Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2016-02-26

LA Week Five: Turning Social

I’m loving these weekly check-ins about the transition to LA. I keep reminding myself of the power of six months, that in six months everything will be different, settled, and all of this transitioning stuff won’t be in the forefront of my mind all the time.

There’s so much more to the transition than I thought there would be. I guess I thought I could prepare and plan enough, since I spent months preparing and planning for the move. But I don’t think I had any idea what kind of energy it requires to not know where anything is and get acclimated to a whole new place. Most of the time when I’ve moved in the past I had at least a passing comfort with the neighborhood.

heatherwithdollymintHeather, drinking my Dolly Mint Reiki tea blend by a fire pit. #blessed

The biggest thing that happened this week was the launch of my Reiki Tea pre sale. People tell me I’m “brave” all the time but I don’t necessarily feel brave. It’s so scary to put your dream out on the line and be open to failure. It’s really vulnerable!

The Reiki tea blend business was a great idea and was very “safe” in idea phase. The sweet and awesome news is that as soon as I put the post up I made a sale (thank you Allison!!) and I’ve gotten enough orders that I’m nearly 20% of the way to making the B-School tuition! (Including $100 from Grandmother she gave me for my birthday and Christmas.) I had been planning a pre sale at some point but having the deadline and the big goal was really helpful. I feel good that at least I’m trying and I get to share this awesome healing modality with my blog audience!

barbtommyselfieWith Barb and Tommy!

This fifth week in LA was all about turning social. Up until this point I’ve seen a couple of folks a week, having been so overwhelmed with setting up the house I had to lay low, but people have been in town and it is good to take breaks and see people.

We also had to have a major overhaul of our travel plans and intentions. We thought we’d be done with the house set-up so much quicker, but we weren’t. We were going to go up to Las Vegas to support Dara’s mom in the Nevada caucus last weekend (she was a precinct chair), but Dara ultimately decided that we should stay home and get more settled in. I was going to go up to the Bay Area this weekend to go to Bryn’s SF memorial and when another friend of mine passed suddenly last week I knew that my self care interest would be served by not traveling. The grief pile-on has been kind of a lot.

I think I can sometimes use socializing and traveling as a way to not stay present. I love both of those things, but I know I also need to balance it by feeling my feelings, doing my self care work, etc… Traveling is a lot of energy and disruption. Not traveling these two weekends has been great because I was able to find a humane butcher at the local farmer’s market and get a pork shoulder and bones. I feel like once I make bone broth, maybe that’s how I finally feel settled? Anyway, it has felt great to eat nourishing food I spent a long time brewing.

greenspartyGreens!

It also feels super nourishing to get to see friends I’ve known a long time and who are familiar in a new and not yet familiar place! That has been a nice antidote to the newness.

Friday night we did a little York Avenue taco tour in Highland Park with our friends Kristen and Madeleine. I met Kristen eight years ago at the Femme Conference with her feminist burlesque group the Miracle Whips. (The Miracle Whips are also featured in the Glitter and Grit Anthology, a brand new book I highly recommend from Heels on Wheels!)

tacoparty

The four of us, rather than choosing one taco place decided to try first the Vegan taco truck (delicious), then we thought there were street tacos but instead was a woman selling sausages wrapped in bacon (extremely delicious), and then another taco truck across the street from the Vegan truck that was “conventional” tacos and also really delicious. A street dinner for less than $10 each. I’m still trying to figure out my exact right condiment preferences for tacos. Definitely cilantro, but which kind of hot sauce? Onions? Radishes or no?

sausageparty

Saturday morning Dara went for her first and last run along the LA River (it hurt her knees which were weakened during chemotherapy) and I went for an aura cleansing class in Hollywood. I’m thrusting myself into the woo lifestyles of LA and I feel really great about it.

I moved out here to work on my spiritual gifts and I am super into any class for $15 that will teach me woo modalities. This was taught by the owners of the House of Intuition here in LA, which now has three locations and the stores and products are great. I visited when I was here in May and so many folks told me it was a must-see. (They also have an online store.)

houseofintentionworkshopauracleansing

The owners are queer women of color (a couple) and I learned SO much. About starting a business based on your intuition, building altars, magic, and the promised aura cleansing methods, which involves a ritual bath or shower. It gave me a lot of great ideas for enhancing my ritual for tea blending!

My friend Heather (co-editor of the Glitter and Grit anthology) was in town this weekend so I visited her at the apartment she was staying in. It was like a gorgeous human terrarium, with a running brook through the complex, a grotto, a heated pool with a fountain, a community grill, an outdoor fire place and a dry sauna. We used all of those things with Caitlin, another LA transplant from Brooklyn and Heather’s friend Monica. It was awesome to be around Femmes for the afternoon and just hang hard and look really cute.

poolpartyThis pool party was also my first time in a bikini as an LA resident.

I wore a semi-slutty dress over there because I have gotten so tired of wearing the same ten outfits. All of my clothes are still in boxes pending the completion of my Mariah Carey closet in our attic, but due to my weirdo packing some clothes have surfaced, including this super cute dress that is just so low cut I only like to wear it when I’m feeling really confident or with a group of folks I feel safe and supported by. Femme gatherings are great for fashion risks.

