Honesty Will Never Break You Or, No. It OK. Don’t Be Cry.

About a month ago, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino/Troy from Community/NOT Danny Glover’s son/NOT Spiderman because people are assholes/The inspiration behind Toofer on 30 Rock) Instagrammed a collection of hand-written, deeply introspective notes.

gloverbetter

And the internet lost its collective shit.

Because that’s what the internet does best. It’s basically a fainting couch. With kittens. And porn.

A lot of people expressed worry, some called it a craven publicity stunt of sorts and at least one comment I read wondered if dude was ghostwriting for Drake.

Personally, I just saw it as a guy having a pre-dawn moment of honesty and deciding to share it with the world. One of those rare, “You know what? Fuck it” moments where you pull the lever, hit send, buy the ticket or jump the stall.

Maybe that’s why people lost their shit. Because seriously – when was the last time you saw that kind of honesty online?

Internet and I are like me and Mrs. Jones, right? We got a love thing going on. I Facebook, I Tweet, I Tumble, I Instagram, I Yelp and I blog.

And all of these social media outlets are a generally accurate reflection of the person I am but they’re certainly not close to resembling the whole picture.

I write about the good stuff – high-end gin, how the bassline to Seven Nation Army is a jaguar stalking its prey, how Raylan Givens is the greatest character on television and seriously, are you fucking kidding me? You’re still not watching Justified? Dude. It comes back in January. You have plenty of time to catch up.

You know – the Holy Shit, I Love You stuff.

I don’t write (much) about my personal life, my fears and insecurities or how a Sherman Alexie quote had me tangled up in blue for a solid three days.

But maybe I should because it’s honest and as a writer, shouldn’t I constantly be fumbling towards honesty?

And hell, maybe I should just because it’s okay. It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to write about it. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

One thing struck me about Glover’s epistolary – “You’re always allowed to be better.”

I like that. I like the promise that encircles those words. You strive towards the hope that you’re not the person you want to be yet…but you will be. It comes back to my boy Fitz because it always comes back to my boy Fitz – “Tomorrow, we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther and one fine day…”

I’m not as brave as Glover. I’m not quite willing to bare my soul…but I want to get there. I want to be more honest. I want to be brave. I want to be better.

So, in that spirit – the Sherman Alexie quote that got me all wound up?

He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day. Choice: that was the thing. ― The Toughest Indian In The World

I’m not brave enough to say why. Not yet. But I really hope one day, I will be.

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The Purpose Of Our Lives Is To Be Happy Or, It Ain’t No Sin To Be Glad You’re Alive

I’m not a superstitious person.

Ladders and lucky numbers, black cats and breaking legs don’t really mean much to me but there’s one quirk I just can’t seem to shake.

Every time I drive through a yellow light, I kiss my fingertips, press them to the roof of my car and make a wish.

It’s always the same wish too.

I wish to be happy.

(That whole superstition about not telling wishes for fear of them not coming true? Don’t believe in that either)

The older I get, the more I realize that happiness is a choice and some days, you have to make a concerted effort to be happy.

I never used to have to work towards happiness. Dudes, I’m a cute girl from the suburbs with an awesome family, friends who are always down to get tacos and I live in walking distance of the public library – what’s not to be happy about?

But then, I smashed headfirst into adulthood, realized that life isn’t parfait and came to the jarring conclusion that happiness is a choice.

Some days, making that choice will feel like flossing with barbed wire because it’s easier to throw on your hoodie and crawl into bed and just…not.

And that’s fine. You can do that. As my girl Drea says, “It’s okay to be sad.”

But, you can’t live your whole life under the covers. Well, not unless Ron Livingston is under there with you (I’m sorry, Mrs. Livingston. Your husband is a very attractive man. One day, I will stop talking about him, but until then – let’s look at him!).

burgerberger

There’s a whole world out there – juicy and ripe and beautiful – and you’ve got a place in it and seriously, fuck anything trying to deny you of that.

