Archive for articles

clothing not optional

I’ve got a full day coming.  Three clients right in a row, class in the afternoon, consultant call in the evening.  I’m excited about all of it.  I love my work, my classes, and my business.

And I want today to shine, baby.  SHINE.

Not just glimmer, flicker, or glow. SHINE like midday on a mountaintop. DAZZLE like the Fourth of July over Manhattan.  BRILLIANCE and GLORY are the plan of the day.

And so as I was getting ready, I said to myself,

SELF?

and I said,

yessss?

SELF, YOU HAVE A BIG DAY TODAY. SO HERE IS MY RECOMMENDATION:

“GET DRESSED.  And do not wear anything you are not thrilled to have on your body.”

Oh!  I said.

I MEAN IT!

Okay.  What does this mean?  I’m barely awake!  Clothes are clothes….but…

And just like that, I picked a different shirt, different pants, a different bra, and different underwear.  I had been about to settle for an entire outfit that left me feeling…blah.  And I hadn’t even realized it until that moment.

Because clothes do not just make the man.  Clothes make the mood.  Bad clothes make you slouch, they make you sigh, they make you feel like whaleshit.  They leave you thinking, “no one will like me,” or worse, “no one will see me,” and that is the kiss of death.

Now I do not mean that you have to go all What Not To Wear on your ass.  You don’t.  I don’t care what thrills you, what you think looks good, what works for your time and place.  If you don’t want a push-up bra or skinny jeans, that’s fine with me.

But hear this: what you wear matters.  It matters to you.  And looking good will change your energy, your productivity, your sass, your swagger, your creativity.

So try it.  Today? Do not wear anything you are not thrilled to have on your body.  See what happens.

PS: don’t know your style?  I met Elsa Issac last fall, and she has it nailed.  Check out her article on spring cleaning and finding your style here: http://blog.elsaisaac.com/4-easy-steps-to-a-happy-clutter-free-closet/

homecoming

Holy moley. No, that’s not strong enough. Holy fucking shit. That was an amazing conference. There’s NO WAY I could have predicted that level of amazing.
Momentum (the first ever) just happened in Washington, D.C. and I was thrilled to be a part of it. We had fantastic speakers, great organizers, but most of all, everyone there was brilliant. Almost every conversation, every spare moment, every casual fleeting thought felt like the beginning of something big. I could write for a year from this one weekend.
Here’s what’s inspiring: so many people doing good work to make the world fabulous.
Here’s what’s moving: people balancing self-interest with the greater good.
Here’s what’s transformative: being somewhere where you don’t have to explain yourself.
I think it’s called fitting in, and we all want to do it. We all want to feel super-rockin-awesome about who we are, and not be questioned all the damn time about the choices we think are perfectly logical. It’s not about conformity, it’s about not having to think about survival.
See way back in the day, we had to think survival thoughts. And one big one was, “If it’s me vs. the tiger, I most likely lose and the tiger gets lunch. But if it’s eighteen or twenty five of me vs. the tiger, we have much better odds.” Which meant, “don’t piss off the other twenty four people or you will indeed be tiger lunch.”
When you’re able to relax about the tiger, you can do things like invent arrows and discover fire. You can make up words to communicate ideas; you can draw pictures and invent writing to pass on information even when you’re not there. Also, and maybe more important, your stress hormone level goes down and your pleasure hormone levels go up. You can safely make babies (or just have sex for fun!) so you WANT sex in a way that you probably won’t when it’s you and the cold hard world. There’s a place for creativity and sweetness and affection and invention. It’s space to grow and change. It’s space to take on other stresses–voluntarily–because the primary stresses are no longer in place. So you can decide what challenge you’re ready for, and go that way. Individual identities emerge.
That’s right, fitting in makes space for you to see yourself. You’re no longer one of 25 people scared shitless of a tiger; you’re someone named Jo who likes to cook mammoth and makes fabulous jackets from the hides.

Momentum was like that–we all relaxed about the tiger. Some of us live relaxed; some of us don’t have that luxury…yet. But at Momentum we were all relaxed together.

