Tiny Miracles in the Making

I did it. I quit my job and moved back to CO. What once seemed an impossible dream, is now an overwhelming reality.

You’d think that the road from DC to Colorado was paved in effortless intention. But in reality, it was a hot mess of frustration, exhaustion and desperation. Shortly after writing my last post, I discovered mold growing on my shoes and along the baseboards in my unit.  I had already been considering transitioning back to Colorado in November or October, but decided to speed up my timeline when my landlord refused to test the mold for toxicity. After dealing with night sweats, eye pain, bloody noses, lethargy, bulging veins, allergic reactions to every day foods and a full body itch that burned and caused bruises, I assumed the mold was making me sick and figured that this was the universe’s cruel way of kicking me out of the nest. So I stowed some of my things at a friend’s place, and moved out 48 hours later.

I spent the next three weeks hopping from Air BnB’s to hotels throughout Virginia, Takoma Park and Chevy Chase. This included booking a super Air BnB steal, only to find the unit infested with cockroaches. Needless to say, I didn’t last five minutes there and opted to sleep in my car outside the Arboretum after discovering every hotel in DC was booked.

Every Air BnB brought a unique challenge. There was mildew in the wash machine of the first unit I stayed in, spots that looked like body fluids on the comforter in one unit, water damage and the musty smell of mold in another unit and visible mold growing on the shower curtain, coupled with a slow draining sink in the final unit.  It was too difficult to keep moving my things back and forth so I left my pots and pans at work and tried to maintain my low histamine, organic diet by eating out every day. I kept myself to a strict $20 a day food budget, which meant I spent more like $23 dollars a day on food, and ate poorly when I got off my second job at 10 pm and all the good food options were limited.  I had to navigate overcrowded metro rides every morning at the unit in Arlington, and a bird that pooped on me during my walk to the Chevy Chase metro.  I tried to dry out my shoes during the hot sun at one unit, only to throw them away after returning to find them infested with tiny bugs.

Every day seemed an impossible struggle. After showering and snuggling into my strange bed each night, I cried and thanked God for the tiny miracle of having survived another day. Then I prayed that tomorrow would be better, or that I would at least be a little stronger.

As I approached my last day of work, I made final preparations for the big move. I cleaned up my desk and packed my things at work. I obsessed as to whether or not the belongings I stored at work from my year of carliving, would fit in my car with the remaining items I had moved into my apartment. I also obsessed over how I would move my computer and guitar and vitamins and laptop from my car to the hotel each night while on the road, so as not to have my car broken into. I called friends in Tennessee, Texas and Missouri to see if I could stay with them instead of paying for hotels. No luck. One friend was graduating and had her family in town, another would be finishing Ramadan and the last was throwing a massive pool party that night. At this point I was used to disappointment and figured that the roadtrip home would be another tiny miracle to look forward to.

I bought two boxes, hoping they would fit my desktop and some plates and pots. I couldn’t measure my laptop, since it was at a friend’s house, so I guessed the size and hoped that if I packed it with clothes and labeled it pots and pans, it would be safe to leave in my car overnight, and save me the pain of moving it to a hotel after a long day of driving. I had no idea if the boxes would fit in the back of my car on top of the large plastic  bins, which were also stowed at my friend’s house. I measured my car from memory and prayed they would fit- less I would have to un-pack and re-pack the two boxes the same day I hit the road.

When I wasn’t obsessing about the move, I tried to complete some of the more formal parts of my transition. I visited every doctor I could, in anticipation of losing my health insurance. I picked up the deposit for my rental unit and forwarded my mail. I picked up the last few things I stored at my sister’s house- some paintings, wall hangings and remaining mail. One of my favorite hangings- a mid century world map  I scored from a second hand store in college, was in the basement with dead birds. As you can imagine, I decided to leave that. I also took my car in for the repair I had been putting off, only to find I needed a new timing belt and water pump, in addition to extensive repair to my exhaust pipe. Then I gave notice to my co-workers, asked that they didn’t try to organize a going away happy hour and prayed they wouldn’t try to hug me when I left.

Finally, I said what would probably be my final goodbye to my dog Prudence, before she died of old age. I spent $80 dollars I didn’t have to buy her expensive, but all organic mushroom based medicine to ail her aging joints. I told her mom that when her health started to fail, she should make a list of her favorite five activities, including eating food and that when she could no longer do three of those five things, it would be okay to put her down. I told her that the decision was hers alone and asked that she just let me know before it happens. She had at least a couple years in her, but I knew I may not make it back to DC and I wanted to say what needed to be said, in person. We prayed before I left, and she gifted me Prudence’s dog chain, which I made a mental note of never to clean. We both cried. I gave Prudence a belly rub, told her she was a good girl in the sweetest, strongest voice I could muster, and then washed my hands before leaving. Her mom insisted upon taking a final picture, so I put my hands up in a stay command and gently rubbed her head. She took a quick photo and I walked to my car in tears, before sanitizing my hands and driving 40 minutes to the Air BnB I was staying at in Arlington, Virginia.