The truth is, I haven’t felt as confident since we got here. Being in that constant state of “I don’t know this area I don’t know where I’m going” has left me a little more vulnerable and thus less inclined to take risks or draw attention to myself aesthetically. I just want to hang out with cats / not get cat calls right now.

Heather’s partner Silas came home before I left and it was great to squeeze him and catch up! He’s directing and doing some other work on Transparent Season 3, you totally need to check his instagram for the dish. I’m so excited for his work coming out. Did you see the amazing video he directed for Peaches that came out a couple of months ago?

Then we party hopped to dinner with my friend Tommy who was visiting LA with his girlfriend (and Dara’s good friend) Barb. We went to this place down the street from us, Links n Hops, a SAUSAGE RESTAURANT. I am committed to trying all of their many kinds of sausages.

barbtommyFirst time seeing Tommy since my going away party in December!

Monday I finally went to the beach for the first time since living in LA and that was great except for super sad reasons. My friend Melissa Tracy, who is just a little bit younger than me, passed away suddenly last week. I have very few regrets in my life but I now definitely regret not aggressively pursuing a hang out with her before I left NY. We met when she lived in Baltimore, she moved to SF, then back to Baltimore, then to Ventura, then to Nyack, NY (near NYC). I will probably write more later about Melissa, but whenever I imagined her in Ventura I imagined her on this very specific beach I love there. I met up with my old friend James Leander who also knew Melissa and we said a prayer and lit a candle. It was super windy at that beach and I felt it was extremely auspicious that we were able to easily find a tiny candle cave to keep it lit.

candlecave

On the way back from Ventura I stopped in Camarillo to visit with my Aunt Shari. It’s so nice to just get to drop in and see my family! I watched the full moon rise over the mountains near East LA from I-5 on the way home. Did you catch the full moon on Monday? Celestial gorgeousness!

Tuesday we drove Heather to the airport and because avoiding traffic is a huge hobby of ours, Dara had a meeting in the late afternoon in Marina Del Rey (beachside town near LAX) and it was an adventure we made a day of it. We did a post-airport drop off Panera work date, had a post-lunch stroll on the beach, then back to another coffee shop for more work and Dara’s meeting. It was a looooong day but totally worth it for the beach break.

bevinmacybeach

Tuesday night I reunited with a longtime Femme friend, Jenni, who is another NYC area LA transplant, but had a year and a half jump on me. I got to make her dinner, which we ate with a huge pile of “to sort” stuff looming in the living room, but it was a super sweet reminder of what me and Dara are working so hard on our house for. I cannot wait to have dinner parties and regular parties and social things.

In fact, we planned a painting party/mild carpentry party this coming Saturday for some friends to come over and help us work on the Mariah Carey closet installation. It’s been hard for us to carve out the time and I truly love throwing parties way more than painting. I figured combining the two would be a really great way to motivate. Even if three people show up the extra help would rule. And then I get to be social and feel like I’m making progress on our house.

Oh also, we played tennis outside yesterday. Though the transition is still rough and scary sometimes, LA is definitely really sweet right now. I think, among the laundry list of physical, emotional and spiritual work to do right now is to really feel that I deserve all of the tremendous blessings that LA is offering. The weather is beautiful, the things we have access to are so phenomenal. I mean, my friend invited me over to swim in a heated pool and lounge by an outdoor fireplace at a random apartment complex just six minutes from me. Like, making this change has been a ton of work and hard, and it’s so much easier to not make change and just think about or long for what it would be like to make change. But pulling the trigger and walking through the gauntlet yields some pretty amazing stuff.

I’m really praying that pulling the trigger on starting the Reiki tea business is not scary for long and is one more beautiful blessed thing that I get to do now that I live here.

2016-02-19

LA Week Four: We’re Getting There

Tomorrow marks four weeks since we took possession of our dream house / super quirky rental. I kind of can’t believe that it’s been so long because it has gone by so fast.
guacamolerentMy first batch of guacamole from my first round of gathered avocados from my tree. How much guacamole is included in my rent? I can’t wait to find out! I also am going to get GREAT at making it so if you have a recipe you love (especially if it’s been handed down) please send it to me!

We’ve been so focused on getting the house put together while trying to manage all those new things that affect how you settle in somewhere that it is hard to feel that we’re in LA for real. If you ignore the time of year and weather, which is very special and wonderful, I could be anywhere learning new stuff. Where is the bank? Where is the grocery store? Which grocery store do I supplement Trader Joe’s with? How many times can we go to Home Depot before we become a lesbian cliché, and do I get a pass for a certain period of time after moving? Where is the most ethical/farm to table butcher shop? (The last question still unanswered.)

