Freaking 30

New Year’s Resolutions never really work for me, but I do want to change and improve my life before I turn 30 on May 23rd. I had a list of things that were mostly fun that I wanted to do before I turned 30, and a friend pointed out (shamed me) that they were more-or-less things I could do in a day and that I should do things that challenge me. So I started thinking about what I want to do and who I want to be before I turn 30.

My personality lends itself to having loads of ideas and no follow-through, it’s something that’s bugged me since I graduated and then I get this fortune cookie…

The biggest thing for me is to not care if something is good or not. Picasso supposedly said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” The best estimate is that Picasso created 50,000 pieces, so he knew a thing or two about getting stuff done. So for the next five months, I don’t care if any of these things are actually good or even totally finished. I just want to get them done and out there.

Honestly, things I don’t think are great get made and are either popular, make money or both, so who am I to say what’s good anymore? It’s just my job to make it.

Other things I’m hoping to gain from this is to figure out what I actually like to do and to spend less of my downtime consuming and more time creating.

Some of the list items are to finish creative projects I’ve been working on and some of them are things to challenge me to get outside of my normal way of thinking.

Here’s my list to complete by the end of May (I’m giving myself an extra week):

  1. Write 30 songs (at least five different genres)
  2. Write 30 pages of a screenplay or 30-minute (technically 22-minute) television pilot.
  3. Write 30 pages of a musical
  4. Write 30 pages of a novel
  5. Write 30 stories from my life or family member’s life
  6. 30 posts (by me or other people) on wordfromyourmothers.com.
  7. Write 30 jokes/sketch ideas
  8. Complete 30 visual art projects (painting, hand-lettering, tattoo designs, sewing, etc.)
  9. Release 30 minutes of a podcast to the public
  10. Post 30 Etsy listings
  11. Write 30-minute “Ted Talk”
  12. Record and post 30 one-minute pep talks.
  13. Watch 30 shows (both live and recorded performances)
  14. Read 30 well-researched articles about unique subjects
  15. Broadcast for 30 hours on Twitch
  16. Work on/give feedback on 30 projects that aren’t mine
  17. Have 30 significant one-on-one conversations with 30 different people
  18. Resist 30 impulse purchases
  19. Get rid of 30 items
  20. 30 days of unique outfits (not repeating anything in my closet, minus underwear and maybe shoes)
  21. 30 days of wearing outfits from the same 15 items
  22. 30 meals I’ve never tried
  23. 30 different kinds of exercise
  24. 30 small acts of service
  25. 30 seeds planted
  26. 30 projects I haven’t been putting off around the house done.
  27. Learn a phrase in 30 different languages
  28. Learn 30 new phrases in Italian
  29. Learn 30 new words in English
  30. Do 30 things that make me say, “I’m scared, but I’m going to do this anyway.”
  31. Do 30 push-ups
  32. Play trombone for 30 minutes

Other things:

Write 30 minutes a day.
30 minutes of self/spiritual care a day.

I’ll be documenting this on my Instagram @theseriallover to hold myself accountable. Feel free to follow along.

Some people think this sounds like a lot, but, honestly, if I was in school I’d be writing/creating way more so I think it’ll be good.

I Wrote My Way Out

I don’t know what to do. My brain and my body feel like they’re imploding on themselves. I have had a headache for days, heartache for years. I’m broken, but I know I’m not. I feel totally inadequate. And then I remember someone was going to trust me to watch her children (whom she loves) for an entire weekend. I feel unlovable and then I look at my phone to see messages from people who know I exist and invite me to things. I feel untalented and then I look at the things I’ve made, with my own brains. I know being depressed isn’t my fault, but I also know it causes me to lose things I love. It’s a companion I know I could learn to libe with, but it’s also a plague that’s destroying the life I want.

It’s a constant battle between heart and mind and the result is an aching soul.