I took the bad with tiny miracles the universe gifted me throughout the remaining days of June.  By the end of the month, I had spent nearly $2,300 dollars on housing, $1,140 on car repairs and only God knows how much on food and metro fare.  But that wasn’t the worse of it. Without cleaning supplies and a limited ability both financially and otherwise to stay in places that met my rigid OCD standards, every dirty shower and mystery spot turned into a snowball of avoidance, rituals and stress.

I had to cut corners in order to stave of depression and panic. Changing my routine increased my anticipatory anxiety and reduced my ability to resist compulsions. As a result, the intensity of the OCD doubled almost overnight. It was the second most exhausting and soul sucking time of my entire life- the first being when I first came down with OCD after going cold turkey off a cocktail of psychiatric medication, giving up my dog and taking a 3 month leave of absence to complete ERP treatment at an inpatient facility in Massachusetts. On the plus side, I made it to the Museum of African-American history without an entrance ticket by chance, and somehow by magic, everything fit perfectly into my car.

Unfortunately, the drive to Colorado was paved in obsessions- from the moment I left the Whole Foods in Chevy Chase, to the time I drove up the unpaved road that led to my parent’s house. I worried about contamination from the street, and later had a false memory about an interaction with roadkill that left my face contaminated for the entire 27 hour drive. I spent a night sleeping upright in my car, so I wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel, or move anything. Somewhere outside of Indianapolis, I ran into some bugs (I think) that splattered blood all over my windshield, contaminating the entire shell of my car. As a result, I almost ran out of gas while driving through Kansas. When I finally arrived at a gas station to fill up and deal with the blood splatter on my car, the restroom had no soap in it. I waited patiently for the attendant to fill up the soap in the women’s restroom and then decided to drive straight through to Colorado without stopping.

After two days of driving, the second day of which consisted of over 14 hours, and a brief stop at Taco Bell that left my mouth contaminated, I arrived at my parents’ house at 2 am the next morning. Too tired for a full body shower, I moved the expensive items out of my car and fell asleep on the couch in the clothes I had been wearing for 3 days. That next morning I unpacked my car for the first time in a year in a half, and washed my body from head to toe. It took me 40 minutes. By the time I was done, I was utterly exhausted.

lg-Welcome-Colorful-Colorado
Photo Credit: Nic Oatridge, 2015

I’ve been back for three weeks, and I wish I could tell you that a load has been lifted off my shoulders-  that the weight of the world, my obsessions and limiting beliefs is lighter, more manageable. But they’re not. Instead, the exhaustion of working two jobs in the soulless city of DC has been replaced by the emptiness of space and time in quaint southern Colorado. Now there is space for shifting obsessions and time for my fragile consciousness to wander.  So I sleep and dream, and obsess and cry, and pray and scheme- in that order.

Most days I search for jobs, in hopes of securing a low key telework position that will afford me time and space to write and pay off the rest of my student loans. In between applications, I knock off my never ending to do list- transferring bills to my new address, trying to find a new behavioral therapist, doing exposures and waiting for the results of my blood work in hopes that the mystery of my chronic depression, anxiety and allergic reactions will be discovered.  I have a hankering that I am undermethylated, and that the results from Walsh testing, will prove that a vitamin deficiency is wreaking havoc on my body. Unfortunately, those tests aren’t covered by insurance, will cost me another $800 dollars (including out of pocket doctors visits), and require even more blood tests (I had my blood drawn three times in June already, and all those test came back normal). And if you don’t know from previous posts, visiting the doctor’s office is one of OCD’s favorite activities.

But I still obsess about each and every little thing- like the lizard that crawled into the window seal of the room I am staying in, for instance. After two hours of obsessing, I stuffed the crevice with several objects, before settling on a plastic bag. I’m unsure if the lizard made its way out or if its slowly dying  there, leaving me to inhale bacteria or a virus from it’s decaying body. The window curtain is smudged with lizard poop and so the entire room I am staying in is somehow contaminated. Moreover, I don’t have a safe place to escape the contaminated world after a stressful day. So I struggle to unpack my things, and find places in common spaces where they won’t be moved.

