According to Goodreads, I’m 7 books behind schedule for my Reading Challenge. I wanted to get through 50 books this year! While I feel pretty terrible about that I forget all the time I spend reading long form journalism, so I know my brain isn’t totally atrophying. I guess this means I will just have to spend LOTS of time on the beach with lots of books this summer to catch-up. Send me any suggestions you have… I am always looking.
BTW, you can follow my reading on Goodreads by adding me HERE.
Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
A beautifully woven story about girls becoming young women in 1970s Brooklyn. The story moves between the present and past with ease. At times I was frightened for the young women and at other times so in awe of their strength and bond of friendship. Totally enthralling and moving. And a good reminder to all writers out there that stories don’t need a beginning, middle, and end, they just need to be good stories.
Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
I was apparently on a very intense New York City- in-summer kick without knowing it. Seriously, I picked up both these books and realized their connection only after I finished them. Bright Lines follows a Bangladeshi family through an intense year of change and secrets revealed. The most magnificent part of this story is how it handles gender fluidity and queerness in an intelligent and sensitive way. One of the best books I read this year. I couldn’t put it down.
Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
I once had the pleasure of taking a class with JKA years ago at Gotham Writers. This was just before her book Seinfeldia had hit the best sellers list. With that and my total OBSESSION with the cultural impact of Sex and the City (and my overall love of the show) this was a no brainer. I don’t buy many books anymore but I bought this one. And read it in THREE days. If you love cultural commentary and TV studies. Get thee to the bookshop.
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Well, I actually managed to get through a month only reading books by women! It wasn’t intentional but I am proud of that achievement. I picked this one up at the library based alone on the cover and intrigued by the idea of being hired as a girlfriend. The structure of this story alone hooked me as a writer, I don’t want to give it away, but there is a break in the middle of the book in POVs and it has been a most excellent lesson for me as I adventure on my own novel. If you like the melding of new age healing techniques mashed with science, give it a whirl.
I am always so grateful to be a place where people can share their stories of bravery and challenges overcome. This is why I write, this is why I maintain the blog, to get voices out there to each and everyone of you. This week Holly Zarcone tells us about the power of our own voices.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
That was the rudimentary thought process that I depended on that early morning. Laying abandoned in the middle of a suburban street, the chill of a summer night cut through the open wounds that now decorated my once smooth twenty year old legs and shoulder. The darkness closed in around me, just a few porch lights twinkling in my periphery. Exhausted and in shock I wondered if I would be found. The street was eerie quiet, a complete contrast to just two hours earlier. Both the sounds of the revelry and the guests whom had partaken in said revelry were now gone. The fear of headlights coming towards me flashed in my mind, followed shortly by the eviscerating reminder of the image of tail lights that had just left me. Not once did I see the crimson glow of a pause or even a second thought resulting in a touch to a brake pedal.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
I was terrified, but I was saved. The same power behind my lungs, vocal cords, and lips that had gotten me into trouble for years finally saved me. My entire life people were telling me to be quiet and not to speak so loudly. I often wonder that if I hadn’t been so scared would I have enjoyed those moments of screaming, my jaw practically unhinged and my voice echoing. I had done it. My people found me. My best friend carried me, bloody and broken, into the house. Parents were called, a quick dash to the ER was made.
People called me brave. Brave? I am not entirely sure that following basic survival instincts classifies you as brave. I wasn’t then and I still, years later, cannot commit myself to that idea. It was in those following months which were doused in heartbreak, depression, and physician prescribed opioids that I believe my courage truly formed. Courage formed under the influence of incantations of “It will be over soon.” , “It will get better.”, and “Stay strong.” It formed while my father had to hold me down so that my mother could scrub my wounds three times a day as I sobbed through the intake of sharp breaths and stabbing pain.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
There is a halo of fog that surrounds the period of time in my life immediately after my accident. There were police officers, insurance interviewers, and daily wound care. There were moments I was in so much pain that I would squeeze my eyes shut until I saw a white burning light. I would go over the facts of what I remembered from that night in my head. Constantly reliving the sequence of events that led directly up to the exact moment my body collided with asphalt. I could practically feel my grip on the plastic and metal as I had clung to the side of the car as he was behind the wheel.
