It's now May (!!!) and while I've had a few posts in 2023, I haven't done a biggie on internal state since the January one. Here are a few topics I've been chewing on now vs. then.
(title of the post is something a weightlifter told me. A cool thing about lifting weights is that you can't apply hustle porn attitudes to it: if you lift hard every day, you'll hurt your strength and muscle growth. "Lift heavy, eat protein, yeah, do it 2-4 days a week. But rest is just as important.")
"The Trip" | chasing the Burn | when to cut loose
Saurya took a 2-week trip to Singapore in February and when he came back, he looked a special kind of refreshed. He met up with all his networks there, he got engaged, he visited his old haunts; when he got back he told me he was planning to move back in the coming years. His future was calling for him. I was like, "oh… you took The Trip!"
Last March I took a 2-week trip to NY. Sofía came down from Boston and Saurya had a work trip at the same time, so the three of us spent a beautiful weekend watching theatre, walking the city, eating meals. I went on a date that opened my heart. I started growing out my mustache. I visited my spots while also finding new corners of NY. Someone noted that all my online photos (LinkedIn, Twitter, dating apps) use This Damn Photo:
I took this in the middle of that trip. Whereas many of us have photos where we're smiling but we remember being absolutely miserable, the opposite are my favorite photos, where you know you're just as stupidly happy as you look.
Coming out of this trip, I finally landed on the healing needed to punch up and publish my 2021 post, and another on all the things I looked forward to. I joined a gym again and got lifting. I did the first of many, many accordion practice sessions days after arriving in SF. This trip was a major step forward in getting me where I want to be, and while it would be heartbreaking for Saurya and I to split cities, I learned my heart is probably in NY and his, after this trip, probably wants to build in Singapore. When you hear advice from the divine, you should probably listen.1
So, "The Trip" is magical. But what then?
There's a phrase Burning Man people use: don't chase a previous Burn. Suppose you went in 2012 and had the Week Of Your Life, with a few Night Of Your Lifes, it's very tempting to try to go with the same friends, take the same drugs, chase the same stimulus in subsequent years. But you need to be open to the idea that This Burn is not, will not, and should not be that Burn. Chasing previous magic is a recipe for disappointment.2
I've gone to NY… 4 more times? For a week at a time, not 2. I'm pleased to report that I was careful not to Chase The Burn. I had a marvelous, unique time every trip (exception for when I got COVID).
At least… consciously. Subconsciously, I think I might have still hoped for transformation. I got back from a trip yesterday, and I'm feeling a few things at once:
The parts of me that feel sincerely happier there are deeper than surface-level. I really do prefer that environment, the people in it, and that this matters. When I'm there, I feel something closer to home.
I'm looking for the next kick in the pants. I'm hitting diminishing returns. "Nourishment" is now getting to be "amusement," which is still worth chasing, but it's something different.
Additionally, it's hard to know sometimes whether you're "chasing a previous Burn," or just starting to get bored with Burning Man. You're chasing the previous one not because of any qualitative things that made that Burn different from this one, but for that feeling from before you were so used to it. This is partially why everyone hated the second Star Wars trilogy, and Disney struggles to make the franchise work a decade after that: people don't want more Star Wars (like, the aliens and lightsabers and music…) they want to feel like they did when they first saw Star Wars (as a child or teenager). No director or script will make you feel like a teenager again.
So I'm coming back from another NY trip feeling fucking fantastic, with somehow more clarity on my San Francisco life, and as always, extremely motivated to Live Más. But also I'm starting to get curious on what the next big reveal will be. What will next feel like nourishment.
they're not here with you | But S/He is | a better association with "poly"
Do you talk to yourself? Maybe weird to ask. I do. A lot, and for most of my life. A phrase my therapist used was "growing up in your house, and especially after your traumas around attachment, you had to keep yourself company."3
We all know that feeling of thinking of the perfect line 5 minutes after you leave the party. If the phrase "the jerk store called" means anything to you, you understand.
I became aware last year that I was doing it a lot. Much of the pain of the breakup was me spinning on internal conversations, over and over again: with Karen, with the people from my former friend group who I felt unsupported by. I imagined conversations with co-workers who'd annoyed me. Of justifying my project(s) or chops to someone who doesn't share my values. So many things I felt like saying, and responding to so many criticisms I'd imagined them making.
It's been helpful to say: they're not here. I was feeling criticized and defensive, but the only actual person giving me shit was me. I could just turn them off. Once I asked myself why I didn't, and why I did this in the first place, things got interesting. I was using the idea of them to kick myself.
