All posts filed under: Self

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Why I’m Throwing My Own Damn Retirement Party

At 38, and soon to be 39, I am nowhere close to receiving social security checks or living off a cushy pension or a seven-figure Roth IRA. But financial security hasn’t stopped me from declaring my retirement at the end of 2016. That’s right. I said retirement. This is retirement in the tradition of the thirty-something-year-old NBA basketball player who retires from the hustle of the game. (Except I’m neither as rich nor as famous as Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan.) I have been writing professionally for 15 years, and most of that time I’ve been a freelancer. That means that I’ve been floating from assignment to assignment without an employer to call my own. But this year, I am retiring from that writer-for-hire life. I have not made a lot of money, I have not made an indelible mark (whatever that means) and I have not achieved all that I’d hoped to accomplish in my professional writing life. Having written my way to mediocre success, I am choosing now to say to myself, “Good …

Pregnancy, Menopause and Learning the Ukelele — Not Necessarily in That Order

At 36, I decided I was ready to get pregnant. I had quit drinking two and a half years earlier, and had just met someone new — an AA-approved boyfriend who was financially stable, mostly trustworthy, and as tired as I was of being a destructive, melodramatic alcoholic. He also had a wonderful Irish accent. Most of my life I had been late to the game. I took the SATs without preparation, applied to college weeks before the semester was set to begin, schemed my way into a study abroad in Amsterdam at the last minute*, took a job with AOL after the merger with Time-Warner (thus not benefitting from any of that stock-splitting that made nearly everyone in the DC suburbs filthy rich). Having a child in my late 30s would fit my pattern. Besides, it’s what I wanted. I was 36, but I always looked young. I often joked that all the alcohol I drank in my life pickled me. At that point, my situation was as good as it was going to …

How The Flash Inspired My Perimenopausal Alter Ego

8:15PM on a Tuesday Family bonding time. We’re all huddled in my bed watching The Flash on Netflix, a bowl of popcorn propped precariously between my younger son and husband’s thighs. I’m wrapped in a fuzzy sweater under the duvet even though it’s May. In three hours, I will look like Heat Miser doing a striptease when my hot flash hits, but right now I’m shivering and pissing off my older son by using him as a human heating pad for my ice-cold feet. And I want to punch Barry Allen. Barry, AKA metahuman speedster extraordinaire The Flash, is such a whiny bitch. He needs to face the evil Reverse Flash in some bad acid trip called the Flashpoint or all his friends and what’s left of his family will die. But. He’s. Too. Hot. Barry’s friends are science-ing in a panic to literally chill Barry the fuck out and create a new superhero suit that can withstand the burden of saving the world. Meanwhile, I get eyerolls when I ask my kids for a …

Life Blindsided Me And Then I Learned to See.

One Sunday afternoon about fifteen years ago, I wandered into a panel discussion at The Brooklyn Public Library just as Carmen Boullousa, the Mexican poet and novelist, was being asked a question. “How do you write?” the questioner asked. Carmen Boullousa threw her hands up in the air and slammed them down the table in front of her. “You don’t know what you’re doing!” she burst forth, with a shout and a laugh. “You start off blinded, and you work until you begin to see.” I was 37 or 38 at the time, with a husband and two young daughters doing whatever they were doing in our Prospect Heights brownstone a few blocks away. And for as long as I could remember, I’d been trying to connect life’s dots with a modicum of elegance and a minimum of fuss. Determined to press on, to be a trooper, to feign competence, to not give passport, ever, to a willingness to be blinded. Carmen Boullousa was talking about writing but I sensed her advice might help me …

The Day I Stopped Trusting My Memory

“I don’t have time for this shit,” I grumbled to myself as I searched the apartment for my keys. Moving piles of unopened mail around on the kitchen table, I felt the familiar pit in my stomach begin to grow. “Why didn’t I put the keys on its porcelain dish as usual?” I chastised myself. “And why was this happening so often lately?” Just last week, I went searching for my iPhone and found it in the freezer. In the freezer. Don’t even ask me how I did that because — guess what — I don’t remember. Back in my years before Impending Cronehood, I had a remarkable memory — almost photographic. Dates, names, and intimate details were etched into my brain so clearly that I could recall them vividly, and I was often used as my friend’s journals, to be opened when their own recollections of the past grew hazy. “Hey, Issa, what was the name of that guy I used to date our freshman year in college? You know, the one who was …

Am I Allowed to Be Happy Even If My Kids Are Not?

