Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Leaky Face

I am open. I do not and sometimes cannot hide my emotions. I have a leaky face.

The leaky parts of me result partially from my poorly regulated limbic system. They are also driven by my intentions. I believe that if I let others see and hear about my struggles, they are more inclined to speak up about and seek help for theirs. I believe that by talking about our struggles we can find relief and contribute to the process of de-stigmatizing having emotions and struggles. Knowing my leaks have and can help others, helps me. But being leaky also limits me, especially when it comes to love and business.

Sometimes my leaks spill out as a litany of complaints or an undue and overly emotional reaction. Neither response is of any use to anyone. So, if I think there is the risk that I might spring a leak, I’ll isolate and try not to talk about my problems. Who wants to be perceived as the girl-woman with a solid job who cried “woe” from her big-ass, backyard-endowed, Park Slope apartment? Not me.

The thing is, when I bottle up my emotions, they tend to ferment and bubble over in odd ways and I end up weeping and forgetting to breathe. 

I weep because, despite all of the good things, the truth is that I’m uncomfortable. For 21 years, since I first entered therapy at the age of 9, people have said “it will get better.” I don’t know that “it” is. I’m 30 now and I do not think it is better. But, maybe it is? How can I tell? What are my metrics? Does anybody know a monitoring and evaluation professional with expertise in leakiness?

I--no--WE do not have the science to answer these questions. The scientific community knows just enough about the brain to know that it knows nothing about it. So, what do I do to plug the leak and make it better? No clue.

Until a neuroscientist discovers some panacea (somma, anyone?), the best thing I can do is practice mindfulness and magically unearth bursts of energy to take on the hard work of self-improvement.

In the interim, please excuse my leaky face.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

And for today's winning okcupid opening line is....

Him: "Man, you are so white. I'd have to repaint my walls to match you."

Me: [crickets]

Also. This: Is. My. Job.

More substantive musings coming soon!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beauty in the Breakdown or Why I Love My Chalk Wall

I am obsessed with chalk walls. They invite creativity, motivation and catharsis. They make friends come and visit.

Here are some of the images that have appeared on my walls of late. They are the best gifts another human could offer.

  Drawing credit: Jeremy Adam

Drawing credit: Jeremy Adam
Lyrics: Sage Francis

Writing credits: Mom


Drawing credit: Jesse Perlstein,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

DIY - All Of It

Nobody does anything in the singular any more—especially not in New York. Everyone wears hats on hats on hats, hustling from one gig to another. Being “busy” is trending.

We do not just do our day jobs running Fortune 500 consulting firms, NGOs, hedge funds and government offices. We also write poetry and run marathons and brew our own beer. We DIY ourselves to exhaustion. But, to what ends? Financial success? Personal fulfillment?

I don’t take the subway to visit my friends anymore. I bike. When I can, I try to cook for myself, using local ingredients. (Confession: since I am a horrible cook, this means that most nights I end up a little hungry.) Nevertheless, I feel obligated to cultivate culinary skills. I feel compelled to build a solid following for my blogs. I must advance my career. I have to have a tight body, a perfect romantic relationship, flourishing friendships and…

This (wo)man does not exist.

David Sedariis tells a story about a woman who told him a story about how life is like a stove with four burners. The four burners represent health, family, friends and career. Sedaris explains that his companion’s theory is based on the idea that you can only ever keep two burners going at the same. Otherwise something boils over.

Reality echoes this allegory. Research shows that multi-tasking is counter-productive and can decrease creativity and efficiency. Yet, I keep meeting photographers/screen printers/playwrights and consultant/marathoners/writers who sleeplessly wander the world.

What I have learned from my personal experience and work as a global health consultant is that turning off the health burner is the wrong decision. Without our health, everything suffers. Mental and physical well being—including, good sleepare essential ingredients to getting all the pots on the stove to boil at the same time.

So, if we cannot turn off the health burner, which burner do we let simmer? Do we ignore our families and friends? Put our professional drive on the back burner?

If my personal experience isn’t sufficient evidence, a recent HBR article on balancing work and life offers a slightly different recipe for success. The authors’ primary argument is that we must 1. make choices and sacrifices and 2. have help. Whether the later takes the form of family nearby, hired assistance or a supportive partner depends on the individual.

I’m not convinced the article gets it right. Maybe there is another way. My suspicion is that many others would argue that there are other options. I have a hunch as to who one such person might be, which is why my next read is: Maira Kalman on Curiosity, Courage, Happiness, and the Two Keys to a Full Life.
What do you think?