I would make myself crazy trying to decide if it was my fault. I would wrestle with my own psyche, trying to see if there would ever be a way back to the safe space that had been. There was a time that it had been just us; two kids reunited and swaddled in mutual grief and nostalgia. We had never fought, we had never bickered, and it had never felt unsafe – Until it did. It is an odd thing to have such a break in a relationship, that it is cut off so clean while everything surrounding that break is in ruins. I remember thinking that it felt like I had been killed and ended up in a parallel universe where everything was the same, but not.
Eventually, the fog started to lift. I was taken off of the pain management medications entirely and my body healed. Everyone started to look at me like I should be going right back to the regularly scheduled programming. The interesting thing about being cooped up in recovery is that the entire time you want to escape, but when you finally get the all clear, it can actually be quite scary to take the next step. Just getting back to the basics of driving my car was a frightening task. I had to start over entirely; I moved out of my parents house and into a new place with a friend, I was hired into two new jobs, and I eventually opened up to the idea of dating again.
There are no words for the myriad of poor choices and changes that went on within that following year. It took ages for me to me to truly become comfortable with my body and the few scars that remained. I do think though that the most difficult task I encountered was finding the patience, trust, and desire to have something more than a superfluous relationship with someone…So I didn’t. Instead of seeking something with someone else, I looked inward and fell into a deep and fast romance with myself. For an entire year I took the focus off of finding someone else and travelled, worked, played, and genuinely enjoyed life. I made my own safe place…I grew a voice again. I spoke loudly.
There are moments in this life that will break you. You will feel like you cannot go on, and you will feel compelled to give in. Don’t. I implore you instead to assess your position, determine the imminent dangers. Make a decision; and be it bravery or be it basic survival instincts, please open your mouth and force the help you need to arrive. Create urgency, send out an SOS. Use everything you have in order to be saved. Use the entire power behind your lungs, vocal cords, and lips.
Inhale. Exhale. Scream.
Holly Nichole Zarcone lives on Long Island with her husband, three children, and enormous Saint Bernard. She enjoys going on adventures on land, in the sea, and through pages. She is a freelance writer and blogger. Most recently she self published her first children’s book, Cookies For Dinner, which you can find for purchase on Amazon. You can contact her at HollyNZarcone@gmail.com.
I adore my New York Magazine subscription. I know I can almost always read the stories in the print edition on my phone or laptop but there’s something about holding the physical copy in my hand and reading it on the subway that just makes me feel SO good. (It’s also just easier on my aging eyeballs.)
This week they really nailed the cover story… How to be Happy. Which is of course also available online so you can read it too. (But grab it off a newsstand if you can, if only so we don’t all wind up like the humans in WALL-E.)
The story is structured around the most popular course at Yale– Psychology and the Good Life. Why is it so popular? Because college kids are more stressed and depressed than they ever have been before. And arguably, so are the rest of us. The article takes a skim across the course curriculum and its structure. A huge chunk of the course is focused on how our brains trick us into making us unhappy and then moves on to how to rewire our behaviors to be happier. Our brains are basically sabotaging us. Which is depressing to even think about. My favorite takeaway from this portion was that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control. Holy shit.
I will not go on to recap the article here but I strongly suggest you give yourself the time to read it. Which brings me to where I wanted to get to… TIME. The breakdown is this: people are happier when they have more time to just BE than when given some extra money.
Living in a city like New York, it is so hard to see the value in having empty time. It’s a city of hustlers, the city that doesn’t sleep. But filling every waking hour with work, with side hustles, with stuff just to feel “busy” is making us depressed. The misconception is that “busy” means productive and “free time” means lazy.
