Tribute to the Awesome League

I wrote this poem directly via email to the Awesome League in preparation for our November Birthday Party, but as I’ve discovered more and more lately, it’s actually quite applicable for any obstacle that may cross our tribe’s path:

We have I fear put on our fear
and watched it build a tower
By now it’s grown to unknown
heights twisted and sour

But come what may this coming day
Will give us all the chance
To find a way to drop dismay
And on top the tower, dance!

So come together overcome
the fearsome and the fright
We are a family as ever was one
with powers that unite.

Yes stand with me and you will see
the party can go on
For we are the Awesome League
and together ever strong!

Worthwhile

It’s funny how much we hang our sense of self-worth on the people outside ourselves.

I’ve spent my whole life trying to help my parents understand who I am, in the hope they might see my worth. I’ve spent my whole life defending my worth to my grandmother, who never believed I had any. And I spent my whole life trying to live up to the expectations of my sisters who, in my eyes, had far more worth than I ever would.

But never before in my life have I been blessed to have so many people in my life who truly appreciate my worth, and help me accept my own worth for myself (which is far more important). People who make me feel worthwhile.

I was reminded of this again today, and so I find it most appropriate and relevant now to share with you the Facebook note I wrote one crazy Monday in the office in tribute to my dearest friends…

Sept 27, 2010
A Message of Gratitude & Love

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these last few weeks, since the burn and the post-frenzy of stress and sickness. As you may know, I have been struggling lately with issues of the heart, work over commitment, time management, career path and my worth, and so on. And as I’ve attempted to get a handle on all this, develop a plan to regain my sanity, I couldn’t help but realize there is one part of my life that does not bring me stress. The one part that is the glue keeping me clumsily together. And that, my dear friends, is you.

I could never have imagined myself so lucky to be surrounded by such an extraordinary plethora of loving, intelligent, perceptive, strong, and inspired people as you all are! I have come to depend on each of you in some way (and you know I’m not so good with depending on people). I am so unbelievably grateful for the support and guidance you each have given me, in your own way, in whatever part of my disjointed life I’ve unloaded to you.

I know this is an incredibly cheesy note, and I’m not normally this gushy (well at least not while sober), but it’s just become so apparent to me through all this recent self-reflection time I’ve had – that I could never have gotten this far without you – and I felt compelled this very moment to tell you.

No matter where we go from here, or how often we connect – no matter what our context or how our story continues – each and every one of you is an incredible and essential force in my life, and I never want you to forget that.

May you each find the peace and sanity you search for, and know always that you are loved.

Rebecca

The Looming Gloom

Do you ever feel like crying for no reason? Does the urge to break down in tears ever hit you without really knowing why?

I’ve been feeling very lost and sad lately, but in as much as the sadness has been acute, it has also been equally without logical justification. I can’t say why I’ve been feeling so gray, but that doesn’t make it any less real or frightening.

You might say that I’m much like San Francisco, and my mood much like its weather. I never know what each day will bring, and the range is quite bizarre. There are those seemingly random days where the sun shines brilliantly and all is warm and bright. On those days, my spirits are up and the whole world around me is abuzz with activity and expectation. But as every SF native knows, those days are rare and fleeting, and soon the city will return itself to its most common caliginous state. A fog settles over me and everything seems to grow dull and dreary. Colors lose their vibrancy, goals become hazy, even people seem less interesting. And above all, motivation for forward movement feels exceptionally bleak.

When days like this hit, and they do hit often, I’ve often found solace in the perfectly packaged bliss of a good predictable film. So with this new development of inexplicable depression, I’ve been watching many such movies in an effort to… well I don’t know what, really. Usually, I say it’s an escape from the troubles of my own life, a chance to immerse myself in someone else’s problems for a while.

But the truth is, maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe I don’t even know what my problems are, so I watch these movies to see if mine might relate to what the characters suffer from. Perhaps these films might jog my memory or give more purpose to my own. Or maybe I’d just rather adopt their fictional reasons for being sad, so that when I cry, I actually know what the hell I’m crying for.

It may not be the healthiest thing to do, and I’m sure someone will tell me I’m just avoiding the real issue, and rather ought to buck up and face my own issues than try to drown them in someone else’s imagination.

But at this moment, and in the moments I’m watching those movies, I just want to believe in this feeling that I’m actually getting somewhere, anywhere, through the looming gloom. And right now, I’m going to say that any progress is good progress.

