My life is becoming an absurd tragicomedy. Like, I should take a picture of my room and show you what it looks like. Clothes piled on clothes piled on papers piled on computers. And yet, I'm just pretending it doesn't exist. It's like my psyche. It's like this revelation of my psyche. (Update: I just today found out I may have to move by the end of the month! Exciting! Jesus Christ. This is what happens when you don't sign a lease. Did you know that since May I've had four different addresses in three different cities? Yes. It's true.)
Anyway. So in the midst of my personal chaos, I get these really intense and quite wonderful emails from readers. One the other day asked me a few questions. It was a very intense email. It was in response to my question about trying to pick a next right action in my life. The reader shared with me about her life and then asked me a few questions, and I'm going to answer them here, because for some reason the one thing -- other than killer facials that incorporate light-activating therapy, a light chemical peel and microdermabrasion which I will get to in a minute -- that cheers me up is connecting with other people.
It makes the requisite life-journey pain more like a symphonic explosion I am witnessing and understanding, rather than being consumed by. It makes me feel like: Look at us, in this thing together. Look at that person in her movie, and me in my movie and you in your movie. Rather than, I AM ALONE IN MY FUCKING MOVIE. (Related: Taylor Negron told me tonight, as I bitched about my life: "You know, Mandy, I think yours is a very interesting lesson." God he is profound.)
So these are the specific intense reader questions I got this weekend -- and here are my I-know-it-will-make-me-happier-by-connecting-with-humanity answers I am going to write out for you below.
Reader question: "Pretending that you are me and loved college and loved what she was studying, how do you keep it going when it is no longer a structured activity? Besides just fucking doing it, how can you edit? What do you do with it? How do you know your ideas and your writing are improving?"
My answer: You just do. You are comfortable with imperfection. It might be 5 minutes you devote at first. You might stay up all night doing it. You work with your limitations. You observe yourself and try to work with your weaknesses and your strengths.
My weakness is organization. Not even with writing per se. At this point, that has been Malcolm-Gladwell-"Outliers"-ingrained into my brain where I can now intuitively structure -- because I've done it enough -- but my problem lies with other dumb things that keep me from writing. With like, laundry. And exercise. And organizing the crushing informational flow of modern life.
So my secret lies in being easy on myself, and instead of expecting I will proceed through every day in some perfectly structured way, I have observed myself enough to know that I am always making little bits of progress, and I give myself credit for those inches forward that I am making. (I respond to the reward system. And I know that I respond to that, which is important -- just watch yourself, and see what works. Maybe you respond more from harsh brutal discipline and criticism?)
So. Rather than beating myself up for not suddenly waking up and looking in the mirror and finding that I am now David Sedaris, I celebrate where I am. Because by virtue of trying, I'm farther than I was yesterday. That is an awesome thing!
Honestly, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received in my life was from a woman who told me to just dabble in what you love and are exploring a little every day. That this can be looked at as success. Even if it's only for 5 minutes. Work it out. Triage. Use your gut. And go easy on yourself. Don't let perfectionism sabotage yourself. That's just a trick of the dumbass ego.
And the ego is a fucking dumbass. It's like your cuntiest frenemy. It's a trick. Don't take advice from that C. Do the work, then set it aside and then return to it. You set goals. You achieve some of them. You find writers or a writing class or pay an editor or read Stephen King's "On Writing" or take an unpaid internship or a paid one.
Question: "Okay, so you’ve done the former, no problem. You get a job doing it? An editor?"
My answer: Sure. Get a job. Maybe an internship with a day job. I think the issue here is in mistakenly (and I used to do this, too) thinking that there are neat little boxes in life. There are no neat boxes. It doesn't exist. We can artificially construct neat boxes, and, God, they are wonderful, and that helps, sure, but know this. You never wake up and suddenly on your cheek is now stamped the certified and lipstick-imprinted kiss from the "You are now an accomplished writer and editor, congratulations!" fairy.
There are theories of how to get there, sure. And theories are great! (Just take what you like and leave the rest.) Like Gladwell's one about the required time of 10,000 hours to become a master at anything. #JustKeepGoing. That is the hashtag of my soul.
AHHHH. That felt great. Now here's the other right action I'm so glad I took (after the very right action of the Haircut That Changed My Life): I decided to give myself a beautifying technique which I knew would not only change the way I look, but also change the way I feel. Kind of dumb and superficial, but fuck it, so is life.
You see, I discovered this magical makes-you-look-younger-instantly facial a few years ago when I went into New York Dermatology Group on a whim after meeting Dr. David Colbert at the Waverly Inn one night and connecting with him on a personal-professional-friendship level first. He told me the Triad Facial he offers is this ridic effective revitalizing procedure for the skin, combining three elements of (1) light-rejuvenating laser toning (2) microderm and (3) a refreshing dead-skin-be-gone-lifting chemical peel. (Keep in mind, I'm 37 in a few weeks, dude. Most people guess I'm in my 20s. THIS IS WHY.)
So, I got the lovely Triad last week, looked in the mirror and totally saw a brighter, younger me. Did I feel better? Hell, yeah, I did. Then I slathered my damn face in his new Illumino facial oil, and I carried on.
In conclusion. I may be homeless. I may never find someone who loves me romantically and consistently. But damn it all to hell. My skin looks amazing and that is progress. So I'm going to give myself credit.
Now, can someone please tell me what my next right action is? Should I: find a place to live at the end of the month? Hire myself a matchmaker? Campaign for the president? Catch up on "30 Rock"? Maybe look into aromatherapy?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.