Mind Munches

The love child of word vomit & metaphors

Embrace Your Multitudes

I just finished watching The Bear on Hulu. While I haven’t counted, I’m probably a season or two behind on at least 15-20 other shows. My wishlist on the library app is 150 books deep. My bucket list has 64 items and only six are crossed off.

When I get an idea for an essay or a blog, I write it down in a moleskin notebook I carry around in my purse. Sometimes I write paragraphs, sometimes I write miscellaneous words, knowing that I’ll understand what I mean later.

When I wake up in the morning, I have a thousand things running around in my head. What I want to do, what I should do, what I could do, what I’ve been needing to do for too long. Little sparks of inspiration and courage flash through my mind, telling me, maybe this is the day we try this or maybe we’re brave enough to start taking steps toward that. And waves of anxiety interrupt those thoughts, saying I don’t think we can do this and we’ll never be good enough for that.

I know my hopes, I know my dreams. I know where I want to be in five years. I know where I want to be in forty. Or at least I think I do. I know what I want based on all the things I know right know.

Some of what I think, I write about. Some of what I think, I share with friends, family or even acquaintances and strangers. But a lot of what I think, a lot of what I know, a lot of what I imagine, is just mine. It lives in my head and it stays there.

A big part of my world is just my mind. It’s the colors it knows, the sounds and the smells. It’s the feelings it feels—sometimes different than the people around me. It’s the way I want to be seen and the way I’m afraid I might be seen. It’s all the things I’ve collected, all the things I’ve explored, and all the things I’m waiting to discover. Everything is a layer, a piece, a portion, a reason, a quirk, a characteristic of me. And no one else has all the same parts.

No one else knows what I’m thinking about when I’m staring off into space. No one knows the exact shade of blue I see when I look up at the sky. No one knows what the sun feels like when it hits my skin. No one knows all the stories I want to write. No one knows all the doors and corners and gardens and gravestones that live inside me.

Last week, there was a terrible car accident in Southern California. A drunk driver sped down a side street, ran a red light and crashed into multiple vehicles, one of which exploded on impact.

In a blink, lives were lost. In a blink, a person, a collection of colors and sounds and smells, of doors and corners and gardens, of layers and pieces and portions was gone—and not just one.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Haven’t stopped imagining what it would be like to be gone in an instant—never even knowing I was leaving.

Sometimes after car accidents like this I try to take comfort in hearing that someone was “killed on impact”, because it meant they felt no pain. But it’s overwhelming—incomprehensible, really—to grasp the weight of a loss that happens in an instant.

All those things that live inside a mind, all the hopes and dreams, all the plans not yet shared, all the one-word notes that won’t make sense to anyone else. Gone.

I’m not one to always treat myself nicely. I don’t spend enough time appreciating the value of being alive—of being me and being alive. But there’s something so strange about knowing that it can all be gone. That sometimes people are just gone. That every day, the world loses unique, creative, inspiring, one of a kind, irreplaceable people. And we never get to know all the things they knew. Never get to see all their colors.

There are so many things happening inside me—inside all of us—all the time, all at once. We are so much. We are so many. We are each an entire universe. And I think sometimes we forget.

We don’t know how long we will be here. How much time we have to share our universe with the world. But we do have a choice each day to appreciate the tremendousness of our lives. To realize how much exists in us, how many colors and corners. To see our abundance and that in those around us.

So today I’m just trying to appreciate it all. Everything that I am, as imperfect as that may be. And I hope you’ll do the same.

Embrace your multitudes. The world is lucky to have you.

Setting “Should” Boundaries

A few weeks ago I got a notification informing me that my blog has been active for eight years.

I always take these anniversaries with an asterisk, because technically I started my blog, wrote one post and then forgot about it for an entire year. BUT it was that decision to start it eight years ago that got me here today, so I’ll take the celebrations as they come.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you might know that I have a tendency to be very anxious. This is something I’ve always known about myself, but have been slowly unpacking the depth of for about, well, the last eight years.

