories about weird street detritus

One of my neighbors left, on the curb, the following tableau: a Plan B box leaning against an empty bottle of Old Fitzgerald bourbon and a pair of denim cutoffs. I’ve been trying to find a way to mention this online ever since. God that felt good. 

 

 

 

 

 

Scared straight

Last June was our 16th anniversary, so Scott and I spent a weekend at this funky hotel in the Catskills. Every room is themed at this place. I chose a space-themed room. It was appropriately far out. 

Before we left, Scott mentioned that one of his coworkers, a fellow video editor, had gifted us an edible. A pot cookie, in other words. (I feel like I'm a million years old when I say "pot cookie" but I don't feel like I've earned the right to say "edible.") He apparently was a frequent user (and baker, I guess) of such things, and thought we’d have fun with it. Sure, I said! Pot’s fun! 

Couple of important details: First, I smoked pot plenty in my twenties, but not really since. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s … changed a little, in the past twenty-odd years. I learned this a couple of years ago, when I shared a one-hitter with a friend and spent the next few hours paranoid and hyper, my face in a jumbo bag of Cheetos. Number two, I’ve never ingested it. Smoked, sure; eaten, no. (Turns out ingesting is also different.) I will research the hell out of anything, but in this case I didn’t bother doing a single second of reading on how to manage an edible. At least I can blame Scott’s friend, who had lulled us into a false sense of security with his detailed tips and tricks. 

After we’d settled into our Catskills Room of Space-Whimsy, Scott took out the cookie. We ate only 1/4 each, as per our instructions. It was not difficult to only eat 1/4 of it. It tasted like if you licked the inside of a suede vest that had just spent a long hot jam session pressed up against Robert Plant’s pectorals. Approximately. 

Once that was over with, we drank Prosecco, played the Velvet Underground, laughed at the Cylon tub. 

Space tub!   

Space tub! 

 

 

Then we were in the Cylon tub, because that's what you do on a romantic weekend in your space room. We weren’t feeling the effects of the cookie, and briefly discussed eating more. We didn’t because, I don’t know, there’s a God? A God who might be looking out for middle-aged folks getting overly high in the Catskills? 

Then we were out of the tub and engaging in the usual anniversary-weekend behaviors when I realized that my mouth had turned so dry it was definitely going to kill me. I could barely form words to tell Scott that all the fluids had exited my body and I was now but a husk. Scott went to get water, and to my mind he was gone for an hour and when he finally returned I was curled up on the bed, my eyes clamped shut, repeating the same phrase over and over. It was something about time and drugs and it wasn’t interesting but the point is that I kept repeating myself because I kept forgetting I was saying it. And yet I was sort of aware that I was repeating and forgetting, repeated and forgetting, and that my brain was permanently damaged. 

I drank more and more water, Scott forced to make repeated trips to the sink while I yelled "ARE YOU STILL THERE." I assured Scott that I was definitely dying. I moved from my fetal position to an alert crouch right next to the bed, neither standing nor sitting, kind of a vertical fetal position that turned into a real workout for my quads. I think the crouch was meant to ward off death. (Death can't get you when you're crouched.) Or the burning thigh muscles were an important reminder that I still existed. I became positive I was going to die from over-hydration, and I was also sure that Scott’s friend had slipped something more serious into the cookie than pot, and I insisted that Scott had to call both his friend and also 911 immediately because death was coming for me, crouch or no crouch. 

“You’re fine,” Scott said. “You’re just really high. You’re freaking out.” 

“I am not high, I’m dying,” I told him. "I mean, yes, I'm high, but I am also dying. You have to believe me." 

He did not believe me. I thought, you’re not going to call 911 and I’m going to die and you’re going to feel so bad. Poor, poor Scott. 

For some unknown reason Scott found my High Alert Crouch unsettling so he coaxed me back onto the bed, where I proceeded to tremble uncontrollably. I pointed at my legs as they thrashed about. “See? I’m having a seizure,” I told him.

“Pretty sure if you were having a seizure you wouldn’t be talking,” he reasoned. 

“I’m going to be a HuffPo article,” I told him. I was picturing myself as a cautionary-tale news story. “Woman Dies From Pot Like an Idiot. World Laughs at Her.” 

Then I told him I was having a seizure 9000 more times and forgot his response each time. 

Scott, meanwhile, seemed fine. I kept asking him and he kept saying he was fine. (I found out the next day that Scott was freaking out as much as I was, but held it together because he knew that if I thought he was also dying I could not have been stopped from calling the authorities. And then we really would have been on HuffPo.) 

