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Reset Upset: 7 Refreshingly Easy Ways to a Better Day

pexels-photo-89643Sometimes life can just get you down. You turn on the news and get an earful of the racial unrest in today’s society. You scroll through your social media feeds and face a barrage of nasty political debates. Or perhaps, it’s something that hits closer to home: a recent breakup, a demanding boss, or a layoff. It could even be as fleeting as a car cutting you off or an unfortunate misunderstanding. It doesn’t take much for us to go from zen to unzipped.

Here are ways to wade through any storm in mere minutes.

1. Replace your “Why Me’s?” It’s common to play the blame game when upset. But instead of pointing fingers at the perpetrator of your discontent, you can choose to empower yourself by switching to “how” or “what” internal dialogue. That overly critical “Why did this happen to me?” quickly becomes a problem-solving mission when reframed as, “How can I learn from this situation?” or “What are the options now before me?” “How” or “what” open-ended questions allow your mind to remain curious, seek solutions and silver linings.

2. Flip the Form. When we’re crushed, we’re consumed by the content, or the story we tell ourselves about the incident. But this will lead us on a downward spiral of distressing emotions. Rather, explore how you experience the world. Do you recreate the worrisome scenario with a mental image in vivid color? Change the picture to black and white. Are you immersed in the scene? Turn it into a still photograph that you simply look at. Plagued by an abusive inner voice? Listen to the absurdity in the tone of Mickey Mouse. Have a tight ball of tension in your stomach? Visualize untangling the knots. By altering how you form your upset through sensory perception, you transform how you react.

3. Anchor a Better Mood. Recall an experience where you were more resourceful, like a time you were calm or confident. Fully associate into that experience by remembering what you saw, how you felt and what you heard—as if it’s happening to you right now. For instance, imagine a cool, inviting breeze on your face as you bury your feet in the warm sand, while lying on a beach blanket and gazing at the ebbs and flows of the ocean tide before you. How much better do you feel? Once you embody a pleasant past experience, you create a better mood in your current state.

4. Opt for a Varying Viewpoint. Consider the advice you would give to a friend if this were happening to them. The moment you can dissociate from the experience and act as an objective observer, you’re no longer emotionally invested. From this space, you can explore opportunities and alternatives with a clearer head.

5. Assess Eye Movement. According to Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP (which is a study of human behavior and experience), a person’s eye movements are a window into their thinking processes. So watch where you’re looking. If you tend to look down when in a disturbed state, there’s a good chance you’re engaging in some self-deprecating internal talk or submerging yourself in unwanted feelings. If you look laterally, you’re replaying or constructing unpleasant dialogue of the incident. And if you look up, you’re recalling or forming the scene in anxiety-inducing visual imagery. If you tend to have a habitual eye pattern, change it up. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, relies on rotating eye cues as a psychotherapy treatment. Research studies have shown EMDR to be quite effective in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly.

6. Interrupt Your Pattern. When you notice your mental state tanking—crack a joke, bust out a smile, immediately change your posture, take a brief walk, or observe your bystanders, instead. Pattern interruptions force you out of a funk.

7. Breathe. Become aware of your breath, by noticing how your chest and stomach rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. By focusing on how you breathe, you give your conscious mind a job to do, which takes attention away from the present predicament. Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep belly breathing, has also been proven to curb stress and increase relaxation. And if all else fails, take a nap or head to bed. You’ll be refreshed and ready to take on the world upon waking.

Metaphor of the Mind

Every morning the child would wake with excitement and rush out the door. Running past the white calla lilies of the wetlands and along the lush green hills that ebbed and flowed amid the mountainous range—like the rushing or recession of the seas—the child could hear the harmonies from Town Hall drape the clouds then land at the ears with a loving cool whisper. When having reached Town Hall, the child would peak through a rear window to get a good glimpse inside. A choir of 12 was seen from behind, with its leader in clear view, feverishly making sweeping hand gestures to keep the choir in time. The soaring sounds struck the child’s soul with the intense sensations of joy and wonder. The child was often moved to tears, tears that purged restlessness. It was the best part of the day. Every day. Like clockwork the child maintained the routine for months on end: running past the wetlands and along the hills, all the while maintaining the visage of Town Hall in sight.

But the child would never go inside, even knowing the musical ensemble was made up of all ages. The child maintained a distance, though desperately yearned to be a part of the experience.

There were rumblings in the air among the townsfolk that a storm was coming. The child paid no mind.

At first the storm only began as a sprinkle, as if the skies parted with the sole intention of providing hydration to the picturesque lands of the child’s hometown. As time went on, however, the days turned more brisk and bleak. The drizzle became a torrential downpour that created pools of water along the low lying areas of the hills. The flooding waters made travel impossible. Property owners attempted to salvage their homes, as the floods washed over their floorboards. The winds gushed with such exceeding force, knocking down everything that crossed its path. The child’s parents forbade the child to leave home in midst of the danger. The dark days turned into even murkier months.

The child’s depression grew. Like a caged animal, the child circled the bedroom with nothing to do, since everything was read, played with or already pieced together. The child would look out of the window, at the gloomy skies, praying for them to pass. The child could take no more. Hell bent on making a break for it, the child disobeyed parental orders and snuck outside after bedtime.

The moonlight provided enough insight into the new world the storm left behind.

