learning how to wait
Recently, I have spent a lot of time contemplating patience: What it means, the ways it is tested, and the ways it is improved. Very simply, patience is the ability to wait without complaint. And very honestly, that is not something at which I inherently excel. Objectively, I have a lot of patience when it comes to small things: I don’t mind getting stuck in long lines, I can remain at-ease in stand-still traffic (that’s actually when my best car-dance choreography makes an appearance), and I can stay calm while groups of toddlers scream and throw crayons at my head (side note: how is their aim always so good when their coordination is so terrible?).
But with the big things in life, my capacity for patience takes a steep nose-dive. I can wait, I just haven’t quite mastered the “without complaint” caveat. I am not yet where I want to be financially, emotionally, physically, or romantically, and I’m not very patient about the time that it’s taking to improve each situation. I complain about my job(s), I complain about my depression, I complain about my body, and even though I’m still not sure if and when I'll be ready for a relationship, I do complain about how damn hard adult relationships are. Therefore, going strictly by definition, I am most definitely not a patient person.
For me, patience is a veritable challenge: one I want to learn how to conquer. I have a strong desire to do better, so I started thinking about what exercising patience would look like in my life. I quickly understood that the opposite of complaining while waiting for what I don’t yet have would mean being grateful for what I currently do have.
I have a strained bank account, but I am grateful that what I have is enough to take care of my needs and self-finance new music. I have a brain that is pre-dispositioned towards depression and dark, but I am grateful that every day it still fights to find the joy, humor, and light in life. I have a body that jiggles in places I wish it didn’t, but I am grateful that it still gets me from point A to point B with relative ease, and that I am getting stronger every day. And I have a history of failed relationships, but that is because I have a deep resolve to never settle for less than what I deserve, and I am grateful to myself because I know, one day, it will pay off.
Practicing gratitude counters my tendency towards impatience by forcing me to live in the present moment, which is a concept I desperately need to internalize. Philosopher Lao Tzu once stated:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
As someone who suffers from both depression and anxiety, this is an important, and enlightening, lesson.
In addition to recognizing my own impatience, I have also gotten better at recognizing the root of my anxiety. It is always due to my mind shifting towards the future. I imagine things that have not yet taken place, and then I worry incessantly about them until I can’t sleep, or I can’t make a decision, or I can’t bring myself to go to the party, or I have a panic attack.
But the basis of that anxiety stems from an irrational fear of a future that hasn’t yet happened, and a fear of things not working out the way that I’ve planned (attn. self: things never do, and that’s ok). What’s not ok is letting that fear hold me back from pursuing the things I love, and the dreams that I know I’m capable of reaching. What’s not ok is letting that fear make me impatient rather than grateful.
I am determined to carry this lesson with me through the new year and through the next chapter of my music career. I have been trying to release music for about four years now and, in that time, I have doubted myself constantly. I have let the obstacles I’ve faced make me anxious, fearful, and impatient. Now, as I’m on the precipice of finally releasing new music to the world, and consequently putting myself out there, that anxiety and fear seems all-consuming at times. But when I focus on gratitude, rather than the uncertain future, it reminds me why I am a musician in the first place, and slowly the anxiety dissipates.
I don’t write or perform music for validation from others. If I really think about the reasons why I do it, I realize that I don’t actually need people to like my music at all (although it’s really nice when they do). When I come back to the present moment, I understand that the reason I continue to write, record, and (finally) release music is because it’s an extension of my personality, and it comes as natural to me as breathing. If I ever stopped, I would lose a huge part of myself, and I would lose my ability to make sense of the world. And that has nothing to do with anyone else’s opinion of me.
With that said, I know that fear and anxiety will still fill me in the moments before I send my song off to be released. I am going to be thinking about the people who will listen: Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they share it? Will they post mean things about me online? Probably all of the above.
But, when my mind starts to wander to that 45-year-old man who never pursued his own dream and who now copes with the dissatisfaction in his life by posting mean comments to discourage those who actually are pursuing theirs, I am going to catch myself. I am going to breathe deeply and remind myself in that moment that I am not doing this for anyone else. I am doing it for me, because it is who I am and what I believe I am meant to do with my life and with my talent.
And on that note, I will not be afraid anymore to call myself talented. I will not be afraid to call myself brave. I will be grateful for that talent and for that courage. And then, I will click the mouse and release my song. It will all be very anti-climactic. Yet, it will be one of my most internally powerful moments.
