#Paula

Paula Fletcher was my mother’s best friend since they were in sixth grade. They grew up around the corner from each other in New Jersey and celebrated various life milestones together- she was the maid of honor at both of my mother’s weddings (to my father and then, her second husband). A couple of years back, I traveled to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with Paula where we jammed out to the Purple Rain soundtrack and burned a turkey. The last conversation I had with her was back in April, asking her if she needed anything, any help through the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that she was fine and hoped that I was doing well in Austin. Paula recently died of heart failure. She was 58 years old.

I’ve been helping my mom sort through her funeral details. It’s been a challenge with COVID-19 but somehow, we’re making it work. Paula didn’t have much of a family life- my mom was considered her family, and Paula was never married. I asked Mom about this. Growing up, I remember Paula being around often but without a boyfriend or a partner. She said that Paula dated quite a lot but never found “the one.” She focused on her work and her friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about that these past few days, how Paula didn’t have a significant other in her life. She never seemed lonely. Paula had her friends, my mom especially. I can’t help but compare her story to my own- dating around but never settling on one person.

I’ve been floating in and out of relationships this year. My relationships lean more towards a sexual gratification which is great- it’s what I need, and I’m finding myself more alone during the hours that I’m not working. I’m really enjoying this alone time, catching up on books and painting. Perhaps I’m bitter from my last break-up but I struggle with seeing the purpose of a partner. I’m doing great without one. This time, being quarantined, has taught me that I am all-encompassing and I very much enjoy being alone. I don’t want to be with anyone.

What are the benefits of being partnered? Do the benefits of being single outweigh them? I think about Paula and her free spirit without the need to answer to anyone (although my inner feminist says that you don’t need to answer to a partner to begin with). She didn’t need permission or to check in with anyone. She didn’t have children. I asked my mom if Paula ever expressed desire to have kids and she said that she was fine being to the “cool aunt” to me and my siblings. I however, unlike Paula, aspire to have children. Lately, the only benefit that I can come up with to having a partner is to have someone to raise children with (I like to note that I do have several sperm donor options for when/if I choose to have a kid on my own). I have read the benefits of raising a child in a traditional mother/father household. But then again. I know of so many women who are raising bright and well adjusted kids alone, by themselves, as well as great people who were raised by a single parent.

As always, my thoughts eventually venture to death. I like to think that it would be nice to have someone hold my hand on my death bed but then I ask myself if it is the worst thing to die alone? Don’t we all die alone anyway? There are many benefits to being single (I know… I just Googled a bunch). I used to think worst thing in the world was being alone. So much so that I’d chase these awful relationships with awful men who destroyed me emotionally. I once heard that your 20s is when you make the mistakes and your 30s is when you learn the lessons from them. Now at the ripe age of 34, I’ve been reviewing such past mistakes of mine and I came to this conclusion: I’m really good at being single and I really enjoy it. Same as Paula.

Rest in peace, Paula. We miss you and will love you forever. And you, dear reader; even if you’re alone, I hope you don’t feel alone. Being single isn’t a curse- its a gift.

#LetsTalk

Let’s talk and help one another

Let’s talk about last week, about those two suicides: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. But lets also talk about the rising rates of suicides across the United States. According to the CDC, the number of people dying by suicide  has risen by 30% in the past two decades. While more men died by suicide than women in 2016, the rate of suicide for women has doubled since 2000 to six per 100,000 deaths. Why is this happening? There has to be something more than blaming our screen time. How are we preventing these deaths?

Which leads me to…

Let’s talk about funding- or the lack of funding. Many still see suicide as a choice rather than a public health problem- this is the wrong way of thinking. The United States currently has no federally funded suicide prevention program for adults. Even our insurance coverage lack proper mental health care. When I shopped on the healthcare exchange last year, I didn’t look at primary care (as I’m pretty healthy and don’t need to see the doctor that often)- I looked for mental health care. The sad truth was that most plans didn’t cover formal therapy. Coverage for medications, sure, but seeing someone weekly (or biweekly like I do)? Either none and bare minimal coverage. States are ever so slowly building resources but mental health services NEEDS to be a required part of primary care doctor visits. No referrals. No waiting. You address the issue in the moment the person is presenting. And no massive out-of-pocket fees (because frankly, that just makes you even more depressed).

