When You Move Away From The Only Place You’ve Known

image - Flickr / Neil Krug
image – Flickr / Neil Krug

When you move, everything that you know will be in some distant land that you can only see on a map. You’ll have nothing; no sense of direction, no frame of reference, no local coffee shops, no pharmacy, no familiarity. You’ll find yourself driving in any direction you want simply for the hell of it. Who cares if you get lost, you don’t have anyone waiting for you. You’re stuck with yourself.

When you move, you find out who you really are. You find out the kind of person you are when everything you based your life off of is taken away. You no longer exist under the direct influence of your friends, family, job, or old neighborhood. All of the old social roles you fulfilled are gone. You get to decide how you want new people to perceive you.

When you move, you find out how many things you took for granted. Bagels and pizza become an exotic treat when you leave New York. Going to the grocery store can become an all day adventure if you make the wrong turn. Knowing how to get somewhere 5 different ways is a luxury you no longer have. See all of your friends hanging out on social media? You feel that twinge of jealousy that they’re hanging out without you? That’s your own doing, and you have to live with it. You have to accept that life goes on without you.

When you move, you learn to be handy. Your dad can’t come and take your air conditioner out anymore. It’s up to you. When the pipe under your kitchen sink leaks, you better learn how to calk and tape it back up. You learn how to adjust the water pressure in your shower so it doesn’t blind you. You learn how to reupholster chairs. You learn how to seal your windows to prepare for winter. You learn how to deal with car trouble You learn to be independent.

When you move, you begin to feel like you’ve finally made it. You find yourself driving somewhere new without the use of a GPS. You go out with new friends and have familiar conversations. You know what gas station has the lowest prices and which pizzeria has a decent (although not great) slice. And as you walk in your new city you find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe I ever lived anywhere else.” TC mark

10 New Years Resolutions To Make If You Want 2015 To Be The Happiest Year Ever

Shutterstock / Sidarta
Shutterstock / Sidarta

1. Get rid of those “goal weight” clothes

We’ve all got some pair of pants in the back of our closet that we fantasize fitting in perfectly one day, or browse outfits that get labeled “once I’m in better shape.” This type of thinking isn’t doing you any good. In fact, it’s probably counteracting any progress you hope to make. If you have this constant image of who you need to be and what you need to look like, you are going to slowly drive yourself nuts. Love who you are in the moment, and don’t treat yourself as a rough draft.

2. Stop skipping meals

Whether it’s a misguided attempt to lose weight, or you just lose track of time and realize you have skipped an important meal, it’s important in the new year to cut this damaging habit. It doesn’t seem like it’s doing much, but in the long run skipping meals can wreak havoc on your metabolism, as well as overall energy levels. Figure out a time that works in your schedule and commit to eating at that time. It may help to prep meals the night before if you know you will have a hectic day.

3. Make a list of the people who have hurt you most, and then burn it

We often talk about this idea of “letting go” and what exactly that entails. It’s not an easy or simple process, and something that can be completely different for the individual dealing with it. When you switch into a mentality that you have the power to decide what hurts you, you’ll find it can help in moving on from a painful situation. There’s something cathartic about using pen and paper, so to start off the new year ready for love and forgiveness, write down the names of people who have caused any hurt that still lingers within you. Take the paper and throw it in the fireplace, and as it goes up in flames, let go of the anger and hurt too.

4. Reorganize your work space

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unclear with what your objectives are in the workplace/career path, it might help to take a day to just completely rearrange your desk, or other place you do most work. Maybe print off some inspirational quotes you like, and place them somewhere you can see whenever start working. It might boost your motivation.

5. Dedicate a “me” day each week

We get so caught up in taking care of everyone else, that we often neglect our own needs. If you aren’t first making sure you are healthy and happy, what good are you really going to be to those around you? Though this can be a difficult task with responsibilities that get in the way, try to put aside one day every single week that is about YOU. Maybe you carve out a few hours to read a book, or take a class on something you’re interested in learning more about. Take a day that is just about you, and prioritize yourself again.

6. Take a daily walk

Instead of diving into an intense new work out regimen and pushing your body to a point that you’re no longer sure your body works anymore, try starting off with something easy to commit to every day, like a 30 minute walk. Create an awesome playlist that pumps you up, get outside, and just enjoy your surroundings. It’s a small thing you can do every single day that will make you feel better.

7. Make a list of weekly goals that are doable

If you want to be the next Oprah, that’s fantastic, but simply having the goal “be Oprah” might freak you out more than it inspires you. Try making weekly goals that are realistic. Maybe this week you will call and catch up with that friend from college. Next week, you can go through your closet and donate things you no longer need. By breaking things down weekly, it can be easier to get more done and then feel more productive.

8. Go social media free for at least two weeks

This holds truer to some people, but in a time when we are bombarded with constant updates on what those around us are doing, it’s fairly common to slip into a Facebook induced slump. People choose the best light to shine on themselves on social media, so of course you’re going to see only the cool and exciting things. We compare ourselves to each other on the daily, so it can be really refreshing to step away from Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. for a bit and not constantly see who is getting engaged and promoted.