Note: This is re-post from's caffeine break:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Deciphering Love: Online and In Life

What happens when a tech savvy man with photographic prowess applies web algorithms to a love quest? What happens when online dating requires wading through a deluge of redundant replies? Is it unethical to hack the online dating system in order to free yourself from its constraints, present an authentic self and cultivate the love you want and deserve? If we all knew how to work the system, would(n’t) we?

These heady questions emerged for me over the past week as I started “seeing” (dating? writing alongside?) a man whose online okcupid presence exploded during our first date.

Let me explain...

I was on my Nth first date with an okcupider. We’d texted all week, which is mandatory for this type of thing. I’d put in a good-faith effort to keep our conversation above the belt, a feat I find especially challenging when almost every word or emoticon can be (mis)interpreted as sexual innuendo. Fortunately, I’d succeeded and we'd sat down for a meal.

Halfway into my turkey burger, my date started telling me a story about how he had conquered the okcupid code. I raised one eyebrow. Then the other.  

First, he figured out how to run a program on his computer so that he could favorite (five stars for all!!) any and all profiles, thus letting hundreds, if not thousands, of women think that he was “into them” without having to invest much effort in scouring profiles for hotness, wit and whatever else it is that sets his heart a-flutter. Second, he implemented best practices for photo and profile etiquette, which means that he strategically selected photos and captions to increase his appeal to all the single ladies.

I was not, to my surprise, immediately put off. I was intrigued. This man had figured out how to decipher the human and online dating code. I was impressed. Foucault would have been too – he was working the system from within the system and, in so doing, freeing himself to be the person he wanted to be. 

We decided to keep his phone in his pocket for the rest of the date since it wouldn’t stop buzzing. I got up to pee and then sat there wondering if I had suddenly been transported to an alternate universe where I was on a date with 100+ women and one man. I looked in the mirror and told myself I was not intimidated at all. I was just FINE*. I think I lied a little.
It's been week since our first date. Mr. Nth is now literally one of the most attractive people on okcupid. He got an email from the okcupid officials telling him so. He receives hundreds of emails a day. He also calls me, holds me and has become a character in my life. Well this is awkward…

When his phone buzzes these days, it is hard to say what I feel. Sometimes I find solace in the fact that I replied to him before he staged his okcupid coup. Sometimes I panic and think of all the foxy ladies trying to hop on a train track that I might like to ride. Solace or panic. Maybe both at once.

With every buzz, I have to fight with everything I have to transform my own pattern of self-deprecation and low self-esteem into something more productive: an attempt to trust another human and to re-wire my grey matter to believe in myself. This is my trial and I welcome it, albeit somewhat begrudgingly.

I also wonder (1) if I’ll ever be able  believe another "like" or "four star rating" on okcupid and (2) if enough people learned how to do what he did, could we collectively break okcupid’s arrow?

So, has the mass appeal made me want him more? No. Yes.

Has it fed my insecurities? Yes. But again, I am grateful. 

I am trying to use this chance encounter with techno-dating gone wild as an opportunity to become more comfortable in my skin. That’s what I want to do, not what I am doing. There is panic and jealousy. There is also intrigue, caring and compassion.

For the time being, I think I’ll let this code run its course and watch the social experiment unfold with awe and a bit of fraught desire. Regardless of the outcome, this is an incredible opportunity to think about the interconnectedness of the human code and the machine. The idea makes my insides tingle and a little voice in my brain scream quietly. It is time to shrug frantically and try to go with the flow. Namaste?

*FINE is a lovely acronym I like to use when people ask me how I am doing . It means “Freaked Out. Insecure. Neurotic. Emotional” and I love it. I’m always FINE. Everything is FINE. David Ettl gets credit for this word play.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

That's What They Said

I started collecting quotes when I was 7 or 8 years old. I keep my collection in an old chest my great great grandmother used to carry her belongings when she immigrated to the US. I have a pen and journal on me at all times. I view this habit as a part of my Steal Like an Artist propensities.

I try to limit my quote-musings to the twittersphere so that I don't bore the hell out of everyone by just repeating things someone else "already done said." But, I am human and therefore fallible and finicky. So, I am going to share a quote here instead. The way the words below theorize rhetoric and spirituality make my insides tingle and my mind dance.

“I see a propensity for obesity and a yen for fairy tales…Transference of fear and loathing to an authoritarian vessel is catharsis. He absorbs their dread with his narrative. Beacuase of this, he is effective in proportion to the amount of certainty he can project. Certain linguistic anthropologists think that religion is a language virus and that it rewrites pathways in the brain. Dulls critical thinking." - True Detectives, HBO

Chew on that for a few minutes over Sunday brunch. It has an interesting aftertaste, no?