This is about my personal misconceptions around self-esteem. And how I confuse it with ego. And how collectivism and the immigrant experience as an Asian-American makes it really hard to know what you want. Plus, the dysfunction inherent in immigrant households with intergenerational trauma.
This is about how all feelings are complicated. How most joyful things are bittersweet and how love is almost painful to hold in your body. I also talk about how leisure and pleasure isn’t modeled for a lot of us in immigrant families and how difficult it is to get out of a transactive mindset about careers.
I am in Texas with my family and feelings loom large. This is about how perfectionism can afflict every moment and decision. And the contradictions inherent in loving a deeply flawed family in real time vs loving them as a platonic ideal from afar.
I have been an author for four years as of this day. This is about how making art is teaching me how to receive love without feeling as though I owe everything back. This is about true abundance and how I felt like I knew what the word meant but also really didn’t.
A lot of people have been asking what can we do? What if the action you can take is small, self-serving, scary and ultimately entirely radical? What if instead of doing, what if, in this moment of trauma, you let yourself be?
This one is about the utility of feelings. And how feeling feelings can seem so pointless and how ripped off I felt yesterday about recovery and healing and therapy when all the work can still lead to depression and despair. I only want to feel feelings if it leads to healing or “better creative work” and maybe that mindfulness is the recovery. And learning to let the expectation go is just a new level.
This is about codependency and the ways in which I thought I was passive, meek and overly accommodating when in fact I was in manipulating, controlling and playing the victim. This is GREAT news. I can’t change the way people act or the way they perceive me but I can change my behavior.
This is about optics and allyship. And this instinct to create a moral issue out of actions. It’s about virtue signaling and authenticity and how you are the only one who knows the tone with which you’re doing things. This is about how I am surprised at my own discomfort, shame and fear around acts of dissent. This is also for people who can’t protest for one reason or another and don’t think they can do anything else without being a hypocrite.
Does good news around your career immediately make you panic and feel wretched despite also being aware that you better feel grateful because how dare you? This is about how professional anxiety and how imposter syndrome is universal but also a weirdly egocentric tact to take. Maybe people don’t expect you to RULE at something you’ve never done before. And maybe you can’t totally sabotage a project in which you’re playing one part among many.
This is about how watching nature documentaries can get you out of dissociation and remind you that you are a living, breathing animal that has physical needs. And a gentle call to interrogate any personal mythologies or made-up stories about how long things actually take.
This is about how my routine in the morning and evening are what’s holding me together in this time. Because my natural inclination is to abandon my body and the present moment whenever things get tough.
This is about stinginess. And how I’ve been noticing a parsimonious quality to what I’ll let myself enjoy during this lockdown time. Austerity measures are all around us and economic insecurity is so real but are there small acts of kindness to self that aren’t verboten as outrageous indulgences?
This is about how it’s beautiful and sunny outside and how I can ruin my own mood so easily by being my neighborhood’s self-appointed hall monitor. It turns out that ruining your own mood does not actually change anyone’s opinion or behaviors.
This is about wanting to try on every tight-fitting pair of pants because I’m dissociative and I want to change the channel in my brain to create chaos. Basically it’s about weird highs or random self-harm thoughts that don’t serve you.
This about how creativity, in the time of a pandemic, is indifferent to agendas and ambition. And how to go slow, allow for receptivity and just trust that the work will take shape as long as you gently do a little each day.
This one is about petulance. And how tiny tantrums are distractions from fear and uncertainty that need to be processed. This is also about the small routines I put in place so that muscle memory can carry me on days where I need extra help.
This one is about rehearsing tragedy and the illusion that it will prepare you for or even forestall sad things. It’s about superstitions around hyper vigilance and how you’re “allowed” to struggle with non coronavirus issues.
This is about what it’s like to finish a contemporary YA novel set in New York when everything you’ve ever known has radically changed. This is about giving your work the blessing to be as it wants to. And to let it go with confidence and gratitude even if it feels moot because it will find its audience eventually.
This is about our teammates during this global pandemic (partners, roommates, siblings, kids, parents). And how they are different from us. Their traumas, their stories, their personalities and needs aren’t moral issues. This is also a reminder that we are as annoying as they are so patience and compassion is what we can control. This is also a call to check in if we have unrealistic goals set so that “quarantine time isn’t a waste.” Grief is time consuming and so is acceptance.
Last night I was on a rampage to try to get home to NY from LA. This is a note that for me these urgent, all-consuming thoughts are futile attempts at control. There is what I want and there is what is happening. Trying to change reality only amounts to suffering. This is also a gentle reminder that meditation is available. And that imperfect meditation is a salve because perfect meditation doesn’t exist.
