Friday, August 31, 2012

Mosquitoes, Assless Chaps and Beer - Must be Labor Day!

I’m about to go off the grid.

And maybe die.

Not because I’m going off the grid (though it might feel like that’s why), just because this weekend is bound to be so much ridiculousness I might. actually. die.

I’m going camping at a huuuuuge party in a field.  This might sound weird until you remember that I live in Iowa, and we’ve got LOTS of fields in Iowa and it’s really quite common for there to be huge parties in fields in Iowa.

And Skid Row is going to be playing.  Once again: in a field – in Iowa.

Now, I’m not a fan of 80’s hair bands, but I’m going to listen to them and rock-out anyway.  Why? Because:
A.)   I’ll be drinking. Duh.
B.)   Francesca loves 80’s Hair Bands and she isn’t going to be able to attend.  So I’m going to listen so I can pour one out for my homie while I listen to I Remember You.  And I will sing along.  But only because I know The Ataris version, because there was a time in my life when I really loved pop-punk.
C.)   I’ll be drinking.  Again, duh.

One of my best friends, Chris, invited me to go along and I was all “Hmm… maybe I’ll sit at home and watch Pretty Little Liars instead.”  Then he told me I wouldn’t have to pay for anything (!) and that I would be going with him and two of our other amazing friends.  Then I realized this was an opportunity to experience a party like I’ve never seen before – and to hang out with bikers.

And I don’t mean spandex-and-yellow-jersey-wearing bikers, I mean assless-chaps-and-bandana-and-harley-t-shirt-wearing BIKERS.  I’ve never even been on a motorcycle, let alone hung out with these kinds of bikers before. (Thanks to my dad’s love of bicycling I’ve hung out quite a bit with the other kind.)

I’m actually going to be drinking for 4 days straight… with bikers.

This is why I’m pretty sure I’m going to die. 

Sure, I’m trying to convince myself that I’ll do productive things, like write and read a couple of the books I’ve started – I have those things packed in my bag – but let’s be honest here: you don’t go to a party in a field where Skid Row is going to be playing without being drunk the whole time.

So think of me as you do respectable things this weekend, I certainly won’t be doing anything respectable. 

I hope you all have a fabulous Labor Day Weekend as well!

Love yous,
Annie Jay

PS: I’ll tweet pictures of myself looking drunk and disgusting if I get a signal.  <3

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Steve Jobs Isn't The Only One Who Likes Turtlenecks

First of all – thanks to everyone for the kind words after Monday’s post.  Some of the comments left here and emailed/texted to me really tugged at my heartstrings.  You made me realize just how many people out there are affected by similar feelings and how much we can help each other.  If you’re out there and you’re feeling similar things, please don’t feel like you have to go through it alone or like you should be ashamed of what you’re feeling. 

One of my favorite phrases to remember is this: Depression Lies

Depression will tell you that people will laugh at you and not believe you.  Depression will tell you that people will judge you, that people will only see you as crazy if you tell them about it.  Depression will tell you that people don’t love you or care about you.  Depression will tell you that no one can understand what you’re feeling.  

Those are all lies.  

People still love you, people will understand.  People will help you.  Please, trust in the people in your life.

I should have known of course, but I was surprised just how much talking about it in such a public way really helped me to get over that hump in the road.  I’m not saying you have to do the same thing – but if you’re feeling this way, please talk to someone.  Hearing from others and even just re-reading what I had written helped me to see how harsh I was being on myself.  I’m not back to feeling great, but I’m definitely at a much brighter place than I was Sunday or Monday. 

I love you guys.

In other news:

I set up a Twitter account for the blog!  Please follow me @TheGrowUpPlan.  I'll post funny things.  Or not.  But I'll tweet stuff.  It'll be cool.  Let me know in the comments section if I should follow you too!

And there's more news:

I’m attending my first local Writer’s Guild meeting next Friday! 

My mom has been trying to talk me into it for years and I’ve always resisted.  Those people are stuck-up, pretentious, jerkfaces – is what I always told her.  I didn’t want to spend time with those people.  Oh yeah, let’s sit around and tell each other how awesome we are because we like writing.

