Goodbye for now, Prague

I’m sitting in the airport awaiting my flight to Frankfurt, then on to SFO and home. It’s been a great week — difficult in some ways but also a week that I think taught me a bunch of things about myself personally as well as professionally. A week of growth!

This is an amazing place. At first, it almost felt like a utopia. Clean and efficient public transit, super safe, nobody harassing anyone on the street, yet with access to all the things that I enjoy in an urban setting such as beautiful architecture, cultural points of interest, and great restaurants. Also the cost of living here is so much easier compared to where I live. Most people speak English here as well, which just made things less complicated for me.

I have spent a lot of time lamenting that I cannot afford to purchase a home in the Bay Area. I also felt like there was no other place in the country (and I wasn’t thinking globally) that we could live and also be happy. I thought myself into being stuck with no options. After my recent trip to Santa Fe and even Chico, CA, I am realizing that there ARE other places that could suit me and maybe even give me a better lifestyle that what I experience in Castro Valley. Change is hard. It just is, but I am starting to think I’m brave enough to face it. I have thought of moving to another country when I was afraid of 45 getting a second term. Travelling to Prague has reignited that idea and it’s exciting to consider.

I know I’m a full grown adult, but coming to Prague alone was really scary for me, but I DID IT and I enjoyed it and I managed every challenge I faced. I sort of decided I wasn’t going to be embarrassed for asking questions or making mistakes or anything. That I was just going to be ME, and that included having to ask a LOT of questions to my much younger co-workers (kind of how Luca is always helping me with technology) and I just thought SO WHAT. So what if they think I’m a dork? Who cares? I didn’t particularly feel like they were bothered by me anyway, but still, so what? I was constantly self-talking myself internally (and sometimes out loud, lol) and reassuring myself that I could do things and it was all going to be fine.

I think we are all probably smarter and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. If I could figure out how to financially support myself and two kids on my own, I could surely figure out which train to take or where my gate is in a foreign airport. Right? Since the pandemic, I have been pretty isolated like a lot of us and this is exacerbated by the fact that I work from home. I have never gotten reacclimated into society since the closures. But this trip helped, and I’m staring to feel like part of the world again. I am reminded that most people are nice and helpful, and that even though I’m shy, I can ask for help. I am not helpless.

I did not do much sight-seeing at all (and for the record, my boss was like “you should have planned a longer trip so you could have had some fun.” Actually the CEO said this to me as well. Next time.) I worked really long hours and spent my time compiling information and solving problems. Hard but satisfying work. I was on a call with my boss yesterday and he gave me a fantastic compliment: he said that I clearly have an ability to make people feel safe and heard. This made me feel great. This trip was a success, even if I never got to the Prague Castle (everyone asked me daily if I had gotten there yet!)

The jobs I have had were never really my choice. I took my teaching role at OLG because I needed a job in short order when I left my marriage. I was interested in teaching (dance) and that job allowed me to work part-time at first with hours that allowed me to be with my kids a lot. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it — I did come to love it until I didn’t anymore. My HR job was just a fluke as well initially. I joined my company as a contractor thanks to a friend who worked there and they simply had no HR. They told me after a couple months that they could hire me full time if I would take on the HR role. I had no other big prospects (it’s hard to change careers when you’re 49) so I said yes. Almost everything I learned was from reading and trial-and-error. There was no one to train me. I don’t love my job, but I like it, and the parts where I help people I like a lot. I sometimes lament that I have often let life happen to me instead of driving my future (and I also try to be gentle with myself because this is complex, with self-image and mental health struggles preventing my ability to take action from a pretty young age), but I am proud of what I have accomplished professionally. The warm reception from my Czech co-workers helped me to feel like I’m doing something right, even from very far away.

I think I will be back here before too long. I need to bring Luca with me! And Miles, but I know that might be tough with his work schedule. There is an art school here that Luca could go to and it’s not even that expensive. There are options outside of my small world in the Bay Area, and it’s time to consider them.

Flight to Frankfurt has been delayed so send all the good vibes that I make my connection to SFO. Nashledanou for now!


May 21,2023

You guys, I’m in Prague. Yes, the person who made a wish after lockdown ended to travel more is currently sitting in the flat my company owns in Prague, Czech Republic. Here’s how it came to be. Due to shifting management needs at my company, the HR team now reports to a wonderful guy who is our VP of Finance. I work closely with him anyway and am happy to be reporting up to him. I have also been collaborating with and supporting our HR team in Prague since I came back to the company a year ago. It was determined that they should report up to me, so here I am to meet the team (who I already know from our many video calls, but this is next level!)

I left at 9:10 PM Pacific Time from SFO on May 19 headed to Munich. I would like to say that I was cool and composed about my first trip to Europe in 25 years (and also only my SECOND trip to Europe, truth be told) but I was less cool and more an anxious ball of stress. Once I learned I was going to Prague, which was about 3-4 weeks ago, I started having anxiety around it including but not limited to nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and just in general that panicky feeling that I might die in a fiery plane crash leaving my children orphaned. But missing among these indicators of stress are panic attacks. I have had none, and I am so grateful for this as one of my worries is that I would have one when I’m here, without Miles to help me come down from it. So not having one as I prepared for the trip was great and helped me get more comfortable with travelling 10,000 miles from my family alone. I actually worked through a bunch of my anxiety prior to the trip by asking my colleagues in Prague a million questions so I could be as prepared as possible for what to expect. It turns out this is the main thing that causes me stress in a situation such as this: not knowing what to expect. Which has caused me to think about possible spectrum-y things in my personality, which is another convo for another time.