I’m sitting here in what must be Depression, because how can a sadness worse than this exist? Maybe for someone stronger than me, it is possible to be sadder, but this feels like my limit. I feel like my veins are filled with lead. My arm feels too heavy to raise. And it’s too boney. Why are my elbows so boney? My heart is heavy and somehow empty at the same time. I am the heaviest shell of a person you can imagine. I had barely hold my head up and everything in my brain is foggy. But the creative thoughts don’t stop. I’m filled with ideas I cannot execute because my body won’t do what my brain tells it to.

And it’s not me either. Because me is a person who jokes around constantly. I used to think “vibrant” was a great word to describe me, but I feel desaturated. The world has a grey tint to it. I only wear sunglasses with brown lenses, because I hate looking at the world with a grey tint.

So I have to do something. People are suggesting things like therapy, books, and medication, meditation, yoga, diets. I’ve tried them. I’ve even preached about them. But nothing is actually working for me. I know I could (and will) try harder and retry some of those things that help people. But different things work for different people.

So what can I do? I love yoga and therapy and all that. But as I’m thinking, I hear it, in the suave voice of Jamael Westman (sorry, Lin), I wrote my way out.

I wrote my way out of hell
I wrote my way to revolution
I was louder than the crack in the bell
I wrote Eliza love letters until she fell
I wrote about The Constitution and defended it well
And in the face of ignorance and resistance
I wrote financial systems into existence
And when my prayers to God were met with indifference
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance

Hurricane on Spotify

It doesn’t matter if it’s good. It’s what my brain wants.
And maybe if it is good. I can have the same effect that this song has had on my life.
Maybe one thing, I write one day, without even thinking much about it.
Could change someone’s life.
And in that case, it is worth it. It’s worth losing everything. It’s worth working through the pain. If I can write even one sentence, one line, that helps someone not feel how I feel right now…If I only write one sentence my whole life that helps someone. If I never make a penny off it. It is worth it. Another Hamilton line comes to me at times I need it most, Just stay alive, that would be enough. Thanks, Lin.
In the eye of a hurricane
There is quiet
For just a moment
A yellow sky
I was twelve when my mother died
She was holding me
We were sick and she was holding me
I couldn’t seem to die
Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it (I’ll write my way out)
Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it (write everything down, far as I can see)
Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, wait (history has its eyes on you)
I’ll write my way out
Overwhelm them with honesty
This is the eye of the hurricane, this is the only
Way

And it’s selfish too. Because it makes me feel better. Maybe selfish is a bad word. It’s a win-win. I wish I didn’t keep forgetting. I am so blessed to have a talent/love that is totally free for me to do. I can write on paper scraps. I can write on my own skin. I can write on the internet with potential for people around the world to read it. It’s the easiest, most beautiful thing. I can do it by myself or with other people. I’m lucky to have something that’s so easy to love. And it gives me hell, but I sometimes think it loves me back.

Here’s the remix version:

Note: My therapist also suggested I write more, so she gets some credit too.

Original

Thanks to the WordPress app I can write this tiredly as I lay in bed. I don’t really need to write anything but I don’t want to ruin my streak.

Today I’m thinking about how we get more original content. We can say we don’t want remakes and all that, but they make money so obviously someone wants them. People are annoyed with the female remakes, but it just goes to show that someone can’t make a heist film with all females without linking it to a franchise. I will take smart females anyway I can get them, but I wish they could stand alone…Or if you’re going to connect it, at least give us a Clooney cameo for the female gaze.

0/4 Tony nominated musicals were original ideas. I haven’t been impressed with anything I’ve seen from Mean Girls. Frozen, well, we’ve all seen/heard it a million times already….Literally. Though I do think it translates well to stage if it’s anything like the one they did at Disneyland. SpongeBob SquarePants… The Musical. On Broadway. Not as bad as you’d think and seems to have some cool elements, but, it’s still SpongeBob.

A Band’s Visit is based off a movie, but one from 2007 that is less mainstream and gives Middle Easterns a chance to shine. So I’m about that, and would love to see it.

There are some great revivals on right now. But original musicals seem to be dying out. What happened to the days when ALW could write a story about Cats doing who even knows what. That was based on a book. But it’s weird enough to feel original.

