Saying Goodbye to Sake

 Over the past few weeks, my heart has been slowly breaking. It’s been trying, difficult and frustrating to wrap my fingers around the idea that a piece of my life is missing; there’s a definitive void – not just within me, but surrounding me. Words have failed me, and at every turn I feel like I’m going to crumble to the ground, overcome by emotion and struck by reality.


Back in college, I was going through a transitionary period. Becoming a fifth year senior isn’t usually commendable but at an institution like UCSB – it also wasn’t uncommon. It was the Summer of 2007 and I had just moved out of Isla Vista to the Mesa – a wonderful area near downtown Santa Barbara, surrounded by a stunning almost 360 view of the Pacific Ocean. My best friend at the time, a wonderful, warmhearted gal with an affinity for furry friends, moved in with me and between the five housemates we had two cats – Ssleman, a beautiful grey and white cat with a warm heart and a little black kitty that hid every chance it could; and then there was Roxy, a Golden Retriever / Yellow Lab puppy with more energy than I’d ever seen. After living there for a few months and going through a few mental moments of manifest destiny, I decided it was time – time for me to get a cat. I needed something to love beyond myself, to remind me that I was worthy of love; I needed to care about something to remind myself of the circular motion of life.


Arriving at the shelter, I gallivanted into the cat room and immediately felt at home. Throughout middle school and high school, I’d volunteered at cat shelters and there’s nothing like some kitty cuddles to brighten your mood and cultivate altruism. I glanced at an 8 month old Siamese that I immediately wanted to bring home, and a litter of orange tabby kittens not more than 2 weeks old. After getting to know me a bit, the young man working this room had a visceral lightbulb moment…“There’s a cat over here that I think will be perfect for you; he’s a little trickster and a lover.”  As we walked over to the carrier, a beautiful blue-grey cat sat poised in the back of the cage. “No…” I mused “…what about the playful girl next to him?” The man smiled back “Why don’t you guys go into the play room, and if it’s not a good fit we can keep looking.”

As Maguro was plucked from his perching position and was handed to me, his front paws reached out around my neck and he looked at me like I was home.  From the moment we were in the play area, he flopped and stretched ten ways to Sunday, purring, prancing and pawing at me. Looking up with a glimmer of gratitude in my eyes, I laughed “Ok, you guys got me…I’ll take him!”

As it turned out, I couldn’t bring him home immediately – upper respiratory infections are incredibly common in shelter cats and he’d just come down with one. Instead of bringing him home, I played with his sister – Saba – and it felt like she knew I was taking her brother away. I whispered that I would take good care of him and she purred in response.

Eight years later, I can say that without a doubt – he’s actually taken care of me.  From Santa Barbara to now four different homes in Los Angeles, Sake has been my confidant, my best friend, my furry little man and the light of my life. He’s gotten me through heartbreak and deaths, losing friends and losing my mind. 

 

My little Sake bomb. Sir Saks a Lot. He was the most playful, loving creature I’ve ever known. He would wake me up by pouncing on my chest and announcing his hunger with a miniature roar, he would zoom around the apartment with gusto and cuddle-hug you like he was a person. Sake converted friends that had sworn they were solely dog people, and made cat lovers rejoice. He was the best thing that has happened to me in my 30 years of existence. And now, he’s gone.

We only noticed the symptoms a few weeks ago and it wrenches my soul to think if we could’ve saved him. The last two weekends were full of friends that I consider family, doting their love and happiness on him and he loved back in kind – curling up and lapping up attention like it was his job. But in the back of my mind, I was scared, sad and confused. It felt like just yesterday, he was running around in the Santa Barbara sunshine, lounging in the flowers and running to my car from down the street whenever I returned from campus. And now, I was feeding him by hand, cradling him like he was my child, wishing for a better tomorrow. But that better tomorrow never came.

Yesterday, Sake lost his battle against lymphoma. The last thing he ever did in his life was jump into my arms, almost in parallel to the way he came in. We held his paws, wiped his eyes and sang with him until his final curtain call. I’ve never been so conflicted and overrun with emotion; I don’t know if I’ve even ever been this uncontrollably sad. I miss my dapper little man but I know he’s in a better place, cathartically chasing mice and lapping up love in the great beyond.

Because of Sake, I know what it means to love, to care, to be a friend and just listen; I know the true meaning of life, to love and be loved. When you get home tonight, hug your pets…hug your loved ones, life is too short to be anything but blissful. RIP Sake, I only hope that I can have half the effect on the world that you did.

              

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] Where’s Your Will to be Weird

It’s 2015 and weird is the new black; try it on! Embrace those strange thoughts that make you giggle, and could probably make an elderly lady blush; give those wonky clothes a go and flirt with fabulous; why not dye your hair a litany of pastel colors while feeling their alternating moods. Our entire lives, we’ve been force fed into believing that it’s better to fit in a box than to stand out. That gliding along in life is easier if you conform to inane societal standards about what things you should have accomplished in life rather than evolving into the type person that you’re astutely, intelligently and proudly determined to be.  Weirdness isn’t about other people or their opinions, weird is what happens when you choose to embrace your unknown and ebb with your own flow.