At one point I asked him to tell me a story and he said “you know all my stories” and I explained that I wanted him to distract me and only a story would do it. He proceeded to tell me about a dream he had about being very tiny and running around in a giant sink, and I thought, of all the stories he could tell me, he chooses this Alice in Wonderland nightmare shit right now? I commanded that he stop telling me the story, otherwise known as the Worst Story to Tell an Overly High Person Ever. 

(If someone is high, tell them a story about a cute bunny you saw in the woods. And how you had to stay real quiet until it got close, and then it sniffed your hand for a bit and hopped away. Tell them about your mom making you a grilled cheese. Don’t tell them about how you morphed into a tiny thing that was menaced by a sink sponge. For God’s sake.) 

After…minutes? Hours? The shaking subsided and I was somewhat reassured that I wasn’t going to die. Still, I was suffering a fate worse than death, locked in a permanent psychosis like I was. So that was a shame. Scott, meanwhile, fell asleep. I stared at him, amazed. Asleep! He could actually sleep! I checked his breathing. 

By this time I was somewhat ambulatory so I made it to my phone where I proceeded to Google “POT COOKIE TAINTED,” “ECSTASY IN MY EDIBLE,” “AM I DYING FROM POT Y/N” and countless other all-caps iterations, all of which I read aloud to Scott the next day. I found advice that all amounted to “you’re just incredibly high and there's nothing you can do.” I read an article by Maureen Dowd about her unfortunate edible experience and was brought to tears by the cruel taunts of the NYT commenters who all seemed to think she should have known what she was getting herself into. Only I understand you, Maureen Dowd, I thought. This was one of many thoughts that I never had before or since. 

Since there was no way I was ever going to sleep again I stayed up for hours, first watching an infinite number of Friends episodes and then, somehow, an equally infinite number of Seinfeld episodes. Friends, I determined, was the best show ever, and Seinfeld was a horror show masquerading as comedy. I know this because I was writing about it in my journal, which i was doing both to show myself that I still existed and also because I had this vague idea that I was being ridiculous and whatever I came up with right then had the potential to be hilarious the next day. 

(It wasn’t. It was really boring. I wrote poetry about Friends. And it was boring.) 

Actual doodle from that night.   

Actual doodle from that night. 

 

In conclusion, we had a terrible time and it was the least romantic getaway ever. But the hotel was pretty cool. 


I'm not hiding my shame under a bushel. A shame-bushel. That's the saying, right?

I was in okay physical shape, once. At least for me. I don’t know if that equates to anything resembling “okay shape” for other humans. I kind of doubt it, but let’s pretend that I’m somewhere in the realm of normal. Pretend along with me! Make me feel good. Look, you don’t have to pretend. I won’t know. 

When I was in okay shape and I didn’t have time to hit the gym (the gym was something I “hit,” back then. It’s a figure of speech, you understand. Coined when people were so satisfied with their working-outs that they’d slap the gym wall and say, “that’s a good workout, by gum!” Then they’d drop their comical barbells, peel off their woolen unitards, don their three-piece suits, and set off for a mustache-steam. I don’t have a good handle on what old-timey people did)— 

—ANYWAY, when I didn’t have time to slap the gym I would do that 7-minute workout the New York Times told us was the only workout we ever needed. The New York Times told us that science said it was so, and I believe whatever the New York Times tells me that science says. Except this workout was kind of easy because I was a smug gym-hitter. So I would (smugly) do two of them. Sometimes three. Three workouts all in a row, like a SUPERHERO or something. 

FAST FORWARD TO NOW, about six months after I started my job, and I haven’t been to the gym in…hey, six months! What do you know! I’ve been pulling my own leg with lies like “Walking is like working out, only slower and less sweaty” and “Sucking in your gut is like crunches but standing and you can wear nice pants.” Turns out, though, that walking won’t help you do a push-up, which I learned last week, when I did one (1) 7-minute workout. And could barely do a push-up. AND the next day, all my parts hurt. At one point, I was sitting down, and I won’t say I couldn’t stand, but I had to think about it. And I could pretend this is the declaration that's going to motivate me to return to my former glory/okay-ness but really I just wanted a topic to write about, and my first thought was, "Hey, my sore butt!" 

I feel so close to you all right now.

