Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Get in the Ring

I've alway wanted to be a yoga girl. So gorgeous and serene with their long limbs and bendy bodies. Believe me, I've tried. I can never seem to stick with it, though. Instead, what I have found really speaks to me…is kickboxing. I've been training for almost a year now and I still get as giddy as a kid on Christmas when I nail a roundhouse kick or add height to my jump kick. I find I am never more fully present than when I am concentrating on my jabs and crosses, and never more pumped than when I pound an uppercut through the pad. 
It also helps that I work out at a women's kickboxing gym. We are all friends. No one wears Lulu Lemon. No one wears make up. We get sweaty, we laugh, we egg each other on, and we high five after a particularly grueling workout. 
And while I've never had to exercise my skills in a dangerous situation, I'm hoping muscle memory kicks in. And kicks the crap out of whomever chose the wrong person to mess with. 
I do get in the ring, though. 
Every day. 
Every day that I choose the life that makes me happy. 
Every day that I write. 
Every day that I show up to work out, whether I feel like it or not. 
The point is to show up. 
At the gym. 
In life. 
This is my zen. 
I'll never be a hapa goddess…but I'll settle for a happy warrior. 
- XO,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Diana's Super Awesome Guide to Getting Past Depression and Getting on with your Life

Recently I went through a tough time. The kind where you question everything, you cry a lot, you feel incredibly sad and lost. It lasted about a week, which when you are depressed, feels like forever. Fortunately, I have incredible family and friends that listened, offered advice, came over and made me tea (thank you Angela), and in general, sat with me in my pain, assuring me it would not last forever. And they were right. I remember when it lifted. I'd been writing and painting for days, letting the crap feelings wash over me and then wash away. Finally…all of that stopped. And I was still there. I was ok. Better than ok. I was calm. My mind was clear. 

That's when I initially wrote my guide to getting out of depression. It was sort of tongue in cheek and yet every single thing I listed, I credited with helping lift me out of my sad state. And then...I chickened out. How could I possibly post that? Then everyone would know I'd been depressed. That I'd been sad. Falling apart emotionally. No no no. That's just too scary, too vulnerable. But…it bothered me that I was taking the easy way out, maintaining the facade that everything was fine, when in reality, it had not been fine. I was perpetuating the lie that depression was something to be ashamed of, to hide. 

The reality is, we all go through tough times. We all get depressed. The lucky ones have people to turn to, with whom to share their pain. Others have to soldier through it all by themselves. This is not right. This stigma attached to vulnerability and sadness and depression is wrong and we need to change it. I know from experience, I have resisted asking for help because I thought it would make me look like a loser. And yet when someone has enough courage to come to me and tell me that they feel crappy, I jump at the chance to support them. 

The reality is, sadness and pain are part of the authentic human experience. It's how we deal with them that determines how they affect us. If we avoid or deny these feelings or self-medicate them away, they may go underground temporarily but they're still there. Eventually you will have to deal with them. However, if you allow yourself to feel them fully, explore them, and then resolve them, you'll find these feelings, this pain is liberating. I know that sounds crazy (but it should be obvious by now, I've stopped fearing being thought of as crazy), but they may mean you are letting go of and mourning old thought patterns or ideas about yourself that don't suit you. You are rewriting your life. You are moving on to a life that actually fits. 

That's why I felt calm after the storm clouds lifted. I'd dealt with the feelings that were plaguing me and dragging me down. I'd slayed the dragon. Onto the next level. 

So without further ado, here are my silly guidelines. I present them to you because I want you to know that it's okay to feel sad, to deal with depression. You're not a loser. You are not a failure. On the contrary. You are a fighter. You are alive. You are human.

And you're going to win this fight. I'll help you. I've got your back. 

Diana's Super Awesome Guide to Getting Past Depression and Getting on with your Life

1. Wear pajamas. A lot. All day. I write in my pajamas. I read in my pajamas. I paint in my pajamas. I think I do that because I feel rebellious. I like flouting societal norms. And one of the most radical ways to flout societal norms is to choose to be happy and do the things that make you happy. Wearing pajamas means I'm comfortable and living my life on my own terms. If you think that's stupid, that's cool. It works for me. 

2. Walk. Walk everywhere. Walk around the park, up the hill, to the library. Walk walk walk. Getting in motion gets you out of the hole of depression. When you have to put one foot in front of the other, it forces you to stop dwelling on the sad shit. No time for that because you're walking, people!

3. Recognize that no matter how awful it feels to be depressed, it's actually stripping away the bullshit and drama and crap and loads and loads of unnecessary expectations and obligations we force upon ourselves. A brush fire burns away the old, the dead and the useless, creating fertile ground for new growth. When you're at your lowest, you're at your most raw and the old stories just won't work. That's when your truth emerges. You can't cover it up anymore. You are free. 

4. Listen to Nina Simone. 

5. Write. Write everything you're thinking and feeling. Without rules or grammar or fear. Write wild. Write raw. Write your most ridiculous thoughts without judgment. Once it's all on paper or in your computer, it ceases to hold any power. They're just words. You can put them on permanent time out by shutting the journal or shutting down your laptop. 