My entire life, I’ve more or less been a perfectionist – almost to a fault: there’s a thin line between perfectionist and OCD, but if you tell me where it is, I’ll clean it up. The world as we know it is a tumultuous, chaotic, messy, entropic place – so why are we under the assumption that internally we should be any different from our external environment?  I know it sounds strange, but it’s taken me almost 3o years to figure  out that it’s better to break the mold than be it.  And yeah, I’m full fledged, 110% positive that I’ve got the weirds; and I’ve got’em bad.  According to one of my favorite books – The Secret Language of Birthdays – I was born on the ‘Day of Idiosyncrasy‘, December 7th, and I think it’s absolutely fitting.  I like eating pico de gallo by itself and watching the weather channel, I talk to my cats and sometimes swear they’re conversing with me, I do most things backwards and spend a good proportion of my time laughing at myself, for either the weird shit that comes out of my mouth (seriously, say two near words together and immediately I’ll shout out their new illegitimate literary word child) or awkward things I actually physically do.

So, to inspire you to get a little strange, zany, crazy, silly, bizarre, uncanny, supernatural, odd, wonky and plain old weird this weekend – I’ve pulled some of my favorite quotes.  Enjoy your Friday and don’t be afraid to let your freak flags fly, my friends!

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[Self Discovery] Eliminating Toxic Relationships From Your Life

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By default of my personality I’ve always placed an increased emphasis on my external relationships; often times, according to my mother, much more than is necessary.  As I reached elementary school, I could pick up on body language and unspoken emotional change and by 5th grade, I’d accumulated so much stress and anxiety that I developed an ulcer. Not to mention, by the time I was in high school, my mom could accurately pinpoint when a friend of mine was going through a personal issue because I’d physically embody their pain and get sick.

In my early 20’s, I discovered that – like many of my new friends – I was an empath.  Don’t get it twisted: these are things that effect everybody, empaths  just feel them more; where others simply abide by a ‘Captain Save a Ho’ or ‘Mother Theresa’ complex. Relationships to our community, our family, our friends and most importantly ourselves define us within the macrocosm of the world and microcosm of our minds. Without  taking an honest personal inventory of your own behavior and the traits in others that you’ll stand for, you might fall into a situation that’s not only toxic, but difficult to get out of. To her credit, my mother was – and still is – absolutely correct.  Not to say there isn’t an inherent value to those interactions, but what I hadn’t done was take a personal inventory of the traits I valued in my relationships, including the one with myself.

What my mom taught me as a strong, intelligent single mother was that the most prudent, important, passionate relationship you should be in is with yourself. So if your relationship with yourself is toxic, you’ll be inviting more and more toxic energy and personalities into your life.  Plus, the human body is surrounded by an ‘invisible’ field, manufactured from the copious amount of electromagnetic energy emitted by your heart – and that energy field can shift depending on your mood. The energy you radiate out into the world reflect back on you through your relationships, and a toxic relationship can very well have a negative impact on your life.  A continual one, if you let it.

Toxic behavior is two-fold: first, someone has to engage in it – and secondly, someone has to be around to receive and internalize it. By choosing to engage in toxic behavior – you’re enabling the other party to continue to behave destructively and silently approving their behavior, towards you – and everyone else. The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results; and some could argue that being in a toxic relationship is insanity in it’s purest form. Whether it’s constant low jabs at your personality traits, quirky afflictions, friends or your romantic relationships, unnecessarily rude commentary or a refusal to accept responsibility for their behavior – toxic relationships come in all shapes and sizes. The good news is that they all have the same cure: taking a step back and reconsidering where you stand within your own world, where you’re going and who you want by your side when you get there.  Do the toxic person and relationship fit in conjunction with that?

For me, it all comes down to one simple definition – what it means to be a friend.  Over the course of my almost 30 years, that’s changed….a lot.  Make a list, make a few even – goals, dreams, the great qualities your closest friends all share and the type of people that you’d like in your life. When I was in Middle School, it was someone who wouldn’t look at me as freakishly tall (I was 5’11 in 6th grade); in high school, it was someone who shared my taste in music.  Sometimes, friendships are formed in much deeper, darker places. Back at the end of high school, then again in a similar fashion two years ago, I was going through a downturn – I lacked confidence and emitted insecurity, but I was still partying and trying to form new, formidable friendships.  What I failed to understand  was that all I was going to find were relationships that were a projection of my emotional state.  Too often, instead of taking an honest look at ourselves, it’s easier to externally project our insecurities in various ways; destructive behavior and destructive relationships being two of them.

20140606-141345-51225365.jpgAs time went on, I crawled out of the hole I dug for myself – but still, in vain, thought all of the friendships I made at the time could be maintained.  I accepted partial blame for relationship fails and mishaps – and having a penchant for the past, I would get nostalgic about all the great things about them and fun we had together.  I have to remember, over and over again, that neither of us are who we once were, which can turn nostalgia into a real life nightmare if you don’t nip it in the bud.  You can cherish memories, but they’re just as well kept in a box in your closet to pull out every now and again when you feel like being reminded about all the crazy stories, memories and people that have molded you into the fantastic individual that you are. If you continue to live in the past, you’re refusing to live in the present – which is a beautiful place to be.

