The Secret to Lifting your Mood No Matter What

Kasia and I getting our sing on

It’s been a stressful few weeks.  Work has been crazy busy. I’m stressed about my first ever marathon on Sunday and praying I don’t do anything like trip and fall off the 163 bridge. I’ve also decided to put my whole self out there and truly live my dreams –  but with that comes the risk of failure…a stressful assertion indeed. Then you can add the average life stresses like sibling quarrels, bills and landlords. Frankly, I’m tired.

So I was driving to work yesterday and I was trying to decide what to listen to. I’ve lately been listening to a lot of talk radio and inspirational speakers. I have a pretty solid rotation of NPR, Dave Ramsey and Tony Robbins going, who normally cheer me right up. But that morning I was all….”Sh. Stop talking.”  I just wasn’t in the mood.

Fussy and a bit annoyed to be driving to work anyway, I plugged in my iPhone and started scrolling through the music. I drive a piece of shit car, so I use a cassette tape adapter that plugs in my MP3…that being said the sound quality is about as good as tin foil being stuck in your ears.

But I came across some music I hadn’t listened to for a while. I hit play, turned it up and to my surprise the little speakers-that-could actually reached the decibel level I was looking for without sounding like the aforementioned tin foil ear. And that’s when my inner Tina Turner let the air around me have it.

It was just the song I needed to hear – semi-pointless, included electric guitars, some yelling, a bit powerful, and gave me the platform to simply belt it. Loudly as I drove 75 mph on the 5, I sang:

“I’m tired, so tired.

I’m tired of having sex (So tired)

I’m spread, so thin

I don’t know who I am…

 

I’m beat, beet red,

ashamed of what I said (What I said)

I’m sorry, here I go

I know I’m a sinner

but I can’t say no (Say no)”

(Weezer, Pinkerton, 1996)

I’m not tired of sex, but I was tired that day, that’s for sure. I made the choices to be where I am and I’m not sorry, but I need to vary my outlets for releasing the pressure once in a while. And turning up a song I listened to in high school brought me back to those formative years of reckless freedom, unsure where I would wind up or what I would do. That whole Pinkerton album can do this.

So what I am saying to you is – sing! It is the one trick that I always forget about, but once I rediscover it, my world is healed.  I am by no means a great vocalist, but I do come equipped with a voice. And that’s why the best place for me to sing with all my soul is in the car. There is nothing like it in the world to turn up the volume, and give that song everything you have.

Now there is a risk…people might see you. I think that is one of the benefits! Don’t be afraid to be that person. First of all, being concerned with what strangers who zoom by on the freeway think of you is a problem, and overcoming it can bring a new sense of freedom. Self expression doesn’t need to happen in a vacuum.

I’m not the only one who believes in singing. In fact, there are real health benefits to it. Some of these include boosting immunity, alleviating stress, lung benefits and breathing easier. Fantastic, right?!

There is a caveat – you can’t just sing with your throat. You have to, in order to get these benefits of release I’m talking about, sing with everything you have so that the air comes from your belly. Your diaphragm should be moving up and down as you take in and release air. Open your mouth wide and enunciate.  There’s likely no other time in the day that your lungs will fill with so much air as taking in those deep breaths and releasing those exhales. That’s why smoking and yoga have been found to calm people – it’s not the carcinogens or the downward facing dog, but it’s breathing deeply. Singing provides the same benefit, and is in my opinion, more fun.

So friends, I challenge you today. Sing! You may have already arrived at your destination for the day, but you will likely be traveling somewhere else at some point today or this weekend. Find time to sing in your car. Turn on a song you haven’t heard for a while but you know all the lyrics to and makes you feel good. It certainly picked up my week, and gave me the momentum I needed that day. And today is an easy day to get your sing on, it’s Friday, so here’s the perfect song to get you started.

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Sex begets Babies, Discipline begets Discipline

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Alright, alright, so discipline is not a very sexy topic, so I snuck sex into the title like a devious little writer searching for an easy hook. Sue me. In the next paragraph you’ll realize you won’t get nuthin’.

Allow me to brief you on the latest.  Since my last post 10 months ago, I’ve been hustling like a hustler.  I decided in October that $71,000ish dollars of debt was unacceptable foolishness and it was time to get my shit together.  I’ll have you know that next month I will have knocked out all of my consumer debt totaling $22,000, and will only have those tyrants that are students loans to go (yes I can hear you cheering Dave Ramsey).

But a weird thing happened when I decided to quit spending like a moron.  I started to shape up in other places.  Shortly after I began my yes-I’m-carrying-a-flask-to-the-bar-because-I-won’t-buy-the-house-wine journey, my already decent work ethic kicked up a notch and my boss noticed. Got a raise.