It was a nightmare. Trees were uprooted, the calla lilies drowned, and now rivers existed where roads once were. Homes were devastated, cars lay to waste, and no sounds were heard but the thrashing of the winds. The child’s heart plummeted. A harsh realization hit, and the child let out a startling scream. The previous 15-minute walk now took two hours to reach Town Hall, as the child was driven off course numerous times by nearly impassible roadblocks. The smile upon the child’s face having finally arrived vanished in an instant. Town Hall was no longer Town Hall at all. It was a mere shell of its former existence. A tree had fallen upon its roof, exposing the interior to the harsh elements. Seeped in water, the wood structure began to soften and corrode, causing it to fold in on itself. But somehow that rear window remained intact. The child, though hesitant to look inside the window, did so and quickly turned away in sobs. The interior was a wreck. No longer fearful of going inside, the child stood among the tangled seats and the soft floorboards. In tears, the child let out a low hum and then sang a sweet soft melody to its dying friend. Upon hearing the tune, two little sparrows flew inside Town Hall and perched themselves on a ceiling beam. Having noticed the guests, the child sang a tad louder for them to hear. Shortly thereafter, a trio of squirrels made their way into Town Hall and nestled in a corner feeding on the acorns from the fallen tree. Encouraged by the added audience, the child sang as loud as possible with closed eyes, as if the gesture helped boost inner confidence. When the song came to an end, and the child’s eyes were once again open, the child immediately became crippled with intense fear and stumbled on some rubbish. Before the child stood all the inhabitants of the hilly wetlands, from herds of deers to chipmunks, frogs, gophers, and beavers. Various species of birds and butterflies flocked at the ceilings creating a moving canopy of color. One eagle flew alone, as if the surveyor of them all. Even the creatures of the sea found homes in the pockets of water throughout Town Hall.

Surprisingly, the animals didn’t turn on one another. They didn’t make a rush for the child. They simply stood in wait.

The child, regaining composure, quickly let out another song to the amusement of the crowd. The birds fluttered their wings, the alligator thumped its tail and the rabbits hopped in place. Soon the skies joined in, making noises that seemed to perfectly harmonize with the bellows of the small child. The synchronous sounds jarred the dark clouds, causing them to slowly disband from its brethren. The deep purples and grays of the sky began to turn blue in hue. Sunshine began to cut through every fissure of the facade and dropped down from the broken ceiling top, cascading upon all those who stood inside.

The storm had finally come to an end.

In the dawn of a new day, the animals began to disperse. But the child remained inside, basking in the light.

 In what ways can you relate to this story? Please let me know by commenting below.

Let Your Imagination Run Free



As adults we typically consider imagination child’s play. We shoot a placating smile to a child when they speak about growing up to be president, an astronaut, a doctor or a lawyer. Nothing is far fetched. We listen attentively when they talk about the horrors of the monster under their bed and console them to sleep when we tell them of our plan to defeat it. We supply them with crayons and paper to give life to a wonderous world of their own creation. We foster that creative side and proudly promote that vivid imagination on the face of the fridge. 

Unfortunately, like a withering flower, we often fail to water that creative spirit as we grow into adults. Instead of whimsy we ask what’s realistic. Lofty goals are often hidden from others to avoid eye rolls of skepticism or disapproval. If you dare to dream big you often come off as delusional. Yet, we imagine all the time. We wonder what our next vacation will be and envision various settings. We fantasize about our perfect soul mate without ever meeting. Or we simply contemplate our upcoming meal.

Why is it then that only certain subjects are acceptable to envision with wonder?

Why do we allow ourselves to be so limited?

As we curtail our sense of visualization or imagination we increasingly do ourselves a disservice. Vivid images that we could hold at length in our minds as children often become too difficult a task as adults. Attempted visualizations become fleeting. Or, like The Temptations song, Just My Imagination, we dismiss imagining “as nothing more,” and senseless. Imagination holds no weight or importance. But as Steven Leeds, LMHC and NLP instructor at The NLP Center of NY, said recently in my class:

“Imagination is powerful. It plants a seed for the future.”

What one imagines can often come to pass.

Active imaginations have created bestselling novels, groundbreaking technology and cured terminal illnesses. (Check out these amazing stories of the power of the mind if you need some evidence.)

It was once believed that our brain’s structure was developed in early adulthood. Now modern science has shown that new neural pathways can be created in our brains to adapt to new experiences, memories or thought patterns. Our brains possess a plasticity. They can be manipulated, grow and change over a lifetime. With this knowledge, what we think about becomes paramount. “Positive thinkers” and those who engage in “creative visualization” may not be full of BS, after all, like some believe. They may just have a knack at making their fanciful daydreams and desires a conscious reality.

Can’t hurt to give it a try.

Just be careful what you wish for. It may just come true.

Relapse without Regret


There are moments in each of our lives when we mess up after we promised ourselves, or others, we wouldn’t ever do so again. We lapse in judgment. We feed a frightful behavior, or break a promise we once thought so easy to keep. 

As a result, we kick ourselves. We get disappointed or ashamed. We lose a bit of respect. We put ourselves through the ringer.

It’s here that we could easily deem ourselves a failure. We downed that drink. Lit that cigarette or stuffed that donut in our face. Whatever our vice or demon, we succumbed to it’s temptation or slid back into it’s old destructive habit. 

But beating yourself up, or nursing your fuck up, facilitates doubt. It makes you question your sincerity or integrity. It makes you feel ill-equipped or powerless to forces seemingly beyond your control.  However, lapse, or relapse, is just that: a “temporary” failure. Instead concentrate on how far you have come. Focus on the journey you have made. Our setbacks are only indicators of the work that still needs to be done. It’s not a time to throw in the towel or admit defeat. It’s a time to accept your current limitations and to push past them. To expect greater of yourself tomorrow than you do today. It’s simply a new goal to attain. 

A therapist once told me that a good technique is to retrace your steps. Go back to that moment, relive it, see in what part of your physical being feels distressed and find out what “need” wasn’t met that caused the relapse. Actually talk to that part of your being, find out what it has to tell you, listen to it, feel/hear what it’s trying to tell you, and console it. It sounds out there, but it’s actually a legit technique of Parts Therapy. What you’ll learn is a compassionate and loving way to heal yourself while discovering what you innately need as a person. 

“It is here … that love is to be found – not hidden away in corners but in the midst of occasions of sin. And believe me, although we may more often fail and commit small lapses, our gain will be incomparably the greater.” – Saint Teresa of Avila 
So when you want to shame yourself for your faults, stop. Step back, and first discover why they exist in the first place. Acknowledge them, learn from them, and give yourself a bit of love. 

