Category Archives: Personal Reflections

The stuff that has nothing to do with the rest of what I write about.

What I’ve Learned, 2015 Edition

I used to do these “What I’ve Learned” lists every year. I’m going to do them more.

  • Resistance is not a reason not to do things.  It may be an invitation to explore further.  It’s also not a reason to shut down and “power through” without feeling.
  • Having a structure to my day is one of the only ways I can stave off feeling like a useless burden on society.  Writing just three things that I’d like to accomplish the night before and being able to cross them off is helpful (a framework I learned from Gina Trapani).  When I don’t do this, it starts a spiral of self-judgment and shame around concepts like “wasting my life” and “not living up to my potential” that actually get me further mired, rather than leading to action.
  • My voice is not essential in conversations about politics, and the best way to use my privilege is to amplify the voices of those being primarily affected by oppression.
  • I am sad a lot.  I have a habit of self-medicating/numbing out to avoid sadness.  I’m trying to sit with it more.  If I can sit with my emotional state for 30 seconds longer than I did yesterday and then numb out if I want to, then that is an accomplishment that I can feel proud of.
  • I have real challenges with internally-generated motivation. Motivating myself and feeling ‘positive’ (i.e. motivating) emotions like excitement and anger get quickly redirected into shame (as well-documented in The Change Triangle).  This motivation -> shame cycle is often misdiagnosed as depression (though I have also historically struggled with depression, I’ve thankfully . I am addressing this. This shall be addressed.

I Surrender


I surrender.

I surrender self-improvement.

I surrender “fixing my life”

I surrender making small changes that add up.

I surrender figuring it out.

I surrender doing better and hoping it works.


Fine. I’m “so smart” and “things just naturally fall into place for me” and i’m “so lucky” and I’m a “sensitive person” and whatever else takes it all away from me.

Fine, I’ll stay out of your way.

I surrender.

I surrender so that you can make art.

I surrender so that you can figure yourself out.

I surrender so you can keep your image of me intact.

I surrender so let’s talk about you.

I surrender, so I’ll stay out of your way. Out of everyone’s way.


I will feel childish about feeling angry. I will feel embarrassed about being hurt. I will throw a tantrum, apparently.

I will find comfort in shame and victimhood and powerlessness and surrender and not in excitement and self-directedness and positive reinforcement.

I will be contemptuous of my flavor of brokenness.

I will accept my flavor of brokenness.

I will find it boring.

It will not solve things.

But maybe they’re beyond solution.

I surrender.


It’s fine.

I’m fine.

The troubling history of the crack epidemic in Lower Manhattan: A video

In digging through my storage unit over the holidays, I came across a VHS tape featuring a set of news stories from 1987 about a protest march in the NoHo area of NYC.

Residents were protesting the ‘invasion’ of crackheads and crack dealers into their once safe neighborhood. They ‘didnt feel safe’ and ‘these people should be locked up’ They demanded a larger police presence and the arrest of addicts and dealers alike.

Knowing what we know about the racial sources of the crack epidemic, I find this to be a severely depressing glimpse into the many ways that the powers that be manage to pit us against each other and ignore systemic oppression, as well as the state of race relations in NYC in the 1980s.

NoHo is now one of the most chic, sought after and expensive blocks in the whole city. I should know, I grew up there (and you can see me in some of the news footage as a kid on a bike). I remember very distinctly feeling quite ambivalent about the protest, as even back then I felt that addiction should be treated as a medical issue.

I hope this video is enlightening.

What I Should Have Said At My Father’s Memorial Service

My dad’s memorial service was this weekend.

There were a lot of old Artists there.

They come from an insular world in which Art is the only worthwhile endeavor, where “selling out” is the worst imaginable sin.

More than a few people got up to extoll his virtue as an Artist, his lifelong commitment to Art and being an Artist, and his keeping his promise to himself to always make Art.

They spoke of his legacy: His art.

(I guess I don’t really count. To them.)

I was in the room when they said this.  They said it to me.

I saw the heads nodding along.

Invalidating my actual existence. Relative to almighty Art.

Old wounds scraped up.  A roomful.


I’m told I went up and said some words.

I’m told I was generous.


Here’s what I should have said.

Art isn’t a legacy.

Art is poison pigments in glass cases.

Art currently taking up space in an empty house, needing to be housed until what… some magical surge of interest?

My father died alone. He died alone because he put Art first.

It’s not fucking noble.  It’s childish, delusional and deeply selfish.

As was he.

My father was not there for me.  He was there for Art.

He loved me when it was convenient.

Your precious Art cost him his family.

It’s ink marks on paper.

It’s not noble.

You are delusional.

I’m his fucking legacy.

Art can go to hell.

You want legacy?

Kiss your kids.

If they still talk to you.

If not? I guess you have your fucking precious Art.

What I should have said.

On fucking normal and fucking expectations.

Lately I’ve been spending some time thinking about all the ways in which I am not what society expects me to be.

I am smart, wise and curious, but I do not have a college education.

I am industrious and skilled in many areas, but I have not had a full-time job since 2011, and I am not interested in finding one.

I am male, straight and a feminist in a committed long-term relationship, but some of my views and activities do not fit squarely into any of those labels (for instance, we are not married and I don’t think of a marriage certificate as an essential part of what makes for a happy life.)

In many ways I am not living according to the expected plan, the treadmill. The ‘be born-go to school-go to college-get a job-meet a girl-move in-get married-buy a house-have kids-retire-wait to die’ treadmill.

In the past, there have been aspects of it that have bothered me.

I’ve had an underlying critical voice that pokes at me that I should be doing something more important with my time, that I’m just putzing around and wasting my life away.  It tells me that not spending time either looking for a job or ‘being entrepreneurial’ and Getting Things Done is somehow wasteful and will lead to regrets later in life.

And then recently… holy fuck! I don’t have to live up to others expectations of what my life should be.  I don’t have to give away my power to whatever I’m “supposed” to be doing.  I can be a feminist and also enjoy checking out girls in yoga pants (respectfully, of course).   I can build my own life, make my own rules.

Sometimes I will be uncomfortable, when my values and the values of the world at large come into conflict, be it individually or as part of a couple or as part of a social group or a political party or anything else.

But, you know what?

There are worse things than being uncomfortable.

This is my declaration of independence from feeling bad about not being who the world expects me to be, or living up to some imagined standard of ‘normal’.

Fuck normal. What an imaginary nonsense concept solely dedicated to making us feel like we’re doing something wrong pretty much no matter what.

Fuck “but you’re so smart, why don’t you just commit to something”.

Fuck “So, any wedding bells in your future?”

Fuck “You’re so interested in human behavior, why don’t you go to school for psychology or something?”

Fuck pushing myself toward making other people more comfortable with my life.

It’s better for me to embrace the freedom and awesomeness that is me right now than worry about not living up to some standard for how things are supposed to work in the name of being more normal.

This rocks.

Come with me.