It turns out the only stuck-up pretentious jerkface in the room is me.  Or, at least, that’s what I’m guessing.  (And I know Francesca is sitting there thinking: Exactly.  Like how two weeks ago you were going on and on about your “Ahhhh-low” plants while the rest of us just call it “Al-oh”.  Douche.) Gods, I hope I don’t show up on Friday and they all end up being exactly who I fear they are…

But I’m excited! 

I’m finally giving this writing thing a real, honest try.  (Thanks to the encouragement of my family, some close friends and some acquaintances who surprised me by throwing their heartfelt encouragement my way.) I feel like I finally understand the point of going to these things.  Hopefully the people there will help me to increase the effectiveness of my writing and will help to keep me motivated. 

Gotta hang out with people who like doing what you like doing if you hope to get better at doing what you like doing ;-)

I’m also hoping to form some good connections with other people in the area who might want to join up to do some projects or maybe point me in the right direction to expand my options for writing.

Who knows?  Not me, that’s for sure. 

Maybe we’ll all just sit around smoking extra-long cigarettes (oh god how I want to…), wearing berets, and snapping our praise as people wearing black turtlenecks read poetry about the existential experience they had at the gas station when they locked eyes with the beautiful boy at the pump next to them and the crushing pain they felt when he drove off. 

Shit.  That’s probably going to happen.

Anyone have a beret I can borrow?

Annie Jay

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hitting "Publish" and Holding My Breath

I hate me today. 

Please don’t flinch when you read that.  This post is all about getting myself to stop feeling that way, so please, don’t be scared to read on.

I’m ok, I swear.  I know I’m ok. 

But I’m also kind of not.

It has just been one of those times where no matter how many things I have going right in my life I’m having trouble finding the sun.  All I can focus on are the slightly wrong things in my life. 

And by “slightly wrong” I mean, “absolutely fucking ridiculous non-problems”.  I mean how I said something in a funny voice one time and no one laughed and now they must all think I’m some kind of creep. I mean how I walked out of the bathroom with a piece of toilet paper stuck to my shoe in a crowded place and now everyone who was there is walking around thinking “God, did you see that girl? What a dirtball.”  I mean how I stuttered when the cashier at the drugstore asked me how my day was going and now they must think I’m an idiot. The list goes on and on and on…

All of these little things that I say or do just pile up (and pile up… and pile up…) and I keep berating myself for all of them.  Some of these things happened hours ago, some happened days ago, some moths ago, some years.  It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, if I did something even slightly less than perfect, I can’t let myself go for it.  I keep trying to tell myself how pointless it is to think so negatively, but it’s hard to keep the thoughts out of my head.  They pop up at the most random times, when I’m doing the dishes, when I’m having a conversation, when I’m singing a song, playing the piano, walking to the drugstore, swinging at the park.

All of these little things bog me down and none of them – not a single one of them – matters to anyone but me.

I have never been diagnosed as having depression or anxiety because I feel like I snap out of this before medical intervention is necessary (and because I'm scared), but I know that’s what this is.  People have actually tried to tell me that I’m not going through depression – that there’s no way I could possibly be because I’m always so bright and happy.  I can’t describe it any better than this quote from Kat Kinsman’s article on CNN from last week as she describes one of her friends:
"We met in our freshman year of college, and he was one of the loudest, funniest, most exuberant humans I'd ever met -- and the most deeply depressed. Not that anyone outside our intimate circle knew; like many of us who live with the condition, he wore a brighter self in public to distract from the darkness that settled over him behind closed doors. Most people don't see depression in others, and that's by design. We depressives simply spirit ourselves away when we've dimmed so as not to stain those who live in the sun."
I’m a big believer in the philosophy “fake it until you feel it” – that idea gets me through these rough patches better than a lot of other options I’ve tried (like hiding in my bedroom, fighting with friends/family, watching angry movies, or doing other hurtful things) and usually I can pretend to be happy long enough that eventually I’ll start to believe it and I’ll regain actual happiness again. 