In my mind, impatience, fear, and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Patience means trusting that things will eventually work out in the right way and in the right time, even if obstacles appear and the finish line is not yet visible. Anxiety means that fear has crept in and I no longer trust that things will turn out alright in the end. Living in the present moment by practicing gratitude is the antidote.
So, here’s to 2018: the year of being afraid but doing it anyway. I hope you take a chance on yourself this year and that when you start to feel anxious or afraid of the future, you instead think about how much in your present life you have to be grateful for. And I hope that thought makes you brave.
Don’t forget to love yourself,
what i learned from the worst new year's eve of my life
“Never have I ever been high.”
It’s my go-to statement whenever I find myself caught in a game of “Never Have I Ever.” It’s always bound to get the majority of people to lower a finger, and it’s also true. Or at least it had been until now. I had basically been high as a kite since coming home from the hospital on December 28 (I had surgery done to fix a torn ligament in my right foot) and, while the percocets were knocking out some of the pain, they were also knocking out my ability to think.
Apparently my body hated it as much as my mind did because my relationship with narcotics came to a violent end on December 31, 2015. New Year’s Eve.
I woke up to my alarm at 4am, the time I was supposed to take my next dose of Oxycodone. My head was pounding with a fierce, sharp pain that I wasn’t used to, but I was so concerned with doing every single thing right post-op that I ignored the pain, took the pill, and closed my eyes, ready to sleep until my next dose in 4 hours.
However, when I woke up again at 8, the pain in my head was excruciating. I’ve had migraines before, but this was ten times worse than anything I’d experienced. Forget the pain in my foot, I could barely see because of the intensity of the headache. I figured I’d just “wait it out” and see if skipping the next dose would help: not really.
My dad, who’s been taking care of me while I’m on bed-rest and whose house I’ve been overtaking, came downstairs and could tell right away something was wrong. He suggested I eat something, but nothing sounded like a worse idea at that moment. He brought me a banana anyway. I took a tiny, minuscule bite (like the kind of bite a toddler takes when you tell him he has to finish his vegetables before dessert), and that was it. I grabbed the bowl next to me and, not to be graphic, but . . . it was graphic. I lost everything I had consumed since coming home from the hospital three days earlier.
I was getting pale and sweating profusely with my foot still propped up on my dad’s reclining chair, right next to his Christmas tree which was full of bright ornaments wishing me a season of “Joy” and “Peace,” and for the rest of the morning I got miserably and violently sick.
The pressure from getting sick was causing my head to throb even more and I went back and forth between leaning over the bowl, to leaning back and grasping at my head desperate for the pain to stop, to crying, to sobbing, to coughing, to gasping, to getting sick some more. Then it would subside for a half-hour or so and I would find a position that was semi-comfortable and wait there until the process started all over again. My poor father had to witness (and clean) it all.
Finally the nausea decreased, or maybe I had just finally emptied everything out of my system, and I was able to sit up again. I was able to slowly take sips of water, then try a bite of bread, and then some brown rice. Everything was staying down. My headache was still present but nowhere near what it had been. At least I could function again. At least now I could remember why I was in this situation in the first place: my foot. And at least now I knew for a fact that I really never should do drugs.
When I was finally able to think clearly again, I started thinking a little too much. So . . . this is how I was saying goodbye to 2015: crying, throwing up, withdrawing from narcotics, in pain, confused, sad, lonely, and insanely bored from just sitting around all day. This was not the end to 2015 I had envisioned. And yet somehow, it fit. It was the culmination of a kind of not-so-great year. I thought the twelve months previous were rough, but this definitely took the new year’s eve cake.
Everything in my life changed in a split-second during an insignificant play in an early-December college basketball game. I went from being an athlete, and defining myself as such, to being sidelined and reminded 24/7 of my life-long struggle with body image issues and the issues I have with controlling food, counting calories, hating myself, and treating my body and mind unhealthily.
It took that one brief moment, three minutes into the second half, for all of my trust issues to resurface, anxiety issues to resurface, and the depression that I thought I had beaten to resurface. This was the hardest thing I had faced in 2015, and it was coming in right at the buzzer. So close to the new year in fact that it was, inevitably, going to transfer over into 2016.
But did it have to transfer? I mean, obviously my foot was still going to be a bummer in the new year. Obviously I was still going to be on bed-rest for at least another week and a half in January. And obviously I wouldn’t be able to run or participate in sports for months. But, the depression? The obsession with counting calories? The negative body image, the fixation with control, the self-loathing, the anxiety? Did that all really have to transfer?
When you’re forced to sit in a chair all day, there’s really not a whole lot to do other than think. Eventually you get tired of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, so you log off. You put away the electronics and you’re left with . . . your own thoughts. Terrifying.