Now: I think I'm an excellent people-reader. I think I've got people's values mapped pretty well, and when I do this, I tend to be pretty accurate in how such a conversation, were it to happen, ends up going. And it's not just on the pain/hate side: this often works to my favor, and I frequently imagine great, lovely and loving conversations.
But. It doesn't serve me to kick myself so damn hard. Laundered money is still stolen money, and self-hate through proxy (no matter how clever) still fails to serve me. I'm way better now at pulling off the mask, Scooby Doo style, to see who that ghost terrorizing the amusement park really is.
One thing I didn't see in my 20's and saw (but was in denial of) in my 30's is that I'm happier with some form of spirituality. I used to be very Catholic: I prayed every night. I wore a cross. I would say, out loud to God, "hey, no lack of faith here, just taking a shower" before I took off my cross. My spirituality dropped off in high school as I started getting horny and depressed, especially since the unceasing pain was evidence that either God didn't love me enough to throw me a lifesaver, or I was just getting what he judged me to deserve.
In this context, atheism in college was a relief. On top of the downright farcical things Catholicism asked me to believe (a giant Sky Daddy with the power to create the entire universe cares about me, specifically, and also, 6 billion other people), it cleared me from having to think my pain was connected to some greater purpose or plan.
But I lost the baby with the bathwater. A sense of purpose is important. Feeling like a main character in a story that matters is important. Connectedness is important. These things often come from involvement in religious communities. Research on "blue zones" (places where a surprising number of the population live to be > 100) has shown religion and/or a purpose-based community to be a big component to longevity.
But what if you don't believe? I don't mean to Pascal's Wager myself into faith here. I talked to a friend who commented "I was just so much happier when I believed in God." I asked what was comforting about that, they responded (paraphrasing) "it felt good to know someone was always watching over me, looking after me." Since I was also chewing on these topics, I reminded them that someone was: themselves!
You are always watching over you. And no, you can't remake reality or manifest miracles, but the things you can do… you can do! Without hoping they just happen. Your powers are smaller, but they're real and in your control. And they might not even be that small: some people change the world. If that's what you want, there's no reason you can't be one of them.
I won't believe in Sky Daddy again, but I am committed to finding my purpose or spiritual connection in a way that works for me. On the topic of talking to yourself: that's what I was doing when I prayed every night. That's what I was doing when I was observing things and interpreting my life with a Catholic lens. When praying: I was cataloging my worries and gratitude. I was safely wishing and hoping. I don't need to capital-B Believe in order to still do that. But now when I find a feeling like I did when I believed, I lean into it.---
Sometime in November, I start paying attention to who I was talking to when doing these self-conversations. Some common characters came up: when I was hopeful or excited, I often imagined the improbable romantic interest. When I was feeling humiliated or betrayed, it was Karen or my old community of friends. Co-workers when I was thinking about company stuff. It's impossible to know whether I picked them based on how I was feeling, or whether thinking of them made me want to talk to them which in turn caused me to feel a certain way.
Saurya (oddly unpopular in this exercise: I never talked to him in my mind. maybe because we already talk so much? maybe because I sincerely can't predict how he responds, and that surprise is maybe that's part of why we're so close?) said my favorite thing about this: "it's amazing to hear you've reinvented polytheism."
Combining the two sections above (talking to various people, and talking to God), I suppose that was what I was doing. My own version of "damn, feeling some strong passions; I'm gonna need Poseidon to weigh in here," or "this party needs some fire, what would Dionysis do?!"4
Once I spotted this, it became a game: what happens if I change the "audience"? Does the feeling change? Do my observations? Does the storytelling? Yes, yes, and yes!
Anyway, talking to yourself. There's a lot to it! This post got a lot headier than I intended when I started writing it. And I cut some things out because it got pretty long. Maybe I'll do a proper feelings-ey post later.
1. ^ Incidentally, I had a friend laid off from Meta in November, and she used her severance to travel the world for 2 months. She came back with a lot of clarity on a few situations in a her life. if you have the resources and feel like it would help, I highly recommend taking at least 2 weeks somewhere vaguely familiar, away from home.
2. ^ Like a lot of Burning Man, this seems like a White-flavored wrapping of deeper teachings from other cultures (I'm thinking Buddhist ideas) that Burners feel like they discovered through the magic of drugs. I'm also tickled noting that I talk about New York the way many people talk about Burning Man (transformational, intersectional, a beautiful mess of all sorts of humans) and Burning Man the way many people talk about New York (expensive, full of yuppies, a cool spectacle, wholly unreal).
3. ^ In a previous post I quoted a Michelle Wolf joke "a blog is a conversation nobody wanted to have with you." Maybe this entire section sheds light as to why I do this lol.
Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to join my mailing list, drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