But I know I’m a lot luckier than a lot of people who have depression or anxiety because I know this doesn’t work for a lot of you.

One of the best things we can do is talk about it. 

As the author of the above article explains, it helps. 

I’ve always felt like I had no right to talk about my depression and anxiety because mine is a lot subtler than most – but sometimes that’s just as dangerous.  That also means there are probably a lot of other people out there who experience similar things and don’t know how to deal with the feelings they have, don’t know how to get help and don’t know how to keep looking forward to the brighter days and just might give into the feelings of darkness and not look back – because they don’t have “real depression” so they never seek out the help they need.

Luckily, I have a support system that helps me through my subtle, yet real, depression and anxiety. 

About a month ago I hit rock bottom and I didn’t know what I was going to do other than to keep living in my little hole and just plead with the universe to make it all better.  Then one night, I was having a conversation with Finny (one of my best friends) and I knew I had to tell him what I was going through.  I said it quietly and my lip trembled and I even tried to brush it off by making it “not a big deal”, but he knows me well enough to see through all of those signs.  He gave me a hug, let me talk through it and told me he loves me. 

And it helped.  Gods, did it help.

Then I told Francesca and her boyfriend and they both told me they love me and they hugged me and made me feel a little better.  Then I told my brother and he told me he loved me and hugged me (virtually) and made me feel a little better.  Finally, I started feeling a lot better and I was able to get out of my apartment again and get back into the real world.

But it’s still an uphill battle. 

This weekend I tried to do too much and I got knocked down a peg again.  So on Sunday when I was laying in a pool of depression, Luke (another of my best friends) came over to my apartment and watched guilty-pleasure shows with me for a few hours and held my hand and told me he loved me.

I’m thankful every day for my family and friends who help me through my most trying times.  I’m thankful for my mother who helped me to notice the “trigger” signs of my depression long ago and how she and my dad keep me pointed in the right direction when times get toughest.  I’m thankful for coworkers who understand my moods and know when I need space and when I don’t.  I’m thankful for strangers who share smiles or words of encouragement just because they know where I’m coming from.

Finally, I’m thankful for me.  I’m happy I know how to recognize the signs and that I’m becoming comfortable talking about my depression and anxiety.  I’m thankful that I’m learning to forgive myself for it so that each time I start to slip I slip for a little less time and don’t get as low.  I’m thankful that I’ve finally realized this is a part of me.  I’m thankful for realizing that I need to love myself for my depression and anxiety just as much I love myself for my frizzy-hair and curves.

So today, now, I’m on the road to loving me again.

And I also love you.  I want you to know I’m here for you if you need me.

Annie Jay

Today's post also comes with a reading list if you want to hear more stories from people who are in the same shoes:

And I'm sure there are thousands more out there.  Have any other stories you'd like to share?  You can email them to me or leave them in the comments section.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Maybe This is Why I'm Single

After several dozen dismal attempts at online dating (stories coming soon), I’m just about ready to give up on the entire idea.  But just when I think I’m about ready to give up on it and cancel out my account, some nice, normal-seeming man will start talking to me and I’ll be all like “Man, I knew there had to be normal people out there because I’m normal (Shut up. I’m normal, bitches.) and so there have to be other normal people who think this is worth trying out.” 

Then I’ll meet the guy and he’ll either be: a.) Not at all like me and creepy as fuck; b.) nice, but so shy or socially awkward that I can definitely understand why he’s on the internet looking for love but isn’t right for me because I’m… well let’s just say I’m outgoing; or c.) So much like me that I feel like I’m looking in a mirror and there’s no way I can be around someone who is so much like me because if I wanted to do that I’d just clone myself but really then the clone would probably evolve into someone way cooler and way hotter than me and then she’d be all like “Nah, Annie, I’m too good for you. Peace out, bitchface!” and I’d have to go back to online dating anyway. 

So yeah… it’s tough.


Anyway –

Today was one of those days where I started talking to a guy who seems pretty normal. 

We were having a nice conversation when he tells me that he worked in “asset protection” at a retail outlet and this is the conversation that followed:

Annie: So pretty much you got to beat down shoplifters?