So personalities surfaced. Talents rose. Generosity and joy spiked. The workshops were awesome, the panels were a shiny shiny array of stars, but my favorite thing was the change in everyone there. We felt…good. Safe. Supported. Like we really could take on the world. Twitter and Facebook are good; email is a lifeline. But there’s nothing like looking into someone’s eyes and holding their hand.
Thanks, Tess and Diva, and thanks to everyone who presented and everyone who came. Here’s to 2012!

http://momentumcon.com

diving in

I’ve been living in Portugal for the last three months. It’s been awesome. Seriously.  And?   I can’t wait to get home and share my stories, because you’re going to love them.

There’s the one about going to the end of the earth all ready to see big crashing spectacles and seeing…nothing.

There’s the one about not looking like an outsider even when you are.

There’s the one about people-sized streets.

There are a ton more. And there’s this one.

I grew up on Long Island Sound. It was like half an ocean. There were waves, little tiny ones, and the water wasn’t warm but it certainly wasn’t cold. Fast forward to Maine. Waves in open water and COLD water, even through most of the summer, but most of the coastline is coves.

So coming to Portugal was my first real experience with consistent open-ocean surf. Some days it’s kind of placid, with little, well-behaved swells. But when there’s a storm the waves rise up and shout their names, crash on the beach, hit the seawall, and scare the surfers out of the water. They are HUGE.

And beautiful. And huge.

The funny thing about our beach here is that when you’re looking down at it from a distance, you have no sense of scale–there’s nothing in your line of sight to help you figure out how big the waves are. Then someone goes swimming.

So a couple of weeks ago the waves were crashing and a couple of friends of mine decided to go in. They stripped down and waded out. With every wave they paused, waited for it to wash past, and then kept walking. Between waves the water was down to their ankles, but even then the next wave would tower above them. They were tiny, barely visible in the rush and crash of the surf.

And when they were out far enough that they had to swim, they began to bob along, treading water, paddling out, treading water…

and I noticed something.

There was only one way to keep moving out to sea.

Swimming, floating, treading all meant that the wave carried them back in, farther than they could get out.

But when they dove into the wave–hands first at the base where the water curled–then they popped up on the other side, free of the current. It made a pattern: swim, swim, dive. Pause. Swim, swim, dive.

Inch by inch they made it out, past the breaks, into the water. And then–only then–did their long, clean strokes get them anywhere.

Sometimes, going with the flow is perfect. But when the flow isn’t going where you’re going, fighting it doesn’t work. Diving in does.

kissing at halftime

I never made out under the bleachers. With anyone. That just wasn’t the kind of high school life I had. (I did make out with someone under a piano in a church once, but that’s a different story.) But I knew people who did; I saw them. Under the bleachers and in the stairwell and around that one corner by the elevator that only kids who broke their legs got to use, they touched and kissed and generally had much better things to do than study.

I didn’t really envy them at the time,(hell, I liked to study) but they knew something important: good sex is not all about intercourse. In fact, there’s a hell of a lot of pleasure to be had right in front of the irritated and helpless hall monitors.  Kissing, touching, leaning into the pleasures of skin and bone against skin and concrete; anticipation; possibility; the small theater of costume and dance that was the heart of the high school social scene–so much more than just tab a into slot b.

SO much more.

Remember your first kiss?  If it was any good at all, it was probably as good as at least some of the intercourse you’ve had.  Remember wanting your girlfriend or boyfriend more than anything else in the world?  Remember the thrill of….holding hands?  Come on, it must have been thrilling once, before life got busy and you became a jaded junior or senior and holding hands was kid stuff.

 

the biggest sex organ ever

Today I’m featuring my very first guest poster!  Holly Jackson comes to us from Cottage Copy, where she helps people turn their text into something worth reading.  (That’s my take on it.  I’m sure she’s much more diplomatic.)  I know her from her work, from Twitter where she’s @copygeniusgirl, and from her efforts in the #customerlove challenge that was started out of a post by @NaomiDunford over at http://ittybiz.com and got a life of its own when @LavonneEllis (http://thecompleteflake.com) picked it up and ran with it.  Holly is brains and wit and beauty.  Enjoy!

When I was younger, I found myself in a position that I think must be very common among well behaved east coast girls who don’t know much about sex beyond all the awful consequences it can have. The man I was with was working very hard to make things work for me, and I felt terribly guilty because no matter what he did, they just weren’t. So, I did what many women do when faced with an awkward sexual situation: I faked it. This apparently isn’t a talent of mine, because he immediately stopped and turned to face me.

