of airlocks and currents

I have a tendency to react too quickly, and often negatively, in situations where I feel threatened in some way. Not in the sense of bodily harm, but emotionally. Threat of loss, threat of pain, threat of shame. Something like that. Because that's what all conflict comes down to - a fear of some kind.

In working on this, I came up with a visualization that helps. I think of an airlock, on a space shuttle. The small room between the body of the ship and the universe outside. It's a safe, secure threshold where astronauts can take their time suiting up before unlatching the door and heading out into the stars.

When something upsets me, I try to remember that I have an airlock, too. I have a space where I can get prepared, quietly, at my own pace. Where I can hesitate, if I need to. Where I can adjust to changes in pressure. Where I can calmly plan before unlocking the door to the world.

If you, too, struggle with being reactive - remember your airlock. And don't open the door until you're good and ready.

---

Along those same lines, here's another metaphor I find useful:

I know enough about myself to question my first, and sometimes even my second, impulses. I just have too many unresolved issues to let them be reliable guides for behavior. The problem is, they're impulses. They are so very beguiling; so seductive. They can overpower me with temptation, because they're right there. They appear suddenly and organically, so they must be trustworthy, right?

Wrong.

Impulses are like pretty little fish that swarm around you in the ocean. They're captivating, sure, but if you're not careful, they'll lead you astray in dangerous waters, distracting you from other potential perils. They're close to the surface; superficial. Observe them, but don't follow them.

Currents, on the other hand - those are your instincts. Always heed those. Currents we feel deeply, with the whole of our bodies. We can't ignore them. They are the underwater winds that pull us in one direction or another, warning us when we've strayed too far from shore.

It's not a flawless metaphor. It's one you can't think too much about lest it unravel. But it's something.

LSD, round two

It starts with an invitation to a concert I'd never have gone to on my own.

It isn't that I don't like Diana Ross; I do. But I'm a casual fan, not a devotee. I'd never have bought myself a ticket to the Hollywood Bowl that night. Gratefully accepting an extra one from a generous friend, however, is a different story. And that's where this story starts - with someone doing something kind for me, and me fucking up that kindness royally. Way, way too many of my stories start this way.

I meet Alfie and two others at Hollywood and Highland, and the four of us walk up the street to the venue together. It's mid July, sticky and hot even at sunset. Despite my joblessness, I'm in high spirits, a month into dating Timo. Thoughts of him are a constant susurrus in my head, and I have to force myself to leave my phone in my bag with the bottle of Malbec I've brought as an offering. (Alfie, as expected, rebuffs any attempt to pay him back.)

His friends are smart and funny; we make a jocose foursome as we climb the crowded hill. I especially click with Cara, the willowy jazz singer freshly transplanted from New Orleans. She's pierced and tattooed, possessed of an impishness she couldn't hide if she bothered to try--which she doesn't. Her eyes are black buttons that dart from me to Alfie back to me again, reading us, sizing us up with quiet intelligence. We discover that she lives a few blocks from me, cashiering in a pizza joint on Sunset while she gets her bearings. The two of us quickly fall away from the others who've now joined our party; we confer about music and our neighborhood and somehow, suddenly, drugs.

There are eight of us total, some familiar to one another, some strangers meeting for the first time. I know half of the group, but mingling with the rest comes easy enough after we've trooped in, single-file, to our seats. Almost everyone has brought something to eat or drink, and we pass trays of charcuterie, raspberries, brownie bites, and plastic wine goblets up and down. Everyone is tipsy within minutes, and it's a genuinely mirthful crew. 

Cara and I sit snug next to one another, giggling and gossiping about nearby patrons, cutting up like high schoolers in the back row of class. When I express embarrassment about my poor contribution to the party, she waves her hand in dismissal. "I didn't bring anything." The black button eyes flicker toward mine. "Unless you count shrooms."

She's counted on my reaction, which is a dropped jaw and raised eyebrows. "Shhhh," she warns, eyeing Alfie over my shoulder. So she's picked up on that already, has she? Likewise knowing Alfie's disapproval of drugs, I lower my voice. 

"Are you serious?" I can't hide my excitement. It's been a while. Shrooms are scarce lately. 

She nods, eyes shifting, while she reaches surreptitiously into her cross-body purse. The next thing I know, a small, foil-wrapped disk is being pressed into my palm. My heart thumps. Something about the illicit way she's presenting the gift tells me she knows what she's getting me into, and it's either a lot of fun or a lot of trouble, depending on one's perspective. 

I ask about the source in a play at due diligence, even as I peel the foil carefully away from the chocolate. "My boyfriend makes them. They're the best in LA. You'll see." Her eyes lock on mine meaningfully. Oh yes. Adventure time. 

Vaguely I wonder at the fact that she's already found a boyfriend in her new city, and a talented alchemist at that. I also wonder whether Pinkman knows him. I'll have to get her number before the night's over. 

If they're good, that is. 

And that's the last thing I think before I ingest a peanut butter cup-sized serving of what, dear reader, turns out, quite fucking clearlynot to be chocolate and psilocybin, but chocolate and LSD. Very, very, very, very good LSD. 

I don't even notice that the chocolate is completely smooth as it melts in my mouth. It doesn't occur to me that I'm not tasting the usual mashed-up, bitter bits of dried mushroom stem and bulb. That all I taste is sugar, cocoa, and butter. That there is nothing solid in the edible whatsoever. 

I'm just psyched as hell to be tripping with my friends at the Hollywood Bowl. Even if I have to keep it a secret between myself and the one I've just made twenty minutes prior. 