Him: No. We just had to escort them out if we caught them.  We weren’t allowed to touch them.  If we did it would be a logistical nightmare.

Annie: I stole something from there once.  It was a ring that was on clearance for like a dollar.  And when I say “I” I mean my friend stole something from there once when she was in high school and had never done anything bad before and wanted to know what it would feel like but then the next day she went back and dropped a dollar on the floor so she kinda ended up paying for it after all.  Ohmygod please don’t arrest me.  I mean, please don’t arrest my friend.

(No response for several minutes…)

Annie: But I – Oops, I mean my friend, did that like 10-12 years ago so really that was long before you worked there and I hope this story won’t cause a logistical nightmare for you.

Him: Well, we really didn’t care about the small stuff.

Annie: Sweet!  I’m totally going to steal one little thing from there every day from now on.  I mean… my friend is going to do that.  Not me.  I would never do that.

Then he stopped talking to me.

Moral of the story?  I need to find men who aren’t so uptight.  Seriously, what’s wrong with a little petty theft?

I wish you all the best of luck in your dating adventures!


PS - Did you know you can comment on this blog, instead of just on my Facebook link or responding to my Tweet?  And that I would really love it if you did?  And did you know you can subscribe to this blog?  I would love you forever if you could do those things for me.  
~ Xoxoxo (That's me making out with you if you weren't aware. Sorry family, don't sit so close to the computer screen next time)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mastering the Breakdown

It was 2:00am on a Friday night in early January.  My boyfriend and I were just going to bed after a night out at the bars.  Our relationship had been a bit rocky for a few months, but we were trying to work through it.  He rarely drank but we’d been out celebrating his friend’s birthday so I had been the DD.  This - of course - meant that I was incredibly annoyed with him.  He was mumbling incoherently as we climbed into bed when he realized that his brand new three hundred dollar cell phone was missing.

After we searched my entire duplex for the phone, he decided it must be in the car.  It had been snowing for days so I was concerned that it was just as likely to be lying in a pile of snow.  He was drunkenly resigned to the cell phone’s fate, but I was determined to find the damn thing – I couldn’t tolerate him not having a phone and knew that he couldn’t afford to buy a new one.

So I pulled my winter boots on over my pajamas and trudged four snow-covered blocks to where I had parked the car.  Sure enough, there in the snow bank sat his cell phone.  I grabbed it and walked back to my house.

As I turned the doorknob, I realized I had left my keys inside and my drunken boyfriend in bed on the second floor.  I started pounding and kicking the door, feeling my ire building with each hit.  Luckily, my bedroom was above the front door so my boyfriend woke up to hear me.  When he came to open the door, the 50-year old door lock snapped from the cold. 

I was quite effectively locked out of my house and the only way for me to get back inside was to rely on the nearly incapacitated man inside to be able to dismantle a door lock.  After 40 minutes of yelling instructions at each other through the door, I was finally able to get back inside. 

I was freezing cold.  I was mad at my drunken boyfriend for not knowing to keep his cell phone secure at all times.  I was mad at my crappy old apartment building.  I was mad at my failing relationship.  I was mad at my dead-end job. I was mad at my life in general.  Then I saw my brand new chef’s knife sitting on the shelf of our entertainment stand.

(No, I didn’t stab anyone. I promise.)

“Why is the kitchen knife sitting on that shelf?” I asked my boyfriend. 

“I used it to unscrew the deadbolt.” He responded, starting to back away from me, looking like the gazelle that had just seen hunger flashing in the tiger’s eyes. 

“You did what?!” I looked at the knife and sure enough, my beautiful brand new chef’s knife (a Christmas present from my parents) was destroyed. 

(But still, I didn’t stab him. Seriously.)

I had a break down.  I freaked out.  I kicked the offending front door.  I yelled (I never yell). I told my boyfriend to sleep on the couch.  I called my roommate, yelled at her voicemail about the broken door and told her not to come home. 

I was in the clutches of a full-on breakdown and I was going to wallow in it.

And of course, none of it was worth getting that upset about.