9. Cleanse your life of toxic relationships

This is a tough one, I’ll be honest. We can find ourselves in toxic, unhealthy relationships and not even realize that’s what they were until much later when we are no longer in them. And depending on who the person is, you can’t always just cut the strings. But take a moment to clear your mind, then think of each important relationship in your life. What are these relationships bringing you? Do you feel drained more often than not with this person? Are you always giving, and not receiving the same thing in return? Try to look at these relationships as objectively as you can (though that’s impossible to fully do) and decide which ones are causing more harm than good. Formulate a plan to distance yourself from the damaging ones, and once you have gotten far enough away, do NOT look back. Continue moving forward. You’ll thank yourself later.

10. Practice being honest with yourself

I’ve found that the person we lie to more than anyone is ourselves. We’re incredibly good at it too. We can convince ourselves we’re okay with situations when we truly aren’t. We can bury emotions, bottle up fears and insecurities, and keep it all on lock down for a long, long time. But doing this will eat away at you in little ways. It can show up in your health or general mood. Or maybe, one day you just explode and everything you’ve been secretly lying about exposes itself in a very destructive way. To avoid this, start being honest when you wake up. Check in with yourself and how you feel. Are you sad? Are you angry about something? Are you worried? If you are, admit it to yourself. It’s okay. Being honest and validating your own feelings can be so rewarding and helpful on the path to happiness. TC mark

To The Broken-Hearted: Do Not Despair

image - Flickr / Carmen Jost
image – Flickr / Carmen Jost

Sometimes, in our relentless efforts to find the person we love, we fail to recognize and appreciate the people who loves us. We miss out on so many beautiful things simply because we allow ourselves to be slaved by our own selfish concerns. Go for the person of deeds and not for the person of words for you will find rewarding happiness not with the person you love, but the person who loves you more. The best lovers are those capable of loving from a distance, far enough to allow the other person to grow, but never too far to feel the love deep within your being.

To let go of someone doesn’t mean you have to stop loving, it only means that you allow that person to find his or her own happiness without expecting him or her to come back. Letting go is not just setting the other person free, but it also means setting yourself free from all the bitterness, hatred, and anger that is stashed away in the darkest corners of your heart. Do not let the bitterness rare away your strength and weaken your faith, but rather, let you grow with wisdom in bearing it.

You may find peace in just loving someone from a distance and not expecting anything in return. But be careful, for this can sustain life but can never give enough room for us to grow. We can all survive with just beautiful memories of the past but real peace and happiness comes only with open acceptance of what reality is today.

There will come a time in our lives when we chance upon someone so nice and beautiful and we just find ourselves getting so intensely attracted to that person. This feeling soon becomes a part of our everyday lives and eventually consumes our thoughts and actions. The sad part of it is when we begin to realize that this person feels nothing more for us than just a friendship. We start our desperate attempts to get noticed and be closer but in the end our futile efforts are still unrewarded and we end up feeling sorry for ourselves.

You don’t have to forget someone you love. What you need to learn is how to accept the verdict of reality without being bitter or sorry for yourself. Believe me, you would be better off giving that dedication and love to someone more deserving. Don’t let your heart run your life. Be sensible and let your mind speak for itself. Listen not only to your feelings but to reason as well. Always remember that if you lose someone today, it means that someone better is coming tomorrow. If you lose love, that doesn’t mean that you failed in love. Cry, if you have to, but make sure that the tears wash away the hurt and the bitterness, and that the past has left with you.

Let go of yesterday and love will find its way back to you and when it finally does, pray that it is the love that will stay and last a lifetime. Sigh! I too, am still learning.

Life is beautiful. TC mark

How To Become A More Thankful Person

image - Flickr / Carmen Jost
image – Flickr / Carmen Jost

I asked someone what they were most thankful and they bulged their eyes, before tossing them behind their head and letting out an elongated, “Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”

It was in the middle of July, so of course they were caught off guard.

The “what are you most thankful for” question can easily make someone get all squeamish. Especially if you ask them on a first date or a job interview or because it’s in the middle of July and they are complaining about how they can hardly pay their rent and they’re sick of being single and you want to show them something. To teach them, in that moment, that their life isn’t just one big overdraft of their childhood hopes and dreams.

Hardly anyone asks that question unless it’s Thanksgiving. If it wasn’t for that November holiday, where it’s best we wear pants with drawstrings and bring some TUMS to the table, we probably would never stop and think about it.

We surf through our day-to-day lives way too fast. We pause, only, to figure out ways to move through difficult situations or suffocating emotions. But rarely do we ever take the time to high-five our joys, our success, the nouns in our lives that ground us and love us and that we wouldn’t live as well without.

I saw this idea on Twitter the other day. It’s called an “I’m thankful” jar. Whenever something wonderful happens to you – gigantic or super tiny – jot it down on a piece of paper and stick it inside. It’ll be safe there but more than anything, it’ll be remembered.

It’ll be an excuse for you to ask yourself this question on a daily basis and when the time of the year swings by and forces you to glance up from your overwhelming to-do list and underwhelming smart phone, you’ll have an answer that’s backed with so much meaning and truth.