“You don’t have to fake it.”, he said seriously, “Just tell me what you like.”  And this was where I really froze; I must have had that full on deer in the headlights look that people get when they’re asked a completely new question and can’t think of any possible answers. “I can’t,” I told him while turning beet red, “I don’t really know.”

The guy didn’t last much beyond that, but the experience had made me nervous. I’d grown up knowing about all the bad parts of sex; my dad worked in AIDS drug development, and my high-school had a sex ed course that successfully made you never want to have sex for the rest of your life. I’d spent my whole life fixated on the negative, instead of learning what I liked.

As I got older, I learned that my preferences in men were relatively similar to my preferences in books: I liked smut, but only when it was backed up with a seriously sexy vocabulary. In other words, I was pretty much a word nerd, in all areas of my life. I liked sex, but it was the mental part that really took it over the top.

So here’s the issue: when you’re trying to figure out what you might like, there’s no guide for finding a more varied and hot vocabulary for sex (Well, except this class that Leela teaches), and there’s no study guide either. I was a research lover stuck in a trial and error world.

To help the rest of you sex-loving literary types out (Hint: If you think Mr. Darcy is sexy, you may want to read on), I’ve put together a quick field guide for you to help with the research portion of your life.

1. There’s a lot of sexy stuff that happens before you actually get naked.

Porn teaches us that you can’t get turned on until people’s clothes come off, but that’s really not true. If you find the mental stuff sexy, an intense debate over dinner can be just as effective as foreplay. Even better, you can do it in public and not get strange looks or worry about decency laws. If you find someone who has the same tastes, figure out how to indulge them mutually and frequently, even if you couldn’t explain to the rest of the world why arguing about world economics is hot.

2. Figure out what you find sexy outside the bedroom, and incorporate it.

Our sexual tastes are developed in many more places than just the bedroom, and a fulfilling sex life means drawing on all kinds of experiences. What was the sexiest book you read, and why? The sexiest intellectual conversation?  Go back and analyze the most sexual experiences of your life, and try and find the patterns. Knowing (and being able to create and identify) those patterns means that you can create sensual experiences anytime with the right person.

3. Verbalize everything that you can.

Really, I suppose this all comes back to that early life lesson. Figure out what you like, and don’t be afraid to say it. Make sure to compliment your lover’s mind as well as their body or skills in bed. Even better, don’t be scared to mix sex and intelligent conversation (even if it’s a little more X-rated than your dinner debates). Indulging both sides of your personality is the key to really having fun.

Holly is a copywriter who has read every R-rated unauthorized sequel to Pride and Prejudice ever released. When she isn’t reading smutty literature, she can be found blogging at Cottage Copy.

exes and gratitude

I have, like most people my age, a bunch of exes.

And like most people my age, I’ve had my share of tough breakups.

But I was talking to my sweetheart and a couple of friends last night (we were discussing how many sex partners we’d each had.  Very educational.  And good to practice so when you go to have That Safer Sex Talk with a new partner your history is fresh in your mind) and you know?  I think I’ve learned at least one useful thing from every single one of them.

When the breakup first happens, and you’re fighting over toasters and blenders and the really awesome sex toys (admit it, there was that one that you didn’t want to let go*) it’s hard to see it.  But there’s something in there.

I have learned:

  • to stand my ground, especially when my health is involved
  • how to pay attention to my body
  • that I’m a really good lover
  • that I have limits
  • how to enjoy being sexy and having power
  • not to settle for half-assed relationships
  • what it means to be sought-after, and what it means to be the seeker
  • to be playful
  • how to be head of household
  • how and when to compromise
  • the pleasure of seduction
  • that I prefer sex in relationships to sex outside of them

What have you learned?

* Some people say the toys should hit the trash at the end of every relationship.  Unless the toys are inextricably entwined with the toxicity of a bad breakup, that’s ridiculous.  Good toys are expensive and can be sterilized.  Get a friend who does energy clearing and clean them up, body and soul.   Hang onto them for a while.  If they’re still making you sad after six months or a year, get rid of them.  But otherwise…the best possible outcome is pleasure.  And why shouldn’t it be yours?

how to size a dildo

This is a little out of character for me.  I’m usually subtle and thoughtful and so forth.