Mostly, I know my mom went out of her way to make me feel comfortable, and I feel embarrassed and angry that her efforts aren’t good enough- they never are. It’s one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced in my life-seeing the look on her face when she goes to extraordinary lengths to ease my suffering, only for me find something she missed.

But it’s not just the lizard-the door handles are stained with paint, the light switches with random smudges, the cabinet walls, sink handles, wash machine, dish washer, refrigerator along with all the table tops and towels are tainted  with mystery marks. To the non-obsessive mind, the house is clean, fully stocked and orderly. But for me, nothing is up to my OCD level of cleanliness.  And of course my parents don’t adhere to my OCD rules, because they are exaggerations of my troubled mind and pretty much impossible to adhere to.

So here I am. Finally in Colorado- free to heal, but lost in my mind. By day, I consider the incalculable odds of a future full of obsessions, shame and the agony of self-defeat. By night, I let dreams of triumph, faith, and the prospects of complete remission tickle my tormented soul. I think about my past and the sum of choices and happenstance that led to this moment- the depression and suicidal ideation that consumed me on and off from the age of 15. How that depression led me to leave high school a year early and enroll at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I fell in love with the Earth. The sense of invincibility, independence and adventure that compelled me to move from state to state after graduation, in search of a perfect job.  Getting my master’s degree and moving to DC with no job, then finding a job and living in my car to pay off my student loans only to leave five years later out of desperation.  To loosing almost 3 hours today to rituals, and finally to this moment, writing to you as the movie Interstellar plays in the background- echoing the ironic play of time and space in my mind.

I am lost in my mind, trapped in a misery of my own making. Yet still, I hold on fast to faith whenever it finds me- though it be with fingers slippery from hand sanitizer. These days, my life is a series of tiny miracles in the making, so small and seemingly insignificant that even I forget they’ve come to pass.

I do not know how this ends- if I will suffer like this for months and years to come, or if I will eventually overcome OCD and experience happiness and joy and confidence again. But what I do know is this: after posting this blog, I will crawl into my strange bed and thank God for having made it another day. And then I will close my eyes and try not to cry as I pray that tomorrow will be better, or that at the very least, I will be stronger.

If you’re reading this, please pray for me.

Grounded

I’ve been meaning to write for nearly 4 months, but life got the best of me. So much has happened since I last wrote, that I don’t even know where to start.

Should I fill you in on the grueling 3 months I spent on Zoloft- only to find the depression replaced with a never ending brain fog that made writing nearly impossible and caused me to shit myself silly every morning for three months? Or how depression and stress forced me to end my journey a month sooner than I planned, leaving me with no cash on hand and less than a month to find housing before my Belize trip? No, I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that.

Maybe I could write about the transition from carliving to mainstream society and how I quickly went into debt to pay for 1st month, last month’s rent and all the things it takes to live in a house- towels, linens, pots, pans, spices, light bulbs, hangers, utensils, a mop, a bucket, a broom, a comforter, Tupperware…you get the idea.

Perhaps I could share with you the magic of Guatemala- the beauty of the Tikal and Yaxha ruins- the excitement of kayaking Lake Peten, with howler monkeys swinging above me in the jungle trees? I suppose that would be a great place to start, only then we’d have to talk about how that was crushed under the disappointment of Belize, where I was stupid exhausted and anxious from starting Zoloft and lost my footage of snorkeling with sea turtles and all my pictures of Guatemala. How I spent the entire last day of my vacation crying and obsessing in my hotel room. No, perhaps I will save that for another post, when the memories aren’t so fresh.

I suppose I could just fast forward to the bitter sweetness of the present-  I could write about how I spend $1,300 a month for a quaint, fully furnished English basement that I rarely enjoy because I work two jobs. How rent has made paying for doctors appointments out of pocket and paying off my remaining student loan debt nearly impossible. How I just returned from yet another trip to Belize for my 30th birthday, that ended in moments of bliss mixed with quiet disappointment and the heaviness of a failed attempt at redemption. Or how the random bouts of anaphylaxis and night sweats I had before heading to Belize may be indicative of a chronic, life long autoimmune disorder that is also the cause of my OCD and depression? But I’m also not quite ready to write about that either.

Or what about your boy Trump and the assault on the Earth, communities of color and the possibility of loosing protection for pre-existing medical conditions? Certainly not, as I’m sure you need a break from that train wreck anyways.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s not all doom and gloom. There are pockets of wonder and adventure and joy from delving into my spirituality more deeply and peace from a renewed sense of self, which I promise I’ll get to. It’s just my heart is heavy about this past year and I don’t feel compelled to narrate my story in sequence. Plus I’ve been questioning my motive for blogging. Is this another delusion of ego, or is this meaningful and cathartic? And if it is the latter, why not just journal and get it all out? Why do I feel the need to be heard, witnessed, understood? Why do I feel like this is part of something bigger? A book maybe?  And if that’s the case, do my words speak to you? Do they move you and stir something profound in you or just capture your attention for a fleeting minute?