I hear it from friends all the time “I can’t handle this. I’m just going to snap.” You reach that point when you feel like life has just thrown too much at you.  Your car got a flat on the same day you bounced a check and missed a deadline at work.  Your cat got sick and your boyfriend forgot about the date you planned.

Whatever it is, when shit starts to pile up, it's easy to become overwhelmed and let loose with the temper tantrums or to sink into depression.  But instead of letting negativity take control, you can wade through all of the crap to better yourself in the long run. 

Here's how:

STOP.  Seriously stop the negative influx of emotion.  Quell the rage and fear and just breathe.  Those emotions are just begging for you to act on them because when you act on them you usually do something that causes you to have more reason to feel those emotions. (You are mad at your significant other so you throw the remote control and crack the TV screen.) There is nothing that your negativity loves more than having more negativity come to the party.  

Refuse to let the emotions that are welling up inside of you take control of your actions.  You can do this if you take 10 seconds to breathe. 

Don’t’ do anything else.  Don’t move. Just stop.

Close your eyes.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Just.  Stop.

Understand that you are stronger than this. Just because shit is all fucked up right now, doesn't mean you can't handle it.  People in this world have had to deal with extremely messed up situations and they've come out pretty damn well in the end.

They weren't special. 

They didn't have anything inside of them that you don't have inside of you. 

We all have the power to overcome our obstacles as long as we understand that we can do it. 

You can do it.  You will do it.

Pinpoint the problemsWhat exactly went wrong?  How did you get there?  In my situation, I didn't really care that much about the deadbolt on the door or even the damn kitchen knife, even though those were the catalysts that set off my breakdown. 

What was really wrong was that I was unhappy with my relationship and my living situation.  This underlying unhappiness caused me to go off the handle when just a couple of little things went wrong.  I knew deep down that it was the general discontent I was feeling in my life that was making me act so out of character.

Admit that you've made mistakes.  I talk a lot about admitting the mistakes you’ve made because I think oftentimes people are apt to blame everything that goes wrong in their lives on sources outside of themselves.  

But ultimately, you are always responsible for your own life situation. 

Sure, there are things that are out of your control, but the things you subject yourself to and your responses to those things are all within your control.  Figure out what you’re allowing to take place in your life and you’ll see what you could be doing differently.

Forgive yourself.  Now that you know you’ve made mistakes, take the necessary steps to forgive yourself and move on.  A little while ago I wrote about forgiving other people, but the same steps apply when it comes to forgiving yourself too. 

Let yourself off the hook for the mistakes you made and move on with your life.  

Dwelling on regrets will only weigh you down and keep you from being the totally kick ass person you can be.  There is nothing that I’ve done wrong in my past that holds me back from being awesome today.  

Today is all about the future.

Find solutions.  A lot of times when we are teetering on the edge of breakdown, it’s because the future is unknown or the only outcome we see is a negative one.  Look to the future and try to determine all of the possible outcomes of the situation you’ve found yourself in. 

Now that you’ve looked at the possible outcomes it’s time to look at the solutions for each outcome.  Figure out what you need to do to be happy in each scenario. 

In my situation I knew that I had some choices.  I could keep living in the apartment that made me mad and just accept that it was going to fall apart from time to time, or I could seek a better place to live.  I knew I could stay with my boyfriend and continue to try to work things out even though we’d been working things out for more than a year or I could walk away.  I knew I could stay in my dead-end job and just put up with it, I could get a different job, or I could go back to school.

Notice how that word gets its own line?  That's how important it is.  

Now that you’ve taken the time to figure out what you can do to fix your problems it is essential that you actually take action on your solutions. 

Don’t wait for some new magical prospect to come along and change the outcome.

Don’t sit on the sidelines of your own life and try to let other people call the plays – ACT. 

Empower yourself to move toward happiness

So how did I act on my solutions to reach a better future? 
I eventually decided to move back to my parents’ house (thank the gods for them) until I was able to afford a better place to live.  I lived with them for just over a year before I moved into an apartment with another friend.  After 8 months together, that friend has moved out and I’ve created a space that is truly my own.  I love my apartment.