I woke up a couple months later and decided…you know what?  I’m going to run a marathon.  After all I used to be a sprinter, maybe this time I just won’t stop at 100m. And now 2 half marathons and a 15k later, I am just about ready to run that full marathon on June 2nd (insert internal alarm bells, “why am I DOING THIS?!”).

I started to become a better girlfriend.  I call my mother more. I even bother to walk my dog once in a while.  Ok, ok, so far I’ve just been marching to my own parade here, but what I’m saying is that WOW.  This. Feels. Good.

But on Monday I got thrown off my giant Joni-shaped parade float.  Every morning we have a company meeting called a “standing 10,” where we talk about the happenings in the company. It’s kind of like a grown up show-and-tell regarding both business and personal endeavors. So our ever-so-trendy graphic designer decided to pipe up to share a personal win.

Meekly yet excitedly she offered, “Welllll, this weekend we finally shot my video! It’s been a long road but it was awesome. Our videographer came down from LA, had a makeup artist, lights production, it was really full on…I’m excited about it.”

Everyone cheered happily and rejoiced at her accomplishment.  “That is so awesome!” piped our data entry girl.

“We have our own in-house celebrity!” shouted my boss.

And me? What did I do?  I smiled and followed along as a good actress would, but I couldn’t shake it.  Those green bony fingers wrapped around my heart, holding back true happiness for her and instead turned me inward to focus on myself and my own short-comings.  The jealousy that enveloped that moment was shocking and disconcerting, violently shoving me into the reality that I live in.

What is wrong with me?? I’m not a singer. I don’t want to shoot music videos. OK fine, if all the Beatles came back and decided to shoot a flashy reunion video and implored me to be their muse, I suppose I wouldn’t decline.

But why couldn’t I be happy for her?  Wasn’t I trying hard enough? After all, I’m in control! I have my life in order, I’ve survived my 20’s without going to jail, I’m a success!

It’s not enough.  I’ve come to realize, it’s just not enough.  Paying the bills is just being an adult. Exercising is just being sensible. Having a steady day job is how I am participating in society, and yes, reaching the dream of buying a house. But I’m just not devoting the time to the things I truly LOVE.

Were you ever asked by a high school or college career counselor, “What would you do if you weren’t paid anything for it?”

For me, the answer is to write. I just fucking love to write.  It’s the thing I love to do when no one is watching.  I remember in grad school a professor told us that the worst part of putting together a research paper was the writing, and I was genuinely offended.  Could she possibly mean that people really enjoy the researching part?

The truth is, I never enjoyed the research, but I love the art of the written word.  It is what makes me a true artist.  And that is why I didn’t go on for my PhD. That is why I was overcome with jealousy the other day – because she was pursuing her artistic expression and her dreams were coming true. All the while mine sat quietly in the catacombs of my mind.

“Well no more!!” I say.  I saw a meme posted on Facebook, I dunno, 4 months ago that said something like, “I have friends that spend their weekends partying and living it up. And I think to myself…what exactly is it that you are celebrating?”

See the truth is, after college, you feel as though you have arrived. The time to relax has come.  We do what we want, spend what we want, get married, have babies, whatever it is that you want.  But what tends to take the back seat to all of those things are our dreams. Those desires and talents that sit silently waiting for you to return and spend time with them.

And achieving those dreams sometimes take discipline.

Maybe you played guitar, or the flute.  Maybe you painted, or thought about learning how.  Maybe those Instagram photos you shoot so “likeably” reveal that you really should just get that SLR and do it.

What I am saying is that the time is now to spend time with our dreams.  There is plenty of time to work the day job. Exercise. Budget. Fall in love.  But I hope that those reading this don’t fall into the same trap that I do again and again in my life.  I abandon my best friend who has always been there for me.  My writing.

Therefore I ask – what is your dream?  And if you’re not actively pursuing it…why not?

One-nighters and Cocktails vs. Marriage and Babies

*sniiiiiiff* Can you smell that? I can from my living room. Tuxes, cakes, flowers, crazy aunts and drunken uncles…that’s right, it’s wedding season.

Chances are very good that most of you this summer are getting married, attending a wedding, are in one, or irritated you aren’t invited to one that, damn-it, you should be.  Fortunately this year I am only participating in one (congrats Shannan & Micah!!!) and I am pleased to say I even made the cut for bridesmaid!  I’m truly honored and excited….22 days and counting. ❤

But it does make me think.  You’ve seen this meme going around, yes?

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I’ve even found a Facebook group supporting the cause: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Everyone-I-know-is-getting-married-or-pregnant-Im-just-getting-awesome/126569300696716?v=wall&ref=share.

Let me preface with, I am very happy for my married/getting married/baby having friends – I do plan to be like you one day.  But as for the rest of us…is there a countermovement?  Counter-typical-life-progression?