Groundhog Day, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory didn’t last.

Matilda is one of my favorites but that’s because the songs and choreography go all out. Waitress is lasting because Sara Barreilles is a genius. Making musicals based off movies (based off books) is fine and can work out great, but are we forgetting how to write, and more importantly appreciate original musicals?

Book of Mormon did great and is, ironically enough, not based off the book at all.

A Quiet Place made tons of money. La La Land… I mean, I didn’t like it, but I’m a minority. The same guys did Dear Evan Hansen, which I also don’t like but it swept up the Tonys last time.

So we know originals can succeed. But producers are still afraid to take that risk. I think there’s room for both.

Some is Better than None

The one thing I regret (I try not to spend much of my life regretting, but it happens often) from my struggles with mental and physical health is being afraid to even try.

I would say no to things because I didn’t feel like I was up to the task. What I wish I had done was just attempt a modified version of it. Maybe my issues kept me from being able to do as much as other people but I could’ve done something. I could’ve gone and seen how it would’ve gone. I was so afraid of embarrassing myself or not being able to keep up with everyone else that I just declined.

I thought everyone would have more fun if I wasn’t there holding them back. I hope none of my friends who struggle with things feel that way. I want you to come, even if you just sit in the corner and watch. I want you to come and be with us. I want you to suggest things that would be fun for you. I hope you don’t worry about being lame, like I always did.

I recently was all gung-ho to do a 30-day ab challenge and it made my body hurt like a mother. So we’re back to yoga and gentle stretching and walking…Yeah, walking. So lame. I’m young. I want to be sprinting up mountains. I want to be able to touch my toes. But I can’t. Some days I can’t get out of bed. I can’t eat everything I want. I am, in fact, kind of lame. But, I think it’s okay. I wish I was better about owning my lameness instead of trying to hide from it.

I am Lauren Laws. And I am lame.

And as I start working with my body and mind and it’s lameness I start to make progress towards less lame-ness. I’m getting a bit repetitive in these posts, but there really is a power in working with your weaknesses instead of against them. Constantly focusing on the negative seems productive but ultimately stops you from progressing.

I love writing, but I hurt my arm, so I’m writing only ten minutes at a time and doing a podcast. When I can’t get out of bed, I try and work from bed. When I don’t feel up to doing something I try and do something else. It’s not easy. And some days I literally don’t do anything, but most days I wake up feeling like I can’t do anything that day and by the time I go to bed I realize I have done something. And, again, I know other people have it way worse than me, but maybe some of the same principles can apply.

Stop beating yourself up. And don’t give up. How can you work within your limitations?

Permission

I’m laying in bed at midnight. I gave myself permission to go to bed at 9:00 p.m. tonight even though I had more to do. But I can’t sleep.

So I wanted to talk about giving yourself permission.

There’s a theory, that I’d link to if I wasn’t writing this on my phone, that talks about the different parts of us that determine how we feel and how we see the world. The easiest way is to think of it like Inside Out.

So when I feel sad, my brain immediately jumps to all the reasons I shouldn’t be sad. So it becomes a battle of anxiety instead of just sadness. It’s sadness + I can’t feel sad because people have it way worse + oh man, now I’m thinking about everyone suffering around the world + but I am still sad about my sad thing + omg single moms how do they do it + but I’m so sad it hurts, like a giant weight in my chest + there are people on lists who need heart transplants and that must feel awful for them and their families + I can’t feel sad, it’s not that bad. Etc etc etc.

This is… Not helpful. You have to feel the feelings as they come and not rationalize them away. They’re like a small child that’s begging for attention and will calm down once they get some. If you are sad, angry, happy, excited, let yourself feel those things. I rationalize away happy feelings sometimes too. I can’t be happy because x,y,z is going on in the world.

Feel what you are feeling. Express what you’re feeling. Don’t feel like you have to feel anything else. It’s natural to want to suppress bad feelings and to tell people “everything will be fine.” Or “You’re better off.” But the dismissal of feelings will just cause them to come back later, usually stronger than before.