Dara’s bestie Big T said we need to start doing LA things on purpose. I haven’t been to the beach yet. Or Griffith Park even though we live five minutes away from it. It’s a great idea to carve out time to do the awesome things only LA can offer in order to help us feel more grounded in our new location.

sunset

I feel in awe that we live here, though, every single time I drive down a palm tree lined street I catch my breath. I will even pull over to the side of the road and take a photo or a snapchat. The sunset show is just gorgeous almost every single night, God TV really delivers in a town that manufactures TV for the rest of the world. In Brooklyn, surrounded by six story buildings I couldn’t see the sunset colors at all unless I walked two blocks away to the above-ground LIRR tracks. Here in my neighborhood of ranch style one story homes, all I need to do is look up and around starting at 4:30.

I am also so mesmerized by the glittering hillsides at twilight. Northeast LA has all of these hills that are dotted with cute houses up twisty roads. As the sky turns dark blue they all light up and it is so beautiful.

Our Mercury Retrograde lease signing/landlord accidentally giving us the wrong address thing affected us yet again. Listen, if there’s one thing you should learn from my experience it’s that if you turn on all of your utilities to one address and find out it is incorrect by one digit, just cancel all of them and start fresh. Literally all of them will say “sure we can change the address” when you call them and literally all of them will be wrong.

This time the gas company surprised us by turning off our gas without warning, even though a technician from So Cal Gas had come to the house a week prior, we explained what was going on and he said it was fine we didn’t need to do anything to change the address because it was working in our house. He was wrong and I found out the hard way when I tried to cook cauliflower and the stove wouldn’t turn on.

barbdarabevinOur friend Barb came to visit LA and we had dinner. Also, it gets cold here at night, so we wear warm clothes. The temperature seems to change 30 degrees in a day. Within six months I’ll really understand how layering works in this climate.

A call to So Cal Gas yielded an appointment to turn it on two weeks out. Dara bringing it up the chain of command (“Can I speak to your supervisor”) got us a week earlier, but it still meant a week of no hot water, cooking gas or heat. So Cal Gas is responsible for this huge natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, every day NPR in LA is talking about it, and I don’t think customer service or their public image is their first priority. Their negligence is literally making people sick and displaced from their homes.

This experience was a great reminder to me about how self care really helps no matter what happens. I had just gotten back from going to a $20 Korean day spa, soaking in a hot tub and sitting in therapeutic saunas. It’s the easiest way for me to go from stressed to mellow. (Victoria Mucha and I would go monthly last Winter to the $55 Korean day spa and it really helped my seasonal depression.) So when the whole gas company thing happened, I said “It’s cool, Big T lives six minutes away we can shower there, we can go visit Grandmother, we’ll just keep eating from the microwave…” It was the opposite of how I would have reacted the day before, when I probably would have started sobbing and overreacting to yet another set-back in this move.

Going into a move, especially cross country, you know it’s a hassle and it’s one of the top five stressful life events. But I guess as a Capricorn I wanted to know HOW it was going to be stressful so that I could somehow game the system and outsmart the stressfulness and mitigate it. I would say I managed to make it 30% less stressful through that method but there was just so much I didn’t think about. (If I had thousands of bucks to throw at it I probably could have mitigated 70% of the stress.)

thinkharderGrandmother has had this in her garage for years, I keep thinking about it when things frustrate me with inefficiency. (I’m such a Capricorn.) I can think of ways it is harder. So at least, even if shit isn’t as easy as it can be it could be worse. This is way better than going down my efficiency/perfectionism thought spiral!

I didn’t realize how much extra time gets lost to the process of moving. I was watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills the other day and Kyle is getting a closet put into one of her spare rooms. The closet designer referenced her co-star Lisa Vanderpump’s closet (it’s very enviable for many reasons). “You know, she has everything at arm’s reach. She can get dressed very fast.” And that’s a good example for ideal home organization in general. Once you have everything put away in an orderly manner you can do everything else in your life swiftly, a stitch in time saves nine if you will. But when you’re constantly looking for that one thing you need it takes up a lot of time. Even though my upstairs attic closet rennovation is still underway and my clothing is still mostly boxed up, I spent 30 minutes sorting everything I’ve been traveling with into separate bags so I could find things easier. If all my dresses are in one place, my leggings in another, my pajamas in another, my these can get dusty and disgusting working on the house clothes, etc… I can at least get dressed quickly.

I had no idea how long it takes to establish a kitchen! I love to cook, but I’ve been slowly becoming better and better over time and gathering equipment. I find cooking really great self care on so many levels. Cooking is a spiritual act for me, I like to put on a spiritual thought leader or a sermon of some sort and listen while I cook. I meditate while cooking. Cooking nourishing food for me and my loved ones also is good for our bodies, and sometimes I’ll put reiki energy into food. It’s also great stress relief and grief management for me when I have feelings, especially baking. It is really hard for me being on the road and not being able to cook, it was the thing I was most looking forward to doing when moved in.

I’ve unpacked all of the kitchen boxes we can find (I am certain we are missing one–the inventory from our moving truck was complete, so it must be mislabeled and not unpacked yet) and there are still some items missing. Also, I didn’t move my whole spice cabinet because of my desire to “only have shit that sparks joy” and not “waste money moving” stuff that wasn’t good enough. This is theoretically great, however, to cook something that would normally be a no-brainer-I-have-all-that-stuff-on-hand, I have to do an inventory of the spice rack and, whatever at least Trader Joe’s is only 6 minutes away and has a parking lot. I had no idea how much I use bone broth on the regular and I cannot wait until we get that butcher situation figured out.

daratoiletJust trying to change the toilet seat took up a lot of time for Dara, trying to deal with the rusted out nuts holding on the old one. A still unresolved project.