I was raised to believe that happiness and motherhood were inherently incompatible, if not irreconcilable. I learned from my mother’s example. Mothers did not live to be happy. Mothers lived to be useful. Mothers lived to be productive. I don’t remember my mother ever talking about being happy. I do remember her always working, laboring, being useful to others. My mother’s hands seemed like they never stopped moving. If she wasn’t pulling strings off string beans or picking worms off tomatoes in her garden, she was peeling apples for a pie or peaches for a cobbler. Or, she was sewing us or herself a new outfit, or turning our old outgrown clothes into quilts. Over time, arthritis made sewing too difficult, but she kept cooking and gardening until the day she took her last breath. As infants, my children were born pushy, in that way that is socially acceptable only for babies and cats. My daughter came out stubborn, demanding and unapologetic. My son, on the other hand, used his fat cheeks, bright eyes and …

I Tried to Break Up With My Therapist. It Didn’t Go Well.

People say it’s hard to date in New York. (I once went out with a guy who looked like Gargamel from the Smurfs, so I know how tough it is.) But I think it’s much harder to find a good therapist. It’s early 2001. I’ve been living in New York City for a few months to do a seven-month comedy intensive program after moving from San Francisco. In addition to working full-time for my west coast office, I’m going to school every night during the week and doing homework, shows and other catch-ups on the weekend. The pace of Manhattan and my jam-packed schedule begin to take a toll on me, and in no time, I start to have panic attacks. So I do what any other overwhelmed person does: I tackle one more thing. I look for a therapist. On paper, Linda is great. She’s five minutes from work, she’s in my plan and she’s only $5 a visit. Score! In person, it’s another story. When I first enter her windowless office, I notice …

I’m Canadian, And I Think It Might Be Time To Go Home

When you travel by rail between New York and Ontario, there’s a bridge over the Niagara River where the train, briefly, lies in mid-air between Canada and the U.S, the mist from Niagara Falls drifting toward the train windows, tantalizingly out of sight. On one side of the river, the Stars and Stripes flutters in the wind, on the other, Canada’s red maple leaf. It’s an odd feeling, every time, to hang suspended between my two nations, my two identities. They’re so close, but – especially now – so very far apart politically. Now that Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, I wonder, daily, why, with a perfectly good, safe country to return to, I haven’t moved back home. A place where the nation’s best universities cost less than $10,000 a year, sometimes much less. Where single-payer government-run healthcare keeps millions of people healthy, whatever their age or employment status. Unlike many immigrants – who arrive fleeing weak economies, religious persecution, political strife, even war – I chose to leave Canada for the United …

What is the Lifespan of a Memory?

Memory is a funny thing. Why do we remember the things we do, and how is it that people remember the same event differently? How does one person remember and another forget? I’ve always been fascinated by this, and so when my kids were very young I began an informal experiment by asking them at different stages about their memories: “What’s your best memory? What’s your worst memory? What’s your first memory?” Even with their young brains, there are some things that they have already begun to forget. Which leads me to one of my biggest fears: that I will begin to forget too — their stories, my stories and my family’s stories. And if I forget bigger events, what will happen to those little moments? How my mother laughed and my father smiled? And what my daughter’s first hug felt like? This melancholy musing has led me to ask: What’s the lifespan of a memory? Family stories seem to be the easiest thing to keep alive. I keep dredging them up and telling them to my kids …

The Art of Being a Flaker

‘Tis the season for accepting invitations to holiday parties and saying yes to merrymaking with friends, family and coworkers. ‘Tis the season for exclamatory declarations: “I’ll be there!” and “Can’t wait!” and “Count me in!” Also, ‘tis the time for emoji-laden last-minute cancellations. Ugh! I’m sorry, but I can’t make it after all. (😞😞😞😞) Unfortunately, I have… Please don’t hate me! 😞😞😞  I won’t be there tonight.😞😞😞  I’m soooooo sorry.😞😞😞 So many sad faces, so little time. But lack of time isn’t my excuse for not showing up when and where I say I will. The fact is, I am a flaker. Flaker \ˈflā-kər\ noun: someone who cancels plans at the last minute, someone who reneges on invitations, someone who doesn’t show up and doesn’t call first, etc. (i.e. I was supposed to go to this party downtown tonight, but my friend Penny is a flaker.) Mind you, my penchant for backing out or pulling up late isn’t relegated to social obligations. Flaking is a true way of life for me. Everyone thinks they’re a …