---

The come up is rough. Rocket-ride rough. My cheeks flush and my eyes swim, and a curl of nausea wraps around my gut. Cara, who's fifteen minutes ahead of me in her trip, keeps her eyes tightly trained on the stage. I try to catch her attention peripherally, but she refuses to look my way. I'm not sure what's going on, why she's avoiding me, but something starts to slip off-kilter in my brain. The playfulness between us has dropped out, and with every second that passes I'm incrementally closer to panic.

They're just really strong, I reassure myself. You've been here a dozen times. You always feel a little sick. You'll be fine. They'll level out soon. 

"Wow," I mutter, hoping to elicit a response from Cara. She just smiles and nods ever so slightly, still with her eyes on the stage. 

I spend the next ten minutes trying to find something to hold onto, visually and psychically. The nausea has abated, leaving in its wake a dizzy mental twist I haven't experienced in over a year, but which is instantly recognizable. Far, far down in front of me, the blur of lights and color and costume begins its telltale transition into multi-dimensionality. All in a rush, it dawns on me. I've taken LSD. There is no mistaking it. The unforgettable effects I first encountered on my birthday last year in Joshua Tree compound by the millisecond, and I know.

I know.

Gulping for air, I excuse myself and make a scene trying to disentangle myself from pair after pair of legs as I flee our party's bench. I can feel dozens if not hundreds of eyes on me. Dozens if not hundreds of curious frowns. I don't care. I have to get away, get some space. I know what I'm in for, and I'm trying not to freak out before I can get a handle on the situation.

The night is mercifully cool as I stagger down the raked aisle alongside the amphitheater. No idea where I'm going. No idea what I'm going to do. I'm clasping my phone like the lifeline I know it is, putting off the inevitable. The pine trees lining the walkway loom like green giants overhead, their edges vibrating, rainbow-bright. In a little bit I'll be able to bear looking at them. Maybe ten or fifteen more minutes, if I'm lucky. Maybe longer. Eventually I know, if the trip goes right, they will be stunningly, heartbreakingly beautiful. But right now, I have to take in a little as possible, visually. It's far too overwhelming, because I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I've just taken a drug that, the last time I took it, made me want to kill myself. At first, anyway. 

I need to talk to someone I can trust. Someone who will calm me down, not scold or criticize me. Someone who will listen and walk me back from the ledge. 

My options are limited. My closest friends and I are on shaky ground. Two I'd like to call would be extremely unimpressed with my choice tonight, and would definitely make me feel worse about it. One is at home with spouse and kids, and an LSD-frenzied call from me would be wholly unwelcome. It doesn't occur to me to call Cameron, who probably would have been an excellent choice. Instead I decide to call my ex-boyfriend. 

No, not that one. The one before that one. The artist. If you've been with me for at least three years, then you know who I mean. If you haven't, all you need to know is he was the one that helped me when my dad died. He's a touchstone in my life, and remains a friend. And I trust him. I used to call him "A" on my blog. His real name is Greg. 

Greg, obviously surprised to hear from me so randomly, picks up within two rings. I pour my words out as quickly as I can, grateful for the familiar voice on the other end. 

"Greg? I'm at the Bowl with some friends, and someone gave me acid, and I didn't know I was going to do it, but I did, and I just need to talk to someone for a moment, ok? I know I'll be fine, I know the deal, but right now I'm just really scared because it's really, really, really hard at first until it levels out, and can you please just talk to me for a minute until I'm ok? Please?"

You know the tone of voice that someone who cares about you deeply sometimes takes, when they're exasperated beyond belief, but they also have enormous compassion for you, because they know you're something of a fuckup, but they love you anyway and would do anything to make sure you're okay?

That's the tone of voice I latch onto for the next ten minutes. And I am thankful for it. 

I don't remember much of what was said. I kept repeating myself; that I know. LSD looping: it's real, it's unavoidable, and it's one of the worst parts of the trip. Recursive thoughts that become verbal tics. I probably just kept saying how rough the beginning was, but that I knew I'd be okay in a little while. Greg did what he could to keep me calm, joking with me, reminding me that there was nothing I could do so I might as well give in and enjoy it. 

At some point, Cara finds me. Her eyes are round with fear, and she searches my face even as she asks concerned, solicitous questions. We play a game then, and the game is this: we both know she's given me LSD, not shrooms, but my poor reaction has terrified her; she is sure I'm going to tell Alfie, a friend she very much doesn't want to lose, so she pretends not to know what's really happened. We go back and forth, back and forth. I tell her I'm not stupid. "Please just be honest with me," I beg. "I know the difference between shrooms and acid, and it's okay, maybe you didn't know? Maybe your boyfriend mixed up batches or something?" I cast about for any excuse for her. I don't want to believe this stranger has drugged me. But I can tell she's lying, and badly at that. I can tell she's only trying to cover her ass, afraid of getting in trouble with our more conservative mutual friend. 

We spend several minutes lurching around near the bathrooms and smoking area while she tries to keep me calm and quiet. I realize she's not as high as I am. She might not even be high at all. I can't decide what to do with this information, where to put it or how to feel about it. 

And then, as abruptly as clicking to the next slide of a View Master, everything that is horrible about LSD becomes everything that is magical about LSD. Because that is LSD. 

So.

Now I'm faced with the task I couldn't accomplish the last time it was set before me, sixteen months ago: trying to explain why acid--as I have seen twice now--is the most powerful and life-changing substance on the planet. Why it will leave you breathless, tear-stained, and giddy with joy. How it will morph the physical world into a wonderland of possibility and living poetry. How it will crack your self-perception into a kaleidoscope of new, impossibly thrilling perspectives.

