here we go again.

Ah life. When your laptop dies and your blogging progress comes to a screeching halt. However, I am now properly outfitted for blogging goodness and will be back with new pictures, musings and obsessions. I know, all two of you who actually read this are thrilled.

I’ve been trying to figure out what my next move is, and with that comes a soundtrack of contemplative, slow songs for when I’m wandering around by myself desperately trying to gain perspective. And then, there are the songs that make me want to dance my ass off. The songs where your body is so fully immersed in the music that you can’t feel sad about the state of the world and your anxiety finally shuts up because the movement feels so fucking good.

This is one of those songs.

Find the love within.

[sic]

rough magick interview with francesca lia block

IMG_20151231_182257Francesca Lia Block, my partner in Rough Magick, interviewed me for her blog! I talk about my influences, obsessions and writing and editing processes.

A sampling:

“What tips do you have for writers about how to create a powerful short story?

When I write a story, it’s usually because I have something on my mind that won’t go away. A feeling, or a particular image, a snippet of a dream. I’m a worrier, a ruminator, and I will replay that little bit of information in my head over and over again. Writing gives me the space to explore these feelings and ideas. I’d tell writers to begin there, with that passion. The power of that feeling will carry throughout your story, even if it’s not immediately clear in the first draft. Also, with short stories, there is a particular urgency that needs to be addressed. You have very little time to grab the reader and get them acclimated to the world you are creating, so it’s important to do that right away.”

Head on over to FLB’s blog and learn more about me!

so sad today: in progress.

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So, I’ve finally picked up my reading pace, and I’m currently engrossed in So Sad Today, a collection of essays by Melissa Broder that is at once beautiful, heartbreaking and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. (Maybe I find them funny because I, too, am an anxious mess and love a good dose of self-deprecating dark humor, but I guess that’s a story for another day.)

If you haven’t checked out So Sad Today on Twitter, you should. Seriously, do it right now. When you’re anxious and depressed, it’s hard to express it or explain it to others. We’re told to hide it, to put on a happy face and fake it ’til we make it. It’s so fucking refreshing to see someone just say what they want to say. Broder is a writer who started the account anonymously as a way to get all of these feelings out in the open. What a marvelous idea! You would think that maybe reading this shit when you suffer from anxiety and depression would be triggering, but for me, it’s the exact opposite.

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It’s inspiring. It’s calming. I read Broder’s tweets–and now, her essay collection–and sigh in relief. The So Sad Today project as a whole is a lesson in radical bravery.

And these one-liners. I am in awe when someone can deliver truth with such an economy of words as this:

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In some ways, I can’t wait to keep reading, but in other ways, I want to savor every word, every revelation.

In any case, I’m loving this brilliant book so far.

[sic]

 

sullen girl.

I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled novel writing session to post here. I’m working on sharing more of my thoughts and experiences as the mood strikes so I’m not always sitting on ideas and feelings. (Turns out that repression is not so healthy.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery. I wish I could be as brave as I was when I was in my twenties. I used to be comfortable sharing my opinions, telling my stories. Something changed. I let myself be silenced, but I am learning how to be open on my terms. I do not want to be silenced by anxiety. By fear. By depression.

If I’m constantly tamping down my ideas and second-guessing myself, if I’m always afraid to speak up, then my writing is never going to truly flourish. (Maybe that’s why I needed to write this now. Sitting with my writing is hard. Being emotional and raw and vulnerable is hard, in writing and in life. Like I said, I’m learning.)

After taking a walk in this morning’s oppressive heat to pick up coffee and get some work done, I came home feeling…strange. I needed to feel centered. I needed to feel like someone understood.

I needed to listen to Fiona Apple’s Tidal.