Unrequited Sleep

My body kept me awake until 8am this morning. No really, I’m not exaggerating – I wish I were. Last night, I lay me down to sleep round about midnight as usual, and proceeded to lie there… for 8 hours! The previous night, I also lay awake far longer than normal, but 5 hours of counting sheep seems slightly less ridiculous when you imagine staying awake against your will until both the sun and the entire productive world have fully risen. Even my cat gave up on me eventually and drifted off to her own mouse-filled neverland, cozily curled up against my restless legs. All the house was still, the usual late night bass from down the hall having retired some time ago, and the only remaining sound to keep me company now was the ticking second hand of my wall clock.

And I mean, I tried everything. I tried not thinking, I tried not thinking about not thinking. Then I tried actually letting myself think, about anything and everything I could think of. I tried breathing deeply. I tried counting my breaths. I even tried the good old reliable sheep counting. Nothing worked. Daydreaming usually does the trick for me, quieting all the other voices in my head and letting me drift into another fantastical world. But even that failed me last night.

Last night, I was being punished. Though I honestly can’t say what for. See, I’ve been getting a solid 10 hours of sleep nearly every night for the last two weeks. I’ve been faithfully going to bed by 12 or 1am each night, and waking around 10 or 11am each morning. I was paying off my very large long-standing sleeping debt, appealing to the slumber bookies. I was trying to get my health back on track, do good by my body for once. And this is what I get? This is how I’m rewarded for actually trying to take care of myself? You might as well just end the foreplay now and tell me that it’s hopeless, that I’ll be a weak miserable wretch the rest of my life.

Well about 5am, I saw the pattern from the night before repeating itself, and I decided I had to do something. So I reluctantly rose (for as awake as I was, I was still extremely weary) and attempted to occupy myself in the hopes of tiring. I signed online, found the one friend still awake and tried to engage in some friendly chatter. I went to the kitchen to consider a (very) late night snack. I went to the bathroom and re-brushed my teeth. I danced around my room like a marionette in the hands of an epileptic. I must have looked like a complete fool, but I had to do something! I don’t know how long I went on. But when I finally ran out of fresh ideas, I slumped back to bed, nestled deep into those familiar flannel sheets, and closed my eyes.

And still nothing! Not even the slightest faded feeling. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever fall asleep again. I’m lying here, physically exhausted, mentally wiped, psychologically drained, and now I’m actually starting to imagine that I’ll be stuck like this forever. I don’t know what else I can do. It’s maybe the first time in a very long time that I’ve felt unequivocally utterly lost and alone. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt like all your hard work, all the hopes you harvested, all the time you’ve invested, all of it was worth nothing? All is wasted in the end and can no more bring you solace than a fish can fly. You are what you are ever and always, and no amount of desperate effort can change that. In this moment, and the lifetime of moments ahead of me, I will forever be an incomplete restless soul.

I suppose that’s the message I’m supposed to take from this. No matter how hard I may grit my teeth and brave through the labyrinth of my twisted mind, no matter how long I try to give my body rest, in the end I will still be the same person with the same defects and the same unrequited dreams.

It’s all worth nothing… And if nothing is at stake, then nothing can be lost. So to be lost myself is to have nothing to lose, and thus everything to gain. I know that may make no sense, but I was up till 8am this morning, so you’ll have to forgive me.

Self-Validation

I went to a movie by myself today. It was an experiment; a social experiment. Except this time I wasn’t analyzing how people interact, or how I interact with other people, but quite the opposite. This time I was trying to uncover something much more important and much harder to pinpoint; how I interact with myself. And hopefully ultimately, what it is that I’m really searching for. And believe me, I realize that’s a lot to hang on one 2 hour matinee.

So I drive myself to the theater, with the nervous anticipation of a kid starting their first day at school. I keep reminding myself I’m doing this for myself, and nobody else. But I can’t help wonder what other people at the theater might think of me, or how pathetic I’m sure this will look to them. But I buy my ticket for one with my head high and the confidence of this decision in my heart, and I can feel their eyes on me as I calmly purchase a snack and make my way into Theater 4.

Or at least I think this is Theater 4. I’m so preoccupied with myself that I don’t really check the theater number that carefully before walking in. But now I’m inside, and I’ve walked far enough in that the other people in their seats can now see me. And now I don’t want to look lost or stupid by walking back out. So I hesitate for a mere second, and then I just gather myself and go straight to my assigned seat.

Now that’s the great thing about the Kabuki Theater, you get to pick an assigned seat. So even when the theater is nearly empty, and you usually have the complicated task of trying to decide where would be most comfortable to sit relative to the few others in the theater, here you don’t have to worry about any of that. You’ve already been assigned. You already have your place. So you can walk confidently to that exact seat without thinking twice or questioning your identity.

