A decade in review

“An artist must create. If she doesn’t, she will become a menace to society.”

2010 – surrender
2011 – a monk
2012 – the fire
2013 – winter
2014 – gone
2015 – the sun
2016 – mortality
2017 – lost in translation
2018 – fatigue desert
2019 – a new hope


a list of setbacks and rebounds

I’m doing pretty good but I’ve suffered, laughed, mourned, and tried to stay present through it all

Here is a list of setbacks and rebounds to catch you up

-laying down in the back of taxis because I just needed a break
-not being able to lift a water jug up to its dispenser (spiraling with a general loss of independence)
-lifting my bags off a conveyor belt and just tasting the essence of regret afterwards
-falling asleep at 8p because of the exhaustion from a day of pain
-not being able to make it to the end of the workday because I couldn’t think through the pain
-tried running 8 weeks in, back and legs said nope
-my bc prescription came late so I was a homicidal hormonal hurricane for a month
-watching my leg spasm during PT and having no control over my body
– just shy of 3 months in, being told no more “jumping” (like…going down stairs)
-3 months in, spraining my ankle, and not knowing just HOW bad it was because I couldn’t feel half my foot to begin with
-tried running again, ankle said no (this was this week)
-finding out I’ve lost a little motor function with the nerve damage too, not just sensory function (this was today)
-about two dozen canceled and declined invitations to be a social human being, usually involving sitting or just. dread of a pain too familiar

-the first night I fell asleep without my leg radiating on fire
-swimming and PT
-stopped taking medication at the end of August
-actually making it through teaching two classes. mentally and physically (Lesson 5)
-the first time I slept on my side Thank God
-i sat through a movie–yes it was Joker–It Was Worth It
-being able to do flip turns while swimming
-my friends and I made a shirt with a picture of our friend and the order arrived. This was the hardest I laughed in 2019
-enjoying work. God, what a concept.
-having a class of funny students and enjoying it
-people I interview getting offered a job
-stabilizing a sprained ankle with freezer wrap and tube socks and having a good laugh
-my friend bought me ace wrap and I used a rolling luggage bag as my crutch. LOL.
-feeling the majority of the top of my foot again (3 weeks ago)
-a random facetime from a really good friend
-friends who don’t drop me even after I cancel 3 times in a row
-bending 90 degrees during PT and not have the feeling leave my leg and foot (2 weeks ago)
-being able to elliptical (this week)

that’s all folks


Autumn, a season of becoming

Autumn’s coming and I’m getting all the feels.

A season that always gets me homesick, but in a good way. Fall in the northeast.

The Earth cools
the wind picks up
and you can hear it
as it starts to move
through the trees
and the leaves

change is coming.

There’s more

Nervous energy
like we’re in it
for the long haul.

The Time
to bed down
and do what needs to be done.

The Chance
to be made


Winter’s impending grind

The trees in my neighborhood turn beautiful reds and yellows. And the smell of sun-bleached grass is replaced by dirt, wood, and smoke, the smell of halloween. Leaves, bigger than my hands, start to cover the sidewalks. Insects quiet their symphony at night to a low simmer.

Riding (my bike) during this time of year has always been, surreal. Almost a movie it’s so good.  The wind feels electric on your face.  I’ll ride with my eyes closed for a few seconds, hoping, of all things lost, that I can save this to memory.

Things that I’m learning:
-how to rest (yes, me learning to rest, better late than never)
-how to be patient (I will be a zen monk after working with 6 year-olds)
-a toolbox for pain (to sit with it, and be a student of it, rather than anesthetize)
-tossing tools that did more damage than good
-an appreciation for life’s misleads

Things that I’m still processing and working through:
-the recovery is slower than predicted
-the transition from an aggressive, toxic, burnout lifestyle to one of stress + rest = growth 
-the undoing of almost a decade’s worth of desexualization endured to become who I thought I wanted to be
-blending in instead of being a novelty in a western, predominantly male, culture
-solidarity replacing crippling imposter syndrome
-agency replacing status

“What if the story you’re desperate to hear is the one you’re meant to live into, and tell?”
-Nicole Meline, Alter Podcast The Mislead – Field Notes from 40

It’s not dark yet. Cheers, to the late bloom.


Yearbook Notes I Wish I’d Written

To coach Jim Villa at Jersey Wahoos Swim Club, where I basically grew up in the water, staring at a black line forever: Thank you for teaching me how to speed up my arm turn-over. And how to improve my backstroke technique. And for that one time you mimed kicking my butt to get in the pool at the start of practice (timeliness). For always saying, “(H)EY! LISTEN”, amplified by both hands on your face, which underwater sounded like “ALYSSA!” so I’d stop swimming and poke my head up.  This is where I learned to wear a watch, to be on time, to swim with high elbows (in the 7th lane, I’ve got a scar on my hand to prove it), to show up, and to do the set that I thought would kill me because I learned afterwards it was possible.