When I flashback to new year’s eve 2014, I think about the optimism I had. I had just broken up with “the love of my life” (spoiler: turns out, not actually the love of my life) and I was devastated, but I was hopeful. Damn, was I hopeful. Although a little nervous about it, I was excited about being single and learning to love myself again after a relationship that had left me insecure and lost.
I was getting asked to speak and sing for middle and high schoolers about mental health issues, and I was excited about that, too. It was everything I had ever wanted to do with music: help others heal.
And musically, I was on cloud nine. I was set to go into the studio the first week of January with a producer I admired, a band I was excited to work with, and songs I was so ready to release. Music was going great, and I was elated.
Flash-forward a year later and I’ve never been so confused about music or its role in my life. The new songs are still out there somewhere, wherever unfinished songs go to rest. Maybe an unfinished song limbo of sorts, probably providing the soundtrack for all the socks that go missing when you do laundry. Who knows if they’ll ever be seen again, and honestly I’m not even sure at this point if I want to see them again.
My identity as a musician has dwindled to the point that I don’t even consider myself a musician anymore. Once wildly in love with music and how it made me feel, I’ve found that in 365 days music turned drastically from being my biggest outlet and source of comfort to being my greatest source of anxiety, and I’m ending 2015 on the lowest musical note (not really trying to make a pun, but I’ll go with it) in recent memory.
I am still single 365 days later, although I’m incredibly happy about it and much healthier (emotionally) this year. I’ve re-learned how to love myself and have stopped searching for romance. I have become maybe a little too independent (another life lesson I’m learning from this whole foot thing) and I’ve adopted the infamous Taylor Swift attitude circa 2014 when she was all “I’m never dating again and I’m done with men and it’s just gonna be me and my cats in NYC forevs.” Except I’m allergic to cats. And NYC drives me crazy. But other than that, basically the same thing.
A year later, and I’ve lost my identity as an athlete. I won’t be able to participate in sports until after months of rehab. But then again, as I’m sitting here having my little new year’s eve pity party, I realize that maybe I missed the key word in that statement . . . “until.” I can’t participate in sports until . . . Until. The word itself inspires hope.
It means that this is not forever. It means that I am lucky. This was not a career-ending injury. I will be able to run again. I will be able to play soccer again. I will be able to shower standing up again (although to be real for a sec, seated showers are kind of amazing and why aren’t they more of a thing?).
So, there I have it. Temporary. This situation is temporary. 2015, although kind of shitty, was temporary. And a lot of good did happen in the year. I met a lot of amazing people that I want to be in my life for a very long time.
I learned to let go of dreams, and people, that maybe were not meant to be in my life at all. I learned that some people may say they believe in you, but that’s only because it sounds nice in the moment. I learned that words and actions are two magnificently different things, and that I’m tired of people who say one thing and do another. And I consequently learned to stand up for myself, and for others, and to walk away when necessary from the people who are unable to support their words with appropriate actions.
Maybe this is all a gift, then. One big ugly beautiful gift. Because while I might be sitting here in pain, isn’t it the most painful moments that inspire the most healing? I could have opted to avoid getting the surgery, but it would have left me with a semi-functioning, highly arthritic foot, and in my twenties I would have been done with athletics forever.
So it turns out the pain, although highly inconvenient, is also highly necessary. Maybe in the same way, the lows of 2015, though highly inconvenient, were necessary. Maybe they were necessary to get me to 2016. To make me appreciate what’s coming next.
Because if 2015 started with an optimistic high and ended with a slow, steady, downward spiral that landed me in my dad’s chair on December 31, to the lowest point of the entire year (so melodramatic, I know, but cut me a break I’ve been trapped inside by myself for days), then why can’t the opposite happen? Maybe 2016 has no where to go but up.
When the clock strikes midnight and it becomes January 1, I will still be in this freaking chair. I will still be in a crap-load of pain. I will still be lonely. And I will still be confused, sad, and a little (OK, a lot) depressed. But, what if the lowest point of my 2015 is also the lowest point of my entire 2016? What if instead of a downward trajectory, I spin upwards towards the highest I’ve ever been?
What if on December 31, 2016, one year from now, I’m sitting somewhere thinking about how fan-freaking-tastic 2016 was and how grateful I am that I started it at the very bottom? What if each day of 2016 I only get stronger, healthier, happier, and more of myself than ever before? If that’s the case, then I’m glad this happened. I accept the low in pursuit of the high. Just not the drug kind of high . . . dude, that was horrible.