Anyway, the flight to Munich was uneventful and included a woman pilot (awesome!) and a gross, cold breakfast (yucky) which I ate anyway because of hunger. Next was a 3 hour layover in Munich. I was very low on sleep at this point and did my best to keep my eyes opened to pay attention even if it was just the airport. I mean, I was in Germany, a place I’d never been! I had to figure out where my next gate was and take a tram and then get my passport stamped! Cool. I was feeling stressed (surprise?) about using my credit card abroad because someone told me that our US chip technology hadn’t caught up with what they use in Europe. So I decided to test this out by buying a pretzel and a beer in Munich. I felt like I should do something German-ish during my short visit. Chip worked fine, pretzel was delicious, beer gave me a buzz which was funny and also maybe not the best idea but whatever. Flight to Prague was only 50 minutes, and before I knew it I was on the ground reunited with my luggage (which was another huge worry and responsible for 50% of my intrusive thoughts about the trip).

Following my colleague’s directions, I went up a level from baggage claim and found the place to catch a Bolt, which is CZs Uber or Lyft. I was also told that the Bolt drivers are all Russian and do not speak English, and this was also true. Luckily the texting option within the app translates for you, so there was no issue and I had no problem with our silent 30 minute drive to the flat. Waiting for me at the flat’s front entrance was one of my colleagues, and I felt so happy to meet him in real life and also for the fact that he was there on Saturday night at 10:00 PM. He showed me around and left me to settle in. The flat is cute and totally European. Seriously, I feel like I’m in the Ikea catalog.

By the time I got myself situated, it was 11:00 PM local time. I was tired but so tired it was hard to fall asleep. Also I guess excited? Eventually I dozed off, but I woke up around 2:30 AM. I spent the next 5 or so hours resting, reading, walking around the flat to see what was in every drawer, etc. I noticed that cafes don’t open until 10 AM around here (except Starbucks, but I just couldn’t!) and the grocery store didn’t open until 8:00 AM, so I decided I’d try to sleep and to my astonishment, I did catch another 4 hours and woke up close to noon still feeling unrested, but that’s jet lag for you. I willed myself awake, took a shower and headed out for brunch. I found a place short walking distance from where I was staying and had a lovely meal while sitting outside people-watching.

I am not going to apologize for the hard-earned dark circles under my eyes. I had something called Turkish eggs and it included a creamy cheese and herb oil. It was very good. I also had an iced latte. It is 80 degrees out there and was glad I put on sunscreen! After eating I headed to a grocery store a couple blocks away so I’d have something for breakfast and snacks in the flat. It’s always fun to grocery shop in a new place. Below is my small haul, and I’m glad I didn’t get more because I only figured out at the checkout that they do not offer you a bag. Luckily it all fit in my rather large handbag.

Like a true Californian, I cannot live without avocado.

What strikes me personally is that while I am proud of doing this alone and rather enjoy my own company, it’s already hard not to have someone here to say, “look at that!” to. Miles and Luca would both love this place. Still, I am going to try to stay present and enjoy this great opportunity that has been afforded to me. I will bring them back here someday!

I am headed out again to figure out how to use the metro and walk around on this, my only non-working day!

Hello again! I had a lovely albeit sweaty and exhausting walk around the city. Because I am me, I decided I wanted to take the metro to the office today so tomorrow I would not have to worry about that. Times like these make me happy I lived in SF for so long and completely mastered public transit there. This was a breeze and the metro station is only 3 blocks away. People absolutely use public transit a LOT here. The trains were jam-packed during what I would consider non-peak hours.

Our office is located in what is called Old Town, and I wanted to walk around there anyway so this worked out perfectly. I found my way to winding little alleys with pubs and shops. Lots of tourists were in this area compared to where I am staying. I was neither hungry nor in the mood for shopping so I just walked and looked around. Here are some shots from the metro and the immediate area near the office.

As I began my walk home, my maps app kept taking me this way then that way and it seemed like I was never going to get back. I stumbled upon another metro station and to my delight it was my line and I figured out how to get back to my station. I was going to try this Czech place Christy had mentioned so I could eat meats and drink beer, but I was so tired that I just grabbed a Ceasar salad from a place nearby to bring back to the flat. Well, I got some meats anyway cause apparently they put cured ham on the Ceasar here. Yum.

Here are some more shots from my walk:

I did not visit the Museum of Torture.

I think that’s it for today. It’s 7 PM here and I need to wind down so I can hopefully get some decent sleep tonight. Thanks for reading!

I Wish I Could Stop Hating Myself

I have worked really hard at acceptance. Acceptance of so many things that I wish were different, and even acceptance about my own thought patterns which conflict. On the one hand, I have been programmed by a lifetime of negative messaging telling me I’m not enough or I’m wrong. On the other hand, I am smart enough to know this is all bullshit. Right? Why is it still so hard, even as I know these things? If someone has an answer, please tell it to me.

I’m going to New York in August. I’m super excited about this. Luca is coming with me, and we are meeting Stacey and Matthew there. Matthew is doing a theater intensive in NY! I thought I should do a little shopping for some summery things that I will feel really good in. If I have an outfit that makes me feel cute, I will have a much better time. I just know myself. If I feel self-conscious about the way I look, it will spoil my fun because I’ll be obsessing about it. I hate this about me (see “acceptance” above). I know buying a thing won’t fix what’s broken inside of me, but feeling cute in an outfit does have its merits. Because of COVID, I rarely shop other than online these days. I have recently had a couple of online shopping fails, so I decided to head out into the world and try on some things.

