by Alison Barker
Do you suffer from any of the following existential anxieties regarding Facebook?
Endless agonizing over the parameters of the concept of “friend”
Revisionist hesitation about whether or not you “like” something
Rhetorical protocols that shift like stretched out elastic on a fat man’s sweatpants
Despair no more! Endeavor to complete the Facebook Cleanse:
1. Each week for four weeks, de-friend twenty percent of your friend list. Then, friend request each of them. Repeat. Whoever is still playing the game at the end of the month wins your continued Facebook friendship. They are idiots!
2. Ask for homeopathic remedies for embarrassing maladies and tag several people, indicating that they have solid expertise. Which they probably do.
3. Write really upbeat posts in the mornings, and super-grim posts in the evenings. Refuse to respond to any queries re: your mental health. Change your religion and relationship status every other day. On every third day, write only one status update: I feel so lonely. Is anyone out there? Or, post a photo of a baby animal and a quote from a Buddhist thinker. Ignore any and all responses. God.
4. Make a sad face L on someone’s baby bump photo, and post a link to infant mortality rates. Freedom of information.
5. Each week, pick ten Facebook friends you never talk to. These are your “spotlight” connections. Every day, comb their timelines for significant personal information. Click “like” on really old updates. Download Farmville and ask them to play every day. Cater your posts to their political, career and recreational interests and tag them in phone photos of inanimate objects that are somehow related to said interests—then send them private messages that ask if they could respect your privacy, and that you think they have boundary issues. Include the Amazon link to Codependency No More in your message. Boundaries are in the eye of the beholder.
If these seem extreme, they are. You see, you suffer from a cerebral overextension of intention discernment, or COID, and the Facebook Cleanse is designed to banish COID’s overthinking and keep you operating in a do-now world of action, which is how you will stay assimilated in our social media culture. You want to stay assimilated.
After a month of following these five tasks, you will clear out segments of your Facebook population, thus presenting you with more surmountable, tangible problems, which can be addressed by a do-now list, like “I don’t have any Facebook friends” “I will friend request someone” and “I am so mad at so and so for defriending me” “I will post something mean on her friend’s wall”—these problems are much preferable to the vague, unanswerable maladies of COID, like why would Sara Owens show me the picture of herself giving birth in a kiddie pool in her wood paneled basement if she snubbed me at the reunion happy hour? But if you defriend Sara Owens, and then friend request her, you are the man in the arena; the dust and sweat. You are engaging. Plus, you will get attention.
And that’s what we are moving towards in this digital age; engagement. I mean, attention. Attention engagement. Do-now. Assimilation.
Questions on the cleanse? Email me.
As was probably clear from the long gap between the last post and this one, The How-To Issue needs you! Which is to say, it needs submissions. The original call for posts is here, and all still applies. Send links, send pieces, send things to reblog - The How-To is open to pieces on everything you know how to do. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
By Tania Zarak
The night of September 8 was hands down one of the worst nights of my life. I had gone to Mexico to visit my family yet, back in New York, my relationship with my live-in boyfriend was on its last legs. I had been hesitant to travel at all. But I did, hopeful that nothing major would happen in a week.
I got very anxious as soon as I left New York. I was crying nonstop, as if unknowingly “mourning” my relationship from afar. I chose to fly back a day early and called my boyfriend from the plane. He was home. I asked if everything was OK and he answered, “Yes, I’m just tired.” Still uneasy, I believed him. I landed at JFK five hours later and promptly everything started to go wrong: what seemed to be the largest 757 in the world arrived from Turkey minutes before us, hence the lines at Customs were biblical; my bags took ages to come out; outside, it was raining cats and dogs.
A car service driver was waiting for me at the gate with a big yellow sign that said my name. He was a tall, confident, slim black man. He greeted me with his head and led me to the car. I began to cry, again. We took off. The traffic was a nightmare. We were at a complete standstill on the highway when I got a text from my boyfriend that read:
“I hope that you arrived back safely… I will call you tomorrow to talk and clarify everything… I am staying at my new place.”
“At my new place?” I gagged. I called him but he would only reply to texts. To make things worse, the cars were still not moving. I was in the midst of having a full-out panic attack when, with a voice that cracked the storm, my driver asked: “Are you OK, miss?” I explained. He then began to speak with a firm, soothing tone. He tried to distract me and kept reminding me that everything was going to be all right, that I was a beautiful, young woman and that I would be OK; he was sure of this. He repeated things to me almost melodically and never took his eyes off me through the rear-view mirror.
As we arrived to my apartment he got out of the car, grabbed my luggage, opened my door and took me from the shoulders, like a little rag doll. I was weeping and it was still raining hard. “Listen to me,” he said as he shook all 5 feet of me, “you are going to be fine. Do you understand? Trust me.” He hugged me tight, waited until I was inside the building and drove away. I’m not sure I believe in angels but an angel got me home that night. He was a man waiting for me at a gate! I never saw him again… His name was George.