But some things can’t be managed by subtlety, and as far as I can tell, there’s very little else out there on the subject.

When I went shopping for my first sex toy at age 24, I realized that I had no idea what I was looking for.  Shape, size, color, features–it was all a mystery.  Fortunately, I was in a clean well-lit feminist sex toy store with a good staff.  And fortunately, I was well-educated and resourceful.

There are lots of toy-buying guides on the web now–nearly every good sex toy store has one.  But the way that they handle size seems to come down to, “Buy what you like.”

Well, yes.

But how do you know, and how do you remember when you’re standing in the store, and is there anything different about using a dildo?

How do you know?

Let’s start here: If you’re planning to use it for penetration (as most people are) you might use it in your vagina, in your anus, or in your mouth.  If you’ve never been penetrated by anything that way before, a dildo (especially a good one in silicone) is an expensive way to guess.  If you’re not allergic to rubber you can try a cheap rubber dildo or two or three… or you can try household objects, but use common sense.  Don’t use anything that can break off (no pencils, no glass bottles) or that might be sharp (check the edges on anything metal).  Don’t use anything that can form a vacuum seal (open on the end that’s being inserted.  And in your anus you MUST NOT use anything that doesn’t have a solid handle or wide flange.  Unlike the vagina, the intestines go on pretty much forever and you CAN lose things.  Don’t rely on a strong grip, either.

All of that said, vegetables are a good, cheap, relatively healthy way to experiment.  Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to whittle them down until they feel good.  Experiment with curves, shapes, and sizes.  You can make an educated guess about what vegetables to buy based on how many fingers feel good.  Just remember what I said about the handle.  I’m not kidding.  The ER people don’t really want to see you.

How do you remember?

Once you figure it out, you need to remember what you like long enough to buy it.  This is tricky.  Bringing a used vegetable dildo into a toy store is unsanitary and will probably not get you very good service.  Ditto hauling your ex (or current) boyfriend around so you can compare toys to his penis.  You have a few options:

carve yourself a duplicate, once you like what you have.  A lot of work, but it does the trick.

Alternatively, you want to remember two dimensions: girth (size around) and length, and any curve or bend that you’ve decided you like.  A good toy store will have the dimensions of a toy marked on the display, so you can start with your model and a tape measure.  Measure around and measure the length: base to tip.

You can also use your hands as a unit of measure.  To measure girth accurately, place the model across your palm at the base of your fingers and wrap your hand firmly around–not squeezing but not loose enough to slide easily.  Take note of where your thumb overlaps your middle finger.  Does the tip of your thumb wrap to the first knuckle?  Halfway to the second?  Is there a gap between the tips?  If you’re trying to replicate the size of an ex, think back to giving them a handjob.  Also note where the curves are relative to your hand.

Then for length, spread you hand out as wide as possible.  Place your thumb at the base and stretch your pinky toward the tip.  If it’s longer than your hand, use your other hand to gauge the extra distance on your thumb or a finger.

Advantages to the tape measure: really, really straightforward.  Disadvantages: everything is just a little different in reality, and manufacturers’ measurements can vary.

Advantages to the hand: very subtle.  Easy to carry around with you.  Surprise visits to “oh this fantastic little shop I just discovered” can suddenly be productive.  And your hands will remember heft and girth and are more likely to give you a similar experience to the one you’re remembering.

Advantages to the carve-a-duplicate: you can walk up to the counter and say, “I want something like this.”  In fact, you can even get a make-your-own kit.  Disadvantages: you need a lot of self-confidence to walk into a sex toy store with a piece of carved squash.  (also?  it’s a pain in the ass.)

So all of that considered, is there anything else you should know?

Why yes.

What’s different?

Dildos are different in a few key ways:

The soft ones are sticky.  Even silicone has some resistance to it.  So you may well want a dildo that’s slightly smaller than whatever your usual person (hand, penis, etc) is.  Also, you will want lube.  Make sure you get dildo and lube that are compatible with each other and with you.  No silicone lube on a silicone dildo.  Ask the staff to make sure.  The hard ones (hard plastic, glass, metal, and wood) are not sticky, but they have no give.  Again, you may want just a shade smaller than usual.