I guess what I am trying to say is, I am still here. Still struggling, still questioning, still trying to reach out to humanity across the great digital divide and hopefully find some clarity in the process. Still craving financial freedom to explore and experience my own spirituality.  Still yearning for the part of my story when the Earth and Stars and Universe align and I find my way out of mainstream society to some small plot of land where I can commune wholly with the universe and ask big questions with no plan or agenda or distractions.

For now, I am grounded-learning to be grateful, trying to be strong and ready to share again. Tell me, are you still there?

 

 

 

 

This is Your Brain on Drugs

The sun is shining big and bright, but I can’t shake the feeling of doom. It’s the week before my period, and per usual I can’t stop crying. A mix of exhaustion, tension and depression has clouded my judgement and sense of self. The sun is shining, but I don’t feel it’s warmth or sense it’s brightness. The air is crisp and cool, but I feel hot and bothered. At any moment, I feel like the very sky will collapse on me. It’s been almost 2 months that this doom feeling has lingered over me, and once again Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is holding me hostage. At this point I am no longer subclinical, meaning I am spending more than an hour a day obsessing and ritualizing.

I have to go back on medicine.

I make an appointment to see my Doctor. It’s a fancy, clean office with fixtures out of Crate and Barrel. I hate coming to the Doctors. I feel like sick people come to the Doctors and leaves their germs and body fluids everywhere. Pretty much everything is contaminated to my brain – the buttons in the elevator, the door handles, the cups and water in the lobby area, along with the magazines and arm rests on the chairs. Pretty standard stuff. I get a cup of water, ignoring the fact that it feels dirty to me and somehow my brain equates hydration with bathroom breaks, with stress. I take a sip, remembering not to gulp. “Come on brain”, I think to myself, “same team”.

I handled the rest of my visit pretty well. Despite a red spot near her keyboard being confirmed as salad dressing and her insistence on hugging me after three rounds of travel vaccinations, none of the obsessions lingered much later. Of course I did shower that evening as planned so I am sure that helped. Still it was hard to convey to my doctor what I have been experiencing. I totally forgot the last time I was there we didn’t talk about my carliving situation so she had no idea what I had been up to. We talked more about the PMDD and how terrible the symptoms of irritability, sadness and anger had become. We decide a low dose of Zoloft before menses is the way to go. I’m hesitant- I don’t like the idea of altering my body with chemicals that retard my brains natural ability to absorb serotonin by blocking receptors (Select Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI’s for short). On the other hand, no amount of positive thinking or perseverance can rouse me from reality. I’m ritualizing way too much and little tasks feel like monumental efforts. The combination of OCD and depression is unbearable and I’ve been down this road before. It doesn’t end at a good place.

For a full day I obsess about whether or not I can keep my drugs in my car or if the cold will do something weird to them or if it’s safe to leave them at work or if someone will take them or taint them. I know what you are thinking, ridiculous right. I spend another 1/2 day pretending I I don’t need the medicine and will stop ritualizing with shear will power. After getting up to use the restroom at work and realizing how anxious and angry and exhausted and trapped I felt with this simple task (I hate the bathroom at work because the trash is located beneath the paper towels. My job is also kind of life sucking at the moment, so the irony of it being the only place I can get a reliable bathroom and check adds to the  drama). So after a moment of brief defeat, I popped the 25 mg of Zoloft in my mouth and drank a glass of water.

Taking medicine is the ultimate mind fuck. I can feel the zoloft ooze over me- a hot swoon of sweaty, focused energy. Everything feels different, almost like someone dipped reality in cocaine cotton balls and stuffed them around my senses.  It feels like I exist in an alternate reality. Maybe that’s why I feel nauseous and sweaty-clearly this is jetlag from traversing the space-time- continuum.

The first few days are the worst. I feel stuffed and tense. I forget to eat and drink. My lower back and legs prickle and tingle. It’s hard for me to fall asleep then it’s hard for me to stay awake. I get the shits and I feel even more anxious than I did before. My body feels twitchy and I want to pace and tick and tap things. I sweat through the nights and my face starts to get oily. I try to write but no words come. Everything is muddled and messy and confusing and my skin is crawling on top of me. Finally, my mind starts to quiet and the energy comes back. I’m focused and alert. For a moment, the clouds part and I can feel the sun again.