And for me, making that choice means being more conscious of the little things and finding joy in tiny moments that unfold before you. Trust me – I’m a little thing myself. Who would know better?

I’m not trying to get all New Age bullshit on you and tell you go outside and revel in the marvel of nature and approach each task with joy because let’s face it – there is no joy in pumping gas. It’s a pain-in-the-ass chore that nobody likes and everyone is forced to do and oh my God, why don’t I just buy a Prius because spending this much in gas every other week is legit hurting my feelings at this point.

But I am saying that be more conscious of the shit that makes you happy and when you come across it, take the time to fangirl/fanboy the fuck out about it.

See? Zero New Age bullshit. Mostly because I can’t see Deepak Chopra cursing this much.

Last week, I fangirled the fuck out over the following:

  • Hearing That’s The Way Love Goes by Janet Jackson on the radio. I was so excited about this that I immediately texted Dana with a message that contained way too many exclamation points.
  • Dana texting me with all caps lyrics from Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Because if you’re gonna call someone, “the hottest bitch in this place,” it’s only right that you unleash the fury of all caps.
  • Seeing a rainbow while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on 95. When everyone is an asshole except for you and you can only see concrete and steel for miles, seeing a rainbow is like hearing poetry for the first time.
  • Avocado-jalapeño salsa at Tacos al Carbon. I don’t understand how ketchup is the most popular condiment in the country when something as glorious as this exists.
  • The fact that I’m writing again. The fact that I’m staying up late and forming sentences while soaping up in the shower and tapping my toes to tap into the rhythm of what I want to say.

I like that person – the girl in love with the world and I think if I start paying more attention, I could be that girl again. Or at least closer to it than I have been lately.

You don’t have to be satisfied with every aspect of your life. No-one is. Not even those bitches on Pinterest with their glittery crafts and those photographs that look like they came straight out of an Anthropologie spread. Especially not those bitches on Pinterest with their mason jar cocktails and their perfectly messy buns.

But you do owe it to yourself to try. To shoot for happiness in whatever form that may take. I mean, all the stuff that you’re unhappy with? You can change it. You know that, right?

You start off taking these infinitesimal steps and before you know it, you’re Usain Bolting towards joy.

You deserve to be happy so do it. Find what makes you happy and embrace the fuck outta it. Pursue it relentlessly. Just…be happy. I mean, what else you got going on?

Simultaneously Enchanted and Repelled by The Great Gatsby Or, I Wanna Change My Hair, My Clothes, My Face

I am the first girl to hold out her fork and say, “Dude! This is so good! You have to try this!”

If I love you and you need something, I’m going to damn well make sure you get it.
Or a very close approximation of it.
Or a sandwich because dude, even if I did have Ryan Gosling’s phone number – I wouldn’t give it to you first. I mean, we’re friends but I’m not running for Jesus here.

As demonstrated above, I’m very selfish in a very peculiar way.

If I have a particular affinity to something, I’m reluctant to share it with the unworthy. It doesn’t take much but you have to earn your way to my favorite menu item and my most beloved b-side.

And that’s why I’m really worried about the fallout of Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby.

gatsby

The movie comes out on Friday – all bombast and bling. Slick and shimmery as Beyonce’s thighs and calm like a bomb. And with this comes the inevitable gaggle of idiots who get taken in by the, ‘Oooh pretty shiny!’, idealize Jay and Daisy’s romance and basically, take something I love and like it wrong.

Can you ‘like’ something wrong?
Yes.
Yes, you can.

I’m fully aware of the fact that I sound like a crazy person right now. I mean, The Great Gatsby is a classic and it belongs less to be me and more to the collective conscience but I still think of it as mine.

I’ve written about it extensively, I own two copies (one of which lives in my purse) and when I miraculously have more body mass, I’m going to get that last paragraph inked on my flesh.

I love this story even though it’s been criticized as being nothing more than a glorified anecdote. A shivery wisp of a story we’ve all heard a million times – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy reconnects with girl, boy loses girl again – but there’s a whole other world that ebbs and flows within the confines of that cliche.