If you plan to use it in a harness (strap it on), get it longer than you want.  A couple of inches, if possible.  The angle you get while wearing a dildo is different from the angle of an attached penis.  Adjusting for that and other body mechanics usually means it’s trickier to slide all the way in.  You can always choose to stop early, but if it’s too short you’re out of luck.  Also, you MUST have a flange if you plan to wear it this way.  The flange is what keeps it in the harness.  Bonus: flange means not worrying about losing it if you’re into assplay.  Also, make sure the o-ring or opening on your harness fits the dildo.  Again, you can get the staff to help with this.  Many harnesses have interchangeable o-rings if the one you’ve picked doesn’t fit.

Finally: most people have more than one.  Don’t think you have to get one dildo and be done and make it work.  Get one to start, and then experiment some more.  It’s about pleasure and fun.

Have questions?  Ask away!

real pleasure

So I went out to dinner tonight with my partner and some friends. We were celebrating a 40th birthday. The food was exquisite, the setting intimate and wonderful, the company delightful. (Devin was the chef. I did not get her last name, but she did fantastic things to my tongue with a duck.)

In the course of the conversation, someone mentioned going to a spa in Austria, where there were plenty of lounge chairs, lots of lovely pools of water including a warm kiddie pool and a donut-shaped pool with a current, and lots of kids. She talked about lying on a lovely lounge chair wrapped in a bathrobe while her son played in the kiddie pool, and then holding him as they both slept for an hour and a half. “It was the best day,” she said.  And again, for emphasis: “THE BEST day.”

we all paused to absorb the wonderful impossibility of a usually busy mother saying she had THE BEST day with her two-year-old in her arms.

Then she said,

“WHY don’t we get it here?  Why don’t Americans understand it?  Here we have to go to a water park and run around.  It’s frantic.”

The conversation moved on.

A little later she told a story about working in a public school in California.  Kids brought California foods for snacks.  Like pomegranates.  But apparently pomegranates were messy.  They stained the desks, the kids’ hands, and their clothes.

So the school did what any reasonable institution would do, and banned pomegranates.

Um, what?

In that moment, it became perfectly clear why we don’t get it.  I understood the spa-versus-waterpark problem.

We value clean shirts over pleasure.

Where could you stand to get a little messy?

up from the bottom of the well

well pulley photo by andrew dunn
well pulley photo by andrew dunn

photograph by Andrew Dunn

Usually, I’m pretty upbeat here.  I like to dwell in the sweet, the erotic, the pleasures, the finer things in life.  I like to focus on the good stuff and help it get bigger.

But there’s a danger in focusing only on the good stuff.  It makes it hard to figure out how to get there.  If you don’t talk about the hard…well, it’s almost impossible to build a bridge without two pieces of land to connect.  Focusing on where you’re going can be inspiring, motivating, exciting…but it’s not enough.

So today is about depression.  Here in Maine we’ve stepped into Real Winter, with snow that sticks, cold days, colder nights; sunrise is after seven, sunset is before five.  There are things I love about it: the crisp air, the unspeakably bright sun (when it’s up), the crystalline sky.  But come a cloudy day and it feels like the world has had the air sucked right out of it.  There are all kinds of reasons why people get depression: body chemistry, circumstances, lack of sunlight…but it all boils down to one thing.  You feel like you’re sitting at the bottom of a very deep well, and you don’t even have the strength to stand.

Breathing is hard.  Not crying is hard.  Moving is hard.  Caring about anything, having hope for anything, is damn near impossible.

And pleasure?  Food?  Sex?  Forget about it.

Maybe you’re one of those people who eats to feel better.  Or maybe you’ve discovered that you can drown your sorrows in the internet, or in chemicals of one kind or another.  Or maybe you don’t know any of that about yourself yet, or maybe you’re too tired to try.

I lived with depression for my first 24 years.  In 2001 I started to get a glimpse over the edge of the well.  And a few years ago, I finally climbed out.  It’s a slippery bank.  I fall in again sometimes.  And if you’re completely exhausted, it’s so tempting to just let go.  Bridget Pilloud has a great post about it here: Don’t Freeze to Death.