Also when you move without shit that sparks joy, and none of your dishes spark joy you have to spend time thrifting for the right dishes. We now have three Pier One plates from Goodwill. Still no pyrex casserole dishes. We’re getting there.

That’s the overall theme of the move right now. We’re getting there.

We haven’t joined a gym yet, so last Friday we went to this park near our house along the LA River that has exercise equipment outside. We wondered why no one was there at 11:30AM and the answer is because it is really hot at noon in LA and not a great time to exercise. Learning these lessons is part of acclimating to a new place and environment I guess.

sparksjoytangerinesThis new bowl sparks joy! It matches our tile backsplash and holds tangerines from my aunt’s house for delicious snacks. Got it at a yard sale for fifty cents!!

The furniture my mom sent us from her house finally arrived on Sunday, so we had the two steps forward, one step back experience that seems to be par for the course about moving. Finally we have a sofa, it makes such a difference to feel physically comfortable when you’re resting (my high heel shoe chairs are gorgeous and good for sitting at a party but not when you’re physically wiped and just need to kick it). However, now we have a huge pile of stuff we have to tetris to fit in the house (the boxes had to move to make room for furniture, so much is in a staging area waiting for my upstairs closet to be ready), and a couple pieces turned out way bigger than they looked on text photos so we need to sell them.

grandmotherdinnerOn our trip cross country we were supposed to spend a few days with Grandmother and it ended up only being a few hours because of how quickly we got our house, so going back to visit her was a priority.

We went to visit my Grandmother in Palm Springs this week, to experiment about whether we could go there to work during the day and hang out with her on our off times. Since both Dara and I are virtual workers, we can work wherever we can be uninterrupted, make tea and have strong wifi. Anyway, it turns out that it’s hard to work at Grandmother’s and we need to work more on setting up timing and boundaries around that but it’s all a learning process. By the way, Grandmother hates having wifi, she thinks it’s too vulnerable, but she has it because my mom rightfully insisted on her getting it. It’s a team effort introducing her to technology.

workingfromhomeHer backyard is gorgeous, so it is a delight to work out there.

I am getting to know her better and that feels pretty amazing. To get to know people better who you have known your entire life is surreal but awesome. She has been feeling sick so she is crabby, which is true for me, too, having been so stressed. Capricorn vs Capricorn can either be a really great collaboration of ideas or it can be deeply head butting, and Grandmother can be way more of a know it all than I ever realized. Usually she is very open minded but it’s a dance to figure out how to disagree with her in a way that opens her mind up about something new and when everyone is crabby it’s harder to have that dance. As I learn more about compassion and unconditional love I’m able to accept imperfect interactions with love, and take what I like and leave the rest.

developingmeditationchairPretty stoked about my favorite armchair for meditation being in a corner with a morning sunbeam.

During one of my cooking spiritual experiences this week (using my Ninja 3-in-1 system because of no cooking gas) I heard the following quote from a Course in Miracles:

“We should be grateful for all situations that make us most uncomfortable because without them we could not know there is something unhealed in us.”

I’m sitting with that this week. Knowing that things are uncomfortable because they are new. That I can reflect on my progress and that I can be proud of myself for putting myself in this uncomfortable, stressful, sometimes painful process of moving because I know I am opening myself up to new opportunities. I have no idea what LA has in store for me, but I’m really looking forward to easing into feeling comfortable here, exploring what makes it unique and wonderful and opening up room for the Goddess to surprise and delight me.

louisehaycalendarFrom my Louise Hay I Can Do It daily calendar.

2014-04-03

Untapped Cruising Territory: NPR Singles’ Mixers

Awhile ago I started a blog adventure to go to regions of NYC looking for queer cruising opportunities I hadn’t explored. I believe life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I really think that’s true for dating in this wild city. In a time when I was totally not cruising I ended up finding a gem I wanted to report back to my readers! Even in times of temporal monogamy* I’m looking out to try to get my readers laid!

The event: I’ve been working with a business coach on my attorney business to try to develop a sustainable, more reliable income for myself. My artwork suffers when I am having to spend too much time hustling for cash, and the whole point of having my law practice is so that I can support the body liberation social justice work I love to do. Part of the business coaching is developing business contacts as steady streams of client referrals as well as learning how to do more networking for clients.

IMG_8139_120710The event space. Photo from WNYC.org.

Under her guidance, I was in the process of developing an email to friends to ask for networking events they knew of. All of a sudden, as though a message from the Goddess, I heard an advertisement on NPR for a lesbian mixer. It was so perfect! The event promo on the radio made it sound like a networking event and the event page on the WNYC website made it sound like a singles’ mixer. I was already sold either way.

Coupled with all of this, my girlfriend is a great networker at networking events and volunteered to go with me and coach me on networking. So I was all set to plunk down $40 per ticket (the price was definitely helped because it is a benefit for public radio) to try out some professional networking with other lesbian NPR listeners. A better group of potential clients I could not have asked for.