To Mr Semus, at Cherry Hill East: I don’t think I could have learned any math after algebra had it not been for you. Thanks for breaking down an undecipherable language into something I could digest. And being passionate and great at what you do. Thank you for being an approachable, nonjudgmental teacher, who didn’t ridicule me for skipping school.  In high school I hoped as an adult that I’d find something I’m passionate about almost as much as you are about teaching math. Specifically, thanks for teaching me algebra II, pre-calculus, AP calculus, SAT I and II math, and multi-variable calculus. A legend.

To Davyd Booth, my violin teacher and member of the Philadelphia Orchestra: There was violin before meeting you, and violin after. Violin didn’t come easily to me, and I remember after our first lesson, telling my mom that you made everything so easy. Thank you for showing me that you can be the designer of your life. Your birds. Your accordion. Your piano. Your greenhouse. Lessons at the Kimmel Center. Piano lessons! When I told you I was going to USMA and you asked me, “Why??” and really not knowing why. One day when I actually plant myself somewhere and grow some roots, I’m going to design my life with the same style of agency.

To Alla Fabrikant, my piano teacher, who taught me on Friday nights, from middle school until I left for college–there aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am for having been your student. I could be everything I wanted when I sat on the piano bench. And after each lesson, on the drive home (after I got my license), sometimes the stars would be out and I could reflect in my own element. As Charles Bukowski wrote, “there is light somewhere”.

These notes are almost a decade late, but I needed that time to grow and reflect. Do you have anyone you need to thank?

5 Ways to Game Your Bad Days

I recently read somewhere, “you’ve survived 100% of your worst days so far“.  And if you’re reading this, it’s probably be true. You’ve made it here mostly intact.

I’ve had some days when life’s gutted me so badly that I thought:

I’m really not going to make it through this one, am I?

How am I supposed to go on?

Nothing’s going to be the same ever again.

And sure, some bad days are worse than others, but I’ve found that it’s the way I choose to react that makes all the difference.  So here’s my take on 5 ways to game your bad days.

1. Let It Out. Without hurting anyone (no yelling at your colleague and chucking your coffee mug). If this means sobbing in the back of a cab, screaming into a pillow until your throat is sore, scheduling your first appointment with a therapist, taking that boxing class, or talking it over with your friend, get it done. Get it out in the open so it doesn’t fester and actually kill you. Keeping it together will be hard enough, and it’ll leak out of you eventually.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to be out. You are entitled to your feelings. They can’t be wrong, they’re yours.

2. Creature Comforts. Clothes, food, movie, music, sleep, all the above.  For me, I put on my pineapple robe, get food delivered, lie down, and watch Friends/The Office/Veep bloopers followed by stand up specials, play Christmas music, and/or sleep, and get off the grid. It’s like a sleepover but with yourself.  If you can’t go full out at the moment, then at least loosen your tie, undo your ponytail that’s giving you a migraine, take off the blister heels, and drink some water.

3. Make Space. Before flying off the handle.  Sometimes our initial reactions are so extreme that we need to take a step back and come down to earth. In this case, make space, literally and figuratively. Go somewhere else, anywhere else, and let some time pass before you revisit your feelings and decide how you feel. Walk to another room, go for a drive, people-watch in the park. Take things off your mind before you come back with a fresh set of eyes.

4. Go Home. Actually go home, do the things and find the people that were your home before everything went south.  If this means arriving unannounced at your parents’ house, reaching out to a friend you haven’t talked to in years, or going back to the place you spent hundreds of hours at, then that’s home. Life can feel awfully misaligned at times. Revisit who you were when you decided to become who you are now.

5. Share. Sometimes bad days, the ones that you thought would do you in, become bad months. And bad months become bad years. Yet, you survive. For what? To be forever changed by your experience.  There was you, before and after, and it defines you. If this is the case, share the pain. Tell your story, share your truth, and don’t look back. Exchange your bad days for process, release, and closure. What might feel like a deeply isolating experience could develop community for those going through the same thing.

Everyone has Bad Days. Sometimes, bad days are the ones when your alarm doesn’t go off, you burn yourself making coffee, you trip on the way out the door, only to find that you’ve locked your keys inside. Other times, bad days are the phone call you get, and everything changes afterwards.  Appreciate the little things and the people you have now, because “the miracle is the shortest time”.