I’m only happy when it’s gray…

The river’s fairly calm, I see cars but no one’s around. The clouds are silvery blue and the wind occasionally threatens something more sinister is coming my way.

Really mother nature? Bring it. Life has already shown just how injurious real people can be. One can be unknowingly malicious, inflict unimaginable harm, offering emotional cruelty of the highest order. Those people need to be more kind to themselves. If you can’t be kind to yourself, to pick up your pieces, how do you stop yourself from harming someone else?

Oh! There’s the sun, peaking through to protest with warmth on top of my head as I sit alone by the river. And then there’s the river, so soft, so placating, in it’s gentle march south. Why does no one come out on the best days like this? The rain will come, but I’ve stolen the best time and the best spot. My little sliver of peace near the mass of disappoint and pain.

#PotomacRiver

I imagine the days when people rode through here on horseback, how quiet life was, without the din of car traffic, incoming flights, the occasional military helicopter. One had to be more aware, senses more heightened. I’m under no illusion that life was easier, it wasn’t, but there was quiet.

Mad Girl’s Love Song

By Sylvia Plath

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

We’re all dialed in…

#SwingsCoffee #SwingsALX #Nicaraguanroast

This was a leftover draft/picture from November I believe. The days of whiling away hours at the coffee shop, reading, writing, learning. Life is returning to the inside environs but feels barely more safe than a vacation to Chernobyl. The threat is there, you just can’t see it. The ‘threat’ is also so much more than just the virus. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” keeps spinning in my head, and it pertains to all of us. We have a lot of new tricks to learn, but are we willing to let go of the old ones in order to move forward, to move on with a new way of living?

When you have to start all over again, again…

For someone who loves nature and being outdoors, who finds it as essential to her wellbeing as air, I don’t come to the river nearly enough. Right now I’m sharing a little stretch of parkland along the Potomac with a few guys fishing. The nearest are speaking Spanish, and it feels a little more like home. I hear cars blowing by, the lapping of water a few feet from my chair, the hum of conversation. I’m typing this post on my cellphone while my laptop leans against my leg; I’d feel like such an ass if I took it out. This is what happens when your “office”, aka, the coffee shop, is still closed indoors and your apartment is about as productive an environment as a crowded bar.

You become the girl with the laptop down by the river.

I’m down here hoping to make sense of my life getting back on track when it seems utterly impossible, especially as life around me tries to inch closer to the before time. Life before the virus. Also now, and rightfully so and a long time overdo, an uprising against racism and abhorrent brutality against black people. Our President is a bigot, million’s have no job, the virus is still a clear and present danger, and this was supposed to be my year?

I’m not asking for a redo, even as my near past was so bright and hopeful and wanted. No, I’m asking for us to get a fair shot at fixing and mending all this before everyone’s lives are completely destroyed. Our personal lives, our work lives, our our personal freedoms, our neighbors freedoms and rights. I ask myself every day if I have any fight left in me. I’ve been fighting for myself for a good 30 years now- fighting abuse, depression, sexism, unavoidable sickness and death, heartbreak, professional woes, and on. I am no one special; you’re probably seeing some of your own demons here.

So how does one keep pushing on in a time when leaning on others isn’t as easy as it once was? Every person is dealing with one or multiple crisis that are exponentially larger than three months ago. I’m experiencing a level of gratitude I’ve never had for seemingly little things- my best friend in Chicago doing a (failed) juice cleanse with me while she begins her last internship post-law school, another friend reaching out no matter how late or busy (or not) their lives are, the friends that still invite you over for dinner (safely and distantly!) For not letting that voice that keeps saying “You’ve still failed to amount to anything” win another morning.

That last one is the hardest. It’s heavy to keep a brave face and positive attitude when I have survived five of the roughest years of my adult life. Forgiving myself for making horrendous personal mistakes, for not pushing harder after seven years of nonstop job searching and coming up empty handed. There’s more, but the gist is, forgiveness. No one forgives themselves enough when life falls apart, when you feel unimportant or forgotten about or unloved. If you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll never move forward.

Pieces, small and large, of life have been chipped away and fallen apart. There’s new and old struggles to contend with, but likely not a lot of old ways to fix them. Find your new way. You are not defective, you just need to do more, try harder, ignore that terrible voice that wakes you up and goes “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?”

I might not find my way forward down by the river, but I will give it a fighting chance.

