Fuck the bread

I read an excellent piece by Sabrina Ora Mark back in May, and it resonated with me. Her piece, Fuck the Bread. The Bread is Over., is a rumination on this bizarre moment we are living in, on motherhood and identity, on self and work and obligation and fulfillment. I’ve been thinking about it often lately, as the pandemic stretches and contorts time and the realities we are facing draw in ever-sharper focus.

“I’ve wanted a job like this for so long, I barely even know why I want it anymore. I look at my hands. I can’t tell if they’re mine.”

If there is anything I think I am gaining from quarantine, it is perspective. I’ve been considering my future, what options I might have, what contentment looks like — and those answers are becoming simpler. I used to think I had found my dream job. And for that self in that time, maybe I had. But now, like Mark, I barely know why I want that job anymore. The days I spend here at home working, one after the other? I no longer feel like those hands are mine. In some ways, they are not. I am just going through the motions. I began thinking that my depression had reduced me to this — a shell devoid of motivation. The couple hours I spent doing my own creative work on a day off recently were a revelation in that regard. I felt more vivid and engaged than I have in a long, long time. There is more to this life than “getting this bread.”

What does it mean to be worth something? Or worth enough? Or worthless? What does it mean to earn a living? What does it mean to be hired? What does it mean to be let go?

“I can’t pinpoint what this lesson is exactly. Something about identification and possession. Something about buying time. As I empty the bags and touch the moss, and the leaves, and the twigs, and the berries, and a robin-blue eggshell, I consider how much we depend on useless, arbitrary tasks to prove ourselves. I consider how much we depend on these tasks so we can say, at the very end, we succeeded.”

I am so lucky to have my health, and a kind, healthy husband, and funny furry pets to keep me entertained and grounded. I want more time for these things that matter. Really matter. Life is too short to waste on miserable, interminable days that are dictated by people without my best interests in mind. I want to carve out time for real engagement, and for the things that remind me that this life has so much capacity for joy and fulfillment. I want to feel as though I have intrinsic worth. I shouldn’t have to earn the right feel alive.

“But also I wanted an office with a number…. I wanted the whole stupid kingdom. “And then what?” says my mother. “And then nothing,” I say as I jump off the very top of a fairy tale that has no place for me. “You’re better off,” says my mother. I look around. I’ve landed where I am.

I like it here.”

In the coming weeks and months, I am hoping to land someplace new. Someplace where my days can be more “mine.” Days when I can stop just existing and start living again. Days when I can enjoy some contentment. I don’t know what that will look like yet, which is scary. Terrifying, really. But I will never know if I don’t make the leap. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I can fly.

Wonderful small things

This is becoming a year of wonderful small things.  The big things have been overwhelming, to say the least: we are still in the middle of a worsening pandemic, our government continues to make our country a hateful and divisive place, Black Lives Matter is still not considered a universal truth, police brutality is an ongoing issue… there is so much for us to cope with.  To remind myself that it is still worthwhile to get out of bed every day, I am trying to remember the small things.  This way I will always have something to look forward to, to enjoy, or to revel in.  A particularly good lunch.  Snuggles with my pups in the morning.  The way the light filters into my bedroom on a weekend afternoon as I lay down for a nap.  A package out for delivery.  It’s these kinds of tiny daily joys that help me keep perspective, and keep me fueled to keep fighting for a better world.

Each time I venture out to Trader Joe’s for much-needed groceries, I buy a bunch of silver dollar eucalyptus leaves. I love having fresh greenery in my home, and it feels like a luxury even though it only costs $4. Plus, they last forever compared to cut flowers!

The new perfume I ordered arrived this week.  ‘REPLICA’ Lazy Sunday Morning is a unique scent that somehow perfectly captures the feeling of fresh crisp sheets on a breezy, sunny morning.  I sampled this perfume on my last outing with friends before the pandemic really hit, so it carries thoughts of dear friendships as well as idyllic lazy mornings.

Also, I was so happy to receive the Rain + Bow necklace I ordered a few weeks ago.  It is weighty and so well made, the packaging was so sweet with it’s little extras, and it is a wonderful daily reminder that I am always in the process of overcoming.  Also I am thrilled that a $10 for every necklace sold is donated to Mental Health America.

Be well, stay safe, and don’t forget to wear a mask. We’ll get through this. Little joys are there for us to find, even though it may seem bleak right now.

dusk

indigo 2020, Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

dusk

 

the slightest hammock swing 

is enough to let me touch 

the shaded velvet of the night sky encroaching so softly 

upon the world 

and my being.

the earth tucks in for slumber 

deep and tranquil 

the way I yearn for my heart to also 

be at rest.

