Ataturk

Maybe freedom is worth the ones whom we love
To hop on a train down the Côte d’Azur
or to fly into Ataturk
is so much better than happiness
Sometimes I wish that I could be old
and skip to the part where love matters most
Or I pray for selfishness
Because different maps excite us
and that’s normal
But I hate normal because it hurts so bad

Stand It

How much does it hurt?
I miss the smell of his shirt
I’m too high on caffeine for this to work
Into you I ran
Open mic night champ
I can’t stand it
I wore short shorts
But I fell to the floor
When you didn’t want me anymore
You played shamisen, they’d never heard it before
You held down the floor with photos and videos
I want to go home
I must paint my face like the clown that I am
You bring me down, man
I don’t know if I can
Prop myself up with my own hands
Again and again you leave me out of your plans
And you don’t give a damn
I’m not worthy of your time or your text back
But you’re not worthy of my heart attacks
Come back

Amurrican Gurrl

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Okay that photo is not completely related to the topic of this post, but I thought that it was funny…

Sometimes, I like to pretend like I’m this global citizen- I mean, hello, I’ve lived and traveled in Europe, I’ve been to India, I read Al Jazeera for my news, and I can conversationally speak another language. Look at me. Yet, I am not immune to my own cultural upbringing and have noticed some particularly American behaviors in which I partake.

For example, I am currently eating scrambled eggs at 3:50 P.M. and writing this at the same time. Not only am I multitasking- a creation of the fast-paced American lifestyle- but I am doing to worst type of multitasking at all: eating and doing something else at the same time. Hell, eating and (sort of, does this count as work?) working simultaneously. While people in a lot of other countries actually sit down and have proper meals with their families, I regularly eat whilst writing, driving, cleaning, or getting ready for the day or to go out. I don’t always view mealtime as a way to relax and reconnect with my family- I too often see it as something to get over with so that I can accomplish more things. I also eat at really strange times of the day, such as now, and I eat breakfast foods at non-breakfast times. I remember regularly eating eggs at 5:00 PM in Paris and my host family thinking that I was really bizarre. Okay, that might be a bizarre thing to do in America as well…

I also drive everywhere, seeing as my attempts at biking in America are very stress-inducing. Sometimes, I drive places that are a few blocks away from my house. Actually, I do that all the time. When I lived in Paris and even Seattle, I didn’t have a car and subsequently just walked or took public transportation everywhere. In those places, there was infrastructure and a culture that made a car-free life, for the most part, effortless (totally effortless in Paris, doable in Seattle). I live in a culture of cars now however, so I drive. Not driving is hard, man!

Finally, I don’t know how many kilos I weigh, I drink hazelnut iced coffees at work every day (in Europe coffee comes in one of two formats: a shot of espresso or a cappuccino), I don’t put milk in my English Breakfast tea, I call it a “craype” and pronounce Ximeno Street “eggs-em-in-oh,” and I’ve been told that I may or may not talk like a Valley Girl…

At least I don’t shop at Wal-Mart or eat at McDonald’s? Fuck, I had McDonald’s fries last night… that I bought from the drive-thru and then ate in the car on my way home… they’re just so damn good!

True Happiness

I’m about to do some unabashed bragging/getting personal about my life, but I think that I deserve it because the last 6 months were nothing short of difficult. But now, I genuinely love my life. I live in a city that I love, and I’ve been letting go of people and situations that no longer serve me. I’ve been meeting wonderful new friends and people who inspire me to be my best, happiest self and artist. I’ve been letting go of trying to live up to society’s expectations and have been living my life for me. Things now seem to fall into place effortlessly. I feel happy in this here present moment- not “when I move there,” “when I travel there,” “when I quit this job,” “when my yoga certification is over,” or “when I get this boyfriend.” I’m loving the journey and not the destination, because y’all, there is no destination!

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The Plight of the Cyclist in America

Today, in the mood to be active and eco-friendly, I decided to ride my bike to yoga class and other errands that I had to do in lieu of driving. Instead of the universe supporting me, I was honked at about 5 times and even had one woman physically get out of her car when we were at a stoplight to inform me that I was blocking the flow of traffic. Why? I was doing what is called “taking the lane,” wherein a cyclist rides in the middle of the far right lane instead of the far right of the far right lane. According to California state law, one is supposed to take the lane when there is no bike lane and there is not enough room in the lane for a bike and a car to be side-by-side. Have you ever encountered riding your bike in the far right of the far right lane, and a car will scarily try to go around you by being one foot into the next lane and one foot away from you- as opposed to properly switching out of the lane in order to pass you? Yeah, it’s scary and unsafe. Taking the lane prevents this from happening, so that vehicles that want to pass you must do so properly. 