I needed this.

#GetYourselfFree

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. Between working an extra 24 hours a week at my second job, fighting off obsessions and trying to keep myself motivated and focused at work, I haven’t found the time or mental space to write. Today I decided to take the ½ day off so I could get my emissions testing done and assemble some sort of blog post. Honestly though, my mind is mush and my heart is on fire. Not sure how this post will turn out, but here it goes.

I only have 7 more weeks left of carliving. And while the cooler weather has made life much more comfortable, most days still leave my blood either boiling with frustration or heavy and cold with apathy.  I often find myself googling the price of land when I should be working. Sometimes I steal away in the stairwell at work to cry tears of frustrations and surrender. I utter affirmations under my breathe when I feel I am about to lose my temper- “I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am wise. I have more than enough for everything I need”. “This is temporary”, I tell myself. I give myself pep talks aloud and exercise at the gym. And when that doesn’t work, I eat Dunkin Donuts in the dark and think to myself, “it doesn’t matter”.

On top of all that, I’m constantly navigating my off the grid lifestyle, my new job and the relentless OCD. I’m growing tired of disgusting bathroom run ins- having experienced poop and tampons all over the floor in several bathrooms this week. I opted for public peeing in woody areas, only to find lots of condoms and triggering objects like tissue with blood on it. Who knows what I am even peeing on in the dark and what type of splash back contaminants I have been exposed to.  And to be completely honest, I have a 10 minute ritual planned for leaving this library on account of some questionable red smudges on the door handle and I am not happy about it. Don’t even get me started about how bad I feel, not alerting the group ahead of me about the spots.

You see, OCD is tricky business and I am constantly balancing the desire for comfort, with the need to learn to live with uncertainty. The worst part about all of this, is that it’s the same 2 or 3 obsessions I struggle with over and over and over again- including that damn “off” feeling that leaves me staring at doors and windows. Plus, everything is amplified 4 x’s during the week before my period when my PMDD and depression are the worst. I honestly feel like OCD and money are the two biggest things holding me back in life.  From fears I will let someone bleed out in front of me to new anxieties about getting triggered while traveling, I honestly feel suffocated by OCD and debt. They taunt me and torture me when my spirit is weak, and my spirit is week these days. I hope you all can sit with that, and not just council me to get back on medicine. It hasn’t come to that.

Sorry, I digressed. Today was an awful day and I am delaying a ritual as I write this. Back to the list of other things that suck right now. My eating schedule is also thrown off. I am back to fasting just 16 hours a day and eating the other 8 to make sure I don’t pass out during a double shift. However, these meals are anything but relaxing or restorative. I am constantly stuffing myself during the 30 minute excuse of a break I am assigned at work. On top of that, I have been eating all the free food they provide during busy days, including things like pizza and muffins which lead to urinary incontinence and anxiety.

Most significantly, I spend much more of my time triggered and mildly irritated at work. Yesterday I was fitting a little kid for shoes (more later on how children are still incredibly dirty to me) and her nose just started bleeding. Would you believe that? Out of freaking nowhere- just started bleeding. Her dad looked at me super cool and said, “don’t worry” she gets these all the time”. And here I am, seriously starting to cry, thinking “Oh my god, worse nightmare. And a chronic nose bleeder to boot.” Immediately now, the downstairs public bathroom is dirty and all the shoes she tried on are contaminated to me. Unbelievable really. Then there was blood on the first aid kit at work and on the printer-and not the fake kind of OCD blood- for real blood. Ugh,so triggering. Lastly, I totally forgot you have to learn your co –workers names and smile when people talk to you and play nice in the sand box and what not when you start a new job. Only I don’t like sand and I don’t like square sand boxes or people and…. well, you get the point.

I’m ready for a break. I need a pause before I snap. I thought this journey was about hitting the reset button, pushing past my boundaries and seeking adventure. I thought that after it was all said and done, I would feel some huge sense of accomplishment or some warm, fuzzy sense of self- like that feeling you get after watching a coming of age Indie film. But I was wrong. Apart from exposing some of the rawest, purest, most intense parts of my personality, this journey has opened up a scary new world. One where I can never go back to my old life simply because I can’t unsee my true calling or fall out of love with my desire to live a life free from the anxieties of debt culture and the  burden of conformity. And also because doing so would actually be damaging to my emotional and mental health. I finally realize that I can’t keep doing this- trying to find the perfect job in the perfect state only to find that I feel suffocated by bureaucracy, self-interest and the complexities of office politics and interpersonal dynamics.