Cheers to the Ones Who Aren’t Drinking This New Year’s Eve

Cross stitch made by “SP”, the woman who came to Erin’s rescue on day one. (Photo courtesy Erin Street) Krystal and Cristal — it was the tradition my husband and I shared for 15 years. For those unfamiliar, Krystal is a hamburger chain headquartered in Dunwoody, Georgia. And Cristal, well, you know that’s champagne. It’s a purposeful mix of “high-low,” born on our first New Year’s together when, without a reservation, my husband and I grabbed a sackful of Krystal burgers and champagne, December 31, 2001. The tradition evolved in subsequent years. We ate the burgers off Lenox china gifted to us for our wedding, then on a silver tray once at a dinner party, and then the tiny burgers were cut into quarters for our small son. This year, La Croix will be substituted for Cristal. Because this year, I quit drinking for good. It used to be that I would feel sorry for the person who wasn’t drinking. How could I have a New Year’s Eve? How could I have any kind of …

Post-Election Do’s and Don’ts: Everyday Tips to Be a Better Human

DO: Engage in conversations, even if they’re difficult. Be mindful of your spending; vote with your dollar. Have coffee or share a meal with someone who you think is different from you. If you see someone being harassed, use your privilege to protect them. Do your own research by reading independent journalists and non-mainstream media. Speak up. Document hate crimes and hate speech. Make an effort to smile at someone; it could turn their day around and make them feel less lonely. Educate yourself on issues of racial justice. Challenge your thinking and behavior. Amplify voices that may not be mainstream. Be mindful in your consumption. Get to know your neighbors. Build your local community. — Suzan Bond and Kia M. Ruiz. Suzan Bond is a Fast Company contributor and the founder of Bet On Yourself, which supports independent internet creators through business, marketing, and branding strategy.  Kia M. Ruiz is a environmental and consumer resource consultant. You can read more of her writing at Bodhibear.net.   DON’T: Assume that you can pick up stakes and move to Canada. Or New Zealand. Or anywhere else. If you’re serious about becoming an expat, form a logical plan and know that …

Self Care Tips When You Are Utterly Devastated

  Karrie Myers Taylor is a San Francisco-based “self-care coach” who helps people find the time to eat healthy, get balanced and learn how to take better care of themselves. Here she offers 15 tips to heal our post-election blues. Practice forgiving… yourself: Trump did not become President because you didn’t know enough or didn’t do enough about the presidential campaign.  Learn how to forgive yourself and move on.  Here’s a great book to get you started: How To Forgive Ourselves Totally: Begin Again by Breaking Free from Past Mistakes Turn off negative media: Choose two media sites that you trust and only read those.  Quietly stop following the Facebook feeds of friends and family who are sharing inciting media on their pages. Medicinal baths & body brushes: Take 30 minutes a week to soak in a steaming hot bath to get some clarity.  Add some magnesium flakes and essential oil, and be sure to dry brush your body with a natural fiber dry brush before you step in the tub; it will get rid of all that negative media residue. Set boundaries around what …

How I Evaded a Stalker in Thailand

He was an expert. He played me — all charm and smile — when being played hadn’t occurred to me yet. He sidled up to my breakfast table in the Thai guest house where we were both staying; he asked questions. Before I had had two bites of my banana pancake, he knew where in Thailand I was living and working: the town and the school. Because I told him when he asked me. He was grizzled and rugged, in need of a shave. Australian, he said. He told me his name was Joe, and he didn’t tell me his last name. He was twenty years older than I was; I was 22. I excused myself from breakfast and, inside my rented bamboo hut-on-stilts, changed into shoes I could walk in. I packed my day pack and set out to explore before the sun rose too high. I had been in Thailand four months. On this school holiday, all my buddies had other plans and I decided to travel alone, against the advice of my …

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40-Odd Years Later, I’m Finally Who I Want to Be — a Man

I got a phone call last week from someone at my endocrinologist’s office. He asked to speak to Jennifer. “This is Jennifer,” I sighed. After a moment of confused silence he said, “I’m sorry, is this Jennifer?” My voice is getting deeper. He wouldn’t have been so confused if he had actually thought about the message he was calling to give me: My new prescription for testosterone was ready to be picked up. The first time I thought I knew who I was, my name was Jennifer and I believed I was a lesbian. I was born in 1971 and came of age before the internet, so give me credit for getting that close to figuring shit out. Back then, there were few words to describe the feelings I was having, and they weren’t used around children. The words themselves were considered too adult. No one on TV admitted to feeling like me, but I found my trail of breadcrumbs. Buddy on Family. Jo on Facts of Life. Martina Navratilova. That cute girl in Dragonslayer …