This is an album that has been a comfort to me for nearly twenty years now. I remember finally getting the CD and listening to it on my Discman. Curling up on the couch in my darkened living room, playing the entire album from start to finish over and over and over again. I hated crying when I was younger. I hate it now, but I’m more emotionally available now than I was as a scared, frustrated teen who wanted nothing more than to just have some peace and happiness. I hated feeling weak. With Tidal, I could cry. I could feel sad without having to explain why. I could feel angry without having to hold back to make others comfortable. Listening to Fiona Apple was a radical act that gave me permission to feel. To be.

When Fiona Apple declared, “This world is bullshit!” at the 1997 MTV VMA’s, she said the very thing I had been feeling for a long time, something I still feel often.

“Days like this I don’t know what to do with myself/all day and all night/I wander the halls along the walls/and under my breath I say to myself/I need fuel to take flight/And there’s too much going on/But it’s calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion”

–Fiona Apple, Sullen Girl

Before I listened to “Sullen Girl”, I didn’t really know how to express the sadness and anxiety I felt, but this song came along and I felt a little less alone. A little less frightened. Sometimes, this world is bullshit, but there’s always art to at least help you process the pain and the crap you’re going through.

“Never Is A Promise” is another one of my favorites. It’s one of the bravest, most beautiful songs I have ever heard. To be that vulnerable, that honest…I’d like to get there again. Someday.

Go on. Be brave.

[sic]

 

moving forward….

After my last post, I’ve kept on with my writing, even performing this past weekend in a show that was the culmination of my participation in a workshop that explored the Latino immigrant experience through the lens of Shakespeare. It was pretty fucking amazing. It’s been a while since I’ve been on stage, and for some crazy reason I went really raw and emotional with the piece. It just all poured out of me one day, and the disparate elements came together thanks to a long walk, coffee and Frida.

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Every time I rehearsed it, I would feel physically ill. But I did it. I made my nerves work for me. And I actually had fun.

What a concept!

And now…

I’m learning to treat myself with loving kindness and grabbing moments of beauty and joy whenever I can.

Lover Man and I actually went out on a date. An honest-to-god, old-fashioned dinner-and-a-movie date. A matinee of Captain America: Civil War (because we’re old), including snacks because pretzels and nacho cheese make every movie better. It’s just a fact. Then, we went to a local restaurant and chowed down on burgers and craft beer. It. Was. Glorious.

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A Sunday jaunt to a local cafe for brunch ended up with a walk and random drugstore purchases, including the most adorable pens I have ever seen. They’re colorful! And tiny! In a pouch! HOW COULD I RESIST?! (I’m currently obsessed with color-coding my Bullet Journal, which is the super colorful paisley print book below.)

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I went for a run today and wore my fancy floral running capris. Naturally, I had to take a quick detour to the roses.

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Running is pretty much the only time I ever really feel like a badass. I push ahead, challenge my body and don’t let obstacles get in my way. I’m a good running citizen, letting people know I’m approaching with a clear, “On your left/right!” and thanking people for moving over when I’m coming through. But the thing is, people actually move. They don’t mock or ignore me. They just move. They acknowledge me. They make space. I’m not used to people making space, allowing me to move ahead, strong and confident.

 

Afterwards, I treated myself to an iced almond milk latte.

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Drink it all in.

[sic]

finding the light

Some weeks are a whole lot of this:

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Wasted words, wasted time being angry at myself for not being good enough. Frustration. Self-doubt. Headaches. Tears.

I feel drained, defeated. I wonder why the hell I write. Why bother? I feel like a nobody, sick of fighting anxiety, sick of the panic plague that has overtaken me.

But then I venture out into the world and find little bits of happiness. Lover Man and I see an old friend and breathe in fresh, cool air on a perfect night. Smelling the richness of fried street food, roasted meats, sweet treats. And then, something almost unbearably adorable.

Behold: Panda bubble tea.

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I mean, how could this NOT make me happy?

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Oh, and did I mention arepas?

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We share food, digging into each other’s plates for a taste of this and a bite of that, a meal of comfort. Afterwards, drinks. A vivid orange sangria like truth serum, and I’m finally talking about it. Venting my frustrations. Not sitting in a dark room, afraid to say what I’m feeling or anxious about not being taken seriously.