Riding around on these Southern Californian streets, lacking in bike lanes and not wide enough for a vehicle plus me, I took the lane- and confidently so! Yet, I was apparently a nuisance to all of these drivers who are unaware of the law and/or dislike cyclists who “impede their flow.” Instead of encouraging cycling, which tackles global warming, rising gas prices, and American obesity, cyclists in the U.S. are bullied out on the road and put into dangerous situations; I certainly feel less inclined to ride my bike now, knowing how ruthless and unaccommodating motorists are as well as how few bike lanes there are in my neighborhood. I also forgot to mention the fact that I had nowhere to lock my bike at any of the places that I went to today- I had to improvise by, in one instance, locking my bike up to a pole that was in some plants, and then another time to a gate that caused my bike to block the entrance to yoga class. It’s hard out there for a cyclist. (Check out this video that a Dutch man made about this topic, where he describes how much more accommodating The Netherlands are to cyclists than the U.S. is

city-biking

Why do Americans- and Southern Californians in particular- love their cars so much? Yes, Southern California is very spread out and suburban, and for someone living in a suburb that is far from his or her work, riding one’s bike or taking the bus for an hour plus is not always feasible. Don’t even get me started on our pitiful public transportation system- wherein going somewhere that takes 15-20 minutes via driving is oftentimes 1 hour or more on two different buses. We in the greater Los Angeles area thus know how much harder it is to ride one’s bike instead of driving; simultaneously, we are supposed to be so eco-friendly and health-conscious. Yet, again, instead of encouraging cyclists for their eco-friendly and health-conscious behavior, people in giant SUVs regularly whizz by scared cyclists just trying to do the right thing.

Ultimately, being a physically active and happy person in America is not normal. I read a fantastic article in Experience Life magazine on this topic- how, given that “2/3 of American adults are overweight or obese,” and, “the top-selling prescription drugs are meds for blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, and heartburn — all lifestyle-related conditions that can be greatly improved or healed through lifestyle changes,” and “about 70 percent of us regularly take at least one prescription drug. More than 50 percent take at least two,” it is literally not normal to be healthy and happy in this country. Our “new normal” is being overweight and on a prescription drug or two for blood pressure and depression. Thus, a person trying to be more active by riding his or her bike is quite radical and a threat to the overweight, angry people sitting in their cars. 

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Yet, what is particularly interesting in this article is how the author, Pilar Gerasimo, frames it as a sociological problem instead of a “if you’re fat, then you’re lazy” problem. She says, “What does it mean that our society reliably produces more unhealthy, unhappy, vulnerable people than healthy, happy, resilient ones?” As Krishnamurti once said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” 

So, if you are trying to ride your bike out there and feel hurt or angered by mean motorists, just remember that you are the one making a positive change for yourself and society- and they are not. And you are quite brave for navigating streets that have little to no bike infrastructure! Go you! 

How to Deal With Anxiety

I typically think of anxiety and depression as being on opposite ends of a spectrum; on one end, there’s depression, which is exemplified by the image of being unable to get off the couch- that life is hopeless, pointless, and shitty, and there’s nothing that one can do about it. On the other end is anxiety- being unable to sit still, feeling an incessant need to control life, and ultimately having a physical fear response that is too big for the event that triggered it. Interestingly enough, anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand.

Anxiety is thus a fear-based affliction. Our bodies have a fight-or-flight response when we sense danger; back when we were cavepeople, danger was a lion about to eat us. Today, danger is our boss needing to meet with us or a loved one dying. Loss in particular triggers a fight-or-flight response because our environment as we knew it is completely changed. Avigail Abarbanel has a whole article about how our brains find a change in our environment as being an imminent threat to our security, and thus respond to it in fear. Thus, although no lion is about to maul us, a big loss will still release a ton of cortisol and adrenaline into our bodies. 

When we don’t deal with our emotions, the cortisol and adrenaline have no way of being released. They sit suppressed in our bodies, manifesting themselves in other ways, both mentally and physically. We might notice that our breathing is more shallow or our heart is pounding; we might notice our thoughts racing or that we wake up in a panic thinking about everything that we have to do that day. We might notice that, all of a sudden, we feel kind of funny while having lunch with friends; that we feel disconnected from the scene or even from reality. We worry that we’re going crazy. Yet we fear being alone or having free time- it makes us feel antsy or panicked. All of these aspects might manifest themselves into a full-blown panic attack. 

A lot of people are told to deal with anxiety and panic attacks by using deep breathing or other relaxation techniques and mantras such as “I am safe.” These are important- however, they only treat the symptoms of anxiety. Deep breathing treats the symptom of shallow breathing. “I am safe” treats the fear of going crazy or suffocating or having a heart attack or needing to go to the hospital. A lot of people recommend yoga for dealing with anxiety; I, in fact, am currently doing training to be a yoga teacher and can attest to this. However, my one beef with yoga is that I feel it can be somewhat emotion-denying. The vibe that I sometimes get when reading my yoga texts is that “thoughts, emotions, and the mind are bad. You must conquer the mind.” Conquer the mind? How violent! Not properly allowing yourself to feel your emotions is really unhealthy and is what fuels anxiety. 

Thus, my own personal mantra whenever I’m feeling anxious is, instead, “What is the root problem?” If I’m driving on the freeway and all of a sudden I start to feel weird and my breathing becomes shallow, I ask myself why. I don’t try to force myself to calm down or berate myself for feeling anxious over a task as simple as driving that billions of people do every single day. I ask myself what’s really upsetting me. When the answer is, “My dad died and my boyfriend, who helped me to deal with my dad’s death, broke up with me, so now I’m feeling pretty abandoned and like two huge aspects of my life are missing. It’s a tough reality to adjust to,” that calms me down. It calms me down because I realize that those are huge and legitimate reasons to be feeling my ultimate, underlying feeling- which is sadness. Then I allow myself to feel sad, and sadness is not a scary feeling like anxiety is. Then I feel better once I let it out. Anxiety is a feeling that masks an underlying feeling. Recognizing and allowing oneself to feel the underlying feeling and thus release it will release anxiety.