Why this is untapped for me: Well, the price tag for one. I’m not one to spend $40 for a concert ticket, let alone a happy hour networking thing. Also, I’m totally going to admit loving and listening to NPR but I’ve never given to a pledge drive. (There are so many things I wish I could go back in time and do when I was working at a law firm making real money–donating to public radio is totally one of them.) I’m a total fair weather listener to public radio and I admit that.

Also, I don’t go to a ton of events marketed to lesbians since I actually identify as queer, though I do enjoy “lesbian” as a cultural identity. I was curious what kind of crowd this would create, though, so I was interested.

The Outfit: I went into the event thinking this was to get clients and not as a singles’ mixer (or as an event to write-up for my blog, otherwise I would have tried to get press tickets) so I didn’t take photos. However, I wore one of my super favorite lady lawyer dresses with some vintage cat pins on them. Hey, I was playing to my audience and lesbians love cats.

5752937889_3210240f0f_bI wore this outfit, though this picture is from a couple of years ago, I think I did similar hair and had a different pair of cat’s eye glasses. In my dream job world I wear vintage style dresses for all lawyer outings, which is only true about 50% of the time.

The Wing Femme: In this instance I wasn’t technically cruising so I didn’t have Wing Femmes, I actually had one dedicated Wing Butch (my girlfriend) and an intermittent Wing Butch (Leo). My girlfriend was actually great at this, she showed me how she introduces herself to folks at things like this, starting out doing most of the talking for me, a few of the folks in between she helped me tag team and then the last couple of introductions I did on my own. She was quite great at teaching me professional networking. I don’t love professional networking because I don’t love small talk. This is what makes me a great talk show host but not necessarily great at mixers.

The Scene: The scene was actually pretty fun! I saw a few familiar faces from the queer Brooklyn nightlife scene and some folks from some magazines I know. My astrologer Katie was there (who is single and was looking to meet folks**) and so were a few other folks I have met in my time as a queer New Yorker for over a decade. But what was more refreshing was how many folks I didn’t know!
700_3247Photo courtesy WNYC.org

The age range was wild–a few folks in their 20s, pretty heavy on 30s and 40s and then a good amount of lesbians over 50. But what was even better was that everyone seemed to be having a great time and really interested in meeting people.

I was definitely in the minority of being there for professional networking. At least 70% of the folks I met were definitely trying to meet people to date. I still made some good connections, though, and learned a lot about how to navigate professional networking events should my friends help me identify some of the good ones in NYC.

There was also a really great lesbian trivia game emceed by Caitlin Thompson. It was really, really funny. I was actually shocked when our team didn’t win the trivia game because we got almost all of the questions correct.

700_3034 (1) Photo courtesy WNYC.

The winning team got every question correct. I am in awe of that teams lesbianitude and knowledge of current lesbian events.

Folks were talking all night, and my single butch friend Leo said she got hit on a lot. I felt like the energy in the place was really good and a lot of people there got what they were looking for.

The verdict: I might have gotten a client (I at least got a good lead for a client, we’ll see if she retains me). But more importantly, for you, dear readers, I think the WNYC singles’ mixers are a winner! You can check out the scene for yourself in this slideshow at WNYC.com!

I heard (on NPR this weekend) that there is an OKCupid algorithm that says that if you agree with your partner about the answers to three questions it is a predictor about whether or not you will be a compatible couple. The questions are:

Do you like horror movies?
Have you ever traveled around another country alone?
Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

(It’s totally worth reading the OkCupid blog entry about why those questions work to predict compatibility. Data! It’s sexy!)

However, I think that whether or not you both like NPR is a good predictor of being compatible because the idea of spending Sunday mornings (my very favorite time spent as a couple) are totally awesome spent brunching while listening to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.

I really should donate to NPR.

WNYC is producing singles’ mixers for people of all orientations all the time (and lots for over 40s)! Check out their listings and maybe also donate to public radio before it’s too late and you pursue a career as a social justice artist.

*My then not-girlfriend and I had a temporary agreement during January about not exercising our non-monogamy, which some might call monogamy but I vehemently called “Non-practicing open relationship” so as not to compromise identity. At the present moment we’ve rearranged to a free ass pass arrangement during chemotherapy, but, lez be honest, getting laid is a lot of work and so is caretaking and self care.

**Katie generally likes femme of center folks, but people of all gender presentations who are stylish and fun get her attention.

2013-09-09

Making Changes: My Interview with Grace Chu on her Year of Celibacy

About a month ago I ran into my friend Grace Chu and she told me that she had been celibate for nearly a year and that it has been wildly successful in terms of grounding her and focusing on her photography. She popped open her smart phone to show me an email from a huge publication asking for her to photograph something.

Now, Grace Chu is all about internet anonymity of her photo, so just know that she’s a hot dyke–the kind that every gay girl I knew in college would have dropped to her knees for. She’s really social and has an endearing awkwardness. Also, I have totally noticed over the last year that she seems a lot more serene, grounded and happy.