But as she writes, we’ve gotta get moving.  We’ve got to climb out.  We have to. It’s about survival.  It’s also about the amazingness of the world.  And about not letting the bastards get you down.  And about one more sunrise, or baby smile–whatever your thing is, that thing that you bring to the world.  But when you’re way down there, down so deep in the shaft that you can barely see daylight, barely even remember it, let’s be real: you don’t give a damn.

So here’s my personal step-by-step, the hidden ladder anchored in those cold, slippery stones.  Of course, your needs and results may be different.  And of course you can blow it all off as impossible and useless.  Or you can give it a try.  Or use it as a jumping off point to figure out what works for you (and then write it all down).  How badly do you want to feel better, anyway?

  1. Totally contrary to every holistic piece of advice out there, sleep with your phone and your computer, or whatever you use to be connected to people who care.  If you have no one who cares, whatever you use to be connected to the world outside your bed.
  2. if you are not sleeping, don’t lie in bed. Get up, give in, be awake.  Write the crazy things in your head (on a notepad where you can’t impulsively email them out).
  3. have a therapist. Bring your notebook.
  4. if you are sleeping, and especially if getting up is a challenge, create routine. Make deals: I just have to do these three small things and then I can go back to bed if I want.
  5. brush your teeth and your hair every day; shower at least once every other day.  Change your clothes.  You know how good it feels when you’ve got a cold and you finally get clean again?  You are sick–like having the flu–and you’ll feel worse if you let your personal hygiene go.
  6. Give yourself gold stars. Don’t roll your eyes.  I’m serious.  On a good day (or get a friend to do it for you) go shopping.  Get a package of those tiny foil stars that your teacher handed out in third grade (if third grade was in the 80’s) and a regular wall calendar.  Staples has ’em.  Every time you get up?  Gold star.  Brush your teeth?  Green star.  Journaling because it makes you feel better? Red star.  Asking for help?  A whole line of silver stars (I know how hard it is to ask). Why it works: because it’s easy to believe you Haven’t Done Anything At All.  Which is total bullshit.  Your depression has a megaphone and it’s shouting right in your ear.  The stars help you find reality again.
  7. Drink lots of water.  I know, again with the rolling of the eyes.  There are several reasons why it works.  The big one is this: stress and depression create toxins in your body.  Water helps your body get rid of the toxins, like flushing the toilet.  Start with a big glass, preferably with lemon, every single day.  Then carry it around with you.  Another bonus: if you tend to eat absently, substitute drinking water instead and you’ll be less likely to gain random weight from not paying attention and more likely to feel full.
  8. make at least one phone call every day to someone outside your bubble of depression.  They will change the endless loop in your head.
  9. do something with your body: walk, cook, paint, dance, yoga.  Do not just sit still sixteen hours a day.
  10. give yourself an outlet: journal, scream, cry–give yourself some time every day to engage with whatever is awful.  It feeds on sideways glances and the crap it finds under the rug when you sweep it there.
  11. get touch. I cannot emphasize this enough.  Oxytocin would be reason enough, but there’s more than that.  Get someone to hold you, get a massage, if all else fails, take a bath or shower just to feel your skin again.  Depression causes intense disconnection.  Touch is one of the most basic ways to return to your body, even just for a few minutes.
  12. Take the pressure off. Tell the grumbling voices in your head that they are nothing but a pack of cards, and remind yourself that you are ill, you have come down with the mental equivalent of a fever, and you simply won’t be functioning at full force for a while.  Celebrate the little stuff, and be realistic about what you can actually expect to do.  If you can’t be realistic get someone who understands depression to help you set goals. This can be a friend, co-worker, coach, doctor, therapist…but not someone who is always totally cheerful and runs a marathon before breakfast.
  13. ask for help. I know.  This might seem impossible.  Still.  Sign up for Mark Silver’s remembrance challenge which automatically calls you to do a little heart-centering every day for two weeks.  Get a friend to promise to call you every other day just to talk.  Post a call for funniest websites of the day to Twitter. You don’t have to bleed all over everyone to get assistance–you don’t have to humiliate yourself or bare your soul.  Just ask for a little help with something you need.  Groceries.  Laughter.  Company.  A kitten.
  14. pet a cat. Or a dog.  Or a hamster.  Don’t have one?  No problem, visit a friend, offer to pet-sit, or go visit a local pet store.  Touch.  Pleasure.  Unconditional love.  Doesn’t get much more healing than that.
  15. help someone out. Sometimes the best cure is to stop thinking about it and lend a hand.  Give someone a ride, or a place to sleep, or a book recommendation.
  16. do something you’re great at. Hard to tell sometimes, from the depths of depression, but there’s probably still something you can rock.  Find it.  Do it.  Set yourself up for success.  Know how to knit?  Make a potholder or a pair of fingerless mitts.  Know how to read?  Make a recording of fifteen poems for a friend who has a long commute.  Bonus: these make great gifts.
  17. make your list of ten things. People don’t like to say it, but depression can lead to thoughts of suicide.  So make your list of ten (healthy) things you can do instead of kill yourself.  Post it somewhere easy to see.  You don’t have to wait until you’re that bad to use the list.  Whenever you’re at a loss, pick something and do it.  The more you do the more likely you are to shake the depression.
  18. escape. Sometimes, you just need some relief.  It’s like any pain.  The pain causes tension which causes more pain.  If you can’t relieve the tension, sometimes you can break the cycle with some temporary pain relief.  I don’t at all recommend alcohol or drugs for this.  But a favorite TV show, a novel, or a couple of hours to do Nothing Productive on the internet could be just the ticket.
  19. listen to music. For reasons that we don’t totally understand yet, music touches our brains in ways that other things don’t.  Art does, too.  Go to a museum or a concert, put on an mp3 mix, and lose yourself in the art.
  20. breathe.  When your brain gets scrunched your breathing does, too. And you need air and spaciousness in your chest so you can have air and spaciousness in your life.  Spend a minute or two focusing on filling your chest with air and letting it out again.
  21. call yourself good things. Sweetie.  Darlin’.  Love.  Words like “stupid”, “no good”, “failure”, and “useless” really aren’t going to be useful, especially if you’re addressing yourself.  Especially avoid words like “lazy” which conflate your behavior (doing less) with a judgement (should be doing more).