An unfortunate truth, is that if there’s a toxic relationship in your life, you’re just as culpable for it as they are if you’re not willing to confront the situation and do something about it. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten, that I remind myself of all the time is that ‘you don’t have to like everyone, and not everyone has to like you.

Understanding that a friendship is a two way street, there are always two ways to fix it – changing your behavior, or trying to change theirs.  That said, only one of those is actually up to you, so it’s time to make an important decision: do you want this person in your life? Do you, honestly, wholeheartedly, positively, absolutely without a doubt want this person to bear witness to your most intimate moments and are you willing to be around for theirs? Just to put it out there – if this is even debatable, you might want to lean towards a solid ‘No’ – but we can get to that later.  Remember, this isn’t about  them – it’s about you, and what you need in your life have the best version of today and build a better tomorrow.

If your answer is yes – if you think there’s a capacity for change and you want to actively fix the relationship, step one is fixing your approach to it. Is your friend dependable yet leaves snide comments? Acknowledge what they both can do, and not do, for you.  If you need help moving, I’m sure they’d rock but if you want an opinion on your next career move, you might want to take theirs with a grain of salt. Do you plan your departure before your arrival? Does their name showing up on your caller ID make you anxious? Communicate with them less; they’ll get the picture. Establish boundaries, set time limits on hanging out, don’t be afraid to tell them ‘No and last but certainly not least – stand up for yourself, explaining how it feels when they bring negativity in, or shut you down.

However, if your answer is a solid ‘No’ – it’s time remove this person from your life. A month, a season, five years or indefinitely – that’s a personal decision; but from my experience, if you have the slightest inkling that it’s time to break ties, do it for good.  Moving on doesn’t make you a bad person, and not being able to reconcile a relationship doesn’t speak to a personal pitfall – it says that you were strong enough to let go.  Draw up a pro vs con list, write a letter – maybe even send it if it helps your mental state.20140606-122106-44466407.jpg

Just because you move on from them, doesn’t mean you don’t value them – it just means you value your life, your time and your self more. Don’t be snide, take to social media or engage them with negative behavior – putting energy, positive or negative, into a relationship is a sign you’re not actually ready to break your bond.  From personal experience, I’ve found that completely detaching from the person – putting distance, both physical and emotional, between the two of you ensures that the relationship has time to fizzle out instead of simply being on hiatus.  Don’t purge your feelings about this person as word vomit to anyone who will listen – just because you’ve had an epiphany about a person, doesn’t make it another person’s truth.  One persons toxic relationship could very well be someone else’s best friend under different circumstances, guidelines or frames of mind.

At a time where social media reinforces the idea of quantity means far more than quality, and a Facebook or Instagram like is coveted more often than a smile – it’s time to re-evaluate the breadth of our social circles.  In the past week, I’ve deleted over 300 people from Facebook, 70+ from Instagram and unfollowed about 100 from Twitter. If you’re anything like me, you’re a social butterfly that manifested into a social media whore (and I say that so lovingly) – and you’re constantly bombarded with social ‘stats’.  Your number of “friends“, “followers” and “likes” all reinforce the erroneous idea of quantity over quality.

Take the social networking site Path.  Unlike Facebook, which caps users at 5000 (seriously, name 5000 people you know personally without looking at a computer; probably can’t do it) – Path caps users at 150. 150 – that’s Dunbar’s Number; it’s the supposed cognitive maximum limit of the number of functioning social relationships that one can maintain and it appears over and over across human society. The smallest group, three to five people, is a “clique“; think of them as your intimate support system. From 12 to 20 is the “sympathy group“: people you feel especially tied to. 30 to 50 is the typical size of hunter-gatherer overnight camps, generally drawn from the same pool of 150. A 500-person group is the “megaband” and at 1,500 you’re a tribe. Fifteen hundred is roughly the number of faces we can put names to, and the typical size of a hunter-gatherer society.

Whether it’s clearing out your phone, your social media accounts or the physical space around you – it’s important to take an inventory of your relationship to the world, and it’s relationship to you.  After all is said and done, the honest to goodness best way to eliminate toxic relationships from your life is to prioritize the ones that are equally beneficial, supportive, loving and adoring; and remember, that starts with the relationship to yourself.

Weekly Dose of Wisdom

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an knack for throwing images and quotes together in the perfect symbiosis.  Every so often when I go  back through old journals and tumblr accounts, it becomes increasingly obvious to me how much they not only move me, but my audience.  Visual beauty paired with moving words – let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like it! I don’t know why I didn’t get the idea sooner but over the past few weeks  I’ve been developing my own visual quotes! For editing purposes, I’ve been turning to Mextures on the iPhone and Pixlr Express on the Android; then for the kicker, I add text using an awesome iPhone app called ‘Over’ – it’s pure genius and I highly suggest you guys get them!  With so many amazing fonts and filters to choose from, it’s hard not to get completely sucked in! These are just a few that I’ve made this week – and I’m looking forward to making more and turning this into a weekly segment; wee!

 

Quotable: Love Should Make You Fly

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