I checked in again with her last week and I asked if I could interview her on the occasion of her official one year of celibacy and I hope you enjoy her insights!

Photo by Grace Chu
Photo of me by Grace Chu.

What inspired you to get celibate?

Around a year ago, my ex and I broke up, and like every other idiot after a breakup, I started looking around immediately. I’ve seen people fire up OK Cupid minutes after a breakup. (Like, gurl, really?) But it’s natural to want to maintain a level of closeness with another human being when you’ve become accustomed to it, and when you’re in an impaired emotional state, sometimes you don’t make the brightest of decisions. So right after I had a dumb fight with my ex over who could show up at what girl party, I was in a bad mood and decided that I was going to get into trouble, and you know “YOLO, so whateva!” I brought a girl home, and it turned out she’s so drunk and high I ended up having to peel her off the floor as soon as we got to my apartment. So I gave her some water, and after a few minutes of almost incoherent conversation, and without getting into identifying details, I discovered that this girl was in a dangerously bad place. And she’s in my house. And AH MAH GAH, nothing happened but was I really going to go there? Is this real life? I know she’s mental, but I’m also a factor in this situation, so egad – I must also be mental! Nothing good can come out of the pairing of two people in a bad place. Ever!

How long did you initially plan to be celibate? Did you have any parameters around your celibacy (for example, making out is okay but no sex/it doesn’t count as sex if it’s outside or something)?

It wasn’t really a plan. After the above-mentioned disaster, I decided that the best thing to do was take a break from all the madness of dating, focus on my work and nurture existing friendships. Clearly, my judgment was impaired due to physical and emotional neediness, so I figure I’d get back out into the dating scene when I was emotionally at 100%. The parameters you mentioned didn’t even cross my mind. I just shut out all unhealthy distractions or band-aid solutions, period. This also included cutting loose friends and associates that were toxic or gave me anxiety. It was more of a life-cleansing period of time. Simplifying my life. Cutting the fat. Celibacy just came with the package. I don’t really consider making out “hooking up” but I haven’t made out with anyone since last October. No one believes that, especially those who saw me make out with just about everyone during my 20s, but it’s true!

What was the first month like? What activities did you start out doing to fill up your previously used dating/cruising time?

I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg, but right around the time I decided I was going to focus on myself, my night job started gaining momentum. I was picking up new photography clients right and left, and people were offering me gigs outside of my comfort zone, and I really just didn’t have time to think about anything else. I still have a day job as well. At some points that first month I really missed having intimacy, and I wanted to claw my eyes out, but I just didn’t have the time to dwell. Photography is really competive in New York, and if you miss an opportunity, someone hungrier is quite willing to take your spot. Whatever little free time I had left I devoted to friends who have been with me for years. If, god forbid, everything in my life falls apart, those people are the ones who are going to be around, come hell or high water.

Dusty by Grace Chu
I love this photo of Dusty by Grace Chu!

Did you turn down any dates? Were girls pounding at your door now that you weren’t available?

I didn’t give myself opportunities to be approached, so I really have no idea if anyone intended to ask me out. When people complain that they’re being harassed for dates, a lot of times that’s bullshit. Some people who complain that they’re being holla-ed at all the time secretly want the attention and give out mixed signals. You have the power to let people in or not, by your words, by your body language. You can set boundaries immediately. Also, I’m generally aloof and not touchy feely or flirtatious to begin with, so no one really asks me out unless I’m on a dating site. It stinks when you’re looking, but since I wasn’t, my default demeanor was a blessing. I contemplated going back on Ok Cupid for a hot second but the thought of having to sit with a stranger and pretend to be interested became increasingly unappealing as time went by. During this time, I got into a better and better place financially, professionally and emotionally, so I didn’t want to mess with the formula. If your life ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Did celibacy get easier over time?

Yes, think of it like getting over a drug addiction. (Ok, I was never addicted to sex – I’ve actually been with only five people in the last ten years, with periods of down time – but this just happened to be the longest period. I’m just trying to make an analogy!) You’ve seen Trainspotting? At first heroin withdrawal gives you acute pain, but over time, the physical pain goes away. It’s all mental after that. And then you just stop thinking about it.

Did any new interests develop as you had more time to pursue them?

Photography and the day job take up 80+ hours a week now. The last two months have been especially rewarding and lucrative. I have some exciting projects coming up!

Latrell Johnson by Grace Chu
Photo of Latrell Johnson by Grace Chu.

What surprised you most about your year of celibacy?

Well I learned quite a bit. A lot of what drives people to pair up is a result of societal pressure, like you’re not a whole person if you’re single and not intimate with anyone. That’s ridiculous. You can find fulfillment in so many ways, and if you’re spending time chasing phantoms and trying to make the wrong people the right people, you’re taking away time and energy from other activities that could bring you happiness – and the people who you already have in your life that love you.