I have been so guilty of this it’s not even funny at this point. I used fill every wakeful hour with whatever I could. I thought I was being productive. But by the end of the year (for many years) I didn’t move the needle much on any of my goals. I had just kept myself busy and stressed for essentially, the sake of being busy and stressed. I was trying to match the busy and stressed out lives of my peers. Which makes me sad just thinking about it.
This article has come at such a good time for me. I have been exploring self care, meditation, and relaxation techniques for the past year. It’s insane to think that I have to research how to be chilled out, that I actually have to read articles about this to learn that it’s OK to spend an entire weeknight just resting… but I do. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that almost all of us have work to do in this department.
Happiness and success in America have always been measured by money and by time spent working… things that stress us and depress us. It’s time to flip the switch and change how we talk about ourselves and each other. If a friend likes to spend every Thursday night sitting in a coffee shop alone reading our reaction should be “Wow good for them for carving that time out,” instead of “Shouldn’t they be working on their small business idea?” And the next time you want to spend an hour reading a book, let yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to be truly happy. I know I am trying.
Ever since I started sharing my shorter poems publicly on Instagram I get a lot of questions and comments surrounding the process, my desire to write it, what it all means. My favorite is “Why write poetry?” I think for some of these people, poetry is a dated or far too academic form of expression. It seems out of touch with our technology-driven communities and the current trend of connecting superficially. But if the rather recent revival of poetry using social media has taught us anything (Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur) it’s that we are hungry for art… because art strives to make sense of that which overwhelms us.
Poetry often worries people. The fear of not “getting it” sends them into a panic and they’d rather not try at all. I understand this, I too remember the requirements of what you must know about poetry for the AP English exam. It can seem overwhelming and weirdly mathematical at times. But to me, the joy of reading poetry comes from your personal experience with it. You can get out as much or as little out of it as you’d like. If you want to read it and feel something–awesome. If you want to read it and then try to understand the author’s intent behind certain word choices–awesome, part two. Poetry can be a bit more malleable than other forms of written word, meanings can change based on when and where you read them. A poem’s affect can vary. This is what I love.
And that’s why I write poetry. I like to capture specific memories, places, and feelings of my own and then put them into a format that can speak to others. My intention with every poem is to make sure someone else doesn’t feel alone. I want readers to engage with each piece and say, “I feel this too” or “I know this”. I want them to love a poem but not be able to tell why. I want them to love a poem and know exactly why.
I want poetry to be more accessible. There are certainly poets and schools out there that do not share this enthusiasm for making poetry for “public” consumption. But I am okay with that. They can have their degrees and robes and scepters (I just threw that in there but I am sure some of them do indeed have scepters). I will play with words and feelings, try new things, learn new skills. I will put my poems out there for anyone who’d like to give poetry a try. Both reading and writing their own.
I’d also love to teach those who are new to it all about it’s history. I want to teach someone about meter and then show them how to break the rules. Nothing would please me more than breaking all the rules someone learned about poetry for the AP English exam. (I do seem haunted by the AP exam today, but I assure I am totally normal and hold no hard feelings…)
There are so many people out there writing poetry right and trying it for the first time! I want to encourage everyone to try it at least once and to forget any rules. Just let the pen move across a page and see what comes up. Come up with your own why for writing poetry… It’s a great healer.
Why do I write poetry? Because humans like to make sense of the world around them, and what better way to make sense of this world by creating other beautiful ones?
I am so grateful for Tiffany and this post. I saw a therapist while I was in college and today I still use the same coping techniques she taught me. This is an incredible piece for anyone looking to heal. – Amanda
This semester in my studio class I got a project where I decided to focus on mental health. I myself suffer from a mental illness but I was actually surprised so many others all over the world suffer from the same thing. I had been scrolling twitter one evening and noticed a thread on what it feels like when you have anxiety and noticed I was subconsciously coping the way others do.