The best way I can describe it is that I once felt like a knot made up of hundreds of other knots. And I was just walking around, rigid and terrified, but not sure why or how I got like that. But then, slowly, one by one, I’ve started to untie those knots, and with each release comes relief, wonder and understanding. I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy, but it is worth it.

One of those knots that’s recently been bothering me is the word should. And, of course, it’s brother, shouldn’t.

The most basic understanding we are given as children is right and wrong, and thus, should and shouldn’t. But somewhere along the way, these defining directives branch out into areas of our lives that are not so easily understood as black and white. And for me, these words became near biblical in their intensity, outlining each and every minute of my day.

I should eat this, I should wear this, I should say this, I should call her, I should let that go, I should exercise, I shouldn’t eat that, I should go to bed, I shouldn’t watch television, I should be a better friend, I shouldn’t think about that, I should try this, I should stop doing that, I shouldn’t act like this, I shouldn’t feel like that, I should be more of this and less of that.

For a long time, I rationalized my obsession with these words as guidelines—parameters that would allow me to have a good day and thus, live a good life. But recently I’ve realized that these words bring more anxiety to my life than joy, and that I haven’t just been trying to hold myself accountable, I’ve been demanding perfection, and not just my definition of it, but everyone’s.

In doing so, the should’s and shouldn’t’s constantly clashed, not knowing whose standard I should be held to, for how long and for what reason. I was trying to be too many things at once, trying to impress too many people who never would have even noticed, and trying to prevent myself from making a single mistake.

I was living in a very “everyone except me” mindset, in that everyone was allowed to make mistakes, have bad days, get lost, feel sad, and be lazy except me. Because I thought I didn’t deserve that grace. I needed to prove myself. I needed to meet the expectation—everyone’s expectation—even when no one was looking.

This was (and is) a very tangly knot.

There are a lot of things that tie (pun intended) into this mindset. A lot of things I have to both learn and unlearn from past experiences. But I am relieved to find the clarity that it’s not the way I have to live.

And it’s not the way you have to live either.

I am trying to set “should” boundaries.

When a should question comes up, I’m asking why?

Should I do_____

Should I say _______

Should I change ________

Why?

Is it because I want to? Because I think it could help me, encourage me, inspire me, or make me feel better?

Or is it because I think it’s what other people expect of me, what society or social media demands of me, or because I don’t think I’m good enough as I am?

Other people—friends, family and strangers alike—can come into play in these questions, and so I know it can’t always be as simple as “do I want to do this?” But when I’m sitting on my couch on a weeknight, wanting to watch television; when I wake up on a Saturday morning, later than everyone else; when I don’t want to go out or have a drink or do what everyone else is doing; when my mind starts to spiral, turning a simple preference, habit or decision into a reason that people are going to be mad at me, reject me or leave me behind—that’s when I know I have to set a “should” boundary.

I am allowed to do the “wrong” thing, the thing that is not the healthiest or the most productive or the most popular. I am allowed to have bad days where I don’t say the right thing or I can’t express how I’m feeling or I just want to be alone. And on the flip side of things, I am allowed to make healthy choices, even when everyone else isn’t, even when it seems uncool or slightly pretentious—this doesn’t mean I’m judging them, it just means I’m doing what makes me feel good.

The bottom line of it all reminds me that I am living my life and everyone else is living theirs. I am the only person living inside my body and feeling my feelings, so I am the only one that can truly understand the benefits and consequences of the should’s and shouldn’t’s that come my way. So I can’t ask myself to be perfect—especially to everyone. I can’t even ask myself to be liked by everyone. I can only ask myself to be honest, and sometimes a little brave.

When I created my blog eight years ago, my mind was swarming with shouldn’t’s, but I did the unthinkable at the time and listened to the single, solitary should that sat inside me. And I’ve never regretted it.

So thanks for giving me a safe place to untangle these knots. I’ve still got a long way to go, but the load gets lighter every day!

The Pants Can’t Do Everything

Confession: I like online shopping.