After trying to stick it out for several more months and work through the problems, I broke things off with my boyfriend after three years.  I did this because I realized that the bad times had been outweighing the good times for a long, long time and weren’t showing any sign of improvement. Every now and then, even after almost two years and a handful of other men going through my life, I find myself feeling lonely and wishing I would have made a different decision back then.  But when I feel this way, I remind myself that I made the best decision I could and that my future is still within my control.

As for my job, I took a look at the things that made me feel so stuck and realized that those things were also within my control.  I put together a list of the things I felt like I was missing out on and the things that I wanted to do more of and had a conversation with my boss.  Together we shaped my position around my strengths and put into place a plan for working on my weaknesses.  I was soon excelling in my career and haven’t looked back since.

So even though sometimes life feels like it just can’t get any worse and all you want to do is lose control and lash out at the world – remember that you are in control of your destiny.  And if you ever need a hug, I’m here for you.

Annie Jay

Monday, August 6, 2012

Jesus, Compulsive Lying and Cigarettes

Some of you know about teenage Annie.  Man, that girl knew how to party -

With Jesus.

I was crazy about Jesus.  And when I say “crazy” I mean I was like “when I graduate from high school I’m going to become a missionary and spread the good news about Jesus to people who don’t really give a fuck about it” crazy about Jesus. 

But you know what?  That was ok.  There are a lot of scary things about Evangelical Christians these days, but I like to think that for the most part I was still a good human being despite my exuberant Christianity. (For example: I believed in helping others medically, materially and financially – not just spiritually; I didn’t care what sex people were attracted to and thought everyone deserved to marry anyone they wanted to marry because I was pretty sure God loved people who loved people regardless of who they loved otherwise he wouldn’t have invented love; I didn’t believe that all other religions were wrong and mine was the only right one.)  I was just like “YES! I get to help people have better lives and can share with them this awesome love that I feel! BOOYA!” So it was good.

…other than that time I told one of my best friends in the world that I would never talk to her again if she ever smoked weed again… that was a dick move.  Even if my strong feelings in support of marijuana prohibition were right (they weren’t) I’m pretty sure God didn’t want me telling people “Oh you have a problem and need help with it? FUCK OFF BITCH!”

But for the most part, my Jesus-freakiness was a good thing to have on my side in high school.  I was always a crappy student so my belief that drinking and drugs were bad was probably a good thing or I’m sure I never would have graduated from high school.  Sure I had never kissed a boy or talked to a boy or even made direct eye contact with a boy – but I was happy and all things considered life was good.

Then I went to college and realized that I finally had a chance to not be that dorky quiet girl (or more likely that invisible girl) anymore.  That’s when I thought; You know what’s a good way to spread God’s love?  Go to Campus Christian Fellowship and help lead the music team.  Then go out drinking with your new college friends who you’ve (probably not actually) convinced that you were a party girl in high school.  Yeah, that was a weird period in my life. 

Some times I look back at high school Annie and I go: Damn girl… you really should’ve spent a little more time looking people in the eye instead of avoiding eye contact at all times.  You also probably should’ve not given a fuck about what other people thought about you.  And really, what was with those horrible outfits?

But then I also look back at 18-year old Annie and go: Listen, home skillet, you did a lot of things when you first went off to college that altered the course of your life forever.  And you know what? Those things were pretty damn good in the long run after you got the compulsive lying and (some of) the partying out of your system.  But really, you know what I want to say to you more than anything? FUCK OFF!  Why did you start smoking cigarettes?  Ooooh you thought it was another good character trait for Party-Girl Annie to have?  Ooooh you thought all those allergies and asthma you’d dealt with your whole life were gonna be like “YEAH BITCHES!! BLACKEN THOSE LUNGS UP!” when you inhaled that smoke?

FUCK.  I really just want a cigarette.  This whole blog was just an introduction for me to say I really want a fucking cigarette.  It’s only been 24 hours since my last one but -

Oh hey! It’s been 24 hours since my last cigarette!

Much love,
Annie Jay


(UPDATE: Oh hey! It's been 48 hours since the last one! I'm surviving!)