You’ll also have the opportunity to see how many things have happened to you throughout the year. The kinds of things that make our heart Tango and ourselves feel on top of the world, but only for a little bit. Because then, without realizing, we force ourselves to forget about them because another deadline is winking at us or because if we spend too much time celebrating, we’ll forget how to move forward, fast.

Stop doing that. It’s unhealthy and stressful and probably the cause of your Acid Reflux (this is what my doctor recently told me when I said I spend too much time checking my email in a tiny booth in the back of Starbucks and not enough time doing anything else).

Maybe something as simple as an “I’m thankful for” jar, can be another way to slow down our lives. To force ourselves to put a pause button on the crazy and pat ourselves on the back for living life as well as we do. It’s hard to be a functioning adult and I seriously commend everyone who tries.

If I was starting this jar today, my first note would be: I’m thankful for sometimes being more awkward than your average human being.

What would yours be? Send me a tweet or write it below! TC mark

The Truth About Being A Year Out Of Rehab

Carmen Jost
Carmen Jost

One year. Year one. What do you learn from rehab? What sticks?

How do you feel looking back?

The 27g sugar yogurts – the 5am wake up calls – the unshaven legs – the women.

Different ages and backgrounds – together we felt curiously close – sitting in those therapy rooms with our feet tucked under us. Close in the times we were forced to make “sand stress balls” or count from 1-100 when we went to the restroom. Close in the times we cried over a donut – fought with the counselors- laughed playing Bananagram.

Watched as our parents came and went, and as Christmas and New Years passed quietly.

A year later – the truth is that it has been wonderful – insightful, and calm – but how horrifically selfish to pretend, for face value, that it’s been simply that. To write as though recovery is always one Chicken Soup for the Soul away from a Lifetime movie. How discouraging to someone who is feeling like they “failed” because they still struggle, and how incredibly naive to pretend that people will believe that my life is a straight and narrow road because I spent 6-weeks in a facility.

A year later, Rehab doesn’t provide a magic pill (although Prozac’s a gem) to make you accept stretch marks, reverse addictions, or correct the circus mirrors of your mind. It doesn’t fix what someone broke. It doesn’t shed light on tragedy.

There are girls that have gone back since then and those that have trekked on. We lost somebody earlier this year. She passed away in her sleep. A year later, you are making your own decisions again, and because of this you have to understand– perhaps embrace– that at some point you will have some sort of relapse.

Is this too honest? Maybe. Pessimistic? No.

One year later I know relapse has been a part of my growth, and an even more significant piece of my recovery.

The first time – Tears ensued. I failed.

The second time – the ease returned. It’s easy.

And the third time – Disappointment. A slimy finger and a sore throat.

It doesn’t fix anything, does it? I remembered – my back resting against the wall. It doesn’t actually fix a bloody thing.

And though it took three times before I reached that conclusion again, one year later I was strong enough to come back and rewrite the story- And this time on my own. 

A year later I have enough faith in myself to know that if it happens again, the same revelation will strike me again – and again – and again. Does this seem self-defeating to propose that relapsing is a continued option? I don’t look at it that way. I understand that life is not one strike and you’re out. This extremity didn’t work for me in the past and it won’t work for me now. Because, let’s face it, those ”skills” you learn in rehab?

They aren’t permanent. 6-weeks of force-feeding isn’t enough to last a lifetime. A year later, those skills are forgotten on a whim- modified on a bad day- and can only be practiced efficiently over a course of time. Rehab isn’t a place you send your loved one to and hope they walk out a brand new person. It’s merely a starting point.

A facility that can give you a chance to begin pounding out a different foundation. Rehab provides an atmosphere that forces you to think of consequences before your actions and not after. It forces you to acknowledge that throwing up a pint of ice cream really doesn’t do anything, and it doesn’t change that you binged it in the first place. You don’t get to cancel out one impulsivity with another. You don’t get to binge eat and expect to rid your body of the toxic choices of that decision. Sorry, but it’s not a get out of jail free card. One year later ANYONE who’s been through addiction is still learning how to balance your choices and consequences.

For me, I find that I still often drink medicinally to free myself from the discomforts that recovery brings.

Discomforts of image.

Discomforts of insecurity.

Discomforts of boredom.

The boredom of recovery – the absolute sheer confusion of time without a time-consuming sickness– the anxiety of sitting on a couch at night, twiddling your fingers wondering what to do with yourself now that you don’t devote all your attention to 12-mile runs and calorie counting.
Basically, the discomforting lack of constant stimulation and “instant gratification” that an eating disorder gave to me.

And we are a generation that implements this into every facet of our lives- whether it be an Instagram like or a raise in our first 6 months. We live in a world that expects immediate results and that culturally drinks to numb the past 8 hours at work, drinks to feel comfortable before walking into a bar, and where “better” looks are always readily attainable via a skin product.

Maybe that’s a cop out – but what I do understand now is that I still struggle with the idea that with boredom–discomfort – there is not always an “instant” fix – as our culture implies – that a band-aid is not a stitch, and that self-respect, self-love, peace, tranquility, and all those serene words are built upon mounds of discomfort – that a healthy resolution to discomfort is conditioned within yourself and that fulfillment is based on the quiet amounts of success in the wake of adversity. In the times you trust yourself to do the right thing– make the right choice– and you do.