The ease. The convenience. The ability to make fun mail arrive on my doorstep. It is wonderful.

But sometimes I use shopping—or perhaps, the items I shop for—in a way that I shouldn’t. I pretend that shopping will solve my problems or make me feel better when it won’t. I try to shop my way to somewhere, something or someone, hoping a certain pair of pants, sweater, t-shirt, jean jacket, pair of shoes, book, journal, coffee mug or eyeshadow palette will do all the leg work for me.

Do you know what I mean?

Sometimes I feel down or lonely or out of sorts and I will have a certain struggle on my mind, but rather than actively working through that struggle, rather than talking to a friend, exercising, journaling, meditating, going for a walk, reading my bible, or just sitting in the struggle as it works itself out, I will shop.

I will look at prayer journals, assuming that if I buy that journal, I will become a better, more productive prayer and I will strengthen my relationship with God.

I will look at running shorts and assume that if I can find them in my size, I will improve my mile time and get in incredible shape and finally be proud and comfortable in my body.

I will look at shoes and imagine myself strutting confidently, my introversion thrown out the window. I will look at t-shirts and imagine myself casual and cool, someone people admire and envy and wish they could be like. I will look at makeup and imagine I am as beautiful as all the girls I see in the magazines. I will look at blazers and imagine myself at the top of the corporate ladder, financially stable, with the ability to travel anywhere at any time.

I rely on objects to make me a different person, rather than giving myself time to grow into the person that I actually am. And oftentimes the girl I’m picturing in all of these fantasies, the girl who stars in all of the daydreams that convince me to add to cart, is not me at all. She is a version of me that I’ve convinced myself is “the right” version. The version that the media has deemed pretty, successful, worthy, etc. So when the packages arrive full of clothes and things that are supposed to fit her, they don’t fit me. I don’t like the way they look or maybe a part of me is just disappointed that my daydream didn’t come true. That even though I have these new shoes, I’m still unhappy or lonely. Or even though I bought that eyeshadow palette, that relationship didn’t pan out the way I hoped it would. Even though I bought this or subscribed to that, I am still me, in the same place, with all the same struggles.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with shopping. There’s nothing wrong with buying something that you want, that makes you feel good and inspires you to go out there, try new things and better yourself. There’s also nothing wrong with manifestation. With buying something that can help you picture a specific dream and can help motivate you to chase it.

What I’m doing is shopping in place of feeling. In place of listening to what I really need and want—even though in the moment it might seem like what I both want and need is that pair of leggings THAT ARE ON SALE.  I want to stop shopping under the assumption that buying something is the same as doing something or trying something.

Buying running shorts won’t make me a better runner. Running will.

Buying a journal won’t create a daily journaling habit for me. Journaling daily will.

I have to put in the work to make what I buy capable of fulfilling what I dreamt it could.

I have to be the person in the shoes or the pants or the dress and I have to appreciate how I wear them, not wish they turned me into someone else.

I have to live my own life, my things can’t do that for me.

So maybe I don’t need those pants today. Maybe I just need to take a deep breath and figure out what it is I really want—and then go out and get it.

Just What I Needed

Last year, right after I turned 30, I was at the dentist.

Having just finished a cleaning, I was sat up straight in the chair, my ponytail flattened and messy, and my eyes—which I close during every appointment—still adjusting to the bright light of the room.   The dental hygienist was talking positively about my teeth, telling me I brushed well, could floss better, but had no cavities, and thus I felt like a successful adult.

She asked me how old I was, and her eyes lit up when I told her.

“I just turned 40,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to see what these next ten years bring me, but I couldn’t be more excited for you. My thirties were the best years of my life so far.”

I flinched at this.

For ten years people had said to me, “Your twenties are your best years! Don’t waste them!” over and over again, and I had spent night after night lying in bed, feeling guilty, wondering, “Am I wasting them?”

But the truth was, my twenties were hard. They were confusing and at times sad and heartbreaking and isolating and overall just one big WHAT AM I EVEN DOING?!