6. Drink lots of water. Seriously, this one habit has helped me more than I every expected. By drinking water, you hydrate your body - you look better, you feel better, and you're less likely to feel lethargic or unmotivated or sad, which is absolutely crucial when you are depressed. Plus you don't eat as much which is great because the last thing you need when you are depressed is to feel like you're getting fatter as well. How many times did I tell myself not only am I a loser, I'm also fat. Yeah, that does wonders for easing your pain. So drink up and drink often. 

After doing all of these, you should begin to feel a little less like shit. When that time comes, it's time to write a new story. Your biography. Begin with the end. You know, where you win at life. And then work backwards. 

-XO, D

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do what you Love. Who cares if you suck?

When I was around 4 or 5 years old, I remember my sister screaming and running back into the house from the garage. She'd seen a rat, a most amazing thing for me at that age.

What did it look like, I asked. What did it do? Did it squeak? I was fascinated, obsessed even.

It was angry, she said. Angry??

To placate me, she drew the rat. Round ears, pointy snout, paws, and long, thin tail. Definitely angry.

I memorized that drawing and replicated it. Over and over and over. I constantly drew angry rats, that same rat, on every paper I could find. Rats rats rats.

A few months later, I finally branched out and began drawing other things. And I never stopped. For years, I drew on anything I could get my hands on. Paper, newspaper, brown paper bags from Publix. My mom would bring home reams of used dot matrix printer paper for me.

If there was bare space, it became a canvas.

I drew cats, dogs, horses, whales, all sorts of animals. There was a unicorn and pegasus period. I drew people. I became addicted to Archie comics and drew the redhead and his waffle hairdo, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, the whole gang.

I won my school's t-shirt design contest in elementary school. I participated in the zoo's art competition, drawing giraffe and zebras. To this day, it remains one of my all time favorite memories of being with my mom, running to make the deadline for submitting my art, flying by emus and gibbons, laughing breathlessly the whole way back.

I created floor plans for the house I eventually wanted that included a grand spiral staircase and about 10 bedrooms (I've since downsized my tastes).

I painted. I sculpted. I worked with thread, yarn, paper mache and glitter. Damn, I loved glitter.

Throughout those years, I believed I was an artist. I was an artist because I loved to create. I never doubted my talent because it brought me joy and that was enough.

The drawing and creating dropped off around high school, a little more in college. An uptick in my early twenties as I discovered photography and the meditation of working in a darkroom, the anticipation I felt as I slipped the white photo paper into the solution, and images appeared, as if by magic, images I'd shot days or even weeks ago, hoping I hadn't totally screwed them up.

As more and more of my attention and energy went to building my career, little was leftover for creative pursuits. I had no time, I lacked inspiration. There were late nights and early mornings at work. Groceries to be bought. Homes to be cleaned. Laundry, litterboxes, errands.

My creativity was reduced to those nights that, after a couple of glasses of wine, I'd draw elephants on placemats or any available friend's arm. Or dolphins. Depends on the friend's taste. I take requests.

I'd wander into art supply stores, lingering by the paints, examining brushes. It made me happy just to be around those things.

My need to create was still there. But my serious side had snuffed it out. Who do you think are, those mean voices would ask. You seriously think you're an artist? It's not like you're Picasso. You're not a real artist. You just doodle. And your paintings are so basic. You suck.

I'm sad to say I listened to them for a long time. I never mentioned my doodles and drawings, because I thought, who cares? I was afraid of being judged. It's not like I'm good at it or anything. I just do it for fun.

As if that's not enough of a reason. As if that should not be the ENTIRE reason that we create. I've finally come to my senses and realized that the things that bring us joy are the most important things we should be doing. Yes, we need to pay the rent and buy groceries and all of that other stuff, but what are the things we do that delight us? That bring us back to ourselves?

Recently I had the desire to paint again. When I took inventory of the supplies I had, I was startled to realize I had a box full of different sized brushes, acrylic paints in every color. Stencils, markers, and…GLITTER! All of these things, all sitting in a box that's been untouched for months, maybe even a year or two.

I bought a few canvases, an easel, and began sketching and painting. And there I went, right back into that amazing place where time ceases to exist, and the only thing that matters is what shade of brown to use, or which brush will give you the precise feather stroke needed to make the fur look right (Shocker: I'm painting animals). Hours later, I realized my arms and fingers were covered in paint, my canvas no longer white, and I was happy. Actually, no, I was joyful. I was so joyful, I didn't even want to go to bed. This was exactly where I wanted to be.

I was learning to play again. To find joy in creating. It mattered nothing whether it was "good" - just whether it made me happy. That's it. If others like it, cool. But this…this is for me.

Writing, drawing, painting, these things feed me in a way nothing else does. How long have I been starving?

What are the things that belong solely to ourselves? Is it our poems? Our photography? The piano, the guitar, the saxophone? Riding horses? How long have we neglected our secret gardens? Whatever we love to do, it may not be some BIG IMPORTANT THING…but it's ours.

If we nurture the seeds of creativity within us, we bloom.

-XO, D