 

how beautiful contentment looks 

from this sleepy in-between place 

full of promise and possibility. 

wistful fingers reach for it 

just beyond her grasp. 

“If only,” she whispers. 

and the first star whispers back.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Gravity shifted: a woman on her father’s suicide

Almost 2 years ago, my very dear friend Catherine lost her father to suicide. Ever since then she has been adjusting to her new normal with a quiet strength that has left me in awe. Recently she reached out with some reflections and insights she’s gained in the months since his passing, and has kindly consented to me sharing her story here. I hope you find her grace in the face of trauma as inspiring as I do, and perhaps some of you can find solace in knowing you are not alone. Thank you, Catherine Wehrey-Miller, for your courage and generosity.

My life ended on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at approximately 8 PM.

At that moment, I was born as a version of my prior self, forever living in a world where I now say, “My father put a gun in his mouth and ended his life.”

One of my first reactions was hating him for making this part of MY story, part of who I would be, forever a person whose father killed himself. I fought my new life and my new narrative for so long. I wasn’t ready for my former life to be over and my new one to begin. I survived trauma in the past and never felt as I did at that moment; I previously went to therapy, learned from my trauma, and moved on. But the suicide of a parent is different. It is described as “a personal and interpersonal disaster.”1 The word “disaster” is a strong one. It conjures up images of earthquakes and fires, chaos, destruction, and ruins.

Now, almost two years later, I know that my father’s suicide fundamentally changed me. My center of gravity shifted in a big way. What I thought I knew, I realized I didn’t. My whole life now feels like one confusing reality of “did that really happen?” I will be forever asking, “Why?” “Why did he do this?” And who was he, really? Did I ever really know him? 

I can’t watch a suicide by gunshot on TV or in a movie anymore. I have to look away. It’s unfortunate that it took this experience for me to realize that far too many suicides are shown in the media. They hurtle me back to that moment when my mother called me and said, “He’s dead. He shot himself.” 

I now have an utter loathing for anyone who carries a gun or believes in his or her inalienable right to own one. My depressed and disturbed father walked himself into a store and bought one. He kept it in the glove compartment of his car, took it out to the desert and just… spent time with it. Like bonding with a dear friend. And I never knew.

I’m suddenly more preoccupied with death and have an intense need to identify what happened to my father after his heart stopped beating. I want to know if he suddenly became nothing, a complete ceasing of his mind, body, and soul. Did he wake up in another place, a lit world where that light engenders an astounding happiness that we cannot even begin to fathom?

I’ve retreated into myself because no one close to me has lost a parent to suicide. My shell is my usual friendly, contented self… and I am content with most things. I have a wonderful husband and friends, a roof over my head, and a paycheck that allows me to travel. 

But underneath, I am an intrinsically different person. I am a human being no longer standing upright, but forever slightly lop-sided, slightly off balance. I view people differently, tolerate less bullshit, and find it difficult to forgive and forget. My frequent anger and frustration have developed into something not wholly like everyone else’s. It’s more introspective and has a certain degree of beauty, because it’s filled with a love towards my father that can’t go anywhere. My love is trapped inside me where it fuses with anger and grief to produce something new that will never quite be familiar to me.

With this second life comes the necessity to familiarize myself with the unfamiliar, find balance in my off-balanced reality, and engineer something brand new from the ruins of a disaster. Dad, whoever you were, wherever you are, I hope you’ll be proud.

1 Shneidman, E.S. Foreword. In: Survivors of Suicide (Cain, A., editor. , ed.). Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas, 1972.

Essay and graphic courtesy of Catherine Wehrey-Miller. You can follow her journey at Memories of Dad.

We are not free

Image: REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

This week has been hard.  Another man is dead for the crime of being black.  George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and Minneapolis is reeling, seething, hurting.  A CNN crew was arrested and detained last night by Minneapolis police as they reported on the protests, despite their every effort to cooperate and do the right thing.  How can we be the home of the free?  It is not freedom if all of us cannot walk safely.  It is not freedom for our press to be locked up without cause.  It is not freedom to be killed for the color of one’s skin.

This is so beautiful and so heartbreaking.  Thank you, Keedron Bryant, for sharing your song.

Here is a guide to white privilege by courtneyahndesign, with some small ways to be a good ally.

And here is a statement by Barack Obama, who said so eloquently what we all need to hear:

Tiny moments

Over the weekend I took my older dog to the vet for some blood work, and as I waited in the car, a young-ish gentleman parked a couple spaces from me. He spent several minutes getting his wheelchair out of the car and then easing himself out and getting himself situated. All to take his little chihuahua to the vet early on a Sunday morning.