Part of me was relieved to hear that, in this humble woman’s opinion, I had another shot at “my best years.” But I also worried that the your-thirties-are-the-best-time-of-your-life crowd was about to come out of the woodworks, and I was going to spend another decade lying awake at night wondering why I can’t do anything right.

But then, as if she could see the curiosity (and perhaps fear) wash over me, she turned towards me—or rather, wheeled her dentist stool in front of me—and elaborated.

She told me her thirties were good to her because she felt she was finally good to herself. She said everyone talks about the “carefree fun” of your twenties, but no one talks about the self-acceptance and understanding that can come in your thirties.

She said I would finally start to see myself and, in turn, stop hearing everyone else.

“Their opinions will matter less, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away. That doesn’t mean you won’t care what other people think, but you will start to get a feeling of what feels right to you. And even though it might not be what everyone else is doing or what is ‘cool’ or ‘right’ or ‘normal’, you begin to appreciate what is honest to you more than striving for everyone else’s acceptance and affection.”

I have thought about this conversation often. It has comforted me on hard days, encouraged me on good days, and given me an underlying sense of peace that reminds me to relax and settle in for the ride.

Let’s be honest, there is no set standard for “the best years of your life.” There is no reason it has to be your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. There is no reason they have to come in ten-year increments or happen in succession. Your best days and best years are defined by you and you alone.

So let’s take each day as it comes. Take each decade as it comes. Live honestly—even if that means making mistakes—and find your way forward. Let’s get excited about what’s ahead and appreciate what we’ve learned so far.  

And never be afraid to encourage someone—even if they’re at the dentist. You never know how bad they might need it.

It’s My First Try

It goes without saying that we face a lot of pressure every day. Pressure to do or say the right thing. Pressure to look a certain way or be interested or educated in certain things. Pressure to be in the same stage of life as our friends or to forego our comfort level in order to satisfy the expectations of others. Pressure to be in control or have everything figured out.

I know I am constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering who might be pointing out everything I’m doing wrong or everything I could be doing better. I care a lot about what other people think, and I often worry that if I let them down or don’t live up to an expectation they might have in their head, I’ll get left behind.

Oftentimes before I go to sleep, I’ll go over conversations or interactions I had—sometimes that day, sometimes 15 years ago—and wonder what I could have done differently. How I could have gotten a bigger laugh or how I could have been more impressive or more interesting. I criticize the things I feel I got wrong and I agonize over the things I’m sure people are judging me for.

I put myself in last place, pointing out all the ways in which I’m behind or worse or failing, desperately wondering how I can catch up—to friends, family and complete strangers—and I grow tired and frustrated when I don’t see any progress.

Recently however, I have been trying to focus on a new mantra.

You know that old cliché about how we’re all running our own race? Well, what I’m trying to remember is that we’re all running our own race for the first time. In other words, this is everyone’s first try.

This life, this day, each and every second, is new to all of us. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We have no idea what to expect. And there is no do over button. We all get one shot at each day and some of them are going to be bad. Some moments are going to make us feel like we want to crawl into a hole. Some mornings are going to go completely wrong and some nights will end with us in tears. And even though it might seem like everyone around us is doing this life thing way better than us. Like they were given the cheat codes or the answer key, or were simply born better prepared to seize the day, we are all in fact on our first try.

This is my first try at being me. This is my first try at being 30. This is my first try at today.

And while it might not be perfect—in fact I can almost guarantee it won’t be—it will be something.

It will teach me something.

It will show me something.

It will lead me somewhere—even if I don’t know it yet.

And at the end of the day, I’ll just be glad I got the opportunity to try. And tomorrow, I’ll try again.

If it Weren’t for that One Crazy Hair

The other day I watched a YouTube video where Kylie & Kendall Jenner attempted to do their makeup while drunk. Regardless of your opinion of them or their reality show, the video is cute and funny and especially sweet if you have a sister or sibling that you love to laugh with.