Does that mean I always link that wisdom to my life? No.

I weigh what I weigh today and I’m still uncomfortable– an aftermath of an eating disorder– and so I find that I drink when I’m in situations that I haven’t conditioned myself to do daily. For example, I can go to work every day. I can eat Goldfish for a snack. In fact, I haven’t counted calories in so many months that if you put a milk carton in front of me I’d probably struggle trying to remember if it’s the 1% or the 2% that has 110 calories and 12g of sugar.

One year later, I know that a meal isn’t going to add 10lbs and that a piece of cake will not go “straight to the hips.” One year later I don’t cry on the subway when I catch a glimpse of my thigh in the window and I don’t freak out if I eat an unwashed blueberry (PESTICIDES!).

This is what has improved. This is what allowed me to eat Thanksgiving with my family this year and be present at the table.

However, you ask me to dress up for a wedding or attend a formal event, and one year later I still have the “tick” that starts thumping at my brain. And so I drink to quiet it – this little tick that whispers that everyone is noticing your thigh or your lack of definition in that dress.
One year later, I’m not quite ready to let that security go but I am, however, understanding the effects of it, and that I am only stunting my own growth.

Do I ultimately want to be alcohol free? No.

Like I said, I don’t abide well by that philosophy but I suppose I’d like for it to become what smoking has become to me now – a year after I left it behind. I don’t smoke to not eat anymore so the idea of it is all represented differently. Its purpose deconstructed. I find I go months – weeks – and that the urges go as quietly as they come and I imagine this is what alcohol will become to me as well – as I continue allowing the transformation to take place. I imagine the discomfort of “recovery” will fade each time I force myself to take off that jacket at a wedding or that in enough Thanksgivings, my mother won’t have to get my plate for me because the “buffet” style way of eating overwhelms me.

Perhaps my impulses to delay discomfort will merely just recede with age and every faced obstacle. Again, I am nothing but human and one year later I can’t dwell over the reason I do something but instead focus on the outcome I was trying to get from it, and if that’s truly the outcome I was expecting to find.

The truth is– despite the ups and the downs– despite the discomforts that recovery brings, it’s been worth every one of them.

So, I return to my original question and ask again – what is life a year after rehab?

Well, I suppose – in a word – it is this: Malleable. TC mark

For more raw, powerful writing follow Heart Catalog here.

A Gift Guide For The Minimalist Traveler In Your Life

1. A leather weekender bag, H&M.
Whether you’re using it for a weekend trip to your parents’, a long trip you can’t be weighed down for, or even a lengthy daily commute, bulky luggage is a thing of the past. The foundation of any successful, streamlined trip is a high quality, well-spaced, versatile bag, and now’s the perfect time to treat someone to a really nice one. There are, of course, higher quality options (that come at a price) but regardless, it’s a necessity that you can turn into a luxury for someone else.

2. A sample perfume set, Anthropologie.
Travel-sized anything is ideal here, but especially when you combine it with the ability to test out new scents and change it up on the road. (If you’re going on a really special trip, using a certain fragrance the whole time will always incite memories when you put it on again – it’s a little mental trick that ends up meaning a lot.)

3. HP Pavilion x360, HP.
Whether you’re switching from watching Netflix on the plane to sending a work email, editing a draft on your blog and then reading a book to fall asleep in your hotel, the HP x360 is absolutely essential to combining all the technology you’d need with the convenience and flexibility you want. Not to mention, it’s up there on the most innovative (and awesome) gifts you can give someone.

HP Pavilion x360

4. The “Around The World” leather watch, Urban Outfitters.
Aside from it being a classic for those with the wanderlust bug, it’s a cool way to bend the rules of the traditional leather watch gift and serve as a reminder throughout someone’s work or school day that they’re only so many hours away from being on the road, in the air, or on their feet again.


5. A travel-sized water sterilization pen, Steripen.
Perfect for hikers, backpackers and out-of-the-country regulars, the Steripen is the latest technology to sterilize your water. A little more practical than the rest, but the latest technology update is an absolute essential.


6. Fold up flats, Neiman Marcus.
A space-saver (and life saver) – just ask any woman who has ever had to walk or travel any significant distance in heels. Aside from that, they’re simply the most space-saving way to pack shoes (which tend to be bulky and large). These flats are versatile, literally flexible, and can be paired with almost any outfit. Get them in a style you know they’d love, and just wait for the “these saved my life/feet/sanity” text you are 100% going to receive.

7. A really nice scarf, J.Crew.
I always travel with a scarf, because it’s versatile, easy to roll up and put in a bag, and often can double as a make-shift blanket/shawl of sorts when, inevitably, the air conditioning is too high on any form of public transportation. Scarves can serve as headbands, purse accessories, shawls, blankets, beach wraps, makeshift hoods…the possibilities are endless. Get something light, but high quality, so it will retain heat but not take up much space.

8. A monthly subscription to a trial-sized service, Birchbox.
The gift that will (literally) keep on giving. It’s crazy not to be subscribed to Birchbox or ipsy, you get really luxe products delivered to your door every month without having to pay outrageous prices for the quality. And because the products are so small, they make for the perfect travel companions as they fit easily into a carry-on and don’t look suspiciously large going through security.