I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent now, and it’s going to be kind of heavy. My friend passed away from cancer this past year, but before she died, around fifty people from around the country showed up at her birthday party. She made such an impact and was such a decent, generous and kind hearted person that people recognized it dropped everything to come spend time with her. A week before she died she told me that she wished she had spent more time trying to find a boyfriend – or working on making her old relationship work. (That relationship, by the way, was unhealthy bordering on abusive, so I am happy she didn’t.) But in the last days of her life, she was surrounded by so much love and laughter, more than anyone could ever imagine. I guess you had to be there, but I was blown away. Sometimes all we need to do is take a step back and realize we are already loved and connected and to appreciate it.

Since I’m no longer in a fog, I’ve become more in tune with what works with me in terms of friends, and possible lovers. I reflected on what didn’t work for me in the past and what kind of emotional makeup in other people is healthy for me. Some people, as nice as they might be, just don’t work with me on a fundamental level, and that’s fine. I’m much more in tune with other people’s energies now, and I am aware of and I am assertive about my own boundaries. It’s like being fitted with glasses when you’ve been myopic.

Photo by Grace Chu
Photo by Grace Chu.

How does someone know they should adopt a period of celibacy? Would you recommend this to others? Any advice?

I mean, if something is causing more harm than good, cut it out of your life. This goes for everything, not just dating and sex.

What are your plans around breaking the vow? Do you have anything lined-up?

Yeah, I’ve got honeys on the speed dial ready to go! Just kidding. I don’t have any plans, really. I’m definitely back to 100% emotionally, so while I’m not actively looking, if something happens by chance, so be it. Many times, we use sex or intimacy as a way to heal ourselves or escape or fill some sort of emptiness, when it should really enhance your life. My life has become pretty damn sweet, so I guess if someone comes along who is also in a good place, and we end up clicking in that way, I suppose things could get sexy – but it has to happen organically or as a happy accident.

This past year, after taking the pursuit of sex and dating off the table, I’ve become closer to some people who had just been acquaintances, and some new fabulous people have come into my life. It was refreshing to get to know people as people in a leisurely manner without stress or expectations. I am also good friends with my ex now! Everything just becomes easier and lighter when you’re grounded and in a good place.

Photo by Grace Chu
A photo of me, Nicky and Jacqueline by Grace Chu.

I am super impressed with Grace’s ability to identify what wasn’t working in her life and take steps to change it and become more in tune with what makes her tick. The process of becoming real–shedding the layers that society puts on you or that you put on yourself to get the attention you think you want–is really hard. But I think once you get more in touch with who you really are you’re able to attract genuine, lasting partnerships (if that’s what you want) into your life.

If anyone out there has a story about changing something that didn’t work for you, please get in touch with me! I’d love to interview you!

2013-09-03

Five Ways I’ve Learned to Embrace the Velocity of Change

A few years ago a friend of mine suddenly got a girlfriend. We were besties and spent a lot of time together, so I wondered why I was feeling weird about it. I was definitely happy for her, I liked her new beau and I was excited for her to get laid. I sat with the feelings for awhile and I realized what I was feeling was fear—specifically fear of change. I knew that changes in our friendship were bound to happen. We were both single and had a lot of nights free that we spent together. Eventually that situation changes.

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For this post I’m using photos from my Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip. I went on that when I needed to shake up the energy in my life.

I parceled it out and realized that the changes were really triggering my fear of abandonment. My parents divorced when I was 18 months old and my dad was mostly out of the picture while I was growing up. That’s a pretty classic recipe for adult fear of abandonment.

Once I could label that it gave me something to do on my side of the street. I could address my fear of abandonment without blaming or getting mad at my friend just for being happy. I don’t ever want to be mad at my friends for following their hearts and being happy! I want them to be happy. This fear of abandonment is something I’ve worked diligently to remove over the last several years, and it involves a lot of embracing the velocity of change.

I’ve noticed my friends going through a ton of big changes lately. Huge new jobs—dream jobs. Sudden moves. Losses of many kinds. A lot of them have gotten into romances in the last few weeks–it reminds me so clearly of that time where I thought I was going to lose my friend. I’m still having to remind myself often that I’ve weathered these kinds of friendship changes before and it is going to be okay.

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Being a hipster in Austin, TX at their monthly Femme night.

I’m positive all of these big changes aren’t just isolated to my friends. Since this is probably relevant to my readers, too, I thought I would do a round-up of some of the things I’ve learned along the way about embracing the velocity of change.*

1.Accept that change is part of living.

I like to remind myself that when things are changing and tranforming that I’m really living. The only constant in life is change. When I get a little dizzy with the “too much too soons” about change (because sometimes the good and the bad changes seem to happen in a flash without warning) I remind myself of that Pearl Jam song titled Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. For some reason, when I was a fourteen year old devout Pearl Jam fan I heard that song and I would get so afraid that would be me—changed by not changing at all. And given how resistant I was to change at that age (and for many, many years after) it is a miracle I have gotten as far as I have.

I’m also the kind of person who initially resists even the little changes (I have feelings when my roommate moves around the appliances on our countertops), so my square one about change is generally negative. Accepting change as a constant has helped me hop away from that negative box faster than I used to.

Since change in life is a constant, accepting that as true—we cannot grip the happy times just as we cannot escape all the hard times—is actually a relief. When I’m having a shitty feeling I like to chant to myself, “Everything is temporary.” That helps.