You know what I’m talking about.  The cycle goes like this:

High school -> College (aka partying) -> Get a job (partying not happen in college? Insert partying here)   -> Get married -> Have babies

According to a myriad of studies, somewhere between 80-90% of Americans will marry.  Oh and by the way the rate of divorce is declining.  Some suggest that the rate of divorce is declining because people are trying harder (bullshit), but the most supported hypothesis follows that people are more careful in choosing a life mate and are therefore waiting longer before saying “I do.”  This is tangibly evident according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which demonstrates that the average age of those exchanging nuptials have significantly increased.  In 1960, the average age for men was 22.8 and for women, 20.3. Compare that to the latest report from 2009, with men at 28.4 and women, 26.5.

I’m not the first to speculate what is going on here. We all know that the women’s rights movement has allowed women with more career opportunities than the past, and therefore don’t require someone to take care of her financially. (Don’t celebrate yet ladies, we still make only $0.77 to every $1.00 a man makes).  Mass media depicts life other than the nuclear family, from Mary Tyler Moore to Friends to Parks and Recreation. Finally another reason can be that various forms of birth control have allowed us the ability to choose when we want to have children.

But I think a very strong, less discussed, reason we are waiting is that many of us Generation X and Y’ers grew up watching our parents’, or best friend’s parents’, messy divorces. We vowed to ourselves, “I swear to God, that will NEVER be me!”

So we react. How do we prevent divorce? Marriage is “forever,” so how do we fix what our parents messed up?

I know I reacted early when I went to a church that prescribed what the divorce-free marriage would look like.  If I went back to the Biblical roles of men and women, that is the man is the head of the household and the woman submits, then she will be taken care of and he will have the satisfaction of leadership.  Ergo, they are fulfilling their gender duties and will never divorce. I have since divorced and been exiled.

While my experience with this divorce remedy ended poorly, this church is not the only one to offer this solution, and also argue that it must have been my fault that it didn’t work out. Many bloggers and average joe’s/jane’s alike have joined in the idea that marriages in the 1950’s were the ideal of divorce free marriages. These supporters suggest that women should be less focused on themselves and their rights, and rather be sweet and submissive to men because men need respect and the leadership role. THEN marriages would work better. I suppose that’s not…entirely insane…

So there’s that solution to divorce.  But I think a more prevalent reason why we are waiting to marry is the idea that marriage brings, dum dum DUUUMMM….age.  And in an era where plastic surgery is a normal commodity, mainstream media revel in the joys that we had getting drunk on the Jersey Shore, as well as our oh-so-glorious high school and college years.  You’ve heard it, college is the “best time of your life,” right?  Well those of us over 22 are in big trouble….the best times have already been had?!

Enter the trending “quarter-life crisis.”  You know you’re old as shit when you hit 25 right?  RIGHT?!  If you didn’t, well now you do, that especially goes for you chicks.

Grasping for youth, all around me are people terrified of growing older.  I see it especially living in Southern California.  “Peter Pan” syndrome, as it has been coined, is where no one ever wants to grow up and embrace adulthood’s ostensible responsibilities.  I mean, yuck, who likes bills?

But wait!! You are fiiiiinally the one who gets to call the shots!  You get to CHOOSE what bills to take on. No teachers, professors, parents commanding your every move. What the hell is wrong with that?  Why are we so obsessed with our early 20’s? Is it the casual sex? Drunkenness? Lack of responsibility? The unknown? Sure those things can be fun, I’ll give you that.

However I argue that post-college is when the real fun begins.  You have your own spending money (hopefully).  You get to live where you want.  The mood-swings have (again, hopefully) subsided. You have options and choices and the chance to fall in love with another person.

And YOU get to choose who that is. They can be as hot as you want!  Well, and, of course smart, funny, witty, you know…but also hot!!

I’m not getting married any time soon, don’t get me wrong.  But when/if I do, that level of love and commitment, I contend, can nowhere near be rivaled by a line up of [shallow] men/women texting all day and Sex-and-the-City-esque two week “relationships.”

Yes, babies are loud, smelly, messy and sometimes kinda gross.  But I think, I THINK, they’ll be pretty fun.  Going to the zoo would be more entertaining with a toddler that’s never seen an elephant, right?  Having a little one who you get to teach whatever the hell you want?  Ooooh the possibilities…(insert plan of world domination).

One-nighters and cocktails are fun. The latter of which I am the first to say is a great way to spend an evening out.  But the giant M-word is not something we need to fear, and no it doesn’t automatically make you old and dead to the fun part of the world.  So to that, congratulations to all of you who this summer will take on a new Mr. or Mrs. you.

But as for me, whether babies, marriage, one-nighters (haha, no) or cocktails are in my future, I can honestly say that the greatest times are yet to come.  I’m 28 dammit. Whether you consider that young or old, it really doesn’t matter because the truth is, I’m only getting more awesome.