Trouble on the Tracks: Selflessness in a Time of Turmoil

Photo by Lani Buess

Photo by Lani Buess

I could see the murky mass from afar. It didn’t initially make much sense to me. It was so dimly lit that I could only see a black shape ahead blocked by heavy shadows. As I made my way closer in distance, the figure took form. It was a man, a heavy set, middle-aged man. And he was plainly seated on the #train tracks, as if he had just pushed his chair under a kitchen table to begin a meal.

Unresponsive, the man sat with his back against the filthy stained tile wall. One knee was curled up to his chest, which was dressed in a now-sullied burgundy button-down, while his other leg extended flat out in black slacks. Like a chimney sweep, heavy soot covered his entire face, wisps of his fine brown hair and his swollen eyes ajar. He was turned towards us, the small crowd of drunken or exhausted bystanders standing on the platform waiting for the #PATH train home at 2:30 a.m. He sat there rather serene, but in a seemingly #drunken state. Either he was too inebriated to understand the weight of the situation or his indifference masked sheer shock. He sat dangerously close to the third rail.

When you are tired and tipsy after a long night of #partying with friends this is the last thing you expect to see. A man had fallen on the train tracks.

“Have the #cops been called? Oh god, I hope the train isn’t coming!” Thoughts and questions swirled chaotically in my hazy mind. And yet, no one looked especially affected.

“Richard? Look at me, Richard. Come over here, let’s get you off those tracks,” a rather collected woman, who looked to be in her early 30’s, said. In dressy white shorts, a black satin blouse, and tall black high heels, I’m sure she wasn’t expecting this on her #Friday night, either.

From what I gathered, police were on their way, which could explain why Richard and those waiting for the train had no sense of urgency. He must have fallen off the tracks some time ago, but this was all new to me, as was the feeling of #terror at this potentially looming #tragedy. The woman helped coax Richard to the platform where we all stood, while the two #officers who arrived shortly lifted him up clumsily. Richard supported himself on a PATH column. He murmured something about his glasses. A #conductor from a passing train jumped onto the rails, retrieved his glasses, and handed them over. Richard, eyes still half shut, sat there clutching his left arm, while the officers stood overhead, barely saying anything.

“He has a fractured arm,” the woman told the officers. She also pointed out Richard’s bleeding temple. One of the officers pulled out a large rectangular bandage from a bag, pressed it against Richard’s temple and told him to hold it firmly in place. The woman crouched down to Richard’s eye level a few feet away trying to make contact. Most of the crowd stood a good distance from Richard. They didn’t want to get in the way or were simply too scared at the unexpected sight. They say in the face of #fear you either #flee or #fight. This woman stood in the trenches, like a #medical officer in #battle, constantly talking to him, calling him by name, and making sure he stayed awake. She stood strong.

When the #EMT’s arrived some half hour later it was confirmed that Richard had a broken wrist and would need some stitches.

“Are you in the medical field?” I asked the woman.

“No, but my mom is. I’ve seen a lot,” she replied.

“Well, I just wanted to thank you,” I said.

“Oh, I wasn’t the one who called the cops, or anything,” She answered.

“You are the one still here, and actually talking to him. Yes, you deserve a ‘Thanks,’” I said.

As if not expecting or knowing how to receive a compliment the woman averted her eyes from me and humbly said, “Oh, it was nothing, but thank you.”

Too often we hear of failed #action in #emergency situations that it’s been dubbed #TheBystanderEffect, the #psychological phenomenon where people neglect to help a distressed person, especially when there are hordes around. We tend to shirk #responsibility to act because we feel the responsibility is spread among the entire group of onlookers, and if no one addresses the issue we assume that’s the socially acceptable response.

I was reminded of this behavior when my roommate frantically called me one day after witnessing an elderly man getting dragged by a bus on the Upper East Side. She saw a woman running past her screaming, after witnessing the #accident. The woman called for an #ambulance. And when the bus finally stopped, dislodging the man from the bottom of the bus, my roommate got into the street to stop and redirect traffic.

“No one else stopped to even help,” my roommate explained, frustrated and angered. “People were actually driving around the body or taking photos on their #cell phones!”

Our aloofness often looks like apathy. We don’t want disruptions to our day. We can’t be late; we have a busy schedule to keep. As a result, all too often we maintain a safe distance. We make social connections via #technology and do less of “helping thy neighbor.” We disconnect, we disengage. In fact, psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell surmise in their book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, published in 2009, that egotistical self-adoration associated with excessive selfishness is an increasing troubling trend. We’re in an era where #selfie is named the Word of the Year in 2013, according to #OxfordDictionary. 

And yet we get those #silverlinings, in the woman who helped Richard that fateful night, which show us all isn’t lost. She stepped up when it could have been as easily for her to bow out. While it’s “nothing” to her to offer a helping hand, I’m sure Richard thinks differently.

Opening a door to someone struggling with a stroller, giving up your seat on the subway to a pregnant woman, helping an elderly couple with their groceries, any small gesture of acknowledgement and assistance may end up having a big impact on one’s day.

“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water-it will make ripples throughout the entire pond …” –Jessy and Bryan Matteo

So “Thank You” to those who think unlike the flock. In Richard’s case, you saved a life.


Photo by Lani Buess

Photo by Lani Buess


My Abusive Relationship: My Metamorphosis



Photo By Michael Karas

Photo By Michael Karas

I don’t recall the conversation, just the swift sock to my stomach. It didn’t really hurt, but a guttural gasp escaped my breath. I was startled, stunned, taken aback. It was the feeling you get when careening down a steep roller coaster ride. Your insides suspend in time and space, until they come crashing down with unexpected force. I got the wind knocked out of me. I stood on the unforgiving concrete streets of #NewYorkCity spitting out air. I also spit out any respect I had for that relationship. I just didn’t know it then.