We’re only as sick as our secrets and sometimes our secrets are stories we tell ourselves that we don’t even know we’re telling ourselves. Here are some framing techniques and tools I use to suss them out.
This is about dread as it relates to projects you’ve abandoned and become scared of and how to lovingly return to them. And how mindfulness around small acts of sabotage can be enlightening about how fear governs larger things in your life.
This one is about contrary action. Sometimes the kindest, gentlest thing to do is nothing. Not picking up your addiction. Abstaining from the actions that lead to the headspace that causes cravings. But it’s also about doing small actions in opposition to these noisy thoughts so you can build muscle memory around what it feels like to endure these moments. And to prove to yourself that the moment always passes if you let it.
This one is about how to handle options. About what to do when you have to make a decision and the stakes are high. It’s about how to choose without the obsession, sleepless number crunching and asking a million questions that other people often don’t have the answers to because they’re not f’in clairvoyant. It’s about trusting that you’ll be okay no matter the outcome.
Boundaries rule! This ep is about how to set boundaries within your self and the practice of dedicating a discrete hour in the day to take the most considered actions around a task that feels overwhelming. And how that can quiet the mind from grinding gears recursively and obsessively without actually doing anything.
This one is about how sometimes we may conflate fatigue with a moral issue. Like, I’m tired; WHAT DID I DO WRONG? And an invitation for gentleness when it comes to large-scale projects because perfectionism is not tenable.
This is about non-reactivity around my parents in 100+ degree weather. And how the stories I tell myself are just stories (even if they are about old wounds.) And that for all my future tripping and magical thinking around family, my parents probably have deeply skewed ideas and expectations about me too. And it all just is.
Today is my one year birthday in recovery. And here are some thoughts about emotional homework, kindness to your internal creative spirit and holiday hangovers in whatever form they take. Have a gentle day.
Wherein I try to forgive myself for having fun even though it might not be “good” for me. And muddling through why I’m convinced I’ll be punished because these foolhardy acts MUST be self sabotage. (They could be; I don’t know!)
“If you weren’t worried about it, would it even be a problem?” This is about how the brain, as an awesome and creative defense mechanism, likes to believe that it can “solve” the future through ruminating. But is RIGHT NOW as it relates to safety, food, love, really that terrible? My brain just thinks it’s helping and I am trying to find gratitude in that without it taking me out of the present.
Fear has no arms and legs. It’s only when it compels you to action or inaction that it can truly bite you. This is for those days that you feel entitled to things you can’t seem to find—wisdom, insight, skill—and the self-loathing that can come from this hubris. Another reminder that creativity and recovery are not linear and accepting where you are TODAY can be a salve.
This is about those days where you build little belief systems around every action. Where you think there’s a right and wrong answer to everything from what you eat to the order in which you do things. Those fearful, superstitious days where you’re convinced that just knowing the outcome will help you move forward despite knowing in your heart that it’s a recipe for total standstill.
Do you ever get confused when the work that is fluid and loose and maybe even a little easy isn’t the work that you intended to make? This is about how the work that comes most naturally may not be what you want to explore and how distracting and flummoxing the experience can be.
This episode is about competitive spirituality and cataclysmic thinking around recovery. And how “vague dressing” helps me get out the door on summer days when there’s too much pressure to be #Fashion.
This is about indecision, how you can feel dread around the right decision for you, and being superstitious about the “right” way to do creative work because of the seductive nature of the muse narrative.
Okay, so you might be a perfectionist even if you’re messy and slightly lazy. But you also might be emotionally immature as a person who was considered precocious since forever. This is about how to deal when you’re awkward and leery moving through the world because you’re conflict avoidant to the point of being people avoidant.
It’s dreary some mornings and you may be in your feelings and that’s okay. This is just a gentle reminder that feelings are not facts and that your version of a story can become more neutral and less painful with time. (As long as you don’t apply a thing to that feeling or try to “fix it” or seek revenge.)
This is about that negative headspace. Where you feel like you’re in the upside down or a sunken place of your own making because you regret a decision about work or where you elected to be. This is also about how to gently move through it, stay curious about what you can learn and channeling that data into gratitude.
This is about bad days. Where you feel like you’re doing all the work and yet you still get walloped by large overwhelming feelings of shame and pain. Days where all you can do is find solace in impermanence and eventually find words to talk about it.
What do you allow yourself to want? And is it limited by the shame in admitting what you may not achieve? Or are your delusions of grandeur and magical thinking clouding the things you can truly work towards?
How calendar alerts don’t work for me except to cause panic about impending deadlines. But how blocking out appointments to do the work in my calendar makes me feel safe. More SUPER obvious stuff that I am just finding out. And how recovery is eye opening in new collaborations when you’ve never been able to hold down a job before.