At one point in the video, as Kylie is talking, I noticed that Kendall was looking at herself in the camera and trying to fix a part of her hair that (to her) looked off. She poked at it and combed her fingers through it, trying and trying to get it a certain way, while I was sitting on the other end of the screen wondering what is even wrong with it?  What flaw could she possibly be seeing?

Kendall, being an actual supermodel, whose job it is to be pretty and skinny and “perfect”, who was sitting on this video in clothes that fit her perfectly, with barely any makeup, promoting her brand-new tequila label, and undoubtedly raking in more than my annual salary by the minute. And yet, she swiped and swiped at her hair, distracted and frustrated, until she was satisfied.

At first, I wanted to think of her as shallow or vain, only focused on her appearance. But having watched the video and seen her personality, her humor and a little glimpse into her relationship with her sister, it was clear that there is more to her than that—just like there is more to all of us. But sometimes, even if it’s just for a few minutes, there is something that makes us feel like nothing else matters. Something about our clothes or our body or our skin or our hair or anything that stares back at us so glaringly in the mirror or in a photograph or on a video. Something that erases every other good thing going on and says, you look bad. This looks bad, and everyone else sees it too.

I know for me, I get especially self-conscious about my skin. I worry about when I breakout or when my skin is especially oily. I try to avoid pictures at all costs, and when one is taken it is all I can see. And while it might not be something that no one else sees, it is not something other people are focusing on. It is not a character flaw. It does not make me less of a person, less interesting or unworthy of spending time with. The same goes for that awkward way you’re standing in that one photo. Or the way your arm isn’t perfectly muscular. Or that those clothes aren’t laying perfectly on your body. Or the fact that your nails that aren’t painted. Or that your teeth that aren’t perfectly straight. Or that that one crazy hair just won’t stay in place.

None of these things discredit your heart or erase the goodness you bring into someone’s life. They don’t minimize the happiness in a photo or ruin the mood of a dinner shared between friends and family.

And while I know, depending on the day, that one thing can feel like a breaking point. It can feel like a good enough reason to call it quits on the day. To not want to leave the house. To cry or lean into bad habits or miss out on things you wanted to participate in. I also know that that one thing is not worth it.

It’s not worth your time. It’s not worth your energy. It’s not worth you missing the wonderful things going on around you. So let’s just leave it be. Let’s live inside the moments we’ve locked ourselves out of simply because we didn’t feel like we looked good enough to live them. Let’s not define ourselves and our lives on that pimple, or those jeans, or that sleeveless shirt, or that one crazy hair. You’re more than that. I’m more than that. We’re all made of millions of other colors and thoughts and dreams and ideas and memories that make us who we are and who we’re going to be, which is not and never will be defined by that one thing. So let’s put that thing aside. Let the crazy hair fly, and leave it be.

I Want the “More”

This past weekend I finished reading The Midnight Library which is a book about regrets. It follows Nora, a girl who is so consumed in regret and despair that she decides to end her life, only to wake up in a state of in-between called “the midnight library” where there are shelves full of books that each tell the story of a different life she could have lived if she made different choices.

This concept was fascinating to me, and instantly inspiring as I am someone who often finds myself wondering “what if _____?” I sat up wondering what my own “midnight library” would look like and what it would teach me; what different decisions could have led to different lives, and what questions could be answered by finally knowing if I made “the right” decision.

I loved reading Nora’s story and how she was able to uncover and disprove some of these regrets she’d been holding on to for so long, but I also found myself wildly jealous. Because the not knowing, the wondering and the regretting about the past can take all the fun out of the present. And sometimes when my present is sad or lonely or just hurts, I turn to those ponderings and regrets, believing that if I had done something differently, I wouldn’t have to be here, in the hurt.

But then I wonder, what am I really asking for? Am I asking for a life without hurt? Am I asking for a life where I never have to feel any pain or experience any loss or wonder about any fork in the road? Because while that sounds cozy and fun compared to all of this, it also sounds naïve and fake. It sounds like a life where I never learn anything, never overcome anything and thus never become more than I thought I could be. On the surface it sounds like a happy life, but it also sounds like a life where I would never really understand or appreciate what happy is.

