Nerve & Me

 

This week, I was honored to share an essay in Vela Magazine , a publication I’ve long admired. The essay explores what life with epilepsy has taught me about uncertainty.

The world—and our bodies—do not always operate in a neat and orderly fashion. Control is not our default modus operandi, or even our ideal. Thirty years with epilepsy has taught me to accept, even love, this truth.

I rarely talk about my epilepsy, and when I do, it feels vaguely dissatisfying, as if I’m not quite expressing things adequately. Writing this piece, then, was healing.

It was also difficult, requiring a ton of research. In the process, I learned a lot about epilepsy in the workplace that I’d never known–even as I’ve managed my own condition. In terms of career,  epilepsy has can be a nasty deterrent. 

Still, I like to think the human spirit is indomitable. And this seems like a fine time for a “Garden State” throwback (which, for those too young to remember, features Natalie Portman as an epileptic). No seizures here, just love…!

Let nothing hold us back from the life we crave.

 

10 Reasons Why Making Your First Wine is Like Traveling to an Unfamiliar Country

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Misty jungle, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Over time, I’ve become familiar with certain steps in the winemaking process by working with my employer–sampling grapes, doing punchdowns, or cleaning tanks. Yet I had never experienced it in such detail until last week, when I harvested my own fruit and began my own winemaking project.

In my mind, I’m on a journey. I’ve landed in a thick jungle and I’ve gotta make my own path out. In the spirit of adventure, then, I give you:

10 Reasons Why Making Your First Wine is Like Traveling to an Unfamiliar Country

  1. You are excited! Now scared. Now excited! Now scared. Now …
  2. You are spending waaaay too much money. And it’s worth every penny.
  3. Friends who’ve been where you are going wanna tell you exactly how to get there and what to do. Now, should you take their advice?
  4. Once you set off on the trip, you realize you really should’ve packed some nutrients—like trail mix, or maybe some Ferm-Aid.
  5. You knew in your gut you were taking a wrong turn, and you did it anyway. Now you are lost and it’s a little scary. Always trust your gut!
  6. Where you least expect it, you find a like-minded friend to help you on your way.
  7. You speak the language, and blend in pretty well—but you’re not a local. And there’s always someone reminding you of that.
  8. As an outsider, you discover things even the locals don’t know.
  9. When the day is over, you’re gonna kick off your boots and have a cold beer.
  10. You don’t know what’s next on the itinerary, but you can’t wait to find out…

Things I *Don’t* Know For Sure

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.” ~Sigmund Freud

I was recently in a business seminar when a student shyly revealed that she had a certain health issue. The instructor squinted like she was taking aim, then informed us that this was an example of excessive transparency. “Too much transparency,” she said, “reveals your vulnerability and makes others feel they can take you down. Beware.”

I wanted to take her down, just because she’d been such a stone cold bitch to this poor woman. I wanted to grip the lapels of her ill-fitting poly-blend blazer and turn her toward a widescreen viewing of Brene Brown’sThe Power of Vulnerability”. I wanted to prove that she had it backwards, that vulnerability actually helps us connect with others in a big, brave way. Instead, I just marveled at how I’d never seen a woman who looked so much like Ronald Reagan. (Seriously, she was a dead ringer.)

This is a blog about embracing uncertainty–in career and in life in general. People, there is going to be some transparency. Cozy up.

Let’s start here: Several years ago, the economy tanked. Obviously.

Where were you when it happened? I sometimes want to ask people–from cousins at my family reunion to strangers in the street–as if it was the Kennedy assassination or the Challenger explosion. It has not been so instantaneous an disaster, but a disaster nonetheless.

I think of my friends who took a work sabbatical to travel around the world from 2008 to 2009. I think of how jealous I was of the guy who bought both a small house and a fuel-efficient hybrid that year. Still others planned lavish weddings, but now surely wonder: Um, sweetie, should we have skipped those thousand-dollar monogrammed petit fours? Within six to twelve months, most of  these people would have their proverbial shuttle explode too, slammed by the economy in one way or another.

I was lucky, sort of.  I caught the brunt of it early, just as Obama took office. On the one hand, this was utterly isolating, since being broke was not even remotely socially acceptable. No one rallied as the 99% or whatever, and no one cared that I couldn’t afford my car registration. Yet soon everyone would care, while I’d have bounced back.

This was the thin but sparkly silver lining: By the time my peers were pink slipped or foreclosed or [fill in the blank with standard Recession horror story], I could offer empathy that I’d not widely received. It was as though I’d explored some kind of dark, forgotten socioeconomic territory and returned with shreds of a map. Are you lost? Maybe I can show you the way.

So: Where was I when it happened? In 2008, I was a freelance writer Continue reading

View from The Wayback

What is the force that drives us ahead–compels us to move forward, even without promise of a safe destination? Where do we find the gumption to keep going when we have absolutely no idea where we’re headed? Does it matter?

I think so. That force–my mom called it faith, but I can’t quite name it– is a fire I want to stoke, to tend carefully now and always.

At the risk of adding to the flood of recession porn, let me offer a half-hypothetical picture, woven from some truths I know: Continue reading