Grief has become a friend of mine. Grieving is a great word because it implies there is purpose to your sadness. Let yourself grieve. The loss of a person, a job, a project, the life you thought you’d have. Let yourself grieve small things that don’t seem important enough to grieve, because the only validation you need is that you’re feeling it.

I’m to the point where I cry in public. It’s terrifying and embarrassing. But when they come, they come. And I actually recommend it because after a few times you just stop caring. Wear sunglasses and carry tissues with you at all times.

life.

Trigger warning: More suicide talk.

Okay, ten minutes. I’ve been on a roll-ish with this but tonight I’m drawing a blank. I want to talk about suicide, but everyone else already is…And I want to have a solution, but I don’t have one.

If I’m being totally honest with myself, which I usually am not, I have had suicidal thoughts. I’ve felt stuck in a body and a life that seemed hopeless. I have felt like I contribute nothing and so I wouldn’t be missed. I felt not good enough. These things are definitely not true. I have a really, really great life. I have had a great life my whole life. I have always had friends and family who care about me. But feelings don’t always listen to reason.

And that’s why I’m not sure how to help people. I don’t want anyone to feel like it’s their fault if someone close to them commits suicide. Yes, reach out to people, yes, be supportive. Yes, share the hotline. But it’s just not your fault if someone takes their own life. I have a huge network of support. It has definitely helped. But it doesn’t stop the waves of negative feelings from coming.

The worst part about trauma is it breeds more trauma. When someone dies it affects the people who care about them. Depression not only takes a life but it ruins more lives and it spreads. We can’t let fear win.

I think if you’re depressed you should look for every solution you can to feel better. But don’t be too hard on yourself if they don’t work. Someone who got to travel and eat delicious food for a living was depressed. It may be that having everything won’t stop you from feeling like you have nothing.

Rhymes with Christmas

Here we go. I wanted to write about this when I was totally healed and good and there was a happy ending because I like happy endings. But, we’re going to go with a sort of content somewhere-in-the-middle.

I have a condition called Vaginismus. It rhymes with Christmas, but it’s not even close to joyful. There’s a lot to say, but I’m going to try and make this post a quick-ish rundown. Vaginismus is when the muscles in your pelvic floor are so tight, they can’t relax. Imagine having a clenched fist that you can’t unclench, because you’ve never known what it felt like to be unclenched. You can’t hold anything in it. It won’t open. Some treatments for Vaginismus recommend contracting and relaxing your muscles repeatedly. Mine was to the point where I couldn’t contract anymore and had to focus on just relaxing. When I tried to contract my eyebrows would go up, there just wasn’t anything left to contract.

So how do you learn to relax those muscles? In my experience, if you go to an OBGYN they yell at you, yes, literally yelled, “just relax, just relax!” …Which makes it really easy to relax. Or you go to another one that shakes his head, says, “Try relaxing” and prescribes you some anti-anxiety medicine. Or you go to a doctor who doesn’t believe what you’re saying is even true and that you’re just fine.

No tampons, nothing else can enter. When I was a thirteen-year-old girl trying to use tampons, I thought I was just an idiot who couldn’t find my vagina. No combination of mirrors and flashlights helped me find that elusive hole…Because essentially, it wasn’t there.

As you can imagine, it caused more problems as I got older and wanted other things to go in that elusive hole. Do not pass go, do not collect anything good or fun or convenient in your life.

Some people have less severe cases that result in painful sex. For me, it was just impossible. And also painful. The symptoms vary, but if you’re having pain know there are probably answers.

And the only reason I’m writing this now is because I think the best thing I can do is create awareness, even if it’s with my limited audience. I couldn’t find anything useful online. A lot more of, “just relax” and if you’re relaxed and in the mood enough, it’ll just work. Well, it didn’t work. There’s a lot of bad information out there.

My physical therapist put it best, I think, when she said, “I don’t care how ‘relaxed’ you are, I want you to get rid of all this tension.”