For this reason, I was at the Nordstom Rack yesterday with a friend. My friend has her own demons to conquer, and I had no problem telling her how great she looked in what she tried on, both because it was TRUE and also because her perceived imperfections did not negate the fact that she’s adorable. I tried on one dress — a dress that’s much shorter than dresses I usually wear and also in a very bold pattern that I am attracted to but also not sure I have the body for. WTF that even means, I don’t know. The dress actually fit fine and looked cute. I ultimately decided not to buy it because I didn’t like it enough (it didn’t make me feel that way I want to feel in an outfit) and also the sleeves were very poufy which didn’t appeal to me. But it was not anywhere near a dressing room fail, you know? My big issue was seeing myself in underwear and bra in the full length under florescent lighting. We all know this is the worst, the absolute worst. People have been talking about this and even making comic strips about it for ages. So why is it still so upsetting? I know what I look like. I know I am okay. I know I don’t have to be a certain way to be okay. Why do I not feel okay, knowing all of this?

It’s maddening, quite frankly. I hate that I am using any energy or brain space on this, and I also hate that I even feel the need to write this out. Maybe writing it will help me move past it? Can I ever move past it? UGH.

You know what? Aging is hard. I am so grateful for it, so grateful, truly, to be alive. But it’s still hard. It’s hard to have a head full of grey hair and look older than you feel. It’s hard to have your body break down and hurt in so many places. It’s hard to remember what it felt like to DANCE, to really dance and know you simply can’t do that anymore. We don’t live in a society that allows us to change, or encourages us to accept ourselves as we are, right now. Almost every person I know in my age range dyes their hair, for example. I am 100% supportive of this choice. I think people should do what they choose to make themselves happy. Seeing my face amidst a mane of grey hair is challenging for me daily. I honestly don’t dye it because I’m lazy. Menopause has completely changed my body and my metabolism (neither were super great to begin with). It’s hard. Will it always be hard?

I don’t think I’m a vain person. But I have a vision inside of myself of how I look. My vision is from about 10 years ago, I think. I am constantly surprised when I catch a reflection of myself. I am happier when I don’t look at myself at all. The picture of me in my head is better than the real thing. Is that sad? What does this mean?

What I do know is that I don’t want to miss out on things because I hate the way I look. I don’t want my looks or age or stupid hair color to determine what parts of life I participate in or avoid. I hate that some part of me is trying to adhere to societal standards for women that I have NEVER met anyway. If you were here in my living room, complaining to me of these things, I would tell you and believe it 100% that you don’t have to do this. That you are lovely and perfect and there are about a million ways to be beautiful. I would also tell you that your looks are about the least important thing about you. I do not love anybody because of their outsides. Nobody loves me because of mine. I know this. I know this. But still.

I am rambling and have more questions than answers. If you have any answers, do share them. xo

Fear and Letting Go

One of my earliest memories is being about age 3-4 in the swimming pool of my future high school. My mom enrolled me and Chris in swimming lessons when we moved to San Jose. I could not swim at all; I was afraid of water, I was afraid of pretty much everything. I was super shy and quiet and weird. I was in a “tiny tots” class. On the last day, we had to swim a short distance with our head under water from the side of the pool to a line made by a floating rope. We were supposed to swim in a straight line, and this was to be accomplished by opening ones eyes under water, a thing I did NOT do. I was afraid to do this, that just seemed nuts to me that I could do such a thing. So I faked my way through the whole class, pretending to open my eyes under water. But there was no fooling anyone on testing day. My memory is me, coming up for air, all wonky and facing the wrong direction, no where near the end point where all my classmates had found they way. Everyone in my class got a PASS certificate except me. I was so embarrassed. I remember just paddling my way to get out of the pool. My mom solved this problem by never enrolling me in a swimming class again.

I wonder if she thought something was wrong with me. Did she worry? Did she wish I would fall in line like other kids? I know the feeling of this from a mother’s perspective, too. I do not have kids who have followed any typical paths. Almost every new skill either of them has learned has been hard-earned. I know the frustration as a mom, just wanting something to be easy for all of you. It can be exhausting. My mom was all of 25 when this happened, so I don’t really imagine she even knew how to handle a super sensitive kid like me. A few years later, my dad handled it by throwing me in a pool and then having to fish me out when I started to drown and then yelling at me. I definitely prefer my mom’s solution.

Are kids born fearful? Why did I lack confidence at such a young age? I wonder if I, like my kids, have diagnosable sensory issues (I feel like I do). In any case, I’m old now and I can see that fear has been a driver in my life for a very long time. I’ve gotten better at trying things and not just flat out avoiding things that make me nervous. I’ve worked to develop a flexible mindset instead of a fixed one. My job has pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and I feel like I’m thriving with the new challenges. Because I feel like the job is essential (I need money to support my family), I am able to push myself harder than I do in personal endeavors. Like the title of a book I read 30 years ago, I am able to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

I also try to be gentle with my kids when they struggle — I do not encourage them to avoid things like my mom did to me nor do I throw them in the deep end and get angry that they can’t swim like my dad. Patience is essential, and acknowledging that everyone is different and there is no one timeline for people to do anything. I can swim now. I’m not a great swimmer, but I do okay. I eventually taught myself as a tween in my grandma’s pool (at the clubhouse at her mobile home park). I still don’t open my eyes under water, though.

One thing I have done in the last several years to try to overcome some of my fears is to visit and reclaim places that belong in the part of my life I shared with Paul. For many years after my divorce, I avoided lots of places in San Francisco. This made me sad because San Francisco is a place I love, but at every turn I would feel his presence. I couldn’t take it. But over time I managed to visit and then enjoy my old haunts. Christy helped me a lot with this over the years. Miles too. I’ve been to all the places now: the Marina, Green Apple Books, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, The Cliff House. It’s all open for me now and I don’t have to avoid anything. It took a long time, but I try not to shame myself for that.

A couple weeks ago I went someplace that was still off-limits: the condo I lived in when my marriage fell apart. Technically it was in South San Francisco and therefore very easy to avoid. I have no reason to go to that city. But even driving by the freeway exit (Westborough) on 280 would give me the jitters, and I felt like it was time to put that to rest. So Miles and I drove past both condos we owned (in the same area) and then hopped back on the freeway and went home. I cried for like one minute and that was that.