In about March of this year, I suffered from one of my worst mental breaks that caused me to finally seek professional help for my problems. I’ve tried visiting my regular doctor in the past to receive medication for my anxiety and depression but was denied. This time I decided to go to a therapist. What I want you to understand is that I’ve made an appointment with a therapist 2 times before going to a doctor. However, both times the therapist canceled due to emergencies.
How this made me feel
I’m not sure how others would feel about this but for me it made me feel unimportant. This was a driving factor in why I didn’t really and may still be resistant to my therapist. However, the day I had my break and anxiety attack on campus I rushed to the counseling center because I knew I needed help or I was going to end up being suicidal again.
When did my mental health begin to deteriorate?
My depression began in 2013 and I have been very good at keeping it to myself and trying my hardest not to let it affect my normal everyday life. Fake it till you make it they would say. However, in 2016 I slowly went into a decline and I wasn’t able to hide it anymore. My family especially was starting to notice and had been urging me to seek professional help but I didn’t see the need to.
In my mind, I had been dealing with it for so long on my own and I was aware of what was wrong there’s nothing new that my therapist can do for me. Every day I would mentally get myself up and try my hardest to push through the day and for a while, this worked. Unfortunately 2017 and I’ve lost all interest in life. I knew exactly what was happening, I knew I was falling. I lost interest in sex. Felt like a constant failure even when I had successes. Nothing interested me anymore and I was beyond miserable at home. My suicidal thoughts were at an all-time high. Almost every day I was having an internal battle with myself trying to be my angel and demon. It was time for me to get the help I needed a new perspective.
What did I think about therapy?
Going into therapy I was very skeptical as I know many others have felt. Like I said before what could they tell me that I didn’t know? What are they going to be able to do for me? Am I going to get medication?
Let me tell you this. Don’t wait! I knew I was suffering for years I knew I wasn’t really coping and maybe if I had gone sooner I wouldn’t have sunken the way I had. Therapy has made me realize that:
There is always something that can be done.
I was linking every problem to one route issue.
Sometimes distancing yourself is not a bad thing it helps you heal.
My biggest issue centered on my family. My parents divorced in 2012 and ever since it’s been bad for me. All these things were slowly taking a toll on my health mentally and physically and I needed to distance myself from all that stress. I distance myself from my family not being home or limiting interaction. I know there are going to be people who are like don’t distance from family. However, you need to understand that sometimes the stress your family brings is the reason you can’t heal. You have to be able to let go of certain things in order to move forward.
Techniques to help you cope
A few things I started doing to help me cope with my depression are:
Daily Deep breathing. My therapist made me start doing this where for 10 minutes a day I just sit still in silence and clear my mind by deep breathing. So far this hasn’t been working well for me but you, of course, are welcome to try.
Daily exercise. 30 minutes of every day I do either a light or intense exercise routine. I use the Nike Training app to help set a plan and I make it my duty to get outside and do my routine. This method has helped to make me feel a lot better in the days I do get around to do it. It also has made me feel a lot more productive.
To help with my productivity I have gotten back into my planning and make daily checklists of things to do. Checking off a task each time has given me a sense of accomplishment and has helped my productivity and lessen my anxiety of not getting things done.
Tapping technique. This is also one I got from my therapist. It is a Chinese technique where you tap points on your body while chanting a mantra that helps you calm down and breathe. This has helped in times of high anxiety. You can research this method online.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking help for your anxiety or depression. Save yourself and try to be there for yourself. No one is going to care for you the way you should be always remember that. Your never alone there’s a huge community of people on social media who will encourage you. They will also give you tips on dealing so try reaching out.
Until next time! See you later lovelies! Muah! xoxo
Tiffany Crosdale, more known as Tiffany August, is a student and blogger living in Kingston, Jamaica. Recently she has been focusing on becoming a girl boss and furthering her media career. She also freelance writes on Freelancer.com. You can contact her at TiffanyAugust@hotmail.com.