It’s time to create a permanent, alternative, debt free, off the grid lifestyle where I  am my own boss, landlord and confidante. I’m ready to let go of birthdays and celebrations, holidays and happy hours, bills and bureaucracy and most importantly, the traditional 9-5 once and for all. I’m ready for quiet spaces where my intellect and curiosity can run a muck like spring melt after the first thaw-where my emotions aren’t suffocated by concrete buildings and white faces in black slacks on overcrowded metro stations. Where my longing to be understood by others is replaced with a longing to understand and experience my purpose on this planet. Where I have space to spread my wings and simply, be me.

As freeing as this may seem, it also makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. I have no idea what my life will look like in 2 years, let alone if I will be happier and less stressed living completely off the grid and working for myself.  What if I fail?  What happens if I don’t try?

The other day at work, I wrote down the following on a sticky note in a moment of teary, desperation- “#GetYourselfFree, April 2019.” This is the day it all goes down. The day I give myself permission to quit my job, buy some land and get the heck out of Washington, D.C. And who knows? Maybe I will only make it another year before I decide to quit and work some meaningless part time job or telework position while building my shipping container house. Maybe someone will tap me on the shoulder with the opportunity of a lifetime. Maybe I will get my TOEFL certification and travel the world. Maybe I will win the lottery or come up with a million dollar idea. Maybe I will catch Hepatitis C and die before I pay off my student loans. Maybe I will fail miserably and end up back at McLean. Who even knows?

For now, you can find me lounging under the cover of some trees in my sweatpants- sleeping bag tucked tight up to my chest with NPR blasting in the background and hand sanitizer at my side.

Only 7 weeks to go.

Anywhere But Here

The weather has cooled to the perfect temperature and I can finally relax. My mind has quieted. So much, that I’ve already begun to plan my year long hiatus from society and the traditional nine to five. I’ve come to realize that public service and working for others is a lot like running full speed into a brick wall with a padded suit and helmet. I constantly ask myself (while running into this metaphorical brick wall)- am I prepared to work this job and live in DC for another 3 years? Can I handle the inefficient system, the bureaucracy, the office personalities and the rising cost of housing- not to mention the difficulties of searching for my life’s purpose in a soulless city?

Okay I know that’s harsh and that I probably sound like a stubborn, impatient millennial that just needs to deal with it. But for reals, I don’t know how you all do it every day and keep a straight face! Some of you all even seem to be enjoying yourselves-totally oblivious to the heavy suit of armor that now adorns your heart. Do you feel safe in that shiny suit of metal armor? I feel like taking a risk-getting out there to do something amazing with my life, is way better than living life in shackles disguised as a shiny suit- one that you have to pay off with interest, might I add.

One thing’s for sure-I’m starting to check out. The honey moon period with my job is over and I feel unfocused, unprepared and  unmotivated. My patience with people is growing thin and I’m withdrawing. On the other hand, Fall is finally here and every thought feels crisp and clear. Living in my car has become a breeze, having mastered the bathroom routine and landed a second job. Yet still, I can’t help but think about what it would be like to work for myself or have some low key telework position that allowed me to get away from it all. If only I didn’t have this job tying me down, I would be any where but here. Exploring the deliciousness of life, traveling or homesteading and spending a lot of time doing nothing in particular at all.

Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you discover that what you’ve really hit is a treasure chest. And with a little muscle, sweat equity and a plan, it’s more than possible to unlock it’s mysteries. This is what I keep telling myself, that this is part of what I’m doing with my life-typing in the dark lot of a library, trying to figure out how I can stop fighting the things I like least about society and discover for myself what life is like on the other side.

 

 

Born This Way

I feel frustrated, unfocused and slightly anxious. My back and neck feel tight- my throat feels scratchy and tense.  I can’t concentrate, much less write. The words that once flowed smoothly from my lips hang like crooked paintings in my mind. Once again, my feeling of inadequacy at work, frustration with interpersonal dynamics and disdain for society has me cursing under my breathe and wanting to fast forward to the part where I up and leave society.

For those of you who don’t know, I have recently begun thinking seriously about taking 1 year away from society to wander aimlessly in search of inspiration and purpose. That means no job, no plans or itinerary. A chance to experience life without a schedule, agenda or to do list- the ultimate experiment in being.  But I can’t leave. Well I suppose I could, and will, but not just yet.There is so much to do. I need to put in at least 2 years with my current job, finish stamping out the last of the OCD rituals and of course, complete my tumble weed journey and pay off my private student loan debt.