9. World travel map with pins, Etsy.
Let them return home and mark off every place they’ve been, (and use other pins to mark off where they’d like to go next) a la The Prince and Me 2.


10. A personalized emergency kit, Help Remedies.
Bend the rules on traditional gift giving and put together something more personal. Take a small-to mid-sized makeup bag and fill it with the essentials: something for a headache, for nausea, Band-Aids, the numbers/locations of emergency medical services wherever they’re going, a little something for anything they could encounter.

11. A weather-resilient cross body bag, Marc Jacobs.
Not only is this the safest way to store your essentials, but it’s also the lightest and most conveniently versatile way to stay organized. Get it in a high quality material that is waterproof (and dark, so it’s also stain-proof) so they can keep their arms and hands completely free and their necessities safely on their side (when the strap is around your neck, it’s less likely that somebody could come up and snatch the bag, etc.).


12. A compact digital camera, Sony.
Another exception people often make to the minimalistic rule is for a very high quality camera. This one was ranked one of the best of 2014, and is definitely a splurge if you’re looking to really treat someone. TC mark

This post is brought to you by the HP x360. 360° degrees of versatility. One smart price.

When You Can’t Find The Christmas Spirit

Photo by Abby Rosmarin
Photo by Abby Rosmarin

Two days after Thanksgiving, my father was rushed to the hospital.  He was delirious, incoherent, and had lost all control of his legs.  A day later, he had a seizure so severe that they had to sedate him.  My life since Thanksgiving has been a series of frantic text messages, sets of calls and emails to and from every possible extended family member, and a constant confrontation with the unknown.

Without going too much into my father’s personal history, I’d thought I had long-since come to terms with my father’s compromised health.  I understood that there were just going to be some things I would have to deal with before the average person does when it comes to their father.  After those first 48 hours in the hospital, I came face-to-face with what I thought I had been preparing myself for and I realized how woefully unprepared I actually was.  Even though he’s in a more stable condition now, it’s hard to go back from thinking you were going to have to say your goodbyes before saying, “Merry Christmas.”  It’s hard to set the dial back without seeing the impression it left in the first place.

Suffice it to say, it hasn’t been the easiest December.

Out of everything that has been going on in my mind, Christmas has been at last place.  I’ve had no interest in Christmas music or putting up decorations, something I usually dive into the second December 1st rolls around.  It felt like, every time I thought I was ready to get into the Christmas spirit, I’d get a text message from my little brother or an email from an uncle.  I’d get good news, bad news, or the job of passing that news on.  And all the ornaments and tinsel and lights continued to gather dust in our closet.

Yesterday, we finally went out and cut down our Christmas tree.  I decided enough was enough: I’m putting up decorations and I’m playing Christmas music and I will find the Christmas spirit if it was the last thing I’d ever do.  We carried the tree into the house and set it upright in our tree stand — a green, plastic contraption that looks more like a wide volcano than a Christmas tool.  I went to task of watering up the tree, going back and forth from the sink with my little watering can in hand.  Two, three, four trips to the sink and the stand still wasn’t filling up.  I blamed it on a super thirsty tree and continued my watering adventure.

It wasn’t until my fifth or sixth trip, when we started seeing a ring of water creeping out from under the stand, did we understand why the tree stand wasn’t filling up.

We grabbed every towel in our linen closet, as well as our space heater and our wet vac.  We soaked a laundry load’s worth of towels as we desperately tried to sop up all the water.  My husband started going at the carpet with the wet vac and I ran off to the store to buy a new stand and a dehumidifier.

While at the store, I got a call from one of my older brothers.  With my voice low and my body tucked away in one of the corners of the building, we talked about what was going on, verbalizing a lot of things that usually went unsaid in our family.  It was a comfort to hear his voice, to hear the exact things that I had been thinking but didn’t want to say, but I still went to the cashier with a palpitating heart and a forced smile after the conversation ended.

I got back home, taking a turn at vacuuming the carpet as my husband set the dehumidifier up.  We joked, we made light of things, we let our frustration leak out in snarky comments about the situation.  We took a break from the toweling and the vacuuming, letting the dehumidifier attempt to do what we had been working towards for the last hour.

We placed the tree in its new stand, sat down in front of the TV, and I immediately started crying.

I started crying because — dammit — today was supposed to be the day I finally got that Christmas spirit.  I was going to fill the house with Bing Crosby and Mariah Carey and put every dumb little knick-knack in its dumb little corner.  I was going to set up wreaths and unroll welcome mats and get something merry and bright.  It was something I desperately needed and I wasn’t going to get it.

I needed Christmas spirit.  I needed Christmas spirit the way a broken leg needs a cast.  I needed garland like a bandaid, eggnog like medication, and carols like the words from a doctor, telling you everything’s going to be okay.

I needed the Christmas spirit because sometimes spirit is all you have.  I needed Christmas spirit because I needed to be reminded that there is life outside of all this.  That you can find a bittersweet victory hearing that your father is moving around with help, and then go to the local parade and smile broadly at the floats as they pass by.

