Right now you’re dog paddling—you’re fighting off your feelings, mostly with your circular thoughts—and you’re wondering why you’re so exhausted and angry. … You try to solve the problem, mostly by thinking about it until you feel terrible. You blame yourself. …

It’s sadly very common, this feeling that we were beaten back like weeds and we lost something important along the way. …

The dog paddling of neuroticism feels like isolation, like longing, like struggling against something impossible. “I’m not like this! I’m really not!”…

And what comes next? What ends the early thirties crisis, you ask? Settling, numbness, resolving not to try to explain, assuming that no one will understand. So tired of dog paddling, so tired of struggling against the surface of the water, all splashy exhausting violence with so little reward.

Many people stop trying to understand their feelings at around your age. It’s wearing them out too much. Like you, every time they have ‘an epiphany,’ it only opens up the door to another warehouse of issues to sift through. So they choose to feel LESS instead.

"There is no pain, you are receding,
A distant ship smoke on the horizon.”

This is where you are. You can 1) keep dog-paddling and become a certified neurotic, always exhausted, always angry. Or you can 2) turn it all off, power down, and give up on trying, because it’s too hard. Or, you can 3) dive down under the water and feel your way through this and see everything you have, everything you’re made of, everything you’re NOT made of, everything you love, everything you want to embrace and enjoy about being alive right now.

Dog-paddling is not serving you very well. You’re trying to prove that this is not who you are. There’s no flow, no grace, no gliding. …

The trouble here lies in both your bad habits and in your poorly formed identity. Your identity until now has depended on how other people see you. Starting today, you have to feel your way towards an identity that makes sense to you and you alone. Your moments of freedom, of possibility, of feeling in touch with yourself, have been blotted out by your anxiety and neediness and struggle to blame yourself and NOT blame yourself and blame yourself all over again.

You need to learn how to feel what you feel without anxious color commentary.

… You need to find some way to welcome and accept your feelings instead of always retreating into circular thinking and solutions and self-doubt and self-blame. You can do this by yourself. Forget all interpretation. Put some headphones on, turn on some music, and give yourself a moment, as a gift. Not a moment to straighten up. Not a moment to fix something. Not a moment to wonder if your husband really cares. Not a moment to wonder what other people have that you don’t have. A moment to put your face in the water and swim under the surface, alone.

Let yourself feel something without thinking. …

Put your face in the water. … This is not about becoming more productive. This is not about becoming someone stronger and better and more lovable. This is not about looking for an epiphany. …

Swim through the raw pain of mourning what you could’ve been, a different kind of a person, a charming, outgrowing child who grew into a charming, outgoing woman. But you were stopped in your tracks. Let that injustice surround you, thick as water.

Stay there, surrounded by feeling. Don’t clean up. Don’t fix anything. Don’t rush to funnel the smallest bit of inspiration into SOMETHING SOME PAINTING SOME PROOF YOU’RE MAKING PROGRESS YOU’RE GETTING BETTER.

Make no progress. Analyze nothing. Stay with your feelings.

… There is no careful plan to follow. This is where your freedom will begin: Learning to feel what you feel without judgment. …

You have to learn to give value to your experience. You haven’t valued your own experience since you were very small. You can’t think your way to this. You have to feel your way there. …

In the past, you would paddle faster. Now, you will simply listen. You will become more and more accustomed to seizing your own moments of peace, of richness, of fear, of inspiration, of sadness, of longing. Owning your longing and sadness feels good. It feeds your soul, owning the whole kaleidoscope within you. …

There will be pain, and calm. Everything will be slow and sad and beautiful. You will marvel over how brave you are.

This is where you begin. Lean into what you feel, without shame, without worry. Being yourself without apology depends on accepting and embracing your feelings. Freedom and following your heart depend on promising yourself that you will be good to yourself, that you will care for and love yourself no matter what… . You’ll have to do this every day, in order to make it a habit. You’ll have to stop dog-paddling every single day and say, “No, I’m doing things a new way now. I’m giving myself some time to feel my way, to enjoy the moment.” That means that every single time you notice that you’re rushing, and you’re angry at yourself, you slow down and ask yourself how to do the same thing with less thought and more feeling and more deep breaths. …

Turn off your mind and open your eyes. Stop repeating that same old story, and look around you. You are already free. This moment, in your messy apartment, in the heat, among your half-finished paintings, in the unnerving dusk, with the accumulated disappointments of years and years and years, puddling around you? This moment is yours, and it’s pure and miraculous and sad and sweet. Swim, slowly, calmly, through this sad, sweet moment, through this sad, sweet infinity. You are already free.

Excerpts from the latest Ask Polly, The Awl.

Figure it out

light leak / ryan


light leak / ryan


U.S. Zebra striped body , 1950s // Photographer: Peter Basch


U.S. Zebra striped body , 1950s // Photographer: Peter Basch

(Source: cargocollection)


All I hear is you

Joel Meyerowitz, Red Interior, Provincetown (1976)


Joel Meyerowitz, Red Interior, Provincetown (1976)

(Source: 2chaaaain)

(Source: garagedump)

Notes to self

  • Don’t be the kind of person whose life is ruled by fear.
  • "Look ‘em in the eye and speak from the heart."
  • Celebrate other people’s victories as much as you celebrate your own.
  • Never underestimate your own capacity for gratitude, for learning, or for love.
  • Don’t become self-destructive because you’re afraid to love and believe in yourself as much as you love and believe in the people around you.
  • Acceptance is one thing, resignment is another. Don’t hold grudges, but don’t let yourself be passive either.
  • Writing this down doesn’t change anything. You have to work for what you want. Everyday.