I chalked it up to #drinking. She just had too much. I probably squeezed her wrist too tight during the argument and she let out a natural reaction. As we lay in bed that next morning, I asked if she remembered what happened. She didn’t. There were profuse apologies. It wouldn’t happen again.

So you think.

Arguments always started innocent enough. Then a voice would raise. Then there would be name calling and intense declarations of disgust.

“You loser.”

“You waste of human flesh.”

“I hope you kill yourself.”

“Please! That’s mean! Don’t say that!” I would weakly reply.

Drinking wasn’t always involved. There wasn’t always an excuse to blame.

Rationale and #respect don’t come into play in arguments, not in unhealthy and dysfunctional #relationships anyway. Pleas for mercy, to talk better to one another during difficult times, aren’t taken seriously.  It all seems fruitless. It falls on deaf ears. I questioned why I continued to stay. Was it habit? Was it some sadistic sense of comfort? Did I think we’d change back into the people we once were when we met? I’m not a weak person. I grew up in such a loving home. My parents have a beautiful #marriage. What’s wrong with me?

When people would ask how she was, or how we were doing, I’d get a tense tightening in my chest. An overwhelming feeling of #anxiety blanketed me as I contemplated what to say, or what information to leave out. I believe most of us want to take pride in our relationships. I wanted to boastfully and proudly proclaim with a glint and fire in my eyes, “This is my #girlfriend!” Not in a possessive way, mind you, but in a manner that exclaimed to the world that this relationship made me ridiculously #happy and a better person because she stood by me. Instead, I was just ashamed. I’d quickly change the subject. I wouldn’t tell people the whole story of my relationship. I didn’t want prying eyes, the looks of sheer #fear, the concerned interrogations, or the scolding tones of how I had to end the madness. I knew it would come from a place of #compassion and #love, but I didn’t want the #judgment. Hell, I was my own worst critic, anyway. Nothing anyone could say would surpass what I told myself on a regular basis. I knew I shouldn’t stay. Yet, I remained.

I used to just take the emotional #manipulations, and verbal and physical swipes, though those never amounted to more than a handful, like a #boxer in the ring. But rather than dropping to the floor from that right hook, I’d just curl up inside myself and shrink from sight. I’d make myself really small. I’d deflate out of #defeat. My tears would eventually drain the free-flowing, fun-loving reservoir of my body, my #soul. I was left dry. Numb.

So I thought.

There’s a place where apathy and repression meet. It’s like a spontaneous blind date, or a surprise visit. You think they exist on opposite sides of the world, but somehow they end up standing next to one another. Then coexist together. Their clandestine #affair leaves a rage behind. All that pent up energy needs expression, eventually. The bubbling up of repressed #emotions typically bursts forth in some messy explosion that’s nearly impossible to clean. There’s always some muck stuck to the surface somewhere, secretly hiding in some hard to reach crevice. I remember turning down #sex often, once my #rejection caused her to kick me so hard from bed that I struck the wall. My sex drive plummeted out of #stress from the relationship. I encouraged her to find that elsewhere. Who says that to their girlfriend? I should have left a thousand times. Instead of my usual passivity, I started to hit her three times to every blow she gave me. I knew I was stronger. I figured that would stop her. It never did.

On one occasion we were about to leave the apartment to attend a comedy club with my friends. We got into a fight some fifteen minutes beforehand. She didn’t want to go and didn’t want me to go, either. She hid my license, stashed my car keys some place and slowly and quietly began cleaning. She didn’t say a word. She remained eerily serene. I pleaded with her, suggested we talk later, asked to go even if she didn’t want to and encouraged her to come with me. She continued to calmly clean and remained tight-lipped. I snapped. I lunged at her throat and squeezed—tight. To my surprise she didn’t resist, or respond. She did nothing. I pulled myself off her, shaking uncontrollably and locked myself in the bathroom. I sobbed like a newborn right out of its mother’s womb. The line between victim and perpetrator instantaneously blurred. No one could claim innocence, now. I fed into the wrong behavior. While facing down at that bathroom floor, my back against the door, I sat cupping my tears. I eventually walked over to the sink to splash some water on my face and got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had never been more disgusted with myself.

What’s hidden behind closed doors inevitably seeps through the cracks. That vile odor of desperation and destruction wafts through the air and corrodes the foundation. The scent stings #family and #friends as your private life occasionally plays out in very embarrassing public displays, much to your upset. After one sloppy drunken night at a dance club, we had gotten into an altercation over a #miscommunication. She was drunk and getting a little in my face. Strangers tried to intervene sensing the trouble. The bouncer turned to me and told me she had to leave. At coat check, while passing over our ticket stubs, I felt a swipe at the side of my face. I turned to see the bouncer grab her and remove her from the premises. Friends, understandably freaked out, drove us home, and unfortunately witnessed the entire rage-fueled fight where we spewed vitriol at one another that would make any sane person blush. Only later that night did I notice the dried blood at random spots throughout my face. #Dysfunction can’t be deterred, no matter how hard you attempt to retain a semblance of privacy. Your once seemingly quaint and quiet life becomes inflated, mangled and a morbid caricature of itself. Those closest to you are either repulsed and turn their backs on you or passionately attempt to pry you from the abyss.

Attempts to mend the shards of our shattered relationship in couple’s #therapy were futile. She put all her energy into altering her behavior and practicing mindful speech, while I mentally checked out. I fixated on the various forms of abuse we engaged in and seethed inside. I had become the angry one, with one foot out the door. For me, the damage had been done.

I lost myself. My sanity turned #insane. This wasn’t me. Who was this person? The shame became overwhelming. The lengths one may take when found in a #toxic relationship is shocking. Instead of turning away from the darkness, I raced towards it full-throttle. I failed at stifling those insidious and primal tendencies that we all potentially possess. I opened Pandora’s box. And so, it became regularly hard to face myself in the mirror. I feared for my future. I feared who I was becoming.