Open car door and twist around, pull out wheelchair from behind driver’s seat, unfold and assemble. Stop and rest. Lean out to straighten it. Pivot and ease out of the car into the wheelchair. Put on mask and adjust it. Take a deep breath. Tell pup to stay in the passenger seat, that daddy is coming around the other side. Close door and wheel around, retrieve little pup from other side of car, settle pup onto lap, wheel back around and go up ramp to get to the office door.  Pull door open and prop it with wheel while wheeling inside one-handed, deftly and with ease.

I was struck by a wave of gratitude as I watched him. Gratitude for good people quietly going about their lives. Gratitude for responsible and kind pet owners. Gratitude for my own imperfect body. Gratitude for another day.

Musings on that kind of Friday

white_face_mask_on_green

Today I am hitting a personal little blogging milestone of 200 posts, and with all the weirdness that is going on, I thought maybe we could just chat.  May we?  I’d love to.

I started using Prose hair care several weeks ago.  You know, kind of right after we all wound up sheltering in place and wearing nothing but sweatpants?  I LOVE my new hair regimen and this is not at all a sponsored post but hit me up, Prose, your stuff is amazing, but please let me say my fine and thin but also curly hair has never looked better with such minimal styling.  And you know what?  I am a little bit bitter within my I’m-so-lucky-to-not-be-sick cocoon that no one gets to see my cute bouncy hair because we are all staying the eff home to flatten the curve and keep our fellow humans safe.  Zoom meetings don’t count, I’ve decided.  We are all so grainy looking via video chat that my hair could be a frizz ball and I could probably still look mostly decent.  The one thing I still do on a daily basis is put on lipstick, because that DOES show up on Zoom, and also I feel put together and much less like a zombie when I do.  But I feel guilty that I feel bitter.

Really, we are terribly lucky.  My husband and I can both currently work from home.  We are healthy and trying to stay that way, staying home and only venturing our to walk our dogs and pick up our groceries from the front step.  Oh, and to buy a bag of coffee every week or so, masks donned and properly secured.  But what a time to be alive.  My goodness.  Our generation is currently wading through our second “once in a lifetime” economic crisis.  We exited college and grad school just in time for the 2008 recession, failed to get jobs that paid anything decent even though we were fed the American Dream of bootstraps and college and careers to be proud of, and then have been half-walking, half-crawling towards financial solvency ever since.  Now that most of us have finally gotten jobs, we have crashed headlong into the COVID-19 pandemic — with very little savings, moderate job security if we are very lucky, and rent to pay because none of us have been able to even dream about mortgages, considering our longstanding lower-than-average pay and high-enough-to-crush-your-spirit student loan payments.  So where does that leave us?  Working from home if we are lucky, filing for unemployment if we are less lucky, and urging our aging parents to please please please stay home, because pandemic.  What a time to be alive, huh?

There are so many emotions for us all to sift through right now.  Gratitude.  Despair.  Grief.  Fear.  Compassion.  Anxiety.  More gratitude.  We do our groceries on an app and tip or delivery drivers well as they risk themselves to make a living.  We donate masks and don our own, ache for the sick and simultaneously ache for anything we can call normalcy.  It’s such a tough time.  I’ve been thinking a lot about stress and suffering.  How we all have loads to bear.  The news felt like it was crushing me, an onslaught of constant bad news at all hours of the day, so I am learning to limit that consumption.  I read the news, just not all day every day.  And I have been reminded by a dear friend that just because other people are suffering doesn’t mean I have to feel like I am not allowed to feel bad.  Also, allowing myself to suffer doesn’t do anyone else any good.  Put your own oxygen mask on, girl, and then you can help others.

In short, I’m trying.  Me and my bouncy curls and my tight chest full of anxiety keep getting up every morning and doing our best.  It’s really all anyone can ask for right now, right?  I am not a nurse, not a first responder, not a medical manufacturer, but I can stay home and help those heroes have the best shot they can against this virus.  I can donate masks and treat those around with me respect and compassion, and also allow myself room to be sad that this is the world we live in right now.  We are not working from home, we are trying to work from home while a pandemic rages around us, desperately trying to be productive while desperately trying to survive, okay?  Maybe it sounds trite by now, but take care of yourself, I’ll try to take care of myself, we’ll take care of others as we are able, and we’ll make it through this.  Trust.