I sit down in my usual favorite seat, my sweet spot. You know, that exact middle seat in the first row of the back section. The row with no rows in front of it, but only that staunch metal railing, always there ready to hold up your feet for you and let you relax without the bother of some annoyingly chatty or antsy person in front of you. But once I’ve settled into my little centered oasis, the concern about the correctness of the theater returns. So I swallow my pride, and turning to the pair of guys behind me (who are the only other people in the theater by the way), I calmly ask, ‘This is Theater 4 right?’ They smirk and reply, ‘Yep, Theater 4. So if you’re here to see Love and Other Drugs, you’re in the right place.’

I thank them, relieved, and turn back around to resume my privacy. The two guys continue with their interrupted conversation, and I begin to notice myself eavesdropping. I catch a few words I recognize, and I have a momentary urge to turn back around and pipe in my two cents. But then I catch myself. I’m not here to learn about interacting with other people. To be honest, I already know I’m good at that. No, I’m here to learn how to interact with myself, while the self is in a particularly uncomfortable place for a self to be alone.

So I sit still, and try to focus on myself. But what the hell does that really mean? I sit silent, block out the ambient noise and conversation around me. My thoughts start to wander, and as usual, I start to think about my schedule. I think about what I plan to do with the rest of my day after the movie. I think about Christmas gift shopping, and what errands I’ll need to run on my way down to the Peninsula tomorrow. All trivial things, you notice, about what might happen in the future. As usual, I am failing at letting myself just be present, in the present, with myself. And the failure of it starts to upset me. So naturally, the next stage sets in of frustration and self-doubt. And then the fidgeting starts.

By the time my phone rings, I’m starting to go mad inside my head, wondering when the hell this damn movie is ever going to start. But saved by the ring. It’s Gayle. She’s returning my call from earlier to talk about plans for the week. I pick up, but have to warn her right away that the movie I’m waiting on might start any second, and so we agree to hang up and just have her message me. Disappointed at my loss of a momentary distraction, I reluctantly hang up and return to my former state of anxiety.

I’m just about to sink into its familiar depths, when the big screen springs to life, and the previews begin. I can hardly contain my sigh of relief, and I happily nestle further into my seat, with my Sour Patch Kids on my lap and my feet comfortably perched on that trusty railing. The movie is typical but good; the usual arc of a good romantic drama. Boy meets Girl. Boy is a messed up commitment-phobe, but wait, so is Girl! So Boy and Girl start getting it on, but then of course strings start to attach themselves, and Boy falls for Girl. Girl is wary and doesn’t let herself fall, until Boy starts to doubt. Then Girl finally gives in, as Boy starts to get scared. Girl sees Boy get scared, and breaks it off in tears. And we reach the point in the drama where it is socially acceptable for audience members to cry. Then time passes, and Boy realizes what he’s lost. So Boy chases after Girl, tracks her down and confesses his undying love, at which point you can bet every woman in the audience is pumping the water works. And it all ends happily and neatly, as we all expect it to, though we complain endlessly about how archaically unoriginal it all is.

The credits roll, and as expected I’m in tears. As expected, I cried when Jake Gyllenhaal set his true pale blue eyes deep into Anne Hathaway’s and declared that he needs her. But also as expected, I come out of my movie trance without any deeper understanding of my life beyond the usual, ‘oh why can’t that be me?’ thought. And I must admit, I’m a bit disappointed. But what did I expect? I come to the movies – people come to the movies – as an escape from daily life, not as a means to dig deeper into it. So why did I think this experience would be any different.

I sit through all the credits, as I always do, and try to catch glimpses of the names scrolling by, scanning for something somewhat familiar or eye-catching. I listen to the song accompanying credits, and I hear Regina Spektor sing ‘I never loved nobody fully / Always one foot on the ground.’ And I smile to myself, feeling for that brief second my story told in those few lines. And when the credits finish, I dry my eyes, pack up my trash, and walk slowly out of the theater. I’m calm, but the disappointment still lingers. Now, on top of the usual automatic depression from seeing a unrealistically happily ending romance movie, I also have the addition of something worse – the heavy truth that my experiment failed.

I get to the bottom of the stairs, and decide to pop into the bathroom for a quick pee and face check, which only ends up making me feel worse as I now also have the reassurance that the zits on my face have gotten just noticeably redder. And let me digress for a second to say how ridiculous it is! Depression and stress have been proven to encourage the appearance of acne, and then the presence of the acne causes even more depression and stress. It’s such an unfair, unnecessary, vicious cycle.