Until, I finally got the courage to leave.

My bitterness, sadness and disappointment over that time has since passed. While I look back with regret that time changed me for the better. If I stood before you as an individual that continued to perpetuate those #abusive behaviors or picked partners that recycled and encouraged those inclinations then I may not be able to say that. But that time became a defining moment for me. From those incidents I was determined to forge the being I wished to become. While it left a dark blemish on my soul and psyche forever, that sullied stain serves as a reminder of a former shadow of myself. It led me to understand that while moments, actions and experiences may change us irrevocably that doesn’t mean they have to determine who we are as people. We have a conscious, we have a soul, we have a morality that can serve as our compass during the darkest of times. We just have to choose wisely.

I’ve come to nurture #respect like a baby bird, who has to be shielded from inclement weather, kept safe in its nest from predators and fed by mouth by its loving mom. Respect is dainty. It’s delicate. It has to be held with caring and compassionate arms. It can be bruised and battered so easily. It can be taken advantage of. It can be abused by a careless word spoken, a #selfish act, or an abrupt punch to the stomach. The loss of respect is the death toll of a relationship. It’s our job to never cross a certain line. Once you do it’s nearly impossible to return.

Photo by Michael Karas

Photo by Michael Karas

One Man, One Ball: No Bueno (PART TWO)

hospital room


Me: Tell me about #chemotherapy. What was treatment like? How did you feel?

Andy: I had three sessions of chemo, each session was five days, getting chemo from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., then I had 2 weeks off and then I had to come back.

Me: Oof.

Andy: Turns out I had three different #cancers wrapped in one, all of them aggressive. I didn’t even think that was possible.

Me: Damn! Me neither!

Tell me, how did you physically feel through all the #chemo treatments?

Andy: Well, after the first chemo I felt fine, like nothing ever happened. So I #smoked and #drank wine. After the second session my hair started to come out, starting with my pubes, not very sexy. After my third and last session I was vomiting, lost all my hair and my sense of smell and taste.

I still can’t smell and taste 100% and I got done with my last chemo right before Christmas 2013.

Me: At the end of the day we are all left with our thoughts at bedtime. What was nighttime like for you? And the thoughts you were left with?

Andy: At night I thought about it all the most, but it varied. Sometimes I would get totally freaked out and convince myself I was #dying. Other times I was sure that I was going to be fine. Some nights I felt I had accepted #death and was almost looking forward to ending my life here and getting to another dimension. So it was pretty much different every night.

Me: You once told me that you felt unworthy in some way of being alive, that you don’t do enough to have had this second chance. Do you still feel this way?

Andy: Yeah, sometimes I do. I can be pretty fucking moody so it depends on a day, but I definitely have days that I do. I was expecting this huge #awakening for me, but it hasn’t come to me. I guess I’m supposed to look for it.

Me: Where does one look?

Andy: Once I figure it out I will let you know. I’m guessing it has something to do with #soulsearching.

Me: Have you started any #soul searching? I mean, you have been given a second chance. What do you want to do with it?

Andy: I think a lot about #life and death in general. I don’t know if you could call that soul searching. I haven’t found my #calling or what to do about getting a #secondchance, in spite of my old age. Obviously, I don’t like to rush things.

(Andy gets sidetracked) This is my favorite picture taken during my cancer period. 🙂


Me: Why is it your favorite?

Andy: I like this pic. because it represents my life at the time, kinda dark, with no friends except for stuffed #animals. 🙂

Me: Stuffed animals don’t get enough credit nowadays. But why didn’t you have friends during this time?

Andy: I had just come back from the states after 13 years. All of my old #Polish friends had moved on with their lives, [got] husbands, wives, kids, etc. I wasn’t gonna call them up and say, ‘Hey, hang out with me, I have cancer.’ So I relied on my #family and stuffed animals, which was fine.

Me: Hmm. That’s really sad.

Andy: Haha! No, not really.

Me: No?

Andy: Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to see a lot of people. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react and my family is pretty #dramatic, so I wasn’t looking for any more of that.

Me: How dramatic IS your family?

Andy: Umm …pretty fucking dramatic. I don’t wanna say hurtful things so just take my word for it.

They are also amazing, just to be clear. 🙂

Me: So it’s not dramatic in like a funny #TV #sitcom way then? Just dramatic-dramatic. Gotcha!

Andy: Yeah, like everything is the end of the world.

(For Andy, it’s just the beginning. He learned he was in #remission.)

Me: When did you learn you were in remission? And what was the first thing you did (or said) when you learned you were now OK?

Andy: I found out right before #Christmas, on the 22nd, I think. Right before my #doctor told me I was fine I thought, ‘This could be a really shitty Christmas,’ but thankfully, it wasn’t. I called my immediate family and told them and probably had a lot of red #wine later on that night.

Me: What’s your #dating life been since this?

Andy: I haven’t been thinking about it to be honest, but then again, I don’t think I ever dated. Haha!

That’s probably sadder than having stuffed animals for friends. 🙂

Me: If you start dating your stuffed animals then we’ll need to have a talk.

Andy: It hasn’t come to that yet, but never say never.

Me: I was just wondering how you are going to break that news to potential dates? Like, do you avoid having that talk over #dinner, especially Italian or anything “ball” related on your plate?

Andy: Haha!

I’m getting a replacement soon so I’ll just wait until that happens and probably avoid the issue.

Me: Smart. Thinking a-head. Oh man. All the bad puns.

Andy: It’s like we’re writing #SexandtheCity for [#gays].

Me: I didn’t even know they could give replacements!

Andy: Yeah, and it feels totally real, so that’s good #news.

Me: I don’t even want to know how they make that! But that does sound optimistic for you and your future #boyfriends.

Andy: Boyfriends? Gross.

Me: Taking about balls is fine but not boyfriends? OK, your future #sex partners if you are all #commit-phobic and shit. 😉

Andy: That sounds better. I’m not gonna lie.

Me: I had this whole heroic story you could tell guys why you were missing a testicle. Like you saved a drowning boy from a #sharkattack and his teeth pierced your nut. And now with this replacement my story is useless. Thanks Andy.

Andy: Sorry… you should have told me what you had in mind. I would have gone along with it!! I like to be a hero.

Me: I guess the replacement will just have to be good enough now.

Andy: I mean, I don’t really have to do it, if that’s what you want. 🙂

I can #sacrifice myself for a good #story. 🙂

Me: Through this whole life and death defining experience, did you learn anything new about yourself?

Andy: (Silence)


That it takes a lot to shake me and that I can keep a sense of #humor even when most people would not be able to.

Me: Now I know I asked you this question while you were inebriated on wine, but I want to ask once again while #sober. Not many people go through such #life-altering experiences at such a relatively young age. If you could impart any words of #wisdom or life lessons to younger people, or people in general, what would it be?

Andy: Who said I was sober?

Just kidding!

Me: What time is it over there anyway?

Andy: 3:35 p.m., six-hour difference.

Me: Oh that’s totally acceptable drinking time then.

Andy: Well, I’m not drinking tonight.

I actually have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and I can’t drink.

Me: I knew there had to be a reason! Totally kidding!

Andy: You might be kidding, but you also might be right.

Me: OK, back to that question …

Andy: So my words of wisdom would be that it’s hard to predict life so do what makes you #happy. If shit gets fucked up, try to have a sense of humor about it; otherwise, you might go #crazy.

Every day is a new day and [there’s] no point living in the #past.

Me: Anything else in general you’d like to add?

Andy: Cancer sucks and chemo sucks and don’t get it.

Me: I agree! Now if we all knew how to avoid it!

Andy: I know. You can live a #healthy #lifestyle and that will reduce the risk, but that would be boring wouldn’t it?

Me: I know how you feel about boring!

(Let me digress for a moment. You may be asking yourself, ‘but what did Andy answer while drunk?’ Well, here you go … )

Drunken Andy: Eat well. No flour. No white bread. No sugar.

But that’s really whatever.

Just know that shit can happen to you when you don’t expect it, so be a good person.

Enjoy life. Hum “Like a Prayer” before you go to sleep.

Just have your priorities straight.

It’s not worth it, dying for stupid shit.

And one more thing:

I love you!

(OK, so the “I love you” was directed at me, but I think we all could use a little extra #love in our day and if Andy is offering it, I would take it. I mean, he’s this towering 10-foot tall lean man. (Obviously, not really, but he’s really, really tall). His arms can seriously scoop you up in a gigantic bear hug. So take Andy’s love in, just take it. And feel free to send those well wishes back to him and to all of those you hold in your heart. I know I will.)

Andy, I love you, too.



One Man, One Ball: No Bueno.

An Honest Portrayal of One Man’s Battle with Testicular Cancer

Andy, if you haven't already guessed!  Photo by Bartosz Cerkaski

Photo by Bartosz Cerkaski

He can be unapologetically offensive. He’s not afraid to get graphic. He likes to stun just to see your reaction. That’s Andy! You may have a similar Andy, or seen one on TV. He’s the fashionable, fit and witty #gay sidekick. Depending on the era in which your Andy lives he either goes gaga for Lady GaGa or Material Girl Madonna. As for this Andy, never, ever, mention Lady Gaga or he’ll give you a verbal beat down. This is not to say that all gay men, or even those named Andy, fit some neat #stereotype. I simply mean he’s that confidant you can confide in, who will also chastise you for your music and fashion choices.

I met Andy, my ex’s former #roommate, about five or six years ago. We only ever exchanged a few words, but that was all it took for me to gather that he liked to use wit as a #weapon. I pitied those caught in the crossfire. And I hoped I wasn’t one unbeknownst to me. Fast forward to the World of #Facebook. We reconnected through a “like” here or a brief comment there. Until he messaged me out of the blue one day with a big revelation.

“I don’t really know you,” he said, “but I just found out I have cancer.”

All it took was that brief declaration to alter a reality and a relationship. With such an intimate reveal Andy no longer became that bitchy Facebook acquaintance. Subsequent intense conversations introduced me to a more layered and complex man than I previously gave credit. His austere facial expressions now expose a stoicism. Like a truffle, his tough exterior gives way to a soft and sweet soul. He endures a hardship not readily apparent in his appearance. He’s a man you have to question to get to know. If you quickly judge him you’re sure to be mistaken. Now faced with #death, I wanted to learn more about what makes this intriguing man tick.

Here’s what I found:

Me:  How old were you when you were diagnosed with testicular #cancer?

Andy:  I was 32 years old. Three months after I had come back to #Poland, after having lived in the U.S. for 13 years. I didn’t come back because I was sick. It was all a huge surprise.

(He pauses to light a cigarette.)

I came back to Poland the first day of April 2013. Healthy. By August I felt something wrong with my ball. A week later I had my ball removed.

Me: Damn, that’s rough! What felt wrong?

Andy: One of my balls had gotten swollen, to the size twice as big as the other one.

I had just gotten accepted to a medical school.

Me: Wow. Medical school?

That’s kind of ironic to learn of that as you are about to study #medicine.

Andy: Yeah I know.

And I didn’t want to go exercise with all the other boys that were half my age. So I wanted an excuse not to go to my gym class.

Me: Wait, you wanted to see the doctor just to cut gym class?

(laughing fit ensues.)

Andy:  I never thought it was gonna be a big deal.

I felt one of my balls feel heavier than the other one, because I used to do too much jerking off. Sorry for the TMI! But that’s what I thought.

Me:  That’s hysterical! You thought you caused that from too much masturbating?

Andy: Yup. I am Polish after all.

Me: Imagine that could happen? Men would be terrified everywhere!

So what was the very first thought that popped into your head when you learned it was cancer?

Andy: I thought, I can deal with it, but I was worried about my parents.

Can I tell you a little short story about when I first found out about it?

Me: Sure!

Andy: My mother, who doesn’t go to church by the way, had given me a chain with you know–holy Mother Mary … Basically, I had to wear it because it was a gift. So I did. When I went to the hospital to get my ball checked if it was cancer, the second I get there before they give an ultrasound, the chain breaks and the Mother of Jesus/made up bitch/Madonna wannabe, falls off my chain.

And I swear I knew I had cancer.

Me: Wow. That’s such an interesting omen. So you felt like it was a sign?

Andy: I did somehow. Not for me, but because my Polish family is so religious I felt it meant something.

As soon as that happened I was like, ‘OK, I have cancer.’

If my necklace had the REAL #Madonna hanging off my chest I wouldn’t have cancer. So #religion is bad. Believe in whores who like what they do, instead of made up people.

Me: You’re a nut!

Andy: Is that nuts? Not really.

Me: How did you emotionally prepare yourself to tell your parents? What did you say? How did they handle it?

Andy: Well the doctor told me there’s a 99% chance that it is cancer. I called my mom and said, ‘They found a growth on my ball and it’s probably nothing, so they have to examine it,’ and not to worry.

But I knew it was cancer because he told me.

Me: Oh man.

Andy: He asked about my age and everything and he said, ‘Yeah … prepare yourself.’

Me: He said that?

Andy: Yes.

Me: Even without knowing for sure?

Andy: Yeah. I went for that checkup on Tuesday. Thursday morning they were taking my ball out.

He said they were gonna take out my ball and they wouldn’t know for sure until they get the results that take like two weeks, but he said, ‘Get ready, you have cancer.’

This hospital bed won't kill his vibe!

This hospital bed won’t kill his vibe!

Me: Damn!

Andy: He told me they were gonna take it out and I was gonna be fine. He didn’t mention #chemo. Actually I called my sister first and told her not to tell our parents, because I didn’t want to worry them. My sister told me I have to tell them what’s going on. That’s when I called my mom. I thought, ‘No one has to know.’

Me: The phone call no mom wants to hear.

Andy: Not at all. And I felt bad because I had lived in NY for almost 14 years against my parents will and then finally I come back and they are happy and then I have to be like, ‘Just kidding, I have cancer!’

Me: Oof.

Andy: That was not on my agenda at all. It was supposed to be a happy ending.

Me: So you told your mom and dad. How did that go?

Andy: I told my mom when she was driving her car.

Me: Bad timing!

Andy: She almost crashed.

But she’s tough. She told my dad and he has been crying ever since.

Me: Awe! I love sensitive men.

Andy: Yeah, he’s an #angel.

Me: You said you knew you could deal with it. Have you been dealing with it? Have you been coping? Is it possible to cope?

Andy: Give me 10 seconds. I’m getting a bear.

OMG! Beer! Not a bear!

Me: I don’t know what you’re into! I didn’t want to ask.

Andy: Not bears. This is like being on #Oprah, girl.

Me: So you said you could deal with this. Have you been coping well? How the f*ck do you cope with this?

Andy: I went in denial, really. I worried about my #family. The oh-so-dramatic family I was born into.

Me: I’m sure they’ll love to read that part.

Andy: They don’t speak #English so they won’t. We’re good.

The only thing I thought about was if I could deal with death.

Me: What conclusion did you come to?

Andy: That I am 100% sure there is something after this #Earth, that there is a different dimension to all of this. Just like there is life on different planets. It would be really arrogant to assume that you don’t go anywhere after you die. The #universe is, what’s the word I’m looking for?, infinite! I had thought that way before I got cancer, so to me it wasn’t as scary.

Me: So this thinking comforts you then?

Andy: For sure. And it’s not to say I want to die tomorrow and I don’t care, I want to live for as long as I can because I want to leave something behind, and I don’t think I have done that. But I don’t believe for one second that when your life on Earth ends that is it. And I can’t believe anyone can think that. I think that’s rude.

Me: What do you want to leave behind?

Andy:  Wow. You’re really going there.

I mean, I don’t have the power that famous people do. Haha! Obviously! But I do believe in a sense of #humor and I believe that is THE most important thing in the world.

Me: I agree. We need it in this world of ours.

Andy: I believe that a person without a sense of humor is a potential serial killer.

Me: Not sure about the serial killer part, though.

So what mistakes of yours do you want people to learn from?

Andy: So you really are the white lesbian Oprah.

I can be your Gay-le!

Me: I. Just. Died.

Andy: Ok, my mistakes. Well, let’s just say I did coke for 10 years straight like it was water. And I will say that I have had the most amazing experiences doing coke. I have also hit the lowest of the low and I would say to someone who has never tried it, don’t ever do it!

It creeps up on you and it’s not worth it. If I could go back to the time before I did my first bump I would have never done it.

I can’t believe I’m saying this.

So when is your talk show happening?

Me: I love the #honesty.

What else?

Andy:  Don’t take no for an answer. No matter what you do. It’s better to be rejected than boring.

You will never make the entire world #love you.

Concentrate on what you do.

Me: What do you want for yourself? And is it different now after having had cancer?

Andy: I’m worse now. I #drink more and #smoke more. So no, don’t do what I do. That’s my advice.

Me: Oh no. Why are you worse? If you are worse than are you secretly not dealing well?

Andy: I’m worse because death became so close that it was almost palpable and I wasn’t scared. So now I’m just like, ‘F*ck it! Let’s see who wins,’ which is not good.

Me: Wow.

Andy: Wow. I have never been more honest, ever.

Me: That’s honest!

So you feel invincible?

Andy: Noooooo, not at all. I like the fight and I don’t believe that if I die that’s gonna be the end of me, but I am scared of that, too. I don’t wanna die without leaving a mark behind me, but maybe this interview will be it, so maybe after this I will give up.

Me: If liking that fight, that challenge, of almost chasing death doesn’t that mean you are sort of giving up on your life now? Being the best you can be now?

Andy: I want to be the best I can, but it’s easier said than done.


#death, #life, #spirituality, #purpose, #cancer, #testicularcancer, #Poland, #chemo, #universe, #world, #gay, #lesbian, #cocaine, #mortality,

Hey Purpose! Where the Hell are You?

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

You hear it often that your #purpose should be what you’re passionate about. I agree. If you’re one of the lucky ones, as a child you knew exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up—and you stayed the course. But let’s face it the majority of us have no damn idea what our “purpose” is. We may “like” a lot of different things, but wouldn’t willingly commit our entire existence to any one of them. So we simply get up each day, get ready, and get behind a computer screen until the clock hits 5. Our purpose is elusive, like some soft shadow at our feet intangible to the touch or a pair of misplaced car keys. You know it’s got to be somewhere! You check the doorknob, under the bed, or the kitchen cabinet, you even run outside to check behind the car seat. Depending on the type of person you are, you do one of two things:

A. You scorn your alarm clock when it strikes 7 a.m., reminding you to go to that office #job you deplore. Where that one co-worker spends his day crinkling potato chip bags and loudly chewing his food with his mouth open, while that other co-worker sees it as his life mission to outdo you in every conceivable conversation. “Oh. You went to the Nick Cave concert? Well, my band actually opened up for him in 2008. Yeah, I know him. We hung out.” (Good for you, a**hole). Then there’s the one who spies on all of his co-workers to catch them on Facebook or lingering too long chatting at another’s cubicle and makes a report to the higher ups. The office snitch sniffing about. If this was Nazi Germany you would all be dead. At lunch hour you get to listen in on the VPs in the lunch room inappropriately talking about sex (people, by the looks of them, you do not ever, ever, ever, wish to visualize engaging in sex), or passive aggressively condescending one another–you know that tone, the one you are so often receiving. Afterwards, you log on and listen to Spotify on high in hopes of drowning out the rest of your day, while also rupturing your eardrums. Later, you inflame your road rage in two-hour bumper-to-bumper traffic only to arrive home and plop in front of the TV, after falsely promising yourself you would hit the gym or do something actually productive. The input of your day has numbed your brain. You’re essentially brain dead. Sometimes you can’t even enunciate clearly by bedtime.

And YAY! You get to do it all again tomorrow!


B.  You curl up on the floor in the fetal position dreading the mere existence of your life because you misplaced your purpose. Depression turns to decision-making, however. You decide to do something about it, anything. You grasp at whatever engages you. You feed your psyche with enriching #selfhelp books and how-tos on “finding your purpose.” You meditate (or in my case, attempt to #meditate only to fall asleep) and listen to endless podcasts and watch webinars from #spiritual gurus who found their way and promise to help you find yours, only for $297.

You light up your home with Himalayan Sea Salt lamps (I have an orange one!) in order to replicate the serenity of sitting by a waterfall and attain some clarity, or if you have the time and resources you go on life-altering #sabbaticals. How about a sweat lodge in upstate New York where you pack tightly around hot rocks to commune with spirit, unless you pass out first? Sign me up! (Speaking of sabbaticals, can someone please send me on an African safari?). Last week you were are ALL about #Reiki, next week you’re opting for a chakra cleanse. You have shamanic healing and #LawofAbundance classes on your to-do list.  You just do … something. You refuse to let a sleeping dog lie. That dog isn’t going anywhere sitting on his ass. I know! I’ve attempted to spin my dog in circles while he’s sleeping and it’s just a bunch of dead weight without much acceleration. Again, if you’re one of the lucky ones you stay the course, and you find your purpose.

boys copy
But what if your enthusiasm peters out?

I heard a #webinar (I never said there was anything wrong with being a (B)!) from the Spiritual Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, #JohnAssaraf, in which he stated, loosely, “It takes 56 days or longer to have a certain behavior take effect in the brain for long-term change to happen.” And I believe it. How often do we commit to making a change, like a New Year’s resolution on losing weight or giving up smoking, only to quit by week three? Permanent change takes constant commitment, which is also probably why I can’t seem to make meditating a daily habit. I either succeed in procrastinating or startle myself awake upon realizing that I had just drooled all over my hand. I presume the lesson here is perseverance. While your life may seem like a bunch of failed attempts, at least you are trying. Any sort of movement vibrates in the cosmos and makes a little shift in your atmosphere; a ripple towards change. You can either sit on your ass or send out your resume, because once that sleeping dog wakes up (and noticed you trying to spin him in circles ad nauseam) there’s going to be a bite, eventually. Presently in my life, I’m cocked somewhere in between sitting and standing, which looks a bit like the exact moment someone pulls a chair right out from under you. Gravity’s going to see to it that I move.

Your purpose may never come in a great epiphany or some “a-ha!” moment in which you scream, “I know what I want to do with the rest of my life!” It may never come in endless hours of wracking your brain, or some lucid dream. It may just come in stumbling blocks. You may just get glimmers of it, like a reflection off a sunlight stream, with each new endeavor. You decide to abandon one job and opt for another, not necessarily because you found your calling, but because you could no longer stand your boss! Regardless of the reason you are at least taking action. It’s up to us to make those subtle shifts to attain daily happiness.

As Scandal creator, #ShondaRhimes succinctly said in her commencement speech at her Dartmouth University alma mater, “Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new.”

“It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life,” she adds. “Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do. So you think, ‘I wish I could travel.’ Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.”

So let’s leap, or hell, stumble into taking steps to change our lives. We may ironically fall through the backdoor to our purpose. Well, at least our purpose, for now. And really, now is all we’ve got.

(For a crash course on Finding Your Purpose in 5 Minutes, check out this great TED Talk with Entertainment Executive Adam Leipzig.)