And then, when I am home, an inner light ignites, and I’m not just writing words. I’m thinking and feeling and expressing and fighting the fears. Fancy Christian Lacroix stationery and coffee soda help.

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Also helpful: the new James Blake album. Remember when I posted “Modern Soul”? Well, the album that song is from, The Colour in Anything, has finally been released, and it’s astounding. The opening track, “Radio Silence”, is arresting and mournful and haunting. The rest of the album lives up to the promise set forth by that track. I listen to it and am reminded that even the biggest pain can become something beautiful.

Writing my way to the light,

[sic]

 

[sic] seven day song challenge, day 6: romeo y julieta

I actually ended up building on the last piece I wrote about “America” from West Side Story! A glimpse:

“First, there’s the classic “Amores Como el Nuestro” by Jerry Rivera. You may recognize the opening notes from “Hips Don’t Lie”, a song that made annoyed me to no end despite the fact that I really like Shakira because every damn time the song came on the radio I would automatically get hyped for Jerry Rivera. Every. Time. I should have known better, but I didn’t because, like Pavlov’s dogs, I had been conditioned to expect a damn good salsa song and not middle-of-the-road pop. To be fair, had I not grown up listening to “Amores Como el Nuestro”, I probably would have liked “Hips Don’t Lie”, but alas. (I’m sure Jerry Rivera gives zero fucks about my feelings, seeing as how it probably rained money in his house every time that song was played.) This song takes me back to my friend’s room as she waxed poetic about boys, and I, being younger and not exactly popular with the fellas, listened while frantically tucking away information in the back of my mind. Put this song on at a party and watch me get my entire life.”

There’s more music, more stories and more 1990’s goodness over at The Kindred Collective, so go check it out!

[sic] seven day song challenge, day 5: america

I put this up at Kindred earlier but forgot to cross-post. Whoops! Anyway, here’s a sample:

“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Latinos on television or read about Latinos in books, which is probably why West Side Story affected me so deeply. Reading the stories and watching the movie cemented my love for both Shakespeare and musical theater. I annoyed my family by obnoxiously singing along with the movie, sometimes more than once a day. While the starry-eyed, desperate teen Jessa loved scenes like “Mambo”, “I Feel Pretty” and “One Hand, One Heart” (on which I modeled a senior wedding project because, in my other high school, we had to take a Marriage and Family class where we planned a Catholic wedding, making religious programs and all, and then had an egg “baby” that we had to care for. But I digress.), adult Jessa keeps going back to “America”. That conflict of hope and disillusionment, the deep pain and frustration at not being respected, sadness and resentment at the difficulties my parents faced as young people in the US, especially my dad, who came to the US from PR when he was eighteen, the way even anger and frustration can be turned into art. It’s masterful, and the lyrics resonate. Plus, Rita Moreno is a goddess.”

Check out the entire post here!

song challenge, day four: ’90s rock gods edition

Oh friends, today’s posting is good. I’m going way back to the early ’90s, when music kicked ass and all the hot boys had long hair and sang like beasts.

A sample: “I remember seeing the video for “Don’t Cry” for the first time and marveling at Axl’s perfect face, his shaking hands, his writhing body. Also, the clothes. ’90s fashion perfection. I had seen other G n’ R videos before, but watching this grand interpretation of Axl’s life being played out by the man himself–fucked-up Axl, withdrawal Axl, cool-as-fuck blazer-clad Axl, underground Hulk Axl–felt different. I loved the poetry and the storytelling, even if it was some narcissist’s big, vulgar ego stroke. (Which…I think we can give give the “Biggest Ego Stroke” award to “November Rain”.) And Slash–can we talk about that guitar god? The hair! The top hat! The snarl! I was totally in love with that sliver of face and wild mass of curls. And the way he played guitar was beyond music. It was an awakening.”

Read all about this and my love of Shannon Hoon over at The Kindred Collective!