In the meantime, I struggle with all the same issues that led me to live in my car. I don’t understand our society with our awkward rules and customs and I could care less about the superficial social interactions that encompass around 98% of all human interaction. Why is it that most people appear content with the status quo and seem to have little interest in finding another way? Why is it that I feel so different from everyone I meet and find it difficult to connect beyond small talk?

I don’t have all the answers but I do know that there is a lot more behind my anger and apathy than just an itch to leave society. I wonder if I was just born hypersensitive, with a nervous system wired to process emotions and information with greater intensity than the average person.  I wonder if I have some underlying hormonal or chemical balance that was triggered by some trauma or maybe I just never learned to process emotions in healthy way as a child.  Is this hyper awareness and hyper sensitivity a fatal personality flaw or one of the most important aspects of my true self I should embrace? Is this want to leave society a defense mechanism I have developed to cope with stress, anxiety and anger or is consciousness guiding me towards my path? Am I a change agent, system buster and counter-culturalist on the path to saving the world, or am I a hyper emotional, attachment-avoidant type on a path to isolation and intolerance?

I think there are two parts of me fighting for a voice. One part of me is extroverted, passionate, open, easily roused, adventurous and sensitive and another is introverted, rigid, focused, pragmatic, and logical. Straddling those parts of me- like living in mainstream society while also trying to leave it, is physically and emotionally taxing. But it wasn’t always so bad. I remember times when I was a child, maybe 5 or 6 running wild and free through the hospital and malls, hiding in places and exploring the world with a joyful curiosity I compare to the feelings I get while traveling. When I ask my mom what I was like as a child, she describes me as rebellious, adventurous, easy, happy and talkative. She said she used to tell me no or stop but I would just keep on going. She thought I had a hearing problem. I heard just fine.

So where did it go wrong? How did I become this analytical, obsessive, counter culturist with minimalist tendencies? I’d like to think a lot of it has to do with growing up in 21st century America and all the technology, societal pressures and limiting beliefs we are battered with on a daily basis. The stress of paying bills, finding a job, finding purpose and connecting with community has flooded our minds with thoughts like, “I don’t have enough money, I’m not good enough, I can’t say no, it’s not fair, I’ll never get ahead, there’s no point, I don’t have enough Facebook friends”, etc, etc. You get the picture. I think these forms of self-oppression, often perpetuated by systems and reinforced by cultural norms (the media, consumption, education, etc) are the reason most people appear to be tech savvy zombies following their peers like lost lambs.  So while a large part of me values paying off my debt and being a responsible and contributing member of society, I’m pretty sure the reason I haven’t left DC was because somebody told me if I worked hard and played by the rules, I would be happy. Unfortunately, I believed them.

Phew. I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest. It’s amazing how healing blogging is and how fundamental writing is to my journey of self-discovery. So yeah, I will probably continue rejecting societal norms, go on random adventures and pursue an unconventional lifestyle until my thirst for freedom has been quenched. And it’s highly likely I’ll continue to express disdain for the status quo and no doubt slip into a rut when I question my tumbling weed journey and allow myself to stew in doubt, anger and apathy.  And not necessarily because I am hypersensitive, passionate and idealistic, but more so because I want to live a life full of child-like wonder and because, I was born this way.

9 Month Update: If Not Now, When?

It’s been an interesting two months, and I’m sure you’re all dying for updates. So even though I have some pressing rants and raves regarding my ongoing existential crisis, I will start with the practical updates so as not to lose the interests of those of you who’ve been following my car living journey.

It’s been an interesting two months, and I’m sure you’re all dying for updates.  So even though I have some pressing rants and raves regarding my ongoing existential crisis, I will start with the practical updates so as not to lose the interests of those of you who’ve been following my car living journey.

So here is what you missed since my last post….

  1. I finally got my car back. It doesn’t drive nearly as well as it did before and now the A/C isn’t working too well and there are still some random whizzing noises I cannot even begin to describe. The stress of the previous repairs is still heavy on my heart so I have given myself a week to not think about it before I take it in for more repairs.|
  2. I completed filming for my upcoming clip in the documentary on Americans struggling to pay off debt, entitled “Just Getting By”. Not only did I make $500 bucks from the opportunity, proving my daily craigslist job search was not pointless, I get to share my story and blog with everyone who will visit their website. I believe filming should be wrapped up by the end of October and I will definitely share the details with you all.
  3. Me after the #bigchop