As much as I love the lushness of the language, my favorite thing about the novel is its duality. The notion that the very hope that sustains a man is the same that will eventually slay him knocks me out.

Only love will break your heart, right? Love will tear us apart. Love is a battlefield. Love is blindness. Love hurts, right? It wounds, it scars and it breaks your fucking heart…BUT hope? Hope will reduce a man to ashes.

Love pretends that it’s dangerous, but hope will drag you through hell before it kills you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear the entire time.

A couple of nights ago, I had a conversation about the novel and it got me thinking about reinvention, reinterpretation of self, how it’s never too late to start over and how The Great Gatsby really is the great American novel.

The blue-jean clad, hip-swiveling hero from Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark is James Gatz:

I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby, I just know that there is

Both men springing from platonic conceptions of themselves. Both sons of God, but while Springsteen’s jukebox hero spent his time twistin’ the night away with a pre-Friends Courteney Cox, James Gatz ached for Daisy and casually dispensed starlight to moths in the tenuous hope that she would grace his doorway.

God, is there anything more redolent of the American spirit than this? After all, what are Americans but conceptions of themselves? Children of God who don’t mold themselves in His image but rather their own.

Unlike Gatsby, I don’t regard the silver salt and pepper of the stars looking to repeat the past. If anything, I want to extricate myself from its gnarled roots and I hope this marked difference will spare me the elegiac tragedy that befell Fitzgerald’s high bouncing, gold-hatted lover.

However, I am fascinated by the idea of reinvention and living out your personalized runaway American dream.

My life is kinda up in the air right now and I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m buoyed by the same sense of extraordinary hope as Gatsby.

I don’t really have a plan and I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but I do know that if you don’t like something – you can change it and start over.

That I can be the person I want to be and live the life I want to live.

All I have to do is run faster, stretch my arms out farther and one fine morning…

Eager For Bread And Love Or, Hey Baby, I’m Just About Starving Tonight…

I’ve started reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

I’m one chapter in and this phrase jumps out at me.

Actually, this phrase pretty much leaps off the page, grabs my face and makes out with me like a Catholic high school boy, all hopped up on pent-up lust, Mountain Dew and Axe body spray.

“Dean just raced in society, eager for bread and love; he didn’t care one way or the other, “so long’s I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sumpin down there tween her legs, boy,” and “so long’s we can eat, son, y’ear me? I’m hungry, I’m starving, let’s eat right now!” and off we’d rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, “It is your portion under the sun.”

Was there ever a more apt description of the fire and freshness stored up in my ghostly heart?

Like Dean, I am starving for both bread and love and I want to eat now. Like right now. Like all the time.

My evangelical fervor for bread is well-documented and I’m pretty sure no-one wants to read another ode to the baguette (but seriously – a dab of creamy goat cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a sprinkle of sea salt, a diaphanous ribbon of basil and one perfect blushing slice of tomato eaten while sitting in the sunshine? It’s kinda perfect, right?).

As for being a girl in love with the world? It’s this dichotomy of being utterly effortless and being incredibly difficult all at once.

It’s tough because it’s so easy to get mired in the muck – work, money, the unfettered bullshit of the RNC, the unfettered bullshit of media, relationships and adult problems in general.

However, there’s a facility about it because this world is magnanimous with love. You fall in love with people you meet and the people you won’t ever meet. You fall in love with moments – the way the light dapples through the tree outside of your bedroom window and the way your dog sighs and rests his head on your lap. You fall in love with sound and images – the ice cream sweet calliope of Wouldn’t It Be Nice? by The Beach Boys and that great picture of Neil Armstrong and you fall in love with simple pleasures like taking off your pants when you get home or sleeping during a rainstorm.

You’ve got to hold onto that stuff. With both hands and a fierce, intractable grip. You’ve gotta remember it any way you can — I scribble in notebooks and all over my left hand, I take pictures, I reblog, I make mix CDs, I never shut the hell up and even though it helps me to remember, it’s not enough. It never will be. The world is entirely too vast and intricate for me to consume it all.