I will say it clearly and without qualification: LSD is my favorite thing in the universe. I wish I could put into words what it has given me in terms of self-awareness and self-love. I wish I had the courage to do it every month. I wish for everyone I love the gifts it has to give. 

Alas. It's LSD. Fat chance.

I feel like the posts I wrote after Joshua Tree were comprehensive, to say the least. I don't know that anything I could add now would further illuminate...what I'm trying to illuminate. But my god. All I can say is that last year wasn't a fluke. It really is a rabbit hole at the bottom of which is the pure light of consciousness. I know, I know. Believe me, I know. But there's nothing for it. I can't talk about acid without sounding like an insane hippie. It's acid. 

It all came out, of course. Everyone found out, including Alfie. You cannot hide being on LSD. LOL at the idea of that, really. Cara and I rejoined the group about halfway through the show, but almost immediately I had to leave again, so that I could literally run up and down the side of the amphitheater, crying with happiness, calling every friend I could think to call, leaving crazy-person voicemails about how much I loved them. The clarity and sense of serenity were even deeper than they'd been the first time. Or maybe I was ready for them to come sooner. Less afraid. Either way, I just wandered around, occasionally watching the vibrancy onstage but mostly communing with the trees and stars above. 

After the show we all trekked out together, snaking through the parking lot down to the boulevard. Brake lights smearing the night. I had to hold someone's arm. I took huge gasping breaths, amazed at how lovely even the traffic was. I apologized over and over to Alfie; so did Cara. He assured me he wasn't angry, but even in my altered state I could tell: Cara would be excommunicated for her sins. 

We ended up at Alfie and Kenne's house, where I staggered about their backyard in a dream state while they babysat. You could not commission a set designer to decorate a more acid-trip perfect setting than Alfie and Kenne's backyard. Trees and flowers, potted and wild, big and small. Riotous color and texture. Stone and pottery and brick and little kitschy plastic yard toys. I was in an absolute reverie of delight and gratitude. The spell broke internally, and I confessed to my friends about something that had recently happened to me. I sobbed and sobbed, relieved to have the truth out. Cara held me by the arms and made me look her in the eye while she told me what a beautiful soul I was. I'd long since forgiven her, and made her promise to thank her boyfriend for giving me this experience.

I texted Timo. Just his name. If he'd replied I would have told him I was tripping on LSD and happily thinking of him. He didn't answer, though, which in retrospect was probably good. It might have been a bit much, having not known me for very long. 

Eventually I wore everyone out. Kenne and Alfie went to bed, Cara went home after staying out with me for another couple of hours, and I found myself alone in front of a dive bar in Koreatown. I was still soaring. I called Greg, or maybe he called me, to make sure I was okay. I was fine, but I knew my night was nowhere near over. I took an Uber to Hollywood, and the babysitting baton was passed to my old neighbor turned boyfriend turned ex turned friend. He sat with me patiently in another dive bar while I babbled. He smiled with amusement when I cried with joy. And finally, sometime around 2am when I was finally able to eat, he bought me food. Then he put me back in an Uber and sent me home, aglow and abuzz with new life. 

LSD, round two. 

late october phone dump

Things are settling down. The chaos that has dominated the past few months is subsiding. Within a couple of weeks I'll be able to share more, but for now any worriers can stop worrying. (I'm looking at you, Bill.)

All of my free time lately has been sucked up by scurrying about, looking for work. Which I've found. And now that things are falling into place I hope to have more time, for more substantial posts. But in the meantime, to prove that rumors of my demise have been great exaggerated, here's a very boring photo dump of some of the stuff I've been up to since June.

New place. Around the corner to the left is the kitchen, and I'm standing in the office / closet-y area. Behind me is a full bedroom. It's a pretty cute little place, but my building has negative curb appeal. Not the greatest street to be on.

Poor Chauc has had a big adjustment lately. New place, mom gone a lot more. He's definitely slowing down, the ol' pup.

"Are we going back on Instagram?? No? Ok never mind."

"I guess this neighborhood isn't so bad..." 

Big drooly goober. 
FYF! Went with my friends Steve and Allison, mainly to see LCD Soundsystem 


It ain't Bonnaroo, but they put on a decent gig. 

Allison, being as big a scheduling nerd as me. 


IG Repeat #1

IG Repeat #2

Snuggles 4ever.

Cam came to visit! Terrible shot of me, but good good look at his big blue peepers. 

Alfie turned 40! Being the fabulous man that he is, he chartered a boat and took his friends to Catalina Island. 

I can't keep up with these stylish bitches. 

Tequila, white wine, something else I can't remember. The thing was the size of a casserole. 

Yep.

Team effort.

Birthday boy making it happen.

Aftermath.

OF COURSE there'd be a rainbow at our send-off. 

I really need to get to Catalina more than once every five years.

Six selfies, six totally different hair colors. Yay, filters! 

I promise he's not always as depressed as he looks.

Recently engaged. :)

Of Montreal at The Regent on Monday. Ridiculous fun.

love letters from the tundra (part 1)

I can't believe it's been since February that I posted about the letters my dad wrote to my mom, during their long-distance (Fairbanks, AK to NY, NY) courtship. I transcribed them several months ago, but just hadn't gotten around to sharing them. Finally doing that now.

I thought about annotating them, but I think, after all, a few accompanying snapshots will suffice. I'll let them tell their own story...