We all go through bad things, we all experience hard chapters, we all have moments when we wonder why. And I wish there was a place to go and get all of the answers. A place like the midnight library where you could look at all the other outcomes of a situation and understand why that was the best one. Not for the best, most perfect life, but for the life that allows you access to becoming who you were made to be.

I don’t have all the answers—about anything really. And there are many parts of my life that I don’t understand or that I will always wonder what if. But then there are parts of my life that I catch myself saying how? How did I get to this wonderful place? How am I so lucky to experience this wonderful moment? And that is when I have to remember that it was all the moments that led up to this that got me here. It is all the good, all the bad, all the what if’s and regrets that still linger. They all make me me and they make my life my life. They are what have built me and will continue to build me as I continue to build this life. And while I’m scared for what’s ahead, scared of what might happen or what might not happen, I’m excited for it all because it will make me more. And at the end of the day, that’s all I really want—to discover all the more this life has for me, and that I have to offer the world.   

For Anyone Else Who Has Bumped Their Head

2020 has been full of big, hard things.

But sometimes it’s the small, hard things, the trivial things, that make a particular moment, morning, or even a whole day feel like a real personal attack. 

For me, these are some of those things:

1) When you accidentally touch a button or a zipper on an article of clothing fresh out of the drier and feel as though a few layers of skin on your fingertips are fried off.

2) When you somehow only kick one of your toes into a table leg.

3) When you are told, “you look tired,” after getting up, getting dressed and going out to face the day.

4) When you arrive home only to realize you forgot the one thing you actually needed from the store.

5) When you bump your head on absolutely anything.

6) When you get stuck in traffic when you have to pee (or worse).

7) When you put your phone (or anything) on the charger when you go to sleep, only to wake up and realize you didn’t plug the charger in.

8) When you accidentally chew a pill you were supposed to swallow.

9) When you run out of things to say with someone you just met and end up just staring at each other with no way to escape and no memory of anything humans talk about.

10) When you step in a puddle…IN SOCKS.

11) When you drop something and then catch it with cat like reflexes, only to realize that no one saw it happen and that even if you told someone they would just give you a polite, “wow,” because that’s the best they can do, even though you know you deserve applause, ovations, and maybe even a contract with the NFL.

12) When you reach the point of chewing gum where it tastes like wet cardboard and then realize you have nothing or nowhere to spit it out.

13) When you take a big first sip of hot chocolate and burn your tongue, ruining both the hot chocolate and everything else you’ll eat and drink for the remainder of the day.

14) When you break something the day you bought it.

15) When you have a spotlight shine directly into the center of your eyeball, making it feel as though it pierced your brain.

16) When you get stabbed in the roof of your mouth by a tortilla chip.

17) When you are gifted a piece of clothing that you hate, but have to pretend you love it because you can tell by the look on the other person’s face that they really hope you love it, and then have to wear it once or twice afterward even though it makes you feel like a potato.

18) When you are carrying a bag or a purse on your shoulder and the strap gets hooked on a pole, car mirror, etc. and pulls you backwards so hard and unexpectedly that you fall down.

19) When you get into a car on a windy day and accidentally shut your hair in the door.

20) When you go to a restaurant solely to order that one thing, only to find out they took that one thing off the menu.

If you or any of your loved ones have been personally victimized by any of these moments, I am truly sorry. We will get through this.  

Keep Hold of Your Elephant

I recently read former SEAL and current Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s book, Fortitude, which talks a lot about how to live a more balanced and controlled emotional life, especially in this age of “outrage culture.” In one chapter, I found a metaphor that really stuck with me and I wanted to share.

It comes from psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt, who described the human mind as a rider on an elephant. The conscious or logical mind is represented by the rider, and the unconscious or emotional mind is represented by the elephant. By all accounts, it would seem that the rider is (and should be) in control, but in certain situations, that elephant can pull and steer the rider in a direction they didn’t expect to go, and that won’t benefit them in the way they hope.