But it matters. Because here’s the thing – this world is beautiful and one day, we’re all going to die.

So while we’re here – this blink of time, this barely-exhaled breath of a moment – we should actively work to be in love with the world. It’s not easy but isn’t that what makes it worthwhile?

So, if you’re starving like I am – it’s time to eat.

Pass the bread.

Imagine There’s No Heaven/It’s Easy If You Try Or, We Are All Made of Stars

I don’t believe in heaven or hell.

Well, I find myself hoping for the existence of hell in regards to people like Jerry Sandusky, Chris Brown and people who block the intersection when the light turns green but I don’t really believe in it.

Where do bad folks go when they die? They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly but they don’t go to a lake of fire and fry either.

Heaven’s a nice idea – a place where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts – and part of me really wishes I believed in it.

I can see why people do and I understand the need to believe in something like this but honestly, I think the notion of heaven is a fairy tale for adults. A dulcet lullaby whispered under your breath to keep away the monsters under your bed.

I believe that death is final and when someone’s gone, that’s it.

There are no ghosts, there are no angels, there is no-one watching over you.

There is ash and there are memories. There are fading photographs and that is it.

I’m also getting to the point where I get irrationally angry when I hear things like, “They’re in a better place now.”

No, dude. They’re not.

And you know how I know that? It’s because they’re not at the table with me, laughing and eating a good meal. Do you honestly expect me to believe there’s a better place than that? Really?

Bukowski had a bluebird in his heart but my bluebird lives on my sleeve, merrily chirping and twittering away – “Don’t be sad.”

Bluebird from California is a place. on Vimeo.

So, my heart is a birdcage for a crow — black-billed and beady-eyed. He’s quiet for the most part and keeps to himself, but when he gets ornery? He’s a real pernicious little fucker.

However bleak this perspective may seem, I’m not utterly devoid of hope when it comes to the notion of the afterlife. I’m just…realistic.

Which is why I love the following piece by Aaron Freeman.

I do not believe in supernatural family reunions, pearly gates or a better place beyond. But I do believe in the first law of thermodynamics and that gets me through.

The notion that as was will ever be and that the people I love aren’t gone. They’re just less orderly…and considering how damn disorderly they were when they were around – this makes perfect sense.

You Want A Physicist To Speak At Your Funeral by Aaron Freeman

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.

Amen.

Love = Love Or, I Don’t Care Who You Love, Just Don’t Love Crappy Television Shows

Even though Augs is white and I’m Indian*, I don’t think of us as a mixed-race couple. The closest I ever get to it is in the summer when I tan to a warm, coppery brown and Augs burns to a rosy pink.

But every now and then – the reality of our life together hits me. Like it did the other day when I started thinking about Loving v. Virginia – the landmark civil rights case which overturned all race-based restrictions on marriage.

Fifty years ago, Augs and I could have been jailed in certain parts of the country just for being together.

We couldn’t have rented a hotel room, eaten at the same lunch counter or sat next to one another on a bus.

Fifty years.

That’s nothing.

My parents and every single one of my aunts and uncles were alive fifty years ago. Hell, music that I listen to on a regular basis (Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis, Green Onions by Booker T and McGs, Please Please Me by The Beatles) was created 50 years ago .

When I was born, we were a mere 20 years removed from institutionalized racism.

To bring it closer to the present – THREE years ago, a chowderhead justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to marry an interracial couple out of “concern” for their future progeny. Yeah, ‘cause it’s not like a biracial child has ever achieved anything great, right?

It stuns me. I mean, really? People still think like this? After all this time and how far we’ve come?

Then, I start thinking about all of the people I love in same-sex relationships.

It is utterly devoid of logic and human decency to say your love isn’t worth as much as my love because of the color of your skin, where you were born or who you love.

Hell, even Dick Cheney agrees with that.

DICK. CHENEY. Underline. Bold. All-Caps former vice president of the United States who Jack Donaghy may or may not have sodomized while under the influence of a weapons-grade narcotic.