Yung Pueblo, a writer I like, says that you have to let go MANY TIMES when something or someone hurt you a lot. Sometimes I’m mad at how many times I have to let go of Paul, but I’m also proud of how far I’ve come. I’m a different person now than I was 17 (!!!) years ago when I left him, but the person I was when I was with him is sort of stuck in time. That version of me is both gone but also exists somehow inside of me. I have thought about what was the breaking point for him — like, when did he decide that he was going to blow everything up. Of course I will never know, but I think things got really bad when I became a mom. I think for me, motherhood helped me conquer many of my fears and brought out qualities in me that were dormant. Maybe he didn’t like the badass mom I was growing into, but I actually like her a lot.


Do you think time is an elusive and precious gift? I probably couldn’t understand that when I received this letter in January of 2000. I was 30 years old and I’d say a “young” 30. Young because I believe some of my development had been delayed by depression. I was largely still pretty selfish and focused on myself and my immediate survival. I had no idea how much harder things were about to get within a few weeks’ time. By the middle of February, my mom would be hospitalized with organ failure which we learned was related to leukemia. On April 1, 2000, she was gone and my downward spiral accelerated.

I’m 53 now. The age my mom was when she died, and I can say without hesitation that time is an elusive and precious gift. Did my mom know somehow that her time on earth was dwindling when she wrote these words to me and my siblings? Even at the time, we found this letter to be touching but also ominous. After she died, we wondered if her gifts to us were a goodbye.

Can you ever get over your mom dying? Is that something that is going to hurt forever? How many times do we have to practice “letting go” in some way or another to keep on living? I have often thought of my mom’s death as tragic since she was relatively young when she died and she herself had said in the hospital that she had more to do. From my perspective, and surely the perspective of my family, her friends, and her students, her passing was untimely and unfair. For me and my siblings, there was the “before” times and the “after” times. A huge mark in our lives where everything changed.

That was almost 23 years ago. On this past Saturday, Stacey and I went to see Tyler Henry in a group reading at the San Jose Civic Center. I watched Tyler’s show on Netflix last summer and bought tickets right away, I was so moved by the way he helped grieving people. If you don’t know, he’s a psychic medium and is able to communicate with the dead. If you believe this or not is okay with me, but I do.

We were sitting in the balcony which I discovered on Friday when I went to view my tickets. I had bought them so long ago that I forgot this detail. I immediately thought, “he won’t read us if we’re in the balcony” but then another voice came in my head which said, “he’s got to ready somebody, why can’t it be you?” We were up high, in the second to the last row. With 2000 people in the room, our chances were slim at best. At the top of the show, he began his process of scribbling to channel the deceased, and said he was going to start with a basic one (my words, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but further in most of the people he spoke to had been murdered or suffered some terrible fate). He began by saying that it was an older woman, and then let us know that for him, “older” means 50 or over. He said this person is showing him a rupture, a spilling internally which caused issues with other organs.

This is how my mom died. So I was thinking, he might be talking to me. Stacey was dazed by it all (understandably) and I kept looking at her for confirmation but she was giving me none. Tyler then said that she was under medical care and needed surgery, and he couldn’t understand why she didn’t get surgery. This was also part of my mom’s story. Tyler gestured to our section, up high, and said he thought the reading was for someone in that area. I knew this reading was for me and Stacey. I raised my hand and was directed to a microphone. There were these giant screens on stage and I guess my face was in them, but although I was facing the stage, I could not really see myself. I was floating, not completely tethered to my own body. It felt nuts and I was just trying to hold it together. This is why we had come, and it was happening. We were first.

Tyler confirmed with me that I understood the things he had already said. I said yes. He kept gesturing to his abdomen, to the spilling, the toxins inside, the rupture. I confirmed that this is what killed her. He said she seemed to have some other, secondary health issue. I told him she had leukemia. Then, he said, “I am seeing 3 sisters.” Here is when the tears started. This was my mom. 100% my mom. He also said that it seemed like she knew somehow she might not have had much time left, and had done something that had made others wonder the same at the time. I said yes in agreement, thinking of the letters and the clocks.

The final part of the reading was Tyler telling us that she wanted us to know she was not afraid when she passed. This remark was particularly important to us because the last time we saw her, she was afraid and told us so. Knowing that she left the earth without fear is a huge comfort.

The reading, short and sweet, without sentimentality or fluff, was exactly like my mom. The fact that she went first also seemed on brand as she was very punctual and direct. She shared enough so we could be sure it was her, she left us with a statement that she knew we needed to hear and that would help us move on and away from living in the past.

Stacey and I both missed the next two readings because we were in an altered state. I could not process what had just happened and felt sort of like leaving and going home. But we adjusted and were able to listen in and get more confirmation that Tyler Henry is the real deal. What he gave to us and others that night was nothing short of miraculous. I am so grateful to have even been in that room and him talking to my mom is a gift I will never forget.

Neither Stacey nor I slept much that night, and a whole day later I am still processing. For me, some truths are coming up that I feel very strongly. It’s hard to put into words but I am going to try. My mom’s nonchalance plus the way Tyler described her death as “basic” have me thinking about needing to reclassify what happened. Not because it’s importance has changed, but rather *I* have changed, and I can now see it differently. I mean, her death certificate actually says “natural causes.” Having your intestines break and pour toxins in your body due to leukemia certainly doesn’t seem at all “natural,” but in the grand scheme, it is. I wonder if from my mom’s current perspective if her death seems like a big deal. My feeling is that it does not feel like a big deal to her. That from where she is, she can see that it just IS. Her life stopped when she was 53. It feels very unfair to us, those who loved her and wanted her to grow old with us and know all her grandchildren. I am not implying that I can now, with this new insight, stop my own pain over her leaving us. I cannot. But maybe I can work on letting go more. Maybe I can work on accepting more, accepting that her life was 53 years and some people get a lot longer. Some people get a lot less, too. I know this. I had my mom for 30 years. I loved her, I miss her, and I am going to keep on missing her. But maybe I can look forward more instead of behind me. Maybe I can spend more time in the stage of grief called Acceptance than I have previously. I am going to try because yes, time is precious and fleeting.