But sometimes it doesn’t work that way.  Sometimes you’re given curveballs.  Sometimes you’re scrambling to fix things and it forces you to put more things on the backburner.  Sometimes you’re convinced that it’s all the fault of a cheap stand with a crack along the inseam, forgetting that it’s not as simple as putting up a tree with zero issues.

The Christmas spirit isn’t something you can find or catch.  You can’t slip on a Christmas CD into the stereo and realize the Christmas spirit had been under the couch all along.  You can’t chase the Christmas spirit down the street, snatching it up in your arms as you look at all the pretty lights.  The only thing you can do is put on the music and look at the lights and understand that the spirit will show itself on its own terms.

The only thing I can do is remember that the Christmas spirit cannot be a bandaid.  It cannot be a distraction or a way to avoid.  And it’s okay to feel gloomy or pessimistic or downright depressed when Andy Williams is telling you that it’s the most wonderful time of the year — and that it does you no favors to force cheer in the exact way Hallmark tells you to.

The Christmas spirit can come in the shape of hugs when you need them, tissues for when you don’t want to admit that you need them, and a reminder that this too shall pass.  The Christmas spirit can come in love, in all its weird and complicated and nuanced forms.  The Christmas spirit can come in remembering that you have an incredible network of people around you, support where you need support most.

I think, most of all, the Christmas spirit can come in the shape of hope.  Not necessarily hope that it’ll all work out the way you want it to, but hope that it’s all happening for a reason, to teach us something we need to be taught, to put a set of events in motion that could change someone’s life for the better.  It takes a lot of faith to believe that.

And, really, this is what Christmas is about: love, hope, and faith.  In as much of an abundance as available.  Regardless of your theological background and beliefs.

The dehumidifier is now running for its second day.  Our carpet has downgraded from “micro swimming pool” to “slightly damp”.  With any luck, we’ll be able to decorate our tree sometime later in the water.  And we’ll do it with Bing Crosby playing in the background, our cats weaving their way around our feet, and a break for a hug or two if anyone needs it. TC mark

A 24-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early December, 2689

Shutterstock / Excellent backgrounds
Shutterstock / Excellent backgrounds

December 1, 2689

It was so weird, the other day my holoEYEport totally freaked out on me. I couldn’t see anything, but everyone said that I was coming through just fine. And then it like really cut out, audio too, and it was just me, I was alone, shouting out, “Hello! Hello?” and I couldn’t tell if I was getting through, if anyone else was reacting to me or not. I’ve never lagged for more than two or three seconds; can you imagine what it was like to be cut off for four minutes?

The Diagnorithms gave me a once-over, but just kept asking me when I upgraded to sixty-seven point two. “When was your last upgrade?” And what do you say to that? Because I don’t know the exact date of my last upgrade off the top of my head. Do you? You have to go through settings and the information sub-panel, it’s in there somewhere, but come on, shouldn’t the Diagnorithms be able to access that information a lot faster than I can?

So yeah, I didn’t get very far, and after a few minutes of the same repetitive prompts, they gave me the all-clear to resume communications. Once I was granted the OK for reintegration, my contacts flooded my middle-left inbox with dozens of fetchbacks. It was me, during my time offline, apparently everyone could see me, it looked like I was glitching out, totally flailing around. But people got bored after a minute or so, and it took some coaxing, but most of my inner network let me wipe the incident from their externals. Now if I could only get in touch with system admin to see if there’s any way about filing a motion to have it partially censored from the alpha core peripheral …

Shit, alarm code beta-six? I thought the last swarm of mutant bee-borgs was eradicated seven months ago. I’m being assigned to evacuate via Cross-Junction Eleven. Hopefully this is just a false alarm. Diary, off. No, don’t write ‘diary, off,’ just shut down. What the hell is wrong with this thing?

December 5, 2689

It was far worse than any of us could have imagined. The Authority assured us that the mutant bee-borg threat was under control, but apparently they were just hiding out and regrouping. Which I don’t understand, because how could they have slipped past the attention of the Sentry-Corps? Unless, could The Authority have been compromised also? It would explain the glitches, which have only been getting worse.

I don’t know anyone else here in Cross-Junction Eleven, and since we haven’t yet been given access to connect via any sort of local network, we can’t communicate. That is, not by any conventional forms of communication. Maybe it’s in my head, but there is this one girl docked four ports away from me, I think that she’s making some sort of gesture my way. At first I just thought she was having some motor control glitching issues, because who hasn’t lately? And it’s not like the Diagnorithms have been much help. But the way she keeps motioning to me, if it’s a glitch, it’s coming through almost like a strange pattern.

I’m getting pretty tired of emergency rations. It’s like, every time threat levels subside below the acceptable parameters, I always think to myself, finally, no more emergency rations, and I act like that’s the last time I’ll be forced to suck down nutro-carbons from an omni-pouch. And then it’s all, “Bleep! Bleep! Report to Cross-Junction Eleven, await further instructions.” Is that selfish of me? That, yeah, we’re all in danger, and all I can think about is my emergency nutro-carbon ration?

Man, that girl won’t stop. I’m not scheduled for recoupling integration for another four years. Can’t she tell than I’m not developmentally matured for procreation sequencing? I wonder what she’s after. Diary, off. Diary, off. No, off. Diary … goddamn it.