Anyway, coming out of the bathroom, I remember that I should get my parking pass validated before leaving. So I pull out the little pink slip and head to the ticket counter. There is only one woman working just then, and she is clearly in no hurry whatsoever. So I get to stand there patiently while the couple in front of me puzzle excessively over which seats they should select to maximize their movie experience. (So maybe there is a downside to having assigned seats here after all).

I’m trying not to be annoyed, when I look to my right, and there on the edge of the counter is the damn ticket validation stamp, positioned all nice and friendly right there so you can do it yourself! What a brilliant idea! I waited all this time, only to find out that – well it really doesn’t matter now. So I walk nonchalantly up to the counter, stick in my ticket, and imprint my own validation.

And then it hits me. I just validated myself! I went through this whole damn experiment, sat through 2 hours of adorably routine romantic fiction, and gained absolutely nothing new or insightful out of it until this. All it was for, all I really wanted out of this experience was simply that; self-validation. I went to a movie by myself today. No scratch that. I went to a movie for myself today. And in the end, I found self-validation. And I wore that smug self-satisfied smile on my face the whole drive home.

The Brave Shall Inherit The Earth

I’m not sure how to take what I’m reading in David Whyte’s book ‘The Three Marriages.’ In this particular chapter on ‘Youth’s First Glimpse of the Self,’ Whyte describes how the fantastical mind of the youthful man or woman sees far horizons and possibilities rather than obstacles, while looking to make friends with the world and the people in it. He seems to mention all this as some long ago lost dream, a gift these youth take for granted, and don’t appreciate ‘until it is gone.’

So does this mean the author is assuming his readership, the average person searching this book for answers, is of an older age more akin to his? Does he intend this book for a more mature audience, than say, myself? If so, and if I assume correctly, then I could see this as further proof that I am attempting this journey especially early in life.

Indeed I believe many of my recently dear friends, who are several years my senior, have been able to connect so well with me partly because they share the same current quest. And although I flatter myself they don’t consider me younger, they have said it is rather fortunate I’m taking on this challenging self-adventure at such a young age.

So I suppose I should count myself lucky. But luck isn’t the only thing to do with it. Inspired by this, I would like to believe that I really am ‘wise beyond my years’ and have achieved a state of self-awareness indispensable on such an introspective journey, which people rarely boast at my age.

But I confess I still doubt myself even now. The road twists on itself, and darkness falls when you least expect it, and in an instant my world can go from hopeful and whimsical to bleak and dreary. It’s hard, on such a road, to keep your head high. I should remember that so early an undertaking is a testament to my power and potential. It should be strengthening my drive, fueling me forward. And I know there will come a time on this journey when I will be forced to confront my demons and face down these guilty fears. I know this, and still today I falter.

Yet I have true guides both about me and within me. And when it truly matters, I know neither will fail me. I do have great power and potential, and though I’m not yet able to fully grasp them, each day brings me closer.

They say the meek shall inherit the earth. But I rather think it will be the truly aware and courageous who will be most deserving and triumphant.

Retroactive Freedom

I realized something very important about myself today. I’m waiting in Safeway for my sister Mary to join me on our first guided Rebecca’s-becoming-an-adult grocery shopping trip, and I’m looking at my phone as usual. I remembered that the work I’d gotten done that afternoon – which mind you was still very productive – was not what I’d originally calendared myself to work on. So naturally I wanted to make sure I adjusted my day’s schedule to account for this. As I’m doing that, it hits me. I do this a lot! And by this, I mean retroactively update my schedule to reflect what I actually end up doing each day. I lay out my whole day’s schedule with that I intend to do. And then I do something else!
So what, you may ask, is the point of setting a schedule in the first place? Well what’s really going on here, I realized, is the stronger desire in me to reject routine. You see, I carefully construct these detailed daily schedules largely so that I will then have something to reject! OK so true, they also help me motivate into a productive mindset. And true, I do tend to get more done on the days I’ve calendared myself work time. But the more important thing to note here is that no matter what that scheduled work time specified, I almost always work on something entirely different with that time. Amazing!
So in actuality, I don’t really like structure or preparation or planning at all! The truth is I just can’t help but do those things out of instinct. But then the deeper desire to be impulsive kicks in, and I reject that which I myself just organized. Then, as mentioned earlier, I retroactively update my schedule as I go, which in the end feels quite satisfying I have to say. So it may seem unnecessarily counter-intuitive to you, but to me, it’s a way I know how to give myself a small daily dose of freedom.

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