Hello and Happy New Year!

I decided on a whim to join a Daily OM writing prompt course wherein they will give me a writing prompt for every week of the year. I thought this would be a fun and motivating way for me to write more this year. The first set of prompts are around the theme of roadblocks. Here is my brainstorm on the initial prompts:

My main obstacle in life is time. I always feel like I don’t have enough of it, but I often procrastinate or self-soothe instead of getting things done that I want to get done. I am so tired, is how I often feel, and then I do nothing or I really stay inside my comfort zone.
My depression has also been an obstacle. It’s hard to thrive when you are only surviving.
Another obstacle is that I don’t even exactly know what I want. The main person to convince is myself. I don’t see myself as an ambitious person. And I don’t just mean in the work sense. I mean in the sense of grabbling life and going for it.
I do think there is a fear factor here holding me back. I fear failure, I fear success. It’s hard for me to see myself in a different light than the way I have always seen myself — kind of a misfit/loser.
And maybe THAT is my biggest obstacle. That I can’t see myself clearly. I am unforgiving of myself of past mistakes.
The biggest obstacle I have ever faced was being trapped (how it felt) in an unloving and abusive marriage. I left. I overcame it and then some, and I really should be proud of that.

I think there is a part of me that does want to grab life and go for it. I do this sometimes — I can be very spontaneous and in the past, that has moved over into “impulsive” and I have made some decisions that I am not particularly proud of. Is it possible to be thoughtfully spontaneous? Can we keep the fun in life while also making good decisions? I think so. I think we can be in the moment while also making choices that won’t harm us.

I think a lot these days about being in the moment. I am now 53 years old, and I have officially lived longer than my mother. I have so much to do yet, and I often think of what she still had to do and how she was robbed of that. I don’t want to squander any of my time. I want to be able to enjoy what I have, NOW. I feel that living a good life at the age I am is a way to honor my mom.

I would say that my anxiety and depression are currently “under control.” I had to put quotes around it because my issues are still there, I still feel them deep inside of me. But I am in a phase where I am not regularly smacked down by either of them for extended amounts of time, and the bouts I have seem to be shorter and more manageable than they have been previously. I think it’s probably due to a few factors. I’ve been trying to exercise on a consistent basis since the summer. My goal is to MOVE. If I say I will do _______ x times a week I will not do it. So I just try to move and most weeks I am reaching that goal. I do not believe at all in dieting, but I have found (since my diverticulitis diagnosis) that too many simple carbs make my digestion not behave properly, so I have made it a practice to avoid too many carbs and processed foods. I have also been taking psilocybin since July, and that has made a huge dent in my anxiety and for me, less anxiety = less depression. I hope all this will continue to push the needle from “surviving” over toward “thriving.”

I’ve learned that having the life I want takes work. I think I had wished for a long time that things would fall in my lap, as it seemed to go for others. I don’t actually know what it’s like to be somebody else, though, and I am starting to think it’s not super easy for anyone. Most people have something holding them back from moving in the direction of the life they see for themselves. I think it’s important to take hold of the things we do have control over, and I DO have control over my time, besides the part where I have to work. But that is still a lot of time in a week, and I get to decide how to use a lot of that time!

I’m trying to use less social media, and not because I think it’s evil or anything (it can be, like anything, but it can also be very great). It is a time suck for me, and I tend to scroll and scroll to avoid something else that would be better for me. I am open to any tips if you have them for finding the right social media balance. I used to read a lot, and in the past 5 years or so, that has taken a steep decline (with my increase in scrolling). Part of it is anxiety-related (due to 45’s presidency and my decrease in an ability to focus on anything happy), but it’s a vicious cycle that I am now working my way out of. I have a huge stack of books ready for me to read (I mean like 20 books. I am not kidding) and my stepdad bought me a Kindle for Christmas — it’s like a thing I didn’t even know I wanted but I LOVE IT. I am reading a book on it currently and it’s awesome.

So that’s a start. Miles and I are going to learn how to garden better this year. It is something we both have an interest in, and we also both have an interest in eating yummy food so it’s a win on all angles.

I don’t exactly believe in resolutions, but I get the new year being a time for renewal, and so maybe that’s how I’ll think of it. My sisters and I also pick a color of the year and a word of the year. My color this year is turquoise. I was thinking of the color of the ocean and the color of Lake Tahoe and the color I might want to dye my hair! So it’s turquoise for 2023. My word of the year is Accept. I don’t mean “resigned to” — I mean removing codependency and accepting what’s mine and what is not mine, accepting truths about myself and others in a loving way, meeting people where they are.

I would love to hear your color of the year, word of the year, or anything else you do or think about in the spirit of renewal and self-care. I wanted to share this meme that I saw yesterday because I think it’s joyful. Sending lots of love to you in 2023.

Memento Mori

Music seems to be a portal into the past for many. I know for me, a song can slam me right back to a moment in time which can bring equal measure of pleasure or pain. It amazes me how powerful this is. I am a person who listens to the same music over and over; I think this has to do with needing to be soothed and not surprised. I’m that person who has to start a song over if I wasn’t paying close enough attention to it, even if I’ve heard it a million times. I have to challenge myself to listen to new music (and I admit, the payoff of this is usually really great as well!)