Announcement

I hereby announce that from now on I’m going to be answering my phone by barking, “Go for Bradley.” I feel it necessary to announce this because I’ve tried just implementing my new phone-answering style and it didn’t go well. Specifically, no matter who was on the other end, they all said, “What?” or “Whuh?” or “Gopher Badly?” or "Goldfarb Brad Lean?" And I'm like "Why on earth would anyone say 'Goldfarb Brad Lean?" and THEN I have to explain that I said “Go for Bradley” and this is my new answering-the-phone style and then they’re like, “I don't understand, why are you doing this to me?” And I’m like, BECAUSE, Mom. Because.  

I have to say “Go for Bradley” now because I’m a professional and I’m very very busy. “Go for Bradley” is my way of saying, “Cut the chit chat, slackers. I don’t want your jibber-jabber, slowpokes. I don't need your niceties. I'm a goddamn professional, so let’s get down to it.” Only no one understands what I said or else they don't appreciate it and I spend a lot of time explaining myself. So it’s not actually that efficient. But I can’t change it now because if I say “hello” people will be like I THOUGHT IT WAS “GO FOR BRADLEY,” JERK. So: look. I'm saying "Go for Bradley" now. Deal with it. You've been warned. Or, you know, announced at. 

All right, fine. I’ve never said “Go for Bradley,” not once. BUT—and this is true—I think about it all the time, I think about saying it, and as a result every time I answer the phone I experience a mild frisson of delight at the very thought. I get a little giddy and I bet everyone thinks I'm incredibly excited to talk to them, when in reality I'm just thinking, this is it! But then I chicken out. Once I started and I said "go for—" and then I pretended to have a coughing fit. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, guys. 

(Also, any time anyone says "Supposedly," I want to lift a finger to interrupt them and say with a patronizing smirk, "I think you mean supposably." This also cracks me up every time. It's fun to be me!) 

Anyway I'm just here to say hi, I never meant to be gone for so long, but, you know, job, life, excuses, shut up, and I haven’t given up on this blog, although I know it seemed that way. I'm very sorry to confuse the, you know, two of you still looking in on me and wondering where I am. I missed you! I missed us. So: hello! I mean: go for Bradley. 

She's a lady

 

We were going to wait to get another dog, but then we realized that waiting is stupid and dogs are the best. Meet Hazel.

 

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:21pm PDT


Hazel is between 3 and 5 years of age, so we'll just go ahead and call her 4. She was dumped by some sad fool who failed to recognize that she is a wondrous being with popcorn-scented paws. We got her through a rescue group, and now she is ours and she is the best. They called her a chihuahua mix but we think she's all chihuahua. 

 

Her full name is Hazel Doolittle Bradley-Rosann. Doolittle because her evening gloves belie her coarse beginnings. 

 

I'm a good girl, I am. #hazeldoolittle

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:08pm PST

 

We love her a little bit. 

 

Izzy is glaring at Hazel, aka "midafternoon snack."

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:48am PST

 

 

The cat now makes this face, all the time. 

 

 

Izzy is glaring at Hazel, aka "midafternoon snack."

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:48am PST

 

She'll get over it.

 

Back to Hazel! All she wants to do is sleep on a lap, or burrow under some covers. 

 

"Good morning, Hazel!" "Nope." #notamorningdog #hazeldoolittle

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:39am PST

 

She is very, very smart. I think she might be the next Oprah. 

Charlie the Dog, 1998(?)-2014

Charlie died on October 10th.

As you know if you’ve ever read this site or looked at a single word I’ve written on social media, Charlie was our beloved dog, the greatest pet who ever walked this earth, blessed with the softest of ears and the most agreeable of dispositions. He was nothing but a joy to live with since we picked him up on a street corner 15 years ago. We had answered a Petfinder ad, knowing nothing about him other than that he had been neglected by his previous owners, and that he was a “sweet dog with soft ears who needs a chance.” (That’s quoted directly from his ad.)

Charlie’s health had been going downhill for the past year or so. He had arthritis in his back legs and a heart murmur. He was totally deaf and almost completely blind. His kidneys were failing, his weight was plummeting. It seemed like we were constantly either walking him or trying to get him to eat. Normally he weighed around 25 pounds, but last month he was down to 14. It looked painful. Well-meaning neighbors and passersby expressed amazement in his continued existence. Once a stranger stopped to hug me; not because I looked sad, but because the dog did. Plus he didn't seem to know where he was, most of the time. 

So that’s how he was, and he was ready to go, and we thought we were ready to say goodbye, but then of course you’re never ready, not really. We miss him so much. 

I wish I could find more things to say about him. He was the best dog. We are so lucky.