On my radar

As the days continue to blur into each other, I thought I would share some things that have stood out to me amidst all the sameness of sheltering in place.  It is such a strange clump of feelings we are experiencing — gratitude to be working from home, concern over friends and loved ones, guilt over never being “productive enough,” tiny joys found in a daily homemade latte or a dog nuzzle midday, and a foreboding sense of anxiety suffusing everything (mostly) under the surface.  It’s a relief to turn all that off even for a little while, so please enjoy!

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc all around us, I was reminded of this thoughtful article from The Atlantic from 2018.  It rings just as true as it did then.  If you are a young child, be comforted by looking for the helpers.  If you have the autonomy and ability to, be a helper.

mr_rogers_helpers

 

Clare V. is having an excellent promo for Mother’s Day.  Now through 4/26 spend $200, and get a free webbing strap with code FREESTRAP.  Even better, 10% of all proceeds go to Every Mother Counts in support of safe pregnancy and childbirth for every mother, everywhere.  I have been eyeing her adorable Midi Sac for ages and finally took the plunge, along with this excellent Masculin Féminin strap for a nice graphic punch.

 

 

I’m still “nesting” now that we are home so much more, and currently I am focused on small tweaks to make our kitchen feel more pulled together.  This retro little microwave couldn’t be cuter.

daewoo_retro_microwave

 

Speaking of home decor, I am crushing hard on Nicole’s sweet pink Stardew Valley-inspired kitchen.  I’ve been playing quite a bit more of late, and I think I might be ready to dive into some modding for this game — especially if I can create a kitchen even half this cute!

And for a tiny dose of levity, here’s a video explaining the pandemic to one’s past self.  Ah, to remember the good old days…  four months ago.

 

Take good care of yourselves, and (at least try to) have a relaxing weekend!

 

 

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swallow it whole

vintage_portrait_eyes

swallow it whole

 

I’m not eating much

want to be thin

fragile

wanted

and yet

I want to be 

               reach 

               touch 

               have

      it all

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

Stayings and doings

cb2_crescente_copper_duvet_cover

It feels like this week has lasted half a lifetime, no?  Our lives are becoming very different, day by day.  After several weeks of will-they-won’t-they, I am now working from home for at least the next five weeks.  The state of California has issued a directive to stay home except for essential errands.  All non-essential businesses are closed in Los Angeles County.  And around the globe, many, many people are sick.

It is easy to feel helpless or despairing at times like these.  A global COVID-19 pandemic is certainly cause for concern, alarm, caution, and consideration.  That being said, with an abundance of care, we can make it through this together.  Some tips and musings below:

  • Stay at home as much as you can.  If you need to get groceries or take-out, delivery or no-contact pickup options are available, and currently many business are offering these services at no extra charge.
  • Don’t hoard things.  Supply chains right now should be keeping up with needs just fine, put people panicking has some shelves empty.  Containing this virus depends on ALL of us washing our hands and disinfecting around us.  Buy only what you’ll need for a few weeks, and leave some for everyone else.
  • If you can do so comfortably without straining your own household expenditures, consider buying gift cards to support your favorite local restaurants and small businesses.  Your purchase will help then through a difficult period, and you get a treat or a meal out later.  Win-win!
  • Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.  I have been coping by cleaning and organizing areas of my home when the mood strikes, for example.  I cannot help overburdened hospitals in Italy from my living room per se, but I can stay put and clean out my refrigerator.  So far over the last couple weeks I cleaned out my closet and sent a bag of items to thredUP to be sold or recycled (get $10 to shop when you click here), cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator, replaced my duvet cover with this beauty, and got these excellent bins to organize my newly-clean fridge.  Some people have joked this is stir-crazy fifth-week-of-quarantine level stuff, but I figure if I’m going to be home all the time, I might as well be able to enjoy a tidy space!
  • Find a balance.  If you live alone, make sure to keep yourself connected by reaching out by phone or online.  If you are suddenly working from home with a partner and/or kids, carve out time for yourself as best you can.  We live in a smallish apartment, so my husband and I are trading off using our desk space at home.  I need to keep more regular business hours, so I use our area during the day.  He needs to keep in contact with his job but has more flexibility with when he does his work, so he’s been using our work space in the evenings.  We do have two desks, but this way we aren’t on top of each other in a small space all day every day.
  • And lastly, go easy on yourself.  We have so much to worry about right now that it can feel all-consuming.  Cozy up in bed for an extra few minutes.  Take things a day at a time.  If that feels like too much, just focus on your morning.  Then your afternoon.  Then your evening.  Give yourself time to rest, make sure you are nourished, and maybe try to take joy in small things as best you can.  We are all in this together, even while we stay at least 6 feet apart.