Imagine the pleasure that my sweet and wonderful Luca likes a lot of the same music as I like. We recently went together to see New Order, a band I’ve been listening to since I was about 14 years old. It was incredible to hear this music with my 18 year old daughter by my side, both of us enjoying the experience in equal measure. The songs are all attached to memories for me. I remember one song because me and my high school friends choreographed a dance to it for our dance class (which we got to take instead of traditional PE). Another song reminds me of “Club X” dance parties I would attend, at the roller rink no less, when I was a older teen. I could go on… so easily transported to another place and time.

Pet Shop Boys were also playing at this same show, and I enjoy their music as well but not like I do with New Order. There is one song by them that I particularly love: Suburbia. They opened with this song, and when I heard the first notes, tears sprung to my eyes (you can guess this was not the only time this evening that I shed a few tears. What can I say, this is me.) Here is my Suburbia memory: I am a Senior in high school. I am restless and pretty disgruntled and ready to be done with this phase. It is a Sunday, and I want to get out of the house but have nowhere in particular to be. I get into my orange VW Superbeetle and head to Cost Plus in my hometown of San Jose, CA. This was a HUGE store with a giant and gorgeous costume jewelry counter. Places like this no longer exist. On the drive down Blossom Hill Road to get there, Pet Shop Boys are blasting on my stereo. Why did this mundane event land in my long term memory? I don’t know, but I carry that one with me and think of it every time I hear that song. The feeling I conjure when I think of that day is one of hope and everything being in front of me. I did not have any idea of how hard life could be yet, still so full of excitement and wonder about how my future might unfold.

Luca is also really getting into Fiona Apple, another artist that I really love. Honestly, her album Fetch the Bolt Cutters helped me survive pandemic isolation. Luca’s favorite, though, is also my favorite: When the Pawn… I adore this album, start to finish. This one evokes 1999, the year I often refer to as “before everything got ruined” because the following year my mom died, I had a miscarriage, and my marriage began to unravel. 1999 was a good year. I was working part time at SF Weekly and part time teaching dance. I had a dance company and we were doing performances now and then. I learned to tap dance at SF City College. I was 30 years old, married, a full on adult who was doing things. I was trying to get pregnant. Life seemed good. I had no idea what was in store for me in 2000. I got the Pawn CD from a local, new delivery service in San Francisco whose name I now cannot recall. But it was revolutionary for the time – you ordered online and within about 2 hours they would deliver CDs to your house. I only did this once, and in that order I got the Fiona CD and Beck’s Midnight Vultures. Why do I remember this so vividly? Maybe, like with the Suburbia memory, it represented a moment in my life where I felt like the future was bright? Like I, myself, was full of possibility.

I don’t share these memories with Luca. They seem dark now, knowing what comes next. I want her to create her own memories and not have her associations sullied with my baggage.

I am so much closer to Luca than I ever was with either of my parents. I am grateful for this relationship, but I know like anything, it is fleeting and I need to enjoy it while I can. She is growing up and will be establishing herself as an independent person before too long. I’m not saying we won’t remain close, but it will change like all things do, and I WANT her to go out and grab life and take all she can from it. Several months ago, she texted me from high school to say that she got two tickets to see Arcade Fire in November. Her art teacher let her take time from class to score the tickets because she was doing the same! I told Luca she could take a friend if she wanted but she said she wanted to go with me. So I have another night with my daughter to look forward to very soon.

When we got tickets to New Order, Luca joked that we better go see them before they die. We also decided that we would see Depeche Mode if they ever come around again because we love them and they aren’t getting any younger either. Since that declaration, one of the members of Depeche Mode actually did pass on, and we thought that was it for us, we’d missed our chance. So I was pretty jazzed to learn they were going on tour again, and had actually created a new album before Fletch’s untimely passing. Their new album will be called Memento Mori which means “everything must die.” This is some new music I will definitely be listening to, and get to look forward to another special night with Luca in March of next year.

And it’s true: everything must die, including the notion of how we thought things would turn out. It’s not possible to enjoy the present if your head is too much in the past or the future, for that matter. It’s okay to visit those places, but we can’t stay there and also reap the benefit of what is happening in front of us, now. I feel more and more as I grow older how important it is to be present and to enjoy life right now, as it is, as imperfect as it is. It is the only way to grab a perfect moment inside of that chaos, like hearing your favorite song or driving into freedom in that tiny twinkle when it’s all in front of you.

How’d Your Summer Go?

Hello. Back-to-school is here and for the first time in forever I do not have any children attending a K-12 school! Pete continues in his district-run transition program, but this is his last year there. Luca is enrolled in a local community college and begins her courses in less than a week. Unfortunately, most of the classes at the community college are online, but she’s going to give it a go and see how she likes it. She does have one art class that meets in person one time per week.

We were unable to spend time in Lake Tahoe this summer because our house flooded earlier this year. A pipe broke and basically destroyed the entire first floor of our house. The good news is we’re insured and will be able to get it fixed up, but due to the wildfires last summer, the insurance companies are very busy so it’s taking some time to get everything sorted. It feels funny to not go there as we go every year! And now that I’m working 100% remotely, I could go there and work! But I’m still really grateful for insurance and the fact that we had our amazing trip to Hawaii this summer so I’ve got no real complaints.

My new job is going really well. My “new-old” job, hahaha. It’s much different than it was before — good leadership and much more organized now. Working from home is really great for me and was just what I needed. I am more productive and am able to do a few things around the house when I need to take a break, thus making the evening go more smoothly. I’ve been exercising regularly because I have the time to do that now and still have time to relax a little. When I was WFH before, during the height of the pandemic, I was lonely because I never got to see any people in person besides the people I live with. But now I can see friends after work or on the weekends and actually leave my house! So this is a really good fit for me.