December 8, 2689

What I’m going to say sounds impossible, I get it. But that girl that I was talking about the other day, well, yesterday she was still acting really weird, all of those hand motions toward me. I didn’t know how to react, and so I didn’t do anything. And then she just stood up and unlatched out of her docking port, right, and she started walking over to mine. And I was like freaking out now, because none of my proximity sensors were registering another presence. I was thinking, surface-level power blockage? Have there ever been any reported glitches of personal sensor arrays?

And then she just took off her faceware, just gripped it by both sides below the jaw, and it popped right off. I didn’t know they could just come off like that. If it weren’t for my internal diagnostics displaying no abnormal activity on my top-left inbox, I would’ve sworn that my heart had stopped. Without her faceware, she looked just like someone out of an old-timey holophoto. It was a strange sensation, her naked face simultaneously horrifying and yet, thrilling? Alarming? There was some other emotion, something I couldn’t identify.

As she reached out her hand toward my face, my bladder relieved itself into my hydro-recirculation pack. Her mouth was moving, sounds coming out that I didn’t understand. My head was screaming, “Abort! Abort!” I knew that my best course of action was to initiate a level two hibernation sequence. But my heart – is this what your heart feels like? – told me to trust her, to let her show me whatever it was that she was trying to do. Could my faceware come off like hers? Do I look that soft underneath?

Her lips stretched upward, her tongue twirling irregular laps inside her mouth. She was trying to communicate with me. She was attempting to gain access, to me, but on some sort of an organic level I didn’t think was still possible.

That’s what I thought, anyway. After another thirty seconds or so, I could see the metallic gold stinger start to emerge from the back of her throat. I’d only ever read rumors about how the mutant bee-borgs might be able to burrow into our weak organic components, hijacking our higher operating processors. This must be how it’s done. I thought, after it engrained itself into my consciousness, would I have any awareness of the insect controlling my body? Or would my life be totally extinguished?

Just as I caught a glimpse of the tips of its crystalline wings stretching past the corners of her lips, my emergency bottom right inbox flashed red, alert level nine point six. “Duck! Duck! Duck!” it read, and my body processed the command automatically. And it was just in time, because two Sentry-Corps Patrolbots blasted through the upper encasement of Cross-Junction Eleven, frying the girl’s head. The mutant-bee borg tried to scurry away, but they snared it in some sort of plasma net. I felt the warm rush of liquid through my hydro-tubes as my bladder let itself go once again. Diary, off.

December 13, 2689

This is total bullshit. Apparently the whole mutant bee-borg Cross-Junction Eleven incident was some sort of a random screening. How was I supposed to remember to execute proper protocol during such a crazy test-scenario? Why wouldn’t they just automate it under my higher programming commands? After the Sentry-Corps finished with the bee-borg, they undocked me and brought me before a quad-core tribunal. And all they told me was the sentence: “You were unprepared for emergency scenario eight-five J; sentence: recoupling reintegration postponed, five years.” Again! At this point, I don’t think I’ll ever get to recouple. And by the time I do, I’ll be thirty-two, that’s almost half my life-cycle, none of my eligible bio-mates are ever going to want to comply.

I’m just left with so many questions. Like, was that really all a test? Because I saw that mutant bee-borg, I actually looked right at it. How can they tell me that it didn’t exist when I saw one with my own holoEYEport? And now I’m being reassigned to work unit thirty-five? That’s like eight units below my work level. I can’t shake the feeling that this is all a huge set-up. And none of the tribunals are granting me access to an appeal.

And now right before I power down for the night, I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I swear I can hear a buzzing. That’s crazy, right? They told me the mutant bee-borgs aren’t a threat. You know what? I can’t deal with this. Diary, off. Computer, delete all higher-level memories from December 1st onward. Yes, I’m sure. Just tell me there was a memory error. I don’t know, just make something up. Fine. Acknowledged. Execute. TC mark

There Is No Background

Amazon / Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Amazon / Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

There is No Background. There is no Foreground. Everything is in Flux.

Sometimes, when I’m out and about in nature — on that rare occasion I’m hiking or in some spectacular place — I’ll take a picture of myself. I know that if I take a picture of that scene on its own, it’ll be boring. So I put myself in the foreground, the mountain or cactus or what have you in the background. There is nothing interesting about this. It’s what we do, how we think. There’s what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background. Duh.

But metaphors are tricky things. When they’re extreme, we call them insane or poetry (“Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”). But most of the time, we use metaphors — along with a variety of other tropes such as metonymy, irony, litotes, hyperbole, and so on — without thinking (even though tropes are an expression of thought, the person using them is often not thinking). Tropes distribute the world — this here, that there, with these terms of relation.

This is Nietzsche’s great argument in his essay, “On Truth and Lies in Their Extramoral Sense.” All thinking is tropic. To speak is to distribute bodies — linguistic, conceptual, physical, ideological. This is what knowledge is, what knowledge does: it creates tropic configurations that we forget are tropic. This is the point — what a sharp metaphor! — of Nietzsche’s essay: ‘truth’ is what we assign to tropes we don’t want to change (for psycho-ideological reasons). The things we call true are metaphors that we’ve forgotten are metaphors. For Nietzsche, science is poetry that’s forgotten it’s poetry.