I loved this visual, partially because elephants are my favorite animal, but mostly because I felt like I’ve experienced this pull or sudden loss of logical mindedness in favor of a larger, more overpowering emotional response. And the harder I’ve tried to pull back and fight against that emotional reaction, the harder it’s fought its own fight, leaving me either frozen and at war with myself, or headed in a direction I don’t want to go. So the advice here is to realize that you are still in control. Your logical mind will always be that rider that can calm the elephant and steer her forward. But it is up to that logical mind to decipher—not ignore or belittle or wish away—whichever emotional reaction is trying to lead, and weed out what is true about it and what is not. What will benefit you (i.e. dealing with grief, mourning failure or rejection, etc.) and what won’t (i.e. worrying about things you can’t control, spiraling into self hate, tossing blame/anger onto other people).

In today’s society, we are told to react instantly. To immediately know our opinion, and, especially, to immediately be offended, angry, hurt, afraid, ecstatic, etc. I know I’ve felt the pressure to know exactly how I feel in only a matter of seconds—even if I’m not exactly familiar with what I’m seeing or talking about, and even if I don’t have all the facts or context that might help me form my own opinion. I know I’ve reacted to things based solely on the pressure to react, and the fear that if I didn’t, I’d be rejected, cast out, or left behind. I’ve looked on from my metaphorical elephant as a herd went running in one direction, and worried about the fact that we were still standing here, processing.

But the point is: that is okay. It is okay to process. It is okay to take your time. It is okay to go in the direction of the rest of the herd and it is okay to go in your own direction, as long as the rider is in control.

Don’t let hate steer you.

Don’t let fear steer you.

Don’t let doubt or greed or jealousy steer you.

Feel your feelings, listen to your feelings and then take the time to figure out which are telling you the truth and which are lying to you. Lead that elephant forward and do it on your own terms.

For Anyone Else Who is Opening and Closing and Scrolling and Sighing

I wrote this a little while back, but it has been resonating with me lately so I wanted to share.


 

It’s 7:00 p.m.

I’m alone, my roommates aren’t home from work yet, and I’m lying on my bed with a towel in my hair. I unlock my phone and I open Instagram. I scroll and scroll and scroll, and then I close it. I open Twitter, and I scroll and scroll and scroll and then I close it. I open YouTube and I watch a few videos with my head resting on a pillow, my hair making it damp through the towel and my feet kicking off the end of my bed.

I drop my phone on my bed and I walk into the bathroom. I take the towel off and hang it up, then run a brush and some product through my hair. I walk back to my bed and pick up my phone. A red notification shows up on Facebook. It’s a friend request from someone I don’t know, so I block it, and then I take a few seconds to scroll. At some point I lay back down on my stomach and I open Instagram. I scroll and scroll and scroll and then I close it. I open Twitter, and I scroll and scroll and scroll and then I close it.

I sigh.

I walk downstairs. While I make dinner, I leave my phone on the table so I won’t look at it. I open my computer and open Hulu, with subtitles, so I can watch an episode of something while I cook. Ten minutes later, a notification goes off on my phone. I look over at it on the table, and then I turn back to the stove and my computer. I finish cooking and set my dishes in the sink to do later. With a spoon I scoop myself a healthy serving onto a plate, then I grab a fork, a glass of water, and my phone en route to the couch, where I turn on the TV.

My food is hot. I put a pillow on my lap and I blow softly on the plate while unlocking my phone and opening Instagram. Hardly anything new has been posted, so I go to the discover page and I scroll and scroll and scroll until I learn more about a stranger’s life than I have ever known about some of my friends. When I realize I haven’t turned on the television, I put my phone down and scoot it away from me on the end table, and then I start eating.

When I finish eating, I put my plate on the end table and I clutch onto the pillow in my lap while I watch television. I like this show, but at some point I’m looking at my phone again. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but it feels like I should keep looking. When I don’t find anything, I put my phone down again and I go into the kitchen to wash the dishes.