I am continuing to deal with my old frienemies, anxiety and depression. I tried to get a psychiatry appointment at Kaiser in June, but they could not schedule me for over 2 months. I have been fighting with Kaiser for years. I am always deemed too healthy for them to help me because I am “high functioning.” I have thought about lying through the screening process but I just can’t. I always think of people who are really much more desperate than I am not getting services because of me. I know it’s not technically my problem that Kaiser has failed us, but still. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Five years ago or so, I read Ayelet Waldman’s book, A Really Good Day, wherein she describes her journey with microdosing LSD to treat her debilitating symptoms of depression. I have thought about this ever since, and wished I had access to this kind of treatment. I have read articles about alternative drug therapies ever since reading her book. Then I noticed a series on Netflix, How to Change Your Mind,* by Michael Pollan. I have read his books about food and I like him (he and Ayelet are both local Berkeley people!) so I watched and became even more convinced that I needed to try something other than the non-responsive Kaiser network and then another series of anti-depressants that they would surely prescribe, along with a bunch of unwanted side-effects that always make me stop using them.

Did you know that psilocybin is now legal to purchase in some places? Oakland is one such place. Psilocybin is the chemical compound found in mushrooms — “magic mushrooms.” I am super sensitive to these kinds of drugs (anybody who has witnessed me trying thc edibles recreationally can back me up, it is not pretty) so I decided to try this with great caution and a lot of research. The doses come in a capsule, so it’s all measured out. I decided to try a dosing protocol where you dose one day, skip two days, and then dose again. It is also recommended that you take time off after a couple months before resuming, or a that point, just dosing when you feel off. I have been doing this almost a month now and my anxiety has reduced. It is not gone. But I had been having “mild panic” every day (I would be just sitting at my desk working and get this overwhelming sense of dread, no idea what the trigger is), now it is more like a couple times a week. I have had one nighttime panic attack since starting the protocol, but it resolved in a matter of minutes rather than in hours. Actually, I just remembered I had another nighttime panic attack or the beginnings of one when Miles was out of town. I actually was able to talk myself out of that one! So that is progress.

Also, if you are wondering, I feel absolutely no “high” from the psilocybin. I just feel nothing at all, and that is what I wanted. 🙂

*I really recommend this documentary series. Even if you have no interest or need in trying these naturally occurring substances yourself, the doc is really eye-opening regarding our own government restricting the American people’s (and by extension, the world’s) access to these drugs.

I am still crocheting for fun and relief. I have started sending out small scrunchie care packages to anybody who wants one, so if you would like some scrunchies, just let me know. I make them with scrap yarn and I enjoy making them and sharing them a lot. I am working on a poncho for myself – it’s almost done, just need to finish stitching the pieces together.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Wishing everyone a good start to the school year! xoxo

Two Diagnoses

Well, it’s been a crazy month, filled with so many unexpected circumstances. I left my job and went back to my previous company, with a start date of May 31. No sooner did I begin my new gig that I started feeling out of sorts. I had abdominal pain and some digestive issues, and something told me this was not a run of the mill virus. I finally went to the ER on the Friday of that week and was diagnosed with diverticulitis. This is a condition when your large intestine sort of develops a pouch on the side and food gets stuck in there, causing an infection. My dad had this condition as well. So I was not super excited about this diagnosis (who would be?) but was relieved to know what was going on. The ER doc prescribed me two antibiotics and said YES, I could still go to Hawaii the following week.

Travel day I was still not feeling 100%, but better. I was careful with what I ate in Hawaii but overall I felt pretty good and my health did not hold me back from having a wonderful time. I am so grateful for this reprieve, I feel like it was a small miracle now.

On the day we were to return to California, my digestive issues returned. I figured it was anxiety about the long travel day ahead and actually felt okay on the flight. We arrived home after midnight and I went to bed and slept about 6 hours and then woke up to get back to work. Digestive issues continued, and it was becoming clear that I could honestly not keep any food or liquids inside my body. I called for advice and was told to contact my primary doctor. She was on vacation and her office did not return my calls for a couple days. When they finally did, it was to tell me no one could see me. By this time, I’d been suffering for 4 days and it was only getting worse. Eventually, I called the advice nurse again and was given a video appointment with a different doctor on Father’s Day. That doctor said it sounded like c diff, and that he would order a stool sample (argh) but that the lab was closed and I could not go do this until the following day.

I continued to suffer at home, and by the following afternoon, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the ER, but it was super busy and I was relegated to a chair in the hallway. They took blood and I gave them the sample and I waited. The doctor said I needed fluids via IV but there was no room and they would not give it to me there. I waited 4 hours and then went home. I was super upset and felt very defeated, like I could not get anyone’s attention and no one was helping me. My condition declined that night and I went back to the ER the following morning. It was not so busy and they listened to me. The doctor called the lab and my sample had not even been processed yet! So she got them to do that and we confirmed that I had c diff. I was then admitted to the hospital.

I learned that you can get c diff, which is seriously the absolute worst intestinal infection available, if you have done a course of antibiotics. Basically, because all your “good” bacteria in your digestive tract is killed by the antibiotics, the c diff, which lives in you but is usually pretty quiet, gets its chance to proliferate. It is brutal. It makes it so anything you eat or drink goes right through you and you absorb zero nutrients from food. Dehydration is a definite. I think I have never been this sick. The treatment is more antibiotics and IV fluids. I am thankful my case was straightforward and I am responding really well to the antibiotics. I spent 4 days in the hospital and came home this past Friday and continue to recover at home.

You can see why I think not being ill in Hawaii is a miracle.