Re-envisioning change as a good thing, a sign that my life is dynamic and magical, works for me.

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Having my cards read by a roaming psychic.

2. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Similar to the sentiment above, sometimes seeking out change is a really good thing. I’ve made big changes in my life before—I moved across the country at age 21. That was the first big thing I ever chose to do that forever altered the direction of my life. And it wasn’t my first choice, I really wanted to go to law school at my alma mater but I didn’t get in. Rather than hang out another year in Davis and re-apply I just bit the bullet and moved to Camden, NJ.

This was absolutely the best thing I did for myself at that young age. Without friends, a sense of safety or comfort, I really had to learn who I was. And I found myself. The year after I moved I started identifying as queer, made peace with my body and learned that femme was a thing you could be and it was awesome. I don’t know how long those changes would have taken if I’d never moved. I don’t know if those changes would have ever happened! I had no idea how resilient I was until I had to be.

Me and Jessie Dress
Slow dancing with that dreamboat Jessie Dress.

3. Small changes are good practice for the big ones.

Despite my desire to see change as a good thing, I remain a contented, homebody earth sign. I am so comfortable with things I’m familiar with I have to consciously seek out the discomfort of change. I try to push myself once a month to go to an event that’s out of my scene, I encourage myself to do new stuff. The weird panic I feel even for something as small as taking an unfamiliar subway stop is actually great practice for the big changes I have no control over. The tiny panics are prep. And once I’ve done it once it expands my worldview just a little bit more.

I also like to instigate change just to shake up my energy. Moving things around in my room, doing a purge of a drawer, slightly changing my hair, getting a piercing or a tattoo, going on a trip, these all help me feel change energy in order to shift my perspective on my life.

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Macy interacting with some chickens.

4. Remember all the times I weathered change.

When I started getting that panic about, “OMG the summer is ending and all of my besties are in relationships and I am going to spend all of my Saturday nights alooooooone,” it was helpful to stop and remind myself I’ve been through this before. Some friends just bail when they start dating something. That’s not about me at all. (You know, when they become the “I have to check ‘our schedule’ friends.” And the friends I have now slipped in there for the friends who slipped away. It’s the ebb and flow of life. My closest friends, our relationships have weathered a ton of changes. Including long stretches of not talking or moving long distances. But those are the kinds of friendships where you can pick up the phone and it’s as though no time has passed at all.

I’ve realized I never know what a friendship is going to look like when it starts and it is only time that tells me whether it will endure the shifts in our lives.

Just like friendships, I’ve gone through a ton of other changes that, at first, felt like a huge crisis but eventually became great opportunities. The whole memoir I’m writing is basically about how I weathered some tremendous changes in my life. (My wedding was called off six months out, I lost my job of five years and six months later was forced out of my apartment.) The good thing about those changes was (spoiler alert) I learned how resilient I am.

When I got laid off again by a small business I worked at for a three years, I learned it definitely gets easier the second time around. Applying this even to unfamiliar change is really helpful to shift my perspective from fear to curiosity. I don’t know what life is bringing me with each new change, but I know I have a choice about how I look at it.

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We were in Louisiana long enough to stop for gas and this photo at a rest stop. Definitely need to get back there and do NOLA!

5. Use your shitty feelings to teach you about yourself.

As someone who likes to learn and grow, I’ve found that often my shitty feelings are trying to teach me something about myself. Like how my panic around my bestie getting booed up taught me about my fear of abandonment, often there’s a lesson in my resistance to change.

Leaning into the shitty feelings is something I learned from my life coach when I was being life coached by Lynnee Breedlove. He told me once that if you imagine shitty feelings like an ocean wave that going through them is the best way to get to the other side. (Rather than fight them or just get out of the ocean altogether.) He said he likes to send up a prayer of “Thanks” whenever he’s facing a yucky change, reminding him to stay in gratitude.

I’ve got a couple of book recommendations. One is by SARK, a thought leader I enjoy who writes playful and deep books. Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity is an amazing book! SARK details a year where she lost a partnership, the death of her mother and her beloved cat companion. She walks through the process of turning these losses into opportunities to grow. It’s playful and deep and taught me a lot about learning how to embrace changes as they come. There are a ton of questions to ask yourself, workbook style. But even the narrative alone, if you’re not ready for the work, is worth the read.

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At Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium in Atlanta.

For the spiritually inclined, I also really enjoy Transitions by Julia Cameron. She wrote the Artist’s Way, so when I saw this in a tiny twelve step bookstore I visited when I was traveling cross country I snatched it up. Lately I’ve been reading the bite size reflections on change before I go to bed. It’s really amazing perspective on the good elements of change that we often can’t see through our pain. I like it a lot. It’s non-denominational and talks about God in the Spirit/higher power sense.

The result of my friend getting booed up years ago? We drifted apart. But it wasn’t nearly as hurtful or catastrophic as my panic at the time acted like it would be. I weathered the changes in our friendship and I’m confident I’ll keep weathering all the new changes my friendships have to offer.

*I am borrowing this term from an affirmation in Badass Resilience: Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love and Desire Affirmations by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Keisha Williams.

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