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My Rock Bottom Came in a Pretty Dress and Heels

God bless the busted boat that brings us back.” — Jason Isbell, “New South Wales” Here’s what you should know about this do-over: Everything and nothing changed. In my 30s, I had everything I ever thought I wanted. I was a travel editor, catching planes and writing stories about the next great city or restaurant or artisanal cocktail. I had this fancy job, which I’d worked my entire life for, and a family and a home. But while I tweeted images of beach views and carefully plated food, I was also drinking a bottle or more of wine a night. Sometimes I passed out. Sometimes I couldn’t remember things, and I often had unexplainable bruises. By day, dressed in a pink shift dress and gold heels, I gave talks about nimble new media strategies. By night – it was another story. I drank to deal with my anxiety. I drank to deal with my physical limitations. I drank to deal with never “being enough.” I drank to slow my brain when I was enough. I …

We Asked 15 Women of All Ages: What Does Turning “50” Mean?

Fifty is an age and a cultural milestone, marking half a century lived and decades yet to unfold. Here, 15 women who have reached the half-century mark — and those who have years to go — share their thoughts about what this middle age marker means to them. Elisa Camahort Page, 52 Chief Community Officer, She Knows Media @ElisaC “50 means less than I would have thought. It certainly explains the grey streak and the sudden utter understanding about why Nora Ephron complained about her neck. It probably explains fewer fucks to give and more willingness to forgive. But when I’m driving in my car with the radio blasting or giggling about some stupid double entendre that a 12-year-old boy would find amusing or digging in to my eleventy-billionth fruitless internet argument, I’m not sure 50 means much at all. We always learn, and we never learn. I think that’s what being human means.” Meredith Walker, 47 Founder, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, AmySmartGirls.com @meredeetch “I do not think much about eventually turning 50. I am PRO-Aging. I …

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It Turns Out Black Does Crack, It Just Starts On The Inside

The author and her tattoo. (Photo courtesy Carolyn Edgar)   Not our faces, if we cleanse and moisturize and exfoliate consistently. Black women’s skin tends not to wrinkle. Our faces can look easily 10 to 20 years younger than our driver’s licenses say we are — if we maintain our health. But that’s the biggest if. Our health is where we black women tend to crack. Our black cracks from the inside out. It cracks under the weight of taking care of everybody but ourselves. It cracks under the pressure of smoothing out our rough edges and filing down our sharp tongues, lest we be tarred and feathered as angry black women for speaking our minds. And it cracks under our need to present our lives to the world as perfect, to counteract all of the negative stereotypes of black women and black families. We crack under the black-love-is-always-a-beautiful-thing pretensions of perfect marriages, children on the fast track to the Ivy League and well-behaved pets with glossy coats and camera-ready smiles. In February of this …

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Judging Amy, By Amy

Yesterday, I saw of picture of myself in a sleeveless outfit and realized that my triceps are a disappointment to me. My upper arms look like hotdog buns. As for the outfit – a silky black jumpsuit – I liked it in the store. The saleswoman, fresh out of college, assured me I looked fabulous. But here’s the thing: If you are in your fifties and want to feel chic and slim, do not hang around with women in their twenties. Because no matter how great that jumpsuit looked in the dressing room, it’s no match for an impeccable midriff or the fashion fearlessness that comes with knowing you can throw on a mini dress with a pair of white Adidas and look effortlessly sexy. This was apparent when we hosted a 25th birthday weekend for my son’s girlfriend. Over the course of a day, she and her pals moved through duffel bags full of cute clothes, from clingy yoga pants at breakfast to teeny bikinis at lunch to wispy slip dresses by cocktail time. …

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Improv and Ageism is No Laughing Matter

I’m a lifetime comedy nerd. The kind of middle school girl who knew every line to Steve Martin albums and the 2,000-year-old man routines, adored Robin Williams and had a subscription to Mad magazine. As an adult, I worship professionally funny people, especially women. Sometimes, even I’m funny. For years I’d been pondering the idea of an improv class. I wanted to do something separate from the routine of my real life of being a mom, being a wife, having a full-time job and working monthly shifts at the Park Slope Food Coop. I started investigating classes, in particular the eight-week Improv 101 at the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade training center. Some of my favorite comedians had honed their craft there — not to mention that Amy Poehler is one of the founders. Initially, I only shared my desire with the least judgmental person I know, my therapist. She was very encouraging and helped me finally work up the courage to tell my husband and a select group of friends.  I imagined a range of negative reactions that included …