How do we fix the lack of funding? VOTE for people who make significant changes to our healthcare system IN A GOOD WAY (i.e. not this current presidential administration). And DONATE to those local, statewide and national organizations that focus on mental health needs and help.

Let’s talk to our loved ones- really talk to them. After major deaths like these, the internet floods itself with hotline numbers and website suggestions where you can talk to someone. Yes, that is great. But what happens with the buzz of the press dies down? There’s a difference between being there and actually BEING THERE- physically present for a friend going through a rough time. Perhaps I’m a cynic but I feel like for someone who is actively considering taking their life, numbers and websites don’t help. The only hope is actual personal connections. What will we be doing to check up on our loved ones? How are you showing people that you care, that you’re there for them? Reaching out for help is hard, especially when you’re in deep with a disease like depression. You don’t want to bother people. You don’t want to be a burden to them. The stigma surrounding suicide leaves people feeling too ashamed to speak up and ask for the help they need. So, are you reaching back? Are you noticing any warning signs?

Let’s start talking about mental health, in general. I have always tried to be transparent about my mental health care. I see a therapist (hi, Linda!). I believe that everyone should see one. We all have things going on and can benefit from seeing a professional to learn tips and tools on how to make every life easier and lighter. Professionals encourage us to talk more openly about suicide, reframing it as a treatable public health issue rather than a taboo secret or personal failure. Another thing is Facebook, Instagram. Twitter, etc. On social media, we knew that we’re only seeing our friends’ highlight reel. Let’s see more of the struggle. Let’s hear more of the pain. Bad times connect us as much as the good ones and I want to know yours. What is going on in your life?

Let’s talk about suicide, dear reader.

#DeathYouAreMyBitchLover

I was enjoying coffee with a friend a few weeks ago when we got on the topics of birthdays and how we felt about turning another year older. I have to admit that I always get in this particular mood around my birthday- call it my own Ides of March. I start thinking about my death… Not in a suicidal way but in the way my friend, Chase, so eloquently put it, I recognize my own mortality.

Perhaps it’s the Wednesday Addams in me but I do think often about how life is a mere slow stumble to death. You and I are going to die one day- none of us are going to make it out alive. Not to be morbid… Which leads me to this thought: back when I had a subscription to O Magazine (Oprah, I still want that editor position!), I would read her monthly column on how to live your best life possible. What was the great and powerful O’s recommendation of how to live life? You find meaning. Find that thing you wake up for every day. But Oprah’s suggestion has only brought up more questions…How could I cultivate meaning in my life knowing that life itself is so short?

Freud once pointed out that the only drive of people is to have sex- that is, to procreate, to nurture and let the species propagate. So, sex is the meaning of life…? I much as I want to believe that is the true meaning of life (yay, sex!), there has to be more, much more… Right?

I turned 31 earlier this month and this age has been an unusual adventure so far (new friends, a new partner, a new job, thoughts about traveling- possibly moving- abroad). I’m on this constant journey to discover what brings joy and happiness to my life (and I’ve done a pretty good freaking job at this) but this year at this particular age, I want to dive deeper into the good old cranium and figure out what gives my life meaning… True meaning. Is it volunteering? Is it love? Is it God? Is it success? I want to be one day on my death bed, with worn skin and no teeth, satisfied with my life, knowing it was happy and filled with something.

Are you living your best life possible, dear reader? What brings meaning to your life?

#36Questions (Part III)

How do we fall in love, dear reader? Can we really fall for someone by simply asking them a series questions?