More on money. Pay freelancers $200 every time you “pick their brain.” It inspires everyone to prepare for the meeting in an appropriate way and invites clarity and zero resentment around expectations and value. Plus, this is business! Pay your friends if they have to wear business hats.
Hey, Cool Life! is a #minipod about mental health and creativity from author Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 66 is about emerging from addiction and realizing you’ve been living in administrative squalor your whole career as it relates to scheduling, invoicing and where a random retirement fund is living. And forgiving yourself while being patient as you learn stuff other humans know.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micopod about mental health and creativity by New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 65 is about why anyone in their right mind would be sober if they’re not an alcoholic.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a minipod by New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 62 is how friendships change when you get sober and become mindful. And how rehearsing “concern troll” speeches about friends’ character flaws may be a sign for everyone to move on.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 61 is about time. And how unilateral decisions about how long you think things take and how long they actually take merits investigation because lol.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 60 is about the anxiety cycle of knowing that you don’t know and attempting to ignore it. And a note on emotional black holes and energy vampires.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by author Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 57 is about how worrying can ramp up when it’s time to rest. And how anxiety can roll over from the day before and that it’s uncomfortable but okay.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity. Episode 55 is about what to do on the days you wake up gaslighting yourself into believing that you’re healed/recovered/normal/all better. And the underlying control issues and what they may mean.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 53 is about how punitive we can be to ourselves for our anxiety and depression and how subconsciously searching for culprits to our moods and feelings can be exhausting in end of itself.
Hey, Cool Life is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 52 is about medication, depression, anxiety and intervention. And how mindfulness and gentleness cannot disrupt the really heavy shit when you need outside help.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 51 is about the wellness industrial complex and the zeitgeisting of mental health awareness. And how paying for something doesn’t get you out of doing ANY of the work. Plus, how no amount of money will get you ready to hear what you need to hear when you need to hear it.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 50 is about how meditation strengthens the muscle that resists fuckshit and addictive distractions. And what familiar but nebulous phenomena like “focus” or “intuition” actually feel like.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 49 is about sobriety in recovery for other addictions. And the simplest way to decide whether or not a work opportunity is right for you.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 48 is about how gentleness and surrender around large projects improve overall perspective and quality. And how inviting mindfulness of “fake mini deadlines” within projects can be kinder to your body and mind.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 47 is about self-perception, Karl Lagerfeld and **trigger warning for eating disorders: the most visceral way to know whether or not you may have an ED.
Hey, Cool Life is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 46 is about the futility of rehearsing confrontation and the delusions that compel you rage-quit jobs and people without true closure.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 45 is about acknowledging mistakes as you collect data about yourself. And how repeated mistakes is data unto itself. Especially regarding addiction. Plus, an invitation to use something special that you’re saving for future you as a kindness to now you.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 43 is how the same material that fuels your imagination, ingenuity and intelligence also fuels your addiction. And that the shame around your “Thing” goes away if you talk about it.
Hey, Cool Life! is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 42 is about managing big news days, the only things you can control when life gets large and what won’t move the needle on success but what can alter your perception of it.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod on mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 41 is about love and the addict’s brain. Non-transactive love, the love of strangers and how giving love may help you feel it more than receiving it.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 40 is about living in the past as it relates to large, time-consuming work and the anxiety of living in the future when you must market or publicize it. And forgiving yourself for being imperfect and thereby making imperfect art.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 38 is about recovery and evolving friendships, how creating new work can be the only way you learn to appreciate old work and hope.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 38 is about trying to find gentleness at the beginning of your career, how getting better and getting big can be at cross purposes and the importance of knowing why you’re making art in the first place.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 36 is about how emotionally expensive your recovery can be for your loved ones and how that isn’t a value judgment on your pursuit.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity. Episode 32 is about not focusing on “sunk costs” in new work, the discomfort of experimenting in unfamiliar media and the magic of reading aloud.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity recorded by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 24 is about the freedom of longhand drafting for books and scripts. And the joy of muting your friends on social and texting them instead.
Hey, Cool Life! is a #micropod about mental health and creativity. Episode 20 is about becoming a reclusive creative and the imposter syndrome around it. And how not responding to emails is a small, uncomfortable act of defiance.
Hey, Cool Life! Is a #micropod about mental health and creativity recorded by Mary H.K. Choi. Episode 18 is about scheduling weekends so you don’t get sad, another reminder not to be late for leisure, and social anxiety around plans.
Hey, Cool Life! is a micropod about mental health and creativity. In this, I talk about acceptance, exhaustion and Anne Helen Petersen’s excellent essay on burnout. How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work