The background is a metaphor that we’ve forgotten is a metaphor. When we assume there’s a background, we assume there’s a foreground. Our cameras proudly offer auto-focus as they search for faces to foreground.

While seemingly innocuous, the figure of the background is dangerous. For instance, we tend to feel that the planet is the background, the backdrop, for human life. We repress the fact that we live with the earth, not on the earth. Human beings are continuous, not to mention contiguous, with the stuff of the universe — dirt, trees, sky, air, flies. They may not always be front and center but they are not the background.

This is one of the brilliant aspects of Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean series. The characters don’t just play out their dramas with the boat as the backdrop — the boat itself is a character! And the boat is not just a character floating on the ocean — the ocean becomes a character, too! Soon, everything is in play, everything in flux. There’s no background or foreground. There’s just an ever shifting calculus of bodies all interacting in different ways, at different speeds and intensities.

Reading John Searle in college drove me apeshit. What is this background he relies so much on? There’s what we do and then there’s this background of desires and abilities and knowledge, these so-called passive components, which set the stage for action. Huh? That just skips over the very complexity of the issue, of the social, of ideology, of how we stand towards each other. To just dismiss things like desire and dispositions as background is to dismiss the very stuff of power, politics, dynamics, history, discourse, of life itself.

No, there’s no background, Professor Searle. Action and perception are always chiasmatic, an intertwining with the world (pace Merleau-Ponty). I don’t just stand here and view the world. I am part of the world! When I look at a tree, that is the world seeing the world. I see the tree, sure, but that tree sees me — and has me seeing it.

There is no background. There is no foreground. In fact, there’s no ground at all. It’s funny how we turn to this figure of the ground over and over again. We must ground ourselves to be strong! We must ground our arguments! We must stand our ground! But, as Emerson says, Gladly would we anchor, but the anchorage is quicksand.

The trick, then, is to inaugurate new conceptions of space (Merleau-Ponty’s chiasmus does this), to invent new figures, metaphors, tropes. Or else to keep shifting our tropes, to constantly invent new ones, to abandon the very effort to construct anything once and for all and, instead, take to the swirling sea and frolic away. TC mark

I Want To Be Reincarnated As A Victoria’s Secret Angel

Victoria's Secret Facebook
Victoria’s Secret Facebook

As a writer, it’s my job to be deep.

It’s my responsibility to ask myself the tough questions like ‘who am I?’, ‘what do these feelings mean?’, and ‘why doesn’t my lap-desk have a cup holder?’

It’s a mental exercise I recommend for all aspiring writers. This week I’ve been thinking exclusively about death, which makes me wonder which theory of an afterlife is true. I’ve decided I’m just going to pick my favorite one and believe it: reincarnation. Heaven is cool, too, but I feel like I’d get bored if I was there forever, you know?

With reincarnation you get a second shot, and that got me thinking; if I could be reincarnated into anything in this world, what would I choose? At first I wanted to be some type of royalty, like a Saudi/British prince, but their lives are already outlined with restrictions and they have to be ‘PC’ all the time. Trust Fund Baby would be nice, but they always end up with daddy issues. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks: I’d be a Victoria’s Secret Angel. I know what you’re thinking, that’s a weird thing for a guy to say, but again, as a writer I have to think beyond gender restrictions.

It would be the best life, plain and simple. I’d be the most popular girl in high school by far; tons of guy friends, fewer legit girl friends, prom queen, ASB president if I felt ambitious. Every time I changed my profile pic it would get the most likes, everyone would tell me how beautiful I was as if I didn’t already know. No one would bully me, I mean, what would they say? “She’s so tall, it’s gross,” or “She eats so much junk food but has a naturally fast metabolism, what a bitch.”

I’d save my parents a shit load of money by not going to college, because by 18 my career is taking off and I’m traveling the world so I wouldn’t have time for college anyway. And what would be the point? I’d already have everything I need for my career, all I would need to do is combine an hour of yoga with a healthy diet – it’s not rocket science.

By 21, I’d be a full-fledged Angel, but not just any Angel, the best one; billboards, magazines, movies, tasteful music videos, millions following my Instagram and all the while I’m still traveling to the most exclusive, exotic locations in the world, maybe even on private jets. After an exhausting day of yoga and having my picture taken, I’d wind down with Caprese salad and a massage, and this is on like, a Tuesday.

By 30, I wouldn’t be just a ‘model’ or ‘Angel,’ I’d be an artist or a master of self-expression, and anyone who said otherwise would be jealous. I’d need to start thinking about a husband, my biological clock would be ticking, but luckily I could just choose whomever I want. I think this would be the most challenging decision of my life; would I choose wealth or power? Maybe I’d choose a mixture of both? Ugh, at this point I’d definitely start to resent the people who said being beautiful was easy.

I don’t really know what Angels do when they retire. I’m pretty sure I’d have enough money if I played my cards right. I’d have someone write my memoir, start my own fashion line, and just chill with my kids and rich husband. Yeah, being a Victoria’s Secret Angel would be awesome. TC mark