This week, I thought hard about list of 36 Questions and how it’s used to open up hearts. The idea of falling in love is still a crazy one to me. It still feels so foreign despite the amount of times I have been in love, both the act of falling and the act of being in. As I continue dating, meeting individuals off Tinder, OkCupid and the billion other online dating apps I’m on, I wonder if I’m at the mercy of chemistry- and more importantly, fate. Sure, there are other factors that play, determining whether or not a relationship works. But the more I put myself out there, I’m finding that it is openness that makes people fall head over heels with each other. Physical attraction and common interests do help but once two souls connect emotionally, it takes a long time to split them up.

But what about falling in love with yourself? I recently read that falling in love is like doing drugs– you bounce between exhilaration, euphoria, increased energy, sleeplessness, trembling, a racing heart and accelerated breathing, etc. As I typed my answers to each question, I felt that drunk in love feeling with myself. The more I thought, the more I listened to myself, the more I felt connected- my brain introduced itself to my heart and they began to slow dance.

Vulnerability, Honesty. Falling in love takes an open and welcoming heart. With someone else and yourself.

So, to quote Cole Porter, let’s fall in love! Oh- future dates, be prepared. I will bust out the 36 Questions (well, maybe I’ll wait until our second date).

Set III

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “ Right now as I type, my cat, Hova, sits in my lap. so I’m going to make “we” statements about us. We like to snuggle and be held. We don’t like loud noises. We both get midnight munchies most evenings.

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “ I wish that I had someone with whom I could share random dances with me. Blame “La La Land.” Two years ago, I took ballroom dance lessons, adding swing dancing to my known foxtrot, waltzing and Latin dancing. Perhaps it’s my inner musical theater actress but ever since I saw Emma and Ryan boogie together on that lovely night, I want to put on a pair of wing-tipped shoes and dance with my potential lover out on a well-lit street corner.

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know. I have depression. I have anxiety. I don’t like big crowds and doing things like networking. But I push through and and I’m bettering myself. I do feel like I’m improving little by little every day.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met. (Going back to the sleepy cat on my lap) Hova, when you sleep, sometimes you sigh. It’s the sweetest sound in the world and fills my heart with so much love. I like to believe that you’re sighing with happiness which in return, makes me incredibly happy.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life. This happens a least once a month. I’ll be singing to myself in a seemingly empty bathroom. I do my business, leave the stall to wash my hands and there will be a woman staring at me, either in annoyance or awe. I need to learn that everyone doesn’t want to hear the soundtrack to “Dreamgirls” as they pee.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself? The last time I cried in front of someone was my mom- technically, we were on the phone with each other. That was three days ago. The last time I cried alone was yesterday morning (I hate being sick).

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already. I love my readers dearly. I receive really wonderful feedback and message from them. I’m grateful that people actually read my work! (And Hova, you are quite possibly the sweetest kitty in the world. You are definitely the best thing in my life at this moment.)

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? I think death shouldn’t be joked with. But I joke about death all the time. I’m weird and morbid (but I like that about myself).

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet? I think I do a pretty good job of telling the people I love how much I adore and respect them. If I were to die tonight, I simply would want to die in the arms of a handsome man with Hova snuggling tightly between us.

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why? I still sleep with my childhood stuffed animal, this ratty pink Care Bear named Teddy. There is something so comforting about seeing Teddy sit on my pillow as I fall asleep each night. I would grab him and my high school yearbook, the one from senior year. I tuck my favorite photos and especially special cards and letters between the pages- I’d be devastated if I lost them.

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why? My dad. I don’t know how his death would affect me, which is a scary feeling.

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen. Right now, I’m in bed with a cold. Headache. Stuffy nose. Sinus pains. Sore throat. I need suggestions one what movie to watch (I just finished watching “Fargo” so something a little more upbeat is preferred) and what soup to eat!

#OneYearLater (Part II)

LET'S ADVENTURE- It's time to dance. And maybe grab some In-N-Out.

LET’S ADVENTURE- It’s time to dance. And maybe grab some In-N-Out.