I want to write tonight. To be productive. Maybe go to bed early so I’ll feel better tomorrow. I walk upstairs and sit down at my desk. I throw my phone on my bed so I won’t look at it, but then I walk over and pick it up because I decide I want to listen to music. Just music, I tell myself. But when I hit a snag in what I’m writing, I’m back on my phone, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

It’s 9:00 p.m. now and there is still nobody home. I’m tired. I want to say it’s because I went to the gym earlier, but it’s not my muscles that hurt. I want to say it’s because I woke up early for work, but I’ve been doing that for years. I lean back in my chair and let the exhaustion set in while I continue scrolling. When I find a tweet someone wrote about feeling tired, I feel understood, and I feel better.

For a second.

I throw my phone back on my bed. I need to write. If I write I can move forward, and if I move forward I will feel happy. But I’m too tired today. Today I need a break. I get up and walk over to my bed. Reaching for the remote on my bedside table with one hand, I pull my phone towards me with the other. With my index finger, I tap the screen, looking for notifications, texts, missed calls, anything, but there’s nothing there, so I flip it over. I pick a movie and I lay back on my pillow. I pick up my phone and I turn it in my hands. It’s just a fidget, but when I happen to turn it in a way that makes the screen light up, I glance down at it—just to check.

It’s 10:30 p.m. now and there is still no one home. One roommate said she’s working late, and the other texted to say she’s grabbing drinks with a coworker. So for now, maybe even for tonight, I’m alone. It’s just me. And it’s quiet. I pick up my phone and I scroll and scroll and scroll, but nothing helps. There’s nothing there. Or if there is, I can’t find it. Should I keep looking? Should I follow new people or unfollow those I’m no longer closer to? Should I post something? Should I take something down? Is there anything I can do to break this silence? Anything to make me a little more visible?

That’s what it is, I’m just not loud enough. If I was louder, people would hear me, they would see me, they would talk to me. I should post something. A picture or a blog or a tweet. Something funny. Something sweet. Something that makes people think or laugh or just simply answer. I should post something.

I scroll.

It’s 11:00 p.m. My eyes are heavy now and my stomach hurts. The house is quiet. My room is quiet. But my head is so loud. My phone is on the charger and I’m wondering whether or not I’m upset. Am I mad at my roommates? Am I mad at myself? Am I mad at all? Maybe I’m sad. Maybe I’m lonely. Or maybe I’m just tired. That’s it. I’m tired. I should go to bed.

I scroll.

Tomorrow I’ll do better, I think to myself. Tomorrow I won’t look at my phone. Maybe I’ll even leave it at home. No, what if I have an emergency? What if I need to call someone? What if someone sends me a text or a Snapchat or tags me in an Instagram photo or mentions me on Facebook or follows me on Twitter or posts a good YouTube video. Not that I care about that stuff. People know where to reach me. They could call my work if it was really an emergency. Plus, if I leave my phone at home, I bet by the time I get off work I’ll have so many notifications. And when I tell everyone I left my phone at home and just saw this, they’ll think I’m cool and casual and don’t need my phone—like the rest of the world. Which I don’t. I barely even look at my phone.

I turn my phone on silent. I don’t need all of the upcoming notifications keeping me awake. I turn over, then wonder if people are texting me. Namely that guy I like. I’m sure he’s apologizing for waiting so long to text me back. My friends from high school and college are probably sending me quick messages to let me know how much I mean to them. And my sister might have posted something about me on Instagram that people will think is funny and endearing and make them wish they were in my inner circle of friends. People are probably commenting on my blog, letting me know how much it means to them. I bet my follower count is increasing by the minute.

I roll over and pick up my phone. Nothing.

Right.

I don’t care.

I was just curious what time it was.

I turn back over and close my eyes. I’m glad I’m not one of those people who think their worth can be found in their phone. I bet they’re miserable.