---


31 May 1966

Hi Pussy Kat:

I know that I'm not supposed to write again until receipt of certain photographs (gee, it must be wonderful to be so resolute and adamant...) but I have about an hour to kill before I got to work and among other things I would like to get some typing practice in. 

The weather is absolutely fabulous and has been for the past three days. By the way, weather up here is a very legitimate topic for conversation. It affects our lives in umpteem different ways; from whether or not we get a plane that week, to the operating conditions of the electronics equipment, to the advisability of going hunting. Speaking of hunting, I understand that the game at this end of the sector is plentiful and this summer I am going to see if I can get enough seal to get a new parka made up. The parka that I'm using now is the typical nylon piling, covered with corduroy, and trimmed with wolf and wolverine fur. It's a nice parka as far as parkas go but as this sort does not wear too well it is getting pretty well beat up and will have to be replaced before winter. Back to the weather; the temperature has been running at thirty and forty above zero and the snow is melting rapidly. There is only about six inches of snow left and there are patches of tundra showing through in spots. It's a funny thing; you wait all year for the snow to melt and then when it does and that green-brown conglomeration of weeds, moss, grass, etc. shows through you can't wait for the first heavy snows of winter to come and cover it up. The tundra up here is really a unique thing. Mile after mile of perfectly flat ground covered with the above sickening vegetation, that in winter lays over the country like a white velvet blanket, and in summer turns into a sea of muck and mire. Believe it or not it is easier to travel up here during the winter on the snow than in the summer on the tundra. Aside, the above tundra in the summer, although a soggy mess on the surface, is frozen solid just a foot below the top. This frozen bottom, called permafrost, hasn't softened up or melted, so the University of Alaska informs us, since the creation of the world some two billion years ago. Bring that up at some cocktail party and someone will blow the whistle for the men in white coats. As for cocktail parties, we ran out of scotch the other day and I have stumbled upon a new super weapon - vodka and creme de menthe (spelling?) - if the color doesn't get you sick, the drink will. (I'm not sure if I told you that once I cross the Arctic Circle I revert to true type - alcoholism).

Now for news on the southern front. How is the merry widow holding her own, to be nasty, let me inform you that no one has pulled a Steve Brody off the Verenazzo (spelling?) Bridge yet. I wilsh that I could see the rage and horrified look on your face at this moment. To repeat a very hackneyed phrase, you are absolutely beautiful when you get angry. And the beauty of it all is that you are so easy to get into this condition: you are beyond any shadow of a doubt the most teasible girl in the world. And me I, the perfect gentleman that I am, are so quick to take advantage of this fact. Chuckle, chuckle, heh, heh.

Aside from that, I hope that your back is killing you, or at least bothering you enough to be in the mood for my particular brand of chiropractic skills. Let the censors figure that one out. You mentioned something about an operation for an overactive thyroid, or something, please fill me in on the details. It is not that I am morbidly curious but I do have a sincere interest in you. This is one of the great paradoxes of my life, usually I am very aloof with women because I know that as soon as I become emotionally involved it is just a matter of time before I get the brushoff or a Dear John (and my name isn't even John) so I am awaiting one or the other from you as soon as you get bored with my idiosyncrasies.

Have to cut this short now and go and earn my dailly bread. To be continued...

Note: it is very difficult to reinsert a sheet of paper into a typewriter and line up ones margin, etc.

Oh, hi again. Well, word was just passed that this weeks vertical flight is up at Bar Main so there is a pretty good chance that good ol' 769 will make it Liz way with the mail after all. 

---
mom's the one in white

dad's the one rockin' the handlebar mustache
yeah, I'd probably drink a lot, too


in which the "boyfriend" category torch is officially passed

Note: I started this post Sunday night, hence the debate reference. 

---

This might be a terrible idea, but a) I'm super stoned, and b) I think I'm ready to tell you about my boyfriend. Like, right now, stoned and everything. Terrible idea, maybe? Probably! But let's go with it.

For context, I am stoned because I just left a debate viewing party, hosted and attended by some new friends. They are pretty awesome. We're maybe going to KBBQ next weekend, hopefully, the four of us. Tonight I brought them donuts, from the famous 24-hour donut place in my neighborhood. So we ate donuts, drank wine, smoked pot, and laughed at The Donald.

Also for context, I am posting about him (the boyfriend, not The Donald) because right now, at this very moment, he's being super adorable and texting about the lingerie he's just ordered me and recording audio clips, in German. Because he is German. And I am telling him how stoned I am, which makes him laugh, because I typically don't ever smoke pot, like ever.

But here I am.

I tell him how stoned I am in warning, essentially, because he is saying something semi-serious about my blog, and I don't know if I can summon the seriousness needed to reply. He is saying that he's just gone back and read my first post, and he hopes I don't feel uncomfortable about him doing that, or about him reading my blog in general and if I do, tell him and he'll stop. And I'm saying, No no, it's okay, read whatever you want. I'm still not sure how to talk about you, though. Or something like that. I'm too high to scroll that far back up.

(The reason he has just gone and read my very first Elliequent post is because I shared two screenshots with him, of two different emails I got, in the past two hours, from two amazing and supportive readers saying "TOTALLY YES, YOU SHOULD WRITE, ABSOLUTELY" or the equivalent, which have me bumping against the ceiling despite the donuts, wine, and weed. And I guess the screenshots have made him curious, because while I know he's dipped into my blog a bit, he also hasn't read a ton and probably is wondering what is so great about it that people are always saying "I've been reading you since Weddingbee." Because I show him all of those emails, too, because they make my fucking day.