I guess what it comes down to is the following three things:

1. I don’t get it. I do not understand how I live in a world where people actually espouse a belief system so bigoted and wholly stupid.

2. Some truths are so universal that a dyed-in-the-wool democrat and a Sith Lord former Republican vice president can see eye-to-eye on them.

3. If you don’t believe that everyone deserves the same rights, you are not a good person. Let me repeat that. If you do not believe in equality – you are not a good person and shouldn’t fool yourself for a minute thinking that you are.

I’m usually not one for posting YouTube videos here because well, I kinda hate them. BUT, this one is important. Just make sure you have Kleenex at hand.

* Seriously, I am the worst cultural ambassador for India….unless you want to know about good great Indian food. A nickel’s worth of free advice – always order extra tamarind chutney. Food…hell, life is better with more amli in it. Oh and in the interest of not being yelled at by Mom for giving out bad advice — don’t eat too much because, well..I don’t know why. I just remember being yelled at by every Indian woman in a six-mile radius when I started loading it up on my plate. Imagine being attacked by a swarm of shrieking pigeons clanking with gold jewelry. Yeah, it was like that…but worse.

There Ain’t No Devil, Just God When He’s Drunk Or, Remember When I Said No Proselytizing? I Meant That.

I say ‘Oh My God’ a lot, but let’s face it — he’s not my God now, is he?

The past couple of years have been veined with doubt and the odd sleepless night where instead of wondering why the short-form music video all but died, I ponder the epistemology of religion.

I know, right? A girl can’t lull herself back to the Land of Nod by fondly reminiscing on the wonder that is Guns ‘N Roses’ November Rain video?

Since my early twenties, I’ve tossed around the notion that religion doesn’t give you the answers; it merely stops you from asking the questions and the older I get, the harder it is for me to believe in a God. Especially a God outlined by most organized religions.

It just seems really implausible that there’s this omnipresent, omniscient thing out there and even more implausible that he’s listening to us and arbitrarily intervening in our lives.

It seems monumentally cruel, actually. God answers prayers to win Daytime Emmys and football games, but doesn’t intervene for starving children and women getting the shit kicked out of them by their husbands?

What the hell’s that all about?

I don’t want to throw my lot in with that.

You can give me the platitude about mysterious ways all you want, but it seems less a mystery and more the most vicious malfeasance I can fathom. I’m omnipotent, I’m omniscient and I ain’t doing jackshit to help you out. Ooh, watch the steel toes.

So then, when I’m good and deep into my sleepless night, I start thinking about other ephemeral concepts like fate and destiny and the everlasting human soul.

I want to believe in destiny. I really do. I want to believe that there’s a reason for it all and that it’s not just arbitrary chaos.
I want to believe in the soul. Mostly so when I listen to Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine or Bruce and the E Street Band’s Rosalita, I can attribute the feeling I get to something bigger than mere auditory joy.

But, I don’t know if they’re real and that’s the most honest thing I or anyone else can say.

Because no-one really does know.

Yet for some reason, that answer is unacceptable. Agnosticism is looked down on and pitied. Why?

Honesty is something to be lauded, isn’t it?

The quest for knowledge is admirable, wholly human and to be respected, but it seems the search for truth ceases and turns into blind acceptance when it comes to organized religion.

This is The Truth™
Well, why?
Because it says so in this book.
Oh well, in that case….

No dice. ‘Cause see, I have books that say wizards are real and that if you build a baseball field on your farm, you’ll be reunited with your dead father and that the answer to everything is 42 and none of that is true. It’s all fiction….well, maybe not that last one. Jury’s still out on that.

So, I don’t know and honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever know.

Let’s face it – better men than me have tried to answer these questions and are they really any closer to the truth (the real truth. Not the bullshit kind, but the kind with unimpeachable proof)? Not really.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop asking the questions. I’ll read and think and talk and maybe, I’ll figure out. I very much doubt it but I’m with Descartes on this one: If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.