    I cut off my dreads. I have wanted to do this for several years but loathed the idea of yet another big chop (I have done two in the past 15 years). But after cutting off the back row of dreads two months ago and battling with frequent hair loss and intense scalp pain, I decided to take the plunge. Immediately after, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders- almost as if I was releasing years of depression, anxiety, expectations, limitations and fears I had been carrying with me. A physical and spiritual weight lifted from my shoulders after realizing I wasn’t the same slightly obese 17 year old that chopped off my hair after a failed perm in High School. As a result, I felt stronger and freer- being that my physical appearance seemed a more authentic expression of myself and my lifestyle. Amazingly, I did all of this in what can only be explained as a perplexing, quiet rage that took place at 2 am, over 3 hours in a random hotel outside of Philadelphia. Up to the last second I was doubting myself, and then I became so angry at the back and forth and the fears that I just grabbed the scissors, asked myself “if not now, when?” and then started cutting. It was a quiet act of desperation, which left one part of my hair (the first cut) shorter than all the rest. Nonetheless, it was one of the best decisions I have made in the past year for sure.  I have told myself my hair doesn’t grow and that it will never be long- what a terrible limiting belief shared by many African-American women today! I absolutely love my short hair, and the beautiful, growing soul it adorns. I can’t wait for it to grow past my shoulders.

  4. libetry bell.png
    The Liberty  Bell

    I crossed some more items off my bucket list- two more World Heritage Sites- the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was written, debated and adopted. I also finally visited NYC again where I wandered the streets aimlessly with my niece looking for good eats, urban treats and cheap karaoke. Mission accomplished.

  5. I found a job. After applying to more than 10 jobs, I happily accepted a position today with an outdoor gear company I LOVE. I will only make $11.50 an hour, but I will be eligible for a raise in January and will get metro benefits and 50% of any gear I buy. Most importantly, I will be able to use the estimated 850 dollars a month working 20 hours per week to drop a whopping $3,000 a month on my student loan debt. Amazingly, this combined with my go fund me, could be JUST enough to end my journey on time. And for those of you who don’t know, or can’t recall, that means I will have paid off $33,000 dollars in 12 months.
  6. My go fund me page has received $794 in donations! My goal is to raise 5,000, $1,000 of which will go to whoever donates the most if I raise the full amount. I’ve also pledged $200 to whoever gives the most, regardless of whether or not I reach my goal. So far the number to beat is $219 dollars and like a Lannister, I always repay my debts.
  7. I am 2 months into to intermittent fasting and estimate I have lost almost 8 pounds of fat since the end of July. I began by cutting out breakfast and slowing removing dairy, starches, most grains and carbohydrates, with the exception of bread and the occasional rice dish. Just 3 weeks ago, I decreased my eating window from 1pm-9pm, to eating just one large meal a day around 4 pm. As a result, I have become fat adapted, meaning my body has learned to use stored fat for energy instead of carbohydrates or sugar. I don’t get hangry and I no longer suffer from incontinence. My toenails have also begun to grow in clear and my skin is clearer than it’s ever been. I have also discovered that dairy and alcohol give me free floating anxiety in even tiny amounts and intensifies both the premenstrual dysphoric disorder and the incontinence.  Most significantly I know exactly when to eat, when to drink and what foods my body needs. It’s actually ridiculous how more in tune I am with my needs. I also feel sharper and more focused right before I breakfast joining the ranks of Michelangelo, Einstein, Isaac Newton and other greats who ate minimally or once a day. Did I also mention I have significantly chopped my food budget by about 15% and no longer rely on “healthier” fast food options? Who knew living off less and eating less could feel SO good?
  8. I am officially 3 months off my Zoloft and still experiencing sub-clinical levels of OCD!! That’s right, after a scary year where I almost lost everything, I am happy to say I am (mostly) walking  like everyone else. I barely think about it now, but it’s a HUGE victory that I plan on writing about more! Exposure Response Prevention therapy, along with my parents, saved my life!
  9. I’ve re-framed my minimalism lifestyle to include a physical, financial, spiritual and emotional transformation. The eating, self-care maintenance, reduction in things and commitment to reducing my emotional energy output have been just as life changing as my car living experience. I now know that I require far less than I could have ever imagined, and the more I give up, the freer I feel. I’ve also realized that many of the activities I put my energy towards- relationships that don’t uplift me or are unstable, emotions that drain and drag, foods that poison and paralyze, words that fall on deaf ears, aren’t just first world problems I’m privileged to experience, but symptoms of an oppressive society and culture I cannot support.

So yeah, this is me right now- sweaty and slightly overheated, typing from a random 7-11 parking lot in the middle of nowhere, with a bottle of water, 20 more minutes of battery on my laptop, a big grin on my face, and thoughts of all the many things I hope to accomplish in the last 3 months of my car living journey.