I mean, personally, I think nothing is so great about my blog, and these poor long-term readers have been stuck with me since Weddingbee because they've had their library cards revoked for too many late book returns, and don't have that many other options. Sad!)

So where am I supposed to start?

I guess I did start. He's German. And while that might seem like a weird or random place to start, it's not, because that is the reason I started dating him in the first place.

I will explain. Stonedly. It might not be my best writing.

Okay. So. His name is Timo. And I didn't know whether or not to do that whole dumb fake name or clunky first initial thing, but I thought about it and decided there are enough fucking Timos in this world that it'll be okay. Unless he comes to me and says Ummmm, in which case oops! But then we'll just edit that out and collectively wipe our memories. But I think it'll be okay, because I'm not going to follow him on Twitter, even though he really wanted me to be his 1000th follower (I refused to, to mess with him). And I'm not going say his last name, because there is only one of him in the world and poof! his privacy would be gone. And I am not going to follow him on Instagram, because he doesn't have an Instagram account.

He has a regular, full time job. He's not an artist, or an actor, or a musician (though he used to play guitar). He works in an office. A really cool high-tech one, in a high-tech industry. More like a campus. Where he works and what he does is all very young, very hip, and very alien to me, though I did go visit his workplace and get to see it in action. He enjoys what he does, and sometimes even gets super excited about it, especially when he gets the chance to be creative.

He's from Dusseldorf, studied in The Netherlands (and Turkey, unless I'm fucking that up; he's also traveled tons and I forget all the wheres and whens and whats), and has been working in LA, at his current job, for about a couple of years. Longer than he intended. Coming to the US was supposed to be a temporary, short-term thing. He has a work visa with a few years left on it--but he plans to go back, probably next year. No date has been set, but he definitely plans on leaving the States. And yes, that has been a topic of conversation between us. Whole 'nother post, that.

He lives in West Hollywood, in a huge and beautiful house, with three roommates, all of whom are lovely. He has friends and coworkers over often, because he loves to entertain, and particularly to cook. Just last night he hosted a BBQ. A small group of us sat around in the backyard, talking and drinking and playing Cards Against Humanity. I usually get socially awkward and shy around people I don't know. In fact I typically eschew house parties - but his friends are cool and kind, and have been very welcoming of me. After everyone else left he put on music and we danced by ourselves on the patio. At one point he took my face in his hands and said, "You're amazing. I love sharing my life with you."

So yes, I think it's time to tell you about him.

We met at a club. I'd gone alone, having been going stir crazy trapped at home on a Friday night. This was at the very beginning of July. He said something clever to me, there on the dance floor, which made me laugh, and his dimples were definitely intriguing -- but I was deep into the music, doing my own thing, and I didn't really engage. Maybe an hour later we ended up near one another again, and he spoke to me once more. This time I heard his accent, and it brought me up short. "Where are you from?" I asked sharply, and when he said "Germany," it was all over. It was so all over.

Here's a thing you do not know about me, because you'd have no reason to, and I've only ever told Cameron, because unfortunately for him, he is the repository of all my sexual fantasy confessions: I have a huge thing for German guys. Colossal. I always have. Dunno why. But I have always found them unbearably sexy, and the German language just kills me. I know for most people, Italian sounds the sexiest, or Spanish, or even French. But not me. I'll take German, please and thank you.

And yet, I had never had any significant interaction with any German guys. Until Timo.

So there I am, my ridiculous old self alone on the dance floor at 2am, with a really cute guy hitting on me, who has just told me that he's German. And now I'm paying attention. Now I'm sitting up very straight in my seat, so to speak. I pull back to get a better look at him and assess this developing situation.

The first thing I notice are his glasses. Rectangular, black wire frames. They give his face a seriousness which is undermined by dimples. (I now know that he has many different smiles, but the one he's wearing this first night is my favorite. It's the one where he looks like he's suppressing a laugh. I now know that the suppressed-laugh smile brings out his dimples more than any other. Often I am purposefully ridiculous, just so I can see this smile.)

Behind the glasses are eyes that I can see are light, but it won't be until a few days later that I decide they are the color of ice water. In fact, that's the first thing I ever write about him, in a note on my phone. Ice water eyes. Only, that's not right. There's too much variation in them. They're oceanic. Blue, except when they're green, which is only when they're not grey. (He laughed at me when I tried to tell him that they change. He laughed all my compliments away at first, though now he listens quietly, smiling.)

A few days later, on our first date, I'd notice his jaw and his shoulders, and how perfectly my head fits between the two. But that first night, in the chaos of light and sound, it was dimples and glasses and a smile that promised mischief.

---

It's been a little over four months. After Malibu, we also spent a night together in San Bernardino, after a festival. He's invited me to spend Thanksgiving with him, in Northern California, with his high school host mom. I've met most of his LA friends, and he's met two of my best out-of-town friends (they love him). We see one another three or four nights a week, basically as much as we can. Last month he officially asked if he could call me his girlfriend. He brought a bunch of sunflowers that night.

None of this says very much about him, though. So let me start again.

He listens. He never interrupts me when I'm talking, when I'm telling him about my day, or my worries, or the funny thing one of my friends said, or about the beautiful subway busker whose guitar case I left a note in last week. You sing like an angel, I wrote. Never stop. I told him how she'd inspired me, one morning after I'd had a really terrible night. I like to tell him about little moments like this, where life stops me and makes me notice how lovely it can be. When I told him about this one, he kissed me and said "That's what good people do."