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In Praise of the Midlife Crisis — on a Motorcycle

The author on her Harley. (Photo credit: John Livzey) We should avoid excess risk as we age. So says conventional wisdom. After all, it takes longer to heal a bone broken learning to ski in our 50s than in our 20s. There won’t be time to regain a financial loss suffered past our early 40s if we become too aggressive with our investments. Going back to school later in life to embark on a new career seems a waste of time and energy. And don’t get me started on those folks who leave long-term marriages for the greener pastures of a new relationship. I believed all these things. Until, at age 48, I fell in love with a matte black, brawny beast of a machine. I took a motorcycle safety class as research for a book I was writing and surprised myself with the depth of feeling that burbled up. My father was dying at the time and I felt entombed in a marriage that, after 25 years, had lost all its verve. I had …

The Public Intimacy of Private Ink

Susan Goldberg gets inked. (Photo: Farrah Braniff) Spring came late this year, but I can tell it’s here because all of a sudden people are commenting on my tattoo. I live on the Canadian Shield; I spend at least nine — often 10 — months wrapped in multiple layers. Each year, when it finally gets warm enough to wear a tank top, I forget that much of the general public hasn’t yet seen the typewriter inked onto my right upper arm. It’s like seeing the first robin of the season. “Hey, cool! I love your typewriter!” someone will say at a bar or restaurant or on the street, usually followed up with: “Are you a writer?” And I nod and smile and say, “Thank you” and “Yes.” And then there is a bit more smiling, and I pray inwardly that they won’t next ask, “What do you write?” If you write, then you know there’s no worse question than “What do you write?” Particularly if you happen to be, say, the kind of writer who …

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Dreaming My Way to The Other Place

“She had always lived her best life in dreams. She knew no greater pleasure than that moment of passage into the other place, when her limbs grew warm and heavy and the sparkling darkness behind her lids became ordered and doors opened; when conscious thought grew owl’s wings and talons and became other than conscious.” ― John Crowley, Little, Big That other place. When I first read these words, I gasped. I have often felt as if I lived my best life in dreams, too. A life that I sometimes believed in more intensely than my waking life. I have always been a dream machine, spinning worlds both wondrous and terrifying. My childhood nightmares came from fairy tales, of trolls under a bridge or witches with eyes the size of dinner plates. These morphed into wartime survival epics, escaping and hiding from menacing men in uniform, perhaps drawn from the Nazis in The Sound of Music. I also have a recurring nightmare in which I am driving a car straight up a vertical road and …

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The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mom

My son hands me a form and tells me he needs $10 for a field trip. A client requests a change to their website. The tulips are coming up and the flowerbeds need to be raked. One of my volunteer causes has been patiently waiting — for weeks — for a new logo. We’re out of toilet paper. And milk. And, oh yeah, food. Ten years ago, my 40-year-old brain would have remembered it all, categorized the demands in a mental list and multi-tasked the crap out of them. But over the course of the past decade, I’ve found myself relying less on memory and more on strategy. You know, the little sticky notes, the smart phone apps, the piles of paper strategically placed near the front door. Like most other people my age, I simply can’t remember things the way I used to. Thing is, I’m happy about it. I’m clearing the clutter from my overloaded mind, and it’s such a relief. The decluttering began when I hit menopause at age 47 — and …

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Come Wade In My Stream of Consciousness

I am forever aswim in my own stream of consciousness. Socrates and I would have been very close friends, I’m sure, as I have exactly zero capability not to consider and reconsider every thought I have or decision I make in order to better understand its origins. What is it that motivates me? (Curiosity.) Why I am threatened by not being understood? (Because I need to feel known and seen.) What is it, exactly, about okra that grosses me out? (Simple: the slime.) As Socrates put it, before being put to death, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And my life, well, it’s very deeply examined by me̶  in a way that is exhausting. Frankly, it’s very tiring to be in a constant meta-conversation with myself. But there’s no stopping it. So to keep things lively, I made my streams of consciousness public. I wrote a book about a time in my life when my house and my marriage fell apart at the same time. And, in it, I laid it all bare: the …