So then, here’s to new beginnings. Or a beginning that looks a whole lot like the end, but really is a gateway to something bigger, better, and more wonderful. 2015, I can honestly say you really were not that great. But nonetheless, I am grateful for you. Thanks for everything.
I spend my Mondays through Fridays taking care of my niece (3) and nephew (2), and it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn from them. Every day they provide me with some new insight on how to live a better life and be a better person. Lately it seems their lessons have been getting bigger and better, and the following are just a few of the many they’ve been schooling me in as of late:
Lesson One: Little kids have the right idea when it comes to approaching everyday life.
Each morning, they wake up excited to get the day started. Not only are they excited to see you, but they’re also just excited about life in general. Everything that happened in their lives the day before is long forgotten, and everything to come in the day ahead is a mystery that they don’t bother themselves with trying to figure out. They just live right there in the present moment, and are excited about that moment.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that little kids aren’t exactly happy about every single thing that happens to them. The claw mark on my face, an unfortunate result of my nephew’s opposition to nap time, is a very clear indicator of that. I’m just saying that they don’t let the negative keep them down for long. Give it time and they will be right back to their cheerful, happy, over-zealous selves, ready to laugh, play, and jump on top of you. (And fully willing to forgive you for making them take the nap in the first place.)
Why can’t I be more like that? I’m never going to be happy about every single detail in my life, but so often I let the negative parts of life rob me from fully experiencing or enjoying the positive. Even in my happiest moments, there’s always that dark corner in the way, way back of my mind reminding me that there is some task left unfinished, some relationship unresolved, or some situation un-figured out.
Even when I’m not consciously thinking about it, those nagging problems are always there, keeping at least a small percentage of my brain tuned in on them at all times. I spend so much of my time either living in the past or looking towards the future that I forget to just stop and focus on the present moment as it is. I forget to be excited about life.
I want to wake up in the morning excited, not for what the day will bring, but just excited for no reason at all. I want to wake up smiling, simply because I like life and am grateful for another day to live it. I want to embrace each moment as it comes and fully take it in. And, if that moment happens to be horrible, I want the attention span of a two year old and the uncanny ability to sincerely forget about the incident 10 minutes later.
Lesson Two: Little kids have the right idea when it comes to being themselves.
I’m presently sitting in the living room with the kids. We’re watching Elmo sing about snowmen and we’re having a pretty fantastic day. My niece is wearing a Cinderella dress with a USA soccer jersey on top, flower shoes on the wrong feet, and broken, bright green Mardi Gras beads around her neck. She’s holding a half eaten banana in one hand and a half eaten waffle in the other. She doesn’t care that she looks kind of ridiculous (although very, very adorable). She’s just dancing around the room and laughing like a hyena with golden curls that are covering her eyes and a smile that is literally taking up her whole face. She is completely herself.
If for some reason we had to leave the house, she wouldn’t even think twice about stepping out in her mis-matched ensemble. She wouldn’t want to change and, honestly, why should she have to? Her outfit makes her happy. It is unique, funny and silly – just like her – and would tell people that she’s comfortable being herself in any situation. Her actions are not controlled by the thoughts of other people, and her outfit isn’t either (although sometimes it would be nice if she kept on the outfit her aunt picked out for her).
There are very few people in my life that I can honestly say have seen me be 100% myself. It generally takes two or three times of me meeting a person before I feel like I can start letting my guard down, but even with most of my close friends, that guard is still partially up. Not even everyone in my immediate family truly knows me completely freed from inhibitions.
I used to hate this about myself and think of it as some weird personality defect that I would always have and never fully understand. But this year I’ve been learning a lot about myself and have been digging down to some pretty deep places and uncovering demons I forgot even existed.
I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well and have finally understood why I am so guarded around so many people and, remarkably, I’ve stopped hating myself for it. I’ve taken a lot of steps towards breaking those walls down, but I know I still have a long way to go – which is why watching my niece dance around today has been so refreshing to me.
Not many people have the courage to be completely themselves in every single situation, but those people are inspirational.
When you live life afraid of the judgment from others, you end up letting those people control your life. It’s none of my business what other people are thinking about me and, honestly, if I want to walk outside in a Cinderella dress with a soccer jersey and flower shoes on, why shouldn’t I? Other people would probably stare, but then again, maybe it would give them the courage to do the same.
I’m so lucky to get to spend so much time with these kids and so blessed to be their student in the art of living.
Now I’m going to go learn some more and dance like a crazy person with my niece.
Oh, and one more thing:
Don’t Forget To Love Yourself.