One night when we lay in bed together, face to face on our pillows, I told him I'd been thinking about my mom. I'd been on the train, on my way to his house, and the thought of her came to me, because I felt elegant and pretty. Whenever I feel pretty, I think of my mom. I don't know why. She was so beautiful to me, when I was a kid. I feel connected to her sometimes, randomly, when I put on lipstick, or a pencil skirt. 

He listened while I spoke. My eyes were closed as I said all of this, because I still didn't know him all that well, and I was shy. I wasn't sure if my voice would break, talking about my mother to him for the first time. So I kept my eyes shut. And he listened without saying anything, and when I opened my eyes, he was looking at me. He just hugged me then. But a little bit later, when I was standing in the next room, he walked up to me and put his arms around me and whispered, "You should feel beautiful. You are beautiful." He said this close to my ear, in the way that he does. When he wants to tell me something loving, that is how he does it. Close and quiet, so I hear it very clearly, with him right up against me as if to back it up with solid proof.

One time we were standing on the beach at sunset. It was cold and windy, and the sun was slipping away on a Sunday night, filling me with fear and dread and that unfinished-homework feeling that Sunday nights always give me. He stood behind me at first, holding me, until he laughingly realized I was blocking the wind for him. I barely noticed, because I was locked onto another memory of my mother, namely that when she died I'd asked my husband to bring me to the beach. I sat on the beach that day and just stared at the ocean for an hour. I told Timo this story as he moved to shield me from the whipping wind.

This time my voice did more than break, though, and when the tears hit my gelid cheeks he put his hand under my chin and tipped my head back so my eyes would meet his. I don't know why I told you that, I said apologetically, embarrassed. But he didn't look away, or let me. You can tell me anything, he said. I'm here for you.

When I tell him serious things, he listens very intently. Sometimes that's all he does, like when I talk about a memory from growing up, or about some problem that really can't be solved. He just listens, and he doesn't change the subject to himself, or try to relate to me when he can't. He just listens and pulls me to him, and holds my head and makes me feel less alone. Because of this, I slowly grew to trust him, and let him see the more vulnerable and broken parts of me. Once after we had sex I started crying because it was all so overwhelming and terrifying, the feelings I could feel starting up inside of me, and the gratitude I felt to have something beautiful to turn to during this difficult time.

And when I did he stroked my cheek and said, "I love how true to your emotions you are."

We are big cheek strokers. It is kind of our thing.

Unrelated, but not: that day at the beach, as we were coming down the concrete stairs that bridge the street to the sand, he noticed a woman struggling to carry up a stroller. There were dozens of people rushing by, I didn't even see her, but suddenly I realized Timo was no longer beside me and I looked up to see him carrying a stroller up the stairs. He teased me when he saw my face, jogging back down to catch up with me. "I just do these things to impress you." He said "these things" because he is always noticing what people need and helping them, and I am always pointing out how exceptional this is. He is far and away the most considerate man I have ever known.

---

We've had two mild disagreements, which weren't even really disagreements. Just dumb miscommunications. The first one, which happened within days of us starting to date, was mostly his fault, though, and the second one was mostly mine.

When during the first one, I rather harshly called him out, he didn't get defensive or escalate things in any way. "You're right," he said, and I could hear actual, real contrition in his voice. It was a revelation, in terms of my relationship history, to experience this with a partner. "I'm sorry," he said, simply, and sincerely. And the next morning I woke up to a surprise delivery of treats for me--and for Chaucer.

The second disagreement happened just a few days ago, and after a heated phone call I jumped in an Uber to go straight to his house and apologize in person. I didn't tell him I was coming. I didn't even know if he'd still be home, or if he'd have gone out to blow off steam. But he'd been at home before, eating pizza, so I had the Uber driver stop at a pizza place on Hollywood Boulevard, and I ran in to get a packet of red pepper flakes. Then I texted him from his front door and asked if he had a moment, and if so, could he come outside because I had something for him.

I will never forget the sight of him silhouetted in the light from the living room, as he stood in the doorway and smiled at me. "Hi," I said. "I don't know about you, but I can't eat pizza without red pepper flakes. And I didn't know if you had any, so I brought you some."

He walked out and pulled me into a hug. I said I was sorry, and he said he was sorry, too, and that I'd beaten him by five minutes. "I was about to call and ask if I could come over." I tried to tell him all the reasons I was sorry, all that I'd realized, but he wouldn't let me. He just held me. And we didn't have to talk it to death, even though I did insist on telling him the ways I'd been unfair.

"I'm sorry I hung up on you," he said in return.

"It's okay," I said, excusing him, because while I hated being hung up on, I'd rather he did that than say something regrettable. "It's really just like walking out of the room, if you think about it."

And do you know what he said then? He said, "Well that wouldn't be right, either."

---

I told him about the "love languages" thing, not because I am some devotee, though I do think there's a lot of truth in it. I told him because it is comical how identically we match up in this regard. We are both "acts of service" people (touch and quality time being tied for next). Though the fact is that I can barely keep up with him, and feel that I'm lagging sorely behind. Not that we keep score. But good grief. He hits it out of the park.

A few days ago he was on his way over, and I was rushing around to get ready, to tidy up, and get Chaucer squared away. I was flustered and didn't respond to his texts asking what I wanted to do about dinner. Finally I said I was fine, and that I'd eaten.

But he knows me now, and knows that even if I have eaten, I am always hungry again. So he brought me food anyway.

He knows how inactive Chaucer is makes me nervous, and since Chaucer is madly in love with him and totally bored of me, he is the only one who can convince Chaucer to go for a full walk. So he suggests it, whenever Chaucer seems up for it.