“More FUCK YEAH, less FUCK THAT.” Anonymous

Low and behold, my list of things I want to achieve during my 30th year on this planet. Granted, I’m giving myself one year and I turn 31 in March. Nevertheless, I know that with focus and hard work (which includes asking for help), I know that I can make all of this goals a reality. Just gotta be like the Little Engine That Could… “I think I can! I think I can!” Wait- better yet- “I KNOW I CAN! I KNOW I CAN!

Stay updated and tuned in for the completion of each feat and everything that comes with them. Better yet, come on these adventures with me and help me cross them off of my list, dear reader- I triple dog-dare you to.

Before my 31st birthday on March 5th:

  • Get a remote position that makes me happy and $$.
  • Host the HERO SERIES conference in February in San Francisco.
  • Get my driver’s license.
  • Go skydiving.

Before November 6th:

  • Attend Burning Man.
  • Get my motorcycle license.
  • Visit Grandma Tyrell in Jamaica, and Grandma Shirley and Tia Maria in Florida.
  • Sing in a band.
  • Get lobbyist license.
  • Roadtrip to Seattle with my friends, Grace and Funmi.
  • Get a new tattoo.
  • See Hootie and the Blowfish in Charleston.
  • Visit Ireland.
  • Bike the entire McCarran loop in Reno without stopping.
  • Buy a new MacBook computer.
  • Buy a GoPro and start my documentary series that I’ve been fantasizing about creating for the last several years.
  • Take more dance classes.
  • Go paintballing with friends.

To-do everyday:

  • Brush my teeth, floss, take vitamins and drink eight glasses of water on the daily.
  • Train for (and run in) the Reno Tahoe Odyssey 2017.
  • Explore Nevada’s hot springs, hidden gems, small towns and landmarks.
  • Dress bolder- like a true New Yorker.
  • Do one thing every day that makes me happy and makes someone else feel special and loved.

READY, SET, GO… ANDREA, GO!

My daily reminder- posted on my closet door, a place I can see it every day- reminding me to live awesomely

My daily reminder- posted on my closet door, a place I visit every day- reminding me to live awesomely

 

Don’t forget- it’s NaNoWriMo: 4,922 words to go!

#OneYearLater

Not cool, Bart- I still have a lot of living to do.

Not cool, Bart- I still have a lot of living to do.

I hate bucket lists. But I like death…?

My freshmen year of college, I tried to explain my view on death to my friend, Carolyn, explaining to her that we’re all slowly dying, walking patiently to our finite. Carolyn thought I was ridiculous. Before you start think that I’m overly dramatic, acting like Wednesday Addams, I want to explain myself.

My philosophy about life is that it’s short. Incredibly short. As my best friend, Telaia, once wrote, “In the end, we’re all going to die from something so love hard, fuck often, do drugs, dance in your undies, make big changes and get out of your comfort zone!” That is something that I haven’t been doing  for a while- for almost a year- getting out of my comfort zone.  I had this list, my 30 Before 30 list, that I built when I was 23. I hoped it would inspire me to be more adventurous.  I accomplished some things but not everything as I hoped to. Now that I am 30, I feel like I need to get my shit together and making an effort to complete my list. Live the life I have dreamed of. I think about how my life would be- so why am I  not making this happen?

I am a big fan of lists but as I’m learning in therapy, it’s best that I break these lists even more into bite sized, achievable pieces. I’m the type of person who wants to do everything at once and when I’m not patient with myself, I get hard on myself and stop whatever I’m doing. With such lists, it’s good to give yourself a deadline. I’m giving myself a year. A year to visit Ireland, learn how to run five miles without stopping, get my both my driver’s and motorcycle licenses. Better yet, I want have a partial list to complete before I turn 31 in March.

It’s hard to motivate your self to change your life for the better. But I do believe that this list (which will be posted later) will help, I just have to keep moving forward and actually read it to refresh my mind every couple of months. Most importantly, I need to start telling myself that I deserve to have a good life, filled with love and adventure- and I need to start being brave enough to live it.

What will your life look like a year from now, dear reader?

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NaNoWriMo (Yup, I’ve been slacking): 5,273 words to go!