So, in order to spot angels in disguise, remember:
- Angels come in all shapes and sizes and they can be male or female.
- It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or if you don’t recognize the encounter right away. You might get it days, weeks, months, maybe years after it happens.
- Angels are sly, mysterious beings who oftentimes work behind-the-scenes. They can do big things and little things so their importance must never be underestimated.
- Angels will identify you, mostly when you are in distress or feel abandoned. The next person that randomly offers a helping hand amidst others who are either indifferent or against you, might very much so be angel on assignment to you.
- Maybe the guy at work that is so annoyingly competitive is an angel. Maybe the lady that told you that thing you didn’t want to hear about yourself and was a catalyst for change was an angel. Maybe an angel slammed a door and opened another. Maybe that kid that smiled at you in the subway was an angel.
- Here’s a trick to help you determine if you have been visited: add the result of the contact to the phrase “Had it not been for…” For example: “Had it not been for stopping to help a stranger with directions, I would have been standing precisely where the car jumped the curb!”
- Realize that you are an angel. Believe in your creative abilities and overcome your fear to show yourself. Recognizing goodness and gratitude has a very positive impact on our lives. When you pay it forward, you will also now know the joy you have given someone else.
- Be attentive of this. Check if you are really open to what the universe wants to give you, to all the love that is out there for you. As long as you don’t say ‘yes’ to what the universe wants to send your way, you have not truly said ‘yes’ to yourself. Say a loud and loving yes to yourself, to all of you. Accepting the flow of receiving in your life will then become natural for you.
- While no one can confirm or say for sure how angels might appear in their natural environment, it is just as easy to believe that they have left their mark on humanity by inspiring some of us to show them as best we can.
by Nicole Spiridakis
- Wake up at 5:30 a.m. and drive from sea level to 8000+ feet in four hours (read: San Francisco to Yosemite National Park), thus ensuring that slight loopiness altitude can engender. Pick up a trail permit from the ranger station and joke with the ranger manning the desk; she will be the same one you encountered last year, and, while in a better mood, still will not give you any guidance on plotting a route. Fortunately you are prepared for this and already have a route in mind. Decide to enter at May Lake and hike about 6 miles that first day.
- Go through the inevitable discard-and-pack at the trailhead, throwing noodle soup packets (not filling enough), a jar of peanut butter (too goopy), a few pieces of fruit (too heavy) into the bear bin. Bid civilization (and your car) à bientôt for a days. Remind yourself how lucky you are.
- Hike. Hike hike hike. Feel slightly nauseous from altitude; filter water from a stream; realize you forgot your book and cry for about 10 minutes. Then. Cook dinner. Sleep with a full moon beaming through your tent and the trees pitching and swaying around you. Listen to the wind through the trees and brace for bears. Wake up to full sun.
- The next day, plot a course. Try to find the path but … can’t. You’re lost. Instead, you pick your way over boulders and through stream beds and over rocks and stumble along til you know you’re lost but also know … it doesn’t matter. The earth abides. You will catch up with the trail eventually. (And you do, but in the meantime, you make your peace. Some of us can do this more easily than others. Ahem.)
- Then: You listen to the water burbling across the rocks you just clambered over. You let the quiet simmer and settle. You remind yourself that once upon a time you knew how to sit, and stay!, and watch the sun dip low over the mountains, that books are not relevant here. (Though, let’s be honest, you still wish you had one and would have hiked on to a high sierra camp store in hopes of buying one until you came to your senses and decided that last mile uphill with the promise no water meant it wasn’t worth it.)
- So you hike. And swim in a mountain lake. And sit. Oh, how you sit. In the morning, with black coffee. In the afternoon, with filtered water. In the evening, around a fire with green tea. The trees are electrified with light, with rain, with the wind. You don’t care about your city - your sweet city, San Francisco, which is the only city you could ever settle in, you don’t even think of it - or work, or life, or anything outside of it; there is just now. Here. You are lost in the best sense of the world; does anyone else know that camp in the meadow?
It’s difficult to do justice to Yosemite through words though you can try — the waterfalls, especially after an enormous snow fall and long spring, spill over in a mad torrent, crashing down into the valley and roaring in a blur of white and green past hikers toiling up alongside. The mountains stand as they have for centuries: still, tipped with gold at certain moments of the day, and almost too perfect to be real. In the back country little streams rush and hum, ferns droop low to touch the water, mosquitoes linger too long and will not depart even when swatted-at. Almost everywhere you turn there is a surprise: a bear sticking its nose into Lukens Lake, a shooting star falling through a Pleiades-flecked sky, the faint sweetness of smoke from a forest wildfire drifting through the air, the bluest afternoon sky at the base of Half Dome, the cleanest, whitest-gold sun.