Since I told him that I love sleeping with one of his shirts, he always makes sure I have one. Every time he sleeps over, when I wake up after he's left for work, there's a shirt folded neatly next to my pillow.

Unsolicited massages are a thing. Like, professional grade ones, that last fifteen minutes or more, and are as good as any I've paid for at Burke Williams.

I guess this is getting a little silly. I'm just trying to catch you up, in broad strokes.

But really, even still, none of this is what really matters. Because I haven't even gotten into what's different, how differently I feel in this relationship compared to others before it. How I respond to him. What he brings out in me -- and what he doesn't.

In four months, I have yet to find a single thing annoying about him. Or worrying. I have never once been actually angry at him. Even the two times we had a miscommunication and my emotions were running high, I felt complete optimism about us. I've never felt jealous or insecure about other women with him, which for me is often a thing. But no. In fact I don't know if I'm imagining it or willing it to be for my own needs of self-delusion but it's almost as if other women don't even ping his radar. At least not in front of me. And in LA, that is...no easy feat to pull off.

I feel unbelievably calm around him. He's playful and extremely fun-loving, but not manic or childish or clownish. He's mature. He doesn't need to be the center of attention. And all of his little quirks, all his physical mannerisms and verbal tics just absolutely charm me. I don't know. It's crazy. I can't find things to complain about, even to myself. I just can't. I don't get (as) defensive when he questions me about things I normally get defensive about. I try harder with him, for him and sometimes because of him, at the things that challenge me. He inspires me immensely. He is extremely responsible and pragmatic and direct. He's unfailingly honest, even when he knows he's saying something I don't want to hear. And because of that I trust him completely.

Christ, where am I here? Is this enough? Is this enough of a start? It's two am and I'm rifling through the past third of a year trying to think of more anecdotes that will illustrate who he is. Who we are.

He tells me how thrilled he is by what we have. He said he's happier now than he's been since he came to the U.S. Last night he surprised me with a mock guest blog post. It's addressed to you guys. It's his version of how we met, and why he likes me. I can't publish it of course. It's way too personal and also more than a little graphic. But holy shit. Can you imagine? Can you imagine getting that as a gesture, if you're me? I read it five times today.

We have a motto. It's "Always something new." It originated as a cheeky nod to our bedroom adventures which, fucking GOD, but has since become a comically accurate catch phrase for us in general. New people, new places, new foods, new whatever. We say it, and then we high five, like teammates.

Like two people on the actual same team, with the same goal. Amazing.

Therapy For People Who Won't Go to Therapy

Since I posted the other day about maybe setting the blog to private, I've gotten several emails from readers requesting access, none of which I've replied to yet. I'm so sorry for taking so long. Seeing my inbox count tick up with cheering subject lines like "SO IN" and "longtime lurker saying hi" was about the greatest boost ever. Thank you.

Some of you also took the time to give me a little extra in the way of encouragement and support, complimenting my writing, or even telling me your favorite post. That was pretty spectacular, too, especially in cases where the post was an old one. It never fails to amaze me how long some of you have stuck with me. I should have certificates printed.

Also incredibly gratifying are the messages I've received thanking me for my openness in writing about depression and anxiety. To that end...

The past few months have been a psychological crucible, and continue to be so. Leaving my job and completely reassessing the direction of my life has brought back to the surface the full monty of my emotional issues. I basically spent every day from June 15th until about a week and a half ago in a tail spin; 3+ months halfheartedly pursuing a line of work I'm completely unsuited for was a massive waste of time, money, and emotion. I procrastinated, self-sabotaged, and lied to myself every day. Then at night I'd feel like shit for not having accomplished anything.

I told you about bailing on The Big Interview, a decision which left me feeling simultaneously shattered and relieved. I said I went back to the drawing board, but I didn't explain. Well, this is the drawing board: I'm going to try and do the thing I've never done, largely because I never needed to do it. And that is write for money. What kind of writing, you ask? The short answer is fucking any, though I do have ideas about what I'd most enjoy and, you know, actually succeed at.

When I made this decision, the reactions of people whose reactions I care most about were mixed. One said, "Right the fuck on." One said, "Hm, okay. How exactly?" One said, "LOL, good luck with that." I'm trying not to be unrealistically encouraged or unduly shaken by these reactions. I'm trying to focus on concrete actions. I wrote a new, truthful resume. I created an online portfolio. I used a mind-mapping app to brainstorm every option I can think of. I'm figuring it out.

Writing for money, however -- writing full time, for a sustainable income -- is the long-term goal. Right now work period is the goal. And I'm not sure what that will look like. It might involve an espresso machine. And I am so totally okay with that, for reasons I'll detail in another post.

But to circle back to where I started: this summer tested me pretty badly. I was absolutely paralyzed with anxiety, but I wanted to keep moving forward. Unlike my deep depressions of years ago, I didn't want to curl up in the fetal position and quit. I could feel the fight still inside of me, but I definitely needed some help to get it going. That's when I started collecting new resources. New coping mechanisms.

I want to stop briefly and say something regarding the title of this post: There is no substitute for professional therapy. If you can afford it, and if you can bring yourself to do it, get it. Please. Just fucking do it, for yourself and everyone you will ever care about. All of us can benefit from therapy, even those who didn't suffer any major trauma. We all have our shit, and we all owe it to ourselves to unpack it and move past it.

I know, though, that not everyone will, for whatever reason. I know that for some, even those that need it most, professional therapy seems out of reach. They just won't go, because they don't think they can. And I get that. I so, so get that.