Miles did an amazing job of keeping our household going in my absence and providing support to my kids and me. My friends visited me and texted me and boosted my spirits. So did my stepdad! My wonderful sister, Stacey, drove all the way here and took such good care of me on Friday and brought me home. She also made delicious food for us. I am so grateful and know that I am loved.

Need a bit of a redo on my birthday, but I will take care of that once I’m fully recovered.

Moving On, Taking Risks

How long do you think a person should stay at a job when they know it’s not the right fit? This is a question I think about a lot, especially in my role as a recruiter. We call people with lots of short stints on their resumes “job hoppers,” but I admit that I admire people who go after what they want. It can sometimes be pretty obvious that a job isn’t going to be the right fit shortly after you begin. We can’t always up and go, though, cause we have bills to pay and insurance benefits to hold on to. It is rare to find a person who spends their career in one place, or even two or three. I think the younger generation are spot on in declaring that they won’t settle for something that doesn’t work for them and I think COVID has only put a spotlight on this thought. It is hard to find good employees these days, and that is because people got a taste of remote and hybrid work during the pandemic. We now know what is possible.

When I took my current role, I was excited to work in what I perceived to be an artistic industry. I was also just plain grateful that I landed a job after being unemployed for 7 weeks. But if I’m honest, I knew pretty early on that something didn’t sit right with me about this company and the overall culture. I also didn’t feel like I was getting what I needed from my boss, but I also know I am super sensitive so I kept telling myself I was overreacting. On paper, it seemed like a really good role for me. For a while, nothing obviously bad was happening, just a vague sense that this was somehow not the right fit. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then, slowly, issues revealed themselves. I noticed that my time wasn’t valued in the way I need it to be. I noticed I was expected to cancel appointments on my calendar with prospective vendors, for example, at the drop of a hat if certain people in my organization wanted to meet with me at the last minute. Perhaps this is common for some, but not for me. I felt my integrity was at risk, and that felt really wrong to me.

Eventually I noticed that we had zero “employee engagement.” As an hourly employee, I have a 30 minute lunch. This is barely enough time to do much of anything. There was no socializing at all. My superiors ate lunch at their desks. Some days, I did not speak to anyone at all, all day long, except for on the phone. I asked if I could work from home and my request was denied. I expressed disappointment about this and eventually a company policy was drafted which allowed me and my co-workers to work from home up to 40% of the time. But it was very reluctantly, and I imagine it was enacted for fear of me (and others) leaving. While I’m thankful they changed the policy, I felt like I had to beg for what most companies do as a matter of course. I felt that if no one was going to talk to me anyway, I might as well save the 2 hours it was taking me to commute round-trip, you know?

Around Christmas, a co-worker and I decided we would organize a holiday potluck and all sit in our lunch room (which no one was using, ever) together one day and share foods from our kitchens. I did not realize I had to have approval from upper management to plan such an event; in my last HR job, I did stuff like this all the time. When my boss caught wind of this, I was chastised several times. Even after I said sorry, she needed to make sure I understood what an error this was and make sure I didn’t try to do such a thing again. I was told that our Events Planner would be mad that I hadn’t “stayed in my own lane.” I had actually run my idea by the Events Planner for input, and she thought it was a great idea. My sharing this did not help my cause. I was told that the company did not want to sponsor such an event, and that we could go forward with it as long as it was clear that it was a personal event, not endorsed by the company, and that it did not cut into anyone’s working hours. I had no idea how to make this designation for an event that was to happen in the middle of our work day on company property, with our entire guest list being employees of said company, and invitations coming from my company email. My boss acted very surprised when I told her we were not going to hold the event.

This is just not the kind of company I want to work for. I understand that this might not matter to some, and that some people have thrived here, and that’s all good. It is just not for me. I also realized recently, thanks to talking with Miles about all this, that I just do not feel successful when I have no agency. I was a teacher for 12 years and had so much independence. In my other HR job, although it was not always ideal, I was able to own things and make some decisions. I was salaried and could manage my own time, for example. In this role, I am told what to do and then I execute that task. There is no “team” feeling here. I have felt really siloed and alone here, except for my interactions with the managers at other locations, whom I have been helping with recruiting. Those have been my best moments in this role.

After a “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment when my boss blamed me for her not proofing some very important work of mine due to the way I worded the email asking her to proof the work, I sent out a few resumes, fueled by rage. Unlike a year ago when I was looking for work, this time people replied right away (it is truly an employee’s market right now). I took a phone screen for a job I knew right away was not the right fit, and then a second phone screen at a company I admire. I was then scheduled for a 2nd call at the good one. I started daydreaming about leaving my current role and finding something that afforded me more freedom. I knew that I needed to be salaried and not tied to an exact, daily schedule. I also needed more than 7 days of vacation time per year and some flexibility.

To my utter surprise, on the day of my 2nd interview at the good company, I also got a call from a representative of my old company. The company that laid me off in April of 2021. They wanted me back. I talked to this person about how the company had changed — and it has changed a LOT since my departure. Many of the prior issues I had when I worked there before had been resolved, including major changes in leadership. And the amount of compensation they were offering me was a pretty huge increase compared to my current job. Also: possibility of international travel. 100% remote. A few days later, I spoke to my former boss — a boss I really enjoyed working with previously. I confirmed what I needed to know. She offered a few more perks. A day later we met on Zoom and I signed the offer letter after our call. Then I had to resign my current job, which I did on the same day. My current boss looked at me with disbelief. Mostly disbelief that they would pay me that much. She asked me some other questions that were none of her business but I answered. Friday is my last day here.

My old boss, who will soon just be my boss again, made me feel wanted. We talked about the changes in the company and how we could function as a team again, how we could support one another best. I know it won’t be perfect, but I think it will be better. And at least it has the CHANCE to be better, you know? I’ve been here less than a year by about 2 weeks. But I am so relieved that this chapter is almost over.