I did not know pelvic floor physical therapists were a thing. I went to a sex therapist because the general consensus is that it’s all in your head. She had the sense to send me to a PT to rule out the physical first. That’s when I started to get answers.

Side note: Vaginismus can be caused by trauma or shameful thoughts surrounding sex and many treatments involve a combination of mental and physical therapy. For my case, I found it was mostly physical. But usually, it’s a two-prong approach to treatment.

What is going to a pelvic physical therapist like? Slightly traumatizing and emotionally draining. But I love mine because she treated me like an old friend. Somehow, perhaps because the nature of her job is so awkward, she was able to joke around while her finger went where nothing had gone before. We’re talking internal physical therapy here. It’s a whole new ball game. She did massage on the outside as well. She said these tension problems contributed to/were connected to other problems I’ve had as long as I can remember, such as stomach issues, sore shoulders, tension headaches, etc. She told me I need to practice relaxing my ears and my butt cheeks. She asked me if I clenched my jaw. I said, no. The next week I paid attention and it turns out, yes, I definitely do. Aren’t bodies fascinating? Everything is connected.

The thing with the physical therapist was she only went as far as I was comfortable, then helped me relax, and the proceeded, then stopped. It was a much better experience than I had had with other doctors. A lot of times it seems like just forcing it or pushing through the pain is a solution, but your body will fight back against that, because its job is to protect you from painful things. I was annoyed with it, but it was just doing its job.

I’m writing this because I was too embarrassed to get help and as a result, I suffered too long and too much. I want girls to know that not being able to use a tampon might not just mean you’re geographically-biologically challenged. I want OBGYNs to recognize this as a possibility. Apparently, most aren’t trained in muscular-skeletal issues, but they are who most people go to first when they have vaginal issues. It may feel like there are no answers because you’re looking in the wrong place.

Women’s reproductive health is hard. It’s all up there. We can’t see it. Even supposed experts don’t seem to know much about it. There are answers out there but you have to dig to find them, but there are resources, for vaginismus at least, a lot of other pelvic floor disorders or sexual dysfunctions don’t even have names. Some people are in pain constantly. Some people can’t wear tight pants or stand up for long periods of time. It’s time to stop neglecting our pelvises. We’ve got a lot of work to do, research-wise. It’s the core of our body. It’s not just sexual health, it’s overall health. It affects women and the people who love them.

We won’t get into it now, but here’s a quick reminder about part of the reason we don’t know much about female sexual disorders: “PubMed has 393 clinical trials studying dyspareunia. Vaginismus? 10. Vulvodynia? 43. Erectile dysfunction? 1,954.” (This is a good article).

Once someone told me this thing had a name my Google searches got more productive. I cried as I read stories of people who had struggled with the same thing. I was/am far from alone. If you’re struggling with something similar, you are not alone. One group calls Vaginismus a “private pain.” It’s an area we have deemed private, but you do not have to suffer privately.

My first gynecologist appointment I was in pain for over a week after. People will say that’s normal. Or they won’t say anything at all.

It’s not normal. Pain is not normal.

It hurts your body. And it hurts your self-esteem.

Here’s someone else’s story that resonated with me:
“I always felt like I was damaged goods. I looked normal on the outside, but I didn’t feel worthy because I couldn’t do the most basic thing that everyone else could do. Because it’s not something that’s all over the newspapers, I just had no idea where to get help. I just blamed myself. If I was a guy, I’d know what was wrong. We all talk about their erectile problems; we know there are pills for it. When I hear couples say that they can’t have kids, I often wonder if this is why. It’s not something you can ask someone.
When you leave the office where I was treated, you’re given this little magical pink bag, which had our “homework” assignments in it. I remember in the waiting room, whenever I would see a woman come out with one, I’d wonder: Does she have what I have? But nobody would speak up. There was such a taboo around it even though it was clear we are all suffering from the same thing. I wonder if those other women wanted to talk to each other as much as I did.” (What It’s Like to Have Severe Vaginismus)

I’m done not talking about it. I’m no expert. But I can try and point you in the right direction if you need help.