This summer I was in that place. I didn't feel like I had the time or energy to start delving into anything serious, in any structured way. I just needed some encouraging voices. Strategies. Perspective. Positivity. Black humor, even. Anything that would recast my problems as manageable, surmountable, even funny. I'm grateful to say that I found those things, and have been taking advantage of them for a few months now.

In hopes that some or all might help someone else, I hereby offer up this list of incredible, free resources for those who could do with a bit of guidance, structure, support, and humor - as found outside the doctor's office:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Far and away the thing that has helped me the most is The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast. Host Paul Gilmartin is self-deprecating, compassionate, relatable, and just plain soothing to listen to. He's like a smart, funny, wonderfully supportive friend who listens, asks great questions, and ultimately helps you laugh your blues away.

I've been listening to the podcast almost nonstop since I discovered it. It is just that awesome. Hearing others open up about their own struggles - and victories - has been an invaluable source of comfort and inspiration. In between interviewing guests, Paul reads short submissions from readers, and wow. Hearing these "Struggle in a Sentence" and "Awfulsome Moments" entries is the perfect antidote to self-pity, and a reminder that so many others have it so much worse.

The greatest takeaway from The Mental Illness Happy Hour is its overall message: "You're not crazy. What happened to you sucks. It's understandable to be angry or sad about it. Now let's talk about ways to let go and move past it."

My favorite episodes so far are his interviews with Luke Burbank, Danny Hatch, Cassie Sneider, Maria Branford, Matty McVarish and Judy Gold.

Unstuck

From the website: "Unstuck is an in-the-moment digital coach that's ready every time we're feeling stuck. The app helps us see and solve situations with fresh perspective through provocative questions, targeted tips, and action-oriented tools. It's an approach that works for all kinds of issues, large and small, so we can live better every day."

The first time I used Unstuck, I was floored by how accurately it nailed me. The questions and prompts helped me winnow down exactly what my issue was; why I wasn't moving forward. And once you know what's in your way, you can start building a bridge to get over it. The interface is clean and simple; it almost makes your issue feel like a fun puzzle to work through.

You can save your "stuck moments" to revisit as needed; they're represented on the website as balled up wads of paper. About a week after the interview I skipped, after I'd written a new resume and finished my portfolio, I went back to Unstuck and realized I could get rid of that earlier "stuck moment" ball of paper. I wasn't stuck anymore. And I'd only been stuck because I'd been on the completely wrong path. So yeah. Trashing that wad felt pretty damn great.

The School of Life

There are now two things that, once I get going on, I can evangelize about until I'm blue in the face. LSD (though naturally I do so with a great many qualifiers) and The School of Life YouTube channel.

I don't even know where to start. I'm basically in love with Alain de Botton (who created the series) and I'm not really sure how I survived without him until now. I have intellectual idols, writing idols, and now, thanks to him, I have an emotional idol.

Think of anything you struggle with. Self-esteem? Shitty childhood or parental stuff you're hanging on to? Career anxieties? Relationship worries? There is a School of Life video dissecting it with clarity, insight, warmth, and good humor - and I promise you will feel better after watching it.

Grid Diary

Grid Diary is a lovely little app for writing short, quick daily journal entries. It has an aesthetically pleasing grid-style template that you can use as is, or make over with your own prompts. This summer when my inner (and one or two outer) voices were psyching me out and pushing me down, I customized my grid with questions that have helped me stay positive, pause to reflect on the progress I'm making, and focus on gratitude. I actually consider my prompts extremely personal, because I know some people would scoff at them as, I don't know, pathetic. Self-congratulatory.

But what the fuck ever. My self-esteem hit an all-time low this summer (and my anxiety an all-time high), and Grid Diary was one of the things that helped me get my head on straight. Filling it out every night has become my new favorite bedtime ritual; it's an incredible tool for self-reflection, perspective, and that most powerful of attitude-changers: gratitude. My prompts:

What positive things did I do today? What traits should I be proud of? What would I tell myself if I wasn't me? What am I more worried about than I should be, and why will it be okay? What am I grateful for today? How was Chaucer awesome today? What am I looking forward to right now? What issue am I working on right now, and how?

Productivity

Productivity is a simple, visually appealing habit-tracking app. It's incredibly easy to use, and, I don't know, not intimidating? It doesn't make the idea of setting and achieving goals seem overwhelming. You can set habits to be accomplished daily, weekly, monthly, or just a certain number of times per day/week/month. For instance, you can establish a habit of drinking eight glasses of water a day, or blogging three times a week (TRYING TO GET THERE, GUYS, I PROMISE). And there's a pleasing little ping! and congratulations message when you meet goals.

It's a great app for those who need to work on the whole "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" thing, because even logging in one habit a day feels better than none.

Calm

Another app I relied heavily on this summer. Guided meditations that you can play over a background of soothing music and serene visuals. Subjects range from gratitude and happiness to self-esteem, stress management, and sleep. A few times this summer when I was absolutely crippled by anxiety, just listening to the calming background music with headphones helped me crawl through whatever terrifying task I was struggling with.

Kiwake

Kiwake is an alarm clock app that you'll love to hate. First it forces you out of bed by making you match a picture from another room, then it wakes up your brain with puzzles and motivational reminders.

It's these reminders that constituted my resource/coping mechanism. They're customizable, so first thing in the morning you can read whatever inspirational words will help you start the day on a positive note. The very first one I made was something my friend Bill said to me several months ago: "You don't have to be married to your next job." The next one I made was "Get your shit done early in the day so you can hang out with your amazing new boyfriend at night." Another one was "The best way to improve self-esteem is to perform esteemable acts."

Yep x3.