The trick with depression is to do one small, tiny, manageable thing at a time.  Overwhelm is easy to find.  Don’t go looking.  Recovery is a series of tiny steps forward, without beating yourself up for backsliding.  Do one little thing every day.  And if it gets really bad, call a hotline.  1-800-273 TALK is the national phone number.

It’s a tough time of year for a lot of people.  Go gentle.

PS: I didn’t talk about sex.  But sex drive decreases with depression, AND sex helps ease depression.  They’re our bodies, our brains, our lives, and they’re all connected.

daisies

Somewhere on Twitter lately there’s been a thread about daisies and the loves me-loves me not game.

That’s all well and good, but I find there are better ways.  Maybe it’s the SVU I occasionally watch over my partner’s shoulder (it gives me nightmares) but evidence has always been pretty compelling for me.

How do I know she loves me?

In the spirit of gratitude in the season of giving, here’s a totally incomplete list of ways that I recognize she is saying she loves me.

It is worth noting that the ways your partner tries to communicate their love might not all  be visible to you.  (I miss stuff all the time.)

  1. she reminds me to take my sunglasses on a roadtrip–and then puts them in my bag so I don’t forget
  2. she cooks for me and feeds me
  3. she asks me to message her when I’m on a trip and I arrive safely at my destination
  4. she rubs my shoulders when I ask her to
  5. she puts up with my insomnia
  6. she kisses me
  7. she listens to me rant
  8. she celebrates my successes with me
  9. she puts up with my bad food experiments
  10. graciously
  11. she communicates with me (even when it’s hard)
  12. she cuts and splits wood for the winter (this is Maine, we measure wood in cords.  That’s a 4x4x8  ft stack.  Most years it takes two or three.)
  13. she walks the dog in the morning when it’s cold
  14. she tells me she loves me

How do you know someone loves you?  What are the signs that you recognize?  What are the signs that your loved ones (not just partners!) recognize?  What do you do when you want to say, “I love you?”  How do you feel when it doesn’t get heard?  How do you feel when it does?  This is a great conversation to have with someone in a relaxed, nonjudgmental way–so you can both feel the love that you’re trying to share.

Think about the holidays, too; who will you see this winter who tries to say “I love you” in a way that you usually don’t hear?  Can you change your perspective so you can hear them better?