Day 9…11:26AM

At this time last week, I was still in “day off” mode since my usual off time from my job-that-pays are Mondays and Tuesdays. Now I’m struggling to fill those extra eight to ten hours in my day that are reserved for bartending. Think it’s easy? We all have those long-forgotten projects of painting, rearranging the bedroom, purging closets and such. The problem is when even that gets tedious, we don’t HAVE to be doing any of it. I have hundreds of books in my apartment, many unread. That’s a lot of sitting down for a person regularly on their feet 40+ hours a week. My home is long, but not conducive to pacing. So, what to do? List making, how I love lists. More like, a daily “to-do” calendar that turns all of this free time at home into workable, productive hours. My short-term goal of becoming a full-time freelance writer could come to fruition out of this.


I’ve been thinking of ways to prioritize things I already do with things I want to do. There’s the morning ritual of reading the terrible news of the world, coffee, and making the bed. Check. Had a little dance party, check. I completed some social media shout outs. Now I’m unhappily sitting on the couch, thinking if I should workout or let my very sore body heal from the Barre video I attempted. I say this regrettably from longingly staring out the window as I type. The cats are birdwatching and enjoying the fresh air. Visions of running away to a cabin in the mountains have been constant—a fireplace, beautiful deck with jacuzzi and excellent hiking trails. Take a deep breath (I have to tell myself this often). It will come, though I hope it is during a lovely Spring of firsthand enjoyment of birds singing and leaves budding. It’s nice to dream, to have hopes, and expectations of when life returns to “normal,” whatever that may be in the coming months.

This looks like a dreamy spot for running away. Hooray for screensavers.

I’ll leave it there for now. What are some of your “new normal” habits? Hobbies? How are you filling your days if you are a writer or other artist? Not being a parent to human children, I don’t have the responsibility of teaching and entertaining others. I assume my parent-friends are up to their ears in education and the art of distraction.

day 7, 12:30 AM

I just got emotional turning off my brunch alarm for tomorrow morning. I never thought I’d be upset by that. But here I am, crying and scared. Day 7 is setting up to be the emotional rollercoaster I don’t need.


To follow up, I’m fine; I’ll be “fine.” I have been alone and independent a lot since I turned, oh let’s say, 12 years old. Benefits of being a latchkey kid, being snarky and self-sustainable, Generation X. You could put “self” in front of just about any word, and that sums up my generation. Many articles and blogs proclaim we’re poised for this type of scenario, encouraged by an adolescence of busy parents, empty houses, and MTV. We made our own after school snacks, did our homework without (much) help, and sought it on our own if needed. Hell, I did my college applications and my college tours with friends. I was dropped off at my snowed in university and was alone within half an hour.

I don’t enjoy being alone; I’m just really good at it. Being alone when warranted, such as after a busy night or week of bartending, is a gift. It’s the most socially demanding job I know of, where you’re “on” for 8-10 hours, or more, a shift. Multiply that by 3-5 days a week, and you’re mentally toasted, you’re raw, spent. Small talk is our forte, a lot of necessary shouting, and repeating ourselves dozens upon dozens of times. There’s much more I could divulge on what drives me bananas about my job, but that’s not why I’m here.


I don’t miss the bartending; I miss the connection with people. I will never have a job this fun again. No matter how much I love writing, and books, and being a smarty pants- all that can take a hike. Fun at work seems like the antithesis of what I learned growing up, and current trends don’t seem to have changed. This pandemic could very well destroy the life I’ve known for 25 years in the course of a few months, or weeks. I am not overreacting, and it will not be the same. Nothing about our conventional way of life will be the same after this virus finally subsides, we get it under control, a vaccine, and a lot of people die. I hope I’m wrong, but drastic measures are frequently taken after catastrophes.


If it seems I’m overreacting after such a short period, here’s some perspective. I’m not on vacation, but laid off, and filed for unemployment. I’ve applied for every bartender grant I’ve seen. That is emergency, disaster relief for people who pour martinis (I’m condensing). There are “Virtual Tip Jars,” regional spreadsheets being created throughout the country for people to donate money directly to their favorite server or bartender in place of the gratuities we are no longer receiving. It’s remarkable the care and thought being poured into our community to help save Us.


But I am still scared.


I’m confident, if completely contradictory with my rambling that we will get through this. We will be stronger, if more cautious, on the other side, but emotionally battered and bruised. We will be tired, and not just us restaurant industry folks—parents co-working, co-parenting, and homeschooling. If you weren’t tired enough before, wait until we all take our first collective breather when safe again. That is when the real exhaustion begins; when we go back to our old lives and realize they are not there.

When in doubt, push through the tired…

So I started my day with a Red Bull, a sugar-free one, and I see this becoming a trend as I consider getting a case of Red Bull Zero from my boyfriend, Jeff Bezos. His quaint little company is always sending me useful and nifty gifts.


I’m surprised I chose it as my wake-up fuel today- I can blindly fix myself a cup of good coffee after I feed the hungry beasts living in my home. Lately, however, I’m feeling burnt, not “The Bern,” though I don’t want to get political, not here. My real pay-the-bills job has left me far more drained and mentally spent lately, and I’ve been relying on such stalwarts of the industry to push through everything. There’s the occasional ‘little blue friend,’ aka Adderall, and sometimes even these natural caffeine pills I found at Walgreens. I’m not ashamed whatsoever for relying on the occasional boost from everyone’s favorite college study drug. Two of my degrees were proudly “sponsored” by such. I know I am not alone.


Back to feeling drained, the burn, and my often bemused thoughts on how we’re all just too busy. I work full-time for someone else, I work part-time for myself, I go to the gym, I consciously cook healthy meals, do all the things required for maintaining my home and life. There’s friends, a relationship, family, pets- where do I rank in all this? Where do any of us rank the importance of our well-being in all this? I am talking about “me time” (you-time). Getting away for a hike, reading a book (without distraction), whatever floats your mental happiness. Why are we always putting ourselves last? How do we stop and rewire ourselves to fix this equation? I understand those who are parents will say, “kids, kids, kids.” We can’t raise kids the way we were raised (feral, latch-key, riding ATVs, playing with sharp and firey things). I certainly couldn’t do it; you’re the real MVPs friends! You, however, are the most in need of the aforementioned “you-time.”


So how does one do it? It starts with an oft negative word we were taught not to say instead of being “yes people.” To avoid not looking like a team player, to come across as positive and perky and willing to do it all. I’m talking about the word no. That’s it- no. Say it out loud, sounds harsh, abrupt, scornful even. It’s going to be the best thing you did for yourself. I’m incredibly guilty of saying yes too often at work and suddenly finding myself with zero time to write, to relax, to play with my pets, have lunch with friends, etc. Sometimes working extra is inevitable and necessary; I accept when it is. You have to give that time back to yourself, however, to heal, to regroup, to plan.


So how do you all do it? What are the interests you use to wind down, or up, those hobbies gathering dust? Mine is drawing, and recently I purchased a tabletop easel/drafting table for my larger sketchbooks, a few new pencils, and some months earlier, new sketchbooks. They need love, as I am guilty of having the initial drive to use them, but push aside. My old hobby intimidates me, to be honest. In another life, I was an art major, did graphic design, and drew quite well. The years of restaurant work have damaged the nerves in my dominant hand, and I’m afraid to see how it’s affected my ability to capture detail. Get over the fear, over the hurdles, put it in your calendar! “March 7, 2020- ME TIME”


Let me know how it goes.

Going back to the basics…

#swingscoffee

I left the laptop at home today, I can’t even imagine trying to get any real work done. Remember, I’m a bartender, and last night/this morning was a long one. There were fun parts of the night, like seeing friends make out and throwing wine corks at them. Talking after hours with two great friends/co-workers to unwind. Setting up a Last Day At Work soiree with cookies and silly party favors for a wonderful guy who’s going on to do better things. Hope he enjoyed his super soft party. #Letterkenny

And then there was the rest. Nothing horrible mind you, but too many people are on edge. Or cocaine. Or both. Now, I often can barely comprehend relaxation and normalcy after bartending, but I leave work after midnight every day. I’m not normal. If I could impart any wisdom, or a heartfelt suggestion to those sitting at our bar after a day of dealing with whatever service you provide during the day is this. Take a beat, breath, count to ten. You are still in public and talking to other people doing their job. Don’t bark at me, snap your fingers, or forget everyday pleasantries. I can usually tell if someone hasn’t snapped out of it yet, and I often give you a pass. I can see the lack of caffeine, the “hangry”, the deplorable gloom that was a day of pointless meetings. We are here for you to take the edge off, we want you happy, we want to hear about your day. So, deep breath, count to ten, take a beat, welcome back to the world.

Back to me. I’m halfway through my cappuccino, and about to write the stuff you don’t get to see. My other thoughts, the place I dump what’s in my head and not carry it around all day. It’s a “fancy” notebook, a #Moleskine, and my favorite carry everywhere notebook. It folds flat, is sturdy, and is no nonsense. A class on creativity development for artists emphasizes the importance of writing down several pages (she suggested three, I often cannot produce that much) to start one’s day. It could be anything and everything and is meant to log what’s been in your unconscious all night as you tossed and turned. It’s not just for artists. Mathematicians, engineers, businessmen, chefs, etc, have found this useful as means to unclutter the mental noise in our days. Once you build the habit, ideas creep in, and solutions to problems. It’s a free write, and one of the best things you can do for yourself all day. It’s your time to give back to yourself.

And this is mine. Happy Friday everyone. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Get at it.