Here is home: packing up, climbing in. I cannot write an eloquent memoir about my journeys into the woods; for all I could ever detail is: sweat, dirt, family, bears, rocks, switchbacks, Half Dome, scraped knees, dirty water, and that is enough. What I have learned about getting lost is, as John Muir wrote, really going in. And that is the deepest, darkest secret of all. Leave it. Go. For a day or two or longer if you can manage. Listen to the stars, the rocks, the whisper of the wind. The earth only endures. Get lost in it.
by Night Song
After waking up, smile and relax.
Either stay in bed or get up and sit.
It can be helpful to count breaths or recite a mindfulness poem.
Some days a wonderful peace and calm will settle, and other days there will be anxiety and even rage. It will feel necessary to abandon meditation and listen to “Democracy Now,” answer e-mail, or begin reading the Harvard Classics. Steady breathing and sitting, or slow walking can help. Walking can be either around the house or the block.
Chopping wood can be beneficial (especially for those with a woodstove or fireplace).
If the day starts to go south, stopping before a willow tree, bed of daisies, cloud, or puddle and breathing deeply can arrest the spiral.
Just one mindful breath can turn the day around.
When strong and painful emotions come up, it can be wonderful to be with others who practice mindfulness and allow their kindness, openness, and commitment help us return to ourselves, to a place of calm and insight. Bodies of water, cats, horses, tall grass or corn, mountains, rocks, cedars etc. can also act as these others.
If alone when strong emotions arise, it can be useful to breathe deeply and slowly, take a bath, lie down, go for a run, or embark on creating a comic or poem. The main and difficult practice is to accept and respect these emotions, not run from them, eventually coming to understand the root belief: I am alone in the world, I am unworthy, I am better than others, and so forth.
Saying to ourselves: “May I (or insert a name) be healthy, safe, peaceful, live with ease” can be healing and slowly shift difficult relationships. It’s also calming.
A sense of humor is helpful and some discipline, which can be called something else like fun!
By Caroline Holmes
1. Get rid of any previous notion of what fashion is.
Fashion is not scary. It will not point fingers at you and laugh if you do not know who Alexander McQueen is. People who you should avoid will do that, but not fashion. It will not affect your independence, or suggest that you are any less equal or intelligent as your peers and coworkers. It does not make you an airhead. It is not anorexia or throwing money away to look cool.
2. Accept that your thoughts about fashion are unique
This also stands for everyone else. You will meet people who make Walmart clothing look like a fashion editorial, you will meet people who spend thousands of dollars on Chanel everything. You will meet people who want to wear sweatpants to Starbucks, and people who love green dyed hair. None of their preferences are there for you to sneer at, and no one has the right to disagree with you. There may be a time and place to wear certain outfits (black tie events, nudist beaches, etc.), but for the most part, what you wear is your choice and yours only.
3. Find stores and blogs for you to follow
The best way to make fashion not seem like a scary cult is to, well, join a scary sub-cult. For whatever you like, I swear on my life there are hundreds, if not thousands, writing about it. You favorite store may have a blog, and from there they might link to other blogs, and others. Google things. Look around. Find people who inspire you and stores whose clothing describes your whole personality.
4. Keep track
Start your own blog. Create a Pinterest. Print out photos and post them on your wall. Do whatever you feel most comfortable with. No one can tell you how to run these things, do it for yourself. You can write about what you wear day to day. Write about new lines from designers you love. Just post pictures. However you want to keep track of the things you like.
5. Remember you do not have to spend any money to enjoy fashion
Fashion is an art. You may like Van Gogh, but that does not mean you have to go try to buy the original Starry Night. I doubt you even could. The same goes for fashion. Not everything has to be the real thing. Knock-offs get a bad rep, but not everyone can own a closet straight out of New York Fashion Week. There may be times that you will want to splurge on a designer piece, and you should every once and a while, but even the top names in the fashion industry know number 6, which is:
6. A good wardrobe and outfit is a mix of high and low
Now what that means is that your wardrobe does not need to be all designer names, but nor should it be everything from the clearance rack — unless it is all designer pieces from the TJMaxx clearance rack in which case, you’re amazing and really do not really need to be reading this. A lot of the things you own will not be designer name. This is okay. Things that are unique and will not be worn often do not need to be top of the line quality. You should still aim to buy good quality in everything, but that patterned blazer will probably only be in style for 3 years max, so it does not need to last 10. Likewise, that black dress that you will probably wear at every other formal event will occupy a place in your closet for a while, and spending more to have one that lasts longer is not a bad idea.
And last but not least…
7. Remember: this is for you
Fashion is not something you should be interested in because you friends are. You should not just follow it because you are a girl and “That is just what girls do.” You should not not follow it because you are a guy and “Guys just don’t do that kind of thing.” What you want to wear and like is part of your personality just like your favorite movie and what you like to eat for breakfast. Anyone who tells who you cannot like something